Each day greatly succumbed to the experience of tasting is how I live. Not each minute is spent on an analytical mode. The mere joy of it is common, but I have developed a deep appreciation for what humans individually and culturally have access to, as I have come to gather that the availability of myriads of taste profiles provided by nature alone, should be understood as an obvious sign of how perceptive we ought to be to what comes in contact with our palate. Coming to such a conclusion means that taste ought to be about understanding and not merely about choosing between liking and not liking.
For many years, I have wished to have the opportunity of acquiring knowledge for the world of wines. However, under the premise that I grew up in an alcohol-free household and did not begin to drink alcoholic beverages until I was almost 30 years of age, obtaining the necessary drinking experience to acquire that knowledge has not been supported by the time factor. Mastering is mostly acquired through experience and since experience needs time, understanding wine or any other alcoholic beverage means for me a much longer experiencing period than it does for the average drinker that has been exposed to the wine taste at an earlier age.
Hence, a systematic tasting of twenty-two tequilas within a two-hour period is a perfect opportunity to build on my palate appreciation for this fine Mexican spirit that has been in production since the 16h century. As attentive as mind and palate could be at any given moment, acquiring taste can be best achieved through an accumulation of experiences within a given time period that allows the best frame for the comparison of one experience to another. Twenty-two subsequent experiences carry a meaningful weight.
I just had the privilege to be one of eighteen individuals that gathered to systematically judge nineteen tequilas (type Reposado) and three mezcals. Based on the strict and demanding concept of “The Fifty Best”, and under the direction of William Rosenberg, each person was served shots out of the bottles of Tequila Reposados being judged.
After a detailed introduction to the Tequila world by Mr. Rosenberg, plenty of water and some neutrally flavoured and unsalted edibles in-between for neutralization of the palate, we had an in-depth welcome into the traditionally rich Tequila culture. While this distilled drink is generally known to most as the key to the Margarita cocktail, we focused solely on what a tequila reposado is in itself, and only tasted those produced 100% from the Blue Weber Agave plant. As many taste profiles as the producers have to offer with their individual creations, the sum of the evening was a detailed experience in the realm of a mild juice with gentle complexities, obtained from the heart of the plant – known as the piña – that have been rested in barrels between two and eleven months.
The process of such tastings contributes to an understanding of what a single culture has to offer, but the experience builds on much more than what a single drink is. Activating our taste buds in such concentrated fashion adds to our organic and cultural abilities in various areas of our being, both in our physical and mental presence.
“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are” – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826).
If the individual taste has been consistently understood as a mental preference, although tasting is solely a buccal activity, it seems fair to educate the palate, on our way to educating our minds.
(This article was originally written for The New York Palate League, where I focus on the importance of taste and the palate)