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alcoholica

Most Accurate Blind Tasting Method?

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alcoholica

There are more and more bourbon/whiskey podcasts and YouTube shows popping up. A popular bit has been the blind tasting segments. I've seen it carried out in two methods: blind flights and random tastings. The blind flights are exactly as you would suspect...you drink a flight blind and pick your order. The pro is that you get to taste the bourbons side by side. The con is that you are tasting bourbons side by side. I think the blind flights make for great theater, but having four to five bourbons will surely color the flavor of other bourbons, and proof has a tremendous advantage.  So imaging WTRB vs ECBP vs StaggJr vs Booker's, WTRB is at such a disadvantage because of proof. Look at Michter's 10, which is a lower proofed premium bourbon. 

 

The random tasting has been set up several ways, but my favorite is buying several 200ml bottles and having someone pour several bourbons in the bottles and label them with numbers/letters and make a key.  Over the course of several weeks or even months, randomly pour out 50ml pours at different times. Keep a score card and average out the scores. Pro is that you get to judge a bourbon solely on its own merits. Con is that this takes some patience and it uses a scoring system vs ranking side by side. 

 

Anyone have any thoughts on these styles of blind tasting?

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flahute

The solution is to use the first method - side by side - but over a few days do them in reverse order and then a mixed order so every bourbon has a chance to be the first or second one tried.

This negates the bourbon being effected by another bourbon factor. 

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BrokeCal

When doing blind flights you need to have the bourbons your tasting have relatively close proofage...  Of course you can't include an 86 proof with a 110 proof.  Keep them within 10 points at most.  And trying them in one order and then trying them in reverse order is really helpful.

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alcoholica

The proof isn’t the only issue though. Take for example 1783 and Beam Black 8y/o. Black has a some nice classic caramel and vanilla notes to go along with other flavors. To me, I get one of the better caramel notes off 1783 for an under $20 bottle. So when I follow 1783 with Black 8, it brings other flavors out of the Black 8, for better or worse, without revealing to true caramel level of Black 8. 

 

I really do do appreciate the comments about how to mitigate the side by side issues. And there are plenty of other issues with any comparative study. 

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Curtis Reed

I have my wife pick 4 different bourbons and make a flight of four. I have 9 bottles open at the moment. I write notes and focus on the nose/flavors/finish. Different proofs, age, etc. It has helped develop my palate tremendously. Almost every time I can correctly guess 4/4 on each flight. Most times I can guess which bourbon is which just based on nose alone. 

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Mako254

Solid topic. Glad to learn how others do it. 

I take part in blinds fairly often be they mailed to me, friends set them up, or do them myself. 

 

One technique I use frequently is a triangle blind. 3 pours, 2 from one bottle, one from a second. Try and pick the odd pour. This works for every level of experience. If you are just getting your feet wet, try Makers or Larceny alongside say Elijah Craig or Buffalo Trace. Try and find the wheater vs the Rye mashbill.  For more advanced try Eagle Rare 10 against Russell’s  Reserve 10. 

 

The triangle is also helpful when trying to find a substitute for your not so easy to find favorite (AND to see if the new big thing LE measures up to your old reliables). 

 

Any way you do it, I encourage people to do blinds whenever possible. The hype and BS walks when you are looking at 3 pours and you don’t know what it is. 

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FacePlant

I prefer no-salt saltines or other no salt bland crackers and cheese to clear the palette. Since my tastes vary from night to night or week to week, the blinds always need to be SBS. I like flaute's idea of rotation if needed, while always doing SBS. The more SBS you do the easier it becomes to differentiate the house, then on down to the brand. Do this with others since our tastes and preferences are individual, and play the VBT game on this site. :) 

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Richnimrod

When I'm doing comparisons, I rarely take on more than 3-Bourbons, and prefer only 2. 

Doing 'em both (or all 3) at the same time ensures that differences in "palate preference" (mine is notiously variable from day to day) isn't a factor.

Flahute has pointed out a couple ways to compensate for palate fatigue that also can be used, and should be considered, no matter how close in time you decide to taste the different offerings.   Setting a day or more between is always a good idea, for his stated reason as well as mine, especially if you're really 'getting deep in the weeds' on a decision or selection with this kind of analysis.

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GaryT

I usually top out at three, and most often 2 - and if I'm wanting to compare two where the proof is significantly different, I'll proof the higher one down to match (but do so in another bottle so when pouring, I can make the amounts equal).  I put a sticker on the bottom of my Glencairn to indicate what I poured, then distract myself (usually watch a bit of TV) and shuffle away without looking.  Then I use a sharpie and just label the bases 1, 2, 3 and use that as a reference for my notes.  

