You may have heard the term, Tequila "Flight", and more precise- a Horizontal or Vertical flight. Look at it as a taste comparison. A horizontal flight is a group of tequilas (usually 3) in THE SAME age category. For example, you might choose three Reposados. If you do this, get tequilas produced by different distilleries (NOM numbers on the back of each bottle should differ) and try to get different ages within the age category.
If you don't know good tequilas to buy, look up information on the internet, Tequila.net, Tequila MatchMaker, LongIslandLouTequila.com or simply ask the expert in a good liquor store. Notice if one Repo is aged 4 months, while the others may be 6 months or 11 months. You will learn the difference in the aging while still being from the same category and your guests will be able to better distinguish differences between the three tequilas.
A vertical flight is a group of tequilas (often 3), generally from the same distillery, that are of DIFFERENT age categories. The most common vertical flight begins with a Blanco, then move to a Reposado, and then to an Añejo. A vertical flight is a good way to expose your guests to the variations in age category, and it is easier to immediately discern differences in taste from one tequila to another. I RECOMMEND THIS FIRST. I have done this with Casa Noble, as I have all three ages. This is a fun, interesting thing to do. When you taste tequila- your decision on how it tastes, is about 15% visual- 60% aroma and 25% is taste.
There are a few ways to do a tasting, and eventually you can cover up the bottles (have someone pour different tequilas in glasses and keep it secret until later), and "blindly" rate and score in a perfect environment, but for now let's get familiar with an easy entry level way to do it and have some fun. ALL you really need is 3 bottles of tequila, plain crackers, water, 3 or more pads, 3 or more pencils, yourself and a few friends. I like to say "blind tasting is eye opening."
I recommend you taste tequila in a wine glass or champagne style flute, the Riedel Ouverture glass being the perfect vessel to use. A small snifter is fine or in a pinch, or any similar wine glasses where the mouth tapers in from the bowl will do. SEE MY VIDEO on GLASSWARE HERE-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLdFObEkKns&t=1s
Get 3 or more of the SAME glass, depending on how many people are coming. Fill the same amount in each glass...not much, about 3 ounces.
For a Vertical Flight, buy 3 bottles of the same brand in the 3 stages of age- Blanco, Reposado and Anejo. You can start with an inexpensive brand if you like, and even if you have a limited choice, most larger stores will have the 3 Patrons, Avions, Casa Noble or Cabo Wabo's.
Have some friends over who would like this, eat plain crackers between tastes to neutralize your mouth and drink some water as well. There are professional tasting charts- (SEE ONE BELOW), but just take your own notes and learn on your own, the first time out. Drink, Compare, Learn, Enjoy and Rate. Put your comments down, and in the end you will know if you prefer blanco, or the aged tequilas, you will have fun, get a buzz, and hopefully have some tequila left over. For Rating tequilas- I believe in the 6 S's. It's important to learn the right way.
1- SEE- is it Clear? as it should be very clear. Sometimes if the blanco is rested (less than 2 months) it can be slightly off clear. Hold glass tilted towards light, preferably against a white background. Is it rich or pale looking? is it dull? clear or cloudy? Is the oil thick or light?
2- SWIRL- Go swirl the glass, tilting it away from you and look for the legs or tears of the agave. These suggest essential oils in the tequila. A lot of this is from glycerine, which occurs naturally in distillation. The long legs should be continuous, and not break quickly, to show the tequila has retained its essential oils. Look for bright and, in the case of Reposado and Añejo, saturated color. Blanco should be clear and "crystal like" without occlusions or sediment. Swirling the liquid releases some of the molecules into the air for the next step.
3- SNIFF- Open your mouth a small amount and gently sniff the glass. Opening while you sniff, helps avoid the tears that alcohol can bring and gets your nose ready. This is NOT wine, remember this is 80 proof alcohol, so don't over-saturate your nose. Smell is 60-70% of what you will taste, so do it right. Because it has a lot more alcohol than wine, and alcohol rises quickly, there will be more alcohol at the top of the glass, so different parts will have different aromas. Try to sniff different areas of the glass to see what you can get, and you might try sniffing through each nostril one after the other. Different people will be able to pick out different aromas, depending on your susceptibility to spiciness, herbal aromas and so on.
4- SIP- Sip a small amount, to get your palate used to the alcohol and hold the tequila in your mouth for about 10 seconds, while sucking in a bit of air. Move it around a bit to get it over your tongue, and suck in some air over top of the tequila to bring the aromas up to your nose again. Try to hit all of the flavor receptors: Salty, Bitter, Sweet, and Acidity. Breathe out through your nose before swallowing. There are different taste zones on your tongue, be sure the tequila washes over the entire tongue. Is it thin and acidic or is it rich and velvety? Does it give your mouth a warm glow? Some experts spit it out at this point...but NOT us...haha
5- SWALLOW/SAVIOR- Feel it in your mouth (mouth-feel), really taste it and let in drip down slowly as you swallow, so you can appreciate the taste, and evaluate the finish or aftertaste. How does it taste and feel as you swallow and enjoy it? How is the Finish? Is there an after taste? Does it dissipate quickly or have a long lasting finish (exit)? Do you like it? Is the Tequila light and crisp? Is it soft and full-bodied? Is it rough or smooth? Is the tequila hot and spicy or sweet overall? Is it excessively peppery or alcoholic?
6- SCORE- You can make a quick list yourself or download one from the internet. I like to use a simple system I developed. It's a 1-5 rating for Smoothness/Drinkability and a 1-5 rating for Taste/Enjoyability (5 being the highest). I describe each taste profile, and comment on my personal spreadsheet. Write down the descriptive words or phrases that come to mind.
Remember- the main object here, is to have fun and learn something.
**Some basic flavors in Blanco are: Pepper, Citrus, Sweet agave and Herbs, being the focal point. The agave nose (sweet but powerful) should be foremost**, and **"nose" (smell) all the aromas, and remember the smell is 60% of how you will think it tastes**. The **taste will be sharp, clean and crisp**. Do you smell and taste: Citrus, Mint, Vanilla, Anise (Licorice), Grass, Nuts, Fruits (like apple and pear), Brine (olives), Spice or maybe Vegetal? **Does it have a sharp bite, or is it "hot", meaning the alcohol is more noticeable in the taste?** Does it have a chemical taste, or do you taste smoke? **It should have a slightly oily finish, and I love an oily mouth-feel.**
Reposados take on the presence of the wood, and you'll start to detect oak and vanilla.
With anejos and extra anejos, the wood is more assertive, and common traits tend to be vanilla, cinnamon, caramel, chocolate, and coffee. You might even detect banana, avocado or dry nuts.
Tequilas can be earthy, citrusy or floral, but should not be acidic or sour, and the finish should not be metallic or salty, or any chemical taste. The alcohol will always be noticeable, but should not be a highlight in reposados or añejos, so no 'hot' finishes.
What's very important, is the length of the Aftertaste, or Finish. A tequila that disappears virtually the moment you spit or swallow it, probably lacks concentration or was made from marginal ingredients. An outstanding spirit lingers on your palate for 20 to 30 seconds and sometimes longer.
An expert in tasting tequila is called a catador, but we all have to start somewhere, so let's have some fun, learn the basics correctly and.... ENJOY
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