As you enters the World of Whisk(e)y, it can be intimidating with all the esoteric descriptive words about this precious brown liquid. There are those that make a living by describing this water of life but rarely do I find that these to be useful for my limited taste buds. Reading the following passage: “Everything so relaxed, from the dusting of sandalwood to the red and black licorice mix diluted with deft Manuka hone.” (1)

What is Jim Murray talking about? If I were to guess, it would be that he is trying to be clever about a good product to keep selling his rating books on whiskey. If you are anything like me, I don’t have any Manuka honey at the house waiting to be compared to the whiskey that I happen to be drinking today.

With a limit culinary vocabulary, I had to decide what I wanted to do about describing the whiskeys that I drank. Taking a small dram of whiskey is a very experiential thing. Something that I might like, could be the one that you dislike. So, what does the average Joe on the street do to start down this slippery path of whiskey enjoyment.

List Bandwagon

The easiest route is to jump on the list bandwagon. You know what I am talking about: The Top 10 Bourbons that bartenders recommend, The Top 5 Whiskey’s under $25, The best Irish whiskies that you need to try before you die. (I think you get the idea.) This route is full of pitfalls since most of these articles are written by non-whiskey drinking that are more writing for more entertainment and website traffic. Lists are easy, people can read and then decide without too much thought into who is making the recommendations and why.

The next easiest route to take is ask for a person recommendation. Asking a friend is better than reading a list from the unknown writer however this too can be fraught with flawed logic. As in the case where a dear friend recommended Egg Plant Parmesan at his favorite Italian restaurant; I can tell you from that experience that I will never tough eggplant again. I just do not have the appetite for eggplant. Your friend’s taste are going to be different from yours, and you have to accept that. Many of my whiskey associates have a very different palette than I do, and I can guarantee that your friend’s palettes will be different as well.

So, what should a person do?

Let me digress for a minute; remember the childhood story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Goldilocks comes upon a cabin in the woods, being the mischievous person that she was, she helps herself to the comforts of the cabin. While enjoying the porridge, she finds one too hot, one too cold and one that is just right. There you go, there’s where you start. Right in the middle.

I am not talking about some middle of the path buddhist concept, but I am talking about finding something that you like and using that as a reference point as you start to expand your tastes buds with this golden elixir. If you acquire a taste for one whiskey that you enjoy, stay with that as your compass and then slowly branch out. There are a huge variety of choices out in the market today. In the last 15 years, the number of distilleries has increased from 70 to more than 2,000 and there are now over 6,000 distilled spirits products in the marketplace.” (2)

Some of these you are going to like and some you are going to wish for your money back. Regardless, Always come back to the one that you know as a comparison. This will help you decide what direction to take and eventually that one Beacon Whiskey might be replaced some day once you figure out the preverbal sweet spot for your mouth.

So, about now, I am starting to hear some grumblings, “You told me to find a whiskey I like, but which one?” While I really think that is the fun part of trying to find what you like, this is entirely up to you. Rest assured, I am not going to leave you high and dry on this one, but be warned that my taste and yours are going to be different as discussed a couple of paragraphs ago.

Starting Point

I gave you a clue at the beginning of this article with the description by Jim Murray. Buffalo Trace Straight Bourbon is a quality product and modestly priced. It has become a favorite of many, so sometimes it can be a little harder to find. While I do not get the same thing that Jim writes about, I do enjoy this mild expression and I always have a bottle on hand. While this is not a high proof bourbon, it is a nice to drink by itself, with or without ice or water, or even in a cocktail.

Don’t take my word for it, here are a couple of other complete strangers and their impression of this easy whiskey:

Regardless if Buffalo Trace Straight Bourbon becomes your compass or not, I hope you enjoy the hunt for this keystone to your whiskey world. We would like to hear about your journey to find this. Please feel free to leave comments below.

(1) Buffalo Trace Straight Bourbon, Jim Murray’s 2020 Whiskey Bible, Dram Good Books, Publisher, page 222

(2) American Whiskey Magazine, January 2021, Issue 11, “It’s Complicated written by Maggie Kimberl, page 16