The Basics of First Tasting

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Stepping up your tasting game for first-time tastings requires following some tips. You got to do it like a pro, and let's face it, no one knows the tricks beforehand. Anyone who knows anything about spirit tasting will vouch for the fact that it is a specialised skill, there is a method and art to it, and to get to the point of being great at it, some practice is a must.

Experts, for the most part, agree that when tasting a drink for the first time, it helps to follow certain basics to have a truly organic and authentic experience. You don't want to rush it, but that said, you don't want to linger on too much as well. The speed, the balance, the sipping, the taking in has to be just right for it to be a genuinely pleasurable experience.

Here are a few basics to get you started:

1. Try to keep your taste buds clean at least an hour or so before the tasting. What this means is that it is a good idea to ditch anything with a strong flavour, e.g. onions, mint, coffee et al. Point being, you don’t want any lingering flavours to be there in your mouth already as they can interfere with the flavours of the spirit you are going to taste.

2. Do not attempt to drink off the bottle. While this might seem the most natural thing, given that tastings are meant to be sophisticated affairs and not some house party at your mate's home where everyone is ditching the glasses, this needs to be emphasized. Tastings are meant to be done by pouring the spirit into an appropriate glass. In most cases, if you are doing this at a facility, they will have the right kind of glass for you. If you are doing this at home, look for something that can capture and hold the aroma.

3. No matter what spirit you are tasting, an essential basis of first tasting is that the alcohol should be at room temperature. The whole point of first tastings is to fully embrace the raw and unfiltered flavours of the drink that one is tasting, and this is best done when the spirit is at its natural temperature. Putting something into the chiller before you taste it for the first time will kill or overshadow some of the delicate or lighter notes, and you will never really get the accurate picture of what the actual taste of the spirit is.

4. Smelling before sipping. That is the rule. This is especially true for wine. The thing is, when it comes to spirits, the nose plays a significant role. You smell the aroma before you sip the drink to get a sense of the flavour. There is a method to this, though. Be careful about not digging your nose into the glass, or you run the risk of being confronted by a powerful sensation. Instead, hold the glass at a distance and inhale. This will lead to a gentler experience.

5. The sipping has to be slow and consistent. You also need to make sure you move and distribute the liquid all around the mouth, so the taste is even and balanced. In doing so, you will be able to experience the full range of sensations in all their glory. Plus, slowing down the sipping helps you concentrate on each element before spitting it out. You sip, you swirl, you process, you spit, and then you sip again. That's' it, and that's that.

Eventually, not all tastings are the same and getting the most out of the experience is dependent on several factors, including individual tastes. That said, following some simple steps can go a long way in making the most of each such outing.