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Bitter Dept: A test

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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot

Joined: 11 Dec 2006
Posts: 3499
Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 4:44 am    Post subject: Bitter Dept: A test Reply with quote

Are you a Hyper Taster?

Let's make this simple, right fellow idiots? Of course. Tasting vile and unpleasant bitterness in a spirit is not as uncommon as you my think. About 20% of you may be what are called Super Tasters, or as better named by at least one author: Hyper Tasters. And just what defines the bitter sensing Hyper Tasters?

Tastebuds. Lots of em

The 20% of the population called Hyper Tasters are those who have a lot more tastebuds. And if you wish, you can actually test yourself. Although you can send away for a test fluid called PROP (a drop or two in a dram of water will taste very bitter), you can also test yourself with...

Blue food coloring. Here's how:

You'll need a small bottle of blue food coloring, Q-tip, a magnifying glass, and a box of hole-reinforcers (those ring stickers used to reinforce the holes in binder paper). Apply one of the hole-reinforcers to your tongue, use a Q-tip to apply a little blue coloring to the "hole". Now look in a mirror and using the magnifying glass, count the number of pink "dots" within the hole. The pink dots are your tastebuds.

Around 30 or more means you're a Hyper Taster.

If you count around 10 to 30, you're normative, and less than 10: a Tolerant or Non-Taster.

Hyper-Tasting is a Curse

Hyper Tasters have a real problem. They have so many tastebuds that foods and spirits can overwhelm them with sharpness, intensity and especially bitterness. To a Hyper Taster many foods are perceived as "vile" - a common descriptor for these poor folks. Some tip offs...

1. You are perceived as a "picky eater", with strong likes and dislikes. You may prefer bland foods, tend to eat the same "safe" foods rather than experiment.

2. Some foods may make you physically ill.

3. You find some foods "vile" and describe them that way.

4. You dislike strong bitter foods like broccoli, black coffee, yellow grapefruit juice, strong tea, bitter chocolate, brussel sprouts and the like.

5. You prefer well-cooked foods, well marbled meats, and may add a touch of sugar, salt or MSG, or cream.

But the Big Kahuna for you is bitter, which you detect easily and intensely, and find quite unpleasant.

How this relates to rum and spirits tasting...

This should be obvious. Hyper Tasters have a real problem with intensity and bitterness, and sadly, many spirits contain phenols. Most of us - 80% - are not affected in the least by these phenols, but Hypertasters perceive them as bitter, often to the extreme that it dominates the experience.

If you find yourself experiencing sensations you call "bitter, metallic, acrid, smoky (in a bad way) or sulfury" - it may well be due to your excessive number of tastebuds, genetics and life experience with bitterness.

This is a real problem...

You will read great reviews, or the recommendations of others and then - to your great surprise - dislike the rum or spirit, sometimes intensely. And now you know why - they have normal palates and you do not. While others may depend on these reviews, you cannot. Is there an answer?


If you've followed The Project for any time, you may be aware that I have noted the Artic Wolf's unusual palate and a statistical sensitivity and reporting of bitterness, tannins and metallic tones. If I had to bet, he seems to be a classic Hyper Taster. And if you too are part of this 20%...

His reviews may be of great value to you, and I'd highly recommend them in that light.

Note: I have analysed a few other review sites including The Project, the Beverage Tasting Institue, Whisky Magazine and the Whisky Advocate to establish a rough baseline - none of these sites overreport "bitterness", and these will not be of help to you.

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