 

Unfortunately with this approach, I can't change the order the next time (which I agree, I like to do these a day or more apart).  But if they're close, I'll repeat again (and if the results are different, I'll repeat a 3rd time).

 

Thinking through it more, if I wanted to change the order on the second day - if I didn't 'disclose' after the first, I could take this same approach but label the bottom of a 2oz sample bottle, shuffle and sharpie label the sides 1, 2, 3.  Then could shuffle the order - although I'm not sure I'd be able to not peek at the results after the first go round :)  

 

When I started out, I was focused on figuring out which I liked more, and would do this fairly often.  These days, I rarely do more than one pass - and it is less about finding out which one is 'better' than it is in understanding the differences.  And multiple passes are usually done for things like the same label but two different store picks.

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Kepler

Blind SBS is the only reliable way to compare and rank spirits.  Any other method is suspect at best.

 

 

P.S. 

BTW, the purpose of a blind tasting is not to guess what whiskey you are drinking, but rather which ones taste better.

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Marekv8
1 hour ago, Kepler said:

P.S. 

BTW, the purpose of a blind tasting is not to guess what whiskey you are drinking, but rather which ones taste better.

 

Not in my case-- I'm trying to train my nose/palate to identify individual Scotch single malt distillery signatures. It's become somewhat of a parlor trick at the local liquor store. 

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GaryT
5 hours ago, Kepler said:

Blind SBS is the only reliable way to compare and rank spirits.  Any other method is suspect at best.

 

 

P.S. 

BTW, the purpose of a blind tasting is not to guess what whiskey you are drinking, but rather which ones taste better.

 

3 hours ago, Marekv8 said:

 

Not in my case-- I'm trying to train my nose/palate to identify individual Scotch single malt distillery signatures. It's become somewhat of a parlor trick at the local liquor store. 

 

 

Completely get that!  While 90% of the blind tasting I do is to determine which I like better, I've done some to see if I could identify what it was.  Like seeing if I could pick out the Four Roses yeast in the recipe (I had tried to pick OB vs OE and frankly couldn't, but given one of each of the 5 yeasts - it was instructive!)  Or taking similarly aged products from different distilleries brought to the same proof.  Did this once to proof down a THH down to 90 and blind sbs against Baby Saz (while similar, the THH still stood out to me).  At the end of the day, as long as you're having fun - keep at it.

 

Although I absolutely agree that blind SBS is the only may to compare/contrast without any bias of expectations due to label, price, etc.

 

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Marekv8
2 hours ago, GaryT said:

 

 

 

Completely get that!  While 90% of the blind tasting I do is to determine which I like better, I've done some to see if I could identify what it was.  Like seeing if I could pick out the Four Roses yeast in the recipe (I had tried to pick OB vs OE and frankly couldn't, but given one of each of the 5 yeasts - it was instructive!)  Or taking similarly aged products from different distilleries brought to the same proof.  Did this once to proof down a THH down to 90 and blind sbs against Baby Saz (while similar, the THH still stood out to me).  At the end of the day, as long as you're having fun - keep at it.

 

Although I absolutely agree that blind SBS is the only may to compare/contrast without any bias of expectations due to label, price, etc.

 

 

We need to have a drink together— I’m buying!

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Kepler
11 hours ago, GaryT said:

At the end of the day, as long as you're having fun - keep at it.

 

 

Completely agree.  That says it all. 

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GaryT
On 5/5/2019 at 9:02 AM, Marekv8 said:

 

We need to have a drink together— I’m buying!

If you're buying, I'm drinking! :D  Keep hoping one day at a Bardstown cookout I'll see 'Marekv8' on a name tag (and not a name tag that @Josh is wearing, who has habitually perpetuated identity theft at these things without being taken to account!)  Hadn't been to Louisiana in 15+ years.

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ThirstyinOhio

I'm part of a bourbon club that meets once a month and we taste 2 or 3 bourbon or rye whiskeys blind (1 member is designated as that months person in charge of selection and pouring) and then go around giving our notes and scores on a 0-100 scale.  While I would like to say that each member scores each individual whiskey on its own merit, it is impossible not to use the other whiskeys as benchmarks.  The part of the meeting where we giving our notes and scores helps as someone may point out a note that you missed or just couldn't quite put your finger on so its a great learning experience.....then again sometimes someone throws out a note and you are left scratching your head.  At the end of the day, I don't think there is a perfect way to blind your whiskey as you can never remove the human element from the equation. 

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