A huge part of one’s journey with whiskey is understanding the culture that surrounds each category. There’s always something new to learn, for both beginners and connoisseurs alike.
The rules below are by no means final, but they aid in keeping the whiskey world rich and inviting. We’re all guilty of overly asserting our opinion at times. What matters most, however, is that we all continue to grow and thrive, just like the ever-popular whiskey industry.
Etiquette goes a long way and, approached correctly, one can learn, teach, and make lifelong friends in the industry. Keep these rules in mind when next entering your favorite whiskey bar.
Drink It Your Way
When first delving into the wonderful world of whiskey, you don’t want to seem out of place, so you may want to mimic what you see at first. Viewing the whiskey drinking habits of others is helpful. And yes, getting suggestions from your whiskey-collecting uncle can help you understand the industry a bit better.
Whisky on the rocks / Photo Credit: James Nord
It’s perfectly fine to take people’s recommendations on board. But, at the end of the day, what matters most is what YOU enjoy. Attempting to seem knowledgeable isn’t worth it if you hate the experience. Close out the world around you and focus on the experience and dram in front of you.
Want to add an ice-cube to that expensive scotch whisky? Go ahead. Feel like adding a splash of water to that $30 dram of bourbon? Do it! At first, the high ABV and flavor intensity of whiskey can be overwhelming. So adding water and/or ice can take the edge off. A splash here, an ice cube there, if it makes the drinking experience more pleasant, go for it.
If you are looking to dive deep into a whiskey’s flavor, though, mixers aren’t really recommended. There’s no harm in experimenting with some whiskey cocktails, however, once you’ve experienced a whiskey’s true character.
Educate & Be Educated
Whiskey provides an endless source of information, found in rich traditions, history and modern innovations. Learn as much as you can and teach those who want to learn.
Whiskey books / Photo Credit: Azoghlin
Attend whiskey tastings. Often your favorite liquor store will have some drams available to taste, sometimes with experienced brand ambassadors to boot. Check out your town’s whiskey bars. They too will host whiskey tastings and will likely have flights on offer to further your education. You could even attend a whiskey festival. We’ve got a few tips for you if you’ve got one in your area.
Just remember that no one knows everything, and there’s always something new to learn. Incorrect information and misunderstood concepts should be met with understanding, not judgement.
The whiskey world is a club everyone is allowed to join.
It’s Not A Competition
As prices of rare whiskey rise and limited releases become harder to acquire, a competitive streak has started to grow.
Claive Vidiz Scotch Whisky Collection / Photo Credit: microwavedboy
Social media platforms are vibrant and friendly. From time to time, however, debates break out. Fans compare the size of their collections, while others debate over knowledge, in an attempt to outsmart their fellow whiskey lover.
Can’t we all just get along?
Whiskey should bring people together and create a warm, friendly platform for others to enter. Having a huge whiskey collection and abundant knowledge is wonderful, but these assets should be used to inspire, not to dissuade others.
Spread The Love
This rule spans across the oceans, over the mountains, and through the pot stills—to each and every corner of the earth.
Pouring whisky / Photo Credit: clappstar
There’s a reason whiskey has grown so greatly in popularity in recent years. Drinkers develop the wonderful habit of becoming global ambassadors for their favorite whiskey categories and brands.
Scotch fanatics are more than willing to educate you on the spirit of Scotland. In Japan, despite language barriers, locals will open your eyes to a world of tradition you never knew.
Bourbon, Canadian whisky, Irish whiskey- name one at a bar and odds are someone around has a captivating tale of how they fell in love with the spirit.
Join the movement. Apply all the aforementioned rules to your adventure, and set out to spread the good word. We’ll see you on the way.