Thoughtpiece on tasting notes vs. emotional reactions to experiencing whisky

let’s begin

I have been working with whisky brands and writing about this great liquid for a while now and have very defined thoughts on how I enjoy whisky and how I think about the overall emotional reactions to experiencing whisky.

Bold statement ahoy – I don’t really believe in tasting notes.

Let that settle, and please keep reading.

Its not that I don’t believe that they summarise the possible flavour and taste notes you may experience and enjoy with each sip of a malt, be it single or blended.

It is that I don’t think that tasting notes alone should dictate anyone’s whisky experience.

People get quite hung up with trying to find the tasting notes suggested in reviews, on pack and in official product details but in truth we know that the people who decided on the words used to describe the flavour profiles have highly tuned taste buds, work with whisky every day and know a lot more than us. In other words, they create an aura of what a whisky may taste like but they don’t often manage to deliver an explanation as to what the overall emotive experience of drinking their whisky will be.

But we are all unique, all taste differently and all understand flavours differently.

Bold question ahoy – Is there a redundancy of tasting notes as each person’s experience is so unique and varied and practically incomparable?

One of my frustrations in life is that my taste buds are not that well developed, or at least have taken a battering over the years through a tendency to powerful flavours that often mean the delicacies are overlooked or, simply, not understood.

But what I am highly attuned to is the experience of what I’m consuming.

I am a highly visual person, working to build and fix brands all over the world is what I do, and to do that well you need to ground the rational with the emotional in order to foster something worth buying into and sharing with others.

Something that became a pretty strong talking point whilst at a recent event at SMWS was how whisky tasting is so subjective.

One night you can love and appreciate a specific whisky you’re sampling as you’re in the moment, surrounded by good people but go back to the exact same liquid three days later and you have a completely different feeling. Why?

Because the ambiance, the surroundings, the people, the occasion are all emotively driven factors that directly affect the consumption ritual and the enjoyment factor of any event.

So what next for tasting notes?

Tough one, they serve a very good purpose and they are incredibly important to the industry in order to stimulate conversation but in truth they are a very small part of the wider understanding of what is going on within the glass, within your mind and within your mouth.

Final thought, a lot of whisky marketing focuses on the tasting experience but surely the emotive reaction and in the moment ‘how you feel’ is important?

Photo credit: Project 404 via photopin cc

Tags: EmotionalExperiencing whiskyTasting notesWhisky


My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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