You might think that wine is the focus of my profession, but a sommelier must be just as prepared to offer advice on spirits as well.
This is one of the reasons why the Diploma course has a unit dedicated solely to spirits of the world, including:
Other, more specialised spirits (for example, mezcal, pisco and pastis) are covered as well.
Given the distinct characteristics that separate spirits from wine, an entirely separate Systematic Approach to Tasting (SAT) has been developed by the WSET to objectively categorise spirits.
During my studies I developed a note for spirits, modelled directly on the Rational Wine Note.
I now offer it here for your personal use:
Similar to the updated Rational Wine Note, I have presented it as a four-page document for double-sided, two-per-page printing.
You’ll quickly notice some key differences between the spirits note and the wine note:
- Different set of colour designations
- Maturation categories
- Simpler scale, no Medium(+/-)
In addition, when tasting spirits it is recommended to add a few drops of water to bring out more of its aromas and flavours, as these become more volatile in the presence of water.
Water also exposes anise-flavoured spirits via louching, causing the solution to become milky/cloudy.
Of course, when objectively tasting spirits you should always have them neat.
This is in contrast to real-world situations where patrons would usually ask for spirits to be mixed, whether in a cocktail or simply with soda.
By learning to taste spirits neat, you will develop a deeper appreciation of what exactly goes into your cocktail. Who knows, you might eventually change your tastes, no longer ordering that bourbon+coke or gin+tonic that was your go-to order at the bar.
Read more: The 3 Gateways of Wine