07 December 2011

Tasting Tips

Though many of us will do this all the time, many of us will also have asked am I doing right? Well, yes, you probably are, however this post is more of a general reminder and some informative bits of knowledge that other, not so seasoned tasters, can take away with them.

Knowledge is the enemy of indifference - Study your products. Learn what botanicals go in what gin, learn the subtle differences in the soil, climate, or distillation and then attribute them to the spirit.

Try and make a mental note that this botanical tastes like this. If possible try and get hold of fresh ingredients and then smell/taste them alongside the spirit. Your pallet and sense of taste can become encyclopedic in the number of flavours/areas/methods of production it can recognise.

Beyond this make sure you use your own words to describe flavours and create personal associations. These can then be built into a table and refered to in dire times or when you are so far into the tasting memory lapses occur.

Your nose knows - Your sense of taste is profoundly reliant on your sense of smell. Always go in with the nose first but be careful not to reach in too close as you may burn your nasal receptors and smell nothing but ethyrs.

Be sure you set your nose back to "neutral" inbetween each smell otherwise you will be smelling part of the previous spirit. This is easily done by smelling the skin on your hands which has a neutral odour.

Your are never wrong - True, there are certain aspects of a spirit that everyone should be able to taste and recognise however tasting is SUBJECTIVE. Try not to take others lead on what you can taste. The quote "Madness is rare in an individual but the rule of groups" often springs to mind when the room nods in agreement with a confidently stated flavour.

This leads back to the earlier point about being sure to recognise as many flavours as possible meaning you can confidently make suggestions. Everyone will perceive flavours slightly differently and everyone has a different threshold for what they can and cannot taste. This does not affect peoples ability to pair flavours and understand what works and how.

Dilution is good - Never be worried about diluting a spirit. Various studies have shown that, in whiskies particularly, adding water actually releases new flavours that would not have been present prior.

Myth - Do not trust anyone who tells you that a certain kind of glass is better for tasting because it means the liquid hits points of your tongue. The tongue map is not accurate and we now know that we can sense each kind of taste with very little difference all over the tongue.

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