Gin is a popular alcoholic liquor drink which usually derives its flavour from Juniper berries and is generally distilled using wheat. Gin has many varieties, styles and flavours. The drink evolved from a medicinal drink in Holland to become a popular alcoholic drink, and contrary to popular belief, it isn't English in origin, but Dutch. Gin is popular as a cocktail spirit as it is versatile and mixes well with many flavours, ingredients and mixers.
First and foremost, if you are starting out with gin, don't go for a cheap gin as that can be a harsh experience that may put you off. Gin can be a spirit that your palate has to adjust to, so it is good to go for a reasonable quality and nice flavour.
Hendricks is a good choice for beginners, it is universally known and well thought of but quite a unique taste and style. This award winning gin, brewed in Scotland, is often used in Gin and Tonics and cocktails, and is widely available. It is a heavy gin with the strength of 10 blended flavours including rose petals and cucumber, it is ideal for beginners as well as popular for those with experience of gins.
Bombay Sapphire is a reasonably priced London Dry Gin, (high alcohol content/proof redistilled gin with added flavours), and is distilled with unusual flavours such as almond, cubeb berries and grains of paradise, and is also produced without the botanical ingredients touching the liquor, as they are infused with the alcohol by vapour from a basket above. The result is a light and citrussy but warm and spiced flavour, with a liquorice and cinnamon aftertaste. Beginners and the experienced will both enjoy this gin.
As a beginner, it may be hard to know where to start with tasting and trying new gins, but like any skill, it gets easier with practice. Identifying flavours, tastes and smells gets easier over time and can be fun to learn.
You may decide to get to know gin slowly over time, trying a small bottle here and there or joining a tasting club, then reading the ingredients labels and savouring the tastes and seeing if you can identify the flavours from the ingredients label, you may even get books on tasting, or do a tasting party with friends, or you may want to dive in and do a proper gin tasting at an event or distillery.
Make sure the gin is room temperature. Room temperature gives optimal flavour.
Wash your mouth with weak coffee or water before starting and with water in between tastings. Don't eat strongly flavoured or spicy foods before tasting.
You may want to keep notes of what you taste and experience, the flavours, the feel, the aftertaste, etc.
Before tasting the gin, swirl the glass to get the best of the aromas and take a gentle sniff, don't dive your nose in and get overwhelmed by fumes. Take a light sniff with your mouth slightly open, about 3 inches from the glass. Then Consider what you can smell.
The first taste should be a small sip of the neat gin, let the sip rest on your tongue before moving it round your mouth. Consider what you are experiencing and tasting, is it dry? Is it sooty or sour? Does the taste linger or is it gone quickly? It helps to have a guide or book or experienced tutor at this point, to help you recognize what the sensations signify and to use the right terms, of which there are many.
After that first sip, the gin should be watered down, to help you taste and recognize more of the ingredients. You can always refer to the bottle as well to help you to put names to flavours.
Learning about gins and tasting is a whole new world, an exciting and fun one, take your time to get to know gin and don't rush to be a expert overnight, enjoy the journey and take your time to really experience the new flavours and train your palate.