As said in the previous entry, my palate isn’t (yet) the most discerning or trained out there. The number of bourbons I’ve tried is approaching (or has crossed) triple digits, but a lot of those were before I tried taking notes or knowing much about the production of bourbon. I have always known, however, what I like.
I’m not shy of heat: I greatly prefer spicier rye-heavy bourbons to the sweeter, smoother wheat-heavy ones. I like the robust flavor of high-proof bourbons, and I love trying to discern the flavors mingling and dancing around strong alcohol content (I also feel less bad about dropping a cube in here or there when I’m starting out with at least 100 proof).
I tend to drink my bourbon straight, though there have been a few whiskies I loved adding ice to (like Hancock’s Presidential Reserve, back when I could pick it up for around $25). I rarely add water to my whiskey, and when I review a bourbon the score will be based on a basic room temperature pour. Since my nose is untrained and my tastes particular, I want as little variance as possible so that my reviews will be accurate to one-another. There will be times where I try a whiskey with a little ice or water, but that will appear only in the description rather than the score. Since I often prefer to drink George T. Stagg straight (a 140 proof whiskey), the times when I add water will be when I’m trying to salvage a bourbon I find too harsh or peppery, rather than trying to cut down the alcohol content.
Scoring will be on a ten point scale. Sometimes I might throw in half points, particularly to distinguish amongst highly-rated bourbons. On one hand, I find star and letter systems to be a bit useless – everything clusters around the 3-5 (or B- to A) area and the score seems pointless. On the other hand, I’m no Jim Murray or John Hansell, so a hundred point scale would be difficult, as my palate is still evolving and I am not confident enough to score things with such a precise rating.
The ten points will be roughly broken down as follows:
2 points for NOSE
2 points for TASTE
2 points for FINISH
2 points for OVERALL BALANCE
2 points for intangibles (price, uniqueness, how much I like it, wiggle room)
In my scale, a 5 isn’t an undrinkable bourbon. Quite the contrary, it would be average in everything. A cheap bourbon that is mediocre may rate a 6 (for that extra value), but most bourbons like that aren’t available here in Ontario. I don’t foresee giving a bourbon a 10 anytime soon, so anything 8 or better is highly recommended.
My next blog will break down what I mean by each of the above categories, and then finally on to the tasting!