On numerous occasions we have guests who come in to a tasting and when I say the words; 'I would like to encourage you to taste it neat', the look on their faces scares me too. Look, it's not like you go to a bar and ask for a shot of neat gin. It's usually tequila, Jager, or vodka. Now she's asking me to taste it neat?!
There is method to my madness. I had a gentleman in the distillery who told me he had never tasted brandy neat, yet is a brandy drinker. How does he drink his brandy then? Of course a few blocks of ice and Cola, or diet Cola. So when I asked him what he liked about his preferred brandy brand, he couldn't really tell me. Nevertheless he told me that when we do make a brandy, it must taste just like his preferred brand.
Spirits can be complicated beverages if they are made the authentic way. Some are rested before bottling, others aged for years in different storage mediums such as tanks, casks and glass vessels. Botanical spirits are all infused with different spices and herbs which lead to the final flavour. But we were never educated to taste it neat first. Its always promoted in a way that shows us how to mix it or make it into a cocktail. Nothing wrong with that, but as a consumer who buys spirits for off-consumption, its best you taste it neat first and then add your preferred ice, mix or even water. That way you can decide what your perfect serve would be instead of filling 70% of your glass with a mix that completely masks the flavour of the spirit.
On that note, I would like to encourage you to taste it neat...first.
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