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bluesbassdad
06-13-2006, 14:29
The proud owner of an obscure bottling stated in another thread that creating tasting notes is beyond his ability. Paraphrasing, "I either like it or I don't."

I find it hard to believe that anyone who has tasted even as few as two bottlings can't find a single word to distinguish between them. But I could be wrong.

At the other end of the spectrum of tasters are the professionals and quite a few members here, who can liken a bourbon to spices I'm not sure I've ever tasted, naturally occuring scents of forest and swamp, and even fine fabric. Elsewhere here I have proposed putting such skills to the test with a two-panel, blind tasting event. One panel creates tasting notes; the other tries to match the bourbon to the notes. I am skeptical that the number of matches would exceed pure chance. But I could be wrong.

Between those two extremes are the rest of us, who try with varying degrees of success to communicate our experiences for the benefit of others and maybe a little bit of personal pride.

At times I've resorted to looking at the list of flavor elements (http://www.straightbourbon.com/tasting.html)on this site and forcing myself to choose from it. That experience has reminded me of a self-help seminar I attended back in the 1970's. When a particpant blanked out when asked to describe his feelings about something, the stock response was, "Well, if you did have feelings about X, what would they be?" IOW, no one was allowed to decline to participate, no matter what. Surprisingly (or not), once the person started talking, before long real feelings began to surface.

What do you think? Is forcing oneself to pick from a list likely to lead to valuable tasting notes, now or in the future? Or is that approach an exercise in self-delusion?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

DrinkyBanjo
06-13-2006, 15:21
Well let me qualify that for you a little bit more. It's not that I cannot do it with bourbon it's with most things. My wife might say something is savory or something like that and I'll have no idea what she's talking about. Obviously when I taste Bakers I can get hints of vanilla etc but from there I don't know.

BTW I drink a lot of different bourbons so that is not the issue. However, if I had to describe PWV 15, the last bourbon I had, I would not be able to explain those flavors.

Dunno.

DrinkyBanjo
06-13-2006, 15:26
Actually, I'm going to print out the flavor elements and take a stab at this. We'll see.

Gillman
06-13-2006, 15:29
Some people, otherwise highly literate and articulate, have no ability to describe tastes. Recently a friend of 30 years standing and I went out for dinner at a pub. He ordered a Guinness, draught. I asked him why he liked it. First he tasted and he said, this is really good. I said, "Why? Describe the taste". He was flummoxed, couldn't do it. I said, is it like coffee? He said, no. Is it like Ovaltine, or caramel? He said no. I said is it bitter and sweet? He said, yes, that's it, bitter and sweet. Had I not described it (using a very simple schema to say the least) he'd still have no words for it. But on the other hand, I find he likes good beers and in general dislikes beers I think are crap. So we agree. I know "why", he "doesn't".

Gary

Nebraska
06-13-2006, 16:56
I think at first it seems a little intimidating trying to describe what you're tasting (kind of that old school room thing, am I going to get it wrong in front of the class). I tried to describe a pour and could get most of it own my own, but I did have a flavor I thought I knew but could not describe. I went to the chart and was able to pick out a couple of flavors from that list that came close to what I thought it was. I did think it was important not to read anybody else's tasting notes the first time, just to ensure that I wasn't influenced by anything I had read.

I also went back and checked the format that most people use and used that as a template to format my own observations after I had made my notes. That also made it easier.

I also noticed when I take my first sip at room temp, I don't get a very broad spectrum of flavors. Generally I then add a couple of cubes and the flavors come pouring out. I think experimenting with a pour (adding a splash, cube or straight helps you find flavors and intensifies them.

I think it's important to understand too, that the majority of the time, it's good to just sit back and enjoy and not think about it. You pretty much know when you're in the mood to try and take some serious tasting notes. In other words, your head needs to be in the right place.

tgriff
06-13-2006, 17:15
I think "tasting" is difficult. To describe a flavor one tastes in any drink or food requires experience with that flavor in other contexts -i.e. different drinks or food. It also requires the memory to link the past experiences with the current experience to say, "hey, that's vanilla" or whatever. Some people are better at that game than others. I think, too, that it requires concentration to discern individual flavors among the all the intermingled flavors of bourbon (or wine, or beer).

I am continuously amazed at how the bourbon experts on SB.com describe what they are drinking. I only hope I can reach half that level of appreciation....

