STEP 1: Find the Correct Glass:
The NEAT glass reduces the amount of alcohol you smell. This allows you to smell the complexities of the bourbon. Avoid using improper glassware for spirit sipping like highball glasses or pint glasses. Also, filling your glass more than a quarter full or ordering a double will degrade your ability to swirl your spirit as well as ruining the nosing of your drink. The number of different whiskey glasses has been undergoing a startling proliferation, with novel shapes and sizes for every slice of the whiskey universe.
Ubiquitous in whiskey bars and tasting rooms, the Glencairn has become the high-end whiskey glass. Originally designed for single malt Scotch and modeled after the copita, a sherry glass also used for nosing, the Glencairn was first introduced in 2001. Its wide bowl and relatively narrow, straight mouth concentrate whiskey aromas, and the hefty foot lets you handle the glass without warming its contents through the thin wall. Glencairns can be excellent choices for bourbon as well as Scotch, but keep in mind that they tend to concentrate alcohol as well as aroma.
The latest glass on the market being Norlan Whiskey Glass. Whiskey looks darker and richer in the Norlan glass as a result of its double wall construction. It makes the whiskey more attractive it’s a bit problematic when you’re trying to judge the age of your whiskey by its color. You have to raise the Norlan to eye level to get a proper color reading like that from a Glencairn glass. But once you know how to compensate for the color difference, the Norlan wins for a better visual experience.
Either glass is suitable!
If you really want to learn to detect different flavors in your whiskey, don’t mix it with sodas like Coke or Sprite because the sugar and other flavors in the soda will overwhelm the flavor of the whiskey. Pour your favorite bourbon into your glass without any ice or water. Hold the glass up to the light, or in front of a clean white sheet of paper to get a good look at it. Swirl it around the glass once or twice. Age, proof, and filtration methods all affect appearance.
STEP 2: Aroma
Smell is a vital part of taste, and thus it’s very important to not skip the aroma portion of a taste. Swirl your whiskey in the glass for a minute. This will allow some of the alcohol to evaporate and carry the wonderful smells of oak and vanilla to your nose.
Close off one nostril (people have a tenancy to smell better from one nostril than the other), part your lips, breathe in through your nose, and exhale gently through your mouth. Give your nose a chance to sniff and appreciate your bourbon’s aromas. Notes of wood smoke, caramel, and fruit are also common to bourbon.
Close the other nostril and repeat.
STEP 3: Tasting (Neat)
Sip it sloooooowly, hold it in your mouth for a couple of seconds and roll the liquid over your tongue, you can even chew on it. Swallow.
STEP 4: Tasting (Breath)
After you swallow, take a big breath and blow. This will blow out the alcohol vapors in your mouth.
STEP 5: Tasting (Experience)
Take a generous mouthful into your mouth and “chew” it. The folks at Jim beam call it the “Kentucky Chew.” Move the bourbon around inside your mouth with a chewing motion to coat your tongue. The finish refers to the sensations after you’ve swallowed. Notice the difference in flavors from the front to the back of your tongue. Finally, swallow it. The tongue has several tasting “zones.” The tip of the tongue detects sweetness. The middle of the tongue detects salty flavors, and the back of the tongue can taste bitterness. These zones, combined with the aroma, define the flavors of the bourbon. If it lingers for a while, that’s a long finish. If it dissipates quickly, it’s a short finish. If you catch a warm sensation in your upper body after swallowing, the folks at Jim Beam call that the “Kentucky Hug.”
STEP 6: Tasting (Add Water)
Add an ice cube or several drops of water. According to a recent study published in Scientific Reports, understanding guaiacol’s interaction with water is the key to unlocking the secrets of whiskey-water ratio optimization. Using computer simulations, authors Björn C. G. Karlsson and Ran Friedman were able to measure how guaiacol is affected by different concentrations of water. That flavor comes from a molecule called guaiacol, which contributes to common “tasting notes” for the spirit—smoke, peat, spice. Chemically, it resembles other aroma compounds, such as vanillin (tastes like vanilla) or limonene (tastes like lemon).
Take a generous mouthful into your mouth and “chew” it. Notice the difference with and without the drop of water.