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comment by psychoticmilkman
psychoticmilkman  ·  322 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Pubski: February 28, 2018

Can anyone recommend a good whiskey?

The only whiskey I've ever tried was a pretty cheap honey whiskey like 10 years ago. I liked it okay, but want to learn more.

Considering going out and trying Buffalo Trace or Henry McKenna.




johnnyFive  ·  322 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Hoo, prepare for too much information :)

So you have a couple different big categories, and then sub-types within that. For more on how whiskey is made and the types, see here.

My personal preference is generally Kentucky bourbon, followed by Irish whiskey. I'm not typically a fan of Tennessee whiskey (with some exceptions) or Scotch. I prefer some combination of bite + sweet, and so tend to avoid the more peaty or smoky flavors common in Scotch. I also don't generally like rye, as they're too bitter for my taste.

To my experience, there is a stronger correlation between price and quality with whiskey than with wine. But this isn't 100%; older (and thus more expensive) tends to be smoother, with a potentially more interesting flavor, but you may find you prefer a cheaper kind from one distillery versus something more expensive from another. Pricing is here in Virginia, but we can only get liquor by the bottle from state-run ABC stores (so YMMV). What I'm listing is for a 750mL bottle. That said, this is only true to a certain point, with many of the super-expensive ones not really worth it.

There are also a couple different "standard" ways of drinking it. When I first started getting into whiskey, I'd drink it on the rocks (i.e. with ice), but now I prefer it neat (meaning with nothing added). That's sort of in keeping with my palette generally; I'm not a big condiment person, for example, as I want to taste what I'm eating.

First, I'm not really willing to go lower than mid-range, which I consider around $40 per bottle. If I want to spend less, I'll buy something that isn't whiskey and mix it. But depending on your area, you may be able to find the same stuff for less. I'm also not going into detail about "tasting notes" or whatever, since I don't really have the vocabulary. I've linked to reviews wherever possible, but as with wine (or anything else you drink, really), it's going to require some experimentation to find what you like.

Starting with the Irish, regular ol' Jameson is probably the cheapest thing I'll mention ($30), and is quite good. It's what got me into whiskey, and is a little lighter so is a good introduction. Eagle Rare 10-year, made by Buffalo Trace, is in the same price range and is also quite good, and would make an excellent starter bourbon given the taste-to-price ratio.

Next is Makers 46. It's a variation on Makers Mark (and is made by the same company), whereby they take a fully aged barrel of Makers, add a different kind of wood, and then let it age a few more months. It sweetens it a tad, and adds a hint of vanilla. Regular Makers Mark is also good, and is a tad cheaper. (Here in VA, the 46 is around $40, and regular Makers is about $10 less). Also in this range would be Jameson Black Barrel ($40), which is regular Jameson that is then aged further in barrels that were formerly used for stout beer and sherry.

At a similar price point ($45), Four Roses Single Barrel is excellent. Their Small Batch is also good (and is only $35), but I prefer the Single Barrel. Buffalo Trace is another great option for a similar price range. Elijah Craig's better stuff can be good (I liked their 12-year, but they've since replaced it with their Small Batch, which I haven't had).

Going slightly higher in price point would be Jefferson's Reserve Very Old ($53). It's my new go-to for special occasions, and is for me the best bang for the buck. Next up would be Blanton's, which is starting to get pricey ($60). It is superb, however. Another Irish shows up here: Red Breast 12-year ($62), which is pretty different from the bourbons here (tending towards fruitier and with less bite), but is also very good. They have some other variations (15-year, 21-year, and cask strength) that are more expensive still, but which I haven't ever tried.

Still more expensive is Jefferson Ocean. This is $80 for the regular stuff, $100 for cask strength. The conceit is that they literally put the whiskey barrels on a ship and sail that bitch around the world for a few months (the idea being different kinds of air and the rocking of the ship). Honestly, it's not worth it to me. It's definitely smoother than cheaper things, but it's almost getting too smooth for me, to the point that the flavor stops being interesting. I'd much rather have Blanton's or Red Breast at that point.

Finally, there are a couple local ones that are worth checking out, although they may not yet be available outside Virginia. Reservoir is made here in Richmond, and is quite pricey ($85). It's tasty, and is slightly unusual in being made from 100% corn. Another is Ironclad, made in Newport News (right where the James River meets the Chesapeake Bay). They only sells theirs in 375mL bottles right now, which run $38 here. Supposedly being so close to the water makes a difference in the taste, but I've never tried. I have had Reservoir, which is quite good.

