Drinking my way to a new book

It’s a tough job but someone had to sample lots of clear and brown liquors for a new “Spirits Tasting Journal” (Peter Pauper Press). Fortunately, WAG’s Wine & Dine columnist Doug Paulding was up to the task and now out with the new book.

In 2018 I entered into a contract with Peter Pauper Press Inc. to write a “Wine Tasting Journal.” For many years now, I have written wine and spirits stories for different magazines for which I travel to a wine region and, while on location, identify what makes the region or the winery unique and interesting. Or I get invited to a wine luncheon or dinner with a winemaker, owner or PR person promoting a product and will ask questions to discover what makes them noteworthy. I then submit my story to my editor, who makes everything clean for publication. When I submitted my “Wine Tasting Journal” manuscript, it went past several desks and through multiple editorial perusals in which several editors weighed in for punctuation, accuracy and readability.

My “Wine Tasting Journal” was published and is available on Amazon where it is still selling and consumers consistently review it well. Several friends and some buyers of this journal who lean more in the liquor direction, suggested I create a “Spirits Tasting Journal” in a similar form. I mentioned this to my editor, who floated it past Laurence Beilenson, the CEO of Peter Pauper, and they agreed it was a project ripe for development. We entered into a contract and I spent weeks on my couch this past spring with my laptop, several reference manuals, a few internet devices and varied glasses of the day’s particular spirit in front of me, all for research and inspiration. 

We had agreed to write about clear and brown-aged spirits and there are many examples of each. The clears typically include vodka, gin, rum and tequila. The browns include all of the different regional whiskeys but also aged rum, aged tequila and grape-based brandies, notably Armagnac and Cognac. Of course, a proper spirits journal wouldn’t be complete without discussing the fortified wines, made by fermenting fruit, arresting the fermentation process of changing sugar into alcohol by adding a high alcohol spirit to kill the yeasts. This maintains natural sugars and a natural sweetness in the product and the brandy used to kill the yeasts bolsters the alcohol to higher levels than you’re likely to find in a wine but considerably less than you would find in a distilled spirit. For each of these spirits, I needed to conduct considerable multisource research, assemble my notes and taste several examples of each category. 

In each of my journals, I have wanted to devise a page for actively rating and reviewing what you are tasting. There are categories with numerical scales to rate your experience and opinion of the subject. In my “Wine Journal,” it was fairly easy to construct that page. Because spirits are so different, I imagined a unique-tasting-profile page for each spirit or at least each spirit class or style. But I was overruled by Peter Pauper Press and they requested/demanded a single rating page that would properly apply to every spirit and fortified wine. It took some time and was difficult to devise, but it works and I’m happy it came to be this way. 

Everyone has someone in his life who enjoys wine or spirits and would benefit from keeping quick and concise notes about tasting experiences. Holidays are just around the corner and these journals could be a perfect, inexpensive gift for any number of people in your life. Throw in a desired bottle of choice and you will be a hero. In both journals, I encourage simplicity. I wanted the reviewer to be able to record tasting notes and continue in conversation with friends without being too distracted. One sniff/taste and it is possible to fill in some of the rating profiles. On Amazon there is a profile of the writing and descriptive style for each journal along with examples of the rating page in each. The value of recording your tasting experiences over time is that it will help you, a retail associate or a sommelier match you with a drink you will like. If it’s clear what you have enjoyed in the past, it is easy to match a proper preference in many price ranges. 

Successful explorers, inventors and writers tend to keep some type of journal to track their direction and improve their circumstances. The same is true for the wine/spirits drinker. We have all tasted drinks we love and likely tasted drinks we abhor. By tracking your direction with these journals and some degree of methodology, your improved knowledge and improved palate will improve your tasting experience. Cheers.

Write me at doug@dougpaulding.com.

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