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Am I likely to dislike all whiskey?

I just tried a new cocktail made with Jim Beam Black Bourbon. I hated it, and taking a sniff of the Jim Beam in the bottle made me nauseous. I love the smell and taste of cognac, gold rum and tequila. I'm always experimenting with cocktails, and might like to try some that call for rye or scotch, but not if they're like the Jim Beam. My budget for alcohol isn't what it used to be, so instead of shelling out more funds for something I'm likely to dislike, I thought I'd appeal to you houndish drinkers. Is there a significant difference in the way various whiskeys taste and smell, or do you think I should stick to what I know I like?

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  1. JB Black is certainly not what I'd class as a good representation of the spirit!
    Something like Jameson is a good introduction to Irish blended, or Glenmorangie for Scotch.

    Though, personally, I would say not to stop a dislike of one brand to define whisk(e)y as a bad drink in your mind. It's probably one of the most diverse spirits, every disillery is CLEARLY different, not like subtle nuances between vodkas or gins.

    1. If you're new to bourbon, Beam may not be a great choice. I think Maker's Mark is probably a pretty good entry-level bourbon. It's light, smooth, sweetish, easy to drink, and lacks much of a bite.

      Also, as Steve K's post alluded, there are lots of different types of whisk(e)y, and bourbon is just one of them. Irish and Scotch are entirely different beasts and certainly worth a try. If I were starting from scratch or bringing someone up to speed on those I would probably start with an Irish before going for a Scotch. Irish, generally speaking, is to Scotch kind of like Maker's is to other bourbons: Smoother, sweeter, and friendlier. A great starting point on your journey.

      1. Gotta agree with the above. Jim Beam is not what I'd call good whiskey, or even good bourbon. I'm a fan of Tullamore Dew for Irish, and Woodford for Bourbon. If you're just starting out and like mixed drinks, try with a little ginger ale. It's not as syrupy sweet as coke or 7 up, and will allow you to taste the whiskey.

        1. I believe bourbon is made from corn, which accounts for its distinctive taste & smell. Most other whiskies (rye, Scotch, Irish, Canadian, etc.) are made from grains other than corn and do have different tastes and smells .

          It is certainly possible you might enjoy whiskies other than bourbon. You should give them a try.

          1. It's not surprising you didn't like the Beam. It's a low level bourbon. If you're just getting started on whiskey, I'd stay clear of bourbon altogether. You'll want something smoother, lighter and easier to drink. In general, Canadian whiskeys fit this bill because of the high percentage of grain used in their production. Irish whiskeys are similar in that regard; they're lighter than their American and Scottish cousins. A good boutique brand of irish whisky to seek out is Clontarf. They have three different tiers of quality. The lowest bottle comes in at $19.99 and is better than most other mega-brand Irish whiskies like Jameson, Bushmills, ect ect. ......For actual Sctoch, there are many, many, many different brands that you may find mild enough to drink. If you become familiar with the 5 different distilling regions in Scotland, seek out those made in the Lowlands such as Glenkinche and Auchentoshen. They're light, grassy, and easy to sip. Some Speysides would also fit the bill. Here you can go for Arberlour, it's rich and almost chocolaty. Macallen is another one you may be able to appreciate. The 12yr is sherry cask aged and has a sweetness to it. Be sure to stay away from whiskeys produced in the Islay (Eye-LA) region. These are smokey and strong. People love them or hate them. If you're going to go with Bourbon, Makers Mark, Woodford reserve, as others have noted, are great choices.

            1. What was the cocktail that you made?

              Miniature bottles are your friend. Find a liquor store that has a decent selection and you should be able to find examples like Maker's Mark, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Johnnie Walker, Jameson, Crown Royal and even Macallan 12yr. in the 50ml size. You'll be able to try the basics without the expense of buying a full bottle. Rye, on the other hand, might be tough to find in miniature.

              And Jim Beam Black is a not a bad bourbon at all.

