Scene: A man and woman are sitting together in a restaurant. Waiter comes over with the drink order. Proceeds to put the white wine in front of the woman and the whiskey in front of the man. Woman switches the drinks like she’s done it a thousand times before, because she pretty much has. Then she throws back the whiskey, punches the waiter, and fucks off out of there ‘cause she’s had it up to her tits with that shit.
That’s how it plays out in my head anyway. Every. Bloody. Time. Fortunately for everyone else involved, I’m just far too polite. Just because my genitals are tucked up nice and neatly inside my body, doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a smooth, dark, warming glass of whiskey. It’s just a drink and your cocks aren’t the boss of it, fellas.
Whiskey isn’t just a piss easy Father’s Day present or a footy club raffle prize when someone forgets to order the meat tray, it’s a sophisticated elixir that every classy broad should try. So if you want to know what it’s like to drink like Donna Draper, here’s my beginner’s guide to whiskey appreciation.
Before I get to the sexy bit though, let me give you a rundown on a few whiskey quirks and guidelines.
Whiskey v Whisky
The Irish and the Scots invented whiskey, and spell it differently due to translations yonks ago from their respective forms of the Gaelic word. The Irish keep the ‘e’ and because they took the spirit to America, they spell it ‘whiskey’ too. Scottish, Canadian, Australian, Japanese and European whiskies are all spelt ‘whisky’. I use the ‘e’ as a homage to the first whiskey I fell in love with, Jamesons, which is Irish. I change the spelling, however, to the preferred when referring to the different origins.
Single Malt or Blended
This one is pretty simple. Single malts are made at one distillery where they are also aged and bottled. Blended whiskey is made from a combination of whiskey from different distilleries, with a variety of ages. Please don’t be a wanker about this though, and think that you’re only good enough for single malts, as there are some seriously delicious, high quality blends that are among my favourite drops and offer a perfect introduction to whiskey appreciation.
Neat, on the rocks, water added. This is an entirely personal decision, based on your taste and the whiskey itself. By drinking a whiskey neat, you will experience the completely pure and unadulterated flavour of the drink. With some drops though, this can be a bit overpowering and burny.
If this is the case for you, it is totally acceptable to add a few drops of water. Sometimes this can bring a whole new appreciation to the whiskey, especially if its alcohol content is on the steroids and that’s all you can really taste. You want to be able to enjoy your drink, so if the feeling of your mouth and throat being set on fire is not up there on your ‘I fucking love this’ list, then please, for the love of having a good time, add some water.
I have mostly been drinking my whiskey ‘on the rocks’, purely out of habit and because I like saying ‘on the rocks’. I am finding though, that it waters down the flavour quite a bit, especially since I like to ‘sit’ with my drinks and savour the taste. My palate for the spirit has matured and I feel that I’m ready to move on from my usual diluted order. From now on, I’m going to request mine ‘neat’, with a water on the side. I promise not to turn into a wanker about it though.
And now for the sexy bit…
I’ve been drinking bourbon and coke since my teens, but my true appreciation for a stellar drop in its pure form started with an Irish friend of mine making me a cough medicine alternative, the hot Irish whiskey. A blend of Jamesons, hot water, lemon slices, and cloves, it’s similar to the Scottish Hot Toddy, but not as sweet as the Hot Toddy has honey added. I’ve been known to down about three of these before 9am when under the weather as they soothe the throat and give you a nice morning buzz (just don’t go dropping the kids off at school). Ideally you would have an actual Irish person make these for you. However, if one isn’t available, you’re unsure about getting the blend just right or you just don’t trust your free-pour, a quick shot of Jamesons will also cure what ails you.
Another cocktail you might like to try is an Old Fashioned. Personally, I’m not a fan, but it has my dark-spirits-hating husband finally drinking whiskey. It can be made on bourbon or a blended whiskey and if your bartender is doing it right, they’ll set a curl of orange rind on fire making the whole experience a little bit theatrical and a turn-on for pyromaniacs. If you enjoy citrus, bitters and a sophisticated cocktail in a fancy glass, this is a great way to enter the world of whiskey.
Mercy me, the Japanese have stolen my heart with both their efficient public transport and their whisky. The whole whisky loving world is with me on this one too and now there is a shortage of product as supply cannot keep up with demand. Fortunately there are still some delicious drops available here in Australia, which is great as it’s a perfect place to start your appreciation.
Nikka From The Barrel is a beautiful blended whisky that is super smooth and easy to drink. Savouring a glass of it on the rocks or neat is pure bliss in my opinion, and I highly recommend this as your starting point. Affordable and available at your local Dan Murphy’s, it comes in the cutest 500ml bottle that easily fits into any regular sized handbag. I came across it, as my usual go-to blend, Hibiki Harmony, is pretty much extinct at this point and this was the recommended alternative.
If you happen to stumble across a bar or bottle shop stocking Hibiki, give any one of their whiskies a go. They are by far my favourite brand, but are becoming more and more scarce. If you want to try a whisky with a bit more bite, Yamazaki is also a fabulous drop, but like Hibiki, it is a rarity.
