Aftertaste is the persistence of a sensation of flavor after the stimulating substance has passed out of contact with the sensory end organs for taste. The term is particularly used in relation to unpleasant flavors.
Both food and drink may have an aftertaste. Alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer and whiskey are noted for having particularly strong aftertastes. Foodstuffs with notable aftertastes include spicy food, such as Mexican food (e.g. chili pepper), or Indian food (such as curry).
Medicines and tablets may also have a lingering aftertaste - one feared by many Western children is the aftertaste of cod liver oil. Many tablets can have such a strong, chalky aftertaste which often leads to a dry mouth (known as 'cotton mouth').
In wine tasting, the aftertaste of a wine, also known as its finish, is an important part of the evaluation of a vintage. After tasting a wine, a connoisseur or sommelier pauses to judge the aftertaste, one of many aspects of the wine he considers in determining its quality. The flavors and length of the aftertaste are particularly noted. The aftertaste of wine may be described as bitter, harsh, hot, lingering, long, persistent, rich, short, sweet, smooth, tannic, or even non-existent.
Aftertaste is a significant component in brewing and beer evaluation. Each style of beer has distinct aftertaste components; from American lager which should be "clean" and have almost no aftertaste, to stout which should have a heavy, malty, and slightly bitter aftertaste. Some aftertaste components that are standard for a particular style are considered flaws in other styles, such as the fruity diactyl flavors of a Belgian lambic. Some characteristics of aftertaste in beer include: bitter, malty, earthy, sweet, fruity, cloying, clean, sour, skunky, or (as in American lagers) non-existent.
The aftertaste of a whisky, particularly a malt whisky, is often described as the 'tail'. It describes the flavour of the whisky as tasted on the back of the throat and the upper palate. Phrases such as 'the tail goes half-way down the throat' are common to describe a whisky with a particularly pronounced aftertaste.
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