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tarheel
11-10-2012, 05:23
One of my favorite characteristics of a whiskey is a hefty, thick, and smooth mouthfeel. As I've been working my way through the enormous number of great Bourbons in the $15-$30 range, I've been trying to come to some general conclusions of which are best in the mouthfeel category. So far, I can't say any really have blown me away in this category. Although WT101 may have had one of the better mouthfeels in this range.

What I did notice, however, is that some bourbons really fall short on the mouthfeel side. While I enjoy the flavor components of ERSB 10, I noticed this week that it seemed about as thin as water to me.

Are there any general rules to choosing bourbons with great, hefty mouthfeel? I found an old thread a while back with a few posts that recommended wheaters on the whole for this characteristic. Do most experienced drinkers agree with that? If so, why do wheaters win out? Any specific recommendations?

sailor22
11-10-2012, 06:16
Agreed on the thick mouth feel as a desirable characteristic. Also curious what part of manufacture accentuates it and why it isn't used much in descriptions by manufacturers.
After doing a recent tasting of a large sampling of wheaters I wouldn't describe thick mouth feel as a characteristic of that juice across the board.

T Comp
11-10-2012, 07:13
There is no easy answer because of all the variables in production and of course mouthfeel itself (oiliness, viscosity, texture) can have a wide definition. Column still, cuts made, distillation proof, entry proof, mash bill, char of wood, years in the wood, filtering and bottling proof, all have an effect. Though made industrially, the ingredients are farmed and subtle differences can occur just based on each year's grains. Pot still advocates will attribute that, versus the column still, as being the main reason why American whiskey has less mouthfeel in general. I don't find that wheaters win out on mouth feel either. Plenty of rye finished bourbons with great mouthfeel too. I agree on ER 10/90 as having minimal mouth feel but the old 101 proof had plenty. Here is a short but insightful thread from 2004 on oilness of bourbon and that component of mouthfeel. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?3517-Oils-in-Bourbon

Bourbon Boiler
11-10-2012, 07:24
I also don't think the wheaters win in this regard, unles you're speicifcally talking about 12+ year wheaters, in which case we're probably out of the price range mentioned originally. I would guess that a lower entry proof and a higher bottling proof (ie, less water added) might be the best variable to follow, although that information probably isn't 100% available.

tarheel
11-11-2012, 04:37
I think the main characteristic that I attribute to mouthfeel is density/viscosity. I do agree that this could also be affected by the oiliness of the bourbon. Thanks for that old thread T Comp. Interestingly, that oiliness would be caused by congeners whose boiling point would likely be lower than alcohol/water, like small molecule esters. The density of those compounds on average would be lower than water, so you could get an oilier outhfeel AND a less dense/viscous bourbon at the same time. Note that it can't really be "oils" causing oiliness, because the boiling point of any long-chain oils would be much higher than water or ethanol. For anyone who is interested, here's a link that shows some of the small molecule compounds that give (Scotch) whisky its flavor: http://www.rsc.org/images/Whisky_tcm18-138981.pdf. Are there any places that one can find the major small molecule components that give flavor to Bourbon? That would be interesting.....

In the old days, as bourbons had lower distillation and entry proof, they would have more of these small molecule organic congeners and would be oilier. As Bourbon Boiler points out, those variable could be very important - but are not something you can read on the side of a bottle! I guess in the end this is a more complex issue than I thought. Even if we can't understand the science behind it, I'd be curious to see what specific bourbons you all judge to have impressive mouthfeel (even if they are outside the $15-$30 range).

To refresh my memory, I had a couple of fingers of WT101 last night, and it did have quite a nice mouthfeel. It is shocking to me how much I enjoy that bourbon in so many ways - for $22 here in NC!

