06 Feb Tasting Gin
Like art, taste is subjective. We don’t all have hyper-active taste buds and wide botanical references, so it can be very difficult. And some might say that they don’t really care if it has fifteen botanicals as long as they like the overall taste!
Here, gin author Dave Broom gives his knowledgeable slant on gin tasting.
Tasting gin requires a recalibration of the senses.
Other spirits – rum or whisky, for example – often work on allusion, as in having an aroma that smells like, for instance, “heather”, “honey”, or “tropical fruit”. There is no such creative latitude in gin. The aromas that you are picking up are coming from the botanicals. It’s on the one hand more analytical and precise, but on the other more immersive because nosing and tasting a gin transports you to a new aromatic landscape. Let’s face it, how many of us really encounter orris or angelica on a daily basis, never mind the more outré botanicals now being pressed into service? What the experience does give you, therefore, is a greater understanding and engagement with the world. These aromas aren’t artificial but natural.
The way in which a gin changes on your nose mirrors exactly the progression of aromas from the still. You pick up the most volatile first, the heaviest last. You are smelling time. Relax and delve into its complexities. Rather than just being “gin”, you now experience that initial burst of citrus: lemon, orange, grapefruit, or a combination. But where are the coriander seeds? How does the juniper express itself? When do the roots or spices emerge? This is a retronasal experience, meaning you detect more aromas when the gin is in your mouth. Now you can notice more clearly how one aroma blends into another, how they rise and fall.
The key is balance, not abrupt shifts from one to another. Think of how it’s textured: thick, broad, light? Go back to the glass. Have the aromas changed or simply flown off? (they should have persistence). Finally, is it juniper, citric, spicy, floral, or herbal?
Having an understanding of each gin will give you an idea of how best to enjoy it.
Extract from ‘Gin – The Manual’ by Dave Broom