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  1. #11
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    Re: What Is New In Bourbon Culture Post-1995?

    Well, this is a complex question. Part of it is that bourbon has flown on the coatails of Scots malt whisky, e.g., Michael Jackson wrote about both in a similar way in his 1988 World Guide To Whisky. In turn, he wrote about scotch and initially beer in a way parallel to how the wine writers, early wine clubs and wine brokers thought and wrote about wine. Jackson cited Hugh Johnson (noted English wine author) as an influence.

    The U.S. East Coast and other affluent centres always had fine wine importers and wine clubs, dating back to the 1930's and probably even earlier. How these thought about wine can be gleaned from some of those great Time Life cookery books of the 1960's, coteries of well-off people sampled fine vintages and (indeed) encouraged the California wine industry: they talked about wine just like people do here about fine whiskey.

    What has happened is that an aristocratic habit (whether applying its funds and skills to wine, tapestry, art, cars, furniture, etc.) has become widespread through the effects of consumer culture. More disposable funds and leisure time have allowed people to investigate areas formerly restricted to a privilged few. Economic progress in liberal (capitalist) economies has allowed this.

    Now, behind that, is I agree an intention to express individuality. But here we enter the domain of psychology and human motivation, an area most interesting but not peculiar to the appreciation of fine spirits or other consumables.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 11-27-2007 at 06:29.

  2. #12
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    Re: What Is New In Bourbon Culture Post-1995?

    This may sound off-the-wall, but one reason I think spirits in general took a swing up in being consumed is the drug testing by employers that began in the late '80's and early '90's.
    Like they say liquor is quicker.

    I agree with fussychicken's opinion about the modern consumer culture.
    I also think that it is sad that a person can only express his individualism by the consumer products they buy.
    But their is a difference when one buys an expensive car to make a statement to others and enjoys a pour of fine bourbon for himself.

    Maybe you can compare it to a lover of art. Weather it be painter, writer, musicsian, etc.
    Art to me is something that moves your soul.
    There have been times when after a taste of an exceptional bourbon I have said this man,(the master distiller) is an artist.

    Maybe we are still connected to our ancestors, whatever it was that drove them to create spirits still drives us today.
    And whatever that was, it is authentic and I think that is what people want today, something real.
    ovh

  3. #13
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    Re: What Is New In Bourbon Culture Post-1995?

    Quote Originally Posted by fussychicken View Post
    Why are we trying to describe bourbon like wine guys talk about wine? Julian Van Winkle Sr sure as hell didn't use words like palate back in the day to talk about bourbon.
    Parker Beam said almost the exact same thing at the tasting I attended during Whiskyfest NYC. As they read Jim Murray's notes from the Whiskey Bible about what we were tasting he commented several times about how him nor his father tasted and smelled anything other than good bourbon when they sampled. Saying you like to drink/taste whiskey straight seems to carry a stigma with certain people, even those that drink other types of alcohol so I guess that maybe, in some cases, this is a move to change the perception of the bourbon drinker by attempting to put them on the same level as a wine connoisseur even though it's an entirely different class of drink (imo). When I first read tasting notes I thought to myself, "I thought they only did this with wine...". Is describing bourbon like this really a new thing though? Having only been drinking bourbon for a few years the first time I ever read any notes like that was in the Whiskey Bible a few years back but for all I know this could have been already going on for a really long time. Whatever the case, it's fun.

    Quote Originally Posted by OscarV
    This may sound off-the-wall, but one reason I think spirits in general took a swing up in being consumed is the drug testing by employers that began in the late '80's and early '90's.
    Agreed.
    /\../\

    "I've had eighteen straight whiskies, I think that's the record . . ." - Dylan Thomas

  4. #14

    Re: What Is New In Bourbon Culture Post-1995?

    Quote Originally Posted by fussychicken View Post
    ...Julian Van Winkle sure as hell didn't use words like palate back in the day to talk about bourbon...
    Frankly, there weren't many wine critics -- American, anyway -- who used words like 'palate' back in Pappy's day, either. There weren't all that many American wine critics, period. Today's wine critics, however, have made its use common and understandable -- and, thus, we use it, too. Not that big a deal.
    Tim

  5. #15
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    Re: What Is New In Bourbon Culture Post-1995?

    Quote Originally Posted by TNbourbon View Post
    Frankly, there weren't many wine critics -- American, anyway -- who used words like 'palate' back in Pappy's day, either. There weren't all that many American wine critics, period. Today's wine critics, however, have made its use common and understandable -- and, thus, we use it, too. Not that big a deal.

    I pulled out my oldest wine and whiskey book, Grossman's Guide, 4th Edition 1958, just to see if "palate" was in the bourbon section, nope, but it was used in the scotch section. I know Chuck hates this book, however it is the oldest book I have that deals with this subject.
    2010 Bourbonian of the Year

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  6. #16
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    Re: What Is New In Bourbon Culture Post-1995?

    Check, for wine literature and wine writing references in the period, Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion To Wine.

    I have a small collection of books from the mid-1900's where writers, English and U.S., write about wine from a connoisseurship or consumer angle.

    Generally, they used metaphors somewhat different from those used today. They might have compared wine to music, or women, or art (one passage I recall compared one wine to Impressionist art and another to Piet Mondrian for its "precision") but also used terms like "velvet", "light", "mailed fist", and so forth which we might still use today. The style generally seemed flowery. It was parodied in the famous line (Thurber's I think), "I found its presumption amusing".

    Wine writing evolved into the serial adjective style still prevalent, and writing about beer and spirits followed.

    I first found the term "palate" in Michael Jackson's World Guide To Beer from the late 1970's but I am sure it was used for many kinds of drink for decades before that.

