Well, it’s Repeal Day, and that calls for some good ol’ whiskey fun. December 5, 2013 marks the 80th Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition in the United States, and I am celebrating with a list of my Top Ten Conversion Whiskeys.
Since most of us whiskey nerds have folks in our lives that do not enjoy whiskey, it is important to remember that evangelism is just as important as enjoyment. One should not impose whiskey on others, but the introduction to whiskey can never hurt, right? (Note: I realize that there are ethical problems with tying somebody to a chair and pouring whiskey down their throat.)
This is a list of whiskeys that I have found useful in the conversion process. Some people do not like whiskey for all kinds of reasons – because it is too harsh, not flavorful enough, does not accommodate their palate, or they are just plain old prejudiced. So, I have tried to incorporate whiskeys from all over the map, and all across the flavor wheel to help you convert that loved one in your life. Not all of these whiskeys are personal favorites of mine, but they are all readily available in most liquor stores to help you in your proselytizing. (I have also limited the list to one entry per distillery, and there are no limited edition whiskeys on here, only standard range releases.)
Honorable Mention: Wild Turkey American Honey – While this is not technically a whiskey, it deserves a mention here because it is the best bourbon liqueur on the market today at preserving the flavors of bourbon. This can be a great gateway drug, especially when served on the rocks with a splash of Wild Turkey 101 on a summer afternoon.
10. Ardbeg Uigeadail – This might seem like a strange entry on this list since most folks are turned off by peat, but there is a story here. The beautiful woman I am currently dating is a coffee drinker who has never found whiskey to her liking. Ardbeg Uigeadail was the breakthrough whiskey for her, so to the coffee drinker in your life, Slainte!
9. Bunnahabhain 12 yr. – Another Islay entry on this list makes it here because on its simplicity, and its drinkability. The whiff of smoke works well for beer drinkers, as does the dense sherry on the palate. For the lover of wee heavy ales, and Belgian Tripels, Bunnahabhain 12 yr. can be very persuasive.
8. Gentleman Jack – I know few (if any) whiskey lovers that love Gentleman Jack, but I know a ton of weekend gin guzzlers that love Gentleman Jack. It speaks to a unique audience, and works well at converting that gin guzzling neighbor you know.
7. Basil Hayden’s – This is a bourbon on the lighter side of bourbon, and it lacks a lot of the dense, sweet notes that bourbon is known for. It is a great introduction to spicier, more floral bourbons for that sultry Southerner you’re trying to convert.
6. Bushmill’s 16 yr. – This is a port-finished single malt Irish whiskey that is both sweet and dry, reminding me a lot of port, itself. If you are seeking to convert a wine drinker, have a bottle of Bushmill’s 16 yr. on hand at your next house party.
5. Crown Royal Reserve – This super smooth Canadian dram is great for this conversion endeavor because of its allure. The packaging works just as much as the contents of the bottle to convince the stubborn hold out that their life is about to be enhanced by whiskey.
4. Four Roses Yellow Label – This is flat out the most drinkable bourbon available. It is mellow and sexy, and prime conversion material, which is one of the primary reasons it was one of the first whiskey reviews I ever did.
3. The Balvenie 12 yr. DoubleWood – This is on the list precisely because it works. I don’t have a ton of analysis beyond the fact that I know at least three people who have told me that this whiskey changed their life.
2. Redbreast 12 yr. – This silky Irish pour will always be the highlight of a dinner party because of its combination of floral, sweet elegance, and its superb drinkability. It is also an Irish whiskey so the tough, hard-working stockyard workers in your life will be more easily swayed.
1. The Glenlivet 12 yr. – This takes the number one spot on my list because it is the whiskey that converted me. I was miring in a world of craft beer and rum (both of which are still wonderful) until I picked up a bottle of this juice on a whim one day. Four years and a blog later, I could not be happier with that decision. I also happen to know that my good friend, William from A Dram Good Time, could tell you a similar story about this Glenlivet expression.
Those are my favorite conversion whiskeys; what are yours? What whiskeys do you keep on hand for those hold outs at your house parties? Are there any great conversion whiskeys I have left out? Happy Repeal Day, and don’t forget to let it ride!