I wrote last month about learning to do sensory evaluations of bourbon as a whiskey distillery intern, and how I think the same process can be applied to dating. For today’s Fun Friday post I’m taking the bourbon-tasting and dating connections even further.
At our Tasting Thursdays gathering in the distillery conference room last week, we were doing the usual reporting out of our tasting notes for the bourbon samples we’d sipped. Each week the distillery floor workers and the company executives gather together to do these blind tastings, a practice that was resumed after I expressed an interest in learning about sensory evaluation of bourbon.
As a newbie, I look forward to these tasting sessions, while also feeling some trepidation when it’s my turn to share my notes. Typically, I end up sharing last, after everyone else has gone around the table throwing out their sophisticated sensory phrases: peppery finish with a hint of river moss and sweaty gym socks…nose of worn leather with candied citrus and day-old mown grass…clover honey with notes of rendered butter and damp Madagascar cinnamon…complex and creamy with exuberant undertones of roasted acorn squash and salt water taffy…smoky and aromatic with layers of toasted oak and truffle essence…and so on. Me: “Smells like whiskey. Tastes like caramel and vanilla. Smooth on the tongue. Spicy in my throat.” Everyone assures me there’s no right or wrong answer, but I’m sure some answers are considered better than others.
Anyway, last week, instead of describing a bourbon’s taste and smell and mouth feel, one of the participants instead described an experience the bourbon evoked. He said the bourbon reminded him of being in a field of tall, green grass, with a warm breeze carrying the scent of wildflowers, while eating hard candy from his childhood. Now that’s some damn good bourbon!
I was intrigued by this idea of evaluating bourbons by describing the experiences they call to mind, instead of trying to describe notes and noses. This would work with any liquor, wine, or even food. What a way to convey the essence of something, by likening it to an experience it elicits.
I was so taken with this approach I started wondering, why not also apply this to people? Dates, relationships, friends…anyone. When you meet someone, does he remind you of, say, sitting on a beach at night, wrapped in a soft, lavender-scented blanket and sipping hot mint tea, while watching a meteor shower in the sky over the ocean? Or, does he bring to mind scrubbing mildew from grout in a shower using a toothbrush and bleach, breathing in noxious fumes that burn your nose and eyes? Does he evoke comfort and wonder…or a lot of toxic work?
Instead of relying on our sense of sight and evaluating someone first on how they look, and then judging what they do for a living, how much money they have, and what their level of education is, wouldn’t it be interesting to instead let yourself think of an experience that person evokes?
My sweetie (I guess we’re calling each other “Boo” now. More on this in an upcoming post. I struggle with what to label the person I’m exclusively dating, when I don’t like the term “boyfriend”) is not someone I would describe as my usual type physically, though he is fit and quite tall. Before my improved and enlightened approach to dating, which I wrote about here and here, I have to say I probably wouldn’t have started dating him.
But he is the meteor shower on the beach…and a warm bath with roses and dark chocolate truffles…and eating fresh, sweet kettle corn from a paper bag while strolling through a tropical garden of orchids and butterflies. Now that’s some damn good Boo!
Here’s the hard part. My practice of self-reflection makes me wonder what experiences I summon for others? I know there have been times in my life when I’ve been more like the mildew-scrubbing experience for some people. Harsh and requiring a lot of effort. I’d like to think that’s no longer the case, but I know my blunt words can sometimes be abrasive and unintentionally sting upon contact. I think it’s worth the required self-examination to evaluate the experiences I might summon for others. Forget how I look or smell or taste. What experiences do my actions and words bring to mind? Is there something I could stand to change or do differently?
What about you? What do you think?
Can a person summon for you the experience of a snowy night in front of a cozy fireplace, with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich and creamy tomato soup? Or, how about the experience of eating a plate of tempting and delicious fresh-from-the-oven peanut butter cookies — when you’re allergic to peanuts? I’ve definitely met folks who’ve initially brought these different experiences to mind.
What experience would you hope to evoke for someone? I’m sticking with the meteor shower/beach thing.
Of course, all experiences are completely subjective. One person’s allergic reaction is another person’s bliss. Just like with the tasting notes for bourbon, everyone’s response is going to be different. The key for me is finding one — bourbon or Boo — that evokes the most enjoyable experience for me, by keeping my mind open and my palate cleansed of old tastes.
Happy Friday! May your weekend be filled with good tastings and pleasant experiences.
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