A Thousand Words – Describing Whisky Taste

Have you ever tasted something and thought “What is that flavor?” Well, fear not, because the whisky experts of the world have come up with a thousand ways to describe the whisky you’re drinking. Here is an excerpt from a description, by a well respected source, of a newly released single malt:
“Faint ripples of sweet wood smoke and tart crème fraîche flow gently into bold notes of savoury fennel, celeriac and roasted tea leaves. Plunge further and discover alluring aromas of charcoal and lightly burnt toast. A splash of water releases a gust of fresh sea spray, followed by eucalyptus oil and pine. Finally, this irresistible nose ends with an unmistakable top note of saddle soap and leather. An intensely salty mouthfeel shifts like the tides into soothing medicinal notes, followed by salted peanut brittle, smoked pineapple and lime juice. Waves of aniseed lap over the palate, before rich fudge, birch tar and peat smoke crash down wild.”

Really? The tasting gods outdid themselves on this one. My question is – how do they know what all this stuff tastes like? I have read whisky taste descriptions that talk about antique copper, damp canvas, and tobacco leaves, among other obscure things. Is there a course offered somewhere? OK, students, light up those bunsen burners. We’re going to scorch some stuff and see if any of it tastes like whisky.
When I taste whisky, I get the normal stuff – vanilla from the oak, smoke from the peat, and musty taste from the grain. Maybe sweet or chocolate if I try hard. I read an article recently about whisky tasting. It said that many of the whisky flavors that we taste and smell are derived from childhood memories. I never drank much whisky as a child, so I guess I’m missing some of the fundamentals. My childhood memories of popsicles, tv dinners, potato chips and getting my tongue stuck on a frozen metal post don’t really come to mind when I taste whisky.

Anyway, read the descriptions if that’s your thing. Otherwise, just sit back and savor whatever it is that you’re tasting. Cheers! We’ll talk soon.

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