How To Taste Gin
1. Choose the right glass
The type of glass you use is personal preference. You can use any glass, but the best way to taste and compare different gins, is with a small glass such as a Glencairn tasting glass, that is bulbous at the bottom for swirling and tapered at the top to concentrate aromas, allowing you to experience the nose and flavours more.
If you have more than one glass, you can set up a flight and compare more than one gin side by side. This is a great way to compare the nose and palate. If you are doing a gin flight, you do steps 2 and 3 first for all the gins (ie observe and smell all without tasting), then do step 4. This is because the mouth and nasal passages are connected. So as soon as you taste one, it will influence the nose of all of them and you won't be able to smell anything different!
2. Prepare your gin and a pen and paper
Make sure your gin is at room temperature. For the first tasting, try your gin without mixers or garnishes.
Have a pen and paper at the ready to record your impressions of the nose and palate. Better still, purchase a Liquor Loot Tasting Journal featuring a flavour wheel to help prompt ideas. Sometimes it's difficult to think of names of aromas and flavours. Plus it's a great place to store all your notes in one handy location for future reference.
3. Smell slowly & gently
To really taste gin, you need to smell it. This is called 'the nose'. Swirl the glass to help unleash the aromas, then gently move your nose towards the glass and away again and repeat. Or you can move the glass from left to right and back, side to side under your nose. Some tasters circle the glass 360 degrees underneath their nose. Find what works best for you.
The idea is to find something the smell reminds you of eg is it fruity, floral, herbaceous, spicy? Can you smell almonds, orange peel, limes, pineapple, lavender, elderflower, mint, sage, eucalyptus, cinnamon or ginger? Take your time, 30 seconds to a minute and write down what you identify.
4. Savour the taste
Take a small sip and let your palate adjust to those flavours (particularly if you are tasting more than one gin in a session), then take another sip and then record what you taste. Does it differ from the nose? Focus on what immediately pops into your head. There is no right or wrong answer.
If you're having trouble picking up on flavours, it can help to aerate the gin by sucking in some air and swirling it around with the gin at the same time in your mouth. This helps your mouth and nasal passages to work together, giving you a stronger indication of the flavour profile. This is similar to how people do professional wine tasting. Similar to wine, aerating gin helps to release aromas.
5. Focus on the finish
The flavours that linger in your mouth after you swallow the gin are called the 'finish'. The different parts of your mouth (or palate) will pick up on different flavours.
6. Add mixers and/or garnishes
Once you have tried all the gins, add your mixers and garnishes and be taken on a different taste journey!