Not a member? - Register and login now.
All registered users can read our entire magazine archive.

Learning to Taste

Your tastes and our tastes are discussed here, so make sure you share your pleasures with us.

Learning to Taste

Postby JPYank » Fri Mar 09, 2007 12:13 am

Esteemed fellow inebriates,

Being a novice to the world of whisky, I am studying the excellent "Nosing and Tasting Course." I noticed the assertion that there are only 4 basic flavors, which made me wonder, whatever happened to umami? Or is that not relevant to whisky tasting? I would imagine it might come up in the context of seaweed or nuttiness. (And do I detect it in the Yoichi NAS? Well, I wouldn't even know enough to try to make any tasting notes yet, though I do concur with the pepperiness reported by Ed.)

Any opinions, enlightenment and/or rebukes welcome to further my education.
JPYank
New member
 
Posts: 16
Joined: Tue Mar 06, 2007 2:32 pm
Location: Japan

Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Mar 09, 2007 1:05 am

Umami's so fat....

Sorry! Carry on.
Deactivated Member
 

Tasting novitiate

Postby Muskrat Portage » Fri Mar 09, 2007 3:46 am

JPYank:
You are on the right track, taking a tasting course to educate your palate and nose to what you are tasting and sensing. If you review many of the whisky books and even the forum tasting notes, you will see what appear to be odd remarks on flavours being sensed. You can compare those notes to samples that you have access to to see what is being referred to.

You may also want to read some of; Michael Jacksons Whisky Companion books, Phillip Hills' Appreciating Whisky; or Jim Murrays' tome to see what other theories about flavour are out there. This will help you understand what you are experiencing.

"Fresh pavement" was one comments made about an Islay at one of our tastings, and it was not offered in a derogatory way, simply it was the closest flavour the person had experienced.

My best advice for you is to sample food and beverage flavours that you would not normally consider. Yes, sample kelp, and try cooking with sea salt, but also try various spices that you'd never tried and liquors that are exceptions to what you normally venture into. Sample some different wines and try to separate out those flavours that explode onto your senses.

The greater experience your palate and tastebuds have, the more flavours you'll be able to sense and enjoy. Like any other "muscle" you have to exercise the nose and palate.

Your sense of taste and smell are the strongest memories that you have, educate and employ them to ensure years of pleasureable whisky enjoyment.

As for umami, I've not noticed any meaty or savory glutamate flavours in whisky myself. If by savory, being a descriptor of umami, you are referring to a seaweed or iodine flavour, then several Islays would meet that criteria. Try Lagavulin on for size.

Muskrat
User avatar
Muskrat Portage
Triple Gold Member
 
Posts: 2358
Joined: Mon Jul 18, 2005 12:47 am
Location: Jan says the North Pole, Ontario, Canada

Postby Mr Fjeld » Fri Mar 09, 2007 4:08 am

JPYank, first of all let me say welcome to the forums!
Secondly I'd like to say that Muskrat Portage's advices are very good!
It's recognising and finding words or concepts to what you're experiencing that's difficult - but it's also part of a wonderful journey through the world of whisky.

Peter, the description of "fresh pavement" is a good one. Phenols is found in tar which is a biproduct of burning biological material, and if I'm not mistaken tar itself is the binding material in asphalt, yes? Maybe what he smelled would refer to the same sensoric experience that would make a trained whisky drinker utter the words: tarry ropes?
Mr Fjeld
Cask Strength Gold Member
 
Posts: 4249
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 2:08 pm

Tarry ropes

Postby Muskrat Portage » Fri Mar 09, 2007 4:14 am

Christian:
Exactly right!(A eureka moment for myself) I honestly hadn't connected the "tarry ropes" comparison to fresh pavement as it is beyond my ken. As always, I've learned from your postings about whisky yet again.

This really is a wonderful learning tool, in real time!

Peter
User avatar
Muskrat Portage
Triple Gold Member
 
Posts: 2358
Joined: Mon Jul 18, 2005 12:47 am
Location: Jan says the North Pole, Ontario, Canada

Postby peergynt323 » Fri Mar 09, 2007 4:20 am

Educating your palate for whisky is much like educating your ear for music. Practice and effort. Find a quiet place with no distractions, perhaps some low music in the background. And make sure to really relax and let the flavors and aromas come to you.

