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Thread: How to start learning to better taste and describe your mead

  1. #1

    Default How to start learning to better taste and describe your mead

    I started to reply to a thread/post, and it turned into this so I thought I would share it so everyone can hopefully gain from it.


    Some people are better tasters than others. However, anyone can get better with practice. We simply need to start with baby steps. And with some practice and intention. You will find yourself miles further than when you started out.



    There are flavor wheels that one can purchase where you can look up flavors and see surrounding/ adjacent flavors to the one you picked out. They have many wine wheels, and at least one honey wheel. A texture wheel and I imagine many others. Part of the problem is people don't have enough descriptive words to start with and then, to top it off they don't take it as far as they can go to more finitely distinguish different fractions of the flavor.

    Example:

    "What is the first thing you taste or smell?
    "Flowers"
    "OK, What kind of flowers?"
    Ummmm, white flowers."
    "Great. Are they sweet? Citrusy, perfumy, earthy, fresh, dead, dead for a long time?"
    "Earthy"
    "What kind of earth?" Wet or Dry?" Rural, Wild, mountains, desseert, shoreline, tundra
    "Wet/ moist mostly."
    OK, Great. Wet what?
    "Wet/damp soil? Wet damp vegetation? Wet damp animal/barnyardish? " Crisp and clean" "Musty/moldy/sour." Is there the smell of minerals?

    So here is just a short example. And we didn't even come close to exhausting that. And never one time did I push for a specific name of any individual element. And yet we were able to explore a good bit without ever identifying a particular thing.

    This can go in any direction. With both nose/aroma/bouquet as well as flavor, and as tactile textures. Such as Lush, creamy, heavy, thin, slick, grippy, silky, thin.

    So just practice every day. Even at McDonald's. My coke smells like what? Sweet, cherryish, cinnamon, tart/acidic fresh and light. Goes down smooth with a medium body, with a lingering finish that's refreshing and inviting. Ask for me to come back again and again...



    Once you get good at this. Start doing spices in your kitchen cabinet. Especially stuff you might want to add in different meads. After you have a good handle on this move on. To herbs and do the same thing. Know the difference between Basil and Tarragon. Or sage and Tyme

    Go to the mead room. Learn what SO2 taste like, DAP, Starsan, PBW, Fermaid O, Fermaid-k, wine tannin, yeast ghost cell/hulls, tartaric acid, generic energizers, malic acid. K2CO3, pure O2. Hell. Taste your yeast as well. The bags you put your fruit in if you use them.

    Did you know water taste different? I have 4 different mineral waters, or "spring waters" I can buy in my town. I have found one water makes better meads than do the other water sources.

    Then move on to oaks. Species, toast levels. Both smells and flavors. Along with the different tactile perceptions, you differentiate.

    You should know what every single thing you put in your mead tastes like. Not in your head. But on your tongue and in your nose.

    This is very basic I know. And I am in no way an expert. I practice all the time. Every day. Just for fun in passing. During my day to day rituals. But I also sit down and practice when that's the specific thing I am focused on. If you like wine you might be familiar with the tasting notes that get tossed around all the time describing all the things that people taste or smell in the wine. It may seem to you this is nothing more than one wine snob trying to impress the other wine snobs. But none the less. Becoming familiar with the language and the descriptors will certainly help you. When all you have in the tool box is a hammer. Everything looks like a nail.

    So that's all for now. Live, learn, have fun. Be gracious to each other. And remember. The only thing we leave behind in this world is what we give away to others
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  2. #2
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    Thanks Squatchy - I think your point about being aware and thoughtful about every small and taste we come across is incredibly important but I am not sure I agree that simply being aware makes us better at knowing what we are tasting and smelling. In my opinion the best way to teach ourselves that is to create small samples of different smells and tastes - in unidentified containers and then try to guess the contents by smell and taste. It's relatively easy to identify grape flavor when you see the grape. It's quite another thing to identify the liquid when all you have is the liquid in an opaque glass container. Can I really identify a cherry flavor? Mango? Is that really citrus? Does this REALLY smell like leather? Tobacco? In other words, it's not so much about flavor wheels as it is about being able to recognize flavors and smells without additional visual clues...

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by bernardsmith View Post
    Thanks Squatchy - I think your point about being aware and thoughtful about every small and taste we come across is incredibly important but I am not sure I agree that simply being aware makes us better at knowing what we are tasting and smelling. In my opinion the best way to teach ourselves that is to create small samples of different smells and tastes - in unidentified containers and then try to guess the contents by smell and taste. It's relatively easy to identify grape flavor when you see the grape. It's quite another thing to identify the liquid when all you have is the liquid in an opaque glass container. Can I really identify a cherry flavor? Mango? Is that really citrus? Does this REALLY smell like leather? Tobacco? In other words, it's not so much about flavor wheels as it is about being able to recognize flavors and smells without additional visual clues...
    I agree. But you have to nail some things down first, so you start to have a reference. I'm all about blind tasting. But if you have never really concentrated on orange, (even if you know what it is because someone is telling you) You will not know what it is in a blind test. The wheels just start to give someone a broader language to express taste but have no language for it.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  4. #4

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    Reminds me what they tell chefs they need to know on cooking channels...
    "Shouldn’t we say wine is a mead-like beverage made with grapes substituted for the honey?" - Steve Piatz

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stasis View Post
    Reminds me what they tell chefs they need to know on cooking channels...
    I like to think we are liquid chefs
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Squatchy View Post
    I like to think we are liquid chefs
    ^^ So much this!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Better brewing through science!

