Tasting

When tasting spirits it is good to take a systematic approach to recording the results is beneficial, not only as it makes rating and comparing spirits easier on a direct basis but also allows you to compare products tasted at different times.

  1. The first taste is with the eye. There is a huge range of specified colours used in tasting but you can make up your own.  The colour can tell you a lot in certain products, giving clue about aging, depth of flavour or additives.  It is most useful when comparing similar products
  2. Swirl the spirit.  Look how the liquid returns to the level leaving characteristic trails or legs (tears).  This will give us an idea of sugar level and alcohol volume.  Long legs mean high sugar, high alcohol.
  3. Swirl again to release the aroma.  Here is the first major mistake, Gently approach the glass until the first aromas are apparent, retreat and then gently proceed to slowly get closer.  It is often said that if you breathe through your mouth close to the glass, the aroma will travel up the back of the nose.
  4. Assess the aroma, light and fruity, zesty or more complex?  Are there any obviously flavours that you can identify?
  5. Now for the taste.  Be careful here, there is no need to take in much liquid, we don’t want to desensitise the mouth either.  Generally, the best way is to place a small amount on the tongue and let it heat up and evaporate as it moves around the mouth.  Remember you have taste buds all around your tongue so make sure the spirit passes around the mouth
  6. To assess the taste, it is easiest to split it into sections; initial, mid palate and mouthfeel.  These can show how the spirit develops after you get the primary taste.  
  7. The spirit should have a round and full profile with discernable character.  The mouthfeel is also important.  Does the spirit fill the mouth or taste a bit thin and watery?  Even when tasting vodkas, mouthfeel is probably the biggest clue as to what is going on.
  8. Then to the finish.  Finish is more about the lasting impression you are getting from your senses.  Is the finish pleasant or harsh? How long is it?  
  9. The reassess. If you are tasting comparatively, then you should always go back to anything you are unsure with as you will set boundaries and comparisons with the other examples.