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Enjoy Whisky, or Learn More About It?

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@Victor
Victor started a discussion

Most of the time now I have a difficult time selecting what I want to drink next. This is because there are many whiskies which I know and like, and many more about which I would like to explore and find out about. When you are considering the choice of your next whisk(e)y dram, do you find yourself torn between enjoying something which you know that you already know and like, and learning something new by trying something new?

Also, what percentage of your drams are about enjoying favourites compared to what percentage of your drams are about learning something new? I probably invest 70% of my dram experience in furthering my understanding of new or lightly understood whiskies and 30% of my dramming in enjoying favourites.

10 months ago

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@OdysseusUnbound

An excellent topic! I’m often torn on this question. As I’m prone to all-or-nothing behaviour, I’ve often thought about stocking my bar with my favourite whiskies and quitting the exploration altogether. But learning and exploring is so much fun. I probably spend 80% of my whisky dollars on new experiences. There are very few “constants” in my cabinet.

10 months ago 3Who liked this?

@RianC
RianC replied

I feel this thread is calling out for a witty riposte on how sticking with one familiar type of pleasure for a lifetime would be a very dull thing to do . . . but it won't be me blush

I'm definitely returning more to whiskys that I know I like more then ever before; but I guess that's partly due to having been trying different whisk(e)ys in a committed manner for so long and so now have more of an idea of 'what I like'.

This years purchases have probably been about 80% discovery though, although many have been from distilleries I have sampled from before. In time I expect that % will continue to shrink as I focus more on known and appreciated quality. I also envisage any unknowns will be more and more targeted to styles and tastes that I expect to like. (which sounds dumb, I know, but you get the point, I hope?) I'll always be tempted by new and exciting discoveries though!

10 months ago 3Who liked this?

Wierdo replied

I stick broadly to Single Malt Scotch. But do probably devote about 50% of my purchases to trying whiskies from new distilleries. I'm a bit anal about it and keep a list of distilleries I've tried scotch from.

10 months ago 1Who liked this?

@PeterG7
PeterG7 replied

I'm all about exploring new whisky, however, before I spend on an unknown, I like to try it first at a whisky bar.

10 months ago 0

@Frost
Frost replied

@Victor I enjoy whisk(e)y when I learn more, ha!

I could easily buy Talikser 10 and Ardbeg 10 and be happy. But, I've abstained and have spent 90% of my purchases on trying new things. Recently I am focusing on whisk(e)y by distilleries I have never tried, Doubt I'll enjoy all of them more than say an Ardbeg 10, but the enjoyment from something new is a great experience upon itself.

So would I sacrifice an 89/100 favourite for a 86 or 87/100 something new? yeah sure

10 months ago 6Who liked this?

@cwspangler
cwspangler replied

While still being new to Whisk(e)y I try to spend a equal amount of time with favorites all the while looking for something new to explore. The cabinet keeps getting larger and larger. There is just so much out there to explore!

10 months ago 3Who liked this?

@cherylnifer
cherylnifer replied

Last Christmas Eve I hosted a world whisky tasting as my birthday gift to a cousin born in the Eve. Fourteen other cousins also partook. Much lively discussion and sharing of info. The whole tasting experience was a resounding success for all. I was asked to do another such tasting this year. I have chosen an American whiskey theme, for which I have limited knowledge. So a learning opportunity for me too. Decided to share selections from six regions of the USA. Should be another grand time. While selections are not yet fixed, leaning towards choices from among following USA regions:

Northwest: St. George, Westland, Dry Fly

Southwest: Balcones, F&R, Santa Fe

Mountain/Central: High West, Stranahan, Cedar Ridge

Kentucky: Bakers, Bookers, ???

Northeast: WhistlePig, Hudson, ???

Southeast: Clyde Mays, Rock Town, ???

I am open to suggestions from the knowledgeable Connors community. I realized some of these whiskies are sourced, so not sure whether to exclude, or give credit for finishing, etc.

Thanks.

10 months ago 0

@Victor
Victor replied

@cherylnifer, I suggest adding two from Virginia, something from A. Smith Bowman, and something from Copper Fox Distillery. From Bowman, probably John J. Bowman Single Barrel would be the one to choose. That one sometimes wins "best bourbon in the world" awards. From Rick Wasmund's Copper Fox Distillery, you could feature his standard (barley) Malt Whiskey, or his unusual Copper Fox Rye Whiskey. Bear in mind that in the early days of the US Kentucky was merely the western part of Virginia. (And Tennessee was merely the western part of North Carolina.)

