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  1. #21
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    How do you win Best Bourbon at a tasting?

    Quote Originally Posted by fminnick View Post
    Jim, you are referencing the double-blind definition for medical testing. For wine, this is the definition of double-blind: "
    A version of "blind tasting" where wines of different varietals are tasted at the same time. The challenge of "double blind tasting" is to determine the varietal and origin of the wine."
    http://www.recipetips.com/glossary-t...sting-wine.asp

    A more thorough University of California definition explains:…"‘Double blind’ describes tastings in which the evaluator is given no explicit information about the wine at all, and evaluates the wine only on the basis of properties she discerns by perceiving the wine in the glass. ‘Single blind’ generally describes tasting in which the evaluator carries out her evaluation perceptually after being told either (i) a general property about the whole class of wines being evaluated (say, their shared geographic region, or the grape from which they were made), or (ii) the list of producers of the wines to be tasted, but not which producer made each individual wine."http://aardvark.ucsd.edu/perception/blind_tasting.pdf

    We tasted blind by industry standards.
    Fair enough.
    I do think that age and proof of a bourbon can be far more revealing than varietal and origin of a wine. They could just give you the same information for a whiskey: "bourbon, USA," "single malt, Japan," etc.
    This is the problem with revealing age and proof: as I said, the bottle that was the subject in your article is one whose identity one can be reasonably sure of from the information given. There are many others. If you were holding out hope that you were tasting some other wonderful 11+ year, 107 proof wheater that no one had heard of yet, I have to believe that you were guilty of willful suspension of disbelief - which, by the way, I think is FAR better than saying "OK, number 38 is the Pappy. It wins."

    Also, I understand that you're not responsible for setting up the rules and only had to operate with the information given you, so doing your best to not decide which is which based on age and proof was likely the most impartial way for you to proceed.
    Last edited by HighInTheMtns; 03-29-2013 at 08:12.
    Jim

  2. #22
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    Re: How do you win Best Bourbon at a tasting?

    With due respect to the fact that Mr. Minnick is working within the parameters of his profession, those definitions of 'blind tasting' are ridiculous. The purpose of a blind is to remove bias, whether it be in medical testing or taste testing.

    There is no doubt in my mind that knowing the proof, and especially age, of a whiskey introduces a bias into the tasting. Do you really expect to not have any preconceived notions when you know that you're about to taste a 35-year-old scotch whiskey?

  3. #23

    Re: How do you win Best Bourbon at a tasting?

    Quote Originally Posted by higgins View Post
    With due respect to the fact that Mr. Minnick is working within the parameters of his profession, those definitions of 'blind tasting' are ridiculous. The purpose of a blind is to remove bias, whether it be in medical testing or taste testing.

    There is no doubt in my mind that knowing the proof, and especially age, of a whiskey introduces a bias into the tasting. Do you really expect to not have any preconceived notions when you know that you're about to taste a 35-year-old scotch whiskey?
    I completely see your point. But, I will say that many older single malts performed poorly. In the end, it's not a perfect system. I've been asked to judge again next year; and hopefully, I can contribute some ideas to improve the competition. I love the idea of a double blind round, but I don't think many people would enter it. Would a trendy high-end several-barrel finish beat Devil's Cut?

  4. #24
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    Re: How do you win Best Bourbon at a tasting?

    Quote Originally Posted by fminnick View Post
    I love the idea of a double blind round, but I don't think many people would enter it. Would a trendy high-end several-barrel finish beat Devil's Cut?
    I think that's the real hang-up. There has to be some compromise between unbiased testing and actually getting the distillers to enter their products into competition.

    I just wish they hadn't taken an important and already defined term such as 'blind' and misrepresented it in this way. Oh well, just add it to the list of pet peeves I have with the wine industry.

  5. #25

    Re: How do you win Best Bourbon at a tasting?

    Maybe we can influence change.

  6. #26
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    Re: How do you win Best Bourbon at a tasting?

    Bear with me Fred, I believe if I hand an expert a glass of white wine and only tell him it's from Germany he should be able to spot the grape, region and then get more specific or else he's not an expert.

    If I hand an expert a glass of whisky and tell him more than it's a Bourbon then he will be tasting on information rather than expertise.

  7. #27

    Re: How do you win Best Bourbon at a tasting?

