The Pepsi Challenge, Scotch, and Triangle Tests

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In the now-classic pop psychology book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell refers to the Pepsi challenge, which put Pepsi and Coke head to head in a blind taste test. He revealed how the results of the taste test were not representative of reality since people tend to drink an entire can of soda, rather than only a sip. When consumers drink one sip they prefer the sweeter drink, but when drinking an entire can they prefer the one less sweet. Gladwell goes on to explain that the more accurate way to make this comparison would be to conduct a triangle test. In a triangle test there are three options, two of which are the same. The taster has to identify the odd man out – the one that is not like the other two. Granted, this isn’t as much of a taste test as it is a differentiation test, but it will certainly prove whether or not the taster can distinguish the samples.

Similarly, drink flights are a simple way to quickly learn and expand your palate. Whether it is wine, beer, or whiskey, a flight will give you the context to understand the differences and similarities between what you’re tasting. New flavor experiences are akin to expanding your vocabulary, while tasting them side by side is learning how to use them in a sentence. If you take a slightly longer amount of time and focus on what you’re tasting, differences and nuances will become apparent. If you want to make it really fun, do a blind flight. Not knowing what you’re drinking or the prices has a way of removing any biases.

I recently sat down at Mixed Company to enjoy a Scotch flight. My whiskey palate is broad, but I noticed I dwell in the American whiskey section and have a slight blind spot when it comes to Scotch. The whiskey flight showcased a range of styles of Scotch. Too often Scotch is thought of as only being smokey and peaty like Laphroaig, and this simply isn’t the case.

Jared Jordan, MixCo co-owner, selected four Scotches for us to taste together and discuss – Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte, Deanston 12, and Glenfiddich The Original 1963. For anyone trying to expand their whiskey palate into the realm of Scotch, I think this is a great flight. The Bruichladdich is reminiscent of apple cider on the nose, and has some salinity on both the nose and palate. It finishes off with white pepper spiciness. It’s by no means delicate, but there are some floral notes present. The Port Charlotte is also from the Bruichladdich distillery, and while it claims to be “heavily peated” I wouldn’t agree as it’s nowhere near a Laphroaig. The Port Charlotte has a slightly oily mouthfeel, iodine on the nose, and a medium amount of peatiness. This would be a good primer for someone who has never had or enjoyed a peaty Scotch. The Deanston 12 was by far my favorite. It’s bright on the nose and palate. The barley comes across with subtle notes of hay and anise. Glenfiddich The Original was something special since it’s a throwback to their 1963 single malt. Referring to the archived family recipe, Brian Kinsman (Glenfiddich’s Malt Master) sought to recreate and pay homage to this iconic single malt. What’s special about it is that up until 1963, enjoying a glass of Scotch meant enjoying a blended Scotch. The single malt category had not yet been established, and this was the Scotch that began marketing single malts as a premium product. This limited release Glenfiddich was good and something to geek out on, but I don’t think it was anything spectacular. Glenfiddich describes it as fruity and floral on the nose with fruit, vanilla, citrus, and baked oatcakes on the palate. I wouldn’t consider it necessarily worth the price, but for the enthusiast it’s one to try based on the nostalgia alone.

After concluding the flight, it was the Deanston 12 that I ordered a full pour of. However, in retrospect, considering the live jazz music in the background, the good conversations with interesting people, and the remainder of my night, perhaps the Glenfiddich 1963 would have been a better pairing. Just like bourbon while camping, sometimes you pair a spirit with a vibe rather than food. Until that Mad Man vibe strikes again, I’ll be sipping the Deanston 12 or the Bruichladdich.

Notes:
Mixed Company (MixCo) is located at 3rd and Denver, Tulsa, OK. They host live jazz every Wednesday, as well as several other nights with live or curated music. Their Facebook or Instagram are the best ways to keep up with their events.

Bruichladdich
50% ABV
~$45

Port Charlotte
50% ABV
~$55

Deanston 12
46.3% ABV
~$45

Glenfiddich The Original 1963
40% ABV
~$100

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