While experts who sample wines for a living, or even for fun, are known as wine tasters, those who do the same for spirits are called "nosers." Surely the nose is just as important in wine tasting, and the palate is equally significant for judging spirits. But who am I to question standard usage? Evidently, the nose knows, especially when it comes to whiskeys and other spirits.
Nosing spirits is an entirely Proustian sort of pursuit, giving rise to all sorts of impressions. You might rediscover memories of your first encounter with fresh-baked gingerbread. In a single sniff you might relive that semester of woodworking in high school, when you made what passed for a birdhouse and branded your initials into it with a wood-burning kit. For those who have an inventive grasp of language as well as a sensitive olfactory capability, the possibilities inherent in a glass of good whiskey are practically endless.
So rich are the suggestive connotations of the "nose" of particular spirits that it's almost possible, but perhaps not plausible, that there might be certain people who feel no need to imbibe the spirits after inhaling their enticing aromas. With Father's Day coming up, give Dad something he can really stick his nose into. Here are three American spirits that would make a perfect gift.
DISTILLERS' MASTERPIECE ($250)
The Jim Beam story dates back to 1795, when Jacob Beam sold his first whiskey in Kentucky. His most famous descendant, James Beauregard Beam - known to history as Jim Beam - took control of the distillery in 1894, just a year before its 100th anniversary, and guided it for the next 52 years. Jim's grandson, Booker Noe, began working at the family distillery in 1951, at the age of 21. A colorful character even among bourbon makers, Booker has been the creator of some of America's most celebrated spirits.