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Learning to Taste Dept: A series

 
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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot


Joined: 11 Dec 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2015 3:31 am    Post subject: Learning to Taste Dept: A series Reply with quote

Hi all...


Don't know how far this one will go, but I ressurected one of collected books on what might be called the "art" of tasting. These books include:


    Whiskey & Philosophy by Charles MacLean,
    How to Taste by Janis Robinson,
    Questions of Taste by Barry C. Smith,
    Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher, and...


..."Taste, What You're Missing" by Barb Stucky, the book that I just picked up again, and will begin the series soon. These are all substantial works that discuss whiskey, wine, beer and food. Although tasting wheels can be useful in helping us to consider, find and develop our descriptors, there are more basic elements that underlie all tastes and aromas, as well as some more sophisticated considerations.

Now please don't think that tasting and reviewing is just for the expert. Believe me when Sue Sea and I started we too were quite naive. But with time and experience all of us can improve our skills and believe me, it will pay off in both your understanding and enjoyment.

Tip: all the entries in this series will use a subject line beginning with "Learning to Taste", so just use "search" to find them all. They will also be numbered.

Enjoy! Coming up... the basics.
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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot


Joined: 11 Dec 2006
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Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 6:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

First, the old standard stuff...


Most of us I'm sure are familiar with the notion of taste receptors in the mouth, which includes not only the tongue but the cheeks - a cheeky notion, eh? The "basic tastes" ususally cited are salt, sweet, bitter and sour. You'll also find floating around the notion that certain parts of the tongue are more sensitive to one or another of these (there is not much real proof of this).

Nowadays, more and more recognition is being given to "umami" or savoriness. Asian people have long known about umami, and finally, the Western world and chefs now agree that it is likely a basic taste. It's a little hard to explain, but we'll get there later.


Now let's go state-of-the-art

The above five are now widely accepted, but there's growing evidence of a likely sixth basic taste: fat. Although this one will not likely apply to spirits, it's still good for you to know about. Other candidates seem to be "calcium" and "carbonation", but won't be discussed here.

Here's the good news: it is well said that most of us can indeed distinguish the basic five (which includes umami). Although each of these will be discussed briefly, there are some aspects of the five that do relate to rum and spirits in general.

Last, it is important to know that when we taste anything, we tend to experience them as a group, and not individually. Stuckey gives the visual example of the color "green" (which is a mixture of the basic colors of 75% yellow and 25% blue). But we experience the sum of the components as "green". Capish?

Of course. My goal is to cover these briefly, then get into some taste effects that we as tasters of spirits will really appreciate, for example "astringency", dryness/sweetness, and the like. Of course you will also do yourself a BIG favor by getting a good color wheel, the best one being developed by the University of California.

Carry on... btw, I am curious about what you think of this series What have your experiences been with tasting? What techniques do you use? Do you have a taste wheel and use it? Your participation is always welcomed. Thanks.
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 5:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is there any interest in getting into the fine points of tasting? I hesitate spending too much time on a subject unless you feel its of use to you...

Comments?
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da'rum
Minor God


Joined: 29 Aug 2012
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 7:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am not really that interested as I prefer to disengage the brain, put my feet up and relax when enjoying a dram.

Having said that, if uou put the effort in I'd read it.
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just for fun...


Let's start with "astringency".

"Astringency" is descriptor you'll often run across in tasting descriptions, and once you know what you're dealing with, you'll soon be easily able to note it. The definition? Astringency is actually a synonym for "tannic". It is best described as a sort of "puckery" feeling. Think of chewing a walnut skin, the skin of a dark grape, certain red wines, unsweetened cranberries and some rums.

Astringency is best described as a drying, puckery feeling most often experienced on the sides of the tongue and cheek. It should NOT be confused with "bitter" or "sour"(although some bitter and/or sour foods are also tannic). Rather, "tannic" or "astringent" is not a taste but a mouthfeel.

