Jump to content
HeightsGuy

Bourbon Tasting Advice - selection

Recommended Posts

HeightsGuy   
HeightsGuy

I'm planning a bourbon tasting as a silent auction item at our church.  I'm thinking of doing 5 bourbons - one tradtional, one wheater, one rye-er, maybe a single barrel and cask strength to round out the five.  I'm trying to provide participants a mixed set of tastes so they can gain an appreciation of the diversity of the world of bourbon.

 

I should note that I, myself, am on a beginner's journey, starting last July after a visit to Louisville.  I have Willett Pot Still, Evan Williams Black, Old Forester Signature, Knob Creek 100, Maker's 46, Elijah Craig Small Batch, and Blanton's.  So, some of these might fill some of the 5 slots, but it would be nice to use this as an excuse to slip some additional bottles in the house without arousing too much scrutiny from my wife :).

 

I welcome thoughts from this experienced group on my plans - does the basic idea for the five tasting slots make sense?  And, how would you fill the slots?

Edited by HeightsGuy
terminology error

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
graftonbc1   
graftonbc1

Given your audience, I would present accessible bottles so that those who find something they like would have no trouble finding things. 

 

I would suggest Makers Mark as a wheaten, Four Roses Small Batch as a higher rye, Jim Beam or maybe Wild Turkey as traditional, Knob Creek or Four Roses as a single barrel, and something like Wild Turkey Rare Breed as your high proof. 

 

These se are certainly slanted by my tastes, but I think it's a well-rounded accessible collection. 

 

Ray

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kane   
Kane

I have done several of these with friends and co-workers trying get into bourbon. I like having 5 drinks too, that's the sweet spot where you can still taste the nuances between the pours, and also not get tipsy.

 

But, may I suggest that you substitute an actual rye for one of the bourbons? Say, instead of the single barrel? A single barrel whiskey doesn't offer anything different in terms of its taste profile, it's just another way to pick barrels of the same thing. I find that a rye helps keep things interesting and fresh for the audience, especially if you don't tell beforehand that they are not having a bourbon. Also, like you said, it'd be a good excuse to buy a bottle of HW Rendezvous or Pikesville.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
HeightsGuy   
HeightsGuy

Hmm...I do have a bottle of Rittenhouse BIB, so that might be interesting.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
CardsandBourbon   
CardsandBourbon

Here is a list that would fit what you're wanting to do and as a bonus it's 5 bottles that are accessible and as a double bonus it's 5 that you don't already list as having. ;)

 

1) Wheated:  Makers Mark

2) Four Roses Small Batch

3) Bulleit Rye

4) Baker's (readily available, not too expensive and a little higher in proof 107)

5) Knob Creek Single Barrel (this would be your highest proof pour 120)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
HeightsGuy   
HeightsGuy

Another question - what's the right quantity to serve each guest (for each bourbon)?  I want it to be enough to taste neat, then with a splash - but I also want to be a responsible host and not have anyone drive home impaired.

 

I am thinking of also providing a sample bottle of each - maybe 1 oz. - for guests to take home for further sampling.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Richnimrod   
Richnimrod

When I do this I generally pour about 3/4 ounce for each unless I'm pouring more than 3-offerings.    Then, I'd drop it a little bit.     Maybe a half ounce or a bit more.    Anyone want more of one or more of the samples, is always welcome to ask and be accommodated.    Since you're contemplating five different offerings, I'd stick with a half ounce. 

Note: for me, at least five different ones is a lot to analyze and appreciate in a short amount of time.    If this expected to take rather more than an hour it gets easier.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kepler   
Kepler

I think 5 choices might possibly be too many for newbies.  They might get confused.  I'd suggest 4 and make your choices different enough from one another that they will easily detect a personal preference.

Going with 4 will also allow healthier sized pours so they can test each sample a little more to make confident conclusions on what they like and don't like.

 

Something like this

1)  Wheated:  Maker's Mark

2)  Standard bourbon (inexpensive low proof rye recipe):  Buffalo Trace or Four Roses Small Batch

3)  Premium/well aged  (to determine oak preference):  Eagle Rare 10 Year

4)  High proofer:  Knob Creek Single Barrel (120 pf) or Wild Turkey Rare Breed

 

Edited by Kepler
typo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Flyfish   
Flyfish

One of the hazards that you face when doing a tasting is how much to serve. With five choices, you are required to keep each selection rather small.  Some of us find it really difficult to judge any bourbon in tiny amounts (i.e., less than half a bottle) so our reactions and first impressions are not trustworthy. Subtle distinctions go right out the window. In my experience, people with no bourbon experience react only to the alcohol in barrel proofers. There is no point in expecting a newb to detect the faint hint of leather or the merest suggestion of coriander. 

I see Kepler's four suggestions and offer an even further reduction to two: A wheat recipe and a rye recipe.  Or even a young bourbon and an older bourbon. Or....I'm thinking now of the lady to whom I served some Ritt. After a minute she concluded that she didn't like rye. So I poured her some Baby Saz.  "Oh," she said, "this is nice!" A lot can be learned from a side-by-side of just two choices.

