R&D: Tasting Sessions

March 6, 2020

At Icely Done, we’re always looking to end each day having improved on the last, and over the past few weeks we’ve been testing and expanding our senses on a Friday morning with Paul’s Research & Development sessions. The idea for these sessions was for the whole team to get to grips with our products, especially the office staff who aren’t at the forefront of production; and learn a little bit more about cocktails and the spirits that make them.

Every session is different, and usually features a variety of tasks to really put our senses to the test.

We often start off the session with a comparison between one of the products we’re using to help create a blend, whether it’s a strawberry puree or lime juice, with other makes on the market. It’s fair to say the conclusive result regularly weighs in our favour, with staff often preferring the existing product we’ve been using, meaning we know we’re onto a good thing!

A Taste of the Good Stuff

When we’re not comparing individual ingredients, we’re having a taste of one of our products at varying stages of shelf life. By comparing and contrasting a fresh batch of cocktail blend against a batch that is nearing the end of its shelf life, we’re able to see if our products are continuing to taste delicious the whole way through their cycle.  This gives us a chance to test our knowledge of current blends, and keep us in the know with all the elements that make up our products.

As we use fresh ingredients in a lot of our products, there are sometimes slightly differing flavours and colours between the batches – regardless of shelf life. We think the handcrafted elements to our blends is what makes them so remarkable, not to mention delicious.

The next round is often a scent test, which is a favourite amongst the team as it often puts their brains (and noses) to work. There’s nothing as frustrating as being able to smell something familiar, and not being able to put a name to it! With 3-4 mystery scents to identity, we take turns in making our guesses to see how close we were to the final scent, before all is revealed. It’s fair to say that some of our team are better at identifying scents to others!

Coming Into Our Senses

Another round to help familiarise ourselves with our blends is testing them against a sensory score sheet, where we’re able to see what flavours are the most prominent, and rate them on a range of factors like opacity, sedimentation, acidity and overall acceptability. It’s fair to say all of our products are scoring high on the acceptability. We wouldn’t be making them otherwise! This is a great opportunity to see if the team are getting the same flavours from the blends, and identify if there’s anything we can do to improve them.

Then comes everyone’s favourite round. We each get given a mystery shot of alcohol (that we’re meant to sip!), and we take turns identifying the type of alcohol, what brand we think it belongs to, and if we think it has any particular tasting notes. One of the revelations that came out of this round is that everyone in the team mistook Pampelle for Aperol, although we think that has something to do with the colours…

That’s The Spirit

We then get a chance to see the spirit in action, and try it within a cocktail. Last week’s mystery spirit was Cazcabel Honey Tequila, which Alex then demonstrated one of his own creations: a Honeyed Rhubarb Paloma using our Rhubarb & Strawberry blend.

To make:

50ml Icely Done Rhubarb & Strawberry blend
15ml Cazcabel Blanco Tequila
15ml Cazcabel Honey Tequila
15ml Pampelle Grapefruit
75ml Soda
Good pinch of salt

Shake ingredients together, strain into a high ball glass over ice and top with soda.

Garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

The Research and Development sessions are a great opportunity to not only get familiar and more hands on with our products, but they’re also a chance to reflect on our own individual senses, and identify what we do and don’t like in the world of flavour and all things booze – so when we go to order our next cocktail, we’ll know for sure that we’ve got it bang on! Everyone’s a winner.

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