As anyone who does it for a living will tell you, there’s an art and a science to tasting booze. Sure, it’s easy enough to pretend you know what you’re doing (sniff, swirl glass, furrow brow, sniff again), but the real pros put in the work. We consulted a panel of industry experts to get their top tasting tips. Whether you’re a novice or you know a thing or two about nosing, these are 12 ways to raise your tasting game.
Rachel Barrie hails from Aberdeenshire in Scotland and is one of the country’s few women at the forefront of its scotch scene. She’s also the first female master blender to be recognized by the University of Edinburgh with an honorary doctorate degree. Barrie oversees the blending for The GlenDronach, The BenRiach and Glenglassaugh single-malt whisky distilleries.
In 2017, Renaud Fillioux de Gironde was named master blender of cognac giant Hennessy. The appointment came following a 15-year apprenticeship under the tutelage of his uncle, seventh-generation master blender Yann Fillioux. Fillioux de Gironde continues a two-century family tradition as an eighth-generation member of Hennessy’s prestigious tasting committee.
A former chemist and Yorkshire native, Hendrick’s gin master distiller Lesley Gracie joined the Hendrick’s team in Scotland in 1988, and in 1999, she helped develop and launch the 11-botanical formula the world knows today.
Giuseppe “Beppe” Musso is Martini & Rossi’s master blender, having been with the company for more than 15 years after a decade as an established winemaker across Italy’s top viticultural regions. Musso, a Piemonte native, is based primarily in Pessione, home to the brand’s headquarters.
Los Angeles’ Ann Soh Woods launched Japanese rice whisky Kikori back in 2011 under eponymous umbrella Soh Spirits, and a yuzu liqueur, Yuzuri, would later join the small grassroots portfolio. Woods is a pioneer in the Japanese corner of the U.S. spirits market thanks to her innovative mindset and advanced palate.
Old Forester master blender Jackie Zykan heads up all things tasting across the board for the brand. Zykan spends her days alternating between product development and innovation, pulling and tasting barrel samples, analyzing product and hosting various brand events and tastings, to name a few.