Where is part two you might ask. Well, I kind of screwed up on my last post about the Rosebank 25. Apparently I had already reviewed it almost four years ago when I just opened it. I forgot, I didn’t check.
What I did do after finding out is re-reading my post from 2010 (in Dutch), to see how my tasting notes add up. Or how my nose and palate add up, for that matter. I have noticed over the course of a couple of years that I tend to pick up certain scents and flavors more than others, and that those flavors vary from time to time. A couple of years ago I picked up a lot of bread-like scents, then came fruit, now I seem to get pepper in almost every dram I try.
Combine this with the fact that I wrote quite different tasting notes for the same dram at two different points in time and you can easily realize this warrants further investigation.
Now, what did I do? I poured myself another glass of Rosebank 25 and sat down to try it. Again. Of course, having just tasted it, and just read my old tasting notes, I might be a bit ‘directed’ to which scents and flavors I should be picking up, I still think this is an interesting way of going at it.
Dry and flowery, with straw and barley/wheat ears. Some daffodils too. It’s more fruity than I thought two days ago, with galia melon. Some fresh orange juice too, with hints of vanilla custard and baking spices. Wet grass, alcohol and some hospital-like ether behind all that. Must be the vast amount of alcohol. It’s drying and chalky.
The palate is dry, strong and sharp. The powder found inside Napoleon candies (the lemon ones). Orange, chalky/dusty with straw, barley and white pepper. Alcohol and a drop of vanilla.
The finish has a tiny whiff of peat but that is gone quickly. Sharp, peppery with vanilla and straw. Not too complicated, but long and delicious.
To try something else entirely, I also tried it with a splash of water (some 25-30% I guess).
On the nose it stayed rather sharp with more focus on straw and vanilla. A bit more typically Rosebank. Slightly more focus on the spices too with curry powder and ginger. Some pepper too with lemon drops. The palate is sweeter but still sharpish. Warmer, more custard. Vanilla, pepper, alcohol and heather. The finish is dry and less sharp, but there’s still some alcohol burn left. Daffodils and an earthy undertone.
I tried it again while upping the water/booze level to about 50/50 but that destroys this dram. I wrote no tasting notes since it would not make any sense to do so.
To review this tasting experiment, I’m going to do two different things. First, in short, the tasting notes themselves, then the experiment itself. I think that’s the most interesting part.
The tasting notes I made this time are more or less in the middle of the first and second try. I realize I am less tired now than I was earlier this week around 11 PM, and therefore that makes quite the difference. So, first conclusion is to value my reviews when not tired more highly than the ones I do on a random moment when I’m postponing my bed time.
Then, what does this teach me?
Several things, to be a tad more exact.
The most important thing this tells me is something Jon Beach told me last year when we were chatting in his whisky room after some other whisky experimenting. He told me he didn’t believe in tasting notes because “by the time you really get to know a whisky is when you’ve finished more than half the bottle”.
This tells me that all us whisky bloggers are a idiots to try to make sensible tasting notes based on a 2 cl sample of which you don’t know how it was stored, for how long and at what temperatures. It also tells us that if you knew all these factors, you still would only be describing your take on the ‘whisky’ instead of actually describing it in depth.
Of course, that would result in not making any decisions based on tasting notes. Even our own tasting notes. Unfortunately those are all we have if we are lucky. Most of the time you’re not able to taste something before you decide whether or not to buy a bottle and you only have the hype, the marketing blurb and maybe someone else’s description of it.
Kind of a bummer, but since this is all we have to go on, we might as well make the most of it. It also summarizes neatly why I find the ‘explorability’ of a whisky so important. A dram might be all nice, but if I’m spending some serious money on it I want there to be some bits left to be discovered. Of course, not all whiskies have that kind of depth, but it’s not necessary all the time. When I pick up my nth bottle of Maker’s Mark I want a whisky for drinking in summer, with ice while barbecuing. No depth required. Tastiness is key at such times.
So, not all that eye opening, and most of us know this stuff already. But the proof is here again. Our (bloggers’) tasting notes are just indications of a whisky, not a definite guide. We are off some times too, not every situation is comparable to another, however many variables you eliminate.
It makes sense to try as many whiskies yourself before taking anyone else’s ideas as a guideline so you compare your findings to that writer/blogger/pr-dude’s. If you like similar drams, you know you can put some trust in it. Also, pay more attention to the description on a website than to the actual rating. If someone likes peppery whisky and you don’t, you’re not going to find that out by just looking at Talisker’s high scores everywhere.