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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff
Friday, 09 March 2012 16:50

Deanston and the Power of Suggestion

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Prior to tasting a whisky, I used to avoid reading other people’s tasting notes because I find the power of suggestion can be very strong.  I do often read other tasting notes after I write my notes just for fun or to help me calibrate my own notes and sometimes to help me identify a taste or aroma that I couldn’t quite nail down, and that someone smarter than me might have been able to. 

When I first read Ian Buxton’s tasting notes for Deanston 12 year old in the book 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die I was intrigued by the gingerbread reference he made and for some reason it stuck with me.  When I did finally taste it (many months later) the only way I could describe the malty nose and spicy yet sweet taste of that malt was of course.... gingerbread.  So was it the power of suggestion at work or does Deanston taste so much like gingerbread that I would have come up with independently?  The answer I think is probably a bit of both.  The taste profile certainly does contain all those elements I associate with gingerbread, but so do many other single malts and without that reference in my head I may have chosen another analogy, say cinnamon toasted breakfast cereal or a ginger snap cookie for example.  Actually a sweet tea dunked ginger snap is a pretty good descriptor for Deanston 12 year old, I think I will add that to my review.

I now find, as I taste more whiskies, it is becoming harder and harder not to have at least some expectations about any given dram.  Even if I have not read a tasting note I now have preconceptions and ideas of what I expect to find in say a bourbon, a Balvenie or Glenlivet expression or any sherry cask matured whisky based on my experience to date.   Blind tasting is perhaps the only way to avoid these types of mental connections, but to date my relatively little experience with blind tasting has been best described as a “mind f***”.  Seriously, if you think you know anything about whisky, get someone to set up a blind tasting for you and then be prepared to be humbled (especially if the person is a little crafty and knows their whisky).  

So at the end the day if I find joy in the simple pleasure joy of recognizing the same things that others before me found in a dram, even if that is due in part to the power of suggestion rather than my sophisticated palate, then I have decided I am fine with that.  After all I am doing this for fun not for science and it seems to me that whisky is all about bonding with people and sharing experiences.  If the power of suggestion actually enables or enhances that bonding process… then I say it’s a good thing.

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