My drinking befuddles my spouse, every time I succeed in getting her to taste something I get the same response, it tastes the same as the last one. As I have been doing this for my entire career and I, coincidentally, love the stuff, I am always stumped by her reaction.
However, when I teach a so called Master Class, I can see the same confused expression on many faces, but quickly distracted by shouting of flavor notes, “Maritime! Christmas cake! Marzipan!” The list is endless. The truth is, I seriously doubt the majority of the US population knows what marzipan even is. So let us get to the bottom of taste so we can get back to drinking better.
Taste is the one sense that is most closely tied to memory, it is also the first sense to fade as age takes its toll. Just like the rest of our bodies we have to exercise it to keep it strong, no resting on the old nose.
I am referring to the nose and to scent in this case because 80% of what we taste is what we smell. And don’t forget to breathe out through the nose after swallowing…this ‘retronasal’ part will amplify the overall flavor profile. So keep that sniffer tip top.
Reading reviews and books can always give you ideas and different perspectives on flavor, they are not gospel. So trust yourself and try to make comparisons to flavors you enjoyed in your youth, remember that memory part? Think milk chocolates, candy bars, bakeries, running through the woods, or doing yard work for the old man. Hell, maybe it smells like exhaust spewing off the BQE.
Rich aromas of apple cider and berry jam, vanilla frosting covers oak char that intermingles with canned peaches.
More pronounced oak char inspires a fresh maple syrup which seems to envelope banana bread and cocktail nuts. All of this rests comfortably on the palate like a summer weight down comforter, and equally as comfortable to drink.
The finish goes dry leaving the nuts and a vanilla laced oak char as little more than an invitation to another sip.
All that vanilla cream explodes like the first bite of a Twinkie. The nose also delivers a bright orange marmalade combined with memories of lawn clippings and wild flowers.
At first sip the vanilla mixes it up with the orange and turns bright with lemon zest as a slow moving honey oozes over the palate bringing with it pears and lavender.
The finish is beautifully dry and leaves us with slight toasted oak, coconut husk, and fresh pear.
Johnnie Walker Black Label
Oak and campfire smoke reveal themselves slowly, but eventually turns into a melted toffee candy with loads of nuts and some plum that hides a tease of milk chocolate, similar to the first whiff of a just opened Whitman’s Sampler chocolate box.
When tasted the toffee leads to more of a Werther’s original and caramel creams. After a sweet entry the campfire smoke explodes gently and fills the mouth and reveals flavors of leather, pecan logs, and dried apricots.
The finish is clean and nutty as the smoke slowly dissipates and fades to faint toffee sweetness.
Remember, it is just a drink, sip it, taste, try to understand it, pay attention to the texture, but most importantly you must ask yourself one very simple question: Did you like it?