At this point, you should know there’s more to consider than whether you “like” or “dislike” the drink you’re tasting. There are countless variables that make up a beverage, so you should take your time dissecting every element of the drink. If you happen to be in the process of creating your own beverage, then your ability to evaluate your samples becomes even more crucial; after all, your team of beverage architects will be relying on you to direct them on what changes should be made to get your dream drink just right.
Before we send you off on your own tasting adventures, this final installment of our Art of Tasting series will prepare you with the knowledge required to successfully taste notes and take notes during a tasting. Let’s get started.
Knowing what to taste for
To make the most of your tasting experience, you’ll need to focus on what specific elements you enjoy (or don’t) in your beverage. You’ll also need to communicate that feedback effectively in your notes. This can be tricky for a first-time taster, so we’ve put together a list of tasting notes below with some questions to guide you on what to look for.
Just remember, if one aspect on this list is not applicable to your beverage, then skip it and move on to the next one: if you’re tasting samples for a non-alcoholic soda, for example, you obviously won’t need to comment on the amount of alcohol in your beverage (but if it makes you curious about what it would taste like as a mixer, well, we won’t stop you from trying it out).
- Color: How dark or light is the drink? How natural or bright are the colors? Is it visually appealing? Does it match the flavor you’d expect to find?
- Clarity: How intense is the cloudiness of the drink? Does it appear natural or is it off-putting? Is it visually appealing? Does it match the flavor you’d expect to find?
- Aroma: How strong or weak is the aroma? Should it smell sweeter or more savory? Does the smell match the flavor you’d expect to find?
- Aftertaste: How would you describe the aftertaste? How intense is it? How long does it linger? Where in your mouth does it occur (sides of the tongue vs. back of the throat, for example)?
- Sweetness: How sweet is it? What sensations are you experiencing from the sweetness (does it make your teeth hurt, for example)? Does it linger in the aftertaste?
- Tartness: How tart is it? What sensations are you experiencing from the tartness? Does it linger in the aftertaste?
- Saltiness: How intense is the saltiness? What sensations are you experiencing from the saltiness? Does it linger in the aftertaste?
- Bitterness: How bitter is it? What sensations are you experiencing from the bitterness? Does it linger in the aftertaste.
- Earthiness: Do you taste any herbal notes? How intense is the earthiness? What sensations are you experiencing from this earthiness? Does it linger in the aftertaste?
- Acidity: How strong is the acidity of the drink? Is it sour or more of a burn? What kind of sensations are you experiencing with the acidity?
- Alcohol: How intense is the alcohol? What level of burn are you experiencing?
- Carbonation: How strong is the carbonation of the drink? What sensations are you experiencing from the carbonation?
- Thickness/Viscosity: How thick or viscous is the consistency of it? Does it coat your mouth? Is it oily or hard to swallow?
- Overall flavor: How strong or weak is the overall flavor? What elements stand out?
- Other specific flavors: What is the intensity of other flavor notes you’re picking up in the drink (too much cinnamon, for example)?
- Flavor blend: How well blended are the flavors? Are they balanced appropriately? What flavors stand out?
Recording your feedback
Typically tasters will be asked to use a number scale (from 1-10) to rate each of the aspects listed above. But you should also utilize the extra space in your notes to record any thoughts, questions, or descriptors that come to mind for each element – even if it sounds ridiculous or you just can’t seem to find the right words. Just do your best! Overall, the more detailed and specific you are with your feedback, the more useful your notes will be.
While it may sound silly, it’s also important to avoid peer pressure during your tasting. When you’re tasting with a group, everyone should record their comments separately and refrain from discussing their evaluations until everyone else has finished. It’s no surprise that people have a tendency to be influenced by what others say. But if one person takes a sip of their sample and announces that “it’s too bitter,” then others will likely become overly aware of the bitterness, whether they originally thought about it or not.
Overall, as long as you take your time, write everything down, and trust your taste buds, then your tasting experience should be as productive as it is fun. Happy tasting!