View Full Version : Can Whiskey Taste Better Than It Smells?

05-15-2005, 20:00
I was reading about the durian fruit in Alan Davidson's magisterial, "The Oxford Companion To Food". The durian, which is native to Malaysia, is known for its unusual scent and flavor, ones many find repellant but which appeal no less to many others especially in its home territory. It appears too that some people like the taste of the durian but not its odor. Here is a quotation from the durian entry in the book mentioned: "Some have found that while the smell repels them, the flavour attracts. A strange synergistic effect causes the components of the smell to combine with the unsmelled but tasted substances to produce the characteristic rich, aromatic flavour".

This got me thinking that maybe some whiskeys taste better than they smell. While there are few whiskeys the bouquet of which I find less than pleasant, I'll cite Gentleman Jack as an example. Its nose has a pronounced character I find hard to describe but which I'll call pungent. I have some Gentleman Jack at home (I used it for my blending experiments) so I drank some neat without nosing it first. Most experienced bourbon tasters nose their whiskey and it can be a pleasant part of the imbibing experience. I gave up that part and just swallowed the whiskey. To my surprise I found it very good, much better than when I inhale the aroma before drinking it. In fact there seemed little of the characteristic aroma in the taste. The taste itself was very full, nutty, rich - tasty. I believe this may be an example of the synergistic effect noted by Davidson. In no way of course do I suggest that the aroma of any of the Jack Daniels' whiskeys is anywhere near as objectionable as the scent of the durian is said by many to be, reading about this strange fruit simply gave me the idea that the synergistic phenomenon noted by Davidson might be applicable to alcoholic drinks including whiskey. Maybe one of the reasons for Jack's fame is that it tastes quite a bit better than its aroma and if the synergy idea is true you can't have one without the other..


05-15-2005, 20:03
Dave G.'s '30s Kentucky Tavern at the recent Sampler gathering is a case in point -- several of us agreed it smelled like bathroom cleaner, but was a very fine drink.

05-16-2005, 09:40
That bathroom cleaner is actually from the 30's ( check the stamp!). That's the oxidation process on old whiskey.. Take good care of it, Tim.

05-16-2005, 14:59
Oops! Actually, Dave, I knew that and just mistyped. Too late to edit it now, but you have corrected me appropriately. (It's in a dark 'hidey-hole' until it can be returned to its proper place in Sept.)

05-16-2005, 16:35
Curiously, I just read about the durian last week in Patrick O'Brian's novel, <u>The Thirteen Gun Salute</u>. It was said to have an aroma of rotting flesh, but to be quite delicious.

When I get around to it, I will provide some quotes.


05-16-2005, 18:13
Tim, here's more from the late Alan Davidson on durian:

Durian - "Durio zibethinus", a tropical fruit notorious for its smell and taste, either or both of which may provoke reactions ranging from revulsion to adulation. The large oval fruit grows on a tall tree native to W. Malaysia and cultivated elsewhere in SE Asia. "Duri" is the Malay word for spike, and the tree takes its name from the hard, spiky shell which the fruit develops. A full grown fruit may weigh 2 kg (5 lb) or more. Since the tree may be as high as 30 m (300') and the fruit drops off when ripe, it is wise to take care when walking near such trees in the durian season. Death by durian is not uncommon. (Another hazard at this time is the appeal the fallen, split fruit has for tigers and other wild animals).

Davidson goes on in his inimitable way, and ends with a quasi-limerick printed in Horticulture 9 (1973):

The durian - neither Wallace nor Darwin agreed on it.
Darwin said: 'may your worst enemies be forced to feed on it'.
Wallace cried: 'It's delicious'.
Darwin replied 'I'm suspicious,
For the flavour is scented
Like papaya fermented
After a fruit-eating bat has pee'd on it'.


Alan Davidson was a friend, the greatest food historian in our time. He died in his 80's a couple of years ago after a rich career crowned by receipt of the Erasmus Prize. I recommend the book strongly to any interested in food and its social and cultural history.


05-19-2005, 17:17
Here is a whole web site devoted to it:

Durian Palace (http://www.durianpalace.com/)


05-20-2005, 22:20
Meaning to extend this thread rather than hijack it, I've heard that the best and highest priced coffee in the world is civet coffee from the Phillipines. I'd drink Starbucks before I'd drink this though. Why? Because the coffee beans are "processed" by a native species of palm civet, (related to the mongoose) that eats the beans and passes them through their digestive tracts where the natives harvest them from the civet's spoor. I just can't imagine taking a drink of coffee and saying "MMMMMM, this tastes like civet *%&#@".

05-21-2005, 06:06
Because the coffee beans are "processed" by a native species of palm civet, (related to the mongoose) that eats the beans and passes them through their digestive tracts where the natives harvest them from the civet's spoor. I just can't imagine taking a drink of coffee and saying "MMMMMM, this tastes like civet *%&#@".

Timing is everything. I opened this post just as the final drips of water were percolating through my morning grind of coffee beans. This first cup of French Italian Espresso from Porto Rico (www.portorico.com) tastes AND smells good.

05-22-2005, 05:04
Highest priced? Yes.

Best? Hell no! Not that I've tried it, of course.

My previous obsession was coffee. I've not managed to get it under control, but I do still roast all my own coffee, and have 20 or so different origins (my only blends are espresso blends). I have some damned good ones too, and you won't see any of this stuff in my stash! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/coffeedrinker.gif