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  1. #21
    Advanced Taster
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    Aug 2012
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    Novi, MI
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    169

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

    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.

  2. #22
    Moderator
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    Jul 2008
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    SW Iowa
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    3,034

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

    Quote Originally Posted by bigtoys View Post
    I
    wonder if there's anyone who can identify all 10 4R recipes blind???
    I would put money that Jim Rutledge couldn't do that. Nothing against Jim he's the best but it just can't be done.
    Normal is an illusion. What is normal to the spider, is chaos for the fly.

  3. #23
    Connoisseur
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    Jul 2012
    Location
    Honolulu, HI
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    756

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

    Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
    But he with a chuckle replied
    That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
    Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
    So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
    On his face. If he worried he hid it.
    He started to sing as he tackled the thing
    That couldn’t be done, and he did it!

  4. #24
    Guru
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    Sep 2004
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    Jackson, MS
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    11,833

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

    They said it couldn't be done,
    and he with a chuckle replied,
    how do you know it cannot be done,
    when you haven't even tired?

    So he chucked right in, with a bit of a grin,
    and set himself right to it.

    He tackled the thing, that couldn't be done,
    and by George, he couldn't do it.

  5. #25
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Posts
    106

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

    Quote Originally Posted by wadewood View Post
    Some of the adjectives are BS. There are no cherries put into straight bourbon. However their are chemicals in bourbon that we taste and smell as cherries. In the case of cherry that comes from an ester, geranyl butyrate, created during the fermentation and distillation process. It's the same with all the other "flavors" one may taste in a spirit.
    Wade, totally agree with ya. The esters give us those fruit aromas and flavors. geranyl butyrate is known to have floral, rose, fruity and pineapple aromas.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  6. #26
    Connoisseur
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    Apr 2011
    Location
    Toledo, OH
    Posts
    790

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

    Quote Originally Posted by squire View Post
    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".
    I have heard that the sense of smell is the most powerful stimulus to memory. Once in a while something triggers an association with things long past--the smell of the garage behind the house where I grew up, the Murphy's oil soap my mother used. The trigger never actually smells like the old things associated with it. Perhaps it's just a misfiring synapse or a glitch in the old corpus collosum.
    Still, there are times I find something highly specific in a bourbon that was not there before and never returns again. This makes me suspect that what I found was not actually in the bourbon. If you can't duplicate the experiment, it ain't science.
    If God made anything better than bourbon he must have kept it for Hisself.

  7. #27
    Bourbonian Of The Year 2013 and Guru
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    Sep 2004
    Location
    Just East of the Big Chicken, GA
    Posts
    5,974

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

    Quote Originally Posted by wadewood View Post
    Some of the adjectives are BS. There are no cherries put into straight bourbon. However their are chemicals in bourbon that we taste and smell as cherries. In the case of cherry that comes from an ester, geranyl butyrate, created during the fermentation and distillation process. It's the same with all the other "flavors" one may taste in a spirit.
    I ain't a puttin' my nose anywheres near geranyl butyrate.... What are yas, crazy!!!???!!!
    JOE

    Wag more.
    Bark less.

    "Every bottle is its own learning experience." -- Sensei Ox-sama

  8. #28
    Guru
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    Sep 2004
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    Jackson, MS
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    11,833

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

    I have disciplined myself to keep drinking until the experiment is duplicated.

  9. #29
    Virtuoso
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    Apr 2011
    Location
    Chicago 'burbs
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    1,077

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

    There is no wrong way to describe a taste. There are degrees of accuracy, there can be agreement and disagreement, but when you labor to define a sensual experience, you're talking about art more than science (as someone else mentioned in this thread).
    "A man comes from the dust and in the dust he will end-- In the meantime it is good to drink whiskey."
    -->WhiskeyWonka<--

  10. #30
    Taster
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    Nov 2012
    Location
    VA
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    94

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

    I, like many who replied to this thread, cannot make out more than a handful of flavors in any one whiskey either. I am also amused by tasting notes that have all kinds of exotic descriptors in them. I find them entertaining, but not that helpful. I can say one thing though, even though I can only pick out a few flavors in a given whiskey, I can definitely tell the difference between decent quality and crap.

 

 

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