Spirits tasting unfolds in several stages during which all our senses are required to contribute.
At the beginning of his book la dégustation, the œnologist Pierre Casamayor, subtly describes the transition which occurs during tasting, from the sensory to the mind sphere:
"The practice of tasting, as opposed to the act of drinking, is an exercise in moderation : it teaches you how to favor quality over quantity. And by sharpening all our senses – hearing, sight, smell, touch – it paves the way for pleasurable drinking. »
1- Choosing your glass :
This stage, of choosing what you will drink out of, may often be neglected at first. An appropriate glass will enhance the aromas and ingredients of the spirit. Distillation concentrates scents and aromas. In addition a cool glass helps emphasize botanicals and counter the heat of the spirit.
Four types of glasses are recommended :
The Old Fashioned glass : for cocktails with strong aromas such as Negroni
The cocktail glass : for pure or slightly mixed cocktails such as « straight up » dry martini
The highball / collins glass : for long drinks such as gin fizz
The ballon glass : for Spanish-style gin and tonics with a lot of ice.
Decoration also plays a key role in tasting, as fresh fruit placed on the rim of the glass will tickle your taste buds with fresh fragrances. (cold for lime and hot for strawberries)
2 - Sight
During tasting the first physical sense to be stimulated is sight. This phase allows you to focus on color, brightness and viscosity. A distilled product must be as transparent and clear as possible. The product’s tears on the sides of the glass show its viscosity and alcohol level.
3 - The nose
The nose – testing the smell of the wine, is a phase involving the chemical senses (taste and smell).
The sniffing must be done twice : the first sniff must be done at a distance of 4 inches from the motionless glass. The alcohol vapors and the major scents prevail at that point. Juniper must be prominent for gin during this first step.
The first nose never lies.
During the second nose, after swirling the glass, you bring it close to your nose to sniff the less volatile fragrances. Rankings have been established on an Aroma Wheel, for Cognac.
4- The mouth
The mouth and the sense of taste allow you to explore the wine through the second chemical sense, taste.
Only a small amount of juice (1Tbsp) is required for both parts of the tasting.
First, the ‘attack’, which is the first tasting in the mouth, identifying as dry or oily, spicy or not, sweet/salty, sour/bitter. You are free to spit the spirits out after this first tasting.
Then during the second mouthful, the ‘mid-palate’, the same flavors are to be found but the aromas are amplified with complexity, depth and subtlety peculiar to each spirit.
5- The throat
This is the last phase of tasting, the ‘finish’. This is a first-rate indicator for quality. The length of the finish that is to say how long the taste lingers in the mouth (short, medium or long finish) establishes the flavour. Retro-olfaction, where the aromas are absorbed back into the nose, enables you to extend the pleasure for a few more minutes.