I was at a moment of existential crisis. I was trying whiskey neat for the first time and I hated it. I had thought of myself as a whiskey drinker up until this point. In reality I was an uninformed whiskey snob. I drank Irish whiskey on the rocks and that was THE way to drink whiskey.
I had thought that way for years until stumbling on a then little known whiskey youtube channel called The Whiskey Vault. The channel's stars Daniel Whittington and Rex Williams drank their whiskey neat and in a strange glass I had never seen before called a Glencairn. They called out all kinds of tasting notes. Leather, apple, brine, smoke, vanilla, caramel and wood. I was confused, how could they get so much out of whiskey? I had only ever tasted two flavors, whiskey and bad whiskey. Then they said something that changed my thinking. Someone at the distillery had blended together a bunch of different casks and then cut it down to an alcohol level they thought it was best at. I had never thought of that before. I then decided I would try whiskey as the people who made it intended.
I poured myself a small amount of my favorite Irish at the time in a rocks glass and took a sip. All fire. The kind of fire in the back of your throat that makes you wince. The kind that makes your mouth salivate like you had just thrown up. I struggled to finish the glass. Next evening I poured a different Irish I had on my shelf. Because I'm a man dammit! I must like whiskey! Nope, still fire. Next night a different Irish same result. Existential dread filled my being. Do I not like whiskey? Have I lied to myself this whole time? No, I will try again.
I decided since I had never tried a bourbon and that's America's whiskey I better try it before I swear off whiskey. I chose Elijah Craig because it was relatively cheap and I liked the bottle. I poured myself a little and went to take a sip. Wait, was that vanilla I smelled? I inhaled again. It was! Vanilla and sweet caramel. I took a sip. Warm vanilla and caramel danced on my tongue. Finish was smooth with a hint of cherry. A light shown down from heaven. Angels were singing in the background. I stared in disbelief at the glass. I liked a whiskey neat! Not just liked but loved. Then a thought entered my head. Is it that I just don't like Irish whiskey?
Now to those that don't know me I am one of those quarter Irish Americans. You know the kind. The Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, Guinness drinking, Foggy Dew, Fields of Athenry, Irish flag hanging next to my American one type of quarter Irish. I stop short of hating the English in my stereotype but you get the picture. Not liking Irish whiskey was a blow to who I thought I was. I decided to give my Irish one last chance.
I poured a small amount of West Cork 10, steadied myself and took a sip. It was light and lovely. White grape and pear with a little floral note on the finish. Yes! What about my Jameson? Buttery with shortbread cookie. Hell-cat Maggie? I don't remember the tasting notes but I liked it as well. I rejoiced, I had found my "Whiskey Moment."