There's No Right Or Wrong Way To Experiment With Bourbon Flavors, According To An Expert

We've tried enhancing bourbon with vanilla beans and infusing some of our favorite bottles with dates, but our tinkerings got us wondering if there's a chance our experimentations could go bad. Should we be trying to bring out unique tasting notes in the small-batch bourbons we picked up from the store? Or is it better to leave the added drizzles of honey for some of the bourbons under $50 that we have stocked behind our home bars? Can a basic bourbon be improved with added flavor? Thankfully, Executive Bourbon Steward Chris Blatner, Founder of Urban Bourbonist, LLC and Executive Director of Bourbon Charity, came to the rescue to soothe a few of our anxieties.

Blatner assures us that we are on the right track with our imaginative boozy undertakings. "Yes, adding additional flavorings can work, but it's all experimentation," he encourages. "Use an old bottle, add some bourbon, and experiment with different levels of added flavor until you find something that you like."

Let your infusing imagination loose

Consider Blatner's green light as your license to go wild with your next creative bourbon infusion. If you find yourself gravitating towards labels that offer distinct bourbon tasting notes of baking spices or fruit, lean into your preference. Introduce actual spices or fruit into these blends and bottle them up to have a tasty addition on hand for your next old fashioned-inspired cocktails. Remember that the longer you let an infusion sit, the more pronounced the flavors will become. Taste the mixture periodically to nail your intended result. "It can be a fun way to come up with your own unique bourbon recipe at home," reassures Blatner.

Additionally, while creating your unique infusions, consider not only the bourbon tasting wheel's five key notes of wood, grain, sweet, spice, and fruit or floral but also the mouthfeel of your favorite labels. Smoother, rounder sips can come alive with an infusion using a cinnamon stick, and punchier tasting notes can start to sing with the inclusion of orange peel or nutmeg. The main thing, however, as Blatner infers, is to have fun experimenting.