Notes on tasting, Part One

If you’re just beginning to explore the wide world of bourbon, you may be a little intimidated. What’s the best way to get started? I asked Peggy Noe Stevens, the world’s first Master Bourbon Taster and the founder of the Bourbon Women Association, for advice for the novice.

 “Drink it in its pure form first, before you mix it, so you understand the flavors and components. I recommend you drink it over ice with a splash of water. Every bourbon has a different flavor profile, based on the grains, the maturation, etc. It’s good to learn it in its pure form first. That way you’ll learn: Do you like a spicy whiskey, or a wood flavor?

“My sign of a premium bourbon is that it’s complex and has layers of flavors, from the fruit to spice to wood, etc.  When you break it down and really focus on it you can understand the layers.


“There are so many wonderful bourbons on the market – it’s easy to get started. Talk to your favorite retailer to get their recommendations.”


What’s Peggy’s favorite bourbon? ”I always say my favorite bourbon is Kentucky bourbon. But the particular one really depends on the mood I’m in. Am I feeling kind of low-key and wanting to relax, or am I in a cocktail mood on a Friday night with my girlfriends? That helps determine which bourbon I choose.” 

But her favorite way to drink it is to stack ice in a glass, alternating between a cube and a shot of bourbon. “I prefer a cooler drink, so I like the ice to melt a bit into the whiskey, let it settle.”

Coming up next: How to develop your palate, or, I can’t hear you – there’s a banana in my bourbon

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The Bourbon Babe