Five Tips for Appreciating Whiskey
There are many adjectives that you can use to describe whiskey: warming, strong, bold, but my personal favorite is delicious. Men (and women) have been drinking whiskey for (reportedly) the past two thousand years and you can bet your bottom dollar that thousands of important decisions, pacts, and handshakes came about after imbibing some of this most historic spirit.
I’d love to believe that whiskey was the soul inspiration for a number of humanity’s greatest achievements, including freedom, love, and rock & roll, but it might be safer to say that whiskey’s associated effects can be attributed to the decision making of any number of famous individuals to take to the stage, take a stand, or tell the truth. But once you get past the historical significance, you can focus on whiskey’s finest aspect: it’s taste. Although I’m a bourbon man myself (more on that to come), it’s easy to appreciate the many varieties of whiskey that dot our beloved world.
With that in mind, let’s get to it you damn cretins. Grab a glass, find some ice, and pour away your troubles, its time to appreciate some whiskey.
Know The Differences
First off, most American and Irish varieties (the latter of which probably had the most influence on the prior’s style as it was the Irish who really helped build the American whiskey industry) spell it with an “e,” while Canadian, Japanese, and Scottish distilleries tend to favor the “whisky” spelling. In reality, that doesn’t really matter, but what does matter is that you understand one incredibly important aspect of American whiskey culture: real Bourbon (i.e. Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek, and Jim Beam) MUST be made in Kentucky. Much like champagne and Kobe beef, bourbon is affiliated with a particular region and, say what you will about the Bluegrass State, that godsend of a land is Kentucky. Recently, “local bourbons” have started popping up everywhere from Oregon to New Jersey to Texas and although I’m sure they’re delicious (and although there’s technically no decree saying bourbon has to be crafted in the Colonel’s land), I’m still standing by the Kentucky rule.
Try Them All
Whiskey is a beautiful thing and one thing that makes it so wonderful is the wide variety of tastes that fit under the family umbrella. Although Jack Daniels might be the best-known American whiskey, with Jameson being recognized as the most popular international whiskey, there are an endless number of types, brands, and varieties to try. As you can easily see, I’m partial to bourbon, but on a recent trip to Ireland I sampled a bunch of single malt whiskies that were equally delicious. Additionally, I’ve become quite fond of rye whiskey over time and at times favor it when I’m looking for a drier alternative to bourbon. The one beast that I still haven’t tackled though is scotch, which I imagine will come with age. It’s unique smoky peat flavor is a taste that takes time to appreciate, something that I’m certainly excited to experience whilst thinking intently about nature and existence in a secluded, handmade cabin (For Emma, Forever Ago optional).
Settle On A Favorite
It might sound limiting, but I believe that every whiskey drinker needs a go-to. When you’re out with friends and you aren’t in the mood for a cocktail or you don’t know what sort of beer variety the bar has, it’s best to always have a backup that you can go to when you’re buddy’s grabbing the next round. Although there will always be a range of what a bar might carry, you can usually find a brand that’ll be available almost anywhere and for me it’s Bulleit. Sure, blame it on their packaging/branding/lack of marketing, I’ll blame it on the delicious flavor and reasonable price. It’s not Buffalo Trace, but it’s certainly not Jim Beam either and that’s a beautiful thing. Taste your way around the realm and find your copilot, we don’t always want to make decisions as grownups, but what you’ll have to drink should be an easy one to decide upon.
Learn About What Makes It Special
The oldest distillery in the hemisphere, special barrels, built on cursed burial ground, every whiskey has a story, some of which go back a LONG ways (Bushmills has been distilling in Ireland since 1608). Similarly, many “new” distilleries that are popping up around the world are born on the foundation of legacies stretching back to pre-prohibition, only to be rediscovered by descendants two, three, or four generations later. Unlike any other liquor in the world, whiskey is associated with our country and holds a substantial place in American folklore. We might not have invented whiskey, but we kidnapped it, took it to the American south, and made it our own weird frankenchild of wonderment and that’s something to be fucking proud of.
Wean Yourself Off Mixers
My dad drinks bourbon and his father before him also drank whiskey, but for my first years of consumption, I can’t with a clean conscience say I A) actually enjoyed the flavor of whiskey or B) ever drank it without the presence of Coke or ginger ale (the latter of which can still be used in times of desperation when faced with some really shistey options). It took time and dedication to get to where I am now where my go-to is simply whiskey + ice, hold the everything else. It’s simple, it’s tasty, and it’s oh so satisfying, but for the young pallet, it can be intimidating. Much like tequila, gin, and basically every other type of distilled spirit, the nicer the whiskey, the tastier it is on it’s own so pass on the Old Grand Dad and take a chance on something you’ll actually enjoy and remember, every passion starts with a little taste, or, uh, something like that.
Who needs a drink?