The Swirl | Part 2 of 3

by VWC Member Rusty Evenson. 

One of the most enjoyable things I’ve found in life is sharing whiskey with my friends.  But before I got to the point I wanted to share my whiskey with folks, I found it prudent to determine which whiskeys I liked and how I liked them.  It just seems rude to pour a glass for your buddy who hasn’t tried whiskey before and say, “Here, try this.  I don’t like it.  But you might…” And one of the questions many of my friends, who are trying whiskey for the first time with me, ask is what is the proper way to drink whiskey?  Do you drink it neat?  Do you drink it over rocks?  What kind of glass do you use?  How fast do you drink it?  My answer is as nuanced as it is simple.  You drink it the way you like it.

Some of the folks to whom I introduced whiskey to have said things like, “Wait a minute.  How am I supposed to know IF I will like whiskey much less HOW I’ll like it if I’ve never had it before?”  Those are great questions.  Well, you try different ones and you try them in different ways until you find what suits you.  And you know what?  It’s OK if it doesn’t suit you at all.  I think all whiskey is an acquired taste.  Some are just easier to acquire than others. 

Through my whiskey journey so far, I have found that you cannot judge a whiskey by its price alone.  Not all whiskey has to break the bank to appeal to me.  I found my taste in scotch is expensive.  But my taste in bourbon is not.  I discovered this by going to the package store on base and buying a different bottle every month.  I tried some from the top shelf; middle shelf; bottom shelf; and behind that locked glass case.  I found I like both blended and single malt scotch.  I like some scotch peaty.  But I don’t like all peaty scotch.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of my favorite bourbons were only about $30 per bottle.  I learned that ‘rare’ isn’t necessarily a quantity.  And something labeled as a ‘reserve’ can still taste pretty ordinary.

The first whiskey I ever tried was over rocks in a lowball glass.  That’s just the way dad handed it to me, and I didn’t question it.  I actually still drink most whiskey out of a lowball glass.  I don’t do it because of any special rules.  I just find it suits my nose and helps keep the amount I drink in check.  Some folks prefer a glencairn glass.  Others are perfectly comfortable just passing the jug around the campfire and taking a pull straight from the source.  I generally try each new whiskey neat first.  I reckon I just want to see what the makers wanted their booze to taste like straight out of the bottle.  I’m also not opposed to putting it over ice if neat doesn’t suit my fancy.  Sometimes just a bit of dilution or chill can open up different flavors for me and change my mind about buying it again or having it be a one-time purchase.  Whether I’m introducing whiskey to a new drinker or a new whiskey to someone who has been drinking it for a while, I always recommend trying it neat first.  If they don’t like it that way, they are more than welcome to add ice or water.  And if they still don’t like it, I’ll finish it for them.

I tend to sip whiskey.  Some of the friends with whom I drink prefer shots while others prefer cocktails.  I keep different whiskey in my cabinet for sipping, shooting, and mixing.  If you want to sip, I’ll pour you whatever you fancy in my cabinet.  However, if you want to shoot or mix, I’ll hold on to the bottles with the blue hue or freedom-representing raptor etched into it and hand you the bottle with a black label or sealed with red wax.  I’ll offer recommendations on how or in what to drink the spirit.  But ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which way you like it best and how it makes you happy.

I make the same deal with anyone who tries to tell me how I should drink whiskey.  You don’t tell me how to drink my whiskey and I won’t tell you how to bed your wife.  Whiskey is a personal journey.  I don’t care what’s in your glass as long as you raise it when I say…

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