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  1. #1

    Maturing as a Bourbon Drinker

    So I've just recently started drinking my bourbon neat, taking time to enjoy straight bourbon for what it is. At first I could hardly wet my lips without wincing. One day it was like a light went off and all of a sudden I could take a decent sip. Now I can enjoy the bourbon and begin to detect some of the subtle flavors and smells. Has this been a common progression for others? And as I mature and get more experienced what other milestones can I look forward too?

    I envy the enthusiast around here that can wrap their fingers around a glass and really understand what they are drinking. I look forward to the day I can do the same. I'd love to hear some words of wisdom in this area.

  2. #2
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    Re: Maturing as a Bourbon Drinker

    The trick for me was to know what you are drinking, when you're drinking it. Such as how it's made, what it's made with, what it is similar to, etc. That's what allowed me to really start noticing the subtle, but very different, flavors (if that makes sense).

    I've been drinking bourbon for 5-7 years, or, about as long as I was legally allowed to enter a liquor store. Only months ago did I really start to be able to have a sip of something, and be able to distinguish rye, corn, wheat, etc. And with that, came the discovery of the spicyness in rye, the sweetness in wheat, and the (yet to describe it) in corn.

    As you can see, I'm still picking apart my palate. And I'm loving every minute of it!

    A good tip that was pointed out just the other day on this forum, was the fact that you shouldn't jump all over the bar when tasting. Stick with one type of whisky, or similar whiskies. Don't go from rye to wheat to corn to scotch and then back again in one sitting, it'll just confuse you.

  3. #3
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    Re: Maturing as a Bourbon Drinker

    SMOWK's advise is good. For a new bourbon drinker have a couple bottles at home that cover wheat and rye bourbon and rye whiskey. Some folks like the spicy characteristics of a rye bourbon or whiskey while others gravitate toward the softer notes of a wheated bourbon. Also as a new drinker, starting at a lower proof and working your way up is generally a good idea so your head doesn't explode on the first sip of a super proof like George T. Stagg or William LaRue Weller.

    A couple good selections are:

    Wheat Bourbon - Weller Special Reserve @90 proof
    Rye Bourbon - Very Old Barton @86 pf or Buffalo Trace @90 pf
    Rye Whiskey - Sazerac Rye @ 90 pf

    As SMOWK mentioned, having a Corn Whiskey around tunes your palate to distinguish the corn elements in a bourbon. At some point you will begin picking out the dominant and less dominant flavors. Additionally, when you nose a bourbon, your palate should reinforce what you smelled. I've found though that in some cases there will be a disconnect between the nose and the entry.
    “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” - P.J. O’Rourke
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  4. #4
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    Re: Maturing as a Bourbon Drinker

    Another good tip is to make sure you don't just stick your nose to the bottom of the glass and inhale. The alcohol will get ya before any of the aroma's will. A better idea is to stick your whole face in the glass and breath through both your mouth and nose. It really allows you to taste the smell and smell the taste.

  5. #5
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    Re: Maturing as a Bourbon Drinker

    I absolutely think there is a progression. I used to only drink my whiskey neat when I was trying a new one. I was pretty much an 'on the rocks' guy. But then over the past year I noticed myself wanting fewer ice cubes in my whiskey. Over the course of the past year I have gone from only wanting two, to one to no ice in my whiskey. I think the last time I had bourbon on the rocks was sometime in the summer.

    I also keep a corn whiskey (Mellow Corn) around as well as straight Rye (Several) and Wheat whiskey (Bernheim Original) in the cabinet. Actually, I would have never thought to pick up something like Mellow Corn until someone on here suggested it. It really went a long way to helping me be able to pick out the characteristics that corn imparts to Bourbon.

    Recently I started paying attention to how the glassware affects the taste, concentrates the smells, etc. I started by cycling through a rocks glass, a snifter, Riedel Bourbon Glasses and Glencairn glasses. The glassware definitely makes a difference. Now, unless I am piddling around with glasware I usually use a Glencairn glass. My palate is not there yet, but some of the guys on the board will taste differences in the same whiskey poured in a Glencairn glass made of crystal and one made of standard glass.

    Definitely invest in a Glencairn Glass or two if you want get the most out of drinking your whiskey neat.

    Lastly, if this post gives you the impression that I know what the hell I am talking about I apologize. I am pretty much regurgitating advice gleaned from either reading this board or asking members directly. SB really is a great resource.
    "F**k it, I'm gettin' into the whiskey."
    -Joe Alvey

  6. #6
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    Re: Maturing as a Bourbon Drinker

    The one point from the OP that you can clarify is that the sweetness in bourbon is from the corn and not from the flavor grain.

    Wheaters are normally sweeter on the palate than ryed bourbons due to the different assertiveness of the flavor grains. Assuming an equal amount of rye or wheat in a mashbill, the rye is much more forward than the wheat (it masks the corn sweetness more) so the wheater will taste sweeter.

    For those who have access to it, try some of the Bernheim Wheat whiskey. It is a great demonstration of how the wheat isn't the sweet componenet of the bourbon.
    My name is Joel Goodson. I deal in human fulfillment.
    I grossed over eight thousand dollars in one night. Time of your life, huh kid?

  7. #7
    Advanced Taster
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    Re: Maturing as a Bourbon Drinker

    I've definitely noticed a progression in my bourbon drinking experience. I have been drinking bourbon on and off for the last 3 years, essentially since I have become of legal drinking age. I am in no way an expert, but here is what my limited experience has been like.

    When I first started really drinking and enjoying bourbon I couldn't make out hardly any tastes or aromas, I just knew it wasn't disgusting. I also tried JD a few times when starting out and I could easily pick up a sweet, smoky smell, but that was it.

    Recently though, my progress is coming faster than ever. I can pick out certain scents, like oak, smoke, leather/tobacco( I haven't been able to separate these yet, they seem to come as one scent, almost one and the same), and just recently vanilla and brown sugar. Not many different aromas, but enough for me to get excited about!

    As far as tastes, I have been able to detect oakiness, vanilla, cinnamon, dark chocolate/cocoa, and while sipping some EWSB the other day, some sweetness, which I attribute to the corn in the mashbill.

    Not huge progress, but now I've come to enjoy great bourbon for what it is and how it's made, instead of just shooting it back and trying to catch a buzz(what a waste!)

    Again, while I'm no expert, I do believe people go through phases during their appreciation of any alcoholic beverage they enjoy.

    Eric

  8. #8
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    Re: Maturing as a Bourbon Drinker

    One suggstion. Don't finish bottles. Keep a lot of bottles around and then you can taste compare. That's been the biggest eye opener for me. ...And still is. Just now I relished some Glenlivet Nadurra then went to 4RSB, and was surprised at the similarities and how well the 4R complemented the Nadurra.

  9. #9
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    Re: Maturing as a Bourbon Drinker

    Maturing as a Bourbon Drinker perhaps... but yet some of us here will never grow up.
    John B

    "Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons… that is all there is to distinguish us from other animals."

  10. #10
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    Re: Maturing as a Bourbon Drinker

    Quote Originally Posted by deaconbones View Post
    I'd love to hear some words of wisdom in this area.
    Dude you just said all the words of wisdom that every boubon connoisseur has said at the beginning of the journey.
    ovh

 

 

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