Rosemary Miller is a very wise woman. She has heard me answer the question “What is your favorite Bourbon?” so many times that she laughs about my answer of “Free Bourbon”. This started a discussion about the nature of tasting whiskey and begs the question can you ever really have a “favorite” Bourbon?
Rosemary reasons that every time you taste a whiskey – Bourbon, rye, etc., it is the results of many other factors outside the liquid itself. There is how it is being drank – neat, on the rocks. The shape of the glassware – Glencairn or some other tasting style glass, rocks glass, shot glass, etc. There is what you have eaten or drank before tasting the whiskey and how those foods affected your taste buds. And then there is the real ethereal factors like time of year temperature outside and other weather factors, who you are with, where you are tasting and other factors such as this. All of these things combine to create the tasting experience.
Because of these factors Rosemary argues that what might be your favorite drink sat that moment may disappoint you the next time you drink it. Yes, it will still be good but the experience just does not seem to live up to that first time.
I believe that Rosemary is correct. There are many factors outside of the liquid that change the experience. My personal example is with Weller Centennial. When I worked for United Distillers and helped create the Bourbon Heritage Collection, the first time I tasted the Bourbon that went into the brand was a cold winter’s morning with a little snow blowing outside. I was in Chris Morris’s office and we tasted the whiskey. It was an excellent experience and I thought at that moment it would be my favorite in the collection. And I will say that it is on a winter’s day but when I drank the same whiskey later while in the heat of summer, I found the whiskey very good, but not as good as that first experience.
Tasting whiskey is not an exact science because of the random nature of people’s lives. The food you just ate may not compliment the whiskey you are about to drink and that will influence your tasting experience. On the other hand it may work very well with what you are about to drink and that to will influence how you feel about the pour. I have heard many people say “I did not like (insert brand name here) the first time I drank it but when I came back later I found I liked it.” Most people will think that is because the bottle needed to breathe a little and that is what made the pour better the second time and that can be true, but it could be because of something you ate prior to that first pour or even prior to the second pour you ate something that improved the flavor of the whiskey.
In my opinion you should never condemn a brand after one drink. You should try it on different days altering the time of the day and other factors such as glassware, setting and what you ate before the drink. Note the changes in the experience and then form an opinion of the brand.
Remember this important fact – All whiskeys taste better when drank in the company of good friends and family. My favorite whiskey is still “free” whiskey but I find it all very good when drank amongst good company in a pleasant setting.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl and Pixabay