American Still Life
Volume 5.

Matters of Taste - Part Four: The Zen of Bourbon

By F. Paul Pacult
Member Bourbon Hall of Fame

In our previous three Matters of Taste installments on bourbon appreciation, we've discussed the importance of the senses of smell, touch and taste and how best to utilize them for deriving maximum bourbon whiskey pleasure. Now, it's time to step back for a moment and allow these evaluation components to do their job. I've found that average consumers can sometimes become so enamored with the mechanics, so focused on the system of tasting that they fail to enjoy the object of their examination. In other words, people who are learning how to properly sample fine whiskey can often begin to think too much about the procedure itself and not enough about the whiskey.

One way to avoid that common pitfall is to sit back and relax with a glass of shimmering bourbon. Don't stand; sit. After you've sniffed and sipped your way around two or three bourbons, take the one you've most favorably responded to, pour an inch of it in a favorite glass and simply sit with it in a special chair. No analysis is necessary at this juncture. No elemental breakdown is called for. You don't even have to know exactly why you selected that particular bourbon. Just sit and let your mind wander as the bourbon mingles with the air, expanding in scope with every minute.

If you can, imagine yourself in the place of the farmer who supplies the golden corn to the distiller; or perhaps fancy yourself as the master distiller as the whiskey comes off the still, raw, fresh and incredibly aromatic; or as the warehouseman as he knocks the bung from a barrel and smells the biscuity, slightly sweet perfume of aging bourbon. This is the moment that bourbon was made for. This is the point where the drinker and the drink connect. The essential enjoyment comes when the pleasure of bourbon goes beyond the analysis. Call it the Zen of Bourbon. Call it whatever you like. But, it is the time when all the history, toil, pedigree and natural ingredients of America's native spirit come together.

Most of all, think of it as your own time with bourbon.

Bottoms up until the next time, Paul

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