Here’s a review of some of the more common, and a few less common notes you’ll detect in any one glass:
Bourbon Whisky: Flavor descriptors such as toffee, pralines, vanilla, and dried fruit describe the initial rush of flavors in a good, well-aged Bourbon. The charred oak barrels give Bourbon a distinctive spicy oak firmness that is unique to American whiskeys.
Tennessee Whisky: The taste descriptors for Tennessee whisky tend to parallel those of its Kentucky cousin. The distinction and the difference come on the finish which is long, clean, and very, very smooth — a result of the final sugar maple charcoal filtration. Legally, Tennessee whiskeys could be sold as Bourbon; but the two Volunteer State distillers are proud enough of their “sipping whisky” to insist that the difference be known to all.
Rye Whisky: While the best Bourbon is known for a creamy, caramel-like palate, the best Rye whiskey makes its presence known with a spicy, grainy, hard-edged firmness that is distinctive and unique. Usually very dry, with notes of walnut, toasted grain, and black pepper, straight rye has a bold assertive character.