I only just recently started to find the gauze aromas in Laphroaig. Now I can't not recognize it.
User avatar
peergynt323
Gold Member
 
Posts: 749
Joined: Wed Nov 08, 2006 11:57 pm
Location: Wildomar, CA

Postby peergynt323 » Fri Mar 09, 2007 4:22 am

Mr Fjeld wrote:Maybe what he smelled would refer to the same sensoric experience that would make a trained whisky drinker utter the words: tarry ropes?


My girlfriend said asphalt in the summer and my best friend said burning tires.
User avatar
peergynt323
Gold Member
 
Posts: 749
Joined: Wed Nov 08, 2006 11:57 pm
Location: Wildomar, CA

Re: Learning to Taste

Postby Lawrence » Fri Mar 09, 2007 5:02 pm

JPYank wrote:Esteemed fellow inebriates,

Being a novice to the world of whisky, I am studying the excellent "Nosing and Tasting Course." I noticed the assertion that there are only 4 basic flavors, which made me wonder, whatever happened to umami? Or is that not relevant to whisky tasting? I would imagine it might come up in the context of seaweed or nuttiness. (And do I detect it in the Yoichi NAS? Well, I wouldn't even know enough to try to make any tasting notes yet, though I do concur with the pepperiness reported by Ed.)

Any opinions, enlightenment and/or rebukes welcome to further my education.


umami is alive and well in the whisky world and is often considered the 5th flavour.
Lawrence
Matured cask
 
Posts: 5019
Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 1:01 am
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada

Postby dapa » Fri Mar 09, 2007 5:31 pm

One of the greater improvements in tasting is that instead of writing "smoke and tar" which is subject to interpretation i.e what kind of smoke etc we can use the strongest memory know to man. The memory of smell. Therefore when someone says "fresh asphalt" you can recollect the memory of that smell.
However, there is a problem with metaphors - sometimes you forget the very subject and discuss the metaphor instead and lose track of the thing you wanted to discuss!

Hmm, can anyone tell I teach religious science and history? :roll:
Drinks away!
/dapa
dapa
New member
 
Posts: 73
Joined: Sat Jan 20, 2007 8:49 pm
Location: Stockholm, Sweden

Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Mar 09, 2007 6:14 pm

Metaphors are slippery fish indeed.

:wink:
Deactivated Member
 

Postby JPYank » Sat Mar 10, 2007 2:44 pm

Thanks all for the replies. I will do more studying and, err, training, and be back with more questions, I am sure. Maybe I should try some of the "standard candles" to train on -- so far, my sense of what is in even the same bottle varies from tasting to tasting.

Clearly much more training is in order!

PS -- My apologies for the brevity of this reply. I would like to reply more at length when I get the chance. Esp. thanks to Muskrat for your lengthy note.
JPYank
New member
 
Posts: 16
Joined: Tue Mar 06, 2007 2:32 pm
Location: Japan

Postby Lawrence » Sat Mar 10, 2007 7:33 pm

The Nosing & Tasting Course by Charles Maclean is actually an excellent guide, I have used in the past and will consult it again in the future.
Last edited by Lawrence on Fri Mar 30, 2007 2:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
Lawrence
Matured cask
 
Posts: 5019
Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 1:01 am
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada

Postby Paul A Jellis » Sun Mar 11, 2007 1:13 am

Nosing is a major part of enjoying whiskies, you can train/educate your nose every day by simply smelling everything you come into contact with. Next time you have an ice-cream, before you eat it, breath it in, find out what that really smells like, or eat a vegetable, or cut the grass. Anything and every thing, build up an accurate library of aromas in your brain, then you will find those aromas in whisky.

As for umami, in foods stuffs it can be found in items such as Bovril (beef extract), anchovy paste, soy sauce, mature cheese, miso, tomato ketchup etc., these are flavours not normally associated with whisky, but don't let that stop you from looking.
User avatar
Paul A Jellis
Gold Member
 
Posts: 744
Joined: Wed Mar 13, 2002 2:01 am
Location: Bedfordshire, England

Postby middlecut » Sat Mar 17, 2007 12:27 am

Drinking and tasting whisky for me is a social event. Its great to have a couple of people tasting together. That way someone may suggest a flavour which jogs your memory.

