1. How can I develop my tasting skills, so I can actually tell what the hell I'm tasting?
This next question is the one I am hoping not to be beaten about the head for asking.
2. When tasting notes mention things such as "almond, vanilla, cinnamon, raisin, citrus, etc., does that mean that those tastes were just imparted to the whisky from the wood of the barrel, or that those ingredients were actually involved in the making of the whisky? Having read a little about how whisky is created, I am inclined to say these elements were not part of the creation of the whisky, so.......where do these flavors come from??
Feel free to flog me and call me silly names now
RangerRob wrote:...where do these flavors come from?
The flavours in a particular whisky can arise from factors occurring at just about any stage of the whisky-making process.
Wood maturation as well as the particulars of malting, fermentation and distillation are probably the most influential aspects in terms of flavour creation. And these factors can give rise to any number of aromatic and flavour characteristics (such as those you've described).
My recommendation is for you to pick up a good general-purpose book on whisky by a reputable whisky writer (Charles MacLean, David Broom and the late Michael Jackson immediately spring to mind). Such a book will offer valuable information on the whisky-making process, the differences between various whiskies and tips on how to better appreciate whiskies when you drink them.
Use a proper whisky glass that can help concentrate flavours such as a Glencairn.
Let the whisky sit for a while after pouring, I usually sit a coaster on top of the glass to again help trap/concentrate the flavours. If the whisky is overly powerful add a little still water bit by bit as necessary to add clarity to whats passing over your palate.
Do not compare what flavours other people have tasted to what you're tasting. If you go to the tasting tab at the top of the page and read the reviews you will see that even amongst the 'pro's' there is almost never a like for like agreement on flavours. Mostly not even close, it's like they are tasting two different whiskys.
Start out with simple descriptions such as woody, fruity, spicy, sweet, dry etc.
When your more comfortable write your own list of flavours that your familiar list.
Head them under categories such as Fruits: Apples, pears, peaches etc. Remember use only flavours you are familiar with. As you nose/taste the whisky see if there is anything on your list that may be a suitable desciption.
Ultimately, being happy with what you like and dont like is the most important thing and all the fancy descriptions count for nothing when it comes to this.
I read two reviews of the same whisky by two experts and they were so different that you would think one was drinking water and the other gasoline.
RangerRob wrote:or that those ingredients were actually involved in the making of the whisky?
Whisky is made from grain and water, with yeast. Then stored in oak casks from various sources. Sometimes peat is burned to dry the malt which adds certain flavours. That is it.
Dont get too upset if you dont like something at first, just put it away and try again another day.
Finally, if you spend too much money on a malt and find you really dont like it, dont beat yourself up about it (just be part of the ranks of those of us who have done exactly the same thing. lol.)
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