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It’s not for us to tell anyone how to enjoy their whiskey. If you like mixing it with ginger ale or coke, go for it! If you only enjoy old fashioneds, right on! On the rocks, your thing? We don’t mind a cube to cool down a pour occasionally either. However, a lot of whiskey drinkers really revel in the whole tasting experience and love it neat or with just a drop of water to open up the flavors, especially with higher proofs. To follow are a couple of essential facts about whiskey that we think you might enjoy knowing and who knows, might enhance your enjoyment of this delicious spirit. 

Vibrant, Rich, Amber Hues

Unless it’s proofed down, you can tell a lot about a whiskey simply by examining its shade of amber color. As whiskey gets older, not only does it increase in proof, but it darkens in color slightly with every year it spends maturing in the charred oak barrel. Award winning whiskies are judged according to their brightness, depth, and sporadic colors seen when swirled in a glass, providing a glimpse of the oils that made it through distillation and filtering. However, note that the color does get more diluted and paler if water is added to reduce the alcohol by volume or proof. 

The Nose Knows

Don’t be afraid to put your nose in the glass, mouth open, and inhale. You can breathe more easily, cycle through the alcohol vapors, and truly evaluate the aroma when you have your mouth open. Be warned though, whiskies, particularly those with above 100 proof, can burn just a bit on the nose! However, if you learn this simple technique and allow your nose to wander, you may detect over 200 distinct scents in bourbon, ranging from white pepper to allspice.

Spice Versus Burn

Next, feel the spirit on your tongue and identify its distinct flavor characteristics and notice how the notes on the palate correspond with the aromas. Flavor notes are most influenced by age and mash bill. If you’re finding it hard to savor the smell and flavor of the whiskey because of the alcohol burn from a higher proof spirit, simply add a splash of water or an ice cube. There’s a distinction between the spice flavor found, for example, in most bourbons with rye, and alcohol burn, that you’ll quickly learn to distinguish and appreciate! Similar to how a hot pepper would feel on your tongue, the spice gives you a tiny tickle. You can begin to evaluate the nuances in bourbon once you’re used to the texture of the spirit on your tongue and know the difference between burn and spice. 

Different Strokes

Bourbon and whiskey have subtle nuances that really lend to the enjoyment of a good pour, when you know how to detect them. It’s crucial to drink whiskey with a clear palate so that your taste buds can engage with its ingredients more effectively. It’s quite amazing and fun how your friend’s taste will be entirely different from yours and they will detect a note or flavor that you hadn’t noticed yet. Everyone’s taste is different, different strokes for different folks. However, once they mention it, whether by the power of suggestion or whatever, you’ll probably taste it as well! While most whiskey lovers will tend to agree on the common, obvious notes we all detect, such as grain, caramel, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla, we all differ greatly in our recognition of the more nuanced components. 

Lingering Notes of Complexity

The finish is the aftertaste that remains on the palate after the whiskey is swallowed. It’s possible that you’ll detect flavors that weren’t as apparent on the initial sip, or that the flavor profile will change completely. The longer the flavors remain, the longer the “finish,” and in general, whiskey with a longer finish is considered to be more complex or sophisticated. However, all this aside, the most crucial thing to remember while tasting whiskey is to take your time and enjoy it! 

Let’s Compare Notes!

Branch & Barrel Distilling produces a variety of award-winning whiskies, unique barrel finishes, and experimental spirits, all made using locally sourced ingredients. We have a store locator here on our website to help you find Branch & Barrel retailers near you! Bring home a bottle of B&B and experience authentically local award-winning flavor for yourself. Want to try before you buy? Drop by the Tasting Room and sample to your heart’s content in our friendly and inviting tasting room, and let’s compare notes! Come enjoy some Colorado goodness in your glass, grab a bottle for the road, and discover first-hand what great whiskey is all about!

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