I have also done tastings with the OGD recipe alone: BIB, 114, and Basil Hayden. Even though they are "all the same," people with no experience could recognize the differences. This gave us opportunities to discuss other factors that influence the final product--location in rack house, age in the wood, proof.....The conversation and fellowship are important ingredients in any tasting. I looks like you are giving careful considerations to providing a pleasant experience for your guests. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kevinbrink   
kevinbrink

I think the most important thing when considering a tasting line up is knowing the audience, if it was a group of novice bourbon drinkers I would probably avoid anything over 100 proof as chances are, unless they are accustomed to some other high proof spirits, the experience would be lost on them. The exception to this would be if I were going to pour a barrel proof version of something else I was pouring and I was going to spend some time talking about the process. I also think if I were to do that I would go with all pours of the same Distillery and same mashbill as a way of showing how different variables effect the flavor of a spirit so something like:

 

1. EW Black

2. EW BIB

3. EC SB

4. Henry Mckenna BIB

5. EC BP

 

I'll also add that my experience when pouring for novice drinkers is that some of the finished stuff tends to be a hit Angel's Envy and AE Rye in particular. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
EarthQuake   
EarthQuake

I think 5 is a good number, any more and it's probably too much. I would certainly be disappointed if I went to something billed as a whiskey tasting and was only presented two samples to try. Yes comparing two can be interesting, but two a tasting event does not make.

 

I think the number of whiskeys that one can appreciate depends on how the event is organized. If all 5 samples are given to the guests at once, in a short span of time, it can be overwhelming and make it hard to pick out differences between each. However, if samples are given one at a time, with the guests given ample time to appreciate each, tasting 5 should be an enjoyable experience even for novices.

 

I would also suggest going for contrast with the selection of whiskey. As someone mentioned a rye is a good idea, and going with very different whiskeys from different distilleries is likely to be effective. Something that is barrel finished as Keven suggests is a great idea too. I think if this was for whiskey enthusiasts, going for something like many versions of the same mash bill from the same distillery would be fun, but the subtleties are likely to get lost on novices.

 

Depending on the crowd, sticking to under 100 (or even 90) proof is likely a good idea as well. I have a group of friends who are not really into whiskey but like to try things occasionally, and the initial response is nearly always "UGH-that's strong!", even with high quality, smooth bourbon. For this group anything barrel proof gets a negative reaction, no matter how good it is, while lower proof bottles tend to be much more accessable.

Edited by EarthQuake

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
EarthQuake   
EarthQuake

Now to the actual lineup, since the OP has some bottles already I would suggest:

 

1. Blanton's - a great representation of Buffalo Trace

2. Knob creek - leave off the OF ,one bottle from Beam is probably enough and Knob is generally accessible to novices

3. A high rye bourbon, maybe Russell's Reserve 10 year? Maybe Four Roses small batch? Both easy to find and not too expensive.

4. An older bourbon to show what affect the barrel has on flavor. The easiest to find would be an Eagle Rare 10 but in the house of Buffallo Trace that is pretty similar to Blanton's (so I would do one or the other but not both). What I would try to find would be something where the oak is very apparent, like I.W Harper 15 year or Orphan Barrel Barterhouse 20 year, both are a little pricy and somewhat hard to find, but much easier than say Elijah Craig 18/23, anything Pappy, etc. A store pick Knob Creek Single Barrel at say, 12-13 years wouldn't be the worst idea either, but again this is getting pretty high in the proof department. An Elijah Craig small batch might be interesting here, or Henry McKinna 10 year, even though these are probably not much over 10 years old they tend to have a bit of oak.

5. A rye, Rittenhouse is a safe bet here as would be Sazerac, Dickle Rye, Buillet Rye etc. Something from High West would be a bit more interesting and really highlight the rye character, Double Rye or Rendezvous are generally easy to find. HW Rendezvous would be my choice here as it's very well balanced while most of the commonly available rye you'll find on the market is somewhat young and rough around the edges.

Edited by EarthQuake

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kane   
Kane

I suggested 4 bourbon + 1 rye above, but I also agree with emphasizing contrast even more if you want to, and delivering pours back to back, as opposed to SBS. This is under the assumption that your audience is comprised of novices.

 

A few isolated data points. I did a bourbon tasting with first time whiskey drinkers, 5 drinks from 5 different distilleries. The majority responded to me with "they all taste the same." It was infuriating :)

 

In contrast, my most applauded tasting was with this line up back to back, again with novices: Death's door white whiskey (gotta get rid of it!), ETL, HW Midwinter's, Red Breast 12, Aberlour A'bunadh, and Laphroaig CS. Yeah, it was a roller coaster, but there was no missing the nuances. Not saying you should include other types of whiskey, but do pick contrasting pours.

