Keeping an open mind…

This being my first blog (both for Whisk(e)y Apostle (and in general).  I thought that the topic should be relatively important. There are a lot of things I could go on about but what I really want to address is an issue that I’ve seen for years and continue to see. It’s something that affects both the seasoned whisky devotee and the neophyte alike…open mindedness. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen someone snub their nose at one drink or another because of perceived inferiority. Irish whiskey, bourbon, blended scotch, and Canadian whisky come up most often but I don’t think any drink is immune to this phenomenon.
This usually manifests in one of the following ways:

1. “The flavors aren’t as pronounced” – B.S.

There are a multitude of flavors in every type of whisky if you’re just open minded enough to give them a chance. The flavors can be very different from type to type and within types, but that discovery is half the fun. Don’t let anyone tell you a blended scotch is bland. A good blended scotch can be a symphony of layered flavors in the hands of a good blender. You’ll only know if you try it for yourself.

2. “They aren’t made as well” – B.S.

It takes just as much work to make bourbon as it does to make good single malt and it takes more work on the back end to make a quality blend. All the men and women who make whisky, whatever the variety put just a much time and sweat (not literally) into their product as anyone else. Don’t sell their hard work short without at least giving it a taste.

3. “That type of whisky doesn’t taste very good” – B.S.

Have you tried them all? No. Is every iteration of a particular type of whisky good? No. But there are plenty of good ones out there and if you dismiss a category based on one or two bad drams then you’re really missing out.

4. “I just don’t like them” – Fine, I’ll give you this one.

Taste is a personal thing. You don’t have to like every thing. Different strokes for different folks.

Whenever I’m conversing with someone and they make one of these statements my response is to ask “Why?” This usually elicits a quizzical look. I follow up with “why do think blended scotch/bourbon is inferior to single malts?” We’ll go back and forth and if I can convince them to just give it a try 4 out of 5 times they’re very surprised.

My point in all of this? Taste it. Try it. Experience it. Don’t dismiss a whisky without deciding for yourself. Matt and I have had quite a few drams, both together and apart. Do we agree on all of them? No. Is that okay? Yes. Try as many different whiskies as you can and make up your own mind. Whisky, like life is definitely about the journey, not the destination.

-Richard

Words, words, words. What about flavor?

I thought I would get things rolling by talking about the art of tasting. While tasting a new whiskey should be relaxing and enjoyable, it can also cause a lot of anxiety to those who want to describe and understand the complexities of the dram. Tasting notes on store shelves or bottles are often esoteric and confusing (even moreso than wine). I mean, who really wants to drink something that tastes like ‘aged leather’ or ‘damp earth?’ And what about peat? Who’s Pete? So here is my humble opinion on the subject.

Whiskey is incredibly diverse and complex. I am sure some people will argue with me, but I believe that you should start with something less complex to get your palate going. So pick out an Irish or a nice Speyside (preferably young and aged in bourbon casks). These whiskies will give you a good basis for what whiskey is supposed to taste like. Try to describe them using your experience. A Master Distiller might say that something has notes of black currant. If you’ve never tasted a black currant, that is not particularly helpful. As you develop your own vocabulary, start searching out the flavors that the Master Distillers talk about. If you like cask finishes, try the wine that was in the cask first. Find places where you can smell leather, iodine, and peat. Become more aware of your senses of taste and smell. Before you know it, you will be tasting like a pro. You’re vocabulary just may be a little different (i.e. ‘This takes like ‘Nilla wafers and fresh mown grass’).

Check out our FAQs for more info on the ritual of tasting.

-Matt

Begin At The Beguine

Well, this is my first post.  My good friend Richard and I have been discussing a whiskey blog for some time and now is the time.  We will be blogging about the wonders of all forms of whiskey with the occasional shout out to a revered spirit or beer that strikes our fancy.  I am coming to you from New York City, where I will be attending every whiskey event I can possibly attend, and Richard is holding it down for the Dirty South.  We are also working on a system for helping newbies and whiskey enthusiasts find their perfect dram.  So, give us read, give us a shout, and we hope that we will be able to help you in your quest for knowledge and the perfect dram.

-Matt