If you can't get one of these two, try Catoctin Creek's (100% Rye) Roundstone Rye, preferably the 47% ABV version.

10 months ago 1Who liked this?

@cherylnifer
cherylnifer replied

Thanks for the suggestions Victor. Unfortunately, no Abraham Bowman products in Michigan other than Bowman Brothers Pioneer Spirit. Copper Fox products available include Bourbon Mash ($30), and a Two pack Single Malt with Barrel kit ($130). Only Catolin Creek is the 40% Roundstone Rye version.
Any opinions on Virginia Highlands Cider Cask finished?

9 months ago 0

@Victor
Victor replied

@cherylnifer, from what you have said the Bowman Brothers would not be a bad choice. It has the conversational value also of being first distilled at Buffalo Trace, then re-distilled and aged at A.Smith Bowman in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye should also be considered, even the 40% ABV version. There aren't many US 100% ryes on the market, and Catoctin Creek is a model story of successful "think global, drink local" mom and pop artisanal creative hustlers. The more you know about Scott and Becky Harris the more you are likely to be impressed by them. They make a range of products, including some excellent fruit brandies. They are very nice people, too.

I am not familiar with the Virginia Highlands Cider Cask Finished. I read that it is a vatting of their own malt whiskey and some Scottish Highland malt whisky, finished in cider barrels. It gets some high reviews and wins some awards. Interesting, but a hybrid sort of product, rather than something demonstrating US regional terroir.

9 months ago 1Who liked this?

@archivist
archivist replied

I have my favorites on hand and always will (Lagavulin 16; Old Potrero Single Malt Straight Rye) though I joined Connosr because I wanted to expand my whisky/whiskey horizons, and all the reviews, comments, and suggestions from members helped me discover and try whiskies I would not have considered before...I so try to attend a tasting or order a dram at a bar, but I also work into my whisky budget to allow for a certain amount to spend on bottles to try, eve if they end up being duds, I still consider it a learning experience. I definitely love trying new whiskies, learning and having my palate deepen and evolve.

9 months ago 3Who liked this?

@cherylnifer
cherylnifer replied

My Christmas Eve family Whiskey Tasting event was a success. A dozen or so cousins partook. This year’s theme was American Whiskies. Five different regions in US represented, plus bonus tasting of a home state (Michigan) based spirit. Choices were limited to what is sold within State of Michigan (so that participants could buy their favorite later). Order of most-to-least favorite:
. Balcones 1 Texas Single Malt. Westland Sherry Cask. New Holland Beer Barrel bourbon. Cedar Ridge Iowa bourbon. Bowman Brothers Pioneer Spirit. Clyde May’s Special Reserve.

8 months ago 1Who liked this?

@casualtorture

One nice thing about having a more limited experience with whisky than many, is that I have many options if I want something new. I keep Arran 14, Ardbeg Uigeadail, and Aberlour Abunadh stocked, and I'll probably buy JDSBBP and KCSB again, but other than that, I'm always searching for something new. The main limiting factor for me is funds....

8 months ago 2Who liked this?

@casualtorture

@cherylnifer Cedar Ridge makes good stuff. Clyde May's straight bourbon (92 proof) is very good as well. I haven't had the special reserve.

8 months ago 0

@Nock
Nock replied

I would say that what I mostly do seems to slide between your categories. Possibly I am misreading your categories?

I spend 45% of my tasting time exploring batch variations. Whether it is the difference between Ardbeg Uigeadail, Ardbeg 10yo, Laphroaig 10yo CS, Stagg Jr., ECBP, or Redbreast 12yo CS. It could also be older and newer bottlings of Rittenhouse Rye, or Willett Rye. I am always interested in teasing out the various nuances between the different batches or release.

I then spend 50% of my time exploring the difference in a given line up. For example, I might sit down with Bruichladdich Islay Barley, Port Charlotte 10yo, Port Charlotte Islay Barley, and Octomore Islay Barley just to see how the various peating levels. Or I might sit down with four different cask strength Ryes like Thomas H. Handy, Willett, Knob Creek Cask Strength, and Michters Barrel Strength Rye.

5% of the time I will sit with an old favorite and savor it solo.

I would say I almost never sit down with new whisky or spirit by itself. When I do open a new whisky I almost always try it alongside others as points of reference.

But maybe this is way off your stream of thought?

I would say that I have figured out my neighborhoods in the whisky world: Cask strength peated scotch, cask strength bourbon, and cask strength rye. I love to wander in those circles and explore all the variations and nuances available. So is that old familiar? Maybe. Granted I am often opening new bottles – but over 95% of the time they are going to be in that vein.