Oh, and if you’re ever in Japan, just fucking go nuts and duty free your head off with the local offerings.
The Scots like to think they’re the boss of whisky, which they pretty much are. Chivas Regal, Johnnie Walker, Glenfiddich and Dimple are all beautifully smooth whiskies which you can find and enjoy almost anywhere. If, however, you’re in a position to try anything from the Glenmorangie distillery, get drinking. This is my favourite Scotch (Scottish single malt) and thoroughly delicious.
Not all Scotch whiskies float my boat though, and this is something you’ll discover on your own boozy journey. I’ve been describing my favourite drops to you as ‘smooth’, but there are a whole bunch out there that are ‘smoky’. I don’t like these ones. Most of my male friends however, do and often wank on about them.
Laphroaig and Ardbeg, for example, are both premium Scotch whiskies, but taste like metho and cigarette ash to me. I’ve been burned too many times ordering drinks I can’t stand, so now I ask to sniff the bottle before they pour. Don’t worry, this is NOT weird, and any good bartender will be happy to oblige. They just love that you are into whisky.
Like I said, I’ve been enjoying bourbon whiskey for more than 20 years. I have no idea what brands I’m drinking when I ask for a bourbon and coke, so I can’t offer too much advice. What I would like to say though, is “Go Jim Beam, you leaders in gender equality advertising!”
Have you seen their new ad featuring Mila Kunis? It’s fantastic. Sure she’s a sexy woman, but in this commercial she’s the connoisseur, the expert, the drinker. It is perfection and speaks to me as a dark spirits drinking female, who is often overlooked and dismissed when it comes to my boozing preference.
I had no idea about this, but apparently we have some fabulous whisky makers here in Australia. Apart from A Day on the Green at Sirromet, wineries are wasted on me, but bloody hell, I’d do a tour of a distillery or ten any day. Just reading about The Tasmanian Whisky Trail made me slide off my chair. The historic Nant Distillery is a bit of a big deal, with whisky bars in Melbourne, Hobart, Brisbane and Kuala Lumpur, but I’m particularly interested in the Overeem Distillery, managed by Jane Overeem, who says “Whisky isn’t an old man’s drink anymore.” Preach it, sister! Planning holiday as we speak. Who’s with me?
It’s not just the delicious taste of a good whiskey and the throat warming sensation that I enjoy, it’s also the quality glassware that houses the magical elixir. From vintage crystal to the sexy modern design of Denver & Liely, there’s a whiskey glass to suit every aesthetic which further adds to the sophistication and ritual involved in whiskey appreciation. While you’re at it, up the theatrical experience of drinking by pouring your favourite drop from a fabulous decanter like the Chez Elle Booze Decanter, conveniently available from the Champagne Cartel shop.
Women who whiskey
It’s not just my best mate Mila and I who are into the dark stuff, there’s heaps of chicks out there appreciating the flaps off a good drop of whiskey. If you want more from a female perspective, these are some of my favourite Instagram appreciators: @womenwhowhiskey @whiskynlace @thewhiskygirlnz. These ladies know their shit and I want to drink with them, hard.
Whiskey bars are the fucking coolest places ever. Ever! Their popularity has soared of late, due to the hipster appeal of the underground ambiance and décor. Salvaged timber, worn leather, velvet, low lights, handwritten signage, bearded bartenders in braces and bowties. It’s the stuff of prohibition dreams, complete with a jazzy soundtrack. All wanks aside, they really are the best places to head if you’re looking to expand your whiskey repertoire (most regular bars have a suckful selection of whiskey to choose from, even on the top shelf).
In Melbourne CBD, I’ve tried Whisky and Alement (Mecca for whiskey lovers), Eau de Vie (beards, velvet and a drinks list with more pages than the Bible) and 1806 (this one is great for personal attention as it’s not crazy busy, plus the cheese board is ace). Nant of course, is also in the city. Technically a rum bar, The Nelson is St Kilda has a decent selection of whiskeys available, and if you’re hungover from the night before, Mike, I believe his name is, will do shots of Jamesons with you until you’re back to your bar hopping self again.
I’ve only been to one in Sydney, The Baxter Inn; the ultimate hole-in-the-wall-undergound-down-a-dark-alley booze house. Not sure if you can beat that one. But if you want to try, there are heaps. Grain, The Whisky Room, Stitch, The Wild Rover, Uncle Ming’s, Bulletin Place, Toyko Bird, Shady Pines Saloon, Eau de Vie. Stop. I need to get on a plane. Stat.
Just go on the distillery tour!!!!
What I don’t know
There is so much I don’t know, like, American whiskey and embarrassingly, Australian. I would love to be a (non wanky) expert and fine tune my appreciation. But right now I’m just drinking my way through duty free and sniffing bottles at random bars. I’m no expert but I like it, and I figure if I keep it up I’ll drink my way to guru status in no time. Cheers!