I once thought I could smell plasticine until a friend suggest 'wet hay' it it was kind of a eureka moment.

The difficult part at the start of your whisky adventure is building up a personal dialogue of those flavour descriptors.

One of the most challenging tasks of building the SMWDB profiling system has been to choose and categorize common whisky flavour descriptors. We now have a list of over 400 common flavours found in whisky which is quite handy to look through while you are tasting. Although this is probably only handy for people in western cultures as I doubt most asians will really connect with 'sticky toffee pudding' as a flavour.

what we are trying to do with the system is to find an average of these flavours. for example if 200 / 1000 people check the 'dried figs' descriptor you would find that dried figs shows up in the 'users average' profile. It really handy to then compare this with your own notes... and very soon you'll be able to share your notes with others.

edit.. oh yeah also we take a nosing kit with us while profiling session. The kit consists of about 30 baggies with real stuff in like vanilla pods, sherry, oranges,grapes, banana, leather, peat, burnt wood, sultanas etc. We actually sniff this stuff and then try to detect it in a whisky (are we mad?)
middlecut
New member
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Mon Jun 12, 2006 11:24 am
Location: Amsterdam

Postby JPYank » Thu Mar 29, 2007 12:22 am

Thanks again everyone for your comments. I tried making a first stab at making tasting notes with some Hibiki last night, for which there are tasting notes on this website to compare with. For what it is worth, here is what I came up with (warning: rank amateur at play):

Suntory Hibiki
Age: 17 years (? Actually NAS, but a whisky guide I have shows the same bottle and states that it is 17 years. The bottles now on Suntory's website all have age statements, and the 17 year looks the same as my bottle except for the age statement. This bottle is probably a few years old [unopened until a few days ago], so perhaps Suntory has changed their labeling practices since it was purchased?)
Color: light bronze
Nose: honey, vanilla, nashi pear, green apple
Taste: cognac, floral, lavender, pepper?, grapefruit, oak, hints of Glenkinchie 10
Finish: creamy -> aspirin -> hint of lychee after a long while

There is a review of this same bottle (I think) in Whisky Mag. #13:
http://www.whiskymag.com/whisky/brand/hibiki/whisky1417.html
By the way, it is erroneously classified as a single malt there, when it is really a blend.

Hmm, not much overlap between my impressions and either of the two listed...
More training indicated.
JPYank
New member
 
Posts: 16
Joined: Tue Mar 06, 2007 2:32 pm
Location: Japan

Postby peergynt323 » Thu Mar 29, 2007 12:31 am

No two noses or palates are the same.

Say for instance that I'm at a tasting and I nose a whisky and a reputable person shouts out "pear drops." Although I don't know exactly what "pear drops" smell like, this person must know what he's talking about and besides "pear drops" just sounds so cool to say. From now on that smell is "pear drops."

The most important thing is that you can get similar tasting notes from the same whisky sampling it two different times. Also, you know that your nose is good if you can name your whiskies when blind tasting them.

Another thing that is rarely remarked on is noticing similarities between different distilleries. It's bad form for the professional tasters to say, "it's like Highland Park 12yo but with more...." But I think it's perfectly fine to do if you're not a professional. It shows critical thinking.
User avatar
peergynt323
Gold Member
 
Posts: 749
Joined: Wed Nov 08, 2006 11:57 pm
Location: Wildomar, CA

Postby JPYank » Thu Mar 29, 2007 4:07 am

peergynt323 wrote:The most important thing is that you can get similar tasting notes from the same whisky sampling it two different times.


I'll try this bottle again in a few months and see what happens.

Another thing that is rarely remarked on is noticing similarities between different distilleries. It's bad form for the professional tasters to say, "it's like Highland Park 12yo but with more...." But I think it's perfectly fine to do if you're not a professional. It shows critical thinking.