 

I also like to throw in a rum or cognac sometimes to mess with people.

 

Also, a general rule of thumb: less is more in terms of quantity per pour.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Patrick_OKC   
Patrick_OKC

I would add the following thoughts:

 

If you're expecting to have non-whiskey drinkers, or potential converts, then I would introduce them in a manner similar to how you might introduce someone to scotch: for scotch you might start with a basic 80 proof blend such as JW Black, then ramp up to the next level with a more flavorful blend (maybe Chivas 18), and then on to non-peated single malts, ending with a peated single malt. For bourbon, the equivalent might be to start with an 80 proofer such as FRYL, or Virginia Gentleman, then move on the EWSB, followed by a garden-variety 90 proofer such as BT. I'd stop at that. Save the heavy weight proofs for another session. Teach them the Kentucky chew; serve all neat. I'd use something like Carr water crackers to cleanse the buds, with some liquid to go with it, such as bottled water, or heck, even something like Snapple 50/50 lemonade iced tea. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
HeightsGuy   
HeightsGuy

Wow - I really appreciate all the ideas!  To provide more info, this tasting will be an offering at a silent auction at our church, so I won't know who the attendees are until after that occurs.  But, since they will be bidding, I'm assuming they will have some interest in the subject.  I am also guessing that most, if not all, will not have much knowledge about bourbon.  I'm limiting the count to 6 people (not including me and my wife).  I'm also planning to offer a light meal afterward with bourbon-influenced food.

 

I was planning to do the tasting sequentially, pouring one bourbon at a time, so that we can all discuss our impressions.  I was also planning to do some Bourbon 101 to cover the basics.

 

Based on your suggestions, I'm leaning toward:

- Buffalo Trace (traditional)

- Weller Special Reserve (wheat)

- Bulleit (rye)

- Eagle Rare 10 (older)

I'm on the fence about adding a rye, but if I do, it would probably be Rittenhouse. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JoeTerp   
JoeTerp

I'm late to the party here, but I think you have a good idea.  The biggest advice I would have is nothing over 100 proof.  I tend to think that inexperience whiskey drinkers get scared off pretty easily with the high proof stuff.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kane   
Kane

No clunkers there! Bulleit will also be a good vehicle to talk about NDPs in your bourbon 101.

 

One question to everybody, though: Is Bulleit still a high rye bourbon? I know that (rumor went that) it was 4R a few years ago, and now I hear that it is something different, probably Heaven Hill. That correct? Anyway, I had a bottle of it many years ago, and it sure was full of rye spice. Just had another pour a couple of weeks ago at a bar, and it is nothing like I remember, very fruity and mild.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
HeightsGuy   
HeightsGuy

Bulleit's web site indicates a mash bill of  68% corn, 28% rye, 4% malted barley.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kane   
Kane

That's also news to me, didn't know they revealed that info. Then that settles it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
lcpfratn   
lcpfratn

With the exception of Bulleit, it looks like you've decided to go with all Buffalo Trace products. That's obviously one way to do it. You can focus on the primary difference between the base Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare even though it's the same mashbill, and then discuss the difference that occurs with changing out rye for wheat with WSR.

 

I'm not a fan of WSR. The current product is just too young. I've let bourbon novices try it before and haven't had very good luck with it. I'd choose Maker's Mark or Larceny for the introduction to wheated bourbon, but everyone's palate is different.

 

While Bulleit is a fairly high rye bourbon, and you could discuss NDPs with that choice, I'd go with a standard Four Roses Single Barrel, which is 35% rye.

 

Eagle Rare is a fine choice, but if you wanted to have representatives from more major distillers, I'd probably replace it with Elijah Craig or Henry McKenna 10yr Single Barrel.

 

So, my lineup would be:

- Buffalo Trace

- Maker's Mark (Maker's 46 would be another good option)

- Four Roses Single Barrel (standard OBSV)

- Elijah Craig (or Henry McKenna SB)

 

Then if you wanted to add a rye, I'd go with Dickel Rye. I think novices would prefer that over Rittenhouse, and you could discuss the fact that Dickel sources this from MGP, but still changes it with their version of the Lincoln County charcoal filtering process.

 

My lineup would give you representative products from 4 to 5 major distillers with different mashbills, but whatever you do I'm sure it will be fun.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
flahute   
flahute
15 hours ago, Kane said:

No clunkers there! Bulleit will also be a good vehicle to talk about NDPs in your bourbon 101.

 

One question to everybody, though: Is Bulleit still a high rye bourbon? I know that (rumor went that) it was 4R a few years ago, and now I hear that it is something different, probably Heaven Hill. That correct? Anyway, I had a bottle of it many years ago, and it sure was full of rye spice. Just had another pour a couple of weeks ago at a bar, and it is nothing like I remember, very fruity and mild.

No Heaven Hill in there that I know of. Still majority 4R but also with some Beam, Brown Forman, and even possibly some Maker's Mark mixed in.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×