Bourbon Tasting: How to Host Yours at Home

In: Bites, Inside the Belvedere, Other Occasions, Refreshments, Tips & Ideas
bourbon tasting bar

Did you know September is National Bourbon Heritage month? All month we are celebrating everything bourbon in the Owl Bar, leading up to our big Bourbon Trail at the 13th Floor (click for more info!). Our Event Specialist Lauren has bourbon on the mind pretty much all the time now and once the event concludes on the 29th, I am pretty sure we are all going to go through withdrawal. To ease the pain, DIY Bourbon Tastings will most definitely occur at home with our friends and family.

Whether you are an expert in sipping the juice, or you may be entirely new to it, bourbon tastings are becoming the go-to social event for hosting an event in your home. With the holidays fast approaching, it’s as good a time as any to give a quick how-to on hosting a tasting of your very own.


You are going to need glasses, a lot of them. You will a glass per every different offering you have, per person. The type of glass matters, as well. You may have seen a bartender slide a rocks glass to a the bourbon-orderer beside you a time or two, but rocks glasses are not best suited for tasting. The best vessel for tasting, hands down, is the Glencairn glass ($7.49),  due to it’s wide bowl and narrow opening. It is easy to swirl the whiskey around, which may sound silly, but doing so aerates it, allowing oxygen to mix with the bourbon to release its scent – thus making it easier to smell the different aromas. You will be surprised what you can smell.

bourbon tasting glencairn glass{Photo Cred: Sporty’s Pilot Shop}

Any tulip shaped glass will work, like this snifter glass.

bourbon tasting snifter{Photo Cred: TOB}


Walking down the  aisle to choose what you will be tasting may be daunting, but you really can choose however you want! You can arrange them by type; small batch, single barrel or craft. You could also organize by region. For our tasting, we organized by distributor. Here is what we chose for our tasting!

Jim Beam – Jim Beam Black, Jim Beam Rye, Jim Beam Bonded, Jim Beam Double Oak

Russell’s Reserve – Russells 10yr, Single Barrel

Sazerac – Eagle Rare, E.H. Taylor Small Batch, 1792 Small Batch, Sazerac Rye 6yr

Maker’s Mark – Maker’s 46, Maker’s Marks Cask Strength

bourbon tasting bar{Via Celebrations at Home}


Pour one ounce of each bourbon into each tasting glass. You only need about a finger width for a good taste. As the host, make sure you give your guests instructions on how to fully appreciate a tasting. Bourbon is evaluated on four attributes — appearance, aroma, taste and finish. The appearance is used to gauge the age. The darker it is, the older (and a higher proof). To evaluate the aroma, swirl your glass two to three times, then take a couple short sniffs to see what you can recognize. Common scents include:

  • 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

bourbon sniffing{Via: Red Lips Studio}


For our tasting, our Chef is going to prepare a menu of bourbon-inspired sliders, which is undoubtedly one of the best food pairings this world will ever know. He was nice enough to share the recipe to one of the sliders he is going to prepare for the event. sliders

Bourbon Braised Cheeseburger Slider with Brown Sugar Bourbon Candied Bacon

  • In a heavy pan, sear 2 oz. burger patties with salt and pepper
  • Deglaze with 3 oz. Bourbon, allow to finish cooking as bourbon reduces
  • Top with sharp cheddar cheese and candied bacon (recipe below)
  • Place sliders on toasted potato slider rolls

Brown Sugar Bourbon Candied Bacon

  • Lay flat, thick sliced bacon on baking sheet pan and cook in oven at 350 degrees until 3/4ths done
  • Mix 1 c. brown sugar with 2 oz. bourbon
  • Dip the partially cooked bacon in brown sugar mix and lay flat on baking pan
  • Return bacon back to oven and cook until crisp and caramelized

You are all set for your very own tasting! Have some friends over and make sure to take pictures to share your ideas and recipes! 


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