Nebraska
06-13-2006, 17:55
I am going to add I would hard pressed to know what "barrel tones" are, unless we are saying woody, with perhaps a tinge of metal hoop.:slappin: I really feel the bung coming through in this particular bottle...


I'm cracking myself up...lol

RedVette
06-13-2006, 18:07
I can handle, leather, oak, vanilla, even grassy flavors. But when someone mentions "hints of blueberry waffles with menthol overtones", I'm out of here.

Is blueberry better than blackberry?

bluesbassdad
06-13-2006, 18:08
Is blueberry better than blackberry?

Rob,

Yes. No seeds.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

wadewood
06-13-2006, 18:19
OK, here is a good quote about tasting notes:

"We don't taste lemon grass, fresh cut tobacco, or leche nuts in our bourbon, and we don't spout forth endless streams of redundant superlatives regarding our beloved liquor"

Anybody want to guess who said this and when?

Gillman
06-13-2006, 18:58
I don't know who said that, Wade, it sounds perhaps like a long-time distiller. And that's fine, he or whoever said it doesn't have to find those things in whiskey. That doesn't mean tasters who use an expressive vocabulary are out to lunch. The great whiskey writers write of whiskey in ways similar to wine writers, from whom they took their cue. This helps a lot of people make their way through the whiskey thickets. In fact, it introduced a lot of people to whiskey, period. That is why Murray, Jackson, etc, sell a lot of books. In saying this I fully respect people who are still learning, or indeed have no interest, to describe tastes. It does take time, for those interested, to pick out why they like something or don't. One of the reasons I got interested was to describe to others what I liked. If I just said, try this, this is great, they wouldn't have as much information as if I said, this has a hint of wintergreen, like gum with that flavour, which comes from the rye component, see?. But absolutely you can enjoy and make great whiskey without caring a darn for any of this.

Gary

Gillman
06-13-2006, 19:05
Just to respond to something Mark said, sure I can kick back and not focus on taste. I find that approach helpful to get down second grade drinks, in fact. :) But seriously, I understand the point and it is very valid. As Randy B. once said, there is a difference between tasting and just drinkin'. He was talking about what bourbons to choose for what occasion and I can't put it any better.

I want to say too for those interested in how to learn to describe whiskey tastes and the main categories of description used, there is no better guide than the pages on the subject in Charles Cowdery's "Bourbon, Straight". Chuck, a long-time member of this board, has scoped the subject completely. The book is (quite apart from this specific area) must reading for any bourbon enthusiast.

Gary

Nebraska
06-13-2006, 19:17
That would be Jim in 1999, a day that will live in infamy. I believe the first post?

Gillman
06-13-2006, 19:20
It was Jim (I believe), I recall that now.

I think though he was being a little tongue in cheek. :)

Gary

Nebraska
06-13-2006, 19:20
I had to laugh because the next post starts..." hey Jim kind of quiet around here...", that sure changed.

T47
06-13-2006, 23:18
I like the Tasting Vocabulary List, it certainly helped me to identify flavors that I personally couldn't label (power of suggestion maybe?). I think it is Tim (TNbourbon) who describes flavors in what almost seems poetry at times and reminds me of Garrison Keilor...the drink becomes comforting, more than just flavors, it brings back memories of a moment in time...(power of suggestion agian ?) when I really get time to relax and enjoy a drink I think I can relate to that type of description, problem is those times are too few and far between!
In any event it all helps me to enjoy the pour.

Hedmans Brorsa
06-13-2006, 23:18
"We don't taste lemon grass, fresh cut tobacco, or leche nuts in our bourbon, and we don't spout forth endless streams of redundant superlatives regarding our beloved liquor"

Anybody want to guess who said this and when?

Well, it wasnīt Dave Broom from Whisky Magazine, thatīs for sure.

cowdery
06-13-2006, 23:47
Whenever one tries to write about any kind of art, one is hampered by the limits of words. What about the great philosophers, trying to put religious faith or fundamental human consciousness into words? What about the poet or novelist who tries to describe the deepest pain or most manifest exhilaration of the human spirit? There really are no words for any of those things and the one truth that people who try to do it have it accept is that they will always fail, albeit by varying degrees, and that chance to possibly fail just a little bit less the next time is why we keep trying.

Ambernecter
06-14-2006, 01:56
"Running through wet leaves" and "reminds me of Scout camp" in a review of a certain Scotch were the quotes that made me realise Michael Jackson was talking complete s*&t!

