Expert Insight: Fast Facts About Bourbon
Even though the origins of bourbon are not known, there’s no denying it’s a popular drink today. What is it about bourbon that is making both men and women choose it over any alcoholic beverage? Woodford Reserve Master Taster Elizabeth O’Neill helps us understand how to select the right bourbon for you.
Bourbon, a type of American whiskey, can come off strong upon first taste. So what’s the right way to introduce yourself so you aren’t intimidated? Elizabeth says, “It’s completely normal to find bourbon to be strong in those first few times you try it—and the strength is likely dependent on the proof of the bourbon, or the actual amount of alcohol within it. If you are looking to lessen the strength, try adding a few drops of water to your glass when you drink it neat (or room temperature) or on the rocks. Or, try a bourbon-based cocktail to see how you respond to the flavors and strength of the spirit alongside mixers, bitters, syrups, and other cocktail elements.”
For any newbies, what can you tell us about bourbon that we may not know? “To be a bourbon, the spirit must be produced in the United States. While most bourbons are produced in Kentucky, there are bourbons produced outside of the Bluegrass State as well.
Bourbons differ based on the distilleries’ bourbon-making processes. Bourbon is crafted through a series of steps, which we at Woodford Reserve call the “Five Sources of Flavor.” These sources: grain, water, fermentation, distillation and maturation, guide our bourbon-making process and help us create a bourbon unlike any other.
Bourbon is just one category within the whiskey family of spirits. Rye is another type of whiskey, which differs from bourbon in that the grain recipe must contain at least 51% rye. Because of this, Rye whiskies are ultimately a spicier offering. Woodford Reserve’s Rye contains 53% rye, which makes the spirit as balanced and subtle as our traditional Distiller’s Select bourbon, so perfect if you’re looking to try Rye as well!”
It’s a popular time to be seen sipping whiskey at the bar and it’s not just men but also women. What is attracting females to this strong beverage? “We’re currently experiencing what’s being called a “bourbon boom,” with whiskey consumption continually rising and growing. Studies have increasingly shown that more and more women are drinking whiskey—it’s no longer just a ‘man’s drink.’ As a woman in the business, and of course as someone who enjoys bourbon, this trend excites me. Some women might be intimidated about trying bourbon for the first time, or feel unprepared about ordering it at a bar, but Woodford Reserve wants all of their consumers—whether they’re women or men—to feel comfortable and look forward to drinking the spirit.”
Not only is bourbon popular at the bar but also in the kitchen! Thanks to the variety of flavor notes, they are great for pairing with food and to cook with as well.“Bourbons can have hundreds of flavors,” Elizabeth explained.“To help understand what flavors we’re tasting, Woodford Reserve has developed a flavor wheel. We identify all of the major flavors through five main categories: grain, wood, spice, fruit, and sweet aromatics.
The flavor wheels can also help you identify which flavors within the spirit can be heightened through food pairings, such as oranges, chocolate, nuts, cheeses, and more. Our guided tasting can help you create your own flavor experience right at home.
Not only does bourbon pair well with food, but it also can be used as an ingredient in cooking! Bourbon glazes are a great addition to a salmon or pork dish, and bourbon can enhance traditional desserts like bread pudding and chocolate cake.”
To create your own experience, check out the flavor wheel below.