For the most part, whiskey lovers—even the most dedicated bourbon or scotch nerds—are understanding and accepting. They don’t care how you drink your whiskey, as long as you don’t tell them how to drink theirs. If you want to add not just a drop but a full ounce of water to the glass, so be it. If you want to pour an Islay scotch over ice cream like its chocolate sauce, go for it. If you want to make a Whiskey Ginger with 23-year-old Pappy, that’s fine by them—but, maybe, give them a taste of the bottle first. That said, there are still a few buttons you shouldn’t push.
Here are a few things to avoid doing or saying in front of a serious whiskey lover:
Adding cloudy crescent ice to a nice glass of whiskey
If you want to chill down and dilute your pour of whiskey, by all means, do it. But if you’re sipping on something decent, use decent ice. Get a nice, big cube that will slowly drip into your drink or a beautiful sphere or even a smaller one- or two-inch king cube. But don’t use that terrible crescent shaped ice that comes from the stiff, nearly impossible to use trays or anything dispensed from a fridge. It melts too fast and it usually tastes bad.
Shooting a quality whiskey
If a whiskey lover pours you a nice slug of something, do not immediately throw it back. Chances are it is not Fireball. When you take a shot, you throw the booze back into your throat and down your gullet, giving you no time to taste and appreciate the spirit. Take a second and smell the spirit before taking a small sip. And, here’s a novel idea, actually enjoy it.
Saying, “Whiskey with an ‘e’ or whisky with a ‘y,’ what does it matter?”
Oh, it matters. It matters a great deal. For the most part, whisky with a “y” is from Scotland, Japan or Canada, whereas whiskey with an “e” is from America or Ireland. You can tell a lot by how the word is spelled on a label.
Pouring a glass down the drain if you don’t finish it
If you decide you’re done with your glass of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon or Jefferson’s Ocean, stop before you pour that golden dram down the sink in front of your whiskey loving pal. Ask them if they would like it. They probably would like it very much.
Storing a bottle in direct sunlight
If a whiskey aficionado sees you store your bottles in direct sunlight or above the oven, he or she will likely sneak back into your house at night and rescue those bottles from the torture through which you are putting them. Whiskey is not as delicate as wine but it is not invincible. Keep it somewhere temperate and fairly dim.
Saying, “I don’t like whiskey because I had a bad Whiskey Sour in college”
So now all whiskey has to suffer just because of one subpar cocktail? Give the brown spirit a chance. Let your whiskey drinking friend guide you into the light.
Buying a bottle and never drinking it
If your whiskey pal coaxes you into buying a nice bottle, go ahead and drink it. Do not lock it away like the recipe for KFC’s fried chicken. Do not display it far out of reach like a priceless piece of art. Whiskey is for drinking—even if it is expensive. It’s fine to wait for a special occasion but it’s even better to open it up for no reason and create a special occasion.
Pouring a whiskey into a cocktail before tasting it first
If you prefer your whiskey mixed with Coke or stirred into a Manhattan or, heck, shaken with mango nectar, that’s your choice. But you should make sure to try the whiskey before you cover up all its delicious flavors. That way you can truly appreciate how it shines in your cocktail.
Saying, “All whiskey tastes the same”
This is the best way to really get under a whiskey lover’s skin. It’s just not true. And if you think it’s true, you either haven’t had enough whiskey or you burnt the taste buds off your tongue a long time ago. Whiskey comes in a rainbow of flavors, so don’t say otherwise unless you want to get a long, long, long lecture from your whiskey-loving, soon to be ex-friend.