              11 Replies
              1. re: ultramagnetic

                Thanks to everyone for the informative replies. I guess the bottom line is, "Don't give up! Keep on drinking!" No problem! The miniature bottles are a great idea. I will see which of all these recommendations I can get in that size. That should at least tell me if I'm averse to all whiskey. I hope not, as I'd like to broaden my horizons.

                The cocktail I made was called Time for a Change. The recipe came from a contest among bartenders (at a swank hotel in Canada, If I recall) to create a cocktail using blueberry juice. It's Jim Beam Black Bourbon, blueberry juice, lemon juice, Cointreau and simple syrup. It sounded like something I'd like. I tried three of these blueberry concoctions, and it was worth gagging on two to find the Spoilt Bison, which, because I fiddled with it a bit, I renamed the Blue Bison. For those of you who like gin, berries and herbs:

                4 fresh sage leaves
                2 oz. Plymouth Gin
                1 1/2 oz. blueberry juice
                3/4 oz Chambord
                1 oz. lemon juice

                1. re: pollystyrene

                  It doesn't sound like the recipe you used with whiskey is one that is really appropriate to learn about the nuances of a whiskey cocktail. Personally I love whiskey cocktails more than any other type, even though my favorite spirit is usually gin. I don't know why but just the thought of blueberry and whiskey makes me gag. I think it's the fact that there are no bitters in the recipe. Whiskey cocktails almost always seem to benefit from a dash of bitters. (I'm actually working on a blueberry bitters recipe right now.) Otherwise the recipe sounds like some version of a New Orleans style whiskey sour.

                  The recipe you list above sounds interesting, except the amount of blueberry juice seems a bit high in proportion to the other ingredients and be a bit overwhelming on the juice. Although it's hard to tell from reading the recipe unless I know exactly what brand of blueberry juice, and whether it is sweetened or unsweetened.

                  1. re: JMF

                    I use Knudsen unsweetened blueberry juice. I use a lot of their unsweetened, 100% juice for cocktails, like apple and pear. The only juices I squeeze myself are citrus, thanks to Knudsen. (It ain't cheap, though.)

                    1. re: pollystyrene

                      I have used Knudson Blueberry juice, and definitely think the amount of juice used, compared to other ingredients, is way too high and will overwhelm the drink. I think 1/2 to 3/4 oz would make for more balance. Also it may improve with 1/2 oz of simple syrup as well.

                  2. re: pollystyrene

                    WOW that sounds really sweet. If you really want to try to taste the bourbon, just pour it over the rocks with a splash of water. If you don't want to lay out $$ on Maker's Mark, I highly recommend Elijah Craig. If you want to mix, try a Manhatten (2/3 bourbon, 1/3 sweet vermouth and a dash or 2 of bitters).

                    And if bourbon isn't your style, I second mojoeater's recommendation of Tullamore Dew.

                    1. re: JohnE O

                      " If you really want to try to taste the bourbon, just pour it over the rocks..."

                      This sounds contradictory to me. Won't the cold from the ice mask a ton of the bourbon's flavor?

                      Just sayin'.

                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                        That's true, but I think it also tames the burn of the alcohol, making it easier to taste anything at all.

                        1. re: nfo

                          Hmmm. Either I'm a bigger drunk than I thought or I just drink really smooth booze, but I never really get an alcohol burn. To each his own, of course, but if I'm drinking good whisky/whiskey, I want to taste it.

                        2. re: invinotheresverde

                          Actually, adding just a small amount of water to bourbon will release many of the aromas and flavors that are held in by the alcohol in the bourbon. When I say small amount, I mean just that. I first learned this during a tasting where we had a small amount of bourbon (probably less than an ounce) in a glass slightly resembling a brandy snifter. After sniffing and then tasting the bourbon "straight", just 5 or 6 drops of water were added, and the way that it opened up the aromas of vanilla, caramel, and other scents, as well as the tastes of the same, was amazing. As far as the ice goes, those who prefer their drinks cold are accomplishing the same thing, as the ice melts slightly as soon as the bourbon is poured, though if a lot of ice is used, the drink does become more diluted by the time you finish it. So yes, to try a good bourbon, add a couple cubes, or just a tiny splash of water, and savor! As to the Maker's Mark suggestion, a good idea for a bourbon to start with, as it is well made, but is made with red winter wheat, rather than rye, which results in a smoother, or less harsh, taste.

