Showing posts with label advice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label advice. Show all posts

Saturday, December 4, 2021

A Quick Beginner’s Guide to Appreciating Whiskey


A local bar owner asked me if I've ever written a short guide about how to approach whiskey. He wanted to use it for a flight he was setting up for new whiskey drinkers. As incredibly useful as that sounded, I was stunned that I hadn't ever put one together. I walk people through this all the time in the whiskey events I host, but it never struck my mind to write it up!

A Quick Beginner’s Guide to Appreciating Whiskey


So, you’re new (or newish) to the Wonderful World of Whiskey, and you want to do things correctly. How do you go about that? The most important thing is not letting anyone tell you you’re drinking it wrong. There is no right way to drink whiskey, except for how you enjoy drinking it.

Sipping whiskey begins with the bottle in front of you. Grab a glass. Pour a small amount of whiskey into the glass and leave it alone. Let it breathe for anywhere from five to ten minutes. While it is sitting there, take a moment and observe the color. Give the glass a bit of a swirl and look at the legs (or tears) it creates. Are they slow or fast, thick or thin?


Once it has sufficiently rested, it is time to enjoy the aroma. Don’t shove your nose in the glass; instead, bring it to about chin level or your bottom lip. Open your mouth slightly, and then sniff like a dog or rabbit with short, quick repetitions. Your mouth will enhance your sense of smell. Try to identify what you’re picking up.


Now it is time for the tasting. The first sip is a shock to your palate. Anything overwhelming will hit in that initial try. Never judge a whiskey on it! Hold the whiskey in your mouth for a few seconds, let it fill everywhere. Your palate is now prepared to pick out flavors with the second sip. Some may be fruity, sweet, spicy, and smoky. Don’t worry if you cannot identify them; that’s something that takes experience.


The last part is the finish, or what remains in your mouth after you’ve swallowed. Is it short or long? Is it sweet, spicy, or smoky? Most importantly, did you enjoy it?


In the end, you should savor your whiskey, and in my experience, it is always better to share with friends. Cheers!

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Keep Your Eyes Peeled for these Whiskey Scams!


I hate to see folks get scammed. But the whiskey boom, particularly the Bourbon boom, has given these thieves a new means of taking your hard-earned money.

You may notice a lot of random comments on social media whiskey posts (mainly Facebook and Instagram) that begin with "Bourbon Whiskey" or "I was surprised how affordable this was and how quickly they shipped..." and provide a link to someone's "store" usually with a promise that they have rare and allocated whiskeys at no mark-up. These are always new profiles to a group and new to the social media platform.

I'm not telling you how to spend your money, but you'd be better off buying some store's obscenely-priced Blanton's for $300 - at least you'll have a bottle of what you want in exchange for your money, versus sending some stranger $69.99 plus a small shipping fee for nothing (or a counterfeit) in return.

A few of these schmucks have posted in the comments on my own social media posts, and thankfully, I keep a close eye on things and remove them. But I see them in others, particularly Facebook Groups, that remain unmoderated.

Please do the whiskey community a favor, report those scammers and their profiles (If you see it in a Facebook Group, report it to the moderators only - no need to get a group shut down inadvertently). Place a 😄 reaction or something similar as a warning to others.

I know this is elementary, but if a deal is too good to be true, walk away. Cheers!

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

What To Do With That "Bad" Whiskey?


Recently, I had someone approach me saying they bought a whiskey they didn’t like and asked if I could recommend a good cocktail they could make with it. This is more common of a question than you’d imagine. I believe it stems not just from buyer’s remorse but also that money was spent, and indeed there must be a way to salvage it.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: There is a big difference between a whiskey that is slated to be a “mixer” and one that is just not palatable...

You can read the rest of the article (and my advice) over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to drink your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Yes, There Really Is A Difference in Glassware

Glassware is, believe it or not, a very polarizing subject. It ranges from people telling you it doesn't matter what glassware you use to people telling you someone with some authority says they'll only drink out of one type of glass.  In truth, just as the "best" whiskey is the one you like the most, the "best" whiskey glass is the one you enjoy using the most.

