Everything of interest to the modern bourbon lover.
ezra brooks bourbon 99 proof

How to Find Flavor Notes When Tasting Bourbon and Whiskey

ezra brooks bourbon 99 proof

It doesn’t take much to recognize that whiskey is delicious — you just have to taste it. Whether you love a rich, smooth bourbon or a spicy, zesty rye, it’s easy to love the whiskey flavor. However, if you want to take your appreciation of this spirit to the next level, it’s helpful to be able to identify flavor notes that go beyond simply “delicious.” 

Learning to find flavor notes when tasting bourbon and whiskey takes a little practice, but if you’re like us, it’s a homework assignment you won’t mind. Read on to learn a few tips and tricks to help you find flavor notes (and find your favorite whiskey).  

Tasting Technique 

The first thing you must remember when looking for flavor notes is that the way you taste your whiskey matters. You won’t be able to pick up on the nuances of your dram if you drink it too quickly, so be sure to sip and savor slowly.  

Smell First 

Your sense of smell plays a huge role in your perception of flavor, so don’t forget to sniff your whiskey before you take a sip. Glassware also matters since the shape of the glass plays a role in how the aromas are concentrated. We recommend a snifter or Glencairn glass since their tulip-like shapes help you sniff and swirl.  

As you sniff, take note of any particular smells that stand out. It’s okay if you can’t get more than one or two at first. Common aromas include oak, brown sugar, cinnamon, cereal (or a yeast smell), fruits, and more. 

Once the smelling is out of the way, take a sip. 

The Chew 

The first sip of straight whiskey is going to burn. Unfortunately, for many non-whiskey fans, they never make it past this first sip. They assume every sip of whiskey will be this harsh. Fortunately, it’s not. This first sip is called the chew, and your goal is to awaken your palate with it. Don’t drink it right away. Instead, swish it around your mouth, like you would with mouthwash. After a few seconds, go ahead and swallow. Then, get ready to sip and savor. 

Common Flavor Notes 

After the chew, you should start to notice more flavors. Having a base knowledge of the common tasting notes found in whiskey and bourbon is helpful for identifying flavors. Although there are some bottles that contain hints of unusual flavors, generally speaking, you can look for the following in different types of whiskey:  

Common bourbon, like Ezra Brooks 99 Bourbon, notes include: 

  • Caramel  
  • Vanilla 
  • Oak 
  • Chocolate 
  • Walnut 

Common Rye notes, like Ezra Brooks 99 Straight Rye Whiskey, include: 

  • Black pepper 
  • Clove 
  • Leather 
  • Warming spices 
  • Fruit 
  • Grass 

Training Your Palate 

Tasting whiskey to find flavor notes is just like any other skill — it takes practice! Even if you think all bourbons taste the same, you can train your palate to be able to perceive subtle flavors. Comparing two different whiskies side-by-side is a great place to start. Focusing on the differences in the drams’ flavor profiles will help you build a solid foundation. 

Using a journal to write down your observations is another great strategy for training your palate. Using concrete words, phrases, and terms to describe the drinking experience will help solidify your knowledge.   

Learning how to find flavors in whisky and bourbon is a lot more fun with friends, so don’t hesitate to host your own at-home tasting party.  

Discover the Flavor Notes of Ezra Brooks 

We hope by now you’re feeling inspired to start sipping! Begin your tasting journey by stocking up on all your Ezra Brooks favorites. You can even visit Lux Row Distillery and taste the differences between several different types of bourbon and whiskey. Book a tour now. 

Regardless of where you begin, we hope every sip is delicious, and you continue exploring the great world of whiskey!