                          1. re: Cheez62

                            I agree about adding a small amount of water to bring out more nose and flavor (I do this myself).

                            "On the rocks" is completely different from adding an ice cube or two. I stand by the fact that cold bourbon's flavor is masked, in the same way nuances are lost in wines served too cold.

                      2. re: pollystyrene

                        Rather than the minibottle route, you might consider doing some reconnaissance at one of the cocktail bars that aren't too expensive but still pretty good for a whiskey evening. For $30 or so up front you can find the type that is most versatile and that suits your taste.

                        The main problem with minis is that it would almost certainly exclude rye, which is cheap, versatile and delicious.

                    2. I am a huge fan of Canadian and Irish whiskey; Crown Royal, Jameson etc...I find that these styles of whiskey have a smooth clean taste. I do not like bourbon at all. I think it is overpowering, heavy and at times I find it tastes like soap. Am I the only one that finds a soapy taste?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: jpc8015

                        Polly, this is a good idea. I suggest the last Hurrah in the Omni Parker house. They have an extensive scotch selection with very good, in-depth, descriptions of each scotch on the menu- the warm nuts they serve also go well with the scotch. They also do half pours so you don't have to commit to anything at the full price level. You can expect to spend around $8-10 for a good beginners scotch. There are some good values on the menu and some that are way to over priced. Nonetheless, this is a good place to start.

                        1. re: jpc8015

                          Only if it was in a mint julep, which can be a bit like brushing your teeth while drinking bourbon.

                        2. No, as others have said, don't give up. Whiskey is an outstanding spirit as it's subtleties are what makes for such a broad range of flavours. Which is why I'd suggest trying it on it's own. Not in a cocktail. Put it on the rocks, water it or both. See what flavours strike your fancy.

                          First of all, there are 4 general types. American, Canadian, Irish and Scotch.
                          Of the 4, I find Scotch the hardest to appreciate/get into, so leave that aside for now.

                          American can be sub categorized into whiskey and bourbon. "All bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon." Bourbon is not filtered and that's the basic difference. So I'd stick with something filtered for starters.
                          For me that's Gentleman Jack. It's the premium Jack Daniels and it's double filtered and is very smooth. It's to be sipped neat, watered or on the rocks. You don't make cocktails with it. Try a small bottle on the rocks and or watered. Definite vanilla, caramel and cinnamon flavours there.
                          If you want to try a bourbon, Woodford Reserve and Blanton's are my favourites that I've tried.

                          I'd also go with a sampling of Jameson's. Their simple IW is very nice and to me, has a hint of mango to it. If you like Mango, you should like it.

                          For a Canadian "Rye" whiskey I'd go with CC or Crown Royal. Both are good in their low end offers and are even better in their more premium bottles.

                          Again, look for sample bottles and start sampling. There's pretty much something there for everyone.


                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Davwud

                            I don't think mango is a flavor I have ever picked up in Jameson but if it works for you...

                            1. re: jpc8015

                              My taste buds seem to be a bit weird. I'll pick up tastes in things that no one else does and not pick up things that everyone else does.


                              1. re: Davwud

                                Often times I will pick up odd flavors like blueberry or eucalyptis in red wine but the only thing I've ever tasted mango in is well, mango. LOL

                                1. re: jpc8015

                                  I think we can both agree that Jameson's is some damned fine stuff though.


                          2. I don't think anyone likes whiskey at first. But once you aquire the taste it can be a great winter drink.

                            Plus drinking it makes you appear sophisticated... sometimes.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Jonny509

                              I would add that the absolute worst hangovers I've had have been from bourbon (and red wine) on relatively minor amounts. Well, I think 4 drinks isn't too much.

