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deaconbones
01-04-2010, 09:07
So I've just recently started drinking my bourbon neat, taking time to enjoy straight bourbon for what it is. At first I could hardly wet my lips without wincing. One day it was like a light went off and all of a sudden I could take a decent sip. Now I can enjoy the bourbon and begin to detect some of the subtle flavors and smells. Has this been a common progression for others? And as I mature and get more experienced what other milestones can I look forward too?

I envy the enthusiast around here that can wrap their fingers around a glass and really understand what they are drinking. I look forward to the day I can do the same. I'd love to hear some words of wisdom in this area.

SMOWK
01-04-2010, 09:18
The trick for me was to know what you are drinking, when you're drinking it. Such as how it's made, what it's made with, what it is similar to, etc. That's what allowed me to really start noticing the subtle, but very different, flavors (if that makes sense).

I've been drinking bourbon for 5-7 years, or, about as long as I was legally allowed to enter a liquor store. Only months ago did I really start to be able to have a sip of something, and be able to distinguish rye, corn, wheat, etc. And with that, came the discovery of the spicyness in rye, the sweetness in wheat, and the (yet to describe it) in corn.

As you can see, I'm still picking apart my palate. And I'm loving every minute of it!

A good tip that was pointed out just the other day on this forum, was the fact that you shouldn't jump all over the bar when tasting. Stick with one type of whisky, or similar whiskies. Don't go from rye to wheat to corn to scotch and then back again in one sitting, it'll just confuse you.

ggilbertva
01-04-2010, 09:59
SMOWK's advise is good. For a new bourbon drinker have a couple bottles at home that cover wheat and rye bourbon and rye whiskey. Some folks like the spicy characteristics of a rye bourbon or whiskey while others gravitate toward the softer notes of a wheated bourbon. Also as a new drinker, starting at a lower proof and working your way up is generally a good idea so your head doesn't explode on the first sip of a super proof like George T. Stagg or William LaRue Weller.

A couple good selections are:

Wheat Bourbon - Weller Special Reserve @90 proof
Rye Bourbon - Very Old Barton @86 pf or Buffalo Trace @90 pf
Rye Whiskey - Sazerac Rye @ 90 pf

As SMOWK mentioned, having a Corn Whiskey around tunes your palate to distinguish the corn elements in a bourbon. At some point you will begin picking out the dominant and less dominant flavors. Additionally, when you nose a bourbon, your palate should reinforce what you smelled. I've found though that in some cases there will be a disconnect between the nose and the entry.

SMOWK
01-04-2010, 10:24
Another good tip is to make sure you don't just stick your nose to the bottom of the glass and inhale. The alcohol will get ya before any of the aroma's will. A better idea is to stick your whole face in the glass and breath through both your mouth and nose. It really allows you to taste the smell and smell the taste.

IronHead
01-04-2010, 10:32
I absolutely think there is a progression. I used to only drink my whiskey neat when I was trying a new one. I was pretty much an 'on the rocks' guy. But then over the past year I noticed myself wanting fewer ice cubes in my whiskey. Over the course of the past year I have gone from only wanting two, to one to no ice in my whiskey. I think the last time I had bourbon on the rocks was sometime in the summer.

I also keep a corn whiskey (Mellow Corn) around as well as straight Rye (Several) and Wheat whiskey (Bernheim Original) in the cabinet. Actually, I would have never thought to pick up something like Mellow Corn until someone on here suggested it. It really went a long way to helping me be able to pick out the characteristics that corn imparts to Bourbon.

Recently I started paying attention to how the glassware affects the taste, concentrates the smells, etc. I started by cycling through a rocks glass, a snifter, Riedel Bourbon Glasses and Glencairn glasses. The glassware definitely makes a difference. Now, unless I am piddling around with glasware I usually use a Glencairn glass. My palate is not there yet, but some of the guys on the board will taste differences in the same whiskey poured in a Glencairn glass made of crystal and one made of standard glass.

Definitely invest in a Glencairn Glass or two if you want get the most out of drinking your whiskey neat.

Lastly, if this post gives you the impression that I know what the hell I am talking about I apologize. I am pretty much regurgitating advice gleaned from either reading this board or asking members directly. SB really is a great resource.

callmeox
01-04-2010, 10:56
The one point from the OP that you can clarify is that the sweetness in bourbon is from the corn and not from the flavor grain.

Wheaters are normally sweeter on the palate than ryed bourbons due to the different assertiveness of the flavor grains. Assuming an equal amount of rye or wheat in a mashbill, the rye is much more forward than the wheat (it masks the corn sweetness more) so the wheater will taste sweeter.

For those who have access to it, try some of the Bernheim Wheat whiskey. It is a great demonstration of how the wheat isn't the sweet componenet of the bourbon.

emr454
01-04-2010, 10:59
I've definitely noticed a progression in my bourbon drinking experience. I have been drinking bourbon on and off for the last 3 years, essentially since I have become of legal drinking age. I am in no way an expert, but here is what my limited experience has been like.

When I first started really drinking and enjoying bourbon I couldn't make out hardly any tastes or aromas, I just knew it wasn't disgusting. I also tried JD a few times when starting out and I could easily pick up a sweet, smoky smell, but that was it.

