There's no need to serve a full meal at your tasting -- the bourbon should be front-and-center, and you shouldn't overshadow it with a lot of food. But your guests can't be expected to survive on bourbon alone, so go ahead and dish up a few hors d'oeuvres.
Southern food is a no-brainer to pair with the ultimate Southern whiskey, and we don't see any reason to stray from the obvious. But you should pay attention to the specific flavors that will bring out the best in the bourbons you're serving. You can't just set out any old barbecue platter and call it a day. You need bold flavors -- and the more aged and higher-proof the bourbon, the bolder the food should be.
Many types of bourbon have an oaky taste with notes of caramel, so you can either try to match those flavors or cut through them. Fresh fruits, salt and smoke will go against the flavors in the bourbon -- salted, cured meats like bacon and country ham always work and you can't go wrong with aged and smoked cheeses. If you want to work with the bourbon, try caramelized pecans, dark chocolate or peach cobbler for dessert.
Check out the next page for more information on bourbon.
- Burkhart, Jeff. "Bourbon." National Geographic Assignment Blog, Sept. 20, 2011. (March 4, 2012) http://nationalgeographicassignmentblog.com/2011/09/20/bourbon/
- Deptolla, Carol. "Bourbon is Bold and Pairings are Tricky." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jan. 20, 2012. (March 4, 2012) http://www.jsonline.com/entertainment/dining/bourbon-is-bold-and-pairings-are-tricky-mr3qnj8-137671613.html
- Goldman, Jane. "Burns the Hairs Right Out of Your Nose." Chow, April 11, 2007. (March 4, 2012) http://www.chow.com/food-news/53923/burns-the-hairs-right-out-of-your-nose/
- Green, Heidi. "Hosting a Whiskey Tasting." Home and Garden Ideas, March 17, 2011. (March 4, 2012) http://www.homeandgardenideas.com/food-recipes/drinks/spirits-cocktails/hosting-whiskey-tasting
- Straight Bourbon. "Tasting Notes." (March 4, 2012) http://www.straightbourbon.com/tasting.html
- Vaughan, Mark. "Spirits of Kentucky: Small-Batch and Single-Barrel Bourbons Revive the Good Old Days of Whiskey." Straight Bourbon. (March 4, 2012) http://www.straightbourbon.com/whatisbourbon.html
- Waymack, Mark H. "Single Barrel and Small Batch Bourbon: High Quality Bourbon for Discriminating Consumers." Straight Bourbon. (March 4, 2012) http://www.straightbourbon.com/articles/mwsbb.html
- Zeldes, Leah A. "Eat This! Bourbon, America's Native Spirits." Dining Chicago, Feb. 23, 2011. (March 4, 2012) http://www.diningchicago.com/blog/2011/02/23/eat-this-bourbon-americas-native-spirits/