                            2. Wow, there are a lot of thing to cover here.

                              First, I truly believe the cocktail you had has nothing to do with liking whiskey or not--blueberry, Cointreau, lemon and simple syrup will drastically change the flavor profile of any Bourbon, even in microscopic quantities. I can't particularly speak to why the smell of Jim Beam Black was so offputting given that you like the smell and taste of cognac.

                              Second, there are dramatic differences between various styles of whisk(e)y depending on where it was made and what ingredients are used. For instance, Bourbon and Scotch are both Whisk(e)y's but have significantly different organoleptic characteristics as a result of very different production methods and recipes.

                              Third, as with all types of spirit, price plays a role. For instance, while both fine examples of Canadian whiskey, Crown Royal generally scores better than VO in blind tastings...and it is considerably more expensive. Of course, there are always exceptions to this as well, but it tends to be true with whisk(e)y as often as with any other food product.

                              AND, that being said, for the price, Jim Beam Black is a fine example of 8 year old bourbon. So you may want to hold off on spending money on Bourbon's around that age. Bourbon has a specific set of regulations that dictate certain aspects of the recipe, or mash bill, and production that will make Bourbon's more similar to each other rather than more diverse. However, other types of whisk(e)y, that are not Bourbon, have different sets of standards and as a result can be a very different experience. To me, the difference between Maker's Mark Bourbon and Lagavulan Scotch is as different as that between an anejo tequlia and a cognac.

                              If some one gave me a hamburger with a blueberry, sugar and lemon sauce I might think I didn't like cow.....but I'd be so wrong.

                              1. Try some whiskey, you will find one you like. Just start mellow. You are doing the right thing by asking here. Everyone has there opinion of how you should go about finding one you like. Wether it be Scotch, bourbon, Irish, Canadien, there is something for everyone. Try some Basil Hayden, Woodford Reserve, Jameson, and see how you like those. All these posts are full of great ideas and information. These are just a few I thought you might want to start with.

                                1. Yes, there's a hug difference! First, whiskey is a generic term. You may not like the dryness of bourbon, which is fine. However, if you like cognac, you may enjoy sherried, non-islay single malt scotch, and you may like Irish whiskey, which, unlike single malt, is distilled twice.

                                  1. Reiterating many of the comments here. 1) that cocktail seems all wrong for whiskey; those ingredients call for a far lighter, cleaner spirit, a light rum or vodka or blanco tequila. 2) keep trying.

                                    I think it's easier to start with lighter, smoother whiskeys with fewer distinctive flavors like smoky peat moss (in many Scotch whiskies), or straight (unblended) whiskeys which tend to highlight idiosyncrasies of flavor, whereas blending usually smooths out some burred edges. Most bourbon has a sweetness (from corn) that makes it easier on the novice whiskey drinker than, say, American rye, which often has a distinctive sourness (from rye grain).

                                    So, as broad rules of thumb: start with blended vs. straight whiskeys, choose lighter and sweeter over heavier and more dry or sour, and watch out for heavy smoke flavors. I've decided, for instance, that I don't really like Islay single-malt Scotches, in which I find the smoke flavor overpowering. Canadian whiskies (which though often called rye here, and reached for by many bartenders when you order rye, has very little in common with American straight rye whiskey), lighter/sweeter American bourbons and Tennessee whiskeys, and if you like Scotch, blends.

                                    I think it's easier for many novices to bridge into whiskey appreciation from cocktails like a well-made sour or Ward Eight or Brooklyn. The high-craft cocktail bars in town are your friend here. Explain your quest to a bartender at Green Street, ESK, Drink, or No. 9 and they will offer a lot of useful advice, illustrated by some very tasty cocktails. It's worth exploring until you find a whiskey or whisky that you like: it opens up a whole new world of possibilities.