9 Common Whisky Drinking Mistakes

Call us biased, but we here at GreatDrams.com believe that whisky is the greatest creation in the entire universe. Okay, that might be a bit of an over exaggeration, but we do think it’s the best tipple in the world.

It clearly isn’t just us that feels that way either, and with whisky fast-becoming the latest trend-setting beverage, and being enjoyed all over the globe, there is no better time to be a whisky drinker than right now.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a seasoned drinker to enjoy whisky, nor do you need to sit on a leather chesterfield armchair in a wooden panel cladded library in front of a roaring fire, to drink whisky. Whisky, or whiskey, is a drink that can be enjoyed by anybody, anywhere, at virtually anytime (within reason, of course).

If you are looking to get into whisky drinking however, or if you’re looking for new ways of enjoying a wee dram, there are mistakes you will need to avoid. To help ensure your next dram is your best yet, here are 9 common whisky drinking mistakes to avoid.

Downing Your Whisky in One Go

We’ve all seen the cliché movies and TV shows where people looking to drown their sorrows will order a “shot” of whisky and will down it like they would an Apple Sourz shot in the club with their mates on a Friday night.

While you can drink whisky in this way if you wish to, whisky, especially a fine single malt Scotch for example, is not created to be downed, it is created to be enjoyed, sipped on, and savoured. Sure, you could down it like a grizzled New York homicide detective in a seedy, smoke-filled dive bar, or you could be a civilized and distinguished individual and sip it, and actually enjoy it.

Far too many people make the mistake of swallowing their whisky in one, and then wonder why it tastes so strong and leaves them with an underlying burning alcohol sensation in their mouths and throat. Take it from us here at Great Drams, we know what we’re talking about, and we know that downing your whisky as a shot is not the way to enjoy it. Save the shots for the Jagers on a Saturday night around town!

Placing Too Much Emphasis on Price

Over the years, we’ve seen virtually every kind of whisky imaginable. We’ve seen budget, entry-level whiskies, mid-tier whiskies, and premium, high-end whiskies. We’ve seen bottles of whisky sell for less than a tenner, and we’ve seen bottles of whisky sell for more than one hundred grand!

Generally, in any consumer market, the typical consensus is that the more expensive something is, the better quality it is, and vice versa. While this is often the case, it isn’t always the case, especially with whisky.

When people browse our store, or come to us for advice, rather than trying to flog them our most expensive whisky, we instead listen to their own unique preferences and will recommend whiskies accordingly.

Far too many people looking to order a whisky will go straight for the most expensive bottle on the shelf, or the priciest dram of whisky on the menu, rather than reading the tasting notes, profile, and description, to see if it is right for them. If you prefer smooth, creamy, and fruity whiskies for example, a smoky, heavily peated whisky may not appeal to you, yet it could be the most expensive on the menu.

Basically, don’t just assume that all cheaper whiskies will be inferior, and all expensive whiskies will be superior and of a premium quality, because that is not always the case. Personally however, and just as a heads up, if you come across a bottle of whisky in a plastic bottle, priced roughly at a fiver, you may want to give it a miss.

Not Trying New Things

All whisky drinkers have their own favourite tipples. In fact, all drinkers have their own favourite beverages, and rightly so. We like what we like, and with everything now so darned expensive we don’t want to run the risk of spending our hard-earned money on something new, and not enjoying it.

As an example, there’s nothing worse than going for a curry, deciding to order a different dish compared with your usual favourite, only to be disappointed when your curry arrives, and wishing you’d stuck with your fav. On the flipside however, it’s great when you do try a new dish for the first time, absolutely love it, and find that you’ve just discovered a new favourite. If you’d been afraid to try that new curry, you’d never have discovered just how amazing it is.

While we’ve blathered on about curry for far too long (although whisky and curry is a match made in heaven, just FYI) hopefully you’ve understood our analogy about being afraid to try new things.

Always Prioritising Age

This is a bit of a tricky one for us because we know just what a difference aging a whisky can make. We also know that generally, the longer the whisky has aged, the better it will be.

With that said however, that does not mean that the age of a whisky is the be-all and end-all when it comes to deciding its overall quality. A good quality whisky that is only five years old for example, will be infinitely better than a poor-quality whisky that has been aged for 15 years, yet people fail to see that.

Before ordering a whisky, read the description and find out as much about it as possible. Don’t just assume that, because it has been aged longer than 10 years, that it is automatically going to be better than an 8-year-old dram. We’ve tasted whiskies that have aged for nearly two decades that have tasted like paint stripper, and we’ve tasted 3-year-old whiskies that have tasted like pure malt heaven in a glass.

Remember, whisky drinking is very much a matter of personal taste and preference, so make sure you read the tasting notes and consider the profile before ordering. Don’t just assume that you’re going to prefer an older whisky just because it’s been aged longer because there are so many other variables to consider.

