8 Lessons Scotch taught me that help me enjoy Bourbon

1. Patience, time, water, air, enjoyment

I used to be a swigger. Pour and gulp. Oxygen is a key ingredient to enjoying your drink, oxygen and patience. When wine oxidised goes off. Fizzy drinks go flat but whisky opens up and improves. The rule of thumb with Scotch is ;

‘A minute in the glass for a year in the cask’

Wait, prepare yourself to enjoy, relax and savour your investment. Older whisky delivers exceptional rewards for the patient drinker. Bourbon gives similar rewards.

2. Great Glass – Glencairn

I have noticed that some but not all Bourbon bloggers use a variety of different glasses to enjoy their drink. There is a very good reason that the Glencairn glass has become globally accepted as the best-tasting glass and it has won numerous design awards. I love the Glencairn glass because it focusses the nose so that you can best appreciate it. You can swirl your drink either calmly holding the lower portion of the glass or more rapidly holding the top of the glass. Slowly swirling your drink gently warms and releases its quality and depth. I am not suggesting that there are no other great glasses. As long as they deliver the same benefits go with what you like the feel of.

3. Fire and Ice – managing high proof

Higher proof expressions deliver great flavour but undiluted they can quickly dull your palette’s capacity to fully savour the result. I add from a single drop of water to two or three teaspoons. It is no fluke that the greatest master distillers tasted at 40 proof or 20 ABV. For my own taste I don’t go this low but it undoubtedly releases aromas and tastes often masked.

After my Glencairn my most valued whisky accessory is my Angels Share water dropper. I carefully and consistently add my preferred amount of water.

4. Mixers need time to settle

Alcohol and water molecules are not the same size so they take time to squeeze themselves together when mixed. If you add a mixer whether water, coke or whatever the result needs time to settle out. Give it a few minutes.

5. Trust the Master Distiller

Many of the current favourites are non-age statement expressions. Every aged malt or Bourbon (single barrel apart) is a blend of many different barrels. Why would we trust our favourite Master Distillers to chose and blend barrels of a single years whisky and be suspicious of them blending a mix of different years of barrels to make an NAS whisky. The greater selection can produce great results.

6. Don’t ignore entry level expressions

As whisky on both sides of the Atlantic has grown in popularity, variety and fan base there has been a tendency for some to criticise the well known brands and expressions almost in spite of their popularity. I have seen online forums where a majority of contributors have criticised for example Johnnie Walker Black label or Jim Beam White label as if it were the cool and trendy thing to do almost to prove how much these contributors know. Jim Murray, author of The whisky Bible stated once that with 6000 samples he could drink of an evening, he more often might drink JW Black Label and that there was not a blender on the planet who would not give their right arm to own Black Label. You don’t become a leading brand without delivering quality and consistency over many years. I am still surprised at every turn how great the ‘entry level’ Bourbons and Scotch Whiskies can be.

7. ”Age does not equate to quality”

It is a popular fallacy amongst whisky Geeks and marketers that age improves a Whisky. It often does, adding flavour and complexity. Over time the spirit flavour are overtaken or altered by the barrel influence. In Kentucky the more extreme changes in barometric pressure than in Scotland mean that maturation occurs faster. Young is not necessarily worse and indeed in Kentucky many would argue that for some Mash Bills 6-12 years is the sweet spot. In Scotland 12-18 is the equivalent but the slower maturation period produces spectacular results on those whiskies that can sustain it over 25, 30, 40 years. Some whisky can go much older but can become overloaded with the lignin, tannins and wood flavour dominating.

8. Don’t follow the crowd, trust your own taste.

Whisky inspires controversy especially when consumed in excess. Everyone has an opinion and the internet allows these opinions to be spread and be repeated. Only you can say what it is that you like. Taste is a combination of smell and taste. No one knows what you as an individual smell or taste. Follow your own impressions. Ignore the critics, the experts, the bloggers, they don’t know about you only you do. No one’s opinion has any more validity than yours.

To enjoy your whisky like a Scot, learn to be thrawn: adj. Perverse and stubborn with absolute conviction! — (Me), today