The first time I evaluated vodka as a descriptive panelist, my response was, “It tastes like vodka.” I had a similar response to the 2nd and 3rd evaluations. On the 4th try, I found a slight anise note amongst the alcohol “noise” often experienced by panelists new to alcoholic beverage evaluations. All future evaluations produced far more nuanced results and I learned firsthand that not all vodkas are created equal.
Many manufacturers of alcoholic beverages spend a great deal of time and money learning about the flavors of their products and their competitor’s products utilizing descriptive analysis. This method breaks down each sample’s complex flavor, texture & mouthfeel attributes into their most basic & singular notes. While most people who commonly drink any particular spirit “neat” can differentiate amongst brands and types, they often cannot describe how they differ in a way that aids product developers in their ongoing quest to improve and expand their brand. The descriptive analysis uncovers those differences in an accurate and meaningful way. Coupled with consumer liking data, descriptive profiles provide alcoholic beverage companies with powerful data on how to modify current products or create new ones to meet their consumer’s expectations and needs.
A flavor lexicon can help standardize and enhance ballots used by descriptive panels. Sometimes a ballot of 10 – 15 flavor attributes is simply not nuanced enough to provide product developers with the detail they need to respond to consumer desires. Our spirits flavor wheel is available by clicking here!
For descriptive analysis panels, training panelists to evaluate spirits is very difficult and time-consuming – more so than most other product categories (i.e. confections, meat, dairy, etc.). The difficulty in learning to focus on anything other than the burn of the ethanol is a big hurdle for most panelists. Additionally, as only a small amount of alcohol is permitted to be evaluated during a session, getting to that point can take a long time (think weeks). However, once panelists can focus & deliver nuanced profiles, they become invaluable assets to any alcoholic beverage company. And as for the panelist, they become a big hit at cocktail parties 😉.
Sensory Spectrum maintains trained panelists who can evaluate wines & spirits and also can train your panels to provide complex (but understandable) descriptive profiles. Contact us to get started!