I attended a blind bourbon tasting recently
and correctly identified zero of seven tastings.
Last year, I attended this tasting and WON by correctly identifying three of the eight pours. I had only been drinking whiskey for a few months, and there were a couple guys there who had been drinking it for years. Needless to say, I was pretty dang proud of myself and have gleefully told this story many times as evidence of my knowing what I'm talking about. Imagine my shame this year, to get zero correct mere weeks after launching this blog. Imagine!
Oh dear. Anyway, the tasting was huge fun and I absolutely learned more about whiskey, more about my palate, and more about my biases toward certain brands.
Here is how we did it. The host asked each couple to bring a favorite bourbon/rye/whiskey. We told him ahead of time what we were going to bring, and his excruciatingly lovely girlfriend did some research and wrote up some notes about each selection to help us in identifying the pours. Last year we did it without tasting notes; we had only a list of the whiskeys we were tasting.
The list, along with my notes about each, follows. Notice that as we taste more, I seem to know less. Also notice that I clearly have no system for easily comparing the suspects. It got confusing!
- Angels Envy Rye: very hot, spicy, high alcohol content. probably a rye, not smelling anything, just hot finish
- Bulleit Frontier, 10 year: not a big aroma, milder, maybe AE rye except not sherry taste, easily drinkable, a little heat, some sweet
- Redbreast, Single Pot Still, 12 year: sweet smell, heat at end, sweet in middle, smooth
- Buffalo Trace: sweet, hot finish, not long, caramel, people thinking AE rye
- EH Taylor Straight Rye: gorgeous color, so good, big, huge flavor
- Elijah Craig Barrel Proof: big color, big alcohol, can't finish that, someone called it a punch in the face
- Pappy 23: smells great, sweet and hot, no idea which it is
The one I couldn't finish? Yeah, I brought that. I've had it many times, neat, and absolutely LOVE it. I'm thinking that after all of the "tamer" ones, it was just a shock or something. Yikes. I was stunned that I liked the Bulleit. And, finally, in my defense, we were not told we would be tasting Pappy 23, but that we would taste Pappy 15, so I wasn't expecting it at all. (It's not much of a defense.)
We also got a couple thrown in as "extras" that the host identified for us. They weren't part of the guessing game, but just for fun. One was Calumet and the other was Eagle Rare, 10 year. Everyone enjoyed them, and the favorites of the night were the Angels Envy Rye and the Eagle Rare.
This night was such fun and I was so excited to go, I can't even tell you! It was a combined bourbon tasting and ugly sweater competition. Instead of an ugly sweater, I just wore the cheesiest accessories I could find. Although you can't tell in the photo, both my earrings and my necklace lit up! Grand.
So there you go - becoming a bourbon expert is hard work. I'm dedicated, though, and will keep you up to date on both my failures and successes. It's a rough job, but I'll do it. I stand by my ability to argue a point. Have to hang on to something, yes?
Until next time, cheers!