Finding Your Dream Dram - The Whiskey Wash

Finding Your Dream Dram

By Eva Pang / February 6, 2019

So you decided to give whisky a try, but don’t know how to pick something to try? No problem, delving into the world of whisky is all about tasting, tasting and more tasting as there are so many different kinds, all with different flavour profiles. Finding the dram of your dreams can be a lifelong adventure.

The first thing I suggest you do is to think about your favourite wine or beer and the flavour profiles they have. If you think about the flavours of the wines or beer that you like, you can usually find a whisky with a similar taste profile. The flavour of whisky can be wide and varied, and despite misconceptions, are not all smoky and peated. Although I will caution that with all whisky, you need to get over the “hot/burning” taste of the alcohol before you’ll taste any of the distinct flavours within, but once you do, you’ll enjoy whisky much more.

My favourite single malt scotches have flavours