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How do you taste?

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How do you taste?

Postby Tom » Sat Sep 10, 2005 5:29 pm

Hello Everyone,
This afternoon I spent several hours reading how you "should" and "should not" taste whisky. I found some interesting points and some things I simply did not know. But what was really interesting is that there are so many different views on how to do it right.

So I was wondering how we "the malt fanatics" do it. Could anyone that is willing to share his experiences post here how exactly he/she samples any whisky?

This includes how to nose it (nose in the glass, above the glass, one, two, three sniffs etc),
use of water,
where you put your sences to first (what aroma's, flavors, cask etc that you probe for firstly).where you pay special attention to, what are you looking for in general...
How do you experience the mouthfeel, body in your mouth, tongue,
big or small sips,
when and how do you experience the finish...
simply put, everything there is to experience and how exactly you do it. This is something not only myself, but alot of people not as experienced like most here can learn from, so I would apreciate it if we can stay on topic on this one, I will keep the results and try all of them myself so as many as possible opinions are welcome, including total beginners, dont be shy, I know you are all here reading all these posts.
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Postby Lawrence » Sat Sep 10, 2005 7:00 pm

Even though I'm quite shy I'll give it a go.

I like a blenders nosing glass for serious 'work' with graduated lines on the side and a Glencairn in a pinch but only because it is difficult to hand warm whisky with the later. The shape of the Glen Cairn is very good for nosing however.

I like to sniff at various levels above the glass because the lighter aromas are detectable at a distance and the heavier are more detectable when I have my nose right in the glass with differences noted as I move in to the glass.

How much of a snort I take depends on whether it's cask strength or 40%. I try and 'clean' my nose by sniffing some still water during this process. This is very effective for resetting the nose especially after nosing cask strength whiskies. I make notes on the nose and what I can ID.

The difference between a cold glass & cold whisky and a warm glass & warm whisky is truly remarkable. The whisky opens up in a similar fashion as with adding water but you have not diluted the whisky.

I have been become a big advocate of hand warming whisky ever since I was involved in the Jim Murray tour earlier this year and he so effectively demonstrated the changes to us.

After I have finished the initial nose then I taste, I try and take a good measure and not a tiny little sip. If my tongue starts jumping around, working away then I know I'm dealing with a lots of flavors. I then try and identify what I'm tasting and examine the whisky for any clues to finish or wood influences etc.

The addition of water simply depends on the whisky and if I do then I start with very small amounts but I don't use a pipette, I just hand pour.

I continue the examination with the finish, from the initial impression to several minutes later or even longer. If I have a chance I nose the glass the next day to see what's left although I don't score on this point.

I then look at the overall balance, are all the points in harmony or not. I try and not rush the process and if I have the opportunity I go back and examine the whisky after it has had a chance to sit in the glass a while.

The involvement of others and their opinions is a pleasant part of the process but I am not influenced by what they say when I score.

I remember that this process is enjoyable.
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Postby Frodo » Sat Sep 10, 2005 10:02 pm

Well I'll give it a go, but I'm alot less methodical than you Lawrence! I tend to use a wine tasting glass as a default choice, but in a pinch would use a brandy snifter for a laid-back speyside. The difference for me is the temperature of the whisky - and the concept of hand-warming.

I use the wine tasting glass because it has a stem which I can hold so that I do not heat up the glass with my hand, and because I like the way it funnels aromas to my nose. I never thought of varying the distance from my nose - nice idea thank you Lawrence! I usually dive right with my nose (after swirling) and sniff away. No subtlties - what a Gajin (sp)!!!

After a while, when I got the basics of the nose, I'll take a small sip if it's CS or a bigger one if 40%. Then I'll compare what it smells like with what it tastes like, and compare. I will also access my memory banks to see if it has "typical" flavours of it's region or distillation. I see if I can pick up the wood policy used, and any other notes of interest.

CS whiskies I will usually first try to find the "sweet spot" where I'm just able to enjoy drinking it without adding too much water. This involves tiny sips and adding bits of water to it. The darker the whisky, the more careful I am with adding water (evidence of sherry cask). I should say here that I don't usually like CS whiskies, but a few I like at CS (Blanton's) and some I can have with a just a bit of water (22yr Rosebank).

After a couple times like this, I can use Brandy snifters with light speysiders, and I like the way handwarming can bring out aromas from some of these shy(er) whiskies. I haven't tried this with heavier ones. I think I should - thanks Lawrence for the heads-up!

