I have had people who pull out the Bourbon Tasting Notebook and compare my tasting notes in there to tasting notes I have done on other occasions and the results are not the same. This is because every time you taste a Bourbon you run the risk of getting different flavors and aromas. This can be for many reasons. It could be a result of what you ate earlier in the day. It could be because the glassware is different. It could be because the distillery changed the flavor profile (this is most likely in Bourbon that is sourced by a rectifier). The reason could be as simple as your taste has changed as you aged. Tasting notes are a good way to guide a selection but should not be considered a permanent answer as to what a Bourbon tastes like. That is why it is always a good idea to create a tasting diary.
The easiest way to get started is to purchase the Bourbon Tasting Notebook. The book has a place for you to write tasting notes for yourself. This will help you keep track of what you have tasted. This is a good start but if you want to be real serious I would recommend that you purchase a blank notebook of some type to write your notes. Be sure to leave space to make multiple tasting notes for the same brand to keep track of how you experience its taste over time. I would also recommend something small enough to carry with you in a jacket pocket or a purse. Experience is also a big reason for changing tasting notes as your palate learns to distinguish different aromas and flavors in the whiskey. The more you pay attention to what you smell and taste, the easier it gets to pick out the flavors.
The diary should have the following information: This information will help you compare the experiences as the diary fills with information. I would set this up as Follows:
Date and Location:
Age Statement if any:
Color can be anything from a very pale straw color to a rich amber. There can be other aromas and flavors other than what I have listed but they will usually fit in one of these categories:
Wood Shop: Oak, cedar, pecan, walnut, hazelnut, resin, fine leather.
Floral Shop: Roses, lilacs, honeysuckle, tobacco.
Herbs and Spices: Nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, allspice, anise, fennel, cloves, mint.
Candy Shop: Vanilla, caramel, chocolate (dark and milk), butterscotch, burnt sugar or crème brule.
Fruit Stand: Apples (green or ripe), pears, citrus; includes oranges and lemons or a combination of the two, apricots, peaches, bananas, cherries, dates, figs.
*Garbage Pail: finger nail polish remover, boiled cabbage, rotten egg, burnt rubber, mustiness.
*If you get something from this category then the bottler did something terribly wrong at the quality control level.
As you keep your diary look for these aromas and flavor in the Bourbon. As you get more experienced you will find it is easier note the aromas. If you have trouble with the aromas then you can get kits with bottles of the essences of these aromas from the Aroma Academy people. You can also simply go to your spice rack and smell the spice or go to the pantry smell an apple or pear or whatever to re-familiarize your nose with the smell. If you nose is overpowered simply smell the back of your hand to re-set your sense of smell.
Keeping a diary of your Bourbon experiences is a fun way to keep track of your widening exposure to brands. It will also let you keep track of your growing flavor perceptions. It will also be something personal that future generations might be curious about and appreciate the glimpse into your lifestyle and culinary preferences.