    Quote Originally Posted by squire View Post
    Bear with me Fred, I believe if I hand an expert a glass of white wine and only tell him it's from Germany he should be able to spot the grape, region and then get more specific or else he's not an expert.

    If I hand an expert a glass of whisky and tell him more than it's a Bourbon then he will be tasting on information rather than expertise.
    Great statement, Squire. I think the answer is it's complicated. Germany is a great country to bring up with whites, because you're mostly looking at two grapes--Riesling and Gewürztraminer--for whites. A marginal palate could detect a sweeter Riesling over the dryer Gewurztraminer. But, what if you threw in an airen? Could they detect this mostly Spanish variety? I know about 2 percent of the wine professionals could. They are the Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers, the Navy Seals of wine. The rigorous training they go through is amazing. Just because somebody can't spot the grape does not mean they're not an expert. It just means their palate at that moment could not detect it. Plus, there are so many variables in wine. The fermentation styles, the higher tannins in French oak, the coconut in American oak and the various toasting methods. I saw a Spanish winery that used square barrels. Who could taste that?

    So your point about bourbon is accurate. The taster will no doubt go on the information given. But, I don't want to taste bourbon up against Canadian whisky or Scotch before I taste against other bourbons, because there are different rules and traditions in making these. I hope I understood your statement correctly and properly addressed it.

    Can whiskey tasters ever get to the point where we can spot the exact warehouse of a product line the Masters of Wine can with Riesling? I don't know if we ever will, because I only know what the distillers release. Wine is mostly transparent, but whiskey companies often call themselves a distillery when they're not even a distillery.
    Last edited by fminnick; 03-29-2013 at 10:54.

  8. #28
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    Re: How do you win Best Bourbon at a tasting?

    I don't really like this procedure either, but no information can bias as well. I'm sure everyone has taken a bite of some food in their life, that they thought was something else. When that has happened to me, I've never liked the immediate taste. However, when I take a second bite knowing what it is, I like it. Granted, bourbon is so tightly defined that there isn't a whole lot of room for variety. However, if someone made an extremely aged, high proof bourbon, if it didn't taste like what the judge expected to taste I could see a negative result.

    I'd still take this over knowing exact age and proof, but I don't think there can be a perfect methodology.

  9. #29
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    Re: How do you win Best Bourbon at a tasting?

    Good point about the MWs Fred, I wasn't shooting quite that high. What I had in mind was Gewrtz-Riesling, Moselle-Rhine, that sort of thing.

    I would like to sit down with the taster who can distinguish a Rye whisky with 53% rye, 35% corn, 12% malt as opposed to a Bourbon with 58% corn, 30% rye, 12% malt.

    Other than the social aspects I'm not interested in another distillery tour but would greatly like to spend a morning in the tasting room with the Master Blenders nosing samples.
    Last edited by squire; 03-29-2013 at 11:23.

  10. #30
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    Re: How do you win Best Bourbon at a tasting?

    Quote Originally Posted by HighInTheMtns View Post
    FWIW, I agree with Squire. You knew that the whiskey in question was 11 or more years old, you knew it was 107 proof, and you were fairly sure from palate that it was a wheater. "Please don't be Pappy?" You already knew it was Pappy; no other bourbon fits that description. It simply wasn't a blind tasting. I don't question your ability to judge spirits, but calling this a blind tasting is nonsense, and your definition of double blind is even worse nonsense.
    A blind tasting is an impossibility. Witness Beefeater's Gin winning "Best Gin" two years in a row at the competition Mr. Minnick is describing (well deserved as it's a fine, fine Gin). Even an amateur Gin fan could pick out Beefeater's with one simple whiff. So what does the judge do? Pretend it's not Beefeater's? And you can say the same thing about Cointreau, or Bailey's, or Grand Marnier Liqueur, and on and on.

    This is as good as it gets for this sort of thing. And by the way, if this "blind" stuff bothers some of you, you should be outraged that not one single Whisk(e)y publication evaluates Bourbon, Rye, or Whisky blind. To a person, they know exactly what they are tasting. Obviously this affects their ratings, for good or ill.

    In the end, there isn't a perfect method for this sort of thing. And each competition/whiskey publication chooses the path that suits them best. There's nothing wrong with that.
    Last edited by Leopold; 03-29-2013 at 16:45.

 

 

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