The other thing I noticed in Whiskey magazine was that in ther side by side reviews for the same whiskey, Jackson and the other taster very rarely had tasting notes that were even slightly similar.

He is not all bad though - at least he loved RHF!

Gillman
06-14-2006, 04:10
Everyone views this in their own way, to be sure.

Personally I find Jackson's descriptions good guides. As Chuck said, language is inherently limited in its ability to convey tastes and many other things. But within the limitations, I feel Jackson does a very good job. True, his descriptions don't usually accord as such with what the others say in that magazine. But I find in substance they end up agreeing most of the time, they just say it differently. Also, Jackson in my view usually says it best, he's been doing it for 30 years and is a very good writer.

Wet leaves? A damp vegetal smell, in other words; some whiskies have that. Scout camp? There I'm not sure but if I saw the full quote I think I could figure out what he meant. Maybe he was talking about the odor of old canvas. When I went to camp the big thing was to buy knapsacks. They were canvas and mostly war-surplus (from the Second World War and Korean War). The tents on the trips out from camp were made from similar materials or had the same smell when wet. He may have meant that especially if British scouts bunked in tents at the time.

I'll say though I understand fully what people mean when they aren't interested to get into the subject to this degree or can't see how some descriptions match up to the subject. I'm like that myself about many things. E.g. I like cheese, and coffees, and I'm sure books have been written about the various specific tastes they have but I don't think of them in those terms. I know I like cheddar, I like some gouda, I like mocha java but I don't like the one that chain with the red sign serves except their dark roast, I don't like most goat cheeses, etc. I could probably train myself to learn a vocabulary of cheese and coffee tastes and smells but I don't have the interest. Chuck says in his book that the whiskey tasting vocabulary is not mysterious or highly complex to learn and he shows how to do it for those who want. And for those who are not much interested that's fine, they can still enjoy the experience their way, like my friend does with beer, like I do with coffee.

Gary

chasking
06-14-2006, 04:47
I'm curious what you guys and gals think about the suggestive power of tasting notes. The idea underlying this thread, that some people have a hard time putting into words the flavors they taste in whiskey, particularly a complex one, I think may lead some, when presented with, say, "lemon grass" :p, to say, "Oh, yeah, that's it!" But does that effect go further, to the point where if someone who purports to know what he's doing says, "Taste the cloves in this, and smell the aroma of old leather!" people will believe that they are tasting cloves and smelling leather, whether or not those tastes/aromas are really there? It would be interesting (if I were a malicious person) to give a tasting and suggest utterly unrelated flavors, and see if people then claimed to taste the same thing. "Ah, yes, peanut butter, and a hint of Dr. Pepper!"

There's a Scotch malt whisky distillery called Tomatin, and I actually read a book that claimed its whisky had the flavor of tomatoes.

Gillman
06-14-2006, 05:17
What you propose is interesting Chuck as an experiment. All of us are suggestible to a point. I think blind tasting in a different way tests the ability to judge a liquor properly. And it is challenging, no question. But this does not invalidate the tasting art. There are too many points of agreement on how the great whiskeys taste for the tasting art to be overly subjective. It falls mid-way between total subjectivity and a truly scientific flavour analysis, the type that employs reference samples of typical flavors or the flavor wheel used by industry tasting labs I understand (a picture of one is in a book on malt whisky written some years ago by whisky writer Philip Hill).

Gary

tachyonshuggy
06-14-2006, 06:24
"Running through wet leaves" and "reminds me of Scout camp" in a review of a certain Scotch were the quotes that made me realise Michael Jackson was talking complete s*&t!

There was a funny SNL sketch a few weeks back about a wine-tasting night out for some friends. They used words that I've heard before ("chewy") interspersed with nonsense words for laughs ("treason").

My gf could not believe that "chewy" was a word I'd heard before WRT wine-tasting. . .actually, I'd read it in whiskey tasting notes :)

MattB
06-14-2006, 06:43
Dave,

I think tasting is a discipline, like anything else--playing the guitar, shooting free throws, etc. If you do it with focus, you can become better at it. Of course, doesn't necessarily mean that it's "worth" the effort. At the same time, there's some natural aptitude involved. Some people are Stevie Ray, and some people are Shaq. But I'm also sure that there's a little element of BS, if only because the nuances of flavor can be so fine. There's a website--can't remember which--that has Murray's and Jackson's (I think) tasting notes side-by-side, and it's interesting to see how differently they sometimes describe the same stuff.


