All Whisky Needs Is Another Chance
A few months ago, a good friend refused to drink whisky and gloated about not touching hard liquor for years. His reason being is that he despises the taste, the burning sensation and everything that has to do with hard alcohol. Beer for him however is enjoyable and his drink of choice. He is a social drinker and enjoys imported beer so he’s definitely not against alcohol consumption. So let’s fast forward from two months ago to last night. I went over to this same friend’s condo and low and behold, what do I see? A whisky collection.
I became perplexed as I discovered the whisky stash. This single bachelor friend of mine lived alone in a one bedroom condo so those bottles were definitely his. So, he immediately confessed that he had picked up a few bottles here and there after attending one of our whisky tasting sessions. This is the same guy that hated whisky and whom I had to force out of obligation to attend one of our whisky meetups. Apparently, he no longer hates whisky and is currently undergoing an expediton stage as he’s already purchased a few single malt bottles on his own.
Well his “change of heart” is also often the case of the majority of people who consume whisky for the first time. Usually it’s improper process leads to an unpleasant experience. For example, you don’t dive into the deep end before learning how to swim. You have to stay in shallow waters to develop courage and technique before you venture out to high waters. Well the same thing applies to drinking hard liquor. Jumping straight in before knowing how to drink most often results in resentment.
So, if your first encounter with whisky is downing a 16-year-old Lagavulin off a shot glass, you’ll probably not appreciate the drink for what it is. In that sense, whisky generally becomes a victim (or perpetrator) of a bad first impression. On the contrary, if you were to properly try whisky for the first time, it’s more likely that you’d actually enjoy the experience.
My advice is when you’re selecting your first glass whether it be purchasing a bottle or trying it at the bar, ask for advice either from a friend or the bartender. Choosing a whisky randomly will make or break your desire to continue drinking very quickly. For the most part, good whisky shouldn’t be a spirit you guzzle for the fun of it like you did tequila on spring break. For one, it’s just too expensive and second it’s not intended for that. Do you really think that the crafter spent years perfecting a whisky so you could down it like jello shots? Of course not.
When you’re selecting your first dram, my advice is to stick with a gentler spirit. The first glass I ever had was a Cutty Sark, and it was pretty tough to swallow. I was in college and saw a deal where I could get free glasses with a bottle of Scotch so I made the purchase. Now, Cutty Sark is not a bad Scotch by any means, but as someone who was drinking mostly Captain and Cokes in college and drinking Guinness this was a nightmare. Fortunately, I did enjoy aspects of it, and that’s what brought me back for a second try.
There is no correct method to drink whisky and you may mix it with anything you can think of as you please, but for the purpose of dignity, I recommend that you learn to drink it straight (neat) so you can actually taste the actual flavor of the whisky. If you’ve never drank whisky without using a mixer, I would first recommend that you look for a single malt whisky as opposed to a blended whisky. There are two single malt bottles that I highly recommend for beginners: The first is Auchentoshan as it contains no peat. The second is Dalwhinnie as it too is a very smooth and light spirit. In fact Dalwhinnie’s tagline is “The Gentle Spirit”.
By making one of these your first introduction it should act as a warm hug rather than a noose around your neck. The burn you’ll experience will be very minimal and the aromas and flavor profile should excite you. While most bartenders will probably suggest Glenlivet or Glenfiddich, it’s only because they’re the two most popular single malt bottles here in Manila. Both are great options for second or third tastings, but for a first timer, you may find them slightly more powerful than you’d like.
As these are your first two bottles I would attempt to write down as much about the tastes you are sensing and then compare it to notes of others that can be found online. After you have sampled these Scotch’s a few times try a couple of others off of this list below.
– Glenkinchie 12 Year
– Bladnoch 11 Year
– Glenmorangie 10 Year
– The Balvenie Doublewood
– The Macallan 10 Year
– The Dalmore 12 Year
While you start making your way through these various other whisky, your palette will start to develop and you will start picking up more of the flavors that more experienced drinkers talk about. Before you know it, you will be impressing bartenders with your discussion on the sherry vs peat flavors on how long the finish is.