I’ve been drinking whisky for years now but until a few years ago, it was always bar rail with ginger. I found whisky on its own to be too much for me. Too strong, too smoky, too expensive. Everything about it was out of my comfort zone. I can’t remember what put me on the path to enjoying whisky “properly” but I’ve learned some things along the way. For those of you out there that want to venture into the world of whisky but are overwhelmed or intimidated, here are a few things to help you find your way.
A Whole New World
The world of whisky is vast and that can be daunting. Should you go with bourbon, scotch, Irish whiskey, Japanese whisky, American, Canadian whisky or even Indian Whiskey? You’re starting out and have asked yourself “Which whisky should I drink?” The short answer is ANY. Through experimentation, you’ll learn what you like. Try different whiskies from various regions. Try to sample a few from each category so you aren’t basing your basing your opinion on a single pour. If you can, go to bars with a good selection or split bottles with friends/family.
Shaken or Stirred?
Now, we aren’t talking about martinis but there are many different ways to enjoy whisky and each way will affect the experience. You can start out drinking whisky straight/neat and take full advantage of the distiller’s work & the whisky’s profile. This comes with an alcohol burn that may deter some.
A cocktail, such as an Old Fashioned or Rusty Nail, can make it more palatable at the expense of masking some of the whisky’s flavours.
Having whisky on the rocks, or on ice, chills the whisky, cutting down the alcohol burn and sometimes bringing out different notes. Be careful with the ice though, chilling can also mute the whisky and, as it melts, it waters down your whisky beyond your control.
Adding water to your whisky isn’t a bad thing. It’s important that you have control over it. When you add water (intentionally), you can still cut back the burn and open up the whisky like with ice while not diluting it to the point of losing flavour.
Experience & Experiment
When I got into whisky, I was worried more about fitting in and tasting/smelling the same notes that I read about or that other people mentioned. I focused on what I thought was the right way to enjoy it. In the end, taste is personal and you have to find what you like. Whether it’s in a cocktail, or neat, a bourbon or a scotch, however you take your whisky, as long as you like what you’re drinking, you’re doing it right.