Bourbon Tasting Like A Pro

Bourbon Tasting Like a Pro


Have you ever wondered why the classic bourbon drinker inhales the spirit moments before holding their glass to the light? Have you ever glared in peculiarity when watching them chew their mouthful of bourbon? 

Tasting may seem like a complicated process reserved for a highly developed palate, but at Old Elk everyone can be a classic bourbon sipper. With a few tips on identifying and analyzing tasting notes - you’ll blend just as smoothly as our Old Elk Bourbon.

Let’s begin! To conduct a bourbon tasting all you need is Old Elk Bourbon and a few drops of water of your choice to open the aromas and bring the notes to fruition.

The four elements to focus on when identifying bourbon tasting notes are:

  1. Appearance

  2. Aroma

  3. Taste

  4. Finish  

STEP ONE: APPEARANCE - Raise your glass to the light and give it a swirl or two. You’ll see that the liquid leaves a trail as it flows back into the base of the glass. These are called “legs” or “tears”. Now, observe the liquid legs forming on the interior of the glass and focus on the appearance. What hue masks the glass? Dark mahogany? Light amber? Clear caramel? In this phase, you’ll determine both the true color and clarity of the bourbon. There are many variables to the color of bourbon, but the barrel aging process plays a major role in appearance. Darker hued bourbons do not always depict a higher quality- so try a variety and keep an open mind.

STEP TWO: AROMA - Ahhh, the aroma of bourbon! Smell is such a crucial element of taste, it is vital to include this aspect in your tasting. Look for a sniffer or Glencairn whisky glass. Raise the glass to your nose and inhale with your mouth slightly open. This is to avoid the alcohol burning the inside of your nose thus masking the true smell. Do you smell spice? Maple? Sweet vanilla and caramel? The shape of the glass will concentrate aromas and enhance the overall experience. 

STEP THREE: TASTE - The fun has begun - the tasting phase. It may feel strange, but trust us on this one, you’ll want to “chew” a generous mouthful of bourbon to coat your tongue. The tip of the tongue detects sweetness. The mid-section recognizes savory, while the back of the tongue distinguishes bitterness. This bonafide tasting technique will ensure you’re covering all the tasty territory.

STEP FOUR: FINISH -This element pertains to the lingering bourbon taste on your tongue. Does it dissipate quickly? That’s a short finish. Does it stay for a while? That’s a long finish.


Not too complicated after all, is it? Our Master Distiller, Greg Metze believes that every bourbon drinker should drink it as they please. The best way to become a skilled bourbon enthusiast is to simply try many. After all, it’s research. 

Let us help you hone your bourbon tasting skills with the finest bourbon in Colorado. Bring a friend and visit The Reserve to share in the experience of our top shelf Old Elk Bourbon, Wheat Whiskey, Rye Whiskey (including exclusive Single Barrels), Nooku Bourbon Cream and Dry Town Gin. 

The Reserve by Old Elk Distillery

253 Linden Street, Fort Collins, CO 80524

Open daily • 11am-9pm Sunday-Wednesday • 11am-11pm Thursday-Saturday

Erin Bishop