Recently though, my progress is coming faster than ever. I can pick out certain scents, like oak, smoke, leather/tobacco( I haven't been able to separate these yet, they seem to come as one scent, almost one and the same), and just recently vanilla and brown sugar. Not many different aromas, but enough for me to get excited about!

As far as tastes, I have been able to detect oakiness, vanilla, cinnamon, dark chocolate/cocoa, and while sipping some EWSB the other day, some sweetness, which I attribute to the corn in the mashbill.

Not huge progress, but now I've come to enjoy great bourbon for what it is and how it's made, instead of just shooting it back and trying to catch a buzz(what a waste!)

Again, while I'm no expert, I do believe people go through phases during their appreciation of any alcoholic beverage they enjoy.

Eric

loose proton
01-04-2010, 15:20
One suggstion. Don't finish bottles. Keep a lot of bottles around and then you can taste compare. That's been the biggest eye opener for me. ...And still is. Just now I relished some Glenlivet Nadurra then went to 4RSB, and was surprised at the similarities and how well the 4R complemented the Nadurra.

jburlowski
01-04-2010, 15:46
Maturing as a Bourbon Drinker perhaps... but yet some of us here will never grow up.

OscarV
01-04-2010, 15:55
I'd love to hear some words of wisdom in this area.

Dude you just said all the words of wisdom that every boubon connoisseur has said at the beginning of the journey.

ratcheer
01-04-2010, 17:20
I envy the enthusiast around here that can wrap their fingers around a glass and really understand what they are drinking. I look forward to the day I can do the same. I'd love to hear some words of wisdom in this area.

You will definitely get there, one day. All it takes is sampling a wide variety over a long time and noticing what you like and don't like about each one. It doesn't matter at all what others like or don't like. If you like it, it is good, and vice versa.

Tim

Joshua
01-04-2010, 19:45
My advice is don't dismiss something without a few tastes on different days. I've had bourbon that was GREAT one day, then horrid the next. Then back to great the days after.

Foods, mood, atmosphere, glasses, etc can call change how a bourbon tastes. Make sure not to dismiss something at first taste, and likewise don't praise something too heavily on first taste either!

ILLfarmboy
01-04-2010, 20:33
Sometimes I think the rye in ryed bourbon provides a backbonr to the whiskey much the same way tannins in red wine do. It is those times when something with a good rye hit hits the spot.

George
01-05-2010, 04:58
It's definitely a learning process, and I'm slowly discovering things. Some of the comments and suggestions in this thread are very helpful.

p_elliott
01-05-2010, 09:06
I absolutely think there is a progression. I used to only drink my whiskey neat when I was trying a new one. I was pretty much an 'on the rocks' guy. But then over the past year I noticed myself wanting fewer ice cubes in my whiskey. Over the course of the past year I have gone from only wanting two, to one to no ice in my whiskey. I think the last time I had bourbon on the rocks was sometime in the summer.

I also keep a corn whiskey (Mellow Corn) around as well as straight Rye (Several) and Wheat whiskey (Bernheim Original) in the cabinet. Actually, I would have never thought to pick up something like Mellow Corn until someone on here suggested it. It really went a long way to helping me be able to pick out the characteristics that corn imparts to Bourbon.

Recently I started paying attention to how the glassware affects the taste, concentrates the smells, etc. I started by cycling through a rocks glass, a snifter, Riedel Bourbon Glasses and Glencairn glasses. The glassware definitely makes a difference. Now, unless I am piddling around with glasware I usually use a Glencairn glass. My palate is not there yet, but some of the guys on the board will taste differences in the same whiskey poured in a Glencairn glass made of crystal and one made of standard glass.

Definitely invest in a Glencairn Glass or two if you want get the most out of drinking your whiskey neat.

Lastly, if this post gives you the impression that I know what the hell I am talking about I apologize. I am pretty much regurgitating advice gleaned from either reading this board or asking members directly. SB really is a great resource.

Mike

I don't think your just regurgitating what you have read here but if your like me you have taken in what you have read tried it for yourself. Found what does and does not work for you then pass the stuff that does work for you on. I think we all do that.

p_elliott
01-05-2010, 09:10
The one point from the OP that you can clarify is that the sweetness in bourbon is from the corn and not from the flavor grain.

Wheaters are normally sweeter on the palate than ryed bourbons due to the different assertiveness of the flavor grains. Assuming an equal amount of rye or wheat in a mashbill, the rye is much more forward than the wheat (it masks the corn sweetness more) so the wheater will taste sweeter.

For those who have access to it, try some of the Bernheim Wheat whiskey. It is a great demonstration of how the wheat isn't the sweet componenet of the bourbon.

Scott

Your right on the money here with the Bernhiem it doesn't taste anything like a wheat bourbon. People should get a bottle and try it out.

fishnbowljoe
01-05-2010, 12:11
I'm pretty sure that most of us here have gone through some type of progression with their bourbon drinking. I know that I have.

