When I first started drinking bourbon I would hear people refer to things like vanilla, toasted oak and tobacco leaf when they would describe a bourbon they were drinking. I knew that they were trying to explain the taste of the bourbon but try as hard I might I just couldn’t drink a glass of bourbon and come up with words to describe what I was drinking.
Little by little though, I was able to start discerning different flavors and aromas from bourbon. Trouble was I wasn’t able to necessarily tell you what I was tasting. Sure, I could name things like vanilla or caramel but more complicated things like toasted oak versus smoked oak never crossed my mind. Instead I would simply refer to the bourbon as having a lot of wood in it. At about that time I remembered that wine drinkers have used a Wine Flavor Wheel for years to help identify the flavors and aromas in wine. So I set out to try and find one for bourbon.
I looked for a long time and was able to find several that focused on whiskey overall but I felt they were a little to cumbersome for everyday use and had a lot of information that I didn’t feel was necessary when tasting bourbon (versus Scotch whisky, etc.). Then one night I attended a bourbon tasting where we were presented with some really bad photocopies of a bourbon specific flavor wheel. It was everything I had been searching for – simple, easy to use and focused on tasting bourbon.
The only problem was that it was in really bad shape (being a photocopy) and I couldn’t track down where it came from originally. So like any industrious bourbon lover I decided to recreate it, age it a bit and put my own unique twist on it for others to enjoy. As such, I’m pleased to be able to share it with all of you today. I hope you find it useful as you continue on your bourbon journey.
PS – Feel free to share this with your friends and via social media. While being able to identify the aromas and flavors of bourbon isn’t necessary to enjoy good bourbon I know that many folks would love a little bit of help when it comes to increasing their overal bourbon IQ. Thanks in advance for helping us spread the bourbon gospel.