You can have things like Johnny Walker Blue (which is Scotch) or Pappy Van Winkle that are a couple hundred bucks a bottle, too. I'm not willing to go that high for a drink, and to be honestly can't imagine that they're truly 4+ times better than something like Blanton's. I expect there's a (large) extent to which it's just about the prestige factor.

Anyway, that is your TMI on whiskey.

nowaypablo  ·  322 days ago  ·  link  ·  

One of my favorite things on Hubski is when an expert or enthusiast catches a casual question on a subject and just goes off :D

psychoticmilkman  ·  322 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I would be lying if I said I wasn't hoping for this.

johnnyFive  ·  322 days ago  ·  link  ·  

It hopefully goes without saying that I fall firmly and exclusively into the latter category :)

FirebrandRoaring  ·  322 days ago  ·  link  ·  

That is... impressive comprehension of whiskey.

Sometimes, I wish I would drink just so I could become well-versed in alcohol. It seems to offer a breadth of experience to people who can appreciate it.

johnnyFive  ·  321 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Do you not drink at all? Certainly goes against the stereotype :)

FirebrandRoaring  ·  321 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Don't measure me, or anyone, in stereotypes. It's dimunitive and disrespectful to the actual person on the other end. I'm sure you wouldn't be amused to be surprised at when it turns out you speak more than just your native "American".

No, I don't drink. I knew from a young age that drugs, smoke or alcohol interest me none. An accidental straight-edge, if you will; a happy coincidence, since Ian McKay, a friend of Henry Rollins' — an icon of mine — made waves that started the straight edge movement. My parents must think me a freak, as they try to get me to drink a glass of something every holiday we spend together.

That said, I have two exceptions. First is nootropics: I want to see what mind is capable of, given enhanced conditions. Second: if I ever get my hands on LSD without landing in jail, I'm taking that sucker. There's something about the idea of expanded consciousness that appeals to me. I'm a creative type, and stretching the limits of connections my brain can make appeals to me. I'd have to pick the moment to take it: I know that mood and the state of mind going in matter a lot in the outcome, and the downswing of my anxiety/depression/apathy would kill the opportunity and/or mess me up bad time — but I'm up for the experience.

johnnyFive  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Don't measure me, or anyone, in stereotypes. It's dimunitive and disrespectful to the actual person on the other end. I'm sure you wouldn't be amused to be surprised at when it turns out you speak more than just your native "American".

I'm not sure why you took my statement seriously, as it was not intended as such.

FirebrandRoaring  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Look. I'd like to think you're a splendid fellow, and you've given me no reason to think otherwise. I'd also like to think you mean no harm when you joke about the laughing stock that my people — and, by extension, me — have been reduced to. You do it in good jest, expecting your company to laugh about it with you. Here, you'd be about 99% correct in your assumption: those around you will laugh at the single-dimension image of a nation with grand history full of human virtue and human error.

I won't.

Why?

Because my people are not a laughing stock. Because I am not a laughing stock.

Because I hear the "drunk russhan" line of bullshit so much, it's sickening. I've become a punchline in the eyes of the whole world thanks to your government's propaganda efforts born out of fear and some serious discomfort over "them russhans'" nuclear arsenal.

Because your people, in particular, tend to assume the same blissful ignorance as they connect with the world at large and pretend like their images of other nation are what those nations are, and I've seen that too many times to even crack a smile.

Because when I tell people I don't drink, they look at me the same funny look and somethink you did: "You don't drink? Well, that does not comform with my stereotype of you" — and then the subtext kicks in: "There must be something wrong with you. No way my perceptions are false".

Sure, you don't mean it. It doesn't matter: that's what you're saying anyway. It's woven into your worldview since the day you were born. And you, of all people? God damn.

johnnyFive  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Your comment is more than a little hypocritical. Saying stereotyping is bad when it's about you because of all the things "my people" (whoever they are) supposedly say and think is, to be generous, contradictory.

FirebrandRoaring  ·  319 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Don't give me a "supposedly" in a thread where my non-drinking doesn't conform with your single-line portrait of a Russian.

