Most of us may find that specific flavours in our whiskies remind us of certain events or occasions in our lives. These memories can be good or bad. Sometimes, drinking a particular whisky helps us to remember the good times we had with our friends; while another whisky can bring up bad memories that we would rather forget.
Why do we have such feelings?
I am no scientist, and wouldn’t be able to go into the scientific notions of why our brains make us feel this way. However, I would like to offer my layman ideas about this.
Our memories are a part of us. It is possibly the one function of our brain that keeps us sane most of the time. The art of remembering is essential to our daily lives and in fact, necessary for our survival.
While a significant part of our memory is crucial to our survival as it helps us to avoid danger, a smaller portion of our mind helps us experience life moments. We remember our wedding day; the day our child is born; our graduation day. These memories can be pleasant or unpleasant, dependent on our feelings toward the individual events.
The same goes for food and flavours. Things get more complex. Say, for example, you remember that you were eating a chicken pie when your child is born. The association of chicken pie and happy moment (child is born) will give you a fuzzy, comfortable feeling whenever you smell or eat a chicken pie. The link is unconscious to you.
If you own a Glencairn glass, check out the graphics on the box, teaching you how to enjoy whisky. The graphics show you how to use your senses to look, smell and taste the whisky. Such simple acts come to us naturally, even though the first time may be tough. We learn how to enjoy and appreciate whisky over time using our senses.
Our brains recognise and remember the different flavours of whisky. As we progress in our whisky journey, we begin to link the different whisky flavours to the food and drinks that we know.
Linking Memories and Whisky Flavours
At some point in our whisky journey, our adaptive minds will begin to connect our life experiences (memories) with the different flavours that we detect in our whiskies. It is the start of our new adventures of linking memories to the whiskies that we enjoyed. Some whisky flavours will give us a warm, comfortable feeling because the association is with a pleasant experience or memory that we had. Others will have us cringing because the smell or taste of it reminds us of an unpleasant association with another memory.
Perhaps it is vital for us to understand the feelings that certain flavours generate to allow us to avoid stereotyping specific whiskies as something that we will never enjoy. I used to dislike Laphroaig tremendously as the flavours of the whisky remind me of a certain garbage smell that I hate as a child. As I grow in my whisky journey, I began to understand the link between my life experiences and my choice of whisky. With that understanding, I began to let go of my biases and try more Laphroaigs that was offered to me. While I still dislike many of the Laphroaigs that I tried, I discovered that I could accept some of them.
Growing in your Whisky Journey
All of us grow in our whisky journeys as we move along in life. It is common for us to discover that our taste buds change with time. Such changes lead us to favour and disfavour certain whisky profiles. However, it does not mean that you will not toggle back and fro from the various flavours that you enjoy. At the moment in my journey, I toggle between peat and bourbon-matured whiskies, which is a far cry from my previous enjoyment of heavily sherried whiskies. I am not in a hurry to throw out my sherried whiskies though, because who knows when I will begin to enjoy them again.