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Punky, funky, bitter, tannic dept: You decide...

 
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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot


Joined: 11 Dec 2006
Posts: 3467
Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:05 am    Post subject: Punky, funky, bitter, tannic dept: You decide... Reply with quote

Punky, funky, bitter, tannins...


Do these descriptors mean anything to you? They'd better not. But there's at least one self-appointed reviewer - a rank amateur - who holds forth as if these qualities were common and reportable. They are not. Let's cover them...

Punky: this actually refers to rotted and fungal wood, referred to as "punk" by erstwhile campers in need of pre-kindling with which to start a campfire. The best place to find punk wood is in a rotted tree stump - the punk wood is rotted, light, crumbly and powdery. It's absolutely super for firebuilding as it easily catches a spark and bursts into a flame, to which you then add small twigs (kindling).

The smell is rotted and fungal, and not the least bit attractive.

Funky: other than music, funky generally refers to pajamas, t-shirts and underwear that has been worn too long. Its aroma is the kind that clears the room, but may get you a donated dollar just to go away. Fermented ball sweat, and again not the least bit attractive.

Bitter: although it's possible to find bitterness in a spirit, it's not very likely. Bitterness is a defect that especially rum distillers work hard to avoid and for good reason: it's a major turnoff. Unfortunately, there is a small subset of people who have extremely sensitive palates, who have been defined as "supertasters", about 25% of the population. Of these there is an even smaller subset - let's say 5 or 10% who have a sensitivity to a phenol present in distilled spirits, that is interpreted as "bitter". Combine the two - great sensitivity with a bitter phenol interpretation - and you have a person with a negative palate who finds "bitterness" and "vileness" where most of us do not.

I'm serious. Think Artic Wolf.

Tannins: Tannins are a component of oak barrels that act as a catalysts, but have no aromas or flavors of their own. I repeat - tannins have no aromas or tastes whatever. None.

What excess tannins do present is a negative mouthfeel - a literal "puckering". The best example: brew a steaming cup of overly strong black tea, by allowing the teabag to soak way too long. Take a swig, and you'll pucker and want to spit it out. This has also been described as a rough and dry sensation.

Bottom line: tannins/tannic are simply a mouthfeel, with no aromas or tastes of their own. This sensation is really pretty rare, particularly in rums, but in most spirits. Distillers, in general, would consider tannic puckering a defect, and undesirable.


Back to the rank amateur...

Yup, you guessed it - the Frozen Wonder.

This newbie finds plenty of rotted, fungal "punky" aromas, especially in tequila, but also in whisky and rum. He's pretty much alone in this. I can find little if any use of this term anywhere, including at the copious Whiskey Magazine reviews or at the Beverage Tasting Institute, both awash in descriptors of all kinds.

But not "punky".

Same for funky. Used by the Furry One, but rare elsewhere. To be fair, a few faux posters love to namedrop the term "pot still funk", which actually refers to the dunder-based, high ester Jamaican style rums. But the "funk", if you prefer, has less to do with the pot still, but everything to do with the extended dunder-based fermentation.

Bitter you say? The Cool Leg Lifter found "bitterness" in over half the rums he reviewed in a study made last year! Needless to say, this is highly unusual as if anything at all, typical rum profiles feature sweetness.

And last, tannic. The Funky Punky Furball attributes all manner of aromas and tastes to what is a tasteless, odorless mouthfeel. Now this has nothing to with geneology, but has everything to do with ignorance. But come to think of it, maybe that's the same thing. Hmmmm...
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Last edited by Capn Jimbo on Sun Jan 29, 2012 5:25 am; edited 2 times in total
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Uisge
Cap'n


Joined: 04 Nov 2011
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Location: Marvelous Madera Ranchos, CA

PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Regarding "bitterness", I believe Ralfy has noted it recently in a review (trying to remember if it was for the Bruichladdie "Laddie Ten", or if it was for a Japanese whisky from Nikka tasted in the early part of 2011).