Did you really consider it wise to jab a Russian with "wow, you don't drink, that's a new one"? And then you get surprised when I have something to say about your people (Americans. I'm talking about Americans). Then you see me spell out, in no uncertain terms, how sick and tired I am from that comparison because of how ill-conceived and thoughtlessly consumed it is — and you give me "no u".

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, because it's important to reaffirm: I think you're a good person, and from what little I know about you, I have respect for you and your life achievements. Kung fu? Man. I respect a man who takes care of their body. I have nothing against you.

I have everything against you shoving that intellectual garbage of a comparison into my face, hoping for me to chuckle back. That image that you've decided to measure me against? Even in a jokular fashion, it isn't simply low-class: it's mental rot that I'm too tired to witness, not simply because it's omnipresent in the Englishsphere, but also because of how lazy it is to consume and reproduce.

You strike me as a person who also takes care of their mind. I expect better of you than to humor a Russian with a Russian stereotype. Imagine how fucking stupid it would look for me to go "Yoo kaen koong-foo? Yoo sey yoor not faet? Wot? Yoo know lo, too? Yoo sey yoor not stoopeed?!" (aside, of course, from the best rendition of the Russian accent I've ever seen).

johnnyFive  ·  319 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I understand that people are sensitive to different things at different levels. So that this is a sore spot for you I get, and fair enough. I thought you knew me well enough to know that I don't take that kind of stereotyping seriously, and that I'm about as far from nationalistic as one can get. But again, I get that we all have stuff that gets under our skin, and I'm not saying you're wrong for not being amused even if my intentions weren't malevolent.

Where you lose any semblance of moral high ground, though, is how you've handled it. You're assuming my motivations while also overgeneralizing about a country, at the same time that you're complaining about overgeneralizations. If you'd just said "hey, this is a sore spot for me, don't joke about it," I would've respected that. That's the grown-up way to deal with a difference in interpretations and/or sensitivities. But I don't respect a temper tantrum or a baseless assumption of bad faith.

FirebrandRoaring  ·  319 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Fair enough. I get that I've taken the issue too far, and I see now that I could have handled it differently, including giving you the benefit of the doubt.

I apologize for taking the conversation into the territory of pure pathos. You may have noticed: I do that sometimes. Still learning to control all the repressed anger. I'm sorry that you had to experience an undeserved outburst. Thank you for being patient with me.

johnnyFive  ·  316 days ago  ·  link  ·  

No worries, and as I said, we all have the stuff that bothers us. And part of any learning process involves missteps :)

One of the things that I like about hubski as opposed to a larger community is that we get a chance to have conversations like this. It's precious rare these days.

cgod  ·  322 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'm drinking from a bottle Balvenie 21 portwood. I'm not a Scotch guy usually but it's the last Christmas bottle. Despite not being big on Scotch I've always found Balvnie pretty palatable.

b_b  ·  321 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I've always found that scotch has the largest variation in taste among any variety of whiskey I've delved into. To me, they range from sublime to don't-even-open-that-bottle-while-I'm-in-the-room, with the latter category being the on extreme peaty end of the spectrum. I've had Balvenie 15, but not 21. The 15 is damn good, so I would imagine that the 21 is, as well (although the 15 is aged in oak, so probably not quite the same flavor profile).

johnnyFive  ·  321 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I generally don't like them particularly myself, but this one may be worth trying if I ever get the chance. I have had Aberlour, which was pretty tasty, and is about the only scotch I actually liked.

b_b  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

The best scotches I've had are as complex and intensely flavorful as a really good cognac. If you're ever in the mood to drop a few bucks on faith alone, the best liquor or any variety I've ever tasted is Mortlach 16. I have an inch left in a bottle at home that's been there a while, because I'm afraid to finish it.

The worst scotches stick to your mouth, esophagus, and stomach, and you burp campfire for like two days. To me, this includes such famous ones as Lagavulin, Talisker, Laphroig, etc. People love them, but I just can't do it. The smoke/peat browbeating you with every sip is just something I can't bring myself to enjoy.

johnnyFive  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

For the latter, yes, that sums it up pretty well.

