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"Sweet" Bourbon - What Am I Not Getting?


Porthos
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I've been drinking bourbon for 45 years, single-malt scotch for about 20. My FIL often complains about "sweet" bourbons. I have seen this complaint surface here at eGullet. I rather enjoy Maker's Mark at this point, and drink it neat. What is it about "sweet" that makes that characteristic undesirably to so many? Can someone please shed some light on this.

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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Well, I think it's typically one of two things...

1) Sweet meaning not (as) spicy...typically said of low-rye bourbon, or wheated bourbon (such as Maker's).

or

2) Sweet meaning evocative of vanilla, caramel, molasses, various fruits, or any other flavors frequently present in bourbon, which our minds typically associate with sweetness.

ETA: As far as sweetness being undesirable, I think it gets a bad rap because of all the crap syrups and artificially flavored booze out there. Some relations commented about the Buffalo Trace that I'd brought to a family function rotting their teeth out. I guess some people would rather their whiskey taste more like rot gut than dessert.

Edited by KD1191 (log)
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True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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My personal, and admittedly cynical, feeling is that probably 15% - 20% complain about sweet in regards to spirits and drinks because they actually don't like it and the rest complain about it because they think that's the cool thing to do.

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I have to say i agree with your father in law. I find most bourbons quite sweet. I think you just have some people like me who prefer spirits such as scotch, cognac and even rum that our palates perceive as dryer than bourbon. I also don't like the fullness in the mouth that the corn brings to the party. I do like the occasional high proof rye though.

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When I drink bourbon, I prefer a classic style such as Jim Beam or Jefferson's. If I want the high rye bourbon, I'll just drink rye. While I will occasionally use a wheat bourbon such as Maker's for an old fashioned cocktail, I think the "sweetness" too much for my favored Manhattans.

Edited by Vieux Carré (log)
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There's not much to get. Bourbon is sweet. I don't think it's the vanilla and whatever flavor components from the oak, I think it's the use of corn, which is a very sweet grain. I personally don't like the sweetness and find most bourbon insipid. WT101 is the exception, but that may be because its 50.5% ethanol!

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I have to say i agree with your father in law. I find most bourbons quite sweet. I think you just have some people like me who prefer spirits such as scotch, cognac and even rum that our palates perceive as dryer than bourbon. I also don't like the fullness in the mouth that the corn brings to the party. I do like the occasional high proof rye though.

The only rums I've had that are dry are agricoles

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