I started Bourbon for Beginners with the intention of disproving one of the most outrageous myths about bourbon – the more expensive a whiskey is, the better a whiskey is. As I hope to have proven in the several months I’ve had the blog up and running, that is simply not true. In addition, I have hoped to distill the rumor that tasting and enjoying whiskey is an objective endeavor. Tasting whiskey is firmly a subjective pursuit, varying greatly from person to person.
However, there are still more myths about bourbon (and whiskey at large) to be debunked.
1. The older a whiskey is, the better a whiskey is. This is simply not true, as I hoped to show in my comparison review of Booker’s and Noah’s Mill. Booker’s is only aged between 6 and 8 years, while Noah’s Mill is aged at least 15 years. However, while they are both fantastic whiskeys, I definitely prefer Booker’s. All aging a whiskey does is give the whiskey a different character than when it was young. What is true is that older whiskeys tend to be more expensive because they are more rare and harder to find. The best way to find out whether a younger or an older whiskey is better is to go out and drink the whiskey for yourself, which brings me to the second bourbon myth I’d like to debunk…
2. The only proper way to drink bourbon is straight up and neat. I used to believe very strongly in this myth, but it is also not true. I recently had the opportunity to try Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye Whiskey, one of the esteemed offerings from Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection. As a barrel-strength whiskey, it was a little tight in its flavors. However, after adding a few drops of water, Thomas Handy opened up to me and exploded across my taste buds with brilliant spices and vanillas in perfect balance. I suppose you could say I had a conversion experience. That being said, I still prefer drinking most whiskeys neat, but a splash of water can sometimes do wonders for opening up a whiskey. Of course, if you bought the drink, you can drink it however you would like. I enjoy the fullness of whiskey, so I don’t usually like it on the rocks because chilling the whiskey usually dulls the palate in my opinion. But as I have said before, there is no right way to drink whiskey; it is a subjective journey.
3. There are correct tasting notes in a whiskey. This is only somewhat true. When I taste a whiskey, the flavors usually conjure up other thoughts in my mind. Maybe a scent reminds me of Christmas morning, or a finish reminds me of a warm bonfire. These sensual memories contribute to the tasting notes that I bring out of whiskey. The reality is that most whiskey simply have a basic profile. There may be a general sweetness in the finish, but how a person exactly describes that sweetness is entirely subjective. In other words, if I review a whiskey and said it has a raspberry note in the nose, and you think it smells like strawberries, neither one of us is wrong. That, my friends, is the beauty of whiskey.
Hopefully, this has been helpful. Now, when one of your parents’ uppity friends tells you they have The Glenlivet 15-year French Oak Reserve in their liquor cabinet, you can confidently tell that person that The Glenlivet 12-year is every bit as good as the 15-year (at least in my opinion), and they wasted their money just to look fancy. In the meantime, drink some young, value bourbon and let it ride!