June 2008

Ask Beau - "Any differences on male and female preferences?"

Posted by Beau Timken in 2008, Ask Beau, June, Newsletter

Hi Beau,

I've been doing my own sake taste testing (secretly). I've noticed that the men and women in my group of friends have completely different sake taste buds. Then after reading the May sake newsletter (the guest sake writer...he liked one girlfriend liked another) I wondered if you have noticed any differences on male and female preferences?

Sincerely your sake-loving friend,

Amanda A.


Beau TimkenThis is a great question with sooooooooo many ways to answer it! Firstly our arms, feet, sweat glands, internal plumbing etc are different so why too shouldn't our palates be? Every person - man or woman - has a different palate. It's that simple. The physiology of our palates/senses are completely unique to each and everyone of us. (We all smell/taste ever so slightly differently than one another). There are no two exactly matched palates. But, in general ballpark terms the realm of grouping palates by gender is doable I would imagine - although it is "generalized" at best.

I have been hosting sake tastings, pairings, and events for the past 6 years and can unequivocally say that I have never seen a pattern that is so pronounced that it would support your experiment. And trust me when I say that I have set up plenty of events to capture this man vs. woman difference. It never presents itself. In fact, the brews that I would assume the women would like are favored more by the guys and vice versa. I would call this an "Entrapment Tasting." What you are discussing is more of a "Flock Tasting" where certain people flock to similar sakes. Specifically in your case the women flocked to certain brews and the guys flocked to another.

In a subsequent email I asked if you had "discussions" as part of the tasting. This is where "Flock Tastings" thrive, but you said no that you and your hubby each picked one brew that a "man" likes and one that a "women" likes and then you go blind.

"The tastings have been blind. I offer two different sakes (one I like as a woman and one my husband likes), and then I ask them which they prefer. There has only been one time where a man crossed the gender divide. I think it is really interesting."

In this case, your sample is far too small! A two brew tasting is pretty limited! I say pick four sakes at the very least, and put them in a room that is separate from the party. Then make each taster go through into the private room one at a time, and do their tasting alone. (Make certain that those who are waiting to taste don't eat or drink anything that will factor onto their palate.)

I will end by saying that I do believe that women have a far better sense of smell - in general. (Especially pregnant women!) And there are more and more women-centric sake tasting groups flourishing in Japan that count on this difference. So perhaps there is something to the fact that men and women taste differently - I just don't see it that often. (This reply did not touch on the "hard science" of the true physiological differences between "us" which is pure fact!)

Please send your sake specific questions to askbeau2 @ truesake.com. (This address is not for general questions and I only review the questions once per month. All other correspondence should use info @ truesake.com.)

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