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  1. #1
    Apprentice
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    Differences in Bourbon Mouthfeel

    One of my favorite characteristics of a whiskey is a hefty, thick, and smooth mouthfeel. As I've been working my way through the enormous number of great Bourbons in the $15-$30 range, I've been trying to come to some general conclusions of which are best in the mouthfeel category. So far, I can't say any really have blown me away in this category. Although WT101 may have had one of the better mouthfeels in this range.

    What I did notice, however, is that some bourbons really fall short on the mouthfeel side. While I enjoy the flavor components of ERSB 10, I noticed this week that it seemed about as thin as water to me.

    Are there any general rules to choosing bourbons with great, hefty mouthfeel? I found an old thread a while back with a few posts that recommended wheaters on the whole for this characteristic. Do most experienced drinkers agree with that? If so, why do wheaters win out? Any specific recommendations?

  2. #2
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    Re: Differences in Bourbon Mouthfeel

    Agreed on the thick mouth feel as a desirable characteristic. Also curious what part of manufacture accentuates it and why it isn't used much in descriptions by manufacturers.
    After doing a recent tasting of a large sampling of wheaters I wouldn't describe thick mouth feel as a characteristic of that juice across the board.

  3. #3
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    Re: Differences in Bourbon Mouthfeel

    There is no easy answer because of all the variables in production and of course mouthfeel itself (oiliness, viscosity, texture) can have a wide definition. Column still, cuts made, distillation proof, entry proof, mash bill, char of wood, years in the wood, filtering and bottling proof, all have an effect. Though made industrially, the ingredients are farmed and subtle differences can occur just based on each year's grains. Pot still advocates will attribute that, versus the column still, as being the main reason why American whiskey has less mouthfeel in general. I don't find that wheaters win out on mouth feel either. Plenty of rye finished bourbons with great mouthfeel too. I agree on ER 10/90 as having minimal mouth feel but the old 101 proof had plenty. Here is a short but insightful thread from 2004 on oilness of bourbon and that component of mouthfeel. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...ils-in-Bourbon
    Thad

    BTOTY-2011

  4. #4
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    Re: Differences in Bourbon Mouthfeel

    I also don't think the wheaters win in this regard, unles you're speicifcally talking about 12+ year wheaters, in which case we're probably out of the price range mentioned originally. I would guess that a lower entry proof and a higher bottling proof (ie, less water added) might be the best variable to follow, although that information probably isn't 100% available.

  5. #5
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    Re: Differences in Bourbon Mouthfeel

    I think the main characteristic that I attribute to mouthfeel is density/viscosity. I do agree that this could also be affected by the oiliness of the bourbon. Thanks for that old thread T Comp. Interestingly, that oiliness would be caused by congeners whose boiling point would likely be lower than alcohol/water, like small molecule esters. The density of those compounds on average would be lower than water, so you could get an oilier outhfeel AND a less dense/viscous bourbon at the same time. Note that it can't really be "oils" causing oiliness, because the boiling point of any long-chain oils would be much higher than water or ethanol. For anyone who is interested, here's a link that shows some of the small molecule compounds that give (Scotch) whisky its flavor: http://www.rsc.org/images/Whisky_tcm18-138981.pdf. Are there any places that one can find the major small molecule components that give flavor to Bourbon? That would be interesting.....

    In the old days, as bourbons had lower distillation and entry proof, they would have more of these small molecule organic congeners and would be oilier. As Bourbon Boiler points out, those variable could be very important - but are not something you can read on the side of a bottle! I guess in the end this is a more complex issue than I thought. Even if we can't understand the science behind it, I'd be curious to see what specific bourbons you all judge to have impressive mouthfeel (even if they are outside the $15-$30 range).

    To refresh my memory, I had a couple of fingers of WT101 last night, and it did have quite a nice mouthfeel. It is shocking to me how much I enjoy that bourbon in so many ways - for $22 here in NC!

  6. #6
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    Re: Differences in Bourbon Mouthfeel

    WT is barrelled at a lower than normal proof - at least that's what the tourguides say.

  7. #7
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    Re: Differences in Bourbon Mouthfeel

    Quote Originally Posted by T Comp View Post
    There is no easy answer because of all the variables in production and of course mouthfeel itself (oiliness, viscosity, texture) can have a wide definition. Column still, cuts made, distillation proof, entry proof, mash bill, char of wood, years in the wood, filtering and bottling proof, all have an effect. Though made industrially, the ingredients are farmed and subtle differences can occur just based on each year's grains. Pot still advocates will attribute that, versus the column still, as being the main reason why American whiskey has less mouthfeel in general. I don't find that wheaters win out on mouth feel either. Plenty of rye finished bourbons with great mouthfeel too. I agree on ER 10/90 as having minimal mouth feel but the old 101 proof had plenty. Here is a short but insightful thread from 2004 on oilness of bourbon and that component of mouthfeel. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...ils-in-Bourbon
    Thanks for the link, Thad. I find viscosity an important factor in my enjoyment of many bourbons and agree that this characteristic cuts across wheaters and rye'd whiskey. As you noted, the old ER10/101 is one of my favorites for this very reason.
    "I distrust a man who says 'when.' He's got to be careful not to drink too much, because he's not to be trusted when he does." Sydney Greenstreet

  8. #8
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    Re: Differences in Bourbon Mouthfeel

    Quote Originally Posted by sailor22 View Post
    Agreed on the thick mouth feel as a desirable characteristic. Also curious what part of manufacture accentuates it and why it isn't used much in descriptions by manufacturers.
    After doing a recent tasting of a large sampling of wheaters I wouldn't describe thick mouth feel as a characteristic of that juice across the board.
    I would agree with your assessment Steve that wheaters don't necessarily translate into a great mouth-feel experience.
    "There's nothing better than a fine dinner, a good bottle of whiskey and a bad girl"

  9. #9
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    Re: Differences in Bourbon Mouthfeel

    Quote Originally Posted by T Comp View Post
    There is no easy answer because of all the variables in production and of course mouthfeel itself (oiliness, viscosity, texture) can have a wide definition. Column still, cuts made, distillation proof, entry proof, mash bill, char of wood, years in the wood, filtering and bottling proof, all have an effect. Though made industrially, the ingredients are farmed and subtle differences can occur just based on each year's grains. Pot still advocates will attribute that, versus the column still, as being the main reason why American whiskey has less mouthfeel in general. I don't find that wheaters win out on mouth feel either. Plenty of rye finished bourbons with great mouthfeel too. I agree on ER 10/90 as having minimal mouth feel but the old 101 proof had plenty. Here is a short but insightful thread from 2004 on oilness of bourbon and that component of mouthfeel. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...ils-in-Bourbon
    Another fine overview of what can influence the final product. Touche Thad!
    "There's nothing better than a fine dinner, a good bottle of whiskey and a bad girl"

  10. #10
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    Re: Differences in Bourbon Mouthfeel

    I don't know "what" impacts the mouthfeel (and think Thad is right that the variables are so many that with combinations, the "why" might be difficult or impossible to pin point). My recommendation is to try a lot of stuff and make mental notes as to differences in mouthfeel. That isn't one of my focuses, but a couple stand out for me as having distinct mouthfeels, such as Bookers (which is thicker - almost syrupy at times) or Laphroaig 10 yr (Scotch, not bourbon, but for me has an oily mouthfeel). Both of those are outside the range you listed - I personally can't think of any that stand out in that range, bug since I haven't focused on that - I'd keep trying what you can!
    Gary
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    "Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough." - Mark Twain
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