View Full Version : Getting Acquainted With a New Bourbon
I almost made this post a survey, but I wasn' t sure that I could frame all of the responses.
When you bring home a bottle of a bourbon that you've never tried before, how do you get to know it?
Take a swig straight from the bottle?
Pour it into your favorite nosing and/or tasting glass, and prepare to take notes?
Pour four ounces over nine ice cubes in the first glass that comes to hand?
Mix it with Coke?
Ask a friend to take the first drink?
Do your responses to the above depend on your expectations for the bourbon at hand? (I.e., Kentucky Spirit gets the note-taking treatment; Benchmark causes you to get on the telephone.)
As I ask these impertinent questions I am drinking Old Fitz BIB over nine smallish ice cubes. It's certainly more enjoyable this way than it was neat. It still has a marked, shall I say, "brusqueness" on the back of the tongue and in the finish, but it is clearly in its element, so to speak. I'll probably move this bottle to my On-The-Rocks-Only shelf, along with Rebel Yell, Old Charter 8 y/o, Virginia Gentleman red label, and one or two others.
-> Pour it into your favorite nosing and/or tasting glass, and prepare to take notes?
Except for the tasting notes. I almost always start with a small shot, straight, in a glass large enough to do some nosing. A nice crystal glass, but nothing too fancy.
Hey, where are my Waterford brandy balloons? http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/shocked.gif
I general use my Pure Glass (Maison du Whisky) or sometimes the Glencairn (man that sounds like Scotch) and prepare to take mental notes. I usually nose it for between 5 and 20 minutes before tasting. I usually stick with the same 1.5oz) pour for about 90 minutes (the first time). http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif
That's a good question Dave. With a bourbon that I've never had before I go straight to my Glencairn (from ACK Scotland! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/blush.gif ) glass. This will always be the first drink of the day and my palate will be properly cleansed. Then I prepare to take mental notes, as after all you have the entire bottle to make any written records of your impressions. Some folks can just sit down with a bourbon and straight away write up a passable 'tasting', but I really have to live with a bourbon to really get to know it well enough to write about it with any confidence.
One trick I learned from Chuck Cowdery is to put the plam of your hand to the mouth of the bottle and get enough bourbon on your hands to rub together. Then cup your hands around your nose and mouth and inhale through both the nose and mouth at the same time. This is a very useful technique that will tell you quite a bit about the character of any bourbon. Then I just go ahead and nose; eye, and taste in that order. With the first taste of a new to me bourbon I just ask myself "Do I like it?" That's all I expect to find out on first taste. If it is compelling enough to take a second glass I'll scribble out a few notes. First tastes are a lot like first dates in that some can get hot 'n' heavy in no time. My first bottle of Wathen's was like that. I drank the entire bottle in one sitting and was well satisfied. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif
My wife ALWAYS opens and noses right from the bottle before I get the chance. Always. I pour a hair over two ounces in my favorite old fashioned glass (snifters are for later) and then nose, wait, & taste. Like Linn all I wanna know at first is how much I like it. I will also usually drop an ice cube in it afterward to see which way I prefer to drink it.
I start with the gut reaction approach.
I pour some neat into a snifter. I drink it while going about my normal business. My gut reaction tells me to (1) rush out and buy another bottle, (2) pour another glass, (3) decide to form an opinion latter, (4) shelve it and save it for "friends". Of course, the first two are favorable reactions. The third is a tbd reaction.
I am not falling into the same trap with bourbon that I fell into with stereos, cars, etc., that leads to ever rising expectations. I am not going to analyze things to death. I will enjoy what I experience and not ask too many questions why.
I usually pour 1.5 to 3 oz. in a drinking glass and let it breathe for about 5 minutes. I'll nose it once or twice and then taste it.
I normally like to taste the bourbon indoors. I've sat on the backporch a couple of times sipping "new" bourbons and philosophizing in my own goofy way. But for some reason (perhaps from increased air circulation outside or distracting aromas from the woods nearby) I can't detect as many characteristics from bourbons while drinking them outdoors as opposed to indoors.
If its got a harsh kick to it I may try a second sample later with some ice or a bit of water but that usually doesn't happen. If the bourbon has some really interesting characteristics I may try a second sample in a snifter. I also try to note how the time of day or the mood I'm in might affect my tasting efforts. Also a wife with decent olfactory senses also helps to "objectify" my tastings.
I think Linn is right about "living" with the bourbon. Sometimes I can form a good opinion about a bourbon right away but usually I have to spend several days maybe weeks on a particular bottle before I feel like I'm beginning to figure it out. I've also had to go out and buy additional bottles of more than a few bourbon brands in order to draw some definite conclusions from them.
I start out by filling a large balloon wine glass about 1/3 full and swirl it around to release the aroma. I try to pick out the different flavor characteristics prior to tasting, but admittidly am not very good at it. I can usually pick out a couple of distinct smells, but usually it either smells good or it doesn't. I try it first neat to get the full effect, then I will add a couple of ice cubes. If all is good I will fill it up and head for the deck, or lately the computer. If I don't like it I will try again in a couple of days. Some bourbons I have had to drink almost an entire bottle before I really knew if I liked it or not.
This is very much what I'd say, Jeff, including the part about not believing myself to be real good at picking up all the subtle nuances of a Bourbon. I guess my favorite is a shot or so with a cube. When I drank the "S" word, hell, I'd fill the glass with ice and top it off...really diluting things.
Dave M. and I discussed Rare Breed and Russell's Reserve, and he got me wanting to try things neat. I have found if I take very small sips and almost let the stuff evaporate on my tongue, I can really pick up some delicious flavors. Rare Breed is so full of them, it's easy to drink this way. Now with Knob Creek, also big bodied, I still prefer a cube in there. I thinks it's just a bit harsher straight.
I tend to drink my bourbon over ice, though not to dilute it. I think I just like it cool, but not "freezer cold". Usually I will top off my glass after the ice begins to melt so that by the time I finish with one drink I have really had two http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif
Whether I'm trying something new, or not, I either use my Glencairn's Blenders Nosing Glass or a small snifter and add a bit of water. I think a bit of water releases more aroma and flavor, but I don't add ice since I think it negates the flavor.
That is very close to my understanding of the "right" way to drink whiskey. Personally, I prefer ice.
First things first, I open the bottle and sniff it directly. The nose is certainly not to its full potential directly from the bottle, but it does give me an idea of what's to come. I then take a small swig straight from the bottle, 'cause I'm too dang impatient to wait, and I've generally just gotten home with it.
A couple hours later, I pour some into a snifter and let it sit for a few while I choose a cigar to accompany it, then adjourn to my back deck to become more seriously acquainted http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif .
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