In a bourbon discussion, the subject of blind tasting came up, so I'm starting a separate thread on that subject... it applies to any beverage, I use it for beers, whiskies, cordials, rums, etc... I use a modified non-blind version for wine.
Step1: Label, say, 4 styrofoam cups with a pen on the bottom of the cup A, B, C, D...
Step 2: Pour about at least a finger-width of different bourbon in each. At the top of piece of notebook paper write down which whisky is in each of the cups. A: Elijah Craig, B: Old Forester, etc, C: Knob Creek, etc...
Step 3: Scramble the cups around so I can't recall the order. Then write a number on each cup: 1, 2, 3, 4
Step 4: TASTING STRAIGHT... From there it's just a tasting process. First time through I'll just sniff each of them. One thing that's fascinating to me is that oftentimes I'll find a whisky that has an amazing nose but when tasted it's just way off, i.e. for my palate the nose is a deceptive indicator of the total flavor when drank.
Then I'll sip each and make notes. I focus mostly on the initial impressions and then the lingering aftertastes.
In order to not get too confused or mouth-numb, initially I just compare two: 1 vs. 2, 2 vs. 3, 3 vs. 4. In small sips, it doesn't take much straight. For palate cleansing I just use plain water about room temp, no lemon, no coffee or anything else with a flavor.
I just make basic notes that make sense to me: is the flavor complex or simple, singular or evolving, notes such as wood or honey or caramel or whatever... is there a lingering "alcohol blast" that overpowers the flavors... any "yucky" or outlying flavors that just don't make sense... I do note the nose impressions but these can be deceptive: the tongue itself must have alot to do with the total flavor of bourbon, or some route from the mouth to the olfactory that you don't get just through the nose?
Step 5 (Optional): TASTE w/ MIXER: If you have a favorite mixer, add it now to each cup then repeat the tasting process...
Step 6: On my tasting notes paper I'll rank the 4 whiskies, the winner(s), the close 2nd(s), and those that I just didn't like...
Step 7: Look on the bottom of each cup and find out which whisky is which.
This is also a great party event with your friends... we have 'em at poker games, after dinner, etc... I use it with any beverage: wine, beer, whisky, rum, cordials, etc.... Oftentimes one person will find a flavor note that the rest of us appreciate once they point it out... The key for me in not getting palate numb is to go slow, take smaller sips than I would drinking it, and initially just compare 2 side by side, see which of those 2 I favor (or if they are tied, or I don't really like either), then move to the next two.
Where it really gets interesting is to match your "winners" from each tasting against each other.
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