Frodo
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sat Sep 10, 2005 10:54 pm

My glass of preference is a snifter. I have inherited a pair that are smooth on the bottom inside (no dimple) and relatively flat, good for high surface area/volume ratio. Glencairn is second choice, then the Bruichladdich glass, which is flatter still at the bottom. I have no qualms about rinsing with hot water before use to help warm the dram, but I don't always do this. Nosing is rather haphazard; some whiskies beg to be smelled for hours, others don't do a lot for me. I don't think I have the best nose, and probably I could stand some tutoring. I always take quite small sips, especially if I am concentrating on tasting (as opposed to drinking). Just barely enough to cover the tongue, slowly, while noting how it is experienced differently on different parts of the tongue. Almost never use water; by taking small amounts, I can allow my own saliva to transport it toward the back of my mouth. (Someone else's saliva will do in a pinch. :roll: ) It should reach the back of my mouth barely needing to be swallowed. I will also sometimes inhale over my coated tongue--this helps to bring out more flavors. I do the same to help experience the finish.
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Postby Admiral » Sun Sep 11, 2005 5:41 am

How do I taste?

Frequently! :D

Not much point going into details, as those above have pretty much covered all the techniques.

Suffice it to say, I'm methodical, deliberate, and analytical in my approach to any whisky that I'm aiming to assess.

Cheers,
Admiral

P.S.

Even though I'm quite shy I'll give it a go


1800 posts and you call yourself shy?????? :wink: :lol:
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sun Sep 11, 2005 11:26 am

I attended a nosing/tasting masterclass hosted by Richard Paterson. He not only showed how to nose properly, (including swirling the first dram, discarding it and then nosing the refilled snifter) but how to address the sample when being introduced to it for the first time - he described it as acquaining yourself with a beautiful woman. You don't just go for it, you try and woo her!
He also gave us tastes of the sherry, madiera and wine in whose barrels/butts etc the whisky is finished. It made a load of sense and the accents of the wines are clearly identifiable in the whisky.
Try it - have a taste of, say Port, cleanse your palate and then taste the port expression of your choice. Brilliant!
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Postby hpulley » Sun Sep 11, 2005 1:09 pm

I generally stick my nose right into the glass and take a big sniff, and not just before the first sip like some people. I enjoy nosing whisky all the while. I take small and large sips, sometimes I hold it in my mouth but not always. Nothing special done there, no swishing, no wine tasting techniques. I just enjoy it.

I use different glasses depending on the whisky with narrow ones to concentrate the vapour of some weaker whiskies and wider ones for some overpowering cask strengths.

I've completely given up on adding any water whatsoever, even at cask strength I just take it as is.

Harry
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Postby Lawrence » Sun Sep 11, 2005 6:36 pm

1800 posts and you call yourself shy??????


I was wondering who would call me on that one............. :D
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Postby Frodo » Sun Sep 11, 2005 8:03 pm

Admiral wrote:
Even though I'm quite shy I'll give it a go


1800 posts and you call yourself shy?????? :wink: :lol:


I was thinking about that as well...
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Postby Tom » Sun Sep 11, 2005 8:15 pm

Nice posts. I have been collecting ways to taste from several sites and people in the business, I then added those to the method I already used and I have experimented with some things people here said, Lawrence and MrT, you had said these things before and I have tried them thoroughly. It works as a charm. This is how I do it for the moment:

Dont smoke for 30 minutes before the tasting. I could use some feedback on this one. I have tried this with a friend and we both find that cigarettes and especially cigars are a disaster for peat. It can even nullify the entire nose and taste of peat, replacing it with banana, wood and floral aromas.

First, nose a glass of water, thanks to Lawrence.

Pardon my language, but screw the color, it isnt gonna tell you anything in most cases except how caramelized it is.

Gently roll the glass to examine the body. This is usually confirmed in the mouthfeel. It can tell you the relative age and strength of the dram.

