View Full Version : Hosting a bourbon tasting

03-04-2012, 09:34
A wee village whisky club wants an introduction to bourbon. I am hosting it, as they think I am one who knows the most about bourbon in Denmark, which says a lot about the bourbon knowledge here as I really don't know very much :-)

But I try to do my best and have been reading up on various stuff over the weekend.

Here's the line up

1. Old Fitzgerald 40%
2. Jim Beam black label 43%

3. Old Fitzgerald 1849, 8 yr 45%
4. Four Roses 50%

5. Single Barrel 43,3% Evan Williams 2000 Vintage

6. Van Winkle family reserve Rye 13 yr Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey 47,8%
7. Old Rip van Winkle 20 yr 45,2%

8. High West Bourye 46%
9. A.H. Hirsch 16yo 1974 45.8%

5 sets of whiskies, 3 sets is more or less a rye versus a wheat tasting experience

8+9 is from my stash, the rest is sourced locally. This lineup is pretty good for a intro tasting, but as one of the members got his own distillery, and the tasting is hosted here, I thought we could as well go for the goodies.

I didn't intend two Old Fitzgerald nor a Jim Beam Black, but the availabilities here is somewhat limited, but for some reason Pappy's can be found around

I'll let you know how it goes, the tasting is next weekend


03-04-2012, 10:04
Some very good sampling!

Is there a specific reason you pair them the way it is? Showing contrast?

For example, a good flight may be something like this:
1. Old Fitzgerald 40%
3. Old Fitzgerald 1849, 8 yr 45%
8. A.H. Hirsch 16yo 1974 45.8%
7. Rip van Winkle 20 yr 45,2%

These are similar and will set a very specific tone or note to the tasting when compare to each other and set as a group.

Not that you have this, but if I taste a strong rye and a nice SW together, the contrast is too overwhelming.

Looks to be a great tasting and gathering!


03-04-2012, 12:29
Yes it's for contrast. The horror scenario for me is everybody walking away saying they all tasted the same :-)

I have never tasted the only rye in the setup myself. This might sound unlikely to you, but the van Winkle rye was the only rye I was able to locate here. Initially I was looking for some archtype younger rye like Rittenhouse or Jim Beam

one of the main deciding factors of the agenda is the short speechs I'll be giving throughout the drams. I want to postpone telling about specialities like PvW, HW and AH Hirsch until I have introduced bourbon and ryes as a general subject


03-04-2012, 12:32
Good luck with your tasting Steffen. I hope you have fun, and that your group learns a thing or two about bourbon. Please be sure to post some notes about the event when all is said and done. Some pics would be nice too.

All the best. Cheers! Joe

03-04-2012, 15:44
Looks like a great lineup to me. Couple observations from having done this a few times myself:

- Make sure everyone has a full glass of water, and keep some food around. Cheese is good, as are crackers of any kind.

- YMMV, but I find it really hard to switch gears to a rye after tasting 5 or 6 bourbons. They always taste a little off to me, and in the future I'm going to do a rye-only tasting rather than trying to mix ryes in with bourbons. I do understand that you might not have enough rye around to make that a viable option.

Anyway, have fun and be sure to post about how it went!

03-04-2012, 15:50
YMMV, but I find it really hard to switch gears to a rye after tasting 5 or 6 bourbons. They always taste a little off to me

Couldn't agree more. A few months ago I went to a Buffalo Trace educational tasting session. We tasted several bourbons, and then a suprise whiskey which turned out to be Sazerac Rye 6yo... Now this is one of my favourite Rye pours, and I've always got a bottle on hand.... But after the bourbons, it tasted thin, medicinal, had lots of burn and was totally unenjoyable. Others at the tasting found the same, so I know it wasn't just me.
The lesson for me that day was to never include a Rye after several bourbons have been sampled :skep:

03-04-2012, 19:28
I don't normally drink rye but the Van Winkle family reserve Rye 13 yr is very nice. I have a bunch of those in my bunker, actually the only rye I bunker.


03-04-2012, 19:39
My 2 cents is that its too many for one tasting, I would keep it to 5-6. If you didnt want to originally do the old fitz and Black, drop it, as well as the Evan williams. and you are at 6.

03-11-2012, 07:04
Oh boy, it was a bit of uphill trying to serve bourbon to the locals here :-)

Most of the bottles were purchased in one of the leading whisky specialist shops in Denmark, if not THE leading one. It was the first bottles of bourbons they sold in 2012!

A lot have difficulties understanding why bourbon isn't made exactly as they make whisky in Scotland and it caused a lot of confusion that bourbons are in general brand oriented (or recipe you could say) than distillery oriented

Sometimes people have a set mind on how things are and its hard to grasp that other parts of the world do things different. Kentucky is not Scotland. It has another climate and a different history :-)

One particular guy was more or less offended that bourbon was served to him

But in general this was a new thing for most, and it takes a few drams to get used to bourbon when you are a single malt drinker- As predicted some had trouble telling a difference in taste between the Old Fitzgerald and JB Black. I think it was a good way to start the tasting, as it got the participants finetuned to the flavours of bourbon and rye

Luckily the last 4 seemed to be an eyeopener for most of the participants. Personally I really loved the PvW 20, one of the best I ever tried

The PvW Rye wasn't particular overpowering in flavour. Personally I found the 4 Roses the most spicy of the 9. Unfortunately there is no 4 letter codes on the bottle- Last year in Limburg, four roses had a stand and I noticed the absence of the letter code there as well

9 bourbons was a fine number of servings (2cl pours). They even added a bonus Craigellachie as the 10th dram as the whiskyclub just bottled their own 90 bottles of it.


03-11-2012, 12:34
Interesting report. There was been a serious wave of interest in bourbon and straight rye both nationally and internationally for some 20 years now. All the main whisky magazines I am aware of, e.g. Whisky Advocate and Whisky, cover bourbon extensively and treat it with great respect. Avant-garde critics like Michael Jackson and Jim Murray were ahead of the game years ago on this. It's just a question of time - but it will still take some time, maybe another 10 years, for some areas or amongst some consumers - before this fact is recognized everywhere IMO.

The hesitation to accept bourbon on a par with Scotch whisky just reflects the traditionally ingrained preference for Scotch which itself however is probably not more than 100 years old - before that brandy was the noble spirit. Scotch caught up and bourbon will, finally, too, because it is equal in quality to those other drinks and in many points of view, superior, in the opinion of many.


03-12-2012, 14:30
I pledge allegiance, to the bourbon of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands....

USA! USA! USA!:cool: