How to Taste Spirits Like an Expert
An evening with Paul Pacult of the Spirit Journal will give you all you need to get started as someone who appears to be knowledgeable about wine, whiskey or nearly anything if you follow these basic rules of thumb:
- Smell First; smelling is most of your taste senses. When you smell the spirit first you have an idea of what is coming next.
- Take Two Sips; the first sip clears the palate and paves the way for the second sip which is what you will actually taste. Chances are there is already something on your tongue, whether it be cheese, crackers or even chewing gum. All of these can distort the finer flavors you can easily miss, so the first sip will clear the palate, the second sip you should let roll over and cover your tongue so you are able to taste the spirit. It also would not hurt to drink some water also.
- Citrus & Pepper; these are two of the most common flavor traits of nearly anything. Don’t use or abuse them and don’t always use them both in the same sentence. However, if you have no clue what you are tasting, using these two flavor profiles you are destined to gain at least some respect for what you are talking about.
Those are your 3 basic steps to tasting like an expert. Once you understand that, then you can further break down and dissect flavor profiles of spirits like rum, whiskey, even vodka. Ask yourself, is it sweet? Is it spicy? Is it smooth? Is it bitter? Keep notes. Personally I’ve had rum that tastes like apricot, bourbon that tastes like bananas and of course, scotch that nearly tastes like an ashtray, or what experts would say “smokey”.
Go with your instincts because every person’s palate is going to be different. What tastes like strawberries to someone might taste like raspberries to someone else depending on their tastebuds. Good luck!