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  1. #1
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Seattle, USA

    Changes in palate while drinking?

    Hi -

    I'm a novice and have only recently discovered the joys of good bourbon and certain imported whiskies (read: Scotch).

    I have a question related to the way taste seems to change over the course of a glass. It seems that the first sip of the evening is always the most flavorful and profound. After that, flavors in the mouth gradually seem to mellow for me. I often begin to feel/taste a buttery or oily texture to the liquor, which--although pleasant in itself--seems a little like the volume has been turned down after the first loud sensations. If I roll a mouthful around, the tip and back of my tongue seem able to sense more of the original flavor, with the buttery sensation more apparent in the center of my mouth.

    I wonder if this is the alcohol numbing my tastebuds, but it seems to happen more with bourbon than with Scotch (at least I notice it more), even at the same ABV%. I'm reluctant to water anything down, since I don't care for the diluted taste. I do sip water while drinking, and this helps some.

    Does anyone else have this experience? If it is normal and natural, reassurances are welcome!

    Thanks for your time -

    (PS. Thanks to everyone on this board. Your comments and posts have been helpful as I learn about and shop for bourbon.)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Upstate NY

    Re: Changes in palate while drinking?

    Clayton...I find your post interesting because I always thought that somewhere around the 3rd sip was the best. To me...somewhere around there is where I get the FULL flavor. I also don't mix water with my bourbon, to me it loses flavor when I do that. I just sip a little water like yourself.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Midland, MI

    Re: Changes in palate while drinking?

    In terms of "palate fatigue", eating snacks (bread, crackers, etc.) and
    drinking water will clear your taste buds, so that the taste intensity
    of the first few sips comes back. You'll notice that snacks and water
    are often offered during wine tastings, whiskey tastings, etc. This is
    why! It's not just to be polite! It's to combat palate fatigue.

    The fact that you noticed it speaks well to your preceptiveness.
    I see a great future for you in whiskey appreciation!

    >I'm reluctant to water anything down, since I don't care for the diluted taste.

    Here's a suggestion... it won't help "palate fatigue", but it is something
    worth exploring for general bourbon enjoyment: try just a little splash of
    water, so you get a mix of, say, 95% bourbon and 5% water. Or 90/10.
    The exact numbers don't matter. Do a side-by-side blind tasting of the
    mix vs. some straight from the bottle. A lot of people find that the
    little splash of water really helps the flavor, opens up the aroma, etc.

    Tim Dellinger

  4. #4

    Re: Changes in palate while drinking?

    I second Tim -- try a splash of water. As I've progressed as a bourbon aficianado (it's only been the past 18 months or so), I find myself more and more dribbling 2-3 drops of de-chemicalized water into my 2-oz. pour. Indeed, it does seem to 'release' aromas and flavors. Also, I'm a slow sipper -- my 2 ounces last me 20-30 minutes, since I'm usually partaking while reading or browsing online -- and I often find the bourbon 'opens up', much like a young, red wine, from the contact with the air, adding complexity to the nose and palate.
    (I like Goldfish crackers with my bourbon, or chocolate with anything over 100 proof.)

  5. #5
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Seattle, USA

    Re: Changes in palate while drinking?

    Aside from the occasional chocolate or unsalted cracker, I had been staying away from food while enjoying whisk(e)y, since I wanted to keep my palate and my attention focused on the bourbon.

    Next time (tonight or tomorrow, likely), I'll be a little more forgiving and drink with some other snacks. I'll give the few-drops-of-water suggestion a go, too.




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