Learning about flavours

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JaRiMi
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Fri Dec 19, 2008 11:41 pm

I have occasionally discussed the topic of learning flavours with fellow rum and whisky enthusiasts. Personally I find a very good way to learn to identify things in the bouquet and also in the palate of rums and whiskies is to select a bunch of tasty items as well as spices and both smell and taste them, taking time (and water) in between, and try to memorize their specific characters. This way when I taste rums or whiskies, I can better distinguish & identify flavours.

So, just collect some basic aromatic spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom, dried ground orange peel, allspice, dried flower petals, etc etc., some other basic things like dried apricots, coconut husk & ground dry coconut flakes, mango, raisins, plum, honey (maybe even different varieties like acacia etc), and also maybe some things like brown sugar, and start sniffing & tasting. One can add any number of things to these; heather, peat, fresh cut grass, hay, - you get the idea. Bring another dimension to this by adding some alcoholic products like different types of portwine or sherry (helps in identifying the cask influence in spirits that are double matured).

I personally feel that this type of exercise assists in identifying things in what we smell and taste, and it can also be good fun.

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Count Silvio
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Sat Dec 20, 2008 10:44 am

An excellent topic you've started.

I was just talking about this the other night to Theodore when I was writing the Berry Bros review, I couldn't identify a familiar fruit aroma in the rum and thought that I probably need to do exactly what you've suggested. Often I know the aroma is there but I cannot quite pinpoint what it actually is.

I would also like to add that doing the same with different desserts might be a good idea, sometimes the aromas can be sort of mashed up together and describing them as "crème brûlée", for instance, might work better than trying to separate the specific aromas.

At the Rum Fest, on the El Dorado stand, Stefanie Holt had a collection of different jars with different spices and dried fruit, molasses etc, and I thought making a collection like this at home might be fun and useful. Furthermore it might also be good practise if you, after getting somewhat familiar with the aromas, did a blind aroma test because afterall you will not be able to see these aromas in your glass thats full of rum/whiskey/whatever.
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tiare
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Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:05 am

Its a very good idea. I have been thinking of doing that myself ever since i saw Pauls pic of the jars from IPbartenders office at the MOR: http://www.ministryofrum.com/forums/sho ... php?t=1401

i just haven´t had the time yet.
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JaRiMi
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Sat Jan 10, 2009 9:52 pm

I enjoy cooking at least as much as I enjoy good rum, so our kitchen & fridge is absolutely filled with spices, spice mixes, pastes and all sorts of sauces from all over the world. Every time I travel, I try to visit supermarkets and buy some local flavours. At summertime I really enjoy growing fresh herbs outside also. My wife loves dried tropical fruits, so these are also abundantly present here.

When I taste rums at home, sometimes I scour & seek through my spices, looking to see exactly what is that strangely familiar flavour or smell I recognize in the rum (or whisky). All in good fun of course, not to make things too serious!!

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tiare
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Sat Jan 10, 2009 11:25 pm

Hey, your kitchen sounds just like mine!

JaRiMi
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Sun Jan 11, 2009 12:12 am

tiare wrote:Hey, your kitchen sounds just like mine!
Hehee, people are always shocked when they see my kitchen.

"So, you have a ton of spices there eh".." - yup

"Whats in that big closet?" - More spices..

"No way!! Ohh, its true!! And what are all these jars & bottles in your fridge?!" - Ahem, more spices..spice pastes..and sauces..

"Good God man! You actually use all of them in cooking, do you?" - Yes I certainly do, what you think I buy them for, looking at?!?

Today I cooked some New England clam chowder soup for a starter, then continued with lobster-flavoured pasta (using a natural lobster flavouring concentrate with some New Orleans crab concentrate to get some of that crustacean flavour to the fresh pasta), with large simply grilled prawns and scallops, served with a simple olive-oil based herb dressing, decorated with parsley. It was nice..enjoyed with a New Zealand white wine.

:-)

Arctic Wolf
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Tue Sep 21, 2010 2:43 am

One way I tease out a flavour (actually an aroma) is that I leave a tiny amount of whisky (or rum) in a small glass and let the liquid evaporate over a few hours. The residue left will have very little alcohol taint and give a glimpse into some of the left over aroma. Adding a touch of hot water will sometimes release more aromatic vapour into the air and tease out what might otherwise be missed. Afterwards, I sniff and taste the actual spirit again seeing if I can identify the same aroma or flavour. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't. There have been times where I can smell a certain aroma this way and then identify it as an underlying flavour during a tasting later. I never report the aroma or flavour in a review unless i can smell or taste it in the full spirit afterwards.

(I learned this tip from Davin de Kergommeaux , a whisky specialist and one of the founders of Malt Maniacs who was kind enough to share a tip or two with me. I must admit I am not really smart enough to think this up on my own.)

lwtcs
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Sat Oct 02, 2010 12:12 pm

Ecellant tip indeed. Very helpful with the spiced rums I would imagine.

As an aside:
Some notes can change or develope at different rates depending on the abv or barrel strenth of the likker within the barrel (55% vs 65%), the lenth of time contained in the barrel, the degree of char within the barrel, or as with the silvers (white rums) the age of the barrel and finally the size of the barrel..........and certainly the species of wood
Spitting in the dunder pit when all eyes are elsewhere.

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