Welcome to the Straightbourbon.com Forums.
Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 29
  1. #1
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Columbia, Missouri
    Posts
    249

    Semantics (e.g. "what is dry about whiskey?...)

    So as a student and teacher of English, I love language. Accordingly, I realize that much of the delicious mystery and vitality of words consists in their wonderful ambiguity and slipperyness - and I would never want to subject them to the cloroform and dissection that is precise and systematic definition. Truly, there is nothing outside context, and if we tried to reduce words to absolutely fixed specimens, we would lose much of the real thing.

    But I still think it is really interesting, not to mention really useful, for amatuers and (I would speculate) experts alike to talk about bourbon tasting language. Many of you who hated English class may knee-jerk-recoil from the idea, but I think it could be really fun.

    So here are some conventions of semantics, right or wrong, I have picked up in reviews, labels, and SB conversations.

    1.) Dry and Sweet work on a binary gradient or spectrum that looks something like this:

    -----Dry------------------Balanced---------------------Sweet----- (True?)

    2.) Likewise, Oily and Watery look something like this spectrum

    ------Oily--------------(Medium? Balanced?)-----------Watery-----(True?)

    3.) Oily and Watery describe the polarities of mouthfeel.
    4.) Mouthfeel = immediately physical texture or consistency of the liquid (NOT the flavor itself), which just happens to be measured by feeling it in your mouth.
    5.) Astringent = unmediated alcohol taste

    Now here are some terms and ideas that I sort of understand in context but am generally confused about:

    1.) Does "body" really just mean "mouthfeel", or does it have more to do with flavor? The whole "thin" to "medium" to "full" gradient seems to indicate texture, but really I have no clear idea what the hell people are talking about when they say their whiskey has a "medium body."
    2.) What does "Hot" mean, exactly? It seems to mean "astringent", but constant references to mitigating "heat" with icecubes have planted the idea in my head that the sensation of actual, non-metaphorical temperature might somehow be involved.
    3.) "The finish": wtf is going on with this? It seems to me that "finish" refers to nothing more or less than the taste/feeling of whiskey after it has left the palate and entered the gullet, but descriptions of it seem to elevate it into a transcendent metaphysical phenomenon. It's as if people drinking a good pour taste real whiskey on the palate but then are somehow magically transported to Never Ever Land in the finish.

    So am I pulling this out of my ass? How wrong or right am I?

    And what other slippery or confusing semantic conventions did I forget?
    “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.”
    ― Kurt Vonnegut

  2. #2
    Virtuoso
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Massillon, Oh.
    Posts
    1,250

    Re: Semantics (e.g. "what is dry about whiskey?...)

    I'll leave this to the people with "educated" palates to discuss. All I know is, if I like it, I drink it.

  3. #3

    Re: Semantics (e.g. "what is dry about whiskey?...)

    Quote Originally Posted by CoMobourbon View Post
    So as a student and teacher of English, I love language. Accordingly, I realize that much of the delicious mystery and vitality of words consists in their wonderful ambiguity and slipperyness - and I would never want to subject them to the cloroform and dissection that is precise and systematic definition. Truly, there is nothing outside context, and if we tried to reduce words to absolutely fixed specimens, we would lose much of the real thing.

    But I still think it is really interesting, not to mention really useful, for amatuers and (I would speculate) experts alike to talk about bourbon tasting language. Many of you who hated English class may knee-jerk-recoil from the idea, but I think it could be really fun.

    So here are some conventions of semantics, right or wrong, I have picked up in reviews, labels, and SB conversations.

    1.) Dry and Sweet work on a binary gradient or spectrum that looks something like this:

    -----Dry------------------Balanced---------------------Sweet----- (True?)

    2.) Likewise, Oily and Watery look something like this spectrum

    ------Oily--------------(Medium? Balanced?)-----------Watery-----(True?)

