The Slippery Slope At The Spirits Tasting


In a few weeks’ (ah shit!) time I’ve got my spirits exam for my WSET Diploma. I used to think spirits were shite and over rated, as when I was younger I hadn’t any kind of inclination to bother find out about them. I was used to drinking the crappest and cheapest stuff in the supermarket to get me pissed and that was that. The studying has opened my eyes and it’s a race against time to try as many as I can and get that spirits’ palate up to scratch.

Massive Room of Spirits

I got an invite down to the Enotria tasting at the Saatchi Gallery in London a couple of weeks back. Enotria are one of the biggest importers of booze into the UK and then sell their stuff to bars and restaurants and independent shops. The place is full of sommeliers and retail managers and a few bits and pieces of the press to check out what the UK’s going to be drinking this year ahead. That’s kind of what I’m meant to be doing, but right now it was all about heading to the spirits room and getting a chat on with the producers.

When Exam Panic Grips

Ok it seems obvious that if you’re in a blind tasting exam you’d pick out a gin from a whisky. At least you’d hope so, right? But what about a blended whisky from a malt whisky? An aged Tequila from a young one? Ok, again, spirits drinkers will be laughing at that, but for me with very little experience, that’s not the easiest. Especially under the exam panic!

Grappa and Brandy

It’s one of those things, you go big or you go home, so I started with Grappa, the Italian spirit made from old grape skins. The guys at Nonino opened my eyes to this much maligned booze, so a post especially on Grappa is on its way. Next off to my favourite brandy area, Armagnac, although sorry to say it, I’ll still be struggling to tell a Cognac and an Armagnac apart in a blind tasting, please don’t hit me! And before heading to the generalists, I managed to sneak in a bit of Cachaça from the boys at Salto.

Whisky Minefield

Also a huge thanks goes to the Diageo stand. Diageo have a huge array of spirits brands, and they had a Tennesee Whiskey, an Irish Whiskey, and a Scotch Blended Whisky. And they let me just crack on with the comparative tasting. It’s the only way to do it. If you’re getting into spirits then sign up for a tasting session somewhere. Having tried and failed to distinguish different whiskies by tasting them on their own, have them all together. Just make sure you write your notes down, cos after 3 or 4 your memory’s going to be a bit fried.

Thanks so much to all involved, and any spirits nutters out there with tips for me? Send them in please!!




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