Assess how the spirit appears in the glass. Is it clear or a bit hazy? What colour is it?
As we’re looking at gin, we want it to be clear and water-white. If there is any dullness, it could be faulty. Some unfiltered gins may go a little hazy when you add water. This is OK.
If there is a slight lemon tone this could be the result of ageing. While this is rare in gin, wood ageing is becoming more popular and can come through in the colour and taste.
Tip: Add a drop of water to the glass before you nose it to help release the aromas and soften the alcohol!
When nosing a spirit there is no need to swirl the glass vigorously. This will release a lot of alcohol and could give you quite an unpleasant shock. Sniff gently and try to build up a picture of the aromas slowly. You will not pick everything up in one go.
How intense are the aromas? As gin is fundamentally flavoured vodka, we would expect it to be quite light and delicate.
The distiller is trying to create a balance of aromas. A classic recipe for a London dry gin includes coriander seeds, citrus peel, angelica root and orris root. The coriander and citrus are spicy and bright, sitting ‘above’ the juniper. The roots are rich and savoury and appear ‘below’ the juniper. Think of it like a musical chord; they are always more interesting than one simple note.
Take a sip and let it coat your mouth. When it is in your mouth it is important to think of two things: how it tastes and how it feels.
The flavours and their intensity should be similar in your mouth to on the nose. But how does the gin feel? Ideally, it will be slightly warming, smooth and mouth-coating. If it feels slightly burning, that is not normally a good sign.
Lastly, assess the nature and length of the finish. How many flavours could you taste and how did they develop in the mouth? Did they linger after the first sip or did it have a clean end? Gin complexity can vary but the very best gins have long complex finishes.
Consider whether the aromas were balanced and complex, the length of the finish and whether the gin had an overall smooth texture. Think about the notes you have written and grade the spirit. Then use your notes to compare several different types and decide your personal favourites.
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