Bourbon Boiler
11-11-2012, 06:45
WT is barrelled at a lower than normal proof - at least that's what the tourguides say.

unclebunk
11-11-2012, 08:08
There is no easy answer because of all the variables in production and of course mouthfeel itself (oiliness, viscosity, texture) can have a wide definition. Column still, cuts made, distillation proof, entry proof, mash bill, char of wood, years in the wood, filtering and bottling proof, all have an effect. Though made industrially, the ingredients are farmed and subtle differences can occur just based on each year's grains. Pot still advocates will attribute that, versus the column still, as being the main reason why American whiskey has less mouthfeel in general. I don't find that wheaters win out on mouth feel either. Plenty of rye finished bourbons with great mouthfeel too. I agree on ER 10/90 as having minimal mouth feel but the old 101 proof had plenty. Here is a short but insightful thread from 2004 on oilness of bourbon and that component of mouthfeel. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?3517-Oils-in-Bourbon

Thanks for the link, Thad. I find viscosity an important factor in my enjoyment of many bourbons and agree that this characteristic cuts across wheaters and rye'd whiskey. As you noted, the old ER10/101 is one of my favorites for this very reason.

HP12
11-11-2012, 09:40
Agreed on the thick mouth feel as a desirable characteristic. Also curious what part of manufacture accentuates it and why it isn't used much in descriptions by manufacturers.
After doing a recent tasting of a large sampling of wheaters I wouldn't describe thick mouth feel as a characteristic of that juice across the board.

I would agree with your assessment Steve that wheaters don't necessarily translate into a great mouth-feel experience.

HP12
11-11-2012, 09:42
There is no easy answer because of all the variables in production and of course mouthfeel itself (oiliness, viscosity, texture) can have a wide definition. Column still, cuts made, distillation proof, entry proof, mash bill, char of wood, years in the wood, filtering and bottling proof, all have an effect. Though made industrially, the ingredients are farmed and subtle differences can occur just based on each year's grains. Pot still advocates will attribute that, versus the column still, as being the main reason why American whiskey has less mouthfeel in general. I don't find that wheaters win out on mouth feel either. Plenty of rye finished bourbons with great mouthfeel too. I agree on ER 10/90 as having minimal mouth feel but the old 101 proof had plenty. Here is a short but insightful thread from 2004 on oilness of bourbon and that component of mouthfeel. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?3517-Oils-in-Bourbon

Another fine overview of what can influence the final product. Touche Thad!

darylld911
11-11-2012, 15:12
I don't know "what" impacts the mouthfeel (and think Thad is right that the variables are so many that with combinations, the "why" might be difficult or impossible to pin point). My recommendation is to try a lot of stuff and make mental notes as to differences in mouthfeel. That isn't one of my focuses, but a couple stand out for me as having distinct mouthfeels, such as Bookers (which is thicker - almost syrupy at times) or Laphroaig 10 yr (Scotch, not bourbon, but for me has an oily mouthfeel). Both of those are outside the range you listed - I personally can't think of any that stand out in that range, bug since I haven't focused on that - I'd keep trying what you can!

sailor22
11-12-2012, 10:19
Seems a Bourbon that impresses me with great mouth feel late in the evening (3rd or 4th pour) doesn't always have that same characteristic when it's the first pour a few days later.

Anyone else feel like Bourbons seem thicker as the evening progresses? The first pour is rarely notable for a rich, thick mouth feel but by the second or third it seems it is more evident. Something related to the palates exposure to alcohol?

T Comp
11-12-2012, 13:33
Seems a Bourbon that impresses me with great mouth feel late in the evening (3rd or 4th pour) doesn't always have that same characteristic when it's the first pour a few days later.

Anyone else feel like Bourbons seem thicker as the evening progresses? The first pour is rarely notable for a rich, thick mouth feel but by the second or third it seems it is more evident. Something related to the palates exposure to alcohol?

Yes indeed Steve. This generally seems to be the situation for me. I think your on to something. Taste is reliant on both taste buds and nerves. The facial nerve is attributed to carrying the signals of taste but there is also the trigeminal nerve which is for touch, temperature and pain signals. I would think that it is the trigeminal nerve which is responsible for mouthfeel and why it does improve as the night goes on.