  7. #7
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    Hey, all. I love the discussion, because I love the experience of opening up someone's senses to the opportunities out there, using mead and honey. I've hosted a few mead tastings, and a couple of honey tastings as well. Matter of fact, I love starting off my mead tastings with a honey tasting. Serves a dual purpose. First, it helps the taster to realize honey varieties can be quite different, and we can throw the "it just tastes like honey" descriptor out the window. Then after the honey tasting, we move on to the mead, and what everyone is expecting to be sweet (because it's made from honey, so it must be sweet, right?), isn't by comparison. Eyes open, and people say "wow" and "I never would have thought". It's an "aha" moment every time.

    Not sure I'm going to go out in the garage right now and lick all my carboys, but I do appreciate the concept that everything that touches the mead affects it, so we'd better know what influence it will have.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    "Then glory in battle to Hrothgar was given, waxing of war-fame, that willingly kinsmen obeyed his bidding, till the boys grew to manhood, a numerous band. It burned in his spirit to urge his folk to found a great building, a mead-hall grander than men of the era ever had heard of, and in it to share with young and old all of the blessings the Lord had allowed him, save life and retainers." - Beowulf

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mazer828 View Post
    Hey, all. I love the discussion, because I love the experience of opening up someone's senses to the opportunities out there, using mead and honey. I've hosted a few mead tastings, and a couple of honey tastings as well. Matter of fact, I love starting off my mead tastings with a honey tasting. Serves a dual purpose. First, it helps the taster to realize honey varieties can be quite different, and we can throw the "it just tastes like honey" descriptor out the window. Then after the honey tasting, we move on to the mead, and what everyone is expecting to be sweet (because it's made from honey, so it must be sweet, right?), isn't by comparison. Eyes open, and people say "wow" and "I never would have thought". It's an "aha" moment every time.

    Not sure I'm going to go out in the garage right now and lick all my carboys, but I do appreciate the concept that everything that touches the mead affects it, so we'd better know what influence it will have.
    Nice to see you back at the forum friend. I have thought, and prayed for you many times. I too start my mead parties with honey tastings.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Squatchy View Post
    Nice to see you back at the forum friend. I have thought, and prayed for you many times. I too start my mead parties with honey tastings.
    Nice to be back, my friend. Sent you a DM a few days back.

    Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    "Then glory in battle to Hrothgar was given, waxing of war-fame, that willingly kinsmen obeyed his bidding, till the boys grew to manhood, a numerous band. It burned in his spirit to urge his folk to found a great building, a mead-hall grander than men of the era ever had heard of, and in it to share with young and old all of the blessings the Lord had allowed him, save life and retainers." - Beowulf

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mazer828 View Post
    Nice to be back, my friend. Sent you a DM a few days back.

    Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
    DM? Not aware that I received anything
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by loveofrose View Post
    ^^ So much this!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Love this as well. Mead really is a work of art. I think I'm changing my handle to The Iron Mazer. Lol.

    Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    "Then glory in battle to Hrothgar was given, waxing of war-fame, that willingly kinsmen obeyed his bidding, till the boys grew to manhood, a numerous band. It burned in his spirit to urge his folk to found a great building, a mead-hall grander than men of the era ever had heard of, and in it to share with young and old all of the blessings the Lord had allowed him, save life and retainers." - Beowulf

  12. #12
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    I read in a book that to broaden your palate you need to learn to taste everything with a exploring mind. No two tasters will taste the same thing right off the bat. Well, not always.

    One will have a mind for the earthy notes and another will look for the flower/pollen notes.

    I wanted to try tasting other meads from home brewers because I know they taste much better than what I have found in the stores. I really didn't enjoy the one I had. I am however going to be sending my mead to be critiqued and get feedback. So I can learn where the flavors are and how to improve, continue and quit.

    Mead for me is VERY new and I've only made 4 batches so far and following the advice I get on the gotmead forums, I'm amazed at the amount it's changed flavor, feels and smells.

    Looking forward to more learning. I love discussions like these.

  13. #13

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    Squatchy, thanks for the thread. Good info, which is both open and yet simply direct.

  14. Default

    Looks like there's more to tasting and describing mead than I ever thought. Would you guys say it's easier or harder to spot different tastes in mead or in wine?

  15. #15

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    I think wines would be more difficult. I think there are more traditional varieties of wine than mead. I.e. I wouldn't be bothered going into the spiced wines or wines with other fruits added or other sugars added.. Wines are more complex flavor-wise on their own while fermented honey on its own is not as complex. Very often the complexity comes from adding other fruits and spices. You could do the same with grapes but if you're seriously into wone you would never really do that. If they did blend fruits and spices with wines the complexity would be too much. It would probably become too complex for its own good and people would stop taking it as serious. In wines you have the DOP, IGP, DOC, DOCG etc. These are wines which are restricted to a region and which have very strict controls. You have strict standards and you must be very familiar with what makes that particular standard tick. It seems to me like there is more on the line when it comes to wine. You also need to know everything Squatchy said. Mead is still very young and we surely haven't gotten as far as wine has, but even given time I can't see it happening if you're going to compare traditional meads with traditional wines.
    Maybe a couple of people will disagree because we are on a mostly mead forum after all. Woops
    "Shouldn’t we say wine is a mead-like beverage made with grapes substituted for the honey?" - Steve Piatz

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