My cousin, a wine sommelier, and some of my Facebook followers have suggested that I start a whiskey blog, to collect my Facebook posts and my other thoughts about whiskey. So, who am I to write about whiskey?
My journey with whiskey began in my teens, when good old boys drinking whiskey and rye from American Pie was definitely part of my experience growing up in Louisiana, the a land of drive thru daiquiri shops and liquor stores. Back in the day, Old Charter was the good stuff. Drank a good bit of Early Times, Old Forester’s re-used barrel cousin since it was cheap. At the time, whiskey was a pretty good tasting alcohol delivery system, and not much more.
Then came college in the late eighties and early nineties, the University of the South, located at the southern end of whiskey country, about forty five minutes from the Jack Daniel’s distillery which I visited my freshman year for biology class to watch the year work (it was biology for liberal arts majors.) Bourbon that is now famous and hard to get was ubiquitious in those days, including Weller, Old Rip Van Winkle, and Henry McKenna. Maker’s Mark was celebrating its 100th Anniversary with bottles tipped with gold wax around this time. I and my fraternity brothers would occasionally splurge for good stuff, but more often than not bought cheap stuff. To be honest, my college habits of sometimes buying good stuff but mostly buying cheap stuff would not change until my mid thirties.
Then, a funny thing happened after a vestry meeting at church. A friend of mine and I decided to drink scotch at his house after our Monday night meeting, and I discovered Jon, Mark & Robbo’s, the blue jeans of malt scotch at the time put out by Macallan. They had three different versions – the rich spicy one, the smoky peaty one, and the smooth sweeter one. They had a website where you could pick out different foods and beverages you liked and they would pick one of the three scotches that would likely suit your taste. The began to open a whole new world for me; based on those results, I was paired with the rich spicy one, and then began exploring scotches with similar taste profiles – northern highlands and the speyside. Then, my brother and brother in law brought a bottle of Glenmorangie Port Wood Finish to a holiday one year, and I was hooked on that one. You can still find that bottle ever present in my bar to this day.
However, I was still pretty stuck as far as Bourbon was concerned. I pretty much drank Old Forester, W.L. Weller Special Reserve, or Evan Williams bottled in bond with coke when I drank bourbon. I was involved in prison ministry at the time, and a friend of mine I met through the ministry got a job as an accountant with the Sazerac company. He started bringing me bottles of Elmer T. Lee, Hancock’s, Rock Hill Farms, 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, and Blanton’s. I started buying Buffalo Trace as my go to Bourbon. I learned that Bourbon could be as amazing and complex as scotch. However, I was pretty much drinking whiskey on ice at this point, or mixing it into old fashioneds. I would occaisonally use a tasting glass, but not as a rule. Also, I got inducted into the Friends of the Trace, the brand ambassador program for Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Then two years ago, on my honeymoon trip with my lovely bride Catherine, we spent a weekend at Glenmorangie house. They brought out this tray with their four main whiskeys and little shot glasses that had different flavors so we could isolate those flavors when we tasted the scotches. What had started on the Jon, Mark and Robbo’s website came to a kind of completion at Glenmorangie house.
I’m not an expert on whiskey by any stretch of the imagination. I like to say though that I really appreciate good whiskey and consider it a hobby, something I really enjoy. I do read about whiskey and spend a lot of time trying to learn about it. Sharing good whiskey with a friend, in both the drinking together or just talking about it, is one of life’s great pleasures.