November 06, 2018
Your holiday reunion with your colleagues is already planned and slowly moving forward on your calendar. You are nominated to bring a bottle of Scotch. But you were never much of a drinker, relegating yourself only to club sodas and mojitos. Scotch, Bourbons, and what-not for you are precarious labyrinths you will never find your way through.
And to compound the problem further, your league of friends includes connoisseurs, pub habitués, and refined drinkers. Clearly, you are in a social tight spot here. They were probably poking fun at you with that assigned chore.
Fear not. Knowing your way through whiskeys and spirits is not an insurmountable task. They are actually are a very interesting bunch to learn. Here is a guide on how to buy your first bottle of whiskey and prove everyone that you are one classy picker.
Consider Your Palate
You are probably tempted to pick that Port Ellen 13th Release Cask Strength 34-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky because come on, older is better, right? Not exactly.
The older the whiskey, the fuller and bolder the flavor is. This complex layers of aromas might be too overwhelming to your unaccustomed tongue. Like impressionist paintings and arthouse movies, it takes time to appreciate whiskeys. Don’t dive immediately into unfamiliar territories just to impress your friends. Trust us, they will know. Start with something more enjoyable for you and easier to your taste and smell. There is nothing shameful about that. And you will not regret it in the long run.
Having said that…
Know That Popularity Is Overrated
Much like with today’s mainstream musicians, a popular whiskey doesn’t always mean it is better. It might be that that whiskey’s company has a very good marketing team, or it has been in the market for a while already, creating a longstanding tradition. Or worse, it is more affordable than anything else. Stay away from these traps and do your homework.
Cheaper Isn’t Any Better Either
Photo: pexels/Negative Space
There are some things in life you should not spend too much money on: cable TV, coffee, gym memberships, etc. But not whiskey. Though you should skip on brands that charge too much, you should also stay away from bottles that charge too less. Much like electronics, underwear, and lawyers, a cheap whiskey always come with low quality and a whole lot of regret. If you are on a limited budget, you may opt smaller bottles or even miniatures.
Find Out The Usual Suspects
There are a number of whiskey types out there, and they can be overwhelming. This article will help you learn what separates a Scotch from an Irish whiskey and a Bourbon from Rye and what the deal with Moonshine is.
Check the Reviews
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash
Checking whiskey-related blogs is cool, but sometimes the consolidated opinion of average drinkers can provide you with better details and opinions about whiskey brands out there, allowing you to make more informed decisions. Forums such as Whisky Mag, For Whiskey Lovers, and subreddit r/whiskey are peopled with casual whiskey aficionados who will give you honest to goodness opinions about various brands without sugarcoating to avoid offending companies as bloggers would often do.
What Does The Label Say?
Whiskey bottles and packaging are littered with jargons and abbreviations that look like coded speak from some secret society. Don’t be intimidated, as they are actually very useful information. Check this article and find out what they mean.
ABV means Alcohol by Volume. This indicates how much alcohol (ethanol) is contained in a given volume of the bottle. “Proof” on the other hand is just the same, but it is twice the amount of ABV. An ABV of 25% means it is 50 proof, and so on. “Single malt” means it is a product one distillery. “Blended” on the other hand indicates that the whiskey contains a combination of barrel-aged malt and grain whiskeys.
Photo: Isabella Mendes/Pexels
If a store offers you the opportunity to try their whiskey before buying them, take advantage of this. Start by taking a whiff, noting the scents from the glass. Then take a small sip, gargle and roll the whiskey into your mouth and take note of the various flavors coming out. Is it woody? Spicy? Is there a hint of vanilla? How about fruits. Don’t focus on anything particular and be a passive observer. This is how you taste whiskeys effectively.
Buying your first whiskey is like purchasing your first suit or your first car. There are no rules, only guidelines. No standards, only preferences. Think of your inclinations, not other’s predilections. Never get a bottle you don’t like or cannot afford just to impress your friends. If it’s something you can enjoy alone in the middle of the night, then it’s worth your buck.
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