How to Pick Up a Great Bourbon: A Guide for Whiskey Enthusiasts (3.5 minute read)

Are you a whiskey enthusiast looking to explore the world of bourbons? With a rich history and a variety of flavors, bourbon has become a popular choice among spirit connoisseurs. However, the wide selection of bourbons available can be overwhelming for beginners. Fear not! In this guide, we'll take you through the essential steps to pick up a great bourbon that suits your palate and preferences.

  1. Understand the Basics of Bourbon:

Before embarking on your bourbon journey, it's crucial to understand what sets bourbon apart from other types of whiskey. Bourbon is a type of American whiskey made primarily from corn, aged in new charred oak barrels, and has specific legal requirements. It must be produced in the United States, have a minimum of 51% corn in the mash bill, and be distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume). Familiarizing yourself with these basics will help you make more informed decisions while exploring different brands.

  1. Research and Explore:

Bourbon production takes place across various states in the U.S., each contributing its unique flavor profile. Kentucky is renowned for its bourbon, but other states like Tennessee, Indiana, and Texas are producing exceptional bourbons as well. Research the distilleries and their offerings to understand the different nuances they bring to their products.

  1. Consider Your Budget:

Bourbons come in a wide range of price points, from affordable daily sippers to luxurious collectibles. Set a budget that aligns with your preferences and expectations. Keep in mind that higher price tags don't always guarantee a better experience, so be open to exploring options within your budget.

  1. Read Reviews and Expert Recommendations:

Take advantage of online resources and publications dedicated to whiskey reviews and expert recommendations. Reviews from experienced tasters can provide valuable insights into a bourbon's flavor, aroma, and overall quality. Remember, individual taste preferences vary, so it's essential to find reviewers whose preferences align with yours.

  1. Visit Tasting Rooms and Whiskey Festivals:

If possible, visit distillery tasting rooms or attend whiskey festivals. Tasting events are excellent opportunities to sample various bourbons side by side, allowing you to compare flavors and find the ones that resonate with you. Additionally, engaging with the distillers and enthusiasts can provide a deeper understanding of the craft and the stories behind the brands.

  1. Experiment with Different Styles and Ages:

Bourbons can vary significantly based on their mash bill, aging process, and barrel types. Try bourbons with different mash bills (high-rye, wheated, etc.) and various ages (young, old, and extra-aged) to discover your preferred style. Each one will offer unique taste profiles, from spicy and bold to smooth and sweet.

  1. Ask for Recommendations:

If you're unsure about where to start or what to try, don't hesitate to ask for recommendations from experienced whiskey enthusiasts or knowledgeable staff at liquor stores. They can suggest bourbons that align with your flavor preferences and provide valuable insights about the brands they carry.

  1. Keep a Whiskey Journal:

As you sample various bourbons, consider keeping a whiskey journal. Record your tasting notes, including aroma, taste, mouthfeel, and finish. This practice will not only help you remember your favorites but also enhance your palate over time.

  1. Sip Responsibly:

Remember that savoring bourbon is an experience to be enjoyed responsibly. Always drink in moderation and be mindful of the alcohol content of the spirit you're consuming.

Picking up a great bourbon is an exciting journey of exploration and discovery. Embrace the process, try new things, and most importantly, have fun along the way. Cheers to your adventure into the world of bourbon!