For the uninitiated, the world of whisky drinkers may appear to be a peculiar place, populated with the most pedantic purists that squabble over the most infinitesimally small subjects. It may have been so many decades ago, but things have surely changed over time.
What kind of whisky collector are you?
No longer do the single malt snobs look down on others with disdain, and the prevalence of fist-fights over adding ice to Scotch have gone down significantly. People have become more open to new ideas, and the arbitrary traditions have deservedly been cast aside. Yet there are some inviolate fundamental principles that warrant the highest respect.
Whether one speaks of purchasing a bottle, making a drink yourself, or even ordering a drink at the bar, an activity that may otherwise be viewed as something one cannot screw up. But as you may have guessed it by now, you can screw up placing an order for whisky at a bar, or a restaurant.
Do not worry for the Earth won’t shatter, and the seas shan’t rage if you do make these mistakes, but if it is an impression you wish to make, wouldn’t you like to know what to avoid? The folks at The Whiskypedia have put together a list of the most common mistakes to avoid when ordering whisky. Don’t worry they aren’t too difficult to remember!
Mistake #1 – Looking At The Right Side Of The Menu
It’s perfectly fine to be mindful of your budget, but if you are drinking for pleasure, you should pay a little more attention to what you’re drinking than simply look at the price.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are people that only consider price to be a true reflection of quality. You must be aware of people for whom the true measure of quality is the price of a product over anything else.
Both approaches are flawed, and inherently unsuccessful if you wish to indulge in good whisky, and good whisky alone. There are far too many terrific value-for-money whiskies in the market for one to merely settle for the one they can afford. Politely asking the bartender for help will do you a whole world of good if you aren’t sure what to choose.
Mistake #2 - Being too hung up on ‘name’ brands
Another classic rookie mistake when ordering whisky is to only go for brands that are established superstars, or whiskies that are a certain age only. The whisky world is populated with such underrated gems that you end up cursing yourself for not trying something new when you had the chance!
Up and coming brands like Rabbit Hole Bourbon, winner of multiple medals at whisky tasting competitions have yet to develop a formidable reputation outside the United States. Founder Kaveh Zamanian is currently basking in the glory of creating a Bourbon brand that’s one of America’s finest.
Similarly, there are hundreds of new distilleries and blenders plying their trade, endeavouring to create something marvellous for whisky lovers like us. There are some exceptional no-age-statement whiskies in the market too. So the next time you dismiss a whisky brand you just heard of, give it a ‘shot’ first.
Mistake #3 – Cola
This mistake is so common, one word is all you needed to figure what we meant. Ordering cola with your whisky is not the most heinous crimes one can commit, but it’s up there with some of the worst.
While it’s true that there are no rules on how you should drink your whisky. But if you make the cardinal sin of drowning a quality single malt Scotch like The Glenlivet 15 Year Old into cola, or ginger ale, you could be attacked. Okay we exaggerate for effect but we are not joking about it being a cardinal sin.
There are whiskies such as Jameson that are delightful when mixed into cocktails, and there are whiskies such as the Aberlour, that must be enjoyed neat. There are no rules, correct, but respect for the spirit is quite important wouldn’t you say?
Mistake #4 – Not Trusting The Bartender
So maybe you do know your malts from your blends, your Bourbons from your Ryes, and your Highlands from your Islay, but are you too sure about your choices?
It is often a common mistake made by many a whisky lover to order a very specific drink, no matter the establishment they are visiting. A bartender is not merely someone that pours your drinks out for you. They are custodians of much secret knowledge than many whisky enthusiasts worth their salt.
Don’t be afraid to spell out your preferences to the bartender, and ask them to recommend a good whisky to you. Think of the bartender like a Sommelier, eager to help you pick your drink for the night.
Tell them if you would like a sipping whisky, or something a little more butch; if you would like something neat, or with a chaser; tell them your favourite Scottish region – Islay, Speyside or Highlands, and ask them to give you something you might like. As long as you are polite, we guarantee you the bartender will surprise you with a refreshing experience.
Mistake #5 – “I’ll Have What He’s Having”
It’s completely okay to take inspiration from a friend you know knows whisky better than you do, but if you are a newcomer to ways of the whisky, take it slow. There are some excellent beginners’ whiskies out there, to get you started on a journey that you will fall in love with.
But say your friend is a huge peathead who only drinks medicinal and super-peated monsters like Laphroaig, or perhaps they are a Talisker person. If you truly are a novice, those whiskies are generally considered to be an acquired taste. A lot of people think whisky itself is an acquired taste, so can you think how radical must something be an acquired taste ‘for whisky lovers’?
Now of course we don’t have to mention the obvious mistakes such as ‘Not hand out unsolicited lectures on how to drink whisky’, “Playing it (too) safe”, or THE worst, “Being a snob about it.” The next time you find yourself at a bar with friends, in the mood to enjoy your night and sip on some good whisky, you know what mistakes you must not make.