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Nov 24, 2014


The Gourmet Food and Wine Expo took place over the weekend.

I'm zonked but I wanted to quickly share one of the tasting techniques we go through at the show.

In this case I'm pouring Victoria Gin. I've worked with them over the past few years and we've developed this format to (re)introduce people to gin and to remove some of the apprehension about tasting it neat. I've talked before about scent memory and tastings. I understand the hesitation with gin but this fun experiment helps to eliminate anxiety in spirit tasting.

It starts with pouring a single 1 oz portion of spirit into a tasting glass (any small wine or sherry glass can work).

Sniff the gin in short inhales and use a wafting motion if necessary, slightly parting the lips will help (It is the same technique you would use when tasting wine). Most likely much of what you will smell  is alcohol. At ABVs 40% and above it is very difficult to receive any other chemical messages that the spirit is sending through your olfactory senses. But you will probably be able to detect stronger scents like juniper in gin or, perhaps caramel or smoke in whisky.

Take a small taste of the gin, then inhale through both the nose and mouth. Stop and notice what if any flavours you detect. And where in your mouth you can taste and feel the liquid lingering (with Vic Gin, you'll likely taste juniper and citrus in the first round).

For the same reason as above, you will not be able to detect the entire flavour profile of the gin until you bring down the ABV. We do this by adding water...yes, even if we were tasting Scotch! If you are a truly seasoned Whisky drinker I don't need to tell you this.

But, if perhaps you know someone that likes to think of themselves as an expert, (this individual is easily recognized by the constant label dropping, blowhard-ing, low self esteem, nonsense that usually ends in disparaging the brand you've just mentioned liking) says they never dilute their whiskey, please feel free to inform them that they have never in fact, actually tasted their favorite ultra small batch Whisky you've never heard of.

That being said, just one or two drops of water, 1/4 tsp per oz, will be enough to lower the ABV without over diluting the spirit. Now taste it again. Can you taste the difference? What new layers of flavour are you able to detect? Does it change anything else, like mouth feel or heat? (with the Vic Gin, usual comments include increased notes of citrus, a floral quality, licorice and an over all softer feel)

Now slice a strip of citrus zest (I like grapefruit for gin, orange with whisky, lemon for rums and lime with tequila). Twist it over top of the glass and rub a little around the rim. Drop it into the glass and taste again. Likely, the taste of the citrus will be obvious but what should also take place is an enhancement or brightening of some of the flavours you were already tasting.

Tasting the evolution of the spirit in this manner should begin to create scent memories for you that will help you detect and distinguish spirits on their own but also within a cocktail. If you have a clear flavour memory of the gin, you'll know that you are tasting it in harmony with the other ingredients in the drink.

This is a great example of a lightly spirited, classic drink. The flavour profile of the gin allowed to come through but in balance with the other ingredients.

West Coast 75
1 oz Victoria Gin
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup (1 pt water 1 pt sugar)
3 oz sparking wine
1 drop orange bitters (twisted and bitter)

In a shaker add gin, lemon and syrup, fill 3/4 with ice. Shake briefly and strain into flute. Top with chilled sparkling. Drop in bitters, garnish with lemon zest.

Have you ever done a spirit tasting? If you're interested in attending one or just finding out more about it, comment or send us a message.

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