Paul Pacult entertains and educates with his seven steps of tasting in the “How Good Is Your Palate” seminar at Tales of the Cocktail ’09. From what the nose knows to what the taste buds pick up in flavor is all packed into this hour and a half session with six clear to brown spirits to sample.

Paul Pacult Seminar 2 photo copyright Cheri Loughlin

The session began by learning about the Pernod Ricard BarSmarts program that teaches about tasting spirits and then mixology. Learning the spirits first is the most basic step to creating cocktails. First one needs to know what base spirits taste like before beginning to marry other ingredients to each other.

Paul created quite a chuckle in the crowd when he mentioned that women are better tasters than men, most likely due to the fact that women have a better sense of smell. He also talked about his year of headaches created through tasting cured through a sit down session with Booker Noe. Helpful hint while sampling learned from Booker Noe: Leave your lips parted while inhaling the spirits to help ventilate the spirits. It cuts the alcohol burn on the nose.

There are seven steps to tasting spirits according to Paul Pacult. When he tastes it is always for enjoyment even though this is his profession as well. He takes 20 minutes per spirit with 15 minutes focused on the smell alone. Smell and taste work hand in hand. When tasting, take two sips. One to clear the palate and the second to actually taste. Soak the spirit into the tongue to decipher the flavor and feel of the spirit.

Paul Pacult Seminar 1 photo copyright Cheri Loughlin

Seven Steps of Tasting:

Don’t think too much. This isn’t rocket science. This is just tasting. Enjoy.

Follow a format to tasting every time. 

Build a reference library in your head. 

Taste blind whenever you can. Don’t allow labels or price sway your basis of taste. It isn’t about price, label or pedigree. Tasting blind keeps your senses sharper. Keep things simplistic.

What does the spirit NOT have in it.

Do not overtax your palate. Paul tastes a max of 10.

Taste as much as you can responsibly as often as you can. Taste flights at bars whenever available. Taste the spirits at a pace that is healthy and consistent.

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Paul Pacult: How Good Is Your Palate