But, make no mistake about it, glassware matters.

The first time I wrote on this subject was back in 2016 for Bourbon & Banter. But I've been a proponent of using the right glassware for many years prior. I keep revisiting this subject because it is constantly changing. There have been Kickstarter campaigns to deliver "new and improved" glassware to the marketplace. And, whenever I find a new design, I am always excited to try it. You could say that I believe there is, somewhere out there, a holy grail to whiskey glassware. 

Today I'm working with nine different glass designs. This is the largest population I've ever conducted for this type of experiment. In an effort to be as fair as possible to all candidates, I used the same whiskey in each glass. I happen to love using Evan Williams Black Label when I experiment. It is available in every market and it is very affordable. I find it offers a nose of caramel, vanilla, and oak, a mouthing of caramel, fruit, and vanilla, and a palate of vanilla, caramel, toffee, corn, and oak.  A very basic, solid Bourbon, and almost perfect for experimentation.

My methodology was as fair as I could make it. There would have been no way for me to do this blind as I know their shape, feel, and weight, and handling them all was necessary. As such, I'm not going to come up with a "best" glass. 

I poured a measured half-ounce into each glass. I let each glass oxidize for the same amount of time. I set this up into four different categories:  Hand Feel, Nosing, Mouthing, and Palate. I changed the order of glasses in each category.  I also didn't want to bias my nose or palate. I reset my olfactory sense between each sample. I drank water between each sample tasted, and I spit everything (hence the affordability aspect) rather than swallow to avoid burning out my palate and not getting buzzed.

Let me get some necessary disclosure out of the way. When I compose reviews, I always use a Glencairn Whisky Glass unless I specify otherwise. I use a Glencairn for several reasons, but they're my reasons. Also, I have friends who have designed or represent different types and brands of glassware. Those friendships do not interfere with my ability to determine which glassware is best for me.

My purpose is not to prove to you why the Glencairn glass is my glassware of choice. Rather, it is to demonstrate how design affects the factors I consider to be important.  As such, let's get on with it.

Shot Glass

The first glass up is the basic shot glass. These are very affordable, only a buck or so in most cases. They are usually made of glass, but there are resin, stoneware and metal options. Its purpose is, understandably, to deliver a shot of whatever. Mine has measurement lines. While you can sip from it, many folks simply slam back a pour. 

Hand Feel:  This can be held with just two fingers without trouble. A glass version will have weight to it and can offer a satisfying thunk as you slam it back on the counter or table.

Nosing:  I can pick up alcohol fumes and a bit of oak, but even that is hidden beneath the alcohol. There was no real change trying various nosing zones.

Mouthing:  When I inhale through my mouth, I am able to pick out vanilla.

Palate:  There isn't a lot in terms of flavors. It is buried under alcohol burn. I was able to taste oak.

Rocks Glass

Next up is a standard rocks glass. These are uncomplicated and most of us have a set. They are priced from a buck to being pricey, depending on the material and thickness. It can easily accommodate rocks or a sphere. 

Hand Feel:  A rocks glass fits the hand well and a high-quality one can have some heft. 

Nosing:  It is easy to get my face up to it without a blast of alcohol fumes. I was able to pick out vanilla and oak. I did not find any variety with my various nosing zones. 

Mouthing:  Inhaling through my lips offered only oak.

Palate:  The whiskey was creamy and soft. It offered some alcohol burn but was not overwhelming. 

Glencairn Canadian Whisky Glass

The Glencairn Canadian Whisky Glass is specifically designed for Canadian Whisky. However, it is also versatile enough for other types. It has a bowl shape that tapers and then flares outward. It can accommodate rocks or smaller spheres. They run, on average, about $15.00.

Hand Feel:  These are crystal glasses but lack significant heft. I find them a bit on the large side for holding in my hand, and easier to grasp underneath in my palm.

Nosing:  I didn't experience any overwhelming fumes, the shape of the glass did assist in deflecting. I was able to pick up vanilla, caramel, and oak.