BTW: I read a really interesting article on Robert Parker a few years back in the Atlantic. Discussed the way in which Parker's personal taste preferences have shaped the (politics of the) wine industry as a whole, but also highlighted his personal history--blue-collar family, sort of stumbled into the fact that he had an incredible pallet.

Edward_call_me_Ed
06-14-2006, 07:39
Before I was seriously into whiskey I was into essential oils, not really aromatherapy, but the oils themselves. I once opened a bottle of essential oil and passed it to a friend to nose. She at once thrust it away and said, "Oh, that is way too floral for me!" Then I told her that it was cucumber oil. She asked to nose it again and said, "Huh. Yeah, now I can smell it... Isn't that funny..." I did that with other people. Most couldn't identify it till I told them what it was that they were smelling. Then it was obvious.
Ed

MikeK
06-14-2006, 08:23
While writing tasting notes I often ask my wife or daughter to nose the glass. Neither of them drink whiskey, but they both like the aroma of Bourbon. It is common for them to name something I did not notice, and when I nose it again I often sense it as well.

jbutler
06-14-2006, 09:58
:slappin:

Actually Wade, the day before I wrote that I had had a most superficial encounter with a tasting room employee at BV winery in Napa.

I tasted their "new" Pinot, and stated "That's quite good", to which he replied "Umm, I believe scintllating is the word you're looking for." It was everything I could do not to spit my mouthful of red wine all over his suit from laughing. And just where the hell did he get that phony New England accent anyway?

In my teenage son's parlance, "I was like WTF?" :lol:

bluesbassdad
06-14-2006, 12:01
I edited out an oft-heard quip in the belief that someone else would probably refer to it. It hasn't happened so far.

"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."

I think the point is that music is a unique form of expression, not readily translated to another medium.

While tasting bourbon is not a form of expression per se, I think any attempt to describe sensations in words faces a formidable challenge. The classic form of a definition of a word is to place it in a class and then differentiate it from other members of the class. Both elements presuppose a vast range of shared and elucidated experiences between the writer and reader of a definition.

IMO tasting (regardless of the subject) has not, and maybe cannot, be codified to such a degree.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

tgriff
06-14-2006, 15:59
I once opened a bottle of essential oil and passed it to a friend to nose. She at once thrust it away and said, "Oh, that is way too floral for me!" Then I told her that it was cucumber oil.
Ed

It sounds like essential oils might be a way for neophytes like myself to learn to name "familiar" smells...I wonder if there are kits of these on the market that may work for deciphering the nose of bourbon?

...aw shucks...I'll just buy more bourbon and figure it out....

Edward_call_me_Ed
06-14-2006, 20:58
It sounds like essential oils might be a way for neophytes like myself to learn to name "familiar" smells...I wonder if there are kits of these on the market that may work for deciphering the nose of bourbon?

...aw shucks...I'll just buy more bourbon and figure it out....

I think there are kits for wine, they may or may not help you with bourbon. One thing you can do to figure it out yourself is to pay attention to the scents of things on the list in the FAQ when you come across them in your day to day life.

I myself rarely write detailed tasting notes, I fear getting it 'wrong.' I do sometimes try to pick out the major notes and that sometimes leads me to minor ones as well.
Ed

Edward_call_me_Ed
06-14-2006, 21:00
:slappin:

Actually Wade, the day before I wrote that I had had a most superficial encounter with a tasting room employee at BV winery in Napa.

I tasted their "new" Pinot, and stated "That's quite good", to which he replied "Umm, I believe scintllating is the word you're looking for." It was everything I could do not to spit my mouthful of red wine all over his suit from laughing. And just where the hell did he get that phony New England accent anyway?

In my teenage son's parlance, "I was like WTF?" :lol:

I can't stop chuckling about this!

jeff
06-15-2006, 04:34
I edited out an oft-heard quip in the belief that someone else would probably refer to it. It hasn't happened so far.

"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."

I think the point is that music is a unique form of expression, not readily translated to another medium.

While tasting bourbon is not a form of expression per se, I think any attempt to describe sensations in words faces a formidable challenge. The classic form of a definition of a word is to place it in a class and then differentiate it from other members of the class. Both elements presuppose a vast range of shared and elucidated experiences between the writer and reader of a definition.