Here's what etohchem, of BT/Bowman fame, had to say about this nerve (I believe he meant tri and not trans) needing to get warmed up, in a prior closed post about water and bourbon (we can no longer quote closed threads):


"Alcohol is a direct stimulator of the trans geminal nerve. So are CO2, capsaicin, ammonia(smelling salts) and others. The first sensation when drinking is pain and annoyance on this nerve. Alcohol itself is said to have no flavor or odor just a trans geminal reaction. When this nerve is stimulated repeatedly it becomes accustomed to the feeling and turns it to a pleasurable sense, requiring stronger stimulation to receive that feeling. Hence as some on this board say they want higher and higher proofs as they get deeper into spirits. You also see this effect with hot sauces and hot wings, hotter and hotter becomes the quest to stimulate this nerve. The stimulation becomes key vs flavor enjoyment.
Ever hear at a college party "I can't taste the alcohol in this punch, this is great" means that the trans geminal nerve isn't being stimulated."

Here's a neat internet site on taste that I found while pondering this phenomena too http://www.tastescience.com/default.html

Rutherford
11-12-2012, 15:33
I think the main characteristic that I attribute to mouthfeel is density/viscosity. I do agree that this could also be affected by the oiliness of the bourbon. Thanks for that old thread T Comp. Interestingly, that oiliness would be caused by congeners whose boiling point would likely be lower than alcohol/water, like small molecule esters. The density of those compounds on average would be lower than water, so you could get an oilier outhfeel AND a less dense/viscous bourbon at the same time. Note that it can't really be "oils" causing oiliness, because the boiling point of any long-chain oils would be much higher than water or ethanol. For anyone who is interested, here's a link that shows some of the small molecule compounds that give (Scotch) whisky its flavor: http://www.rsc.org/images/Whisky_tcm18-138981.pdf. Are there any places that one can find the major small molecule components that give flavor to Bourbon? That would be interesting.....

In the old days, as bourbons had lower distillation and entry proof, they would have more of these small molecule organic congeners and would be oilier. As Bourbon Boiler points out, those variable could be very important - but are not something you can read on the side of a bottle! I guess in the end this is a more complex issue than I thought. Even if we can't understand the science behind it, I'd be curious to see what specific bourbons you all judge to have impressive mouthfeel (even if they are outside the $15-$30 range).

To refresh my memory, I had a couple of fingers of WT101 last night, and it did have quite a nice mouthfeel. It is shocking to me how much I enjoy that bourbon in so many ways - for $22 here in NC!

The barrel is a potential source for oily molecules which could never make it through distillation as well as the cogeners coming from the fermentation/grain.

A whiskey like Wild Turkey would have more of both, since they are reputed to bring their product off the still at a low proof (more cogeners) and barrel at a lower proof (meaning more barrel molecules per volume of finished product). Something like WTRB will be very high in cogeners and barrel oils both, as recent iterations are not chill filtered.

scubadoo97
11-12-2012, 15:37
I would agree with your assessment Steve that wheaters don't necessarily translate into a great mouth-feel experience.

Some do and when they do it's great!

fishnbowljoe
11-12-2012, 16:05
Something Rutherford said about chill filtering made me pause a bit. When did chill filtering really first come into prominence? Seems to me that dusties and sem-idusties have more of that oily, vicious mouthfeel overall, than do most current releases. Is it just me?

tarheel
11-13-2012, 05:04
Since Wild Turkey keeps coming up, I thought I'd share a quote from Dave Broom's the whiskey bible from Jimmy Russell: Collected off the still at 124-126 degrees (62-63% abv) the white dog is barrelled at 110 degrees (55%). "My feeling is that the highest percentage of alcohol, then the less flavor you'll have. Because we go into the barrel at a low proof and then bottle at 101 degrees (50.5%), we're not losing much in terms of flavor, and that helps in making that older style."

I agree about the barrels providing congeners Rutherford - the "ethanolysis" of the lignans in the wood, etc. could produce a bunch of tasty compounds!

Flyfish
11-13-2012, 09:07
Seems a Bourbon that impresses me with great mouth feel late in the evening (3rd or 4th pour) doesn't always have that same characteristic when it's the first pour a few days later.

Anyone else feel like Bourbons seem thicker as the evening progresses? The first pour is rarely notable for a rich, thick mouth feel but by the second or third it seems it is more evident. Something related to the palates exposure to alcohol?

Yes, bourbon feels thicker as the evening progresses. (Or, maybe my tongue just gets thicker.) I have also found that mouthfeel improves if you just hold the bourbon in your mouth a few seconds longer before swallowing. There may be some interaction between the bourbon and the enzymes in the mouth as they begin the digestion process.