Mouthing:  Inhaling through my lips led me to heavy wood notes. There was no alcohol burn.

Palate:   I found there was an overall muting of flavors. There as no burn but I felt like aside from corn, everything else was missing. 

Norlan Whiskey Glass

The Norlan Whiskey Glass is one of those Kickstarter styles. It is a double-walled glass with fins at the bottom. The purpose of the fins is to assist in aeration, thus unlocking flavors. They're on the pricey side, usually about $24.00 (and are sold in pairs). 

Hand Feel:  The Norlan feels delicate, almost as if it would break in my hand if I held it too tight or let it hit the table too hard. In reality, it is far sturdier. It also fits my hand unnaturally, heightening my concern of breaking it.

Nosing:  The fins create an obvious difference, as everything smells sweet. I lost any semblance of oak, but vanilla and caramel aromas were heavy.  There was no alcohol burn.

Mouthing:  Caramel was thick and danced across my palate without alcohol fumes.

Palate:  The whiskey was soft and silky. It flowed easily across my tongue. I picked up caramel, vanilla, toffee, corn, and oak - everything I expect from Evan Williams. There was a hint of alcohol warmth, but not what I would describe as burn.

Glencairn Whisky Glass

The Glencairn Whiskey Glass was designed in 2001 and utilized a tulip shape. It directs the aromas to the nose and the liquid to the tip of the tongue. It is popular and used at distilleries around the world. You wouldn't want to use ice in this other than chips. Prices are all over the spectrum, but you can pick up a basic, unbranded one for under $10.00.

Hand Feel:  The Glencairn glass is weighted well. I find it very easy to pick up by its thick foot. Its shape helps me manipulate its direction while I'm nosing and has a natural feel when sipping. 

Nosing: It is easy to tilt and twist the glass to switch between each nostril. It sits properly at my chin, just below my lower lip and finally, my nose. As such, I experienced little effort in picking up caramel, vanilla, and oak. 

Mouthing:  Channeling aromas directly in my mouth is facilitated by its design. Vanilla, caramel, and fruit were obvious.

Palate:  I picked up caramel, vanilla, toffee, corn, and oak, and the narrow mouth helps aim the liquid across my palate versus everywhere in my mouth, allowing me to pick out the individual flavors.

Riedel Vinum Cognac Glass

Riedel is a well-known glassmaker, especially as it pertains to wine. It also makes a cognac glass, which performs well as a whiskey glass. It is tulip-shaped, but with a more flared mouth than the Glencairn. Retail is about $18.00. You wouldn't want to use anything more than chipped ice in it.

Hand Feel:  The stem makes it very easy to grasp, twist and manipulate. It is weighted well and while delicate looking, feels solid.

Nosing:  There is something lost in the nosing process. I can pick up oak and vanilla.  If I twist and turn the glass, I can also find the caramel. There were no unpleasant alcohol fumes.

Mouthing:  Caramel was easy to pick up, but it lacked anything else, including alcohol burn.

Palate:  The whiskey seemed creamier than it did in any other glass, and as it flowed across my palate, I had no trouble picking up vanilla, corn, and oak. However, missing was toffee and caramel.

Libbey Perfect Glass

The Libbey glass is a different take on the channeling design. Rather than a bowl of any kind, it offers hard angles at the bottom, then it starts narrowing as it goes up. These are sold in sets of four and can be had for about $9.00 each. Rocks can be used, but a sphere would not fit.

Hand Feel:  The Libbey Perfect is difficult to hold. It has some weight to it, but there is no natural place for your fingers or even the palm of your hand to grasp it. 

Nosing:  Despite a very different shape, it performed almost exactly like the Canadian Whisky glass.  I was able to pick up vanilla, caramel, and oak, and didn't find anything in terms of alcohol burn. 

Mouthing:  I found vanilla and oak, but strange as it sounds, both "tasted" stale. There was no alcohol burn to speak of.

Palate:  The flavors of corn, vanilla, and fruit were evident, however, they came across muted. There was a very small amount of alcohol burn.

