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  1. #1
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    Tasting note adjectives - how specific can one really be?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taste

    I know there are "supertasters" who can pick out more flavor elements than the rest of us. However, as much as
    I enjoy either listening too or reading various "tasting" notes, I am somewhat doubtful of the dozen or more
    various notes some people pick out.

    We all have the basic - sweet , sour, bitter, salty and "umami" / savory.
    Other possible notes are - cool, dry, fattiness, "heartiness, numbness, hotness, temperature.

    Now, within these categories we can say "sweet like honey or sweet like sugar" etc.
    Personally, I tend to pick out 3-5 flavor notes at most. Now, maybe if I had a nosing kit and really
    trained my senses I could add more. Some notes are just hard to describe.

    When you read of notes with 12+ individual scents or flavors......bee honey from South Africa, honeysuckle from Georgia, an unusual tea,
    various candies, vegetables, fruits etc. do you experience them yourself or do you hunt for them after reading the notes?
    I think the mind will find what it is looking for in these situations. Just comparing notes on the same whiskey or other beverage shows
    a few common experiences but quite often very different notes as well. How much B.S. is a part of such reviews?

    How many individual notes do you think you can pick out for each phase...nose, palate taste, after taste?

    In addition...Supertasters are not indicative of the rest of us so their reporting is really not applicable.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supertaster They are more sensitive to certain flavors...if the average person isn't it
    will not matter.
    Last edited by Jono; 01-08-2013 at 14:52.

  2. #2
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    Re: Tasting note adjectives - how specific can one really be?

    I put it down to professional reviewer ennui. I recall whisky writer Jim Murray commenting he occasionally had to come up with new tasting terms to keep his reviews fresh. To me that's like saying 'there really isn't any tapioca root or tamarind rind in this whisky, that's just something I thunk up on the spot'.

    Parker Beam said it best in a broadcast interview, "I don't find all these tastes they talk about in whisky, to me it just tastes like whisky".

  3. #3
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    Re: Tasting note adjectives - how specific can one really be?

    Well, two extreme stances....I think Parker was being a little simplistic but I get his point.

    I love Ralfy's reviews but he does find multiple notes. I don't doubt he experiences those scents and flavors, but I know I don't
    have that level of specificity. Coming up with a descriptor for those notes is the subjective impression of the taster.
    If I get a fruit note is it pineapple or is it tangerine? If I get a chocolate note... is it bakers chocolate or is it milk chocolate? Is it 60% or 80% dark?
    Another person may say, neither, it is dragon fruit or it isn't chocolate, its coffee.

    Sometimes, talking to somebody as you both are tasting shows similarities and differences. Other times, you find yourself
    hunting for the note they detect. Sometimes you think you find it and other times not.

  4. #4
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    Tasting note adjectives - how specific can one really be?

    My wife can pick out all kinds of scents as she's got an incredible sense of smell - I call her "supernose" sometimes. This translates to tastes too IMO because she can pick stuff out that I can't in food/drink (until she says something and then I'm like "oh yeah it does!")... It's either that or she's suggesting tastes/smells to me and my brain just nods along & agrees to everything she says.
    ¡Geaux Tigers! - ¡Visca el Barça!

    "Really though, my hands are sore. The tool was doing it's thing with a flex hose." -Barrel_Proof

  5. #5

    Re: Tasting note adjectives - how specific can one really be?

    I can identify some relatively broad flavors that might translate to corn, spice, sweetness, oak, and floral tones. And sometimes a broad descriptor like "spice" might be more specifically identifiable as cinnamon or clove, or "sweet" as maple syrup or burnt caramel. But some of the esoteric stuff mentioned in reviews is really quite silly. Why is the taste "vanilla fudge" and not just "vanilla"? Why "orange rind" and not just "citrus"? Why caramel, toffee and nougat? I love complex bourbons with emerging and varied flavors, but certainly couldn't identify three such similar flavors.

  6. #6
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    Tasting note adjectives - how specific can one really be?

    Also from a cultural/culinary perspective, one's exposure to flavors tends to inform their perceptions of taste. Coming from an Asian background, some the notes I read really leaves me scratching my head. Other times, I get flavors that remind me of a Chinese candy or herbal medicine and I don't think it'd be understood by one without the same exposure.
    Last edited by ChainWhip; 01-08-2013 at 15:52.
    ¡Geaux Tigers! - ¡Visca el Barça!

    "Really though, my hands are sore. The tool was doing it's thing with a flex hose." -Barrel_Proof

  7. #7
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    Re: Tasting note adjectives - how specific can one really be?

    ChainWhip I certainly try to pick out such notes after having read a review...sometimes I think the mind will act on the suggestion. Like a supertaster, a supernoser detects things the rest of us don't....of if we do, they are buried within other scents and none rise up and shout so we are left with a sensation but cannot put it to words.
    Good point about the food and cultural influences.
    Vanilla fudge can also just be vanilla and chocolate notes. I agree Portugieser that what you report is similar to what I find myself able to pick out.

  8. #8
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    Re: Tasting note adjectives - how specific can one really be?

    I once got pounced on by somebody here for using the term "lead pencil". Fortunately I don't recall ever actually tasting one but I can certainly imagine that taste from all the grammer school pencil shavings I experienced in the early '60s .

    And at times whiskey has smells, tastes and flavors of foods or spices I don't much care to eat but they're damn good in the whiskey.

    There is also a specific smell and taste in the 15 and up VW's that I think makes them so appealing to many, but I can't put my finger on what it actually is...or has anybody in their reviews nailed it for me either.
    Thad

    BTOTY-2011

  9. #9
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    Re: Tasting note adjectives - how specific can one really be?

    I believe that certain tasting notes are quite prominent,at least to me they are many are glammed up generalities.I believe that if these reviews weren't interesting and over the top no one would read them so things must stay glitzed to the hilt.I have found what I taste isn't what others get from certain profiles anyway,I use them as a guideline and not a staple of to which I base my purchases.I believe if all palates were the same all whisk(e)y would taste the same and variance is what keeps it all interesting and ever changing,even my own from day to day.
    "To deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human."
    Larry Wachowski

  10. #10
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    Re: Tasting note adjectives - how specific can one really be?

    I think that some people are very "creative" in describing things that they taste but other people have a good sense memory. Whenever I sample beer, wine, whiskey, etc for a review, I try to relate a smell or taste to something very specific. For example, if I smell something that is fruity, do I just say it's "tropical," or do I think more about what that scent reminds me of. Maybe it's mango or pineapple, or maybe it's pineapple upside down cake, or maybe it's mango lassi. I try to be as specific to relate to other experiences that I've had in order to give the tasting more weight and saliency. Otherwise, almost every review could be boiled down to, "very woody with some caramelized sugar, some spicy notes, grain flavor and a touch of char in the finish." I think specificity based on your experiences makes for a more enjoyable review.

    Some people are just better at cataloging taste memories and can conjure them up when necessary. Others are better at identifying a taste or aroma component by name. Still others are just good at making up flowery terms for ordinary tastes. Finally, there are people that just like to drink and not think to much about it. After all, if you drink Coke, which is a mix of orange, clove, citrus and other essences or Dr Pepper and it's 20+ flavorings, you aren't there just trying to pick it all apart, but you just drink it and

 

 

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