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Bruce Leroy
Jun 10, 2010

So, what would any of you recommend as a good way for a novice to get introduced to whisk(e)y?

Is there a particular brand you'd recommend to begin with or certain whisk(e)y-based cocktails first?

If it helps, I think I'd be more interested in something smoother, at least to begin with.


Bruce Leroy
Jun 10, 2010

Remy Marathe posted:

I'd try to narrow it down to something more specific like scotch or bourbons. Someone mentioned canadian club going down like water, for me it goes down like vomit, so you need to find out what seems tastiest/least nasty to you- if you're not a spirit drinker in general consider rums or vodkas as other possibilities.

Once you find something you can palate:

1) Stick with the same kind of liquor for a while. Differences between brands will begin popping out at you. Within that type, take the opportunity to try something new every time you buy some.

2) Start sniffing everything you drink. A sniff can become as enjoyable and interesting as a sip. Sniff often. Sniff well.

3) If you're alone and bored, take notes. Keep them private because they'll probably be really stupid. It's okay- the point is to be thinking about what you're tasting. Also it's hard to remember everything you tasted, especially if you're only switching it up one fifth at a time.

4) Forget cocktails, unless you have a favorite which might point the way to the liquor you like best. Forget shots, they are for people who don't like what they're drinking. If it's too rough or the alcohol overpowers any nuance you can detect, try adding a bit of water. If it's still too much, ice. Also, sipping is perfectly manly and there's not a bartender in the world who wouldn't respect you when you order a double of X and a pint of water. The whiskey's for taste, the water's for something to drink.

5) Taste, then read a professional like Michael Jackson's (not the musician) notes on the same thing, then taste again. See if you can spot what they're seeing.

6) Someone mentioned Glenlivet, that's a very good suggestion for a mellow scotch. Rather than expensive nuanced stuff older than 12, personally I'd start by trying the big mainstays so you can see how things vary and move on from there.

"Smoother" generally comes with age and quality. This can get expensive, so you may want to settle on "smooth enough" while you find where your tastes lie.

Single Malt Scotch: Glenlivet 12, Glenmorangie 10, Macallan 12. Balvenie 12 or the doublewood if it's not that much more. There are many other options, just try SOMETHING and then try something else.

You don't have to go single malt, blends aren't necessarily poo poo. I believe distillers developed blends partly so they could produce something consistent year after year, a signature flavor. Walker red, black, and green are all good and very different from one another. Famous grouse is great despite its modest apperance, I think that was the first liquor I liked rather than suffered for the sake of getting drunk. I never liked Chivas Regal but lots of people do.

I haven't tried nearly as many american whiskeys in my day, but even as a non-bourbon liker I always found Knob Creek, Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey Russels Reserve, and Bulleit all very drinkable.

Wow, that was way more effort than I expected for a response. Thanks a lot for that.

#4 is especially interesting to me, as I feel a little intimidated by the sort of machismo that surrounds whisk(e)y so I always felt kinda wimpy asking for a glass of water to go with my booze.

I used to never drink at all, simply because I didn't like the taste of even things like beer. Then, I figured out that the stuff I had tasted was just pisswater or poo poo and started liking a lot of good stuff just for pure taste rather than getting shitfaced like my friends. I hope this extends over to whisk(e)y, too.

As a short followup question, are there basically any specific brands of whisk(e)y (of all kinds, including Scotch, bourbon, etc.) that I should just avoid?

Bruce Leroy
Jun 10, 2010

wormil posted:

To start I would avoid really young bourbons (>5 yrs) or young scotch (>10) yrs. The younger the more alcoholic it will taste. Wild Turkey 101 is an excellent introductory bourbon. The high proof might give you pause but it's well balanced and smoother than many lower proof whiskeys. There have already been some scotch recommendations.

Thanks for the advice.

Another question, is there any sort of "pairing" that goes with whisk(e)ys like there is for other things like beer and wine or should they be drunk alone (with some water or whatever) to keep the taste pure?

Bruce Leroy
Jun 10, 2010

wormil posted:

I went to a bourbon tasting in Kentucky and they just had regular finger food, but I don't like to eat while drinking whiskey. I wouldn't worry about keeping the taste pure unless you are keeping notes. It will take a little while to acclimate your taste buds unless you already have a sensitive palate.

Cool, thanks.

There have been several psychological research studies about how people can't differentiate expensive wines from cheap wines very well in blind taste tests and in other studies researchers found that people will rate wines as better if they are told that the wine is expensive. The latter researchers even found that they could serve the same exact wine to participants more than once and trick them into thinking they were different wines by telling them that the two blind samples of the same wine were of substantially different price, reflecting the same effect of people rating the pricier wines as better quality.

So, for everyone, do you think you'd be able to pick out the more expensive and ostensibly higher quality whisk(e)ys from the cheaper, poor quality stuff or do you think psychological effects similar to those affecting wine tasters may be affecting your perceptions of whisk(e)ys. Basically, do you think you could reliably pick out the more aged or better quality whisk(e)ys from the younger, crappier stuff?

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