    3.) Oily and Watery describe the polarities of mouthfeel.
    4.) Mouthfeel = immediately physical texture or consistency of the liquid (NOT the flavor itself), which just happens to be measured by feeling it in your mouth.
    5.) Astringent = unmediated alcohol taste

    Now here are some terms and ideas that I sort of understand in context but am generally confused about:

    1.) Does "body" really just mean "mouthfeel", or does it have more to do with flavor? The whole "thin" to "medium" to "full" gradient seems to indicate texture, but really I have no clear idea what the hell people are talking about when they say their whiskey has a "medium body."
    2.) What does "Hot" mean, exactly? It seems to mean "astringent", but constant references to mitigating "heat" with icecubes have planted the idea in my head that the sensation of actual, non-metaphorical temperature might somehow be involved.
    3.) "The finish": wtf is going on with this? It seems to me that "finish" refers to nothing more or less than the taste/feeling of whiskey after it has left the palate and entered the gullet, but descriptions of it seem to elevate it into a transcendent metaphysical phenomenon. It's as if people drinking a good pour taste real whiskey on the palate but then are somehow magically transported to Never Ever Land in the finish.

    So am I pulling this out of my ass? How wrong or right am I?

    And what other slippery or confusing semantic conventions did I forget?
    Interesting stuff, I don't think I've ever seen these types of terms fully defined for whiskey (bourbon for sure).

    As far as 'dry-sweet' I think there is a straight scale. I'm not sure that there is a oily-watery is the same, I've also experienced creamy which I don't know how that would fit on that scale.

    Heat for me is how well the alcohol content balances with the whiskey. Certain whiskies even with high alcohol don't 'taste' high alcohol to me, where as other whiskies that have lower alcohol content seem to be hot. Ethanol does similar things to your nose (smell-buds?) that bright lights do to your retina's, bright lights aren't 'hot' but temporarily burning your retinas from looking at the sun or bright lights does give me a sense of heat, similar to out of balance ethanol.

    Astringency is the puckering sensation you get (makes you salivate), it isn't so much from ethanol as the tannins extracted from wood. At least thats my limited understanding.

    For finish, I personally interpret that as aftertaste. At least for me, certain tastes come out more after the swallow. Also I've had some whiskeys taste better in the mouth, or taste better in the after taste, also how long the after taste stays present would change my opinion of the finish.

    Again I'm no expert and still relatively new to this, but thats my understanding of these things.
    Cheers,
    Tom

  4. #4
    Virtuoso
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    1,178

    Re: Semantics (e.g. "what is dry about whiskey?...)

    For me, finish is more than a palate sensation. It's also the sensation you get in the nose. Drink a sip of whiskey, swallow and then exhale through your nose. There is a distinct aroma/flavor that can be distinct from the nose or palate. I find this particularly apparent in peated malts, but you can get it in any whiskey really.

  5. #5
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Hoboken, NJ
    Posts
    163

    Re: Semantics (e.g. "what is dry about whiskey?...)

    Quote Originally Posted by ebo View Post
    I'll leave this to the people with "educated" palates to discuss. All I know is, if I like it, I drink it.
    Totally agree. Maybe as I taste more and more, I'll be able to better comment on other members' tasting notes

  6. #6
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Columbia, Missouri
    Posts
    249

    Re: Semantics (e.g. "what is dry about whiskey?...)

    Quote Originally Posted by jersey12 View Post
    Totally agree. Maybe as I taste more and more, I'll be able to better comment on other members' tasting notes
    Quote Originally Posted by ebo View Post
    I'll leave this to the people with "educated" palates to discuss. All I know is, if I like it, I drink it.
    Aww man. You guys are no fun.

    No, but in all seriousness, I totally get it. In fact, that's at the core of what I am trying to say with all of these questions.

    Whiskey is, and is supposed to be, a mysterious subjective experience (i.e. "All I know is, if I like it, I drink it"), and that is awesome. It's just amazing, then, that somehow we are able to talk about whiskey with each other. If whiskey began and ended with totally isolated personal taste, there would be no SB.com. But somehow this site exists and even thrives. We are able to build a website and a conversation about whiskey because, somehow, we are able to put the mystic richness of whiskey experience into a code that, though imperfect, works - and works beautifully. Even self-declared mindless tasters (like you guys, ebo and jersey) know this; why else would you be on this site unless you thought that you could meaningfully communicate about and compare whiskey experiences? How else could you ever trust anything that anybody says on this site?

