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The ‘Best Whisky’ is the One in Your Glass

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It is a question whisky lovers get asked in one form or another from their friends and family quite often. 'What is the best whisky?' If you ever answer that question with a singular whisky, you are not only doing your friends or family a disservice, but also yourself. The correct response is, there is no ‘best whisky’ and here is why:

Whisky tasting is subjective

No two people have the same sense of smell or taste. Coupled with that we all have different preferences for what we find appealing or not and when it comes to tasting the complexities in whisky, we all have a different flavour library to compare the whisky to. You may describe a whisky of having flavours of tropical fruits or Christmas pudding but if someone has never tasted those things before it is a meaningless description to them. 

Truly appreciating whisky takes time

Most of us remember the first time we tried a high ABV (+>40%) spirit straight, it burns your tongue and it’s hard to taste anything but hot. That’s one of the reasons people shoot spirits rather than sip them, get it down fast then wash away the burn with something cooler (like beer) or dilute the spirit with a sweet and or fizzy beverage. Once you decide you want to start drinking your whisky neat, you need to work at it for a while. Have a little whisky regularly (nightly) for a week or two and sometime in that period the burn will subside and you will start tasting the whisky.

So what should I tell them?

Find out how they want to drink it. There is no point recommending an expensive single malt scotch whisky if they are going to drown it in Coke. If they are going to drink it neat or on ice, but are new to whisky, definitely recommend a 40% ABV whisky (the lowest legal ABV for whisky) and perhaps even suggest they add a few drops of water if drinking without ice. Adding water or ice will change the flavour profile of the whisky but it also reduces the ABV by diluting the spirit, which could assist with managing the burn for a whisky novice. Lastly find out how adventurous they want to be. If they want to take it easy, then suggest a mild easy drinking whisky. If they want to try something completely unique, then suggest a peated whisky but perhaps not too heavily peated.

There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren't as good as others.― Raymond Chandler 

There is no ‘best whisky’

Price has absolutely no bearing over the quality or flavour of a whisky. Price is purely a function of supply and demand. Likewise, age statements have more to do with rarity (and hence price) than flavour and there is no blanket rule that you can apply to all whiskies.

Don’t limit your own and your friends' and family’s whisky experience. Try as much as you can, expand you tastes and enjoy whisky rather than race to find your favourite and then drink nothing else.

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