“Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough.” – Mark Twain
I started drinking whisky for all of the wrong reasons.
I chalk it up to youth, mostly. You see, once I reached legal drinking age, I realized that it was time to put away childish drinks. Once I could purchase a six pack at stores that actually looked at your ID, I bid adieu to Natty Light and anything with “ice” in the name, and set out to broaden my horizons with real beer.
My taste in liquor was also due for some refinement, which was limited to whatever mixed well with some sort of carbonated sugar water or readily available fruit juice. And I made the decision early on that I wanted to learn to drink whisky.
I couldn’t shake this romanticized vision of myself later in life, perhaps having a cocktail in a smoky bar after work, or at some posh soiree, sipping a glass of straight whiskey. And in this image, I was always wearing a suit, usually with loosened tie. I wanted to be Don Draper, except this was years before Don Draper existed.
Simply put, I wanted to drink like a man, and whisky is a man’s drink. Or at least, I thought I would look cool drinking it.
But as I began to train myself – at the time, even smelling whiskey that wasn’t mixed mostly with coke would make me gag – I had a revelation: There was more to bourbon than handles of Jim Beam at a tailgate. There was a whole world of good whiskey I hadn’t discovered.
The first time I tasted true sipping bourbon, it was a glass of Woodford Reserve on the rocks. I remember looking down at the glass in disbelief. Lost in the rich amber liquor, with complex notes of vanilla, spice, caramel, and oak. The smoky sweetness, and the warmth that spread through my chest. I loved this stuff, and wanted more.
Obviously, I grew out of the whole “coolness” appeal, and began drinking the most American of cocktails for all of the right reasons. I still savor that first sip of a good glass of bourbon, the one that makes you close your eyes, smile, and exhale slowly, relishing the last hints of oak and heat on the tongue.
Fast forward into my thirties, and I’m a full-fledged bourbon snob. I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite bourbons and bourbon related things. I’d love to hear from other bourbon aficionados with your favorites as well.
Best bang for your buck: Buffalo Trace
Best “must have at all times” bourbon: Blanton’s
Best “you gotta know a guy to get it” bourbon (And best overall): Pappy Van Winkle, 15 year
Best bourbon selection in Atlanta: Local Three
Best bourbon-based cocktail: Manhattan, with a properly made mint julep a close second.
- By Jon Watson, Food & More blog