Yes, I am willing, on occasion, to step into the sherried style or even the fruity highland style. I might even branch out into Armagnac, Gin, or Port. But that is less than 1% of the time. Lately I only will pick up a bottle at cask strength. And then I really only look twice if it is over 60%. I am an ABV snob. If it is over 60% I would try most anything . . . even rum!

6 months ago 6Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor replied

@Nock yours is a very interesting approach. This study in contrasts requires more bottles than many of our members are likely to have available to consider. You are often trying out new whiskies, but you are trying them out in a field of contrast, rather than on their own. On your way to assessing each new whisk(e)y you are also, as part of your method, drinking a lot of whiskies with which you are already familiar. I like that everything that you assess is measured against your own well-defined experience, which is tested and then retested. The fact that your tests require sampling and resampling against previously known whiskies makes this process look to me like a gradual enlarging of your 'big picture' of the whiskies within a group defined by related flavours or ingredients. So, de facto, this process of yours looks to me like it favours continuous diligent STUDY of familiar whiskies as the largest part of its exercise, in the search for nuance. New whiskies are added in, but only at the rate that they can be assimilated into your slowly and carefully expanding comparative picture of the entire sub-set of the whisky style under consideration. This is a very careful, gradual, and diligent process. Interesting.

It is also interesting to me that you devote much of your study to contrasting batches of the "same" whisk(e)y. Bravo! This is the triumph of experience over inexperience. Most whiskies vary quite a bit from batch to batch. Many whisky drinkers have relatively little experience and so think that the same label on the bottle means that the whisky will taste the same from one batch and bottle to the next. Careful experience proves otherwise. Studying the variations in batches combines a study of the familiar/"old" batches with the study of the 'new' batches or bottles...of the same labeled whisky.

In summary, using a method of study by contrasts, whether of different labels in the same category or of different batches with the same label, blends together the very concepts of "old" and "new" whiskies.

6 months ago 5Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound

@Victor Further to your point regarding batch variations....

Our palates change over time, and our perceptions change from day to day based on a variety of factors. Without getting too deep in the weeds, providing accurate “tasting notes” can seem like a bit of a moving target. For example, I’ve liked every Caol Ila Cask Strength I’ve tried, but they’ve all been from samples (some of them tasted blind) donated by others. So have I liked them because:

  • they were given by friends ?
  • I make sure my palate is “neutral” before I taste any sample?
  • I take a very long time and I’m extra attentive when evaluating a sample vs more casual drinking when I have a whole bottle?
  • I’m worried, even subconsciously, about offending the person who donated the sample?
  • I genuinely like Caol Ila’s house style?

And so on...I’m actually curious to see if I like an OB of Caol Ila 12 as much as I think I do. It’s been a long time since I’ve had it.

6 months ago 3Who liked this?

@Nock
Nock replied

@Victor

I love your assessment of my tasting habits. Now I see what you were asking about a little better. And I think I agree that my habit is one of diligent and systematic study of familiar whiskies. I think that is just who I am. I like to know a great deal about a few specific things. I think I am always trying to get a handle and reference point on things. It is very easy for me to feel lost in the wine aisle . . . or even in the salad dressing aisle. For me to get my bearings in a subject seems to almost takes a master’s degree. Not that I feel like an expert at the end mind you! But after a while I feel like I could give a guided tour of this small neighbored that I now seem to know my way around.

It seems like some people have a pressing desire to try at least one expression from every distillery in Scotland. If that happens to be a goal for someone more power to them. I have no interest in that. For me a goal (possibly unobtainable) is to taste an example of a distillate from each year of the 1970’s from Ardbeg. Or maybe to have a lineup of Ardbeg Uigeadail with a bottle from each year since it began in 2003. I am currently saving up bottles of Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength. I have an unopened bottle from each release starting with the old Red Stripe all the way to the current release. Someday I would like to host a tasting where several of us can sit down, crack open all these bottles at once, and taste through how Laphroaig has changed over the years. Those are my kind of tasting aspirations. Sadly, I think that kind of tasting would be lost on (or overwhelming to) most people. I agree, it certainly it

@OdysseusUnbound

I completely agree that our perception of a whiskey can change depending on a number of variables. When I open a new bottle it is almost always something I am interested in, curious about, and excited to try. Typically, that expectation alone can lead me to over inflate my experience.

In the last 6 months I have taken to a new strategy. When I open a new bottle I will pull out as many bottles as I can that are “in the style of” that new bottle. Then I will leave the room and have my wife pour me 5 glasses of her choosing (provided one glass is from the new bottle). Then I sit down and taste blind. It is a wonderful experience. I feel I am at my most honest. And that said, even the blind order can affect your experience.

