The icy bitterness in flight
One thing I like about Southwest Airlines is that they offer Wild Turkey 101. I ordered one while on a flight this week, carefully phrasing my request so that the flight attendant didn't mix the bourbon with my iced ginger ale. All of my efforts were in vain, though, as she took it upon herself to dump the bourbon into a separate cup of ice. I tried to like it, but Criminitely, my taste buds were repelled by that iced bourbon!
For me, everything that's good about bourbon as opposed to lesser spirits like vodka and flavored GNS are the things that come out with gentle warming: the sweetness of the mash off the still and the vanillins of the oak beautifully balanced against the spicy rye, astringent tannins and musky oak.
Coldness suppresses the sensation of sweetness in the mouth (ever taste frozen desserts in thawed form? they're balanced when frozen but cloyingly sweet at room temperature) and leaves the rye spiciness standing as an unbalance bitter element. Virtually all mixed drinks that are served cold have a sweetener in the recipe - I think this is at least partly there to counteract the suppressed sweetness of the spirit.
Coldness heightens the whiff of raw ethanol (fine for neutral spirit enthusiasts, but has very negative associations for me). Ice also waters down the precious elixir, and for me, many of the more complex elements that make whiskey so special are only evident at higher proofs.
I probably should have requested an unopened mini bottle, but flight attendants do _not_ consider themselves to be your waitress and I didn't want to be the ugly bourbon drinker explaining how the nuances of the drink are upset, blah, blah, blah...
After trying my drink several times over a half hour and finding it never improved for me, I dumped out the remaining majority of it.
Roger "But it wasn't WT's fault..." Hodges
PS - Do Wheaters fare better for people when iced than rye-heavy bourbon? Maybe the secret of the wheater is that it is optimized for drinking on the rocks.
current music: the Replacements - "Waitress in the Sky"
Re: The icy bitterness in flight
My sentiments exactly. I probably sound like a broken record on this very point. Higher proof whiskeys suffer from this the most when served on the rocks. I like standard Jameson's and Powers Gold served with ice, but at only 80 proof it doesn't take much melting of the Ice to bring the ethanol level down to a point where the cold temperature of the drink doesn't so adversely effect the flavor by bringing forth the raw alcohol so much. Also, Irish whiskeys are quite fruity and give the impression of sweetness/maltyness differently than bourbon and rye which pick up their sweetness from the barrel. I think that has a bearing on how one perceives the sweetness at colder temperatures. Also, perhaps the greater amount of tannins in bourbon and rye effect how the overall taste is perceived at colder temps.
Originally Posted by Rughi
Re: The icy bitterness in flight
While I can't imagine pouring a perfectly good glass of bourbon anywhere but in my mouth, I rarely use ice for all of the reasons mentioned. In that situation, though, especially with an iced ginger ale right there, I would have fished out as much of the ice as possible and improved both drinks that way, stares of seatmates notwithstanding.