    Like I said, I am a dork for language, but this stuff fascinates me to no end.
    “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.”
    ― Kurt Vonnegut

  7. #7
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Columbia, Missouri
    Posts
    249

    Re: Semantics (e.g. "what is dry about whiskey?...)

    Quote Originally Posted by tommyj1986 View Post
    Interesting stuff, I don't think I've ever seen these types of terms fully defined for whiskey (bourbon for sure).

    As far as 'dry-sweet' I think there is a straight scale. I'm not sure that there is a oily-watery is the same, I've also experienced creamy which I don't know how that would fit on that scale.

    Heat for me is how well the alcohol content balances with the whiskey. Certain whiskies even with high alcohol don't 'taste' high alcohol to me, where as other whiskies that have lower alcohol content seem to be hot. Ethanol does similar things to your nose (smell-buds?) that bright lights do to your retina's, bright lights aren't 'hot' but temporarily burning your retinas from looking at the sun or bright lights does give me a sense of heat, similar to out of balance ethanol.

    Astringency is the puckering sensation you get (makes you salivate), it isn't so much from ethanol as the tannins extracted from wood. At least thats my limited understanding.

    For finish, I personally interpret that as aftertaste. At least for me, certain tastes come out more after the swallow. Also I've had some whiskeys taste better in the mouth, or taste better in the after taste, also how long the after taste stays present would change my opinion of the finish.

    Again I'm no expert and still relatively new to this, but thats my understanding of these things.
    Nice insights. Especially where you seem to confirm my guesses about the meaning of "heat" and "finish." Damn we are smart.

    And your explanation of astringency absolutely set off a lightbulb in my head. As though I had known this but had just needed to hear you say it for me. Though still convinced that "heat" relates to astringency, I feel like your 'bitterness-of-unmanaged-tannins' formula expands my idea of the word.


    Quote Originally Posted by sku View Post
    For me, finish is more than a palate sensation. It's also the sensation you get in the nose. Drink a sip of whiskey, swallow and then exhale through your nose. There is a distinct aroma/flavor that can be distinct from the nose or palate. I find this particularly apparent in peated malts, but you can get it in any whiskey really.
    This is why we need this site. Never in the next 1000 years would I have noticed this nose sensation as a discrete aspect of finish, but now I can't not notice it.
    “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.”
    ― Kurt Vonnegut

  8. #8
    Connoisseur
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Gwinnett Co., GA
    Posts
    689

    Re: Semantics (e.g. "what is dry about whiskey?...)

    I've been drinking bourbon for over 30 years and I'm still developing my palate.

    I doubt I'd be able to definitively differentiate even half of these...

    http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...t.php?f=10&a=6

  9. #9
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Columbia, Missouri
    Posts
    249

    Re: Semantics (e.g. "what is dry about whiskey?...)

    Another rough semantic territory that I just thought of: the usage of "spice" or "spiciness". Overwhelmingly I hear the term in close conjuction with rye - often as "rye spice" - but at the same time I have caught the term used to describe high proof wheaters like BTAC WLW in its various iterations. Such wheaters of course have high alcohol content but no rye. So which is it? Is "spice" another way of talking about the burn of alchohol (rendering it as a pleasant feeling), or does it just work as a key flavor of rye? Both, somehow?
    “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.”
    ― Kurt Vonnegut

  10. #10

    Re: Semantics (e.g. "what is dry about whiskey?...)

    Quote Originally Posted by CoMobourbon View Post
    Another rough semantic territory that I just thought of: the usage of "spice" or "spiciness". Overwhelmingly I hear the term in close conjuction with rye - often as "rye spice" - but at the same time I have caught the term used to describe high proof wheaters like BTAC WLW in its various iterations. Such wheaters of course have high alcohol content but no rye. So which is it? Is "spice" another way of talking about the burn of alchohol (rendering it as a pleasant feeling), or does it just work as a key flavor of rye? Both, somehow?
    Again, for me, spice in rye is more of peppery spice, like black pepper, so sensation and flavor. But I have experienced just the tingly sensation of spice without, or very little, of the flavor in wheated bourbons.
    Cheers,
    Tom

 

 

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 3
    Last Post: 10-08-2008, 02:36
  2. Replies: 0
    Last Post: 04-11-2006, 18:36

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Back to top