Yeah, I realized that referencing another distillery was probably cheating, but the first comparison that came to mind was Glenkinchie. If I think about it, I guess it is something about the shading on the vanilla that reminds me of that but not, for example, Jameson. Maybe someday when I understand why Glenkinchie tastes the way it does I can pin it down more precisely. Anyway, thanks for being gentle.
JPYank
New member
 
Posts: 16
Joined: Tue Mar 06, 2007 2:32 pm
Location: Japan

Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Thu Mar 29, 2007 10:31 am

middlecut wrote:
I once thought I could smell plasticine until a friend suggest 'wet hay' it it was kind of a eureka moment.



Did you ever consider maybe you did smell plasticine ?

I have smelt plasticine in whisky too and I too know what wet hay smells like and I don't think they are the same.

But that is also one of the other great mysteries in our whisky lives. What one may smell in a whisky another may smell something totally different.
User avatar
irishwhiskeychaser
Cask Strength Gold Member
 
Posts: 3644
Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2006 9:27 pm
Location: Galway, Ireland

Postby middlecut » Thu Mar 29, 2007 11:58 am

Now don't get my head going again.. I thought I had unravelled the mystery of the plasticine to be a certain collection of malty flavours!

Maybe to simplify things I should just go with the first thought. 'That is plasticine and don't try to analyse it further' then spend my efforts to find out where it comes from.

Does anyone know if they might use plasticine as a quick fix for a hole in a still?
middlecut
New member
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Mon Jun 12, 2006 11:24 am
Location: Amsterdam

Postby peergynt323 » Thu Mar 29, 2007 4:28 pm

JPYank wrote:
Yeah, I realized that referencing another distillery was probably cheating, but the first comparison that came to mind was Glenkinchie. If I think about it, I guess it is something about the shading on the vanilla that reminds me of that but not, for example, Jameson. Maybe someday when I understand why Glenkinchie tastes the way it does I can pin it down more precisely. Anyway, thanks for being gentle.


I was sincerely complementing your audacity. I have remarked about the similarities between Arran and the Lossie Speysiders, the similarities and differences between Laphroaig and Ardbeg and Lagavulin, the similarities between Highland Park 18yo and Talisker 18yo. It's what they tell you to do in school with poetry and paintings, why not whisky?
User avatar
peergynt323
Gold Member
 
Posts: 749
Joined: Wed Nov 08, 2006 11:57 pm
Location: Wildomar, CA

Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Thu Mar 29, 2007 4:34 pm

peergynt323 wrote:.......... I have remarked about the similarities ................... It's what they tell you to do in school with poetry and paintings, why not whisky?



So you compare poetry to paintings :?

.... ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in spritely dance......


:wink:

:lol:
User avatar
irishwhiskeychaser
Cask Strength Gold Member
 
Posts: 3644
Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2006 9:27 pm
Location: Galway, Ireland

Postby Lawrence » Fri Mar 30, 2007 2:45 am

JPYank wrote:Thanks again everyone for your comments. I tried making a first stab at making tasting notes with some Hibiki last night, for which there are tasting notes on this website to compare with. For what it is worth, here is what I came up with (warning: rank amateur at play):

Suntory Hibiki
Age: 17 years (? Actually NAS, but a whisky guide I have shows the same bottle and states that it is 17 years. The bottles now on Suntory's website all have age statements, and the 17 year looks the same as my bottle except for the age statement. This bottle is probably a few years old [unopened until a few days ago], so perhaps Suntory has changed their labeling practices since it was purchased?)
Color: light bronze
Nose: honey, vanilla, nashi pear, green apple
Taste: cognac, floral, lavender, pepper?, grapefruit, oak, hints of Glenkinchie 10
Finish: creamy -> aspirin -> hint of lychee after a long while

There is a review of this same bottle (I think) in Whisky Mag. #13:
http://www.whiskymag.com/whisky/brand/hibiki/whisky1417.html
By the way, it is erroneously classified as a single malt there, when it is really a blend.

Hmm, not much overlap between my impressions and either of the two listed...
More training indicated.


Those are good notes, you're on the roght track.

Lawrence
Lawrence
Matured cask
 
Posts: 5019
Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 1:01 am
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada

Return to Whisky Tastings

Whisky gift and present finder