Then I nose the dram gently from a small distance paying attention to floral notes. Next is right above the glass slowly but more long then before and let the aroma's come. If they dont come naturally I usually look for floral notes first, then oak, then fruit. Then I swirl the glass and nose it again, depending on the strength of the nose, right above or inside the glass. Swirling will help release new aromas. Another trick is to move my nose above the glass from left to right and leaning your head towards a side, this is helpfull for detecting feints, but dont be suprised if the rest of the tasting party is giving you a weird look...
Also right before the first sip I repeat the nosing part but now warm the dram in my hands, this may take about a minute and the effect is especially pronounced with sherry matured malts.
Usually after these first nosing steps you get a good idea of how fruity, feinty, oaky and floral the dram is. But usually the nose changes alot with time in the glass and addition of water, so this process is repeated untill the dram is empty. After awhile in the glass and after sampling it there may arise new aroma's you didnt get before, cocoa is one of these, spices like ginger and cinnamon too. These seem to be more easy to detect when not specifically searching for them but suddenly are there when you put your nose a bit above the glass.

Next step is sampling. First I take a normal sip, not big, but not small either, a normal sip. Then I hold the whisky in the tongue and move it back and forwards. (I learnt this from Jim McEwan: if you do this for 5 seconds before swallowing, your tongue is able to detect temperature. After swallowing you will get a hot spot on your tongue, where this spot is located tells you the age! At the top of the tongue is young, say 10 to 14 years, gradually it moves towards the back of your tongue, 15 to 18 in the middle, and from then on in the back and in your throat. I have tried this with every malt I have at home and it works every single time!!) So after that I let the whisky fall from the sides of the tongue so every part of it was coated and gently swallow. Paying attention to the age detector and first impressions. Usually making notes of body, mouthfeel and sweetness here.And the first notes on the finish, length and primary taste in the aftertaste. With the second taste I add air in the mouth while the malt is on the tongue (thx mrT) This will usually though not always add more punch to the taste and complexity and it can make a relatively simple dram way more full flavored and complex, it also seems to bring out spicy flavors if they are there. This time paying attention to the different flavors and their balance with eachother. (What is most pronounced, undertone, accents, subtle hints etc.) And the same with the finish wich btw for me starts only after the top of the flavor. so always after swallowing, but never immediatly beginning when you have swallowed.

Then I add a few drops of water preferebly with a pippette, cover the glass and wait a bit. then do everything all over again and this time I search for details, if I wrote down citrusfruit before, look for lemon, orangezest, pineapple etc.

The last thing for my notes is the opinion, here I look for balance (what flavors are dominant and in what order and strength do the flavors develop), and complexity (How easy was it to pinpoint the different flavors and how do they interact with eachother, also how many layers were there? Some malts will never reveal themselfes completely!) and I add my overall opinion of the malt, how did I like it, this is completely subjective I know, but given my method of scoring this is like 10% of the total.

Lastly, have the rest of the dram at ease without looking for anything anymore,This is usually where I take larger sips. when its gone, I check my notes again and compare with the last samples I had, making mild modifications mainly to the opinion field.

Well, Thats how I do it for the moment, but im sure new things and tips will arise sooner or later.
Tom
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sun Sep 11, 2005 9:38 pm

Admiral wrote:
Even though I'm quite shy I'll give it a go


1800 posts and you call yourself shy?????? :wink: :lol:


Hey, it did take him over two years. Not like Mr Nothing-Else-To-Do here. :oops:

Most impressively thorough, Tom--I am amazed and humbled that I actually gave you something useful. (I don't think anybody taught me that, either.) I look forward to trying the aging trick--it's hard to believe, just on reading it.
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Postby jimidrammer » Sun Sep 11, 2005 11:28 pm

Tom, good process steps you take there, I shall incorporate some into my own methods. And I will try the aging thing tonight. One question, when you say "your method of scoring" could you explain how you divide it up? I never would have thought of including my quote or "opinion" in the overall score. I know Jim Murray breaks it down into nose, taste, finish, balance, then adds them together,but others lump them into one score. I tend to rate in relative terms to all other malts I've tasted, flawed as that may be it works for me. I would consider a different approach if I could see the benefit. Anyway your method above seems a good template for any tasting event.
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Mon Sep 12, 2005 8:27 am

Yes Tom, that was very impressive and very informative. Lot's of things to pick up for us - your fellow forum friends :)

Dont smoke for 30 minutes before the tasting. I could use some feedback on this one. I have tried this with a friend and we both find that cigarettes and especially cigars are a disaster for peat. It can even nullify the entire nose and taste of peat, replacing it with banana, wood and floral aromas.

From my tasting experience with wine I can tell you that smoking within half a day before the tasting session could and would in most cases ruin or partly damage the session. However, I suppose this is individual just as we all have a varying ability both in tasting and nosing. After I stopped smoking exactly 11 months and ten days ago it's another ballgame alltogether. Both my nosing and tasting abilities have vastly improved. Having said that I must admit my methods are not as developed and organised as yours.