NEAT Ultimate Spirits Glass

The NEAT glass has gone through a few name changes over the years. It started off as the NEAT Experience. I've also seen it called a NEAT Judging Glass and NEAT Ultimate Spirits Glass. Regardless of what it is called, NEAT is an acronym for Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology. It looks like someone took a Canadian Whisky Glass and smooshed it down. The bowl is flatter, and the mouth is very flared. You can add rocks but, unlike the Canadian Whisky glass, you wouldn't get a sphere to fit. Retail is about $16.00.

Hand Feel:  The NEAT glass fits in my hand nicely, and much better than a Canadian Whisky Glass. It also feels less delicate.

Nosing:  I found the NEAT glass allowed sweeter notes to shine through, making vanilla and caramel easy to discern. Less easy was the oak, but it was there. I found no alcohol burn.

Mouthing:  I was absolutely shocked to find I pulled nothing at all while attempting to inhale through my mouth. I suspect it has to do with the very wide, flared rim.

Palate:  Drinking from the NEAT glass is challenging. You must lean your head back to get the liquid beyond the flare. However, it provided a softening of the mouthfeel. It also eliminated any alcohol fumes and burn. I was able to pick up all of the expected flavors of corn, vanilla, caramel, toffee, and oak.

Aged & Ore Duo Glass

The Aged & Ore Duo Glass is another one that started with a Kickstart campaign. Like the Norlan glass, it also features a double-walled design. This one has no fins. Instead, it has ribbed lines along the inside wall that serve both to measure and aerate. The glass is large enough to accommodate rocks or a sphere and costs about $24.00 each. 

Hand Feel:  This is very similar in feel and appearance as the Norlan glass, meaning it looks very delicate but isn't. While the lack of heft is the same, the shape is slightly different and I found it easier to hold than the Norlan.

Nosing:  There was no alcohol burn. I found aromas easy to detect and had no issues picking out the vanilla, caramel, and oak.

Mouthing: When inhaling through my mouth, all I could pick out was oak. There was also a lack of alcohol burn.

Palate:  I found the Duo Glass to be easier to sip from than the Norlan, but more difficult to identify flavors. It isn't to say I couldn't discern the vanilla, corn, and oak, but it took a good deal of effort and I missed out on the toffee and caramel. There was also a muted flash of alcohol heat.


My personal experience is that I get the best overall performance from a Glencairn Whisky Glass. But, it isn't the winner in each category. When comparing price, form, and function, it is simple for me to gravitate to it and I'm used to it. Keep in mind that the Norlan and NEAT glasses have huge fanbases as well.

The point of all this was to demonstrate how different glass shapes provide different results while pouring the same exact whiskey. Don't let anyone tell you the glass doesn't matter. It absolutely does.  Just find what works for you and enjoy your whiskey the way it makes you happy. Cheers! 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Is This Whiskey Worth The Price?


If you've been on social media more than five minutes, you've been asked, "Is this whiskey worth this price?" Well, I've put together a handy-dandy how-to for you on Bourbon & Banter!

Predictably, questions of that nature lead to all sorts of answers. Some are helpful, others not so much. To be fair, I find that most fall into the latter.  The snarky ones are obvious. The serious ones are harder to recognize how subjective they are...

 You can read this in its entirety there, just click the link above. Cheers!

Monday, December 14, 2020

Seven Things Whiskey Reviewers Wish You Knew


"Back in May of 2017, I wrote a piece called The Life and Times of Whiskey Reviewer. The purpose was to tell you what the four worst questions folks ask us and what’s going through our minds when you ask them.

Here we are, three and a half years later, and I find myself with a slew of questions and assumptions that should be addressed en masse. Some come from readers, some come from distillers and producers. No matter who is asking, these questions are more common than you’d think..."

My latest article at Bourbon & Banter is all about things we whiskey reviewers wish you knew. Head on over and give it a read, cheers!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Whiskey Wisdom: Age & Price Can't Beat Taste


My latest advice column is up on Bourbon & Banter

I write this article with the full knowledge and understanding that I’ll probably piss off a lot of folks in the whiskey industry: anyone from distillers to marketing teams to distributors to retailers. However, what I’m suggesting is being said without malice. Rather, I’m just dispelling two big whiskey myths, and both can have an impact on the average whiskey drinker’s bank account. Also, these two myths tend to go hand in hand...

