The first whiskey I ever ordered was a Jim Beam at an open bar at Hooters (never do this, for many reasons). I asked the bartender to add a dash of water because I read somewhere that it opens up the flavors of a whiskey (which is true). The result was an abomination. She returned with a 12 Oz. beer glass with, I assume, 2 Oz. of Beam and 10 Oz. of water. Needless to say, 10 Oz. of water doesn’t open up sh*t in 2 Oz. of Jim Beam. Which is why you should never, ever ask a Hooters bartender to add water to your whiskey.
Following this horrendous misadventure, I followed the traditional (at least, I call it traditional) path of the whiskey novice: drowned in Coke → cocktails (Manhattans and Old Fashioneds) → on the rocks → neat (the way God intended it). I also followed a fairly standard progression of whiskeys: Jim Beam → Jim Beam Black → High West Double Rye → Henry McKenna 10 → Monkey Shoulder → Laphroaig 10.
With the help of two homeless-looking guys and a lot of well-spent time, I know enough about whiskey to look like an ass-hole in any bar. When I get interested in something, I dive in head first. Whiskey has been no exception. From the fermentation, distillation, and aging process to the government regulations that impede distribution, I am fascinated by whiskey. For example, did you know that, in Single Malt whiskey, “Single” refers to the number of distilleries while “Malt” refers to the grain (100% barley)? Or, did you know that many states’ primary, if not exclusive, retailer of spirits is the state government in the form of ABC stores?
A lot of people don’t like the taste of whiskey. I can understand why. Few people would find the idea of drinking something that had been sitting in a barrel for 4 or 6 or 12 years anything but a deeply undesirable proposition. Fewer still when informed that this concoction is basically poison. But even if you don’t like the taste of whiskey, there are still plenty of reasons to love it. In fact, even if I didn’t care for the taste of whiskey I like to think that I would still find it fascinating.
Whiskey is a treasure trove of interest. If you love science, whiskey is a result of complex chemical reactions discovered (mostly by accident) over centuries. If you love history (like me), the history of whiskey is one of the richest niches in history I have yet found. If you work in government (also like me), the history of government policy aimed at whiskey production, sale, and consumption is filled with fascinating twists and turns. In short, I am convinced that no matter your interests, whiskey has something to offer.
Afterall, as Mark Twain reflected, “too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”