The Best Words to Use When Describing Bourbon

Written by Mark Pringle |
Published on:

Bourbon enthusiasts are always looking for the right word to describe the nose (aroma), palate (taste), or finish (sensation after you have swallowed) of bourbon or other whiskeys. If you are not in the food or whiskey industry, it may be difficult to come up with descriptive words when evaluating a bourbon. So, here are some of the best words (adjectives) to use when describing your bourbon tasting experience.

  • Acidic — sharp, tart, or sour in taste.
  • Aromatic — having a distinctive, fragrant, or pleasant smell.
  • Astringent — a sharp “dryness” in flavor.
  • Bitter — a tart, sharp, and sometimes disagreeably harsh flavor.
  • Bittersweet — not customarily applied to bourbons; it’s a moderately harsh taste combined with sweetness.
  • Bland — lacking in flavor or distinct characteristics. Boring.
  • Brackish — a typically unpleasant or distasteful salty taste
  • Briny — a sea-salty quality.
  • Buttery — having a rich, smooth, or oily quality.
  • Candied — sugary and syrupy
  • Citrusy — an aroma, color, or flavor like that of citrus fruits.
  • Creamy — smooth, rich texture, usually used to describe the mouthfeel
  • Delicate — a light, youthful taste or quality
  • Dense — having a weighty, think, or heavy mouthfeel.
  • Earthy — a flavor reminiscent of fresh earth or soil, sometimes referring to a slightly less refined bourbon.
  • Fiery — ethanol content that packs a spicy punch. The feeling of heat or spiciness.
  • Fresh — a light, airy, or crisp taste or aroma. Sometimes herbal.
  • Fruity — reminiscent of sweet fruit flavors.
  • Full-bodied — a weighty, rich, or heavy feeling in the mouth.
  • Herbal — a bright, fresh, or sometimes earthy taste associated with herbs.
  • Honeyed — a sweet taste or texture similar to honey.
  • Luscious — having a deliciously thick and rich palate or nose
  • Mellow — a gentle, soft smell, taste, or color. Free of harshness.
  • Nectarous — having a sugary sweet and flowery god-like quality
  • Nutty — a taste similar to the flavors of nuts. Use when you can’t identify the nut.
  • Oaky — having the aroma or taste of oak.
  • Pickled — a briny taste
  • Plummy — having a sweet and rich flavor generally associated with a plum
  • Pungent — an unpleasantly sharp or strong taste or smell
  • Rich — a full, weighty, or heavy flavor.
  • Robust — having a strong, full, or vigorous taste or smell.
  • Saccharine — an unnatural sweetness
  • Savory —salty or spicy, not sweet
  • Sharp — a harsh taste. Often used to describe acidic whiskeys.
  • Silky — a soft or refined taste.
  • Smoky — a burnt woody taste similar to the smell of smoke.
  • Sour — a biting, tangy, tart flavor.
  • Spicy — a peppery or hot aroma or taste reminiscent of baking spices.
  • Sweet — a sugary or candied flavor.
  • Tart — a sharp, bitter, or sour flavor. Occasionally used to describe acidic bourbons.
  • Woody — an earthy or nutty taste.
  • Yeasty — an earthy taste reminiscent of bread yeast.
  • Zesty — a fresh, vivid, or invigoratingly pungent taste.
Author: Mark Pringle
Smell IS taste. I am just a guy who has been hit with the bourbon bug and who has come to the conclusion that life is too short to drink average tasting bourbons. Go Gators!
My External Website (External Website Opens in New Window)


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