Janis Robinson notes that the drying, puckery sensation is mostly experienced on the gums, sides of the mouth, and sometimes the roof of the mouth (not so much on the tongue). If you want to experience astringency, brew up a good, extra strong and dark cup of tea - no sugar - and take a sip. You could also chew the skin of a very dark or black grape. That's astringency.

The term tannic refers to tannins, which are actually a component of especially new wood, which leaches tannins into the relatively young rum. This is another reason younger rums are altered with copious amounts of sugar, which is intended to counter the astringency, smooth and sweeten the young, tannic rum. Adding vanilla helps as well.


About "bitter" and "sour"...

These two descriptors are actual tastes, and differ from the mouthfeel of tannins. Most people confuse bitter and sour. Here's how you can easily discover the difference:

Squeeze two lemon and divide the juice into two small glasses.

1. from the first glass of pure lemon juice take a sip. What you are experiencing is mostly sour (you may also notice a drying, tannic sensation.

2. to the second glass add a pinch of salt, and stir well, dissolving all the salt, and take another sip. The salt will mask any bitterness, and what you are tasting now is pure "sour".

3. now cut a piece of lemon rind and chew it for 30 seconds: this is almost pure "bitter".

Mind you both bitter and sour are tastes, not mouthfeels, and now you should know the difference.


Hope that helps. Through these simple experiments with tea, lemons and salt you now should have a much better idea of what these decriptors actual mean, taste and feel like. You might have the tea, two glasses of lemon juice and rind all handy, compare and contrast until you "get" it.

What do you think? I'd love to hear that some of you tried this and what you experienced...
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Last edited by Capn Jimbo on Thu Feb 26, 2015 4:45 am; edited 1 time in total
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The Black Tot
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Joined: 21 Aug 2014
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Location: Houston TX and Caterham, UK

PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just adding that I am reading this series with interest
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mamajuana
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Joined: 16 Nov 2014
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 4:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you want a rum that shows "astrigency" then try Caliche rum straight up no ice. This rum rum represents this quality incredibly it will make you "pucker up." There is no fake vanilla, and I would estimate little to no added sugar in this rum. I have tasted many of the fakes and I can say this is legitimate but straight astringent!

Last edited by mamajuana on Wed Feb 25, 2015 4:46 pm; edited 1 time in total
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mamajuana
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Joined: 16 Nov 2014
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mamajuana wrote:
If you want a rum that shows "astrigency" then try Caliche rum straight up no ice. This rum rum represents this quality incredibly it will make you "pucker up." There is no fake vanilla, and I would estimate little no added sugar in this rum. I have tasted many of the fakes and I can say this is legitimate but straight astringent!
I also found another dark rum that well represents this called Pampero Aniversario to show this quality but estimate additives. There are also a few white rums that must use additives to cover this and smooth out this astringent aspect from their product for the masses one that comes to mind right away being Atlantico Platino. The main theme being that "astrigency" is not popular in the US market in my opinion.
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schlimmerdurst
Cabin Boy


Joined: 23 Aug 2015
Posts: 24
Location: Germany

PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 8:15 pm    Post subject: Go on! Reply with quote

Please continue this series! It's really interesting.

Personally, I have often the problem when nosing or tasting a spirit that I really know that I smell something that I'm familiar with - but I just can't find the correct association or word to put it down.

Do you know that feeling? Often it's solved by looking for professional tasters' description - suddenly, you get the inspiration: of course this smell is ripe passion fruit! How is it possible I wasn't able to pin that myself?

I assume it's, as the Capn said, training. The more you taste, the better you get at associating smells and tastes to the words. Personally, I'm at the very beginning - but I noticed that I'm really getting better at it over the months.

One other thing: I think it really only works with quality spirits that really HAVE complex aromas to sniff for. You can get mad when trying to describe the "aromas" of a Jim Beam White Label... Twisted Evil
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araprado613
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Joined: 10 Feb 2016
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2016 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a really interesting thread Smile
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