Here’s why we like tasting parties. They’re the best way to make your imbibing an education endeavor (wink, wink). The flavor variety in bourbon is something worth exploring. You’ve got your sweet vanilla and caramel, fruit and floral, and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, plus wood and grain flavors. Having a bourbon-themed party is a fun way to learn something new, whether your guests are casual drinkers or passionate bourbon connoisseurs. Here are some tips and ideas for hosting the classiest bourbon tasting y’all ever did see.

Tulip shaped glassware is recommended by most experts to showcase bourbon’s flavors. Other glasses will work, just make sure the mouth of the glass is larger than a typical shot glass so you can get the full aroma. Here, a bourbon tasting is set up with a collection of antique crystal decanters and vintage cocktail glassware for some real old-world charm. (via Garden and Gun)

Glencairn glasses ($10) are famous for being the perfect tasting glass; they’re short curvy glasses that concentrate the aromas coming off the bourbon in a way that typical wide-mouthed glasses can’t.

Not sure which bourbons to choose? You basically have two options here. Either go with a wide variety of whichever bourbon strikes your fancy, or you could go with something a little more organized like a selection of bourbons with similar qualities. Choose something mainstream to start with so your guests have a base for comparison. Here are some sample lineups from Beautiful Booze:

Small Batch Bourbons: Jefferson’s Presidential Select, Angel’s Envy, Marker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Rowans’s Creek, Basil Hayden’s and 1792 Ridgemont Reserve

Single Barrel Bourbons: Russell’s Reserve, Four Roses Single Barrel, Rock Hill Farms, Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, Mitcher’s, Willett Pot Still Reserve, and Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve

Craft Bourbons: Dry Fly Bourbon, Waitsburg Bourbon Whiskey from OOLA and Barrel Raider Bourbon Whiskey from Batch 206.

Pour one ounce of each bourbon into each tasting glass. You only need about a finger width for a good taste. As the host, make sure you give your guests instructions on how to fully appreciate a tasting. Bourbon is evaluated on four attributes — appearance, aroma, taste and finish. (photo via The Knot)

The appearance of bourbon is used to evaluate its maturity. The darker the whiskey, the older and higher the proof. If it’s too strong, try adding a little water. That can open up the flavor and bring out fruity tones. Swirl the glass two to three times, then take three short sniffs to identify various aromas.

Now comes the good part — the drinking. The tasting itself is a two-step process: First, take a small sip and swish it around your mouth before swallowing. Notice how it affects your palate. Then taste it again to judge the finish. Is it short or long? Warm and pleasant or hot and dry? Experts suggest limiting a tasting to four or five bourbons. If you start sampling too many, you’ll lose your taste buds. (photo via Elizabeth Ann Designs)

A tasting place mat will keep each taster organized, and notepaper will help them keep track of their thoughts and opinions. When the party is over, they can take their tasting notes home and remember which bourbons they enjoyed. Oh, and you know we’re going to provide you with a free printable.

Or try making your own tasting menu with a mix of fonts like this one. (via MM Times)

Orange slices are recommended for a bourbon tasting, because the fruit brings out the different notes in the bourbon. Lemon and lime garnishes are also nice to have on hand if your guests want to experiment with different flavors. (via Beautiful Booze)

Now for the food! You can’t have a bourbon tasting without cheese! Aged parmesan is a good choice. Dried cherries or cranberries are essential when doing a tasting because the tartness balances the natural bitterness of bourbon. Dark chocolate and walnuts deepen, yet mellow the flavor, while crackers act as a palate cleanser. Home-made ones are the way we would go. (via Eat Drink Pretty)

If you want to go all out, start thinking about a themed menu with something like smoked ribs, bourbon baked beans and a pecan pie to complement the caramel tones of the bourbon. Some other tradition pairings are bacon, peaches, maple syrup, berries and corn. (image via New South Food Co)

On the sweeter side of things, you could do a bourbon-themed dessert table complete with bourbon balls, bourbon cherry tartlets and salted caramel bourbon milkshakes!

Are you inspired to host a bourbon tasting? Let us know in the comments below!