When you're selecting bourbons for your tasting party, the first thing you should consider is your audience. If you're hosting a group of bourbon experts, you might choose a very narrow range of products: only single-barrel bourbons, for example, or bottles from a certain county. That way, you can get very specific in your tasting comparisons.
Most groups, though, would probably appreciate a more diverse experience. So, mix it up a little and keep people guessing. Select maybe between five and 10 bottles to give a good variety. Taste midrange bottles from a big name (Jack Daniels, Jim Beam) next to high-end, small-batch bourbons from boutique distilleries. Just for fun, throw in a bottle of rotgut -- the cheapest bourbon you can find -- and see if anyone can tell the difference.
The best kind of glass for bourbon tasting is small, stemmed and tulip-shaped -- like a brandy snifter or sherry glass. They allow for the full release of the bourbon's flavors and aromas. Whatever you do, don't use a straight-sided glass because, apparently, it will let the aromas and flavors escape so you won't experience the true taste. Who knew? And oh, each taste should be about an ounce.
So ... you have a tiny glass of bourbon in front of you. Do you sniff it first or just take a slug?