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What do you suggest for someone trying to get into whiskey?

I have always loathed the stuff. I mean, put 1/4 oz. into a cocktail and I will find it - and hate it. I've tried Scotch, Irish whiskey, bourbon, rye, Tennesee whiskey. I don't like Cognac or brandy either. However, working in the spirit/wine world, I am very often criticized for not being able to "appreciate the complexities" of a good whiskey. Always been a wine, gin, and amaro type of person. I appreciate the freshness/crispness of gin and the medicinal qualities of amaro. I do not appreciate the intense smokiness/tobacco/leather/etc. that I get from whiskey.

Is there a particular style or brand that is ideal to ease a person into whiskey? People always suggest that I try bourbon first, because no one can not like bourbon. Most bartenders tell me to try Scotch because it's more focused and easy on the palate than other things. There is just too much information out there and I don't have the patience to figure this out.

I'd love some suggestions - or ideas - or anything.

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  1. I would think good Irish whiskey should be the easiest "eas-ing" into whiskey. Irish whiskey is distilled three times which makes it a bit lighter and I find that newbies find the flavor more approachable than, say, Laphroaig (a smokey Islay Scotch Whiskey), although you never know. Irish whiskies are lighter bodied and tend to have more honey/citrus flavors.

    That said, I would try Redbreast which is a higher-end, pot-still Irish whiskey. If you can't find that, you could try Bushmills Black label. It should be available at any bar with a decent whiskey selection. On the lower end, I've always found powers solid and certainly a notch above Jameson/Bushmills (White).

    The world of Scotch Whiskey is huge (flavor-wise), and I suppose an easy drinking Speyside like Balvenie 12 or even a blend like Dewars is what the bartenders you've talked to are thinking, but I can understand even those being overwhelming. A blended scotch like Dewars over ice can be an easy way to get into whiskey as well. Many many people begin drinking blended whiskey over ice before eventually moving to no-ice and/or single malts.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Klunco

      I would totally agree with the Irish idea. Bushmills was my gateway into whiskey and tho it is not the most complex, it is easy on the palate. Balvanie makes some great non smokey Scotch for those of us not into drinking peat or campfire.

      1. re: budnball

        I'll be more specific. Balvenie makes a 14 year aged in Rum casks. This is a very easy drinking Scotch.

        Black Bush is a whiskey that drinks like a dry sherry, although my husband unhelpfully says "Black Bush tastes like Black Bush."

        1. re: Indy 67

          Does your husband smirk when he says that? ;)

    2. My first response to the headline was "a lock on the liquor cabinet" but then I realized that's not what you're asking. If you're a gin and Amaro person you might not like the sweetness of whiskey - I'd go with rye or scotch over bourbon or Irish if that's the case. If you're looking Scotch, look for highland over island - less intense smokiness. I like the Dalmore or Glenmorangie.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Savour

        Nice response Savour!
        I was always a "white" liquor guy. Gin and Vodka, until I had a Wild Turkey 101 Rye with a single cube.
        Suddenly a light bulb went on.
        The smooth complexity and spiciness with a real discernible midpalate and a true finish... I never knew such exquisite flavors existed in a liquor.
        I now can now even appreciate your more "acerbic" single malts but really prefer Rye or good Bourbon.

      2. Out of curiosity, what whiskey cocktails have you tried that you find distasteful?

        1. I am tempted to suggest you don't go with a straight whiskey, scotch, bourbon, etc.

          You may want to ease into this by looking at something like Irish Mist which is an Irish Whiskey base blended with heather, honey and other spirits. Or maybe Grand Marnier which has a cognac base with orange essence and sugar. Drambuie is a malt whiskey base. So you might want to start off with one or some of these.

          If you can develop a taste for those and then move up to something like Bushmills.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Scott M

            I did get into scotch in college by drinking Rusty nails (Scotch and Drambuie).

            1. re: Scott M

              Drambuie is what got me interested in Scotch in the first place.

            2. Balvenie is a very smooth scotch whisky for beginners. Also, as an inexpensive (but very nice) option, there's a brand called Jon, Mark and Robbo's that makes three scotch whiskies called "the spicy one," "the peaty one," and "the smooth sweeter one." I would recommend the smooth one to start with.