They usually feel overwhelmed at the start. Yet by the third or fourth sample, their smiles get a little wider, their voices get a little louder and their descriptions become more florid.
Rum tasting: Eight to try
A spirits tasting is a much more raucous affair than a wine tasting. I’ve been teaching spirits courses at a wine school, and it is always the same: People look at the four flights and their eyes widen. But by the end of the second round, the sommelier in the class next door usually knocks on the door and asks us to settle down.
A recent tasting of aged rums among several friends got me thinking: Why don’t more people host spirits tastings? By now, wine tastings are pretty standard. Most people who love wines have probably opened a number of bottles to sip and compare across styles and grapes. But although you occasionally hear of an expensive Scotch, tequila or Cognac dinner at a nice restaurant, you rarely hear of people hosting more informal tasting parties at home.
Given the growing popularity of spirits, I feel
like it’s high time for enthusiasts to consider hosting a tasting party this summer. So I’m going to offer tips on how to do just that.
First, a major geek alert: An undertaking like this is for people who have been getting deeper and deeper into the world of spirits and cocktails. Maybe you’ve got a growing collection of bitters and foreign bottles, and have started making special cocktails at home. If this describes you — and there are definitely more and more of us — I can assure you there is no better way to ramp up your knowledge than a comparative tasting around a category or theme.
My most recent rum tasting was a great example. Over the past few years I have collected rums of varying ages, styles and geographic locations. I was interested in how aging affected different rums, so I put together several rounds of tastings, or flights, based on age. Four friends and I tasted from youngest to oldest, taking our time, writing notes and then discussing and debating our thoughts after each flight.
In the end, we all came away with a better understanding of how different rums age and how it affects tastes. More important, we learned our own preferences.
There are several key differences between a spirits tasting and a wine tasting. The first is how one actually tastes. Unlike at a wine event, where you vigorously swirl the liquid in your glass to release aromas and “open up” the wine, you don’t want to agitate spirits so much. If you vigorously swirl a 100-proof rum or bourbon, all you’re going to get is a face full of alcohol.