I noted something when I was enjoying some Ardbeg 1978 Ltd Edition (It was a 20 yo single malt released in 1998), 'lo over a decade ago when I had the bottle, and I distinctly noted on the finish a flavor that was of copper, and some might attribute that as a bitter taste.

That said, I only recognized the copper taste having swallowed a penny many years ago Embarassed

I think what you are trying to bring forth is that Wolfie (if I may be so familiar) has a limited box of tools to work with (taste references), and everything is a nail to be hammered since he only HAS a hammer.

Or, he has not been instructed as to how to perform a proper tasting, where there are steps to follow in periods of time so that one fully experiences all there is in a dram.

I know for myself I am limited in some taste references, particularly nut flavors and poultry flavors, as in the former I don't care for them, and in the latter I have a food allergy.
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Uisge
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A little off topic here, Serge's review of the vintage Ardbeg can be found here about half-way down the April 6, 2011 review. He gave it a 90.

BTI reviewed it a while back (1999) and gave it a 96. Yes, it WAS that good.
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Capn Jimbo
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Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:20 am    Post subject: Reviewing by proclamation? Reply with quote

You can't just declare yourself a "reviewer"...


When does one transition from newbie, to afficianado, to connoiseur to - finally - reviewer? And does the earlier experience guarantee good reviews?

In the Furball's case, he got it backwards. With almost no experience with rum, he seemingly skipped the usual development of skills over many years and simply up and created a review site, created his own disjointed "methodology" (named after himself) and proceeded to inflict his inexperienced and unusual palate on the web world.

New to tasting and new to reviewing - yet in his first year or so published hundreds of reviews and recipes not only for rum, but then quickly added whisky, tequila, gin, vodka et al. That is incredulous! Equally telling is the local reps' acceptance of a softball "reviewer", with a heavy bias toward relatively non-critical, top scoring. The freebie gravy train followed. As for the palate, "bitter" appeared in over half the rums reviewed in an analysis.

You can't make this up.

The latter bitter affliction is an actual sensitivity for a small percentage of the population, and I would think this alone would disqualify anyone so afflicted from publishing reviews. Lack of experience may be evident too in the misuse of unusual or inappropriate descriptors, even attributing numerous aromas and tastes to a what is a (tasteless) mouthfeel (tannic). Myths abound including the notion of copperage and aging as commodity not art, "leftover" sherry in sherry barrels and complete avoidance of the fact of widespread alteration of rums (and Canadian whisky) with unlabeled additives, flavorings, sugar, glycerol and even wine.

Last is the myth that "...if I honestly report my own impressions (bias)...", that this makes for a good and effective review. That is mooseshit, pure and simple. It is not nearly enough to simply post a laundry list of descriptors in order ("...it looked like this, then I smelled this, then I tasted this, and I liked/disliked this").

Seriously, who the fuck cares?

A good review looks at the whole of the experience: its integration, quality, harmony and balance of its components. More importantly - and note this well - a good review does NOT express personal preference but rather DOES evaluate the success of the spirit in representing its genre and style. Good reviews do not regurgitate distiller marketing copy, or offer up free plugs.


An Example:

Sue Sea is not a big fan of whisky; in fact she rather dislikes it. On the other hand, she loves pure rums - particularly the cane juice and Cuban styles. If she followed the Woof method, her ratings would simply express her likes and dislikes.

This is not so. As is proper, we review spirits from the viewpoint of both the distiller and the public. Has the distiller achieved his goals, how do they compare to other spirits of like goals or style, and last how would a reasonable and talented imbiber experience the spirit?

Personal preference has nothing to do with it, while suffering a bitter palate to boot. Dwarfs should not play basketball, however imaginative and egotistical they may be.


*******
Special Note: Ralfy is an excellent example. Those who know whisky have very high regard for his skills and forthrightness in his wonderful and educational reviews. Still, he is the first to make clear that he is not a professional, and makes every attempt to respect the spirit apart from his personal preferences.

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