If you are going to have bourbonfest, it seems appropriate to put together a bourbon tasting too. So, I did some research, bought a couple of bourbons and brought a couple more from home as my husband enjoys a sip of bourbon every now and again. It was fun and well received. I think we might have even learned a little something too.
What is Bourbon?
Bourbon originally was created in Bourbon County, KY and has a higher concentration of corn than any other grain.
In America, bourbon must be made with at least 51% corn. Then it also has barley and either rye or wheat. It must not exceed 160 proof when added to the barrels to age. The barrels must be new charred oak barrels. Seriously, there is a law for this!
What is the difference between Whiskey and Bourbon?
Whiskey is just the generic name for Bourbon, Scotch, Irish Whiskey, Canadian Whisky (no, I didn’t misspell this, many whiskeys leave out the ‘e’), Tennessee Whiskey, and American Rye. That’s pretty much all ‘brown liquors’.
Scotch is whiskey made in Scotland with a greater concentration of barley instead of corn.
Tennessee Whiskey is bourbon filtered through sugar maple charcoal which gives it that ‘sweet’ taste.
Terminology used with Bourbon:
Straight = aged at least 2 years
Wheater = wheat instead of rye (softer flavor)
High Rye = made with higher concentration of rye than other bourbons. The rye is what gives it the ‘bite’.
Small Batch = little meaning, just smaller than something like Jim Beam
Single Barrel = entire bottle from a single barrel, no mixing
Bourbon Tasting Menu:
For the bourbon tasting, I brought 4 different bourbons with a decent amount of variation in them. I gave everyone who participated a sheet of paper for folks to take notes if they wanted. There was no competition although the tasting was a blind tasting. It was just to help find what flavors each individual liked and give some information to help them find other bourbons they might like in the future. No right or wrong answers, just a personal opinion.
Here are the 4 bourbons we tasted.
Maker’s Mark – TN –Wheater – Soft – Major Brand with Wild Turkey and Jim Beam
High West – UT – Blend – Straight
Wathen’s – KY – Single Barrel – Straight
Four Roses – KY – High Rye – Small Batch – Straight
Smells and Flavors Found in Bourbons:
For the tasting, I provided this list of potential smells and flavors to be on the look out for while tasting each bourbon. I’m no expert and have no idea which you might find in each of the 4 we tasted but this proved helpful to think about while tasting.
Sweet aromatic flavors, such as vanilla, caramel, honey and butterscotch
Fruit and floral flavors, such as apple, pear, dark fruit (figs, raisins, dates), citrus and rose
Spice flavors, including black pepper, tobacco leaf, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon
Wood flavors, such as oak, cedar, pine, almonds and pecans
Grain flavors, such as corn, malt and rye
What to look for when tasting bourbon?
Each piece of paper for the tasting had a letter for the bourbon we were tasting (A-D) and then a place to write down notes on the Appearance, Aroma, Taste, and Aftertaste.
After everyone tasted all 4, I placed the bottles out and had them guess which one was which. A couple of people got them all correct which was pretty cool.
The favorite of the group? Well that ended up being Four Roses!