So there we were, challenged to come up with an answer by the producer of a name-embargoed, barrel-strength Bourbon to be released in May. (UPDATE: Bulleit Barrel Strength.)
Around the table a small group waited – hosted by Old Limestone Mixing Water, which bottles mineral-heavy, incredibly pure water from beneath the Bluegrass specifically to be used to cut Bourbon.
In a line across the table, glasses — each containing an ounce-and-a-half of 119-proof whiskey mixed with from one drop to 1.5 ounces of water.
As the host poured the Bourbon, the long-running argument continued. A woman at the end of the table argued that a single drop would magically break the surface tension of the water to release the Bourbon’s heady complexity. The guy next to her argued that a one-to-one mix with absolutely pure water would dilute the alcohol enough to protect the delicate tissues of the nose, allowing longer, more deliberate sniffing. Everyone else occupied positions in between.
One group sniffing one whiskey does not settle this kind of argument, but it’s interesting how quickly a consensus developed.
The favorite: the 2:1 Bourbon-to-water mix. Above that, the nose was weak and watery. Below, the alcohol fumes made it hard to separate the nose’s aromatic subtleties.
As a barrel-strength whiskey, the 2:1 cut lowered the proof to 80, the standard bottle strength of most whiskey brands. You can make the argument, as some did, that the importance is not that the cut itself but the resulting strength of what’s in the glass. Assuming normal 80-proof bottle strength, a single drop might be exactly the right amount of water to use. Others debated how a single drop of water in a Bourbon that had already been cut from barrel to bottle strength could possibly make a difference.
The debate continued unabated until everyone turned to a scientist who had been sitting quietly throughout. She shrugged.
“Is it an argument,” she asked, “that you really want to settle? I would prefer to continue my research.”
She held out her glass for more.
Science has long believed that people are able to discern only five flavors — bitter, salty, sour, sweet, and umami. The rest of what you perceive as flavor is really aroma. That’s why we believe so passionately in aroma training.
That has changed with the announcement that scientists have discovered a sixth distinct flavor element. According to an article in the journal Chemical Senses, tests of how sweetness is perceived have uncovered a set of taste buds sensitive to chemicals common to starchy foods. We’ll let CNN translate the highly technical language of the study into something understandable.
The study involved five separate experiments and about 100 adult participants. The participants were asked to taste different liquid solutions of simple and more complex carbohydrates under normal conditions and then while the sweet receptors on their tongues were blocked. The researchers discovered that even when the sweet taste receptors were blocked, the study participants could still detect a starchy taste.It was previously assumed that starch was tasteless.
The addition of an entirely new flavor to our sense of taste changes the balance between taste and smell. Instead of being able to discern 200 million aromas for every taste, the ratio will be 166 million to one.
For now, we’re still sticking with aroma as the most important part of “tasting”.
In an effort to bring the joys of intelligent sniffing to more people, the Aroma Academy US has dropped prices on its Bourbon, Scotch and Irish, and gin home study kits 25%. The 24 aroma training can now be had for under $150.
In addition, we’ve added two introductory, 12 aroma kits for less than $100. Those kits cover Scotch and Irish whiskies and wine. This compares with the $120 charged by Nez de Vin for their 12 aroma introductory kits.
Aroma Academy has trained thousands of drinks professionals how to effectively assess the aromas of fine wines and spirits. Instead of breaking down the complicated nose of a fine spirit or wine, our program uses purified aromatics essences to introduce individual aromas. Our professional training courses have received extraordinarily high praise from participants.
Click here to get a look at our product line.
Click here to see a video on the basics of intelligent nosing.