    Wine culture was like it is today but the whole thing was much smaller and tended to have overtones of snobism and pretension, I think it has been placed on a much saner basis today where if anything the debunking trend is gaining - the success of fine wine outside France has helped push this. Still, there were debunkers in the 1950's too, Raymond Postgate, an English writer, was one, e.g., he wrote that in general many wines are kept too long, something Robert Parker believes today.

    Certainly the major dailies did not have wine columns like one sees today - they had classical music and arts columns, often of great sophistication, that on the other hand have largely disappeared, but that is a different story (chronicled with his usual acuity by arts critic Terry Teachout in the current issue of Commentary).

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 11-28-2007 at 04:58.

  7. #17
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    Re: What Is New In Bourbon Culture Post-1995?

    I by no means claim to know much about distilled spirits and have certainly learned a lot in a short time from most of you guys whom I refer to as experts. I know more than I did yesterday and will probably know more tomorrow than I do today thanks to you fellow SB.com members.

    I admit that I do not even drink very much and could not properly describe a fine Bourbon if my life depended on it.

    Having said all of that. I have always been fascinated with wines and liquors and the craftsmanship that goes into producing them. The whole gambit from the rich history of the distilleries, the people behind the products, the pride in their products and the enthusiasm of gentleman (and ladies) such as those of you on this forum who put forth the time and effort to educate yourselves and others about a product you all hold so dear. I find it all so very interesting.

    Modern technology has led to the creation of forums such as this that can be used to educate or entertain others or ourselves on just about any subject we desire to learn about.

    In my opinion, it is forums like this that have made our world so much smaller and intimate to where we can share our interest with anyone, anywhere and meet and discuss our interests with people from all walks of life and in places that were once just a place on a map.

    I have found that not only can you discuss these interests with anyone but on occasion we are able to get the benefit of interacting with recognized experts in any given field of interest such a Julian Van Winkle who I have seen graciously take the time to enlighten and educate those on this forum. I have seen this coming together of experts and laymen happen on numerous forums that hold some of my other interests.

    The technology that has made this world smaller has also led thousands if not millions of people worldwide to make the effort to meet with others in person to share our interests in person and to trade stories collectables and ideas with those that we have "met" online. It is forums like these that have allowed us all to have "friends" that we have met as well as "friends" that we have never met but are friends non the less.

    It has allowed us to form close relationships and bonds that have seemingly no social, economic or racial barriers. There are similarly no geographical barriers either as you can discuss a subject with someone across town as easily as you can someone on the other side of the globe.

    Last, but not least I have found that forums like this tend to bring out the best in us and regardless of the subject matter I have found that most on-line "societies" such as this are polite societies. Even though there are moderators on any given forums we all seem to take a responsibility for our community or society and self-police such communities and assist the moderators without being asked or appointed to such duties. That in itself shows how much pride we all take in our interests and our various on-line communities.

    Mr. Gillman, although you mentioned forums and discussion groups in your original post, I think that it is such forums and discussion groups that have had the most impact and change on not just the Bourbon Industry but just about any other industry or interest you can think of.

    Thanks for listening to my opinions.
    When re-arranged, the letters in "whiskey" spell "key wish," those in "spirits" spell "sip it sir," and those in "moonshine" spell "in no homes."

  8. #18
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    Re: What Is New In Bourbon Culture Post-1995?

    Thanks for these comments. The Internet has had an enormous influence in permitting the diffusion of interest and knowledge in so many areas and certainly for wines and spirits and this extends indeed to occasional discussions and meetings between industry members and enthusiasts.

    As for us here, we are here because of Jim Butler who founded Straightbourbon.com and funds its operation. Jim is a true pioneer of the bourbon renaissance.

    I wanted also to say about tasting vocabulary that it is true those in the industry often describe or view bourbon somewhat differently than non-industry people. This is inevitable since every industry has its customs, practices, vocabulary. People in the industry know what is good because they deal with the subject hands-on, they learned by specialised training and experience and thus might adopt a somewhat different approach than non-specialists such as consumer writers. I know in the Scotch industry a flavor wheel was used for many years (probably still is) to describe the flavors of Scotch whiskies or the range of flavors. Some of its terms coincide with those used by the whisky writers, some do not. In bourbon, in the 1960's, old-time distiller Charlie Thomasson wrote that good bourbon should smell like a ripe apple and he said a fault in bourbon was a "punky" taste which was a degraded wood taste (from improper storage). I have read consumer writers who used or might use the comparison of ripe or other fruits but never have I read one who used the term "punky" because it was an insider's expression, at least in some circles when Thomasson was working.

    My point being, it is normal that the terms used by a specialised industry to describe bourbon quality - and even where none are used - will vary from what outsiders will use. It is the same in any area of endeavour - the musician Frank Zappa famously criticised rock criticism but that did not stop its development (and the best of it is an accepted genre today) because with all its faults it enabled non-specialists to understand something about music.

    That said, I think there has been a tendency for the spirits and consumer worlds to merge somewhat they way they talk about spirits. The hang tags and labels of some recent bourbon offerings suggest this. On the other hand some here speak of "top notes", "organoleptic qualities", "aldehyde-like" and so forth.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 11-28-2007 at 04:55.

  9. #19
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    Re: What Is New In Bourbon Culture Post-1995?

    It was a cartoon in the New Yorker magazine. A fellow is pouring for his guests and says, "Its a naive, domestic burgundy but I think you'll be amused by its presumption".

    Regards,
    Squire

  10. #20
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    Re: What Is New In Bourbon Culture Post-1995?

    Thanks for that, a classic line!

    Gary

 

 

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