Bourbon Basics and the Best Glassware for Tasting

This year, our readers took up thousands of new hobbies. One of the most exciting examples of these is craft bourbon tasting. With so many tasting rooms and distillery tours on pause, many fans have endeavored to bring the tasting experience home, and carefully sought out all the tools they need to do their research.

Chief among these is glassware, which can easily elevate any tasting experience. Just as we’re used to using a flute glass for Champagne, or a Bordeaux glass for big, bold red wines, there are different spirits glasses to learn and lean into.

More often than not, many assume that spirits glasses are simply a means for serving cocktails. While sure, a Martini glass may be key to an ice-cold sip of vodka, you’re going to need more than a rocks glass when it comes to tasting bourbon.

As a refresher, whiskey becomes “bourbon” if at least 51 percent of the drink is made with corn, the rest can be made up of rye, wheat, or malted barley. From there, bourbons are often divided by how much of each ingredient they have, although some bourbons called “young bourbons” are simply differentiated by age.

When exploring the world of bourbon you’ll likely come across rye, corn, or wheated bourbon, all of which are determined by their ingredients. Then, one of the most interesting types of bourbon out there is “straight bourbon” which is required to age in oak for at least two years. These styles will come with more complexity than younger bourbons, similar to the flavors and aromas you would find in Scotch or even super dark rum.

The Glassware and Tips You’ll Need for Bourbon Tasting

Once you find the bourbon of your dreams it’s time to taste. Depending on the style you select, you may need to customize your approach, but with the right glassware, you’ll be prepared for anything.

Most notably, if you chose a barrel-strength bourbon, you may want to let it sit in the glass for up to five minutes before tasting, to allow any volatile alcohol to burn off. That way, you’ll be left with richer aromas and flavors and be able to get a better sense of what your favorite distiller or blender was really going for.

The best glassware for bourbon tasting.

From there, make sure you enjoy your first glass at room temperature. A cold pour may mask the spirit’s flavors, so we prefer to always taste with a reliable glass like these Spiegelau Bourbon Tasting Glasses.

Made from lead-free crystal in Germany, these glasses are designed to enhance the aromas and flavors in your whiskey. The tulip shape allows for easy swirling and funnels the aromas right up to your nose.

The set comes with four glasses that can each hold up to nine ounces comfortably, making them a perfect option for tasting with friends. Plus they’re dishwasher safe, so cleanup will be a breeze.