I dabble in drinking some whisky now and then. It has, interestingly, some similarities with tea drinking. In particular, I find the experience of drinking and analyzing whiskies to be quite similar to the process that you do with tea, except, very crucially, whisky has alcohol (and also can be consumed straight out of the bottle – and a relatively consistent experience, at that). So, I don’t drink much of it, but I like it.
I also think there are things we can learn, or not learn, from those who drink whiskies. Long time readers probably know that I’m not a big fan of tasting notes, and especially, I’m very skeptical of tasting notes that are full of flavour descriptors – hay, tobacco, straw, etc etc, abound in notes for puerh from many people. I’ve never had hay, or straw, or tobacco, so none of those things really mean all that much to me, and I’m not even sure it means all that much to many people (not to mention that I have a hard time believing tobacco is all the same – it’s like some tobacco smoker describing a flavour as “tea”). So, I generally try to avoid those things. Sweet and sour I use, and sometimes fruity or coolness or smoke, but that’s because I think it is a more elemental, basic sense – I try to avoid things that are quite specific. My vanilla is not really your vanilla.
So it is a rather pleasant surprise to see someone in the whisky review community who is talking about this very issue, and he does so in a very clear, straightforward manner. For those interested:
It’s slightly long, at 15 minutes, but he’s addressing the same issues – don’t just drink with your nose and your tongue. Pay attention to the body, the way the whisky (or in our case, tea) behaves in your mouth, the way it interacts with your body, the finish – how long it lasts and how deep it penetrates down your throat. So on, so forth. Most Taiwanese oolongs, for example, share some similar flavours, but what separates the good from the great are these bodily reactions/responses to the tea that cannot be captured by flavour descriptors. As I’ve said before, drink with your body.