6 months ago 5Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor replied

@Nock, yes, you don't just sit down with A new whisky or with AN old favourite whisky. Your routine is to sit down with 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 or...'new' and 'old' whiskies at a time in order to study the subtle and not so subtle contrasts.

6 months ago 2Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

This is an interesting thread. I'm not sure how to approach it, but I will try.

I don't have a lot of opportunities to drink whisky. Most weeks I'm lucky to have 1-2 drams. So most of my whisky time is spent reading. From that standpoint I like to focus on seeking new perspectives or learning new things.

I have a backlog of about 100 whiskies (samples and open bottles) that I would like to review. So some of my dram time is spent on reviews, either having a dram of something I intend to review to become more familiar, or doing a review itself. I would include the recent mystery blends exercise in this. Other times I want something I know and like, either with company, or when relaxing and enjoying a book or something on video.

When I review, I usually focus on the dram in front of me. If I happen to have reference whiskies (like a different batch or similar style), I may pour one or 2. But I have to bear in mind I may not be able to finish everything I pour.

The place where I do most of my hands on learning is at tastings, and the best of those have been with Connosr friends. Experiencing a lot of different things in a short time is not the best for picking out nuances, but I think it is probably what has allowed me to expand from sherry-matured Scotches to appreciating almost all genres of whisky.

6 months ago 5Who liked this?

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge replied

@Nock, The blind tasting of multiple samples is my favourite part of learning about whisky. For almost a decade my son (he is 23 YO) has been pouring me some blinds. It began with one-at-a-time and eventually worked its way up to multiple blind pours. He has approximately150 - 180 bottles from which to choose with more than half of that amount already opened.

It can sometimes be a humbling experience to not correctly identify something from my own cabinet; however, going three for three in a blind is an absolute rush for me (and it drives my son crazy!).

6 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor replied

Recently I have mostly been enjoying whisky rather than expanding my knowledge base about it. Sometimes I write reviews and leave the tasting notes unposted for weeks or months. I am more interested at present in the sensory than in the cerebral.

When I see my whisky friends or attend a commercial tasting I explore when the opportunity presents itself.

3 months ago 5Who liked this?

@Hewie
Hewie replied

@Victor gotta do what feels right at the time

3 months ago 3Who liked this?

@Nelom
Nelom replied

I'm on my second year of actively reducing my cabinet to a level I'm comfortable with. Right now it primarily consists of whiskies I've never tasted, and my ultimate goal is to have a collection of maybe 10-12 favourite bottles, and another rotation of 2-3 expressions I've never had. Once I get there, the idea is I'll replace favourites as I empty them, and only buy another unknown once I've reduced their number - either by drinking it or giving it away if I didn't like it.

All this is to say that lately I'm drinking a lot of new stuff, in order to achieve the above goals. To further help with this, I only allow myself to have one favourite open at a time.

3 months ago 5Who liked this?

@PeterG7
PeterG7 replied

I like to experience new whiskies, however, before I do, I make every attempt to try before buy. Buying a new whisky in Eastern Ontario can sometimes be a challenge. Often when I go to my local LCBO I see the same tried and true stock. I guess the "grown ups" knows what sells, so why rock the boat.

3 months ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge replied

@PeterG7, when you want to take in some ice hockey you go to an ice hockey rink. Whwn you want to take in the best hockey on the planet you go to TD Garden in Boston MA during the first week of June. You need to find the TD Garden of whisky and make a visit.

3 months ago 3Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound

@paddockjudge You aren’t wrong, but as a lifelong Habs fan, it’s incredibly difficult to read anything positive about the Bruins without wanting to punch Brad Marchand in the nose...

3 months ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge replied

@OdysseusUnbound, you are correct, he is in fact a "bluenoser".....the rest of you, google it!

3 months ago 1Who liked this?

@PeterG7
PeterG7 replied

@paddockjudge Actually, I'm making a visit to the holy grail of ice hockey rinks (aka Scotch whisky)! Off to Scotland. If I can't find what I'm looking for there, I won't find it anywhere.

3 months ago 0

@PeterG7
PeterG7 replied

@OdysseusUnbound : Think about it for a moment, if pesky Brad was playing for the Habs, would you still want to do him physical damage? I'm also a forever Habs fan and I would embrace a player like him, knowing that he just has to be on the ice to get under the other team's skin. A perfect night for me is when Mtl wins and Ottawa and TO lose :)

3 months ago 0

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@paddockjudge@cherylnifer@Robert99J@cricklewood + 3 others

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