American Still Life
Volume 3.

Matters of Taste - Part Two: True Bourbon Enjoyment

By F. Paul Pacult
Member Bourbon Hall of Fame

In our last visit, I discussed the critical importance of the sense of smell when it comes to evaluating powerful and complex distilled spirits, such as bourbon whiskey. Sensory experts have postulated that the sense of smell is our most primal sense and accounts for up to as much as 90 to 95 percent of the sense of taste. The importance of smell when applied to the appreciation of bourbon whiskey, like Jim Beam or any one of The Small Batch Bourbon Collection, cannot, therefore, be overstated.

Continuing with our Internet course on bourbon appreciation and prior to chatting about taking our first sip of bourbon, I'd first like to mention a couple of other key hints that will significantly add to your bourbon enjoyment: one, the type of glassware that I think one should employ when discovering the manifold nuances and virtues of bourbon and, two, the use of water in the process of aromatic discovery.

I recommend that consumers who are keen to learn as much as they can about bourbon utilize a stemmed, tulip-shaped wine glass of no more than six ounces capacity. I further suggest that that glass be tapered upwards so that the bowl of the glass in the middle is wider than the opening at the rim. Why? In order for the aroma to be naturally funneled towards the rim in concentrated waves. Why? So, that the drinker can receive the full complement of bouquet characteristics in the first few crucial minutes of sniffing.

The main reason that I urge you to use a wine glass as opposed to, say, a squat, wide-mouthed old-fashioned glass is to fully enhance your appreciation by intensifying the aroma by forcing it to go through a confined space, kind of like a springtime river rushing through a narrow gorge. The drinker experiences all the splendor of the bouquet when it is required to squeeze through a small opening.

I likewise encourage bourbon aficionados to add a few drops of mineral or spring water to the whiskey to further release the subtleties of the aroma. Water separates the molecules, unleashing more of the bouquet in the process. Also, be sure to use room temperature bottled water that's as unadulterated as possible. Refrain from using tap water for the obvious reason that municipal tap waters have chemical elements, such as fluoride, lead and chlorine, all of which can adversely affect the taste of fine bourbon whiskey.

These two simple things, proper glassware and the addition of a splash of mineral water, can immeasurably add to the bourbon whiskey experience.

Next stop, tasting bourbon whiskey.

Cheers, Paul

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