Enjoy, cheers!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

My Live Tasting of Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond

Last night I was interviewed on The Glass Less Traveled live cast. This was a lot of fun, and we did a live tasting of Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon. Audience participation was high and they seemed to enjoy the live tasting. A few asked if this could be a regular feature, and I've agreed to do this monthly.


Friday, May 1, 2020

Bourbon & Banter has a new podcast...

Yesterday, Bourbon & Banter released its second podcast. I cohosted and we interviewed Lew Bryson.

I've been a guest on many podcasts, but it is a completely different world being a cohost.

You can listen to the podcast in its entirety at this link. Cheers!

Friday, February 28, 2020

My Guest Appearance on My Whiskey Den

I had a great live stream on YouTube last night with the folks from My Whiskey Den. These are some super nice guys and I really enjoyed the interview.  

You can view it on their channel.  Cheers!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Just when you think you’ve heard it all...

I’m used to criticism and catching flak. That's all part of the life of a whiskey reviewer. Some people enjoy what I write. Others don’t. My feelings don’t get hurt if someone doesn’t like my reviews. I encourage whiskey drinkers to find reviewers whose palates their own best matches. If that's not me, so be it. In the end, it is your whiskey experience that matters.

Earlier this week, a reader informed me I was "doing a half-assed job of being a whiskey reviewer." Naturally, that piqued my interest. His beef with me was that I have not been including information on justifying the price being charged on the shelf. Not Would you buy this at $X? Rather, it was more Is $X reflective of the cost to make this whiskey? At first, I thought this guy was pranking me because, as the smartass that I am, I tend to recognize a fellow smartass. But, this reader was serious.
What I didn't realize until he schooled me on it is there exists an overlooked (but apparently wildly in-demand) need for including forensic accounting in a whiskey review. He (very literally) instructed me to research and discuss a distiller's or producer's profit margin and to ensure they were not gouging and making an unfair profit at the expense of consumers. He made me aware there is a duty for a blogger to insert these things in our reviews because we should be doing everything we can to hold distilleries accountable for rising prices on the shelf.

My frank response to him was that I have zero interest in exploring anyone’s books or marketing plans. Not only am I not a stakeholder in any distiller's or producer's business, but I also possess neither the training nor the skills to do forensic accounting. I tried to explain to him that I don't write a financial blog, and made it clear I would not start including a marketing analysis in any of my reviews. He then suggested that I'm on the take and the only thing I care about is how many bottles are sold based upon my reviews.

While I understand that his expectation is an anomaly, what he accused me of is still concerning. I have always been as transparent as possible when penning my reviews as to how I acquired the bottle, if I was involved in picking a barrel being reviewed, etc. His allegation prompted me to write this next part:

My integrity is my #1 priority in everything I do, from my marriage (Mrs. Whiskeyfellow knows she can trust me) to my whiskey reviewing (my audience knows it can trust me). There is a reason you don't see any advertising or click-to-buy links anywhere on this blog. That was a very purposeful, personal decision. I could be making money off this blog, but I don't.

Likewise, I receive no income for my reviews. I don't get paid to compose them and I don't charge you a Patreon fee to read them. I write about whiskey because it is a passion. I review every whiskey I can no matter how it gets to my palate. If a distillery or store or friend is kind enough to send me a sample, that whiskey is treated exactly the same as if I spent my own money procuring it. 

There is no incentive for me to inflate any whiskey’s rating. Consider this: If a distillery puts out a bad product, and I’m honest in my assessment and the distiller takes offense, what's the worst thing that will happen? They won't send me any more bad whiskey, right? For the record, most distillers and producers I've come across appreciate an honest yet critical review because it gives them insight as to how they can improve. It is taken as constructive criticism.

