How To Expand Your Palate

When you read the tasting notes for a particular whiskey or scotch, you’ll probably see a lot of references you won’t recognize. You may know what a vanilla is but it may be difficult for you to pick out its flavor profile from within the complexities of the whiskey itself. You may know what oak smells like and tastes like but you won’t know how that note plays in the symphony of other flavors.

How do you train and expand your palate? Hard work. What you need to do is just taste and smell different things and train your brain to remember the subtleties of the flavors and scents you pick up. As you are eating these different flavors, it’s important to really taste them, which may be different than how you normally eat. Let the jams and jellies, which heighten a fruit’s flavors, spread across your tongue so all your taste buds get a strong sense of what makes up its flavor.

It was the topic of an older Wine Library TV episode I’ve embedded below:

I wouldn’t taste your sock though… unless you really want to! 🙂

5 thoughts on “How To Expand Your Palate

  1. I’m fairly new to Whisky drinking, myself, so I’m still learning the intricacies of the product. I recently traded a car for a bottle of Balvenie 12 year DoubleWood. This single-malt is first barreled in the standard ex-Bourbon cask, and then towards the end of its maturation, in a Spanish sherry cask.

    As I said, I’m definitely a ‘newbie’ at this, but I was utterly amazed at the depth of the flavour, being able to pick out the fruit and vanilla tastes. Talk about a rewarding past time!

    (And, in case anyone is interested, the car was an ’88 Jaguar XJ6 and I definitely got the better end of the bargain).

    • Welcome JP! I had the Balvenie 12yr DoubleWood for the first time over Thanksgiving in England, I’m a big fan of it because the sweetness of the fruits and vanilla really come through after maturing the in the sherry casks.

      It definitely sounds like you got the better end of the deal though!

  2. Hello,

    Do you have any recommendation on how to build up a ” catalog ” of smells to reference while tasting ? I’m new to this and am partial to Rye whiskey’s but have a feeling the same concepts apply. I can pick out Vanilla, Oak and then a few smells I can’t quite discern yet and wondered what your thoughts were on building up that memory bank.

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