Tales of the Cocktail – Day 1 and Tasting Spirits with F. Paul Pacult

Well, the time has come again – Tales of the Cocktail! The annual New Orleans gathering of bartenders, spirit brands, enthusiasts, and even us lowly bloggers, where we taste, shake, talk and live the world of spirits and cocktail culture. It’s a pretty good time!

I arrived yesterday, and was lucky enough to kick off the event with two amazing parties – a welcome reception hosted by Beefeater Gin at the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, and a classic New Orleans garden fete at the Elma Mansion hosted by William Grant & Sons (the group that brings you Hendricks Gin, Glenfiddich, The Balvenie, Sailor Jerry and more). Once again, a pretty good time! Many thanks to Beefeater and William Grant & Sons for a warm (very, very warm) welcome to New Orleans.

My first session of the conference was this morning – a guide to tasting spirits with the true master of the craft, F. Paul Pacult. I’ll admit right from the start – I kinda suck at tasting spirits. I mean, I can drink ‘em with no trouble at all, but my ability (and particularly my vocabulary) to describe what I’m tasting is severely limited (and limiting). All the more reason why I was excite for this session.

Paul took us through the 49 – yes 49 – criteria he uses to evaluate spirits, including the visual (clarity, sediment, color), olfactory (dryness/sweetness, aromatic intensity, acid intensity, base materials, fruits, nuts, spices, etc.), and gustatory (flavors and intensity on entry, midpalate, and aftertaste). It’s an intense experience to say the least, but by breaking down the process into categories, then into individual attributes (with choices), the difficulty involved in expressing what you’re tasting fades away.

To get us started, we tasted six different spirits: Absolut 100 vodka, Plymouth gin, Jameson Gold irish whisky, Chivas 12 blended scotch, Scappa 14 single malt, and Martel XO cognac. This provided a great framework for tasting different types of spirits, and would make for a great self-guided tasting at home.

To benefit from Paul’s expertise on your own, be sure to order his latest book, Kindred Spirits 2, which includes Paul’s review of over 2,400 different brands and varieties of spirits. 

Stay tuned for more updates from NOLA. For more in real-time, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@cocktailspirit).


Tags: Paul Pacult, Tales of the Cocktail

Leave a Reply