Worrying Too Much About How Other People Enjoy Whisky

While whisky is a globally enjoyed beverage, like anything in life, in order to enjoy something, you need to enjoy it the way you want to enjoy it.

Some whisky purists out there can be quite snobby about their whisky, and that’s great, it shows that they are passionate about it. However, at the end of the day, you shouldn’t worry about how they like to drink their whisky because you’re not them. On the other side of the coin, they shouldn’t worry about how you like to drink your whisky either, because they aren’t you.

We guess what we’re really saying here is for you to forget about how other people like to drink their whisky, and instead to focus on how you like to drink it. If you prefer a certain brand of whisky chilled, despite “experts” claiming that it should be served at room temperature, you get that bad boy thrown straight in the fridge.

Whether people recommend a certain brand of water or ice, a specific whisky stone, a specific temp, a specific glass, or anything else, if you don’t like your whisky that way, forget other people, you go ahead and prepare your whisky the way you want it.

Being suckered In by Smart Advertising Campaigns

Don’t get us wrong, we love a good whisky marketing campaign as much as the next person, but we also know that, ultimately, whisky is there to be consumed.

As whisky has become more fashionable over the years, and as younger people have started to drink it, more and more celebs have released their own whisky, along with loud, outlandish, garish, and bold advertising campaigns. These look the part, and draw eyes to the product, but at the end of the day, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, or should that be drinking?

If you’re on the lookout for a new whisky to try, don’t just grab a bottle because it has a pretty label, is in a nice-looking box, or has been released by a famous celebrity. Instead, consider what you look for in a whisky, and then go ahead and find out whether the whisky you’ve got your eye on can tick those boxes.

Jumping In at the Deep End

If you’re new to whisky, or are perhaps looking to transition over to single malt Scotch from a blended whisky, it’s important not to run before you can walk.

Again, using another curry analogy here (yes, we love curry, who doesn’t?) if you want to try to get onto spicy curries, you wouldn’t suddenly order a vindaloo or a phall when you’ve stuck with kormas all of your life beforehand. Instead, you’d transition gradually, maybe with a dopiaza, then a bhuna, then a madras, and so on.

The same applies to drinking Scotch. If you’re used to mild, creamy, fruity blended whisky, you shouldn’t suddenly go for a heavily peated, earthy, smoky, 18-year-old 52% ABV single malt from Islay. Instead, you’d go with a weaker, creamier, sweeter, younger whisky, such as a lowlands Glenkinchie perhaps?

Once you’ve trained your palate to handle the harsher flavours and notes, you can gradually increase the peat notes until you reach a level that you’re satisfied with. Just be aware that some people never reach that level. Some people can’t have enough peat notes in their whisky, whereas others don’t like even the smallest hint of peat. Again, it’s down to you, personal preference, and your own palate.

Drinking Whisky with Mixers Before Trying It Neat

While some whiskies are best enjoyed with mixers, I.E blended whisky, Jack Daniel’s and coke, Jim Beam and lemonade etc, some whiskies taste superior when enjoyed neat.

Far be it for us to tell you how to drink your whisky, but we will say that mixing a fine, single-malt aged Scotch with cheap cola is like making an authentic Italian carbonara and using Billy Bear Ham and supermarket plastic cheese.

Again, some whiskies taste fabulous with mixers, yet others taste better when enjoyed neat. Our advice to you would be to try he whisky neat first, and to then consider having it with a mixer if you still don’t enjoy the taste.

When using mixers, the quality of the mixer is nearly as important as the quality of the whisky, so avoid the cheap, budget stuff.

Mixing Water with Your Whisky in the Wrong Way

Finally, as you are probably aware, some whiskies, especially Scotch whiskies, can be quite harsh on the palate because they contain so much alcohol.

When swallowed, the alcohol taste can burn your throat and overpower the overall flavour profile of the whisky. A great way of neutralising the alcohol and dampening down the harsh alcohol notes, is to mix the whisky with water. Not only that, but water can actually enhance the flavour of the whisky and make it even more enjoyable.

Now, before you get excited and run into your kitchen to grab some tap water, rest assured that not just any old water will do. Adding tap water to your whisky is a guaranteed way of ruining a good whisky. Tap water is treated with chemicals to render it drinkable, can be “hard” with excess limescale, is chlorinated, and generally doesn’t taste nice. Instead, you should use mineral water.

The minerals in mineral water help to work in synergy with the whisky, lifting the flavours and aromas while diluting the harsh ethanol notes from the alcohol. Whether using bottled water or ice cubes, make sure you are using water/ice made from mineral water.

When mixing water with your whisky, a little goes a long way. You will only need one or two drops from a water pipette, or one ice cube in most instances. Too much, and the whisky will taste all watery and will be too weak.

Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash

Tags: Whisky Drinking Mistakes
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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