IMO tasting (regardless of the subject) has not, and maybe cannot, be codified to such a degree.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield
I concure with the sentiment Dave and believe, as Chuck put forth, that you can only get so far trying to verbalize the non-verbal. But you used the word "fakery" in your original post. Do you believe that when someone, here or perhaps in a published work, claims to taste violets, lemongrass, vitamins or the infamous "emphatic mint toffee", that they actually taste (or believe they taste) those things, or are you suggesting that they are simple blowing smoke up the reader's ass in an attempt to get attention and brandish credibility?

Gillman
06-15-2006, 05:12
Fair question and I'll let Dave answer but I must say I can't see what is so strange about "emphatic mint toffee". Even tasters who choose not to analyse too carefully admit to detecting vanilla in bourbon. All tasters I know agree a rye-recipe bourbon or some rye whiskey is minty. Caramel candies are sometimes flavoured with mint or one can see they might be just like some salt water taffee is (which is similar to some U.K. toffees). Writers who write things like this are just trying to get across general impressions. They sell books based on their expertise and a lot of people get guidance from them. No one is claiming they are scientists with a complete method of describing tastes.

Gary

jeff
06-15-2006, 05:25
Fair question and I'll let Dave answer but I must say I can't see what is so strange about "emphatic mint toffee". Even tasters who choose not to analyse too carefully admit to detecting vanilla in bourbon. All tasters I know agree a rye-recipe bourbon or some rye whiskey is minty. Caramel candies are sometimes flavoured with mint or one can see they might be just like some salt water taffee is (which is similar to some U.K. toffees). Writers who write things like this are just trying to get across general impressions. They sell books based on their expertise and a lot of people get guidance from them. No one is claiming they are scientists with a complete method of describing tastes.

Gary
I believe you and I are in general agreement Gary. My response was not to discredit verbose tasting notes, but to understand the intent of Dave's original post. I have been the target of several doubting remarks when I have claimed impressions such as: acetone, vitamins, asparagus, sod, coconut, etc. I know I taste those things, but how to you get those impressions across to someone who doesn't, or can't taste them?

Gillman
06-15-2006, 06:43
Not everyone can look at whiskey this way. Some will have their own criteria. They can discuss what they like and dislike more easily with those who "speak their language". An example relating to brewing: A brewing scientist, a leading PhD in his field, wrote a book some years ago on porter and stout. You may know it, Jeff, or the series of which it is a part, there are volumes on pilsener, brown ale, etc. He quoted Michael Jackson writing that an Imperial Stout had the flavor of burned currants on a Christmas cake. The professor was a former Briton so he had the "cultural background" to know what Jackson was saying. The professor wrote to this effect: I can enjoy stouts with the best of them but for the life of me I could never have written that! Of course he could speak very knowledgeably about stout and beer to his colleagues, in his terms. This is equivalent to someone telling me that a certain estate coffee has winey acidity, a fresh-turned loam quality and an overlay of brambles. Okay, if you say so.. This morning I had some expensive coffee that tasted like truck stop coffee but was stronger. It didn't taste "real" (or real enough) and I won't have it again if I can choose; beyond that I can't say.

As Dave himself said I believe, most people can find some common tastes in whiskey. Most people I talk to can, e.g., in terms of caramel, sweetness, brown sugar, smokiness. But if they cannot or don't wish to view it in a more detailed way or even that way that's fine. Their way is as valid as mine and I accept that but the reverse is also true.

Gary

tgriff
06-15-2006, 12:55
I have been the target of several doubting remarks when I have claimed impressions such as: acetone, vitamins, asparagus, sod, coconut, etc. I know I taste those things, but how to you get those impressions across to someone who doesn't, or can't taste them?


That is a tough question! I don't think there is an easy answer since, for the person to recognize the specific taste you are describing, they must have had experience with that taste previously. Granted most folks have experienced caramel, vanilla or mint flavors. But the water is further muddied by the diversity of experiences with other specific flavors. For example, if that person has never eaten plain asparagus, but only asparagus smothered in cheese, then that person may never understand (or recognize) the flavor of asparagus in a drink. Besides, I would think asparagus would be a strange taste in a beverage anyway and it could difficult for a newbie like me to name it or pick out. And sod would be even harder....

bluesbassdad
06-15-2006, 13:23
Do you believe that when someone, here or perhaps in a published work, claims to taste violets, lemongrass, vitamins or the infamous "emphatic mint toffee", that they actually taste (or believe they taste) those things, or are you suggesting that they are simple blowing smoke up the reader's ass in an attempt to get attention and brandish credibility?