Finally, if I’m rating bad whiskeys as anything other than a Bust, what does that do to my reputation? The short answer is, it causes me to lose all credibility and I might as well hang this whiskey reviewing thing up. I have way too much fun doing this to risk that. And, because I have so much fun, it is a very serious endeavor for me.

For the record, I do have a paid aspect to my whiskey consulting business. But it has never and will never creep into my reviews. I stake my entire reputation on that.


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Be a Better Whiskey Ambassador

Do you remember the first time you really got into whiskey?  How did you go about learning more?  Did you reach out to friends?  Liquor stores?  A social media group? 

When someone who is obviously new to whiskey (usually they'll volunteer that information) tells the world about their favorite pour, you can take it to the bank there will be folks who chime in.  Much of it is congratulatory because most people are decent. 

The remainders are the haters.  Haters come along and just ruin the day for everyone. Haters aren't like trolls, who try to simply stir the pot for their own amusement. Haters are under the impression their opinions are fact and who will make you feel horrible for even asking a question or making a statement.

As an example, someone posts to a group and says, I just picked up Bib & Tucker for $39.99!  I'm so excited!  There are a variety of supportive comments: Congratulations!  Nice find!  I love that!  and others. 

The haters chime in with their responses:  That's the worst whiskey I've ever tried!   You wasted your money on that!  Why would you buy that garbage? and similar, less-than-positive statements.

If someone posts, Hey, I found Bib & Tucker on the shelf for $39.99, should I buy it?  Then, at least one of the haters might be giving a correct response. My own might include, Set the bottle down, turn around very slowly, then run away.

What's the difference?  Aren't the haters just giving their opinion?  Sure they are, but the problem is the poster in the first scenario wasn't asking for opinions on Bib & Tucker, they were excited about what they considered a find and wanted to share their joy. However, the haters had this compelling need to rain on the original poster's parade.  In the second scenario, the poster was specifically asking for opinions.  Even so, the haters could have at least provided responses that don't shame the poster. But, haters gotta hate.

In May 2017, I wrote a piece for Bourbon & Banter entitled The Life and Times of a Whiskey Reviewer, and I explained the most cringe-worthy question posed to me is, I have a favorite whiskey. What do you think about _____?  The reason for that is the haters who will attack once they learn I don't like whatever that favorite whiskey happens to be. 

Another example can be someone in the business who makes an innocent, minor error. I'll use myself as an example. I wrote a review on a locally-distilled whiskey earlier this year. I made a very minor error defining a sub-category of whiskey. Two people, both in the business and neither with the distillery involved, pointed out the mistake.  One approached me in a comment and told me about my error. I thanked him and fixed it.  The second took the opportunity to tear into me and then berated me for having the audacity to write and talk to people about whiskey since I was so stupid.

As you can see, these are two very different approaches to pointing out my error. I know both of these people. I respect Respondent One and value his advice and knowledge to this day.  Respondent Two is also very knowledgable, but I feel like I need a shower whenever we interact.

Interestingly enough, as I'm writing this, one Facebook user asked in a group, What is MGP? and another chimed in with an easy-to-understand complete answer. I was ready for a bloodbath that, thankfully, never came. 

At some point, you were new to whiskey. You asked questions. If the liquor store owner gave you an answer that made you sound stupid, would you keep going back?  If you asked in an online forum and were treated like a moron by morons, were you quick to ask another question?

We have choices in life. We can choose to be nice. We can choose to be helpful.  We can choose to act like a schmuck online in an effort to prove how knowledgable we are, while if they said that same thing in public, they'd likely be trounced. Whiskey is meant to be enjoyed with friends and I believe it brings people together in a positive way. I've been blessed with a plethora of great people and opportunities in my life because of whiskey. 

Go forth upon the world and spread the whiskey love. Don't be a hater. Be a better whiskey ambassador.


Saturday, July 27, 2019

As some of you know, FB and Instagram have cracked down and shut down many secondary-market groups. Of course, this was against the TOS anyway, but it seems Sazerac stepped in due to a growing concern of the counterfeit market, which, in reality, is a legitimate concern.

I wrote about this subject several years ago over at Bourbon & Banter.