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  1. #1
    Guru
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    Tasting Notes: Is Faking It a Good Thing?

    The proud owner of an obscure bottling stated in another thread that creating tasting notes is beyond his ability. Paraphrasing, "I either like it or I don't."

    I find it hard to believe that anyone who has tasted even as few as two bottlings can't find a single word to distinguish between them. But I could be wrong.

    At the other end of the spectrum of tasters are the professionals and quite a few members here, who can liken a bourbon to spices I'm not sure I've ever tasted, naturally occuring scents of forest and swamp, and even fine fabric. Elsewhere here I have proposed putting such skills to the test with a two-panel, blind tasting event. One panel creates tasting notes; the other tries to match the bourbon to the notes. I am skeptical that the number of matches would exceed pure chance. But I could be wrong.

    Between those two extremes are the rest of us, who try with varying degrees of success to communicate our experiences for the benefit of others and maybe a little bit of personal pride.

    At times I've resorted to looking at the list of flavor elements on this site and forcing myself to choose from it. That experience has reminded me of a self-help seminar I attended back in the 1970's. When a particpant blanked out when asked to describe his feelings about something, the stock response was, "Well, if you did have feelings about X, what would they be?" IOW, no one was allowed to decline to participate, no matter what. Surprisingly (or not), once the person started talking, before long real feelings began to surface.

    What do you think? Is forcing oneself to pick from a list likely to lead to valuable tasting notes, now or in the future? Or is that approach an exercise in self-delusion?

    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield
    Last edited by bluesbassdad; 06-13-2006 at 18:08.
    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield

    Dog Lover, Euphonium Player, Campfire Guitarist, Marksman,

  2. #2
    Connoisseur
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    Aug 2005
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    NJ, USA
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    Well let me qualify that for you a little bit more. It's not that I cannot do it with bourbon it's with most things. My wife might say something is savory or something like that and I'll have no idea what she's talking about. Obviously when I taste Bakers I can get hints of vanilla etc but from there I don't know.

    BTW I drink a lot of different bourbons so that is not the issue. However, if I had to describe PWV 15, the last bourbon I had, I would not be able to explain those flavors.

    Dunno.
    Tim

    I am going where streams of whiskey are flowing...

  3. #3
    Connoisseur
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    Actually, I'm going to print out the flavor elements and take a stab at this. We'll see.
    Tim

    I am going where streams of whiskey are flowing...

  4. #4
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Sep 2002
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    Toronto, Canada
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    9,186
    Some people, otherwise highly literate and articulate, have no ability to describe tastes. Recently a friend of 30 years standing and I went out for dinner at a pub. He ordered a Guinness, draught. I asked him why he liked it. First he tasted and he said, this is really good. I said, "Why? Describe the taste". He was flummoxed, couldn't do it. I said, is it like coffee? He said, no. Is it like Ovaltine, or caramel? He said no. I said is it bitter and sweet? He said, yes, that's it, bitter and sweet. Had I not described it (using a very simple schema to say the least) he'd still have no words for it. But on the other hand, I find he likes good beers and in general dislikes beers I think are crap. So we agree. I know "why", he "doesn't".

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 06-13-2006 at 16:59.

  5. #5
    Connoisseur
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
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    651
    I think at first it seems a little intimidating trying to describe what you're tasting (kind of that old school room thing, am I going to get it wrong in front of the class). I tried to describe a pour and could get most of it own my own, but I did have a flavor I thought I knew but could not describe. I went to the chart and was able to pick out a couple of flavors from that list that came close to what I thought it was. I did think it was important not to read anybody else's tasting notes the first time, just to ensure that I wasn't influenced by anything I had read.

    I also went back and checked the format that most people use and used that as a template to format my own observations after I had made my notes. That also made it easier.

    I also noticed when I take my first sip at room temp, I don't get a very broad spectrum of flavors. Generally I then add a couple of cubes and the flavors come pouring out. I think experimenting with a pour (adding a splash, cube or straight helps you find flavors and intensifies them.

    I think it's important to understand too, that the majority of the time, it's good to just sit back and enjoy and not think about it. You pretty much know when you're in the mood to try and take some serious tasting notes. In other words, your head needs to be in the right place.
    Mark/Nebraska


    Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take... but by the moments that take your breath away. 11/25/2004

  6. #6
    Taster
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Charleston, SC
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    59
    I think "tasting" is difficult. To describe a flavor one tastes in any drink or food requires experience with that flavor in other contexts -i.e. different drinks or food. It also requires the memory to link the past experiences with the current experience to say, "hey, that's vanilla" or whatever. Some people are better at that game than others. I think, too, that it requires concentration to discern individual flavors among the all the intermingled flavors of bourbon (or wine, or beer).

    I am continuously amazed at how the bourbon experts on SB.com describe what they are drinking. I only hope I can reach half that level of appreciation....

  7. #7
    Connoisseur
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
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    651
    I am going to add I would hard pressed to know what "barrel tones" are, unless we are saying woody, with perhaps a tinge of metal hoop. I really feel the bung coming through in this particular bottle...


    I'm cracking myself up...lol
    Mark/Nebraska


    Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take... but by the moments that take your breath away. 11/25/2004

  8. #8
    Enthusiast
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    Jul 2004
    Location
    Oklahoma is OK
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    422
    I can handle, leather, oak, vanilla, even grassy flavors. But when someone mentions "hints of blueberry waffles with menthol overtones", I'm out of here.

    Is blueberry better than blackberry?

  9. #9
    Guru
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    Is blueberry better than blackberry?
    Rob,

    Yes. No seeds.

    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield
    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield

    Dog Lover, Euphonium Player, Campfire Guitarist, Marksman,

  10. #10
    Mr. Anal Retentive Bourbon Drinker
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    1,847

    Talking

    OK, here is a good quote about tasting notes:

    "We don't taste lemon grass, fresh cut tobacco, or leche nuts in our bourbon, and we don't spout forth endless streams of redundant superlatives regarding our beloved liquor"

    Anybody want to guess who said this and when?

 

 

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