Ever fancied being a gin judge? Me too. And on Thursday l was honoured (and flabbergasted) to find myself included in a very elite group of professionals judging Craft Distilling Expo‘s Gin of the Year competition at the beautiful Bombay Sapphire Distillery!
As a newbie to gin judging, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. What I experienced was a total assault on the senses. Imagine blind speed-dating in excess of 40 candidates in a couple of hours and you’re getting close! In just a few minutes you have to nose, taste, judge and rate every gin neat and blind: no name, no bottle, no ABV, no list of botanicals, no context and no mixers. And then again. And again. And again. And….you get the picture. You need to have a good palate, a cool head and a long attention span.
It was an incredible experience but seriously I take my hat off to the professionals. It was not easy. It was not like anything I’ve done before. When I taste and review a gin at home it’s more of a long leisurely getting-to-know-you dinner! This couldn’t have been more different.
So what did I learn? Well if you ever get invited to judge a gin competition (or indeed if I ever do again!) here are my three top tips.
- Do not underestimate the importance of your spittoon. Your spittoon is your best friend. Neglect your spittoon at your peril.
- Trust your instincts and be confident in your judgements. If you think it tastes soapy or minty or earthy then say so. It’s all subjective. And anyway you’re already two gins behind your fellow judges so hurry up!
- Take a photo of your judging sheets so you can tally up your scores with the gins you tasted at the end of the day. Fail to do this and you leave almost as blind as when you arrived (or more so if you neglect point 1)!
Oh and, finally, do not reveal the winner! At least I’ve achieved that one. Keep a close eye on Craft Distilling Expo, or even attend the event, for the big announcement…. it’ll be worth it! 😉
The Craft Distilling Expo takes place at The Old Truman Brewery, London on 4th and 5th October 2017. Purchase your tickets here.
With thanks to David T. Smith for inviting me to be a Gin of the Year judge!