There appears to be a palpable fear within the spirits drinking community.
Fear of being ‘gouged’ or ‘ripped off’ by rogue producers.
Paranoia that brands aren’t being ‘honest and transparent’ in refusing to disclose every conceivable nugget of information.
Refusing to taste a spirit until the correct check list;
Trusted distillery – check.
Non chill filtered – check.
Single Malt – check.
Cask Strength – check.
Distillery release – check.
Or whatever criteria you choose has been adhered to.
It’s all so reductionist.
Taste is not defined by what is – or isn’t – written on the side of a bottle.
Taste isn’t made by engaging tweets or larger than life characters.
Taste is the complex interplay of the individual drinkers palate with the fruits of the raw ingredients, distilling process, blending & maturation regimes of the liquid before them.
Someone’s ‘amber nectar’ is another’s ‘gnat’s piss’.
What if all that extraneous information was removed?
What if all bottles of spirits simply stated the legal minimum?
No branding, no advertising, no stories?
Would the spirit taste the same?
Well – yes and no.
Yes in that the liquid – and your palate – remains the same.
Having blind tasted whiskey for the Irish Whiskey Awards over a number of years a familiar pattern of brands & styles consistently rise to the top.
On the other hand slick advertising, where & whom with you taste the liquid as well as your mood on the day can all sway the results.
But is there another fear at play?
Fear of enjoying a drink that is deemed unpopular?
Fear of enjoying a spirit that hasn’t matched your check list?
Or simply a fear of not conforming?
You don’t have to like the popular brands or top sellers.
Just enjoy what works for your individual palate.
Above all – enjoy the journey.
Sample & taste as far and wide as possible – you’ll quickly find your own sweet spot.
All images authors own.