You may hear the phrase "neck pour" among whiskey enthusiasts. The phrase refers to the first one or two pours of a bottle of whiskey: typically coming from the bottle's neck.
Some people suggest that the neck pour tastes different (often worse) than the rest of the whiskey in the bottle. Others will argue that the bottle has the same "juice" throughout, so a neck pour can't taste different. What is the truth? Is a neck pour perception or reality?
"Neck Pours" Can be a Thing. Here's Why.
In answering this question, you have to consider that Bourbon or whiskey tasting is an experience that involves all of the senses, not just the tongue and its sense of taste.
The neck pour might have a different concentration of aromas than when there is more air in the bottle. This difference in smell will impact the taste.
The human sense of smell plays an integral role in taste. This relationship is scientific truth. According to Science World, "Our sense of smell is responsible for about 80% of what we taste." Additionally, as noted by the Merck Manual, "To distinguish most flavors, the brain needs information about both smell and taste. These sensations are communicated to the brain from the nose and mouth. Several areas of the brain integrate the information, enabling people to recognize and appreciate flavors."
When you open a new bottle of whisky, there's a chance that it could be dominated by ethanol. That ethanol dissipates after it has been exposed to air for a while. Until it dissipates, ethanol will impact not only your sense of smell but consequently your taste since the two are inseparable. You can observe this after a glass of whiskey is poured.
See the article: Does Whiskey Oxidize? How Long is Bourbon Good Once Opened?
Take the Neck Pour Challenge
Using a previously unopened bottle, pour a glass of your favorite high-proof bourbon or another whiskey. Nose the whiskey immediately and taste it. After doing this, let it sit for a minute or longer. Nose and taste it again. You will get different aromas. Continue this process throughout the tasting. You will experience different aromas and flavors at other times during the same pour. Now, apply this same principle to a bottle. Doesn't it make sense that if you experience different tastes at various times of a pour, the same principle will apply to a bottle, especially when the ethanol smell can be more dominant in the neck of the bottle?
Yes, it's a Thing
The answer to the question, "Are Neck Pours a Thing" is yes...but it really has little to do with the contents of the bottle's neck. The change has to do with dissipation and other factors. Bourbons vary. Proofs vary. Consistencies vary. You may find some bottles are consistent from neck to finish. You may also notice that some bottles are much better after the first pour or two. Additionally, it often depends on how you drink whiskey. The fact is that whiskey enthusiasts do not guzzle their alcohol. They experience it. When you experience whiskey, neck pours can potentially be very real.