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Trying to improve one's palatte.

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@SquidgyAsh
SquidgyAsh started a discussion

As a few of you may have read I'm a little new to good whiskies and right now I'm trying to improve my palate to the point that I can taste all the yummy goodness that you guys get when you're drinking your whisky. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to improve one's palate? Sometimes I'll have a sip and I'll get something fruity but I almost always have a hard time pinning down what fruits or spices are in it. It feels like I have to read reviews and just take constant sips in order to try and pin down what I'm tasting and it's quite frustrating. any help would be much appreciated!

12 years ago

4 replies

@EvaRees
EvaRees replied

I doubt I'll be of much help as I'm new to this myself, but I'll share what has helped me:

Get proper tasting glasses. The Glencairn is ideal for me. The shape enhances the nosing experience, and even sipping the spirit is a fuller experience as the glass shape focuses the olfactory experience.

Spend a good amount of time nosing the whisky before actually taking a sip. If you're trying to pin point the flavors, rather than just have a drink, this step can take a while. Once you've swallowed the alcohol, you won't be able to use your nose as independently.

The ability to identify and label flavors and aromas comes from your personal "flavor library." Focus on building this up. Next time you eat a pumpkin pie, for instance, stop, focus and try to identify each unique flavor. Find the vanilla, the nutmeg, cinnamon. Poke around in your spice rack and get a solid reference point for what some of the common elements of whisky smell and taste like. Eat some shortbread, smell some wet newspaper. The more you focus on properly identifying and cataloguing these flavors in the real world, the better you'll be at quickly pulling them out of your dram. It's a bit like a memory game, and you need to get lots of practice, starting at the source rather than the whisky glass.

Taste your whisky with water. If you ever watch how a professional taster does it, they dilute the spirit an incredible amount sometimes! This will "space out" some of the flavors, mask some, but bring forth others. If you're struggling to pin point a flavor, adding water might help. Another element to consider here is that alcohol anaesthetises your senses, and the water may help preserve an alert palette longer.

Lastly, I really enjoy tasting things side by side. Vertical tastings (ie: 12, 15 and 18 year from the same distillery), regional tastings (ie: a selection of Highland malts), or just completely crazy mashups (don't do peated and unpeated - once you taste peat you can't go back easily in the same tasting!). Having two points to compare can make finding shared or singular features easier. One whisky may make you notice something in another. For instance, you can start with "whisky A is spicier than whisky B," and then continue by trying to identify exactly what spices it is you're encountering.

Forgive me if these suggestions are too naive or obvious. I will say that continuing studies in improving your palette should be quite a pleasant education :)

12 years ago 2Who liked this?

@michaelschout

Honestly, I'd say just drink a lot. As @evarees said, proper drinking techniques will help you get the most out of the whisky, but I think the more you drink the more your taste buds will become familiar with it and the more you'll be able to pick out the subtle nuances that make whiskies so prized.

When I started drinking whiskies for purposes other than inebriation, I read reviews while I drank to see if I could pick out certain flavours, and after months I finally got to the point where I could pick out flavours without aid. It may be a long road, as it was me, but well worthwhile.

12 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Zanaspus
Zanaspus replied

@michaelschout is absolutely right. I am also new, but it's amazing how much more I experience than I did two months ago. Drink more!

12 years ago 0

@SquidgyAsh
SquidgyAsh replied

@evarees Thanks everyone for the advice but I'd like to give a special thanks to Evarees! That was some GREAT information for me and it wasn't too novice or anything! I appreciate the advice!!

12 years ago 1Who liked this?