How to Judge the Best Brandy Liquor

How to Judge the Best Brandy Liquor

As with wines, which brandy resembles, there is something of an art to judging this fine liquor. Nevertheless, also like art, there is a range of ability, and there is an element of personal taste. That last should be considered for a moment. Note that judging the best brandy liquor is not entirely a matter of personal taste. There are some guidelines for what qualifies as good or bad, in brandy as there are in art in general.

Among finer brandies, the differences can be subtle. However, to notice those requires some practice and some experience. The nose, tongue and palate do not automatically recognize very small differences. They have to be trained or, more accurately, self-trained. The lessons can be hastened, though, by following a few simple guidelines.

Before you even get to the stage of tasting the brandy, you have to prepare properly. That means starting with a very clean glass. Wash it thoroughly and then dry well. However, ensure that the drying process does not introduce small cotton or paper fibers onto the rim or interior. Air-drying is the surest way to avoid that problem.

Then, pour a small amount (about 20-50 ml) of the brandy slowly into a brandy glass of the traditional shape. That shape is not just a marketing gimmick. It was designed that way for a purpose. It allows the aromas to waft up above the surface of the liquid and gather at the opening, from where they slowly escape.

Before you inhale them, take a long look. Enjoy the color. It may be anything from a pale straw color to deep amber. Brandy is colored, but still quite transparent. Mentally record the color in order to compare to others. There is no 'best color' but it will be associated with certain flavors, so it is good to know which is which.

Now inhale from a few inches away and try to separate the different aromatic hints. Tilt the glass and swirl a little bit to release more. Move your nose closer and take another whiff. Search out those aromas that will only be noticeable from this new distance.

With experience, you will begin to be able to make finer and finer discriminations and to associate them later with flavors. There may be hints of the oak in which the brandy was aged. The longer it was aged, the deeper those aromas are likely to be.

As with any tasting experience, consumption is not the goal. In fact, if you swallow six different brandies in a short period, you are likely to be a little too woozy to judge anything subtle. Therefore, start slow and follow the old rule of sip swirl and spit.

What that means is simply to take a small amount onto the tongue, then let the liquid travel across it in a little circle. Give the aromas time to spread up the sinuses as the taste hits different taste bud areas. The human tongue is more sensitive to different tastes in different areas.

By the sights you sense through the eyes, the bouquet judged by your nose and the variety of flavors and textures that are perceived on the tongue a fine brandy reveals itself. Even among those brands that are first rate, there are differences. Those, of course, are a matter of personal taste.