A Beginner’s Guide to Drinking Bourbon

Choosing the Right Glassware for Bourbon

When it comes to enjoying bourbon, choosing the right glassware can make all the difference. While any glass can technically hold bourbon, the shape and size of the glass can enhance or detract from the flavor and aroma of the spirit.

One popular option is the Glencairn glass, which is designed specifically for whisky tasting. It has a wide base that allows you to easily swirl the bourbon and release its aromas, and a narrow top that concentrates those aromas for a more intense experience.

Another option is the rocks glass, also known as an Old Fashioned glass. This is a shorter glass with a wider opening, which allows for the addition of ice or water without diluting the bourbon too quickly.

Ultimately, the choice of glassware will come down to personal preference. Experiment with different glasses and see which one works best for you. And remember, the most important thing is to enjoy the bourbon in good company.

Learning to Nose and Taste Bourbon

Nosing and tasting bourbon is an art that requires practice and patience. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Take your time: Bourbon is meant to be sipped slowly and savored, so don’t rush through the process. Take a moment to appreciate the color and aroma of the bourbon before taking your first sip.

  2. Use your senses: Start by nosing the bourbon, which means smelling it to detect the different aromas. Then take a small sip and let it sit on your tongue for a few seconds before swallowing. Pay attention to the flavors and mouthfeel.

  3. Look for complexity: Good bourbon should have a complex flavor profile, with different notes of sweetness, spice, and oak. Try to identify these flavors and how they blend together.

  4. Experiment with water: Adding a few drops of water can help open up the flavors in bourbon and make it more enjoyable to drink. Try adding a small amount of water and see how it changes the flavor profile.

  5. Practice makes perfect: The more you nose and taste bourbon, the better you’ll become at identifying the different flavors and aromas. Don’t be afraid to try different bourbons and compare them to each other to develop your palate.

Adding Water or Ice: Pros and Cons

Adding water or ice to bourbon is a personal choice, but it can have an impact on the flavor and aroma of the spirit. Here are some pros and cons to consider:


  • Can help to open up the flavors and aromas in the bourbon, making it more enjoyable to drink.
  • Can help to reduce the alcohol burn, especially for higher-proof bourbons.
  • Can make the bourbon more refreshing and thirst-quenching, especially when served over ice.


  • Can dilute the bourbon too quickly, leading to a weaker flavor and aroma profile.
  • Can mask some of the more subtle flavors and aromas in the bourbon.
  • Can make it difficult to appreciate the complexity of the bourbon, as the flavors and aromas can become muted.

Ultimately, the decision to add water or ice comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer their bourbon neat, while others enjoy it with a splash of water or served over ice. Experiment with different methods and see what works best for you.

Pairing Bourbon with Food and Cigars

Bourbon is a versatile spirit that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with a variety of foods and cigars. Here are some tips for pairing bourbon with complementary flavors:

Food Pairings:

  • Grilled or smoked meats: The smoky flavors of bourbon can complement the flavors of grilled or smoked meats, such as barbeque ribs or brisket.
  • Dark chocolate: The sweetness of dark chocolate can balance the spicy notes in bourbon, making it a great pairing for dessert.
  • Strong cheeses: The bold flavors of strong cheeses, such as blue cheese or aged cheddar, can complement the flavors in bourbon.

Cigar Pairings:

  • Full-bodied cigars: Bourbons with a higher proof and a spicy flavor profile can pair well with full-bodied cigars, such as Maduro or Habano.
  • Mild cigars: Bourbons with a smoother flavor profile can pair well with milder cigars, such as Connecticut or Dominican.

Remember, the most important thing is to enjoy the flavors and aromas of the bourbon and the complementary flavors of the food or cigar. Experiment with different pairings and see what works best for you.

Understanding the Basics of Bourbon

Before you can fully appreciate and enjoy bourbon, it’s important to understand the basics of what it is and how it’s made. Here are some key facts about bourbon:

  • Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that is made from at least 51% corn, with the remainder made up of other grains, such as rye, wheat, or barley.
  • It must be aged in new, charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years to be considered straight bourbon.
  • Bourbon must be produced in the United States, although it can be made anywhere in the country.
  • The proof of bourbon is determined by the amount of alcohol in the spirit, with higher proof bourbons having a stronger alcohol content.
  • Bourbon can have a wide range of flavor profiles, depending on factors such as the grain bill, barrel char, and aging process.

By understanding the basics of bourbon, you can better appreciate the flavors and nuances of the spirit. Try different types of bourbon to see how they differ in flavor and aroma, and learn to identify the key characteristics of each.

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