I looked up Mortlach, but unfortunately our ABC stores don't carry it. Also, we apparently have different definitions of "a few bucks" if online prices are to be believed :) (the first google result sells it for like $230 a bottle).

b_b  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Holy hell. The price has gone up by $100 in the last few years. I was told at the time I bought my bottle that it's one of the whiskys that goes into the Johnnie Walker blends, and the Chinese demand for Johnnie Walker was what was making the price skyrocket (to $130 at that time). Apparently, that trend hasn't abated.

johnnyFive  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I didn't know Johnny Walker used other companies' Scotch in its blends. Huh.

But yeah, even >$100 is generally too rich for my blood, especially as a gamble.

b_b  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Not a gamble :)

cgod  ·  321 days ago  ·  link  ·  

They have a port and and oak 21. The port is more expensive and I like it better than the 15 which I drank a fair bit back when I was a bartender.

I hate super peaty scotch as well, it keeps me from stretching out and trying different ones.

psychoticmilkman  ·  322 days ago  ·  link  ·  

This is amazing. Thank you. Definitely going to try some Jameson and check out the Eagle Rare, that one sounds interesting. Lots of good info here.

Also I've now wasted a lot of time at distiller.com, thanks!

I also saw a video where a bourbon enthusiast suggested ordering neat and asking for a glass of ice. Then you can taste it neat, then he suggested just dripping a few drops of water in and tasting again for a slightly altered profile. Any insight on if this is worth doing? or should I just taste something neat and on the rocks to compare?

johnnyFive  ·  321 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'd say try it all different ways. The flavor is slightly different, which is the idea, and you may prefer one versus the other. Some water, whether it's a "splash" (and you can order it that way) or ice, will soften the flavor.

goobster  ·  322 days ago  ·  link  ·  

My wife and I scheduled our honeymoon around visiting Scottish distilleries and doing whisky tastings.

I have an entire bar in my house dedicated to whisky in all its forms. (Bourbon, Single Malt Scotch, Blends, Rye, etc.)

Start with Bourbon. It'll help you understand the different flavors you are looking for in a whisk(e)y, and is generally more pleasurable for the uneducated palate. Basil Hayden. Buffalo Trace. Makers 46. Try different things. Take notes. And go to a local whisk(e)y tasting. They are happening ALL THE TIME, because distilling has become huge recently.

As you figure out the "color and shape" of the flavors you like, then I can provide more direction.

lm  ·  322 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Buffalo Trace is what I typically recommend to people who want to try bourbon. Elijah Craig and Bulleit are also good (albeit a bit pricier). Four Roses is a blend of whiskeys and has some really complex flavors, if that's what you're after. I don't drink a lot of Irish whiskey but I have a bottle of Bushmills that is quite nice. (Don't ask me about scotch; it's incompatible with a grad student salary.)

BurnTheBarricade  ·  322 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Buffalo Trace is good, and I can second the recommendations for Maker's, Four Roses Single Barrel, and Bulleit. I'm partial to Maker's myself but mostly because I can get it at a good price. Make sure and try several if you can! I know the liquor store close to me sells half-fifths of several brands which is less of an investment for something you might not like.

oyster  ·  322 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Honestly just look up the drink lists for bars in your area, a lot will advertise that they have 40+ whiskeys to try so find one of those bars and start trying different ones around the midway mark on price.

zebra2  ·  322 days ago  ·  link  ·  

There's tons of options. Lots of good ones too. Since you mentioned bourbons, Bulleit is an agreeable one at a lower price point, so it's not a big loss if you hate it.

b_b  ·  322 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Instead of going on a huge diatribe about whiskeys (which I am wont to do, but won't because of the wealth of information already on here), I'm just going to go ahead and say buy a fifth of 12 year Cardhu. It's a really easy drinking, middle of the road, inexpensive scotch. It's a really good entrance into the good whiskey (or whisky) sphere.

kleinbl00  ·  322 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I can recommend many. The question is what you like and what you're willing to spend. It's also worth noting that the two brands you listed are bourbon, which is a particular, protected variety of whiskey. There's also Irish whiskey, Canadian whiskey, Tennessee whiskey (which is pretty much Jack Daniel's and also pretty much bourbon but since it isn't made in Kentucky it can't be), rye whiskey and, opening a can of worms, whisky (which is Scots for "whiskey" which the rest of us call scotch).

Personally, I find Buffalo Trace to be chemical. Henry McKenna I haven't had.