Ooooooo Whisky, I love you.
By Heather Manley, Founder Crooked Water Spirits, MN
I just finished getting certified as a Whisky Sommelier in 2018 and after a week of tasting, testing and imbibing, I’m happy to share I’m more in love with whisky than ever. Whisky has resurged in our time to a coveted and refined sipping experience, a far cry from its beginnings. As whisky continues to grow in interest, so does confusion on the foundations of whisky (or is it whiskey??) and the proper way to drink. Let’s hit out some basics, shall we?
The Right Way to Drink Whisky:
Whisky tasting is the analysis of whisky through visual examination, taste, and aroma. There is only one wrong way to drink whisky… and that’s not drinking it. Let me be clear; There is no wrong way to drink whisky. Don’t let anyone shame you out of drinking your whisky in a way that tastes good to you. Add water, ice, drink it out of a wine glass if that blows your hair back. So many connoisseurs have their tried and true process to drinking whisky that they try to impose on others, as if they’re a Prophet evangelizing the word of whisky, clutching their Whisky Bible. Be confident your way is the right way, for you. Neat, with a dollop of water, on ice or in an Old Fashioned…You do you.
Let me be clear; there is no wrong way to drink your whisky
Whisky vs Whiskey
Is it whisky or whiskey? Scottish products are whisky, while Irish and American varieties are called whiskey. You’ll see the terms used interchangeably when the source of the product isn’t clear or when the conversation is general. However, as typical with government, the US Code of Federal Regulations defined under American law, consistently spells it whisky. It makes no difference how you spell it as they are virtually identical words for the same thing. There are significant differences in types of whiskies but that has nothing to do with the spelling. In this article, I went with my preferred style, whisky. In the US, distilleries like Marker’s Mark and George Dickel prefer using whisky. It’s truly a choice.
All Bourbon is Whisky, not all Whisky is Bourbon
A simple saying that can confuse many. Whisky is the umbrella, generic term for all spirits under its banner (Bourbon, Rye, Irish, Scotch are examples of whisky). Because Bourbon starts as whisky, all bourbon at some point, was a whisky. However, not all whiskeys align with the foundations outlined above. If not 51% corn and meet the other parameters, it can never be a bourbon. It doesn’t mean it can’t be a highly valued and loved Rye, Wheat or another grain whisky.
Water Your Whisky
Some say adding water is the perfect way to open your whisky up for a good nose. While not entirely untrue, you may want to add water to soften the whisky for a better tasting experience vs totally blowing out your taste buds making you unable to pull out the finer points of your dram as you continue sipping it. My suggestion, add drops of water and test until the zinging on your tongue stops. You’ve now found your ideal proof for you.
Bourbon Whisky can only be from Kentucky
Man oh man did Kentucky do a great job on marketing their bourbon as the only place you can legitimately source this beautiful brown spirits from. Fact check: Bourbon is an American-made product as Scotch is from Scotland and Champagne is from Champagne region of France. You can buy bourbon from distilleries in all 50 states and just like a winery, every distillery has its’ own style. It’s your journey to explore and find what you love. The rules of bourbon are simple:
- The recipe consists of at least 51% corn
- Must be from America
- Must have touched the inside of a brand-new charred oak barrel
- Can’t be bottled at lower than 80 proof
- No coloring or additives allowed, unlike Canadian, Scotch, and Irish
Expensive Whiskies are the Best Whiskies
Pricing of whisky can be due to many things. If an older whisky, they have more costs associated with storage and compensating for angel’s share. More expensive with a less finished product? Prices go up to compensate. Or it can come down to supply. Fewer barrels means more difficult to obtain – price can go up for rarity. Price is set by distillery but once it leaves the warehouse, a distillery can no longer control its’ price in the marketplace. So that Pappy’s you paid $5k for? The profits of the inflated price more than likely went to the seller, not the producer.
Old Whisky is the Best Whisky
Older means more expensive, and people seem to default to believing that if it’s more expensive it must be better. This is untrue. Often older can is better, but it’s not a rule by any means. The easiest example is Bowmore. Just about every serious scotch drinker will agree that the Bowmore 12 year is the best whisky they make, better than any of their older ones. For Bourbon, it can tend to find its prime within a 4-10 year timeframe before getting bitter woody tones. In my collection, I have a 27 yr. Bourbon that cowers in comparison to a gorgeous 4 yr. Bourbon I have. So, hunt wisely and let your palate guide you to your best experience, not price and hype.
The Whisky Wrap Up:
I hope this blog was helpful to all who love bourbon. As the founder and sole owner of Crooked Water Spirits, I take great pride in the bourbons and whiskies we create. From sourcing port casks from Portugal to creating custom barrels that take multiple hours to execute leading to deep rich tasting profiles. Our commitment to innovation has led to over 45 national awards, spanning from San Fran to New York for Best In Category Bourbons, Gold and Silver medals for all of our 9 products. Our pillars of innovation, quality, and experience ensure we continue to elevate and exceed the expectations of our customers. South Lyndale Liquors has been a great supporter of Crooked Water and we thank you – the customers – for choosing to bring us into your home, for us an intimate and humbling experience. Cheers.
Want a Crooked Water Recipé? Try mixing “Quiet Night” at home.