For a good idea of what acetic acid is like - think about the smell of commercial white vinegar. About the only thing you will smell in this type of vinegar is acetic acid and not much else. Better vinegars will add further layers of aroma, flavour and concentration - and most importantly complexity and balance.
For the novice taster, the acetic acid in the vinegar can overwhelm their ability to taste and fully appreciate the nuances of fine vinegars. In other words, it gets in the way of tasting the additional aromas and flavours that make the vinegar distinctive and complex. But like all things worthwhile, a little effort and practice will pay dividends in the end.
Similar to tasting wine or beer, we all have to start at the beginning. The first time you tasted wine, it probably tasted like - well you know - it tasted like wine. But over time you persevered and probably developed a palate. You also likely developed your own wine tasting vocabulary that you could use to describe what you experienced in the glass. With some effort you will eventually be able to do the same with fine vinegars. Or at the very least, you will be able to discern a less worthy vinegar (think plain white vinegar) from a finer product like Minus 8.
We prepared a set of tasting notes on the Minus 8 family of vinegars. We think these are some of the finest vinegars around. Yeah, we are slightly biased, but we are extremely proud of our line of artisanal vinegars and once you taste them, we think you might agree.
Feel free to refer to these notes while you taste our vinegars and see if you agree with our friend. Keep in mind that while the quality for these products is always high, they are small batch agricultural products subject to slight variations due to the changing character of the vintage each year. This is compounded by the fact we treat all vinegars to the aging/maturation treatment we think is appropriate for each batch. The vessel, type of oak, age of the oak (older or newer), and length of maturation will also vary according to what we feel is best for our vinegars. Finally, just like fine wine, most of our vinegars will continue to age and improve in the bottle - this too will influence on the character of the vinegar.