I really enjoy reading tasting reviews. Everyone's palate is different, and while I may not taste the exact same flavors that someone else is describing, it does give me a general idea as to a bourbons' overall flavor profile. Is it a more spicy bourbon, or more sweet, woody etc. I have started writing reviews of bourbons on a personal blog, mainly for my friends who want to learn more about it. Am I a professional taster? Of course not. But food and drink have always been an important part of my life. I have many friends who are chefs, and I consider myself an amateur chef. Does that make my palate better than yours? I think not. But what it has done is provided me with many memories of tastes and flavor profiles that I really enjoy. I will sit and do tastings with one of my friends who recently got into bourbon and we'll compare notes. He will always tell me that his palate must not be sophisticated enough because he doesn't pick up as many specific notes as I do. I don't really think that's the case though. I just think, because food is a more important part of my life than his, that I have built up more memories of specific flavors that I enjoy. A larger dictionary if you will.
I have no doubt that when a reviewer points to a strange flavor that they are tasting, like say bubble gum, that most likely they really are getting that flavor. Doesn't mean I will, and that doesn't make them wrong, nor does it make my palate any less than theirs. I think once you get past a lot of the basic notes like vanilla, caramel, maple, brown sugar, ripe green apple etc, what happens is that the combinations of these flavors creates specific notes that we may all interpret a bit differently. I recently bought my first bottle of Baker's. I was having a glass one night and there was a distinct flavor and scent that I was getting that I couldn't peg and it was driving me nuts. It was soooo familiar, and was bringing back memories of childhood. What was it! Finally I figured out that it was something akin to yellow cake with vanilla creme, like a Twinkie. Now, I have never read a review about Baker's that mentioned Twinkies, but that doesn't mean that's not what I tasted. And if I were to write that in a review, I wouldn't really expect someone to taste the exact same thing either. Again, it was tied into a specific food memory for me and I don't doubt that someone else may look at me like I am crazy, or bullshitting.
But again, drinking any fine spirit is all about enjoyment. Some may get the most enjoyment by just drinking and enjoying, and not worrying about dissecting every little flavor they detect. For others, doing that is what makes it enjoyable and fun. Neither are wrong or any better than the other.