Bourbon is better when paired with friends. And when we are not able to meet in person, we are fortunate to live in an age when we can meet online, virtually. Virtual bourbon tastings and happy hours using video conferencing technology like Zoom is a great way to experience bourbon with friends, have a great conversation, and have some fun.
Here are our recommended steps to hosting a successful virtual tasting with 2 to 6 of your friends:
#1 Choose the right video service
There are a variety of services available. We recommend selecting one that works on everyone’s devices, whether it be a phone or laptop. Zoom and Google Hangouts are our recommendations based on price and ease of use. There is also a good chance everybody already has it installed.
#2 Choose the right bourbon
If everyone has a comparable selection at home, choose 4 to 5 bourbons everyone has to taste. You can be thematic by choosing all single barrels, bottled in bond, barrel proof, etc or mix it up. There is no right or wrong.
If everyone doesn’t have a similar selection, you can always order 1 oz glass bottles from Amazon and give samples to friends (adhering to state regulations of course).
#3 Setup the tasting
We recommend a semi-blind tasting. In a semi-blind tasting you are aware of what bourbons might be in the glass, but you’ll need to rely on your sniffer and palette to identify which is which, while also deciding which one you like best. If you are solo at home, just add some painters tape to the bottom of your glasses, pour 1 ounce into each glass, and write on the tape the name of the bourbon. Then shuffle them around as best you can until you’re certain they are rearranged in a way you don’t recognize. We highly recommend using Glencairn glasses or some form of glass with a narrow top and wider base so you can experience the full range of notes.
We also recommend a small handful of coffee beans in a small cup to reset your sense of smell and a glass of water to rinse your mouth out with between samples. Avoid salty snacks. Plain crackers are good if you want a snack between samples.
Have a pencil and paper nearby, you will want to take notes on what you smell and taste for each bourbon. Did it remind you of fresh oak? Banana cream pie? An old strap of leather? Rank each bourbon based on your own criteria. We recommend Nose, Palette, Finish, and Uniqueness.
#4 Do the tasting
Dial up your friends using the service everyone agreed to use. Make sure everyone has set up their flights and is ready to go. Take your time. Share your notes out loud with your friends. It’s exciting to hear your friends experience similar tasting notes and wonder if they’re tasting the one you just sampled. You will learn about the bourbons and their range of expressions.
The Bourbon Tasting Boards were meant for this part! If you do not have one yet, consider purchasing a board for your next tasting if you want to experience more flavors in your bourbon!
#5 The reveal!
Finding out if you guessed the bourbons correctly always generates intense reactions. At BTCo we like to start with our least favorite and work our way up. Everybody shares and discusses their lowest rank and then moves to the next one up. Again, there is no right or wrong and we encourage everyone to experiment with how to do the reveal. Having a lineup sheet for everyone to refer to is extremely helpful as well.
#6 Continue the conversation
Just because you finished the tasting doesn’t mean the conversation is over, so grab another bottle to taste or resample one from the tasting.
Whether in person or virtual, sharing the bourbon experience in real time with tasting notes gives you and your friends the enjoyment of honest reactions from those you know. It’s also a great way to spend time with friends. Cheers!