Whether you recently developed a passion for bourbon or you have a seasoned palate, the time will come when you want to host a tasting in the comfort of your own home, and there are a few important aspects to consider when preparing for the occasion.
Bourbon is enjoying an upswing in the premium spirits market – the mellow allure of America’s craft liquid is seeing a growing number of South Africans becoming increasingly more appreciative of authentic American whiskey.
Assistant master distiller at the Woodford Reserve Distillery, Elizabeth McCall shares below how you can train your palate and have some fun by conducting your own bourbon tasting at home.
How to conduct a proper tasting in four easy steps.
- Chew the food sample and breathe through your nose to take in the full breadth of the flavours.
- Take a sip of the bourbon.
- Cleanse your palate with a sip of cool or room temperature water.
- Observe a conversational pause before moving on to the next sample.
We are going to begin the tasting with a piece of aged Parmesan cheese. You could substitute an olive if none is available. The high-fat content in the cheese coats the mouth and highlights the woody and nutty characteristics presented by the bourbon’s unique maturation process. You may taste pecan, almond, or a hint of oak.
Next up is the toasted hazelnut pairing. A toasted pecan, cashew, or Brazil nut could act as a substitute. Toasted hazelnuts magnify the grain character bringing walnut and pecan to the fore. The tannic acid in the nut highlights the contributions of the toasted oak which is carefully selected when producing bourbon barrels. You could substitute a toasted pecan, cashew, or Brazil nut.
Our third pairing is with a dried cranberry. You may experience cherry, blackberry, and cooked peach in a sip after this pairing.
A fresh orange slice is our next pairing Bourbon that is triple distilled in copper pot stills and fermented with an extra-long six-day process contributes to the fragrant citrus notes from orange, lemon or peach.
Ready for the next step? A small piece of dark chocolate is the guest in this pairing.
The dark chocolate opens up the spice flavours in the bourbon such as clove, cinnamon, pepper and coffee bean, followed by caramel notes, which come from the mash bill, extra-long fermentation process and handcrafted barrels used to mature the whiskey.
Mild and round characters of the wood barrels with a hint of smoke. The grassy notes in the finish stem from the corn, rye and malted barley recipe. You may also taste caramel and honey. This is the only sample that brings out the grain section.