However, there are many ways to skin a cat and this caught my attention:
Another trick is to move my nose above the glass from left to right and leaning your head towards a side, this is helpfull for detecting feints, but dont be suprised if the rest of the tasting party is giving you a weird look...

This is something I alwyas do, but I do it to detect scents of summer fruits or apples and peares. I know there's not a fixed formula of doing things and the more you put things into a system like you do the better the result is. Still, if you have the posibility to try then do this with the Bruichladdich 10 wich will reveal a lovely scent of apples and pears - and especially ripe pears!

Great post Tom!

Skål!
Christian
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Postby Tom » Tue Sep 13, 2005 6:20 pm

Thanks for the kind words. glad to see it is of use to somebody else too.
Jimidrammer, It is the Jim Murray system I use for scoring. but for opinion I take all three parts together, Balance, complexity and my own opinion. Usually I start with my balance and complexity, number it from 15 to 25, count everything together and think to myself, hmm is this indeed a 83 points whisky, or is it a 84? I allow myself to give 1 point more or less in opinion, based on my own totally subjective taste. It helps to compair it with another malt that I rated the same score and think is this better, or just as good?

In a comment from MrT a while ago, he stated that he cant stick a number on quality. well, I worked out a series of scores and wrote down how they differ next to them when I was assembling my method of scoring a long time ago. I'll post them here, it might bring people on ideas to make it easyer to score their malts.
Scores are up 25, but sometimes its easyer to transform the score to 10 or 100. Remember I score on nose, taste, finish and then opinion, so all scores apply only for these fields (When I say perfect, I mean I cant imagine how f.i. the finish could be better)

25--100 Perfect, There is no way this particular malt could improve.
24--96 As good as it gets, but there is room for just an accent more.
23--92 Sublime, but has some restrains.
22--88 Very good to excellent, suprisingly good.
21--84 Better then usual, slightly better then the standard.
20--80 Standard, good, nothing bad, but not too impressive.
19--76 Good, but has off notes.
18--72 Not bad, but is lacking a lot.
17--66 Dissapointing, but still has some potential, you have to search for positive points.
16--62 Very dissapointing, full of offnotes, bad, flawed, lifeless.
15--58 disgusting.

Scoring each step this way is quite easy after awhile and you will have a rather objective end score. Offcourse you can say, but you only score from 15--58... Well I like whisky, and call it respect if you like, but a spirit that has been made with such devotion and spent so long in a cask getting better deserves IMHO at least 58 points for making it in the bottle.

Any other views on scoring would also be appreciated btw. Mine is far from flawless.
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Postby Scotty Mc » Tue Sep 13, 2005 7:04 pm

I take a nice long sniff from one of those 'bell-shaped' glasses. I then drink it. To be honest, generally if it smells nice, then it'll taste nice. :wink:
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Sep 13, 2005 7:09 pm

Tom, I find it interesting how different people think about the subject of whisky. I'm not interested in putting a number on a dram; but I read assiduously the comments of those that do. It's all good (pardon the cliché).
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Re: How do you taste?

Postby patrick dicaprio » Tue Sep 20, 2005 1:44 pm

Tom wrote:Hello Everyone,
This afternoon I spent several hours reading how you "should" and "should not" taste whisky. I found some interesting points and some things I simply did not know. But what was really interesting is that there are so many different views on how to do it right.

So I was wondering how we "the malt fanatics" do it. Could anyone that is willing to share his experiences post here how exactly he/she samples any whisky?

This includes how to nose it (nose in the glass, above the glass, one, two, three sniffs etc),
use of water,
where you put your sences to first (what aroma's, flavors, cask etc that you probe for firstly).where you pay special attention to, what are you looking for in general...
How do you experience the mouthfeel, body in your mouth, tongue,
big or small sips,
when and how do you experience the finish...
simply put, everything there is to experience and how exactly you do it. This is something not only myself, but alot of people not as experienced like most here can learn from, so I would apreciate it if we can stay on topic on this one, I will keep the results and try all of them myself so as many as possible opinions are welcome, including total beginners, dont be shy, I know you are all here reading all these posts.


you have some good advice from others, which i wont repeat. two things that really helped me out were inhaling while the whisky is on my tongue and also sniffing from many different levels, moving the glass closer to your nose as you go. good luck!

Pat
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