Blind Tasting

Last Updated on June 10, 2021

I am always skeptical when people are sipping expensive wine and raving about how good it is. Vodka connoisseurs concern me even more.

My skepticism was somewhat confirmed by some parts of Leonard Mlodonow’s great book The Drunkard’s Walk:

And the job of the vodka distiller is not to nurture an aging process that imparts finely nuanced flavor but to take the 190-proof industrial swill such suppliers provide, add water, and subtract as much of the taste as possible. Through massive image-building campaigns, however, vodka produces have managed to create very strong expectations of difference. As a result, people believe that this liquor, which by its very definition is without a distinctive character, actually varies greatly from brand to brand. Moreover, they are willing to pay large amounts of money based on those difference. Lest I be dismissed as a tasteless boor, I wish to point out that there is a way to test my ravings. You could live up a series of vodkas and a series of vodka sophisticates and perform a blind tasting. As it happens, The New York Times did just that. And without their labels, fancy vodkas like Grey Goose, and Ketel One didn’t fare so well. Compared with conventional wisdom, in fact, the results appeared random. Moreover, of the twenty-one vodkas tasted, it was the cheap bar brand, Smirnoff, that came out at the top of the list. Our assessment of the world would be quite different if all our judgments could be insulated from expectation and based only on relevant data. 

The Drunkard’s Walk

Blind Tasting Party

I got these cool bottle covers from Amazon a few years ago so I could trick my partner with cheap and expensive wines and prove a point. Maybe I’ll host a blind tasting party sometime…