Jeff,

I regretted my use of the word "fakery" after I posted. Its negative connotation far exceeds my intent. When I tried to edit to "faking it", the change appeared in some screens and not others.

I meant to suggest that if someone makes the attempt, even to the point of selecting a descriptor that only almost fits, perhaps s/he is following the only available path to becoming a more effective reviewer. I meant to suggest strongly a correlation between this matter and what I observed in est (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erhard_Seminars_Training)back in the 1970's. If one is not willing to make an attempt, then no progress is possible.

In regard to the matter of smoke being blown, or not, I do not cast aspersions on anyone. I want to make it perfectly clear that if someone claims to taste, let's say, vitamins, I believe him without question. :grin: However, the fact is that if a given writer is blowing smoke, there's a good chance I wouldn't know the difference.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

bluesbassdad
06-15-2006, 13:27
The professor wrote to this effect: I can enjoy stouts with the best of them but for the life of me I could never have written that!

Gary,

That thought prompts an idea I'm surprised didn't occur to me before now. In some respects tasting notes are more like poetry than prose.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

bluesbassdad
06-15-2006, 13:35
Besides, I would think asparagus would be a strange taste in a beverage anyway and it could difficult for a newbie like me to name it or pick out. And sod would be even harder....

I think that's a valuable insight. Context matters. Being bound by context is probably a significant handicap for a reviewer. Looking at a list of flavors may help the novice taster expand the context.

I doubt that I'm unique in the experience of having a chance encounter with someone in an unaccustomed context. Once I was entering the Queen Mary to check out the arrangements for a gig. In the elevator I saw my ENT doctor, dressed in tourist clothes. I was focused on my mission, which was to check out electrical outlets and speaker placement, not to obtain treatment for an ear infection. It was several minutes after we had gone our separate ways before I realized who he was.

I would guess there's an analogy to be made here.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

Gillman
06-15-2006, 13:53
These last posts make excellent points. And in fact, Michael Jackson's work has been described as "poetic" (his book of some years back which combines literary and photographic essays of Scotland is a prime example). A blurb to this effect appeared for years on the dust jacket of some of his books. And poetry can, in fields more profound than the one we are discussing, convey great truths...

Gary

tgriff
06-15-2006, 13:56
Being bound by context is probably a significant handicap for a reviewer.


I think Dave is right on target. That comment is so true in every field of study or hobby. Real progress is only made by those with the courage to break the mold....

Man, I may have made this too philosophical. I apologize!

bluesbassdad
06-15-2006, 13:59
That phenomenon often occurs when I'm in the vicinity. Coincidence? I think not. :grin:

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

Gillman
06-15-2006, 14:30
It is interesting I find to look at the entries on wine writing and literature of wine in Oxford Companion To Wine (ed. by Jancis Robinson, an English wine writer of great accomplishment and ability). It is explained (and this is from memory) that there was great development especially in England in the field of specialist works after the first World War. Many of the wine authors in this era were (as earlier) authors or teachers. One of the first of the new wave in the 20th century was George Saintsbury of Oxford University whose Notes on a Cellar-book is an early (circa 1918) example of sophisticated wine writing. (By the way he discussed briefly the personal vatting of malt whiskies). So a lot of the impetus came from people whose main job it was to express thoughts with words. Of course, wine and literature and poetry have always been closely connected, so this development is not unexpected and was inevitable in fact. It was mainly a U.K. phenomenon (with a small American analogue) until after the Second World War, even the French did not look upon wine, a key part of their heritage, in this way until recently.

It was, too, a class-oriented matter since people with a certain amount of leisure and monies were able to stock cellars and devote time to thinking about the merits of the contents. The class focus has changed; all these areas are much democratised, and properly so. Some of the best and most influential writers on drink did not come from privileged backgrounds, e.g., Michael Jackson, Jancis Robinson, Robert Parker, Jr. So there is a specific social and cultural background to the matter of wine writing which has influenced whiskey and beer writing and their "taste notes". The field today is broad and there is a large range and style of opinion out there, professional, amateur, etc. There is an approach for everyone.

I really must look more into the taste nuances of coffee, come to think of it. (Just kidding).

Gary

BSS
06-15-2006, 15:00
A lot of this discussion reminds me of a saying I have heard often.
"That taste like piss" or "that taste like Shit"(sorry for the lack of words, but I think we are grown ups and can handle a little foul language.).

