I've just been having a conversation on Twitter about drinking culture, and how much pressure there is to drink when perhaps you shouldn't, and drink more than you might want, so it seems like time to reiterate that I'm all about drinking sensibly. I have so much gin around the place only because I don't drink much (if I did most those bottles would have long gone to be recycled). I enjoy a drink but it's been a long time since it was in anything but moderation. I believe in quality over quantity every time, and whilst I'll happily encourage anybody to try a new gin (or similar) if I think they might like it, I hope I never put pressure on anybody to do so. A good gin and tonic is a beautiful thing, a hangover is not.
After which auspicious start it's on to Audemus Pink Pepper gin... This one's from France, Cognac to be specific, where they know a thing or two about distillation, but where I'm guessing there's no great tradition of gin making or drinking (I could be very wrong about that). The result is something that's definitely gin, but also quite distinctively different in its approach. It's worth reading this review Here from Gin foundry (they're my go to place for gin reviews and general information about distilleries).
The pepper element is front and centre with this gin, and the juniper is unmistakably there too. I was surprised to read that coriander doesn't feature mostly because it almost always does, and I associate it with citrus flavours in gin. There is citrus here though, even if it's not altogether clear where from. There's also the mention of honey, thinks beans, and vanilla, as well of those pink peppercorns - all of which remind me of perfume descriptions as much as they do a list of gin botanicals.
I was also interested to read that this is a gin that changes and develops with age - that's a new idea to me with spirits, and an intriguing one. It also lead me back to perfume again, hence the Lizzie Ostrom book.
When I talk about tasting drinks what I'm talking about specifically is a tasting process, one which relies heavily on the nose. The first step when you pour anything to taste is to asses it by eye - is it clear, a good colour, in any way distinctive (notes will be made). Next you nose it - approaching with caution if it's a spirit - sniff to deep and the alcohol will knock your nose out of shape and you'll get no useful information, then you taste. Even when you do actually have the liquid in your mouth it's the nose that's doing the bulk of the work - and you should be breathing in through the mouth out through the nose at this point.*
When you're nosing a drink you're assessing first of all if it smells clean (as opposed to faulty or unpleasant in some way) and then trying to identify different components from the whole. This might be to help describe it later, but it's more to do with helping you remember, define, and think about what you're drinking. Unless it's your job there's no need to take it to seriously, but I do think it's worth spending a few moments thinking about what you're drinking - it's more enjoyable when you do (at least it is when you're drinking something good, and really - there's no reason to drink anything which isn't good).
The nose matters, and this heady concoction of juniper, pink pepper, vanilla, honey, tonka, and citrus - which I'd wear with joy if I could - is a splendid reminder of that.
*If you want to know exactly how much work the nose does mix a little cinnamon and sugar together, hold your nose and think about what you can taste, then let go of your nose and see the difference.