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THE MASH BILL: What's in there

If you have been quenching your thirst with whiskey for a while, you are probably familiar with the term “Mash Bill”.  If you are new to whiskey, first of all, WELCOME!  Secondly, “Mash Bill” is a term used to describe the rudimentary “recipe” that makes up a whiskey.  For more detailed information on Mash Bill and other whiskey terminology, mosey on over to the Whiskey 101 section.  In THIS section, “The Mash Bill" means “here’s what makes up the whiskey reviews on this website and how to read them". 


FIRST:  You need to know that I try to be unpretentious.  This website is intended for ALL levels of whiskey drinkers.  I may slip into “jargon” or other stuff that may make it SEEM like I’m being pretentious….it isn’t intentional and I’ll apologize upfront for it.  


How to Use These Reviews:  This is probably THE most important section on this website.  You may ask yourself, “how do I use your website to make informed decisions?"  It is really pretty easy, actually.  I always tell friends and fellow whiskey fans that the most important part of ANY whiskey review site is to look at several reviews and then determine if YOUR taste is similar to, completely opposite, or SOMETIMES in synch with the review you are reading.  IF you agree with the reviewer the majority of the time, you probably have similar tastes in whiskey.  SO……if that reviewer recommends something, you are likely to like it.  If, on the other hand, you disagree with MOST of what the reviewer says, then just do the opposite!  If the reviewer likes something, you probably won’t.  That is completely OK!  I ALWAYS tell people, if you consistently don’t agree with my reviews, then use that to do the OPPOSITE.  SO… is still worth something!   If we agree SOMETIMES, then you need to look at the style of whiskey being reviewed and other factors and decide if something is worth trying or not.  The beauty of ALL of this is this……I have actually tasted very few whiskies that were SO bad as to be completely intolerable.  Yes, they are out there, but if you learn how to synch up YOUR taste with a reviewer’s taste, you should eventually be able to figure out if something is worth trying or not.  Lastly. don’t forget that EVERYBODY has an off day.  I’ve reviewed stuff and then gone back much later and wondered what the hell I was thinking with the original review.  So, just keep in mind that ALL of this is subjective.  


What the Reviews Look Like:


PHOTO:  Each review will have a photo of the bottle being reviewed.  Bottle and label designs change now and again, so keep in mind that what a bottle looked like when it was reviewed may not be what it looks like now.  Where I know there was a change, I’ve tried to include that in the review, but as the reviews age, it is likely that more labels/bottles may change.  When I started these reviews, they were just emailed to my whiskey buddies and many times I didn’t go to much effort to make sure that a “good” photo was taken.  EVENTUALLY, I hope to replace these “lesser” photos with better quality ones.  


NAME:  Each review will have the name of the whiskey being reviewed (duh). You can usually tell a little bit about a whiskey just by its name.  So……if the name is XYZ 3-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon, you can tell that this whiskey is 1. ) a bourbon 2.) it was made in Kentucky and aged at least one year in Kentucky  3.) because it is a straight bourbon, it had to have been aged at least 2 years…..but because it states 3 years, we know this one is made from whiskey aged three years (if it is aged less than 4 years, it has to state how many years) and 4.) it’s name is XYZ.  If you look closely at the label, you can usually tell which distillery put out the whiskey.  For advanced whiskey fans, you can sometimes tell which distillery it came from even it if it doesn’t state that on the label.  This trick involves looking at the bar code on the label.  Each distillery has a distinctive number on this code.  

[NOTE:  I hope to eventually add information this to this website, but other sites include this information, so do some exploring if you need it before I can get to it!]  


COLOR:  The reviews on this website do not include information on a whiskey’s color because, quite frankly, most of the time I don’t care what it looks like.  Not everyone may feel the same way.  I feel that the only time a whiskey’s appearance may make a difference is when it is very light in color.  Not always, but this MAY be an indication that the whiskey is on the young side.  This is a personal opinion and I’m sure there are plenty of whiskey folks out there who will disagree with me.  Feel free to do so.  


NOSE:  “Nose” is a term used to describe the smell or aroma of a whiskey.  This section will include a brief description of the smell of the whiskey being reviewed.  I happen to think that my nose is not very good, so this section is usually pretty brief and to the point.  Sometimes it is accurate, and sometimes not.  There usually isn’t much variation in this section unless there is some unique or overpowering scent.  Sometimes the scents are easy to pick out and sometimes not.  One thing you WILL find quite frequently in this section is the term “classic bourbon”.  I often use this term for a scent that is common to many bourbons.  If you are new to bourbon, it might take you a while to recognize this scent.  But I’m confident that eventually you WILL be able to pick out this smell.  It is a “base” smell that many bourbons have.  It is usually easier to pick out in less quality and/or lower cost selections because there may not be anything else going on, scent-wise.  I also use terms like “earthy” or “woody”.  These terms are a bit difficult to describe but most people pick up on them when they smell them.  One thing that is very important to remember in this section is that smell and taste are closely related.  BUT….the way a whiskey smells doesn’t always indicate how it will taste.  I’m always fascinated by a whiskey that doesn’t smell very good but ends up tasting great.  On the flip side, you seldom find a whiskey that smells great but tastes bad.  And, once in a while, I will find whiskies that smell so great that you really enjoy just sniffing them.  This is USUALLY followed by a  good tasting experience.  


PALATE:  Palate is a fancy way of saying “taste”.  This section describes the taste of the whiskey.  When I can pick them out, this includes specific tastes that you often pick up, particularly in bourbon.  So……you will see tastes like “caramel” and “vanilla” frequently because these are “base” tastes found in many bourbons.  Because rye is a grain frequently used to make whiskey, particularly bourbon, you will often taste a “spiciness” that the rye imparts.  As you get more familiar with different bourbons, and examine their mash bills, you’ll get better at picking out this distinctive taste.   Other tastes may be more unique to one whiskey or another but as a general rule, they taste like whatever term is used.  So…..”dark chocolate” will have flavors in common with eating a dark chocolate bar.  This section will also include comments about “mouthfeel”, “heat” and “finish”.  

Check out the Glossary for more information on these terms.  


COMMENTS:  This section has lots of miscellaneous bits of information and also sometimes (or usually) includes my personal opinions.  This is usually where you will find the whiskey’s mash bill.  Sometimes this section will include a little bit of history or background information about the whiskey.  Usually, this is where the whiskey’s proof can be found.  Often, price or cost information may be included here, but keep in mind that there is actually a pretty wide difference in what people have to pay for their whiskey, depending on where they live.  SO……what I purchased inexpensively may cost you more and vice versa.  Like most things, prices of whiskey go up with time.  So…..if I bought something several years ago, it is quite likely that you will have to pay more for it now.  And, let’s not forget taxes.  Some people have to pay a lot and some, none at all.  In the “Comments” section, you can often find a general opinion such as, “Is it worth the money?”  I highly recommend that you read this section for each review because you never know what you’ll find there.   

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