We are all familiar with stereotypes and the people that use them constantly. From the more run-of-the-mill gender based stereotypes to the more cultural ones, nothing in life is exempt from stereotypes. We may even be guilty of unknowingly using a few in the past, and these are especially true when we’re talking about whisky.
There are so many whisky stereotypes that are still prevalent today, espoused by novices and veterans alike. When we speak of stereotypes, we’re talking about statements, assessments and beliefs that are often false, and more often than not, poorly surmised.
A lot of these stereotypes make for spirited debates in drinking circles, or at your local watering hole; maybe ruin a house party or two. It could also result in backhanded compliments in the territory of “Oh I did not think women like whisky!” and so on.
Here’s us, debunking and shedding light on some of the most common, and the oft repeated whisky stereotypes that continue to prevail even today.
Whisky should only be had neat
Of course we had to begin with the oldest and most widely used whisky stereotype out there. The belief that whisky must only be taken neat, and without any mixers, water, or even ice according to some purists, is absolutely false. There are a lot of exciting whiskies and whiskeys out there simply waiting to be experimented with.
The likes of Jameson Irish whiskey, Monkey Shoulder, other entry level blended Scotch whiskies, and even excellent Indian whiskies such as Blenders Pride and Royal Stag Barrel Select are phenomenal choices for mixers. You can mix soda and ginger ale, and even whip up elaborate whisky cocktails such as the Whisky Sour, the Old Fashioned and even the Hot Toddy.
Women don’t like whisky
Not only is this stereotype false, but is absolutely ridiculous to begin with. Not only do a lot of women love whisky, and regularly outdrink people around them, the whisky industry is populated with experienced female professionals that even make the whiskies we love and treasure. Master Blender at Dewar’s, Stephanie MacLeod, is one of the most respected experts in the Scotch whisky industry.
Ava Gardner with Frank Sinatra, a whisky loving couple unlike any other
Whisky may have been known as a man’s drink in the old days, but even then this was nothing but a stereotype, far from the truth. Legendary actress Ava Gardner was so fond of whisky she intended to live for a 150 years, only accepting death if she had a glass of whisky in one hand, and a cigarette in the other.
Nothing is better than Single Malt Scotch
Easy to fall for this one since whisky purists do preach the superiority of single malts over blends all the time, but is it true? Definitely not. Blended whiskies, Scotch or not, are often far more complex and well-crafted than single malts. Master Blenders and Master Distillers have little control over single malts, and their characteristics are more often determined by their surroundings, grains, age and barrels used to mature them.
Whereas when it comes to blends, Master Blenders have far more creative freedom to blend single malts and grain whiskies from different regions, different ages and finished in different barrels. Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and Johnnie Walker are just some examples of extraordinary blended Scotch whiskies!
Every whisky preference is quite simply subjective, and the proposed superiority of one over the other is a fruitless endeavour.
If it’s older, it is better
This one is not so easy to dismiss, but it is definitely not a rule of thumb. Older whisky in most cases is smoother, more layered and developed than younger whisky but does that mean younger whisky is inferior? No it does not. Will a 15 Year Old whisky always take the backseat to an 18 Year Old whisky? No it won’t.
The amount of time a whisky spends inside a barrel, in contact with the oak and drawing out the influence, flavours and aromas from it. Temperature, weather, conditions of the warehouse where the barrels are stored, and even the size of the barrels play a part in the end result. Amrut Distilleries’ single malt, distilled and matured in India requires a much shorter maturation period than Scotland since the weather in India is far hotter and humid.
Similarly, the Laphraoig Quarter Cask single malt Scotch is matured in casks much smaller than regular ones, and therefore requires a shorter maturation. The smaller size of the cask amplifies the contact of the oak and the spirit, ensuring a quicker maturation for the whisky. So now we know, older doesn’t necessarily mean better when it comes to whisky.
Single Malt whisky means it was made in one batch
Another common whisky stereotype that puzzles all and sundry, but isn’t too difficult to understand. Single malt whisky according to a lot of people, is whisky distilled, matured and bottled all from the same batch, but this is not true at all.
Single Malt whisky, whether it’s Scotch, or Indian or Japanese or Irish, is whisky that has been distilled, matured and bottled at the same distillery. It implies that the same premises were used from the first step to the last, and that’s where it ends. A number of Single Malt whiskies from the same distillery can be blended together, and still be known as a Single Malt. When two whiskies from different distilleries are blended together, only then it can be known as a ‘Blended Malt’. If one or more Grain whisky is added to one or more Single Malt whiskies, it then has to be classified as ‘Blended whisky.’
That completes our list of the five most prevalent and most oft used whisky stereotypes in the world that are completely and utterly false.