Let's Get Crafty, Wining & Dining

A Super Bowl Bourbon Tasting? Why not?

By Timothy Long

When you think of the Super Bowl, you naturally think of beer. Beer and Super Bowl go together like chips and dip, hotdogs and mustard, or wings and buffalo sauce. But why not bourbon? Why isn’t bourbon an integral part of this great American tradition? Bourbon is a national treasure. Yes, so is beer. But beer comes from the old country. Bourbon is part of our national heritage. It’s part of who we are.

Bourbon is the only American spirit regulated by the U.S. government. According to The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, bourbon made for U.S. consumption must be:

  • Produced in the U.S. and its Territories (Puerto Rico), as well as the District of Columbia.
  • Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn.
  • Aged in new, charred oak containers.
  • Distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof.
  • Entered into the container for aging at no more than 125-proof; and
  • Bottled (like other whiskeys) at 80 proof or more.

No other U.S. made spirit is so thoroughly regulated. Congress made bourbon purely American. So, why shouldn’t it be part of our Super Bowl tradition?

It should be! It’s time to add a festive activity to the traditional Super Bowl Party. And don’t just put out a couple of bottles of bourbon. Make it fun! Many people have never tasted bourbon, or any whiskey for that matter. So, have a Super Bowl bourbon tasting. I can read your mind right now; people are going to get sloshed. No, not if you do it correctly. Tasting is not the same as drinking. You use small pours and take your time. This will help to reduce the chances of someone getting snockered. It’s not about doing shots.

Below is a five-step whiskey tasting guide from worldwhiskeyday.com. It’s a fun way to make the tasting more enjoyable. I’ve adapted it a little, but the gist is still the same. And regular rocks glasses will work perfectly fine. You’re not a snobby self-proclaimed professional.

  1. Examine the appearance– Admire the color the wood has given the whisky. Each one will be slightly different.
  2. Check out the viscosity– Swirl the glass and look for the streaks of liquid which run down the inside of the glass. These are known as the ‘legs’ and indicate viscosity or ‘mouthfeel’. The thicker the legs, the more voluptuous the mouthfeel.
  3. Shake the glass and watch– Put your hand over the glass and shake the bourbon. Watch how long it takes the resultant bubbles to disappear. The longer it takes, the higher the ABV. Rub your hands together and smell the barley from which the whisky was made.
  4. Now the sniffing– Move your glass towards your nose while taking short, sharp sniffs. Sniffing bourbon is not like sniffing wine. Keeping your mouth open is key. It keeps the high alcohol content from burning your nose. Also, trust your nose. There’s no right or wrong – everything you smell comes from your life experience.
  5. The first taste– Take a good sip of your bourbon, take a moment, then take a second taste. All whiskey drinkers know that the first taste is never the best. In fact, it’s often the worst. That second taste is key. Taste comes from the tongue while flavor comes from your nose, so breathe to aid your oronasal perception. Take in the texture of the bourbon.

Here is a suggested list of bourbons reviewed in my previous articles. I also provided some accompanying notes.

  1. Bulleit Bourbon: This is a great bourbon to start with. It is smooth and delightful. The nose starts with vanilla and caramel. Tasting then brings vanilla on the palate with peppery oak flavor and cinnamon.
  2. Woodford Reserve: It’s an almost perfect bourbon. It is comprised of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malt, and it matures for six years. The nose is creamy with notes of honey and spice. It is thick and full on the palate with notes of espresso beans, winter spices, and vanilla.
  3. Four Roses Small Batch: This bourbon is very easy on the palate. The flavors are gentle with oak and citrus on the nose. The palate detects caramel, fruit, cherries, and rye, none of which jump out quickly. The mouthfeel is light and creamy.
  4. Blade & Bow: Time to mix it up a little and add some spice. This is a smooth and wonderful bourbon with peaches, honey, and hay on the nose. But then the tasting brings white pepper, vanilla, oak, and autumn spices to the palate.

Have water and ice available for those who want it. Water does bring out more flavor but should be added sparingly. Just a few drops will do. Discuss the bourbons and get your guests impressions. If you are really daring, throw in a cigar to pair as well. It’ll make for a fun time for all. As for beer, you should be serving local craft beer. See last February’s article, “Super Bowl Is a Perfect Opportunity to Support Your Local Brewery.”

During the tasting, you’ll need to be prepared for the inevitable, someone will state that bourbon must come from Kentucky. This is a common misbelief. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the U.S. I don’t care what your obnoxious cousin says. You know, the one you had to invite because your mother or wife said so. The one who can’t hold a job for more than six months, but he’s an expert on everything. The one who shows up with pumpkin ale. It’s the middle of February, where the hell did he find pumpkin ale? Face facts, it’s been in his refrigerator since September. And he is re-gifting it to you so he can drink your good bourbon and craft beer. And to further thank you for your graciousness, the detestable sod then starts an argument about quantum mechanics during the game with your buddy, who just happens to be a physicist.

But it’s all fine. You were smart. You hid the good bourbon and the Cuban cigars before the party. You’ll break them out when he leaves. Which will most likely be during halftime because he’ll be too drunk to make it through the game. And he has a job interview in the morning.

You know who the MVP of this game is. You are. You did something fun and unique for your guests. They all had a great time, despite the sod. Enjoy your bourbon, your cigar, and the game. You’ve earned it. Cheers!!

Tim’s Bourbon and Cigar Recommendation

Weller Special Reserve Bourbon: I recommend this as the fifth bourbon in your tasting. You’ll be throwing them a curve ball, even though you are watching football. Weller Special reserve is a wheated bourbon. This means that although the bourbon is 51% corn mash as required by law, the main secondary grain is wheat. Most bourbons use rye as their secondary grain. But there is no rule, distillers can use whatever they want. The nose is caramel, vanilla, and honey, all very typical bourbon smells. The palate also has caramel and honey, with hints of spice. This is a soft, easy sipping bourbon with notes of caramel and oak on the finish. Your guest will be delighted and amused.

Padron 1964 Anniversary Cigar: Cigar Aficionado gave this cigar a 93 rating and stated that “it teems with flavor from the first puff.” And man, were they right. This cigar starts with black pepper, cedar, and coffee flavors. It gets creamy as you get further into it. The black pepper remains, then cocoa and coffee notes start to also appear. It ends a bit nutty with the black pepper still there. This cigar will pair nicely with most good bourbons. Cheers!!

This cigar, and many other fine cigars, are available at John Crouch Tobacconist at 215 King St. in Old Town Alexandria.

About the Author: Timothy Long is an educator, writer, consultant, and experienced restaurant operator. Email: tlong@belmarinnovations.com. Instagram and Twitter: @wvutimmy. Blog: What is that fly doing in my soup? http://whatflyinmysoup.com

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