Is String Cheese The Key To Unbiased Whiskey Reviews

If you’ve read Bourbonr for a while you’re used to these quirky posts. If not, hear me out before you write this off as clickbait trash. Taste is subjective. What I think is incredible bourbon, you may think is swill. Those kinds of disagreements are normal in the whiskey world. But, what about when you disagree with your own tasting notes?

Over the years I’ve tasted a lot of different bourbon in a lot of different environments. Different environments definitely affect taste. I’ve tasted a bourbon at a bar and loved it. Then, I tasted the same bourbon at home and hated it. Even tasting the same bourbon at home a week apart seems to change the flavor profile. What makes up this difference? Oxidation seems to be the go-to answer if you follow Bourbon on Facebook. But, it has more to do with changes in our palate than it does with the whiskey itself. How do we combat this? I’m glad you asked!

A few months back, I read an article where chef Eric Ripert described his process for tasting sauces. When a James Beard award-winning chef describes how to taste you take notes. Here’s what he said:

Waiting on a plate are about a dozen cubes of Swiss cheese. Ripert takes one before tasting the sauces. “This way, I know what I am tasting,” he says. “The Swiss cheese is always the same, but if it feels salty or bland, I know my palate is off.”

Of course, swiss cheese is still a little too fancy for Bourbonr. I decided to grab the kids string cheese we seem to have an infinite amount of in our refrigerator. Like the swiss cheese Eric Ripert used, string cheese is plain and consistent. There’s no batch variation. It’s definitively homogenized. And, that is what we’re looking for. I was surprised when certain foods and different days affected the taste. Eating it after something sweet made it taste creamier. Some days it tasted saltier. Other days it tasted the exact same as it always did. This gave me a baseline going into a whiskey review. If my palate seemed to be sensitive to sweet it was clear in the review. Without the sting cheese test, I would’ve assumed it was a sweeter bourbon.

I’ve put together a routine for reviewing days. Here’s the Bourbonr pre-tasting system. Avoid acidic or highly flavored food and drink for at least a couple of hours. That means you may need to skip the afternoon coffee or tea. Don’t eat anything spicy. Pass on vinaigrettes or other acidic dressings. About 10 minutes before the tasting eat a piece of swiss (or string) cheese. Adjust your perceived taste. Get started with the tasting! I’ve bee using this method for the last few months. So far, I’ve seen a noticeable change in my palate between days. By introducing a constant my bourbon reviews are more consistent.

10 comments

    Enjoyed the perspective. It’s similar to smelling coffee beans after you smell way too many perfumes or colognes. It’s an olfactory cleanse of sorts. Keep it up.

    Good stuff, I heard the same thing , about the chefs and swiss cheese, years ago and have always been aware of how food affects my palete. One thing I notice for me in particular is that dairy has a significant impact, I’m happy to incorporate trying this as a baseline, but wonder if the dairy factor of the cheese will sway my palete as other dairies have notably in the past. Cheers, keep it up buddy!

    We’ve really noticed a palette change lately as well. We thought we were expanding to appreciate different complexities, but you make a great point on the foods we may have eaten prior. Excellent idea on the cheese. #bothofmyvices

    I am in the wine and spirits business and learned many years ago to NEVER have balsamic vinaigrette dressing on my salad if I was going to be tasting anything that afternoon.

    I agree that environment can factor in. I once was at a restaurant bar to try some things that I didn’t have in my cabinet. The establishment had an open kitchen and also did a lot of wood fired pizza. The kitchen aromas made it somewhat difficult to nose the whiskey and pick up some of the subtle notes.

    I’ve also seen some that recommend starting with a known bourbon prior to trying something new, but I think the cheese idea might be a little more neutral.

    Totally agree with you. Makes absolute sense. Extremely simple deduction that I find really very hard to vote against. keep up the good work
    Great straightforward deductions that cannot be argued with, impossible. I would have great difficulty drinking whiskey while eating a really good pizza as to me that wouldn’t be something I would normally consume together

    Pizza to me is a beer food. The open kitchen would make for super hard overpowerering assault on the palate senses. Hard to deal with!

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