Even if you drink whiskey regularly (and we’re guessing you do), it can be challenging to describe exactly what whiskey tastes like…besides “delicious.” Understanding the nuances that exist between different bottles and variants can help you feel like a real whiskey pro. This article is designed to help you better understand the taste of whiskey and how those flavors develop.
Essential Tasting Notes
Let’s start with the basics. When it comes to whiskey, there are several main varieties you need to be aware of — all of which boast unique flavor profiles. Scotch whisky can be peaty, earthy, and smokey, while bourbon features notes of caramel, brown sugar, and vanilla. Rye is known for its hint of spice, while Irish whisky features light, fruity cereal notes. These differences can be attributed in part to the fact these types of whiskey use different grains (or a combination of grains) in the mashbill used in the distillation process.
However, the part of the process contributing to 70% of a whiskey’s flavor (and 100% of its color) is the barrel it is stored in.
Whiskey Barrels and Flavor
While the ingredients that go into whiskey make a big difference in how it tastes, one of the biggest determinants of the finished product’s final flavor is the barrel in which it’s aged. Not only does the type of wood matter, but so does how the barrel is aged, toasted, and stored. For example, bourbon must be aged in charred, new American oak barrels, which help impart the spirit’s signature sweet, caramel-forward flavor. Many producers also use barrels previously used to store other beverages, such as wine, rum, and more, to help add another layer of complexity.
Understanding the Nuances
Educating yourself on the various ingredients and production methods that go into your favorite bottles is a great way to start appreciating the subtle complexities in the world of whiskey. A side-by-side comparison of different variants can provide interesting insight into how unique each bottle can be.
To get started, take a look at how we set each variant apart here at Daviess County Bourbon:
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: This classic rendition is made with rye and wheat, resulting in a bourbon that strikes the perfect balance of sweetness and spice. You’ll taste notes of oak, caramel, and graham cracker with a hint of spice on the finish.
Cabernet Sauvignon Finish: This unique bottle gets its signature flavor from the Napa Valley Cabernet barrels which it spends six months aging. The result is a bourbon that’s elegant, layered, and complex. This bourbon features hints of fruit and oak with an exceptionally smooth mouthfeel. You’ll also experience distinct notes of honey, caramel, and vanilla on the nose.
French Oak Barrel Finish: We take our traditional bourbon and finish it in French Oak barrels for this one-of-kind variant. The finishing barrels impart delicious notes of oaky spice that truly shine. You’ll also be able to pick up on hints of chocolate, along with sweet caramel aromas.
Lightly Toasted Barrel Limited Edition: This variant is aged in barrels that are lightly toasted rather than charred. The resulting flavor is extremely delicate and features delicious hints of vanilla, caramel, coconut, and oak.
Taste the Difference with Daviess County Bourbon
The only way to truly appreciate the flavors in whiskey is to start drinking! Pick up a bottle or two of Daviess County Bourbon today to begin enjoying your newfound whiskey knowledge in practice.
If you want to get an even more in-depth look at how whiskey gets its flavor, book a distillery tour to see the process in action. Whether you’re looking for bourbon that’s packed with traditional caramel notes like our Kentucky Straight Bourbon, or you want something more adventurous like our Cabernet Sauvignon Finish, you’re sure to find something that embodies what you think good whiskey should taste like!