Does the majority of people that use those sayings really know what each of those taste like. I can't tell you how many people I have heard describe certain beers as "tasting like piss". I don't know what either taste like myself, but I have an idea of what they might taste like. I would compare that to the use of "sod". Has anyone on here really tasted sod? Probably not, but I do have an idea of what its taste may be.

I think this type of idealistic "taste" come into play when many people are trying to pin point a flavor.

cowdery
06-15-2006, 15:36
There may be more to the quip "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture" than initially meets the eye.

First, a lot of people have written about music for hundreds of years and, more importantly, a lot of people read it, so there must be something there of value.

Second, is dancing about architecture such a bad idea?

It is very easy to make fun of over-the-top tasting notes. I guarantee there are a couple of solid laughers in every issue of WHISKEY Magazine. "Emphatic mint toffee" is one I have joked about, but Gary is right that it's really not so extreme.

One challenge in writing tasting notes for publication (as opposed to just making notes for your own private purposes) is to make them not all sound the same. Every reviewer approaches that challenge in a different way.

As for developing the skill, some people are better tasters than others just as some people are better writers, but mostly it comes with practice. You also have to be willing to do the work. The drinking part is easy. It's the thinking part that's hard.

As for the various lists, I find them useful for the same reason others have mentioned. You smell something distinctive but you don't know what to call it. The lists can help you put a name to it.

One time, I struggled to describe the very distinctive aroma of Jack Daniel's, especially after it is just poured. It is common to all JD products and not apparent in other American whiskey, or it is but to a much lesser degree. The best I could come up with was shellac, which though accurate seems more pejorative than is really necessary. Then someone suggested overripe bananas. Yes, perfect. That's exactly it.

That's the process.

For me, I like to think of my tasting notes as elegiac.

CrispyCritter
06-17-2006, 19:51
Does the majority of people that use those sayings really know what each of those taste like. I can't tell you how many people I have heard describe certain beers as "tasting like piss". I don't know what either taste like myself, but I have an idea of what they might taste like. I would compare that to the use of "sod". Has anyone on here really tasted sod? Probably not, but I do have an idea of what its taste may be.
Well, I've never tasted piss, so I couldn't answer whether $BEER tasted like it or not. As for sod, I've noticed a grassy impression (smell, not taste) with Connemara, a peated Irish single malt; it made me think of a grassy meadow after rain. It tasted like a relatively strongly peated single malt - but then again, all of the peated single malts I've tried have been different from one another. Here's where my "tasting vocabulary" fails; Ardbeg, Connemara, Laphroaig, Bowmore, Caol Ila, and Port Ellen aren't the same, despite their similarities, yet I'd be hard-pressed to explain just what sets them apart.

gr8erdane
06-17-2006, 23:02
Well, I for one have tasted sod (quite unintentionally during football games) on several occasions in my youth and would definitely know it again were I to have my face mashed into it in the future.

As for body wastes, I think we have all been in situations where the smell was strong enough to seemingly taste. In other words, many things we might describe as "tasting like" may not necessarily have been physically tasted but rather remind us of what we imagined it to taste like according to smell.

bluesbassdad
06-18-2006, 02:36
Well, I for one have tasted sod . . .


Dane,

Yes, but is your sod palate sufficiently refined to distinguish, say Bermuda from Zoysia (http://plantanswers.tamu.edu/turf/publications/zoysia.html)? Or were you in such a hurry to get ready for the next play that you short-changed the tasting process? :grin:

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

gr8erdane
06-18-2006, 04:54
Dave, normally the taste lingered until after I hit the showers. In case I needed a reminder there were bits and pieces hanging from my facemask as well as inundating my mouthguard. I believe the majority of the conference where I'm from used plain old fescue with some bluegrass mix. The clay in the soil portion of the sod added a hint of "fresh pottery" while the sand added some grit and tasted somewhat of lime....(well limestone anyway)....

Of course the good news is that you can't get a mouthful laying on your back so at least I was moving in the right direction when I got mashed into the turf by 383 lb nose tackles like St Genevieve had......

cowdery
06-18-2006, 23:11
What we call "taste" is mostly smell. What the receptors on the tongue can detect and distinguish is pretty limited. Most of the nuanced tasting we do relies primarily on smell. You can learn most of what you need to know about the taste of something without putting it in your mouth.