At first, I could only drink bourbon with a mixer. Now, I drink my bourbon many different ways. I generally prefer it with a couple of ice cubes, but I will have some straight, or with a mixer from time to time. I will also say that whenever I try something new, the first taste is always straight. Preferably out of a glencairn glass. Whatever way you decide to drink your bourbon is great. It's all good.

As far as being able to pick out specific tastes/smells, that's one area that can really be baffling to me at times. Sometimes I will taste something, and it's like I've been hit between the eyes. The smell/taste is unmistakable. No problem at all picking them out. Then again, there are other times that I have something, and I know there is a certain smell/taste there, and I know that in the back of my mind I know what it is, but I just can't pick it out. Lastly, there are times that it just doesn't matter. One of those times that (thankfully) are few and far in between. Some here have referred to it as having an "off" night. Those are the times that your senses of taste and smell just don't seem to be working, and for all practical purposes, everything is just "blah".

Advice. Don't push it. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. Sometimes the harder you try for something, the farther away it gets. Just relax and have a good time. One thing that I truly believe is very helpful, is being able to have a drink or two with other bourbon lovers. Whether its friends, members of this or other bourbon web sites, or the guy next to you at the bar who just ordered bourbon, it helps having something in common with others in a face to face setting. Being able to raise a glass and discuss bourbon, or just things in general can be a lot of fun. Educational too.:bigeyes:

Anyway, that's my take on things. Have some fun and enjoy yourself. It's all good. Joe

deaconbones
01-05-2010, 13:05
I really appreciate all that has been said and am sure I will follow all the advise in some way or another.

IronHead
01-05-2010, 13:31
Paul,

You're right, but I have so much futher to go and did not want to be mistaken for one of the guys on this board who REALLY knows what he is talking about :)


Mike

I don't think your just regurgitating what you have read here but if your like me you have taken in what you have read tried it for yourself. Found what does and does not work for you then pass the stuff that does work for you on. I think we all do that.

rmallen
01-05-2010, 17:16
I've had a similar progression with whiskey in general. I've only been what I'd call a whiskey enthusiast for a little over a year. For the first twenty + years after reaching legal drinking age (and even before then), I always considered whiskey something you needed to drink quickly -- a penalty for getting Euchred or loosing a game of darts. Then one day I decided to figure out what people liked about whiskey. It was clearly more than just the alcohol. All I had on the shelf was a pint of Jeam Beam white label. I slowly sipped a glass over the rocks with water. At first, I didn't get it. But after a few attempts over several days, I got beyond the alcohol and picked up some interesting flavors underneath. I quickly moved from there to single malt scotch, at first on the rocks with no water. After a short time, I also ditched the ice as it watered down the last few sips too much for my taste.

I built up a respectable collection of scotch before rediscovering bourbon several month ago (this time neat, no ice or water). I am really hooked on the sweet, spicy character of bourbon. Of course, it also gave me a good excuse to further expend my whisky/whiskey collection...yes, I do believe a have Whiskirexia Nervosa.

I am no expert. However, I know the aromas and flavors I like even if I can't express them in colorful terms like "new leather with toffee, polished oak and hints of fruit" or something similar. Maybe in time, maybe not...but no worries, I will continue to develop and expand my appreciation of good whiskey!

Mike

TNbourbon
01-05-2010, 19:50
...it takes...sampling a wide variety over a long time and noticing what you like and don't like about each one. It doesn't matter at all what others like or don't like. If you like it, it is good...
Tim
Hast hit it, friend! There are two moments when you will feel absolutely free from the confines of "other peoples' opinions", having graduated from your course of self-study in bourbonophily, and Tim is exactly correct -- they both require wide exposure and experience with whiskeys: 1) when you disagree with the general pronouncement of the 'experts' about the quality of some bottling, and can confidently justify and accept your own viewpoint as valid; and 2) when you can appreciate the qualities in a whiskey you don't enjoy, and/or notice the flaws in one you relish.

...At first, I could only drink bourbon with a mixer. Now, I drink my bourbon many different ways. I generally prefer it with a couple of ice cubes, but I will have some straight, or with a mixer from time to time. I will also say that whenever I try something new, the first taste is always straight...Whatever way you decide to drink your bourbon is great. It's all good... Joe
And I'm all over that viewpoint, too, although my progression has been the reverse of Joe's -- I drank EVERYTHING neat for quite a while, and have come to enjoy the easy pleasure of mixing flavors in whiskey cocktails and quick mixers. The point is to enjoy it.

BourbonJoe
01-06-2010, 06:33
I'm still in the maturation process. So many bourbons, so little time. :hot:
Joe :usflag:

Avi
02-18-2010, 21:34
For me it was something simple. I always drank my bourbon on the rare occasion of a wedding or something like that...with ice. At one particularly boring wedding I found the bourbon in my glass particularly boring. I went to the bartender and asked for a new one...straight up. Bang! I don't wait for weddings anymore...I wait for the evening.

The Boozer
02-19-2010, 06:55
Its a lot like life, there is no pinnacle but a long, enjoyable journey. I, like a number of members, probably have nose hairs that are older than you and I am stilling learning and experiencing new tastes and flavors. Enjoy the ride.
TJ