DIY Bourbon Tasting Party
Posted May 02 | By Natalie Migliarini
I have been obsessed with bourbon for years and it has always been my go to spirit to drink neat or highlight at my Southern themed parties. At Beautiful Booze we love to throw themed parties like a DIY Mimosa Bar or this DIY Citrus Gin & Tonic Bar but a bourbon tasting party can add a kick to any ordinary party. I think that sometimes people think themed parties are cheesy but I think you can really pull off some good ones if you focus on one important ingredient. In this case it is all about bourbon and ways to showcase it. Not only will your guests get to taste some lovely bourbons they will also learn something new about bourbon. This doesn't have to be a boring educational seminar you can put out different tasting notes for each bourbon as well as group the bourbons into similar categories. It can be as casual as you want or more intense with guests sharing tasting notes.
As a host you should set the vibe and be sure to instruct guests on what to do. Tasting the bourbons will give guest an experience to remember. I think the best parties have some kind of activity that entice guests and they will always remember your party as a fun and positive experience. This format really appeals to a cocktail party flow where guest can pick and choose what they taste. I think that guests that are regular bourbon drinkers will love this as well as people that are just beginning their bourbon journey. Let's just say it puts the spirit on their radar. For me I aimlessly walk up and down the aisle at the liquor store searching for the most unique bourbon. For some they may just pick up a well-known brand at the store. So, if anything you are opening up peoples eyes to the land and tastes of bourbons! How great is that? I recently partnered with Gracious-House to Home to set up a bourbon tasting at their beautiful store that is filled with lovely vintage items and antiques! It was the perfect setting for a bourbon tasting party because I got the pleasure to use their beautiful cocktail ware! In the pictures below you will see some of the lovely cocktail and bar-ware.
Bourbon DYI Tasting Instructions:
- Measuring Utensil: The key to using the measuring utensils is so that everyone is poured 1.5 ounces of each bourbon. I tried this approach at my last bourbon tasting party and it didn't really go over well. My friends like to pour their own drink without any restrictions! Cheers to more bourbon!
- Glasses: Most people will suggest that you use tulip shaped glasses so that you get all the aroma from the bourbon. I like to mix and match different glasses to add dimension and variety to the tablescape. Use whatever you have and call it a day.
- Food Pairings: Here are some light bites that can be used to curb the appetite of guests while sipping the strong stuff. Nuts, dark chocolate, dried fruit, and cheese. It's good to note that you should have more food for after the tasting. I made this mistake with my first bourbon tasting party and it was not good. All my guests got wasted off all the bourbon and I was not prepared with a meal. If you are hosting a bourbon tasting I would highly recommend an after tasting meal. It could even be a pot luck where everyone brings something Southern inspired to fit the bourbon theme!
- Tasting notes, pen, and paper: If you would like to get all fancy pants like me - print off these materials to supplement your bourbon tasting. Check it out: KDM Bourbon Tasting Notes
Bourbon: Depending in the number of guests I would have between 6-10 bourbons so that there is a variety to taste. These bourbons could be arranged by small batch, single barrel, and craft. You could also organize them by region instead. I have listed multiple options for each category because they do differ in price. Also, this list is not extensive feel free to pick your pleasures!
Here is how I would do it: (these are just some examples-pick your poison)
- 3 small batch bourbons: Jefferson's Presidential Select, Angel's Envy, Marker's Mark, Woodford Reserve, Rowan's Creek, Basil Hayden's and 1792 Ridgemont Reserve.
- 3 single barrel bourbons: Russell's Reserve, Four Roses Single Barrel, Rock Hill Farms, Blanton's, Eagle Rare, Mitcher's, Willett Pot Still Reserve, and Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve.
- 3 local craft bourbons: Dry Fly Bourbon, Waitsburg Bourbon Whiskey from OOLA, and Barrel Raider Bourbon Whiskey from Batch 206.
On this website you can see the definitions of each category above to give you more information about each: https://www.thepartysource.com/whiskey/whiskey_faq.php
- Bourbon of your choice
Garnishes: Lemon, Orange, and Lime: Most people will probably drink the tastings neat but it's nice to have options especially if the bourbon tasting has an after party.
Basically you just need a table or a bar to set up all glasses, food, ice, water, garnishes, bourbon, tasting notes, and other needed supplies. Be creative and have fun. Here are some examples of set-ups and you will see how I did it below:
On the beach: http://gardenandgun.com/blog/diy-bourbon-tasting-bar
As the host make sure you give your guest instructions. A bourbon tasting is focused on 4 areas:
You could briefly explain these categories to your guests or use some of the printable tasting note papers above (they contain line items for each category). The tasting sheets seem to be the easiest way to engage guests in the activity. I found that if try to explain something or do not have a paper to engage guests then the bourbon tasting turns into a shot party. Let's get real I am hosting the party to get some info and enjoy bourbon not to re-live college one more time.
Hopefully this guide will help you when hosting your next Bourbon Tasting Party! The thought is to make it your own! I have tried to breakdown some items that might be helpful when hosting but you can take this information and make it your own. I am not a bourbon expert and do not claim to know how to host a stuffy bourbon tasting. But I am an expert on how to host a good party so take what you will from this and have a fabulous party!
Cheers to bourbon!