So on a recent episode of The Bourbon Bettys, Katie G our resident “learn us something new” babe talked about the difference between Master Taster, Master Blender, and Master Distiller. So I got to thinking…Master Taster sounds like the DREAM JOB.
Well…I googled that shiz and guess what?! Its a dream job if you are a highly qualified person. You can’t be any geek off the street. You gotta be handy with the steel if you know what I mean, earn your keep…wait that’s if you wanna be a young gun not a master taster…
Master Taster. You basically taste whiskey. But tasting whiskey is anything but basic. In one article I read, Marianne Barnes then the master taster at Brown-Forman was prohibited from smoking and wearing perfume while at work to preserve the integrity of her palate. She was expected to distinguish the more than 200 flavour chemicals in bourbon. Seriously…there’s more than just charred oak, vanilla, dried fruit and caramel! She is able to identify the exact proofs coming out of the barrel as well as any defects. Marianne also states that she does regular re-calibration of her palate. By using scent jars to remind her senses to get exactly what she’s searching for.
There’s also another fantastic article in Business Insider with the master taster at Jack Daniel’s who just so happens to be his great-grand niece. Whom by the way, had to be highly qualified to get the job. Being a relative of JD himself pulled absolutely no weight in helping her land it. Her name is Lynne Tolley and she’s held the position of master taster for more than 20yrs. She also believes in re-calibrating her senses my sniffing the back of her hand. She calls it her little trick. She also likes to do her tastings on an empty stomach. Her findings are that she can taste whiskey better this way. No perfume as well on the days of tastings. Lynne also feels personally that women are better tasters, because we have the best noses.
So, lets investigate this Women have better noses thing. Woodford Reserve also has a female master taster and her name is Elizabeth MaCall ( Now the assistant Master Distiller) . She’s been liken to a real life Whiskey super hero. She says there are few skills needed to be a master taster but one of them is being able to describe the taste of any of their whiskey expressions. Uh, that’s a pretty significant skill to be able to hone into. As well as any concerns with the product. She also says having passion is another important trait to possess.
Jackie ZyKan. She’s kind of like a whiskey rockstar. She’s the master taster for Old Forester. So it appears that women are doing the job and doing it quite well. Is there any science behind us having more tuned senses though..
Well, yeah. The portion of our brain that’s devoted to smell detection is way larger than that of a man’s. Women typically have more taste areas (fungiform papillae) and taste buds on their tongues than men. We are able to detect certain taste way before men can. So BOOM!
There ya have it folks. Master Taster is a very cool job if you’ve got the right stuff to land it. Women in Whiskey wherever they may land is always a good thing.
Links to the aforementioned articles