The Rules of Tasting
Following a few simple steps, tasting pálinka can be made even more enjoyable!
The first rule of tasting pálinka is that, similar to wine, it is worth to aerate fruit spirits for a while as they will release their real flavour only after a few minutes after pouring. To do that, you might want to get tulip-shaped glasses the wide-mouthed walls of which will help you enjoy the aroma of the pálinka even more when you sniff into it. It will do no good to the pálinka if you swirl it in the glass or if you serve it chilled.
2. Transparent & Clean
First, it is the sight that reveals a lot about the quality of the pálinka. It can be perfect, mirror-like, clear, opalescent, unclear or sludgy. The colour of good quality pálinka gives a clue about the nature of the liquor and the fruit it was made from. Most of the time pálinka has a transparent colour. If it was matured in a barrel or on a fruit bed, that can give it a darker shade. Pálinka must not contain natural or artificial colours.
3. Fruity Scents
Enjoy its scent. Take a deep intensive breath. Think, imagine and feel! Basic rule: a good pálinka must be clear and fruity. There are two ‘diseases’ that a pálinka can suffer from, but they can be easily detected based on its scent and these are foreshots and feints. Foreshots, also called “first copper” contains large amounts of methyl alcohol. This is not allowed in good pálinkas. Feints include fusel-oils. A burnt, unpleasant taste and smell – not difficult to notice.
4. Small Sips
No, not with a “down it quickly” movement… Rather taking small sips, enjoying all that a pálinka can give you. Because it can give you a lot if it is good. The harmony of sight, scent and taste – they complement one another.
Often it happens that scent and flavour are not in “tune”. When scents are very intensive and insinuating, taste is pushed into the background. This is generally due to the distilling technology. There are two different methods of distillation, one technology using the traditional Hungarian pot still and the other, taken over from the Austrians, using column stills. When distilled in a pot still, the scent is not ostentatious or perfume-like. However, its taste lasts longer, and it is fuller and rounder, in harmony with its scent.
5. The Dry Test
Following the taste, you can go for the dry test to find out if the pálinka we have just had is of good quality. One way of doing that is by setting the empty glass aside for 5-10 minutes, and then, when you sniff into it, you should smell a pleasant, jammy scent. The other way of doing it is by pouring the last drops of the liquor on the back of your hand, and, by smelling it, there should be scents characteristic of fruit. If scents were the result of added aromatic substances, they will evaporate during the dry test.
While a professional pálinka taster will immediately know whether the pálinka is of good quality or not, a layman is easily deceived by a commercial, old habits or traditions. To avoid any disappointment, the easiest way of finding out what you are holding in your hand is by checking the back label. The ingredients of real pálinka includes fruit pálinka and water, or perhaps raw or sun-dried fruit. But if the label includes pure alcohol, a small percentage of fruit pálinka, aromas, flavour intensifiers, caramel, colorants or other additives, you can be sure that the liquor is not the product of nature, but rather the “gift” of modern chemistry.
We sincerely hope that these small rituals will help you find more joy in consuming your favourite pálinka!