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Thoughts on the difference between drinking and tasting & a review of Baker's Bourbon

Posted on by Eric Burke

As someone who puts his thoughts about bourbon down in the digital spaces, I could be called some kind of bourbon enthusiast. A bourbon geek, if you will. What makes a geek a geek (of whatever orientation, tech, comics, bourbon, etc) is an almost obsessive fascination with a certain subject. In my case, bourbon. 

One of the side effects of such an obsession is that we tend to want to quantify things. To assign each individual expression a certain worth and to see how it ranks against the others. It could be that first issue where Batman did something or another, a computer with the best specs or a whiskey that has just the right nose or finish to warrant a numerical score. 

If you are obsessed enough to score something you are probably using the “right” equipment to do so. Either a Glencairn or some other nosing glass that will allow the odors to concentrate enough for you to be able to appreciate them fully. This is how I and many others get our tasting notes. And I know it might sound snobby, but in all honesty the glass really does make a difference. 

But here’s the thing, by making a difference it changes what you are doing. You’re tasting the bourbon. You aren’t drinking it. And there is a difference between tasting a bourbon and drinking it. One is for analysis and one is for pleasure. They only have a passing relationship to one another. So does that matter? Not really. If you prefer one or the other, that’s cool. And that isn’t to say that pleasure can’t be had from analysis. It takes all kinds.

All of the above is a preface to my issue tonight. I’ve had plenty of bourbons that I really liked when tasting them. But when it came time to just drink them? They were different. It wasn’t as pleasurable as I would have expected. On the other hand I’ve had bourbons such as Evan Williams Black or a Very Old Barton that are a pleasure to have at hand during a card game, while having a good conversation or while watching a good movie that are perfectly tasty, but get them in a tasting glass and they feel thin or bland. And that isn’t fair because that isn’t their natural environment. They were developed for drinking, not tasting.

This next one is an anomaly though. I was really looking forward to doing the tasting. It was one that I have really liked on numerous occasions in a tumbler with a piece of ice or two. I put it in a nosing glass though and all the things that I thought I liked weren’t there anymore. Instead of warm candy sweetness…well let’s let the notes do the talking for this one.

Baker’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

Purchase Info: $41.49 for a 750 mL at Liquor World, Bardstown, KY

Details: 7 years old. 53.5% ABV. Batch B-90-001.

Nose: Sawdust, mint, white sugar, green vegetables.

Mouth: Toffee, black pepper and oak. Sweet, yet somehow also bitter.

Finish: Warm and long with lingering oak.

Thoughts: The tasting glass seems to have brought out more of the bitterness than I would have expected. the nose was more vegetal than I remembered. If I’d only had a small sample and only had it while tasting, I wouldn’t be able to say I liked this. But since I normally drink it with in my favorite rocks glass with an ice cube or two, I can easily say that I like this one a lot.