Get Into The Spirit Of Tasting


You think you know all about the spirit of your choice at your local hang-out venue until Spirits Educator and Master Distiller Will Lowe makes you aware you’ve been merely scratching a surface of a bottle.

To quench the thirst for higher knowledge of your favoured spirit, Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and Will, of of Cambridge Distillery, have teamed up with a handful of exclusive London bars to create a unique and fun way to truly get to know your favourite spirit.

During July the Punch Room, an old-comfort inspired fumed-oak bar at Fitzrovia’s London EDITION boutique hotel, is the place to head to, if gin is your religion. And if you consider yourself more of a whisky connoisseur, cocktail bar Showdown at Lockhart, the all-American restaurant nestled in London’s Marylebone, will be the host for its flagship spirit tasting experience in November.

This series of ‘From Still To Bar’ tasting experience at both venues will provide a sneak peek into WSET’s Spirits course, as one of the largest global providers in the fields of wines and spirits qualifications.

Being faithful to rum rather than gin and whisky, I made my way to one of my favourite spots with a pretty jukebox, Mark’s Bar at Hixter Bankside.

Provided with headphones and a tiny iPod player each, together with a small ‘WSET Level 2 Systematic Approach to Tasting Spirits & Liqueurs®’ information tastecard, my intrigued companion and I have sat down on comfy seats and waited for further action.

A moment later the bartender Marion reappeared with the two WSET customised trays, which held three stemware glasses on each of them and an extra glass of water on the side for each of us. Each glass contained a different type of rum, varying in colour and strength. Headphones in, I’ve pressed play and before you say Havana Club, I was immersed in my audio rum enlightenment.

The incredibly smooth voice of master distiller Will Lowe guided me through tasting each of the rum spirits poured in each glass. The helpful WSET tastecard offered all the information about what to notice when sipping and savouring the spirit, focusing on: Appearance, Nose and Palate.

“Is it clear or opaque?”, Will asks. Does it taste of dried fruit or caramel? What happens when you add a little water? Did the colour or taste change? Do you taste hints of coffee and toffee?

Moving from the rum sample no. 1 – Havana Club El Ron De Cuba, onto sample no. 2 – Appleton Estate Jamaican rum, Will suggests to tip the glass on its side and ‘see what I can smell’. Its amber colour suggests more time spent aging in oak barrel. Third rum sample, Smith & Cross, a traditional Jamaica rum, was the most intense and Will advises to ‘definitely add some water’ before trying it.

Buzzing from my newly acquired knowledge (or was it the rum?) on this ‘Caribbean cruise’, we could now challenge the bartender and mixologist extraordinaire, Jeremy, to prepare us some cocktail each, with one of the sampled rums we liked the most.

I challenged the bartender Jeremy to mix me something with the strongest sample of the rums, just to see whether it would still be enjoyable and not too intense to drink. Challenge was accepted and soon I was sipping a delicious and deadly-potent Jamaican Mule. My companion got Treacle, a rather tasty cocktail with orange bitters and a ball of ice instead of cubes, which melts slowly and equally in your drink, Jeremy mused.

  • Priced from £15, the From Still to Bar tasting experiences are available at the bars throughout the relevant month and the participants can download a follow up podcast that describes their chosen spirit in more detail. Covering the history and production of the spirit, the podcast will see Will joined by head bartenders to discuss recent trends and mixology. Those that download the full podcast will be in with a chance of winning a WSET Spirits course. For more information about the WSET, qualifications and where to study visit
Zuzana Ritchie

Zuzana Ritchie

Embracing the multiple career personality disorder she developed after moving to London in her twenties, Zuzana Ritchie can be spotted around the city in the capacity of a make-up artist on Monday, a voice-over artist on Tuesday and a beauty writer on Wednesday.

For the rest of the week she will take up various other roles like an amateur sunset sky photographer, a red wine enthusiast, a dog’s best friend, a bookworm, a martial arts fan, a humour addict and not a very good guitar strummer.

Leaving her previous job at a publishing house to freelance instead has resulted in more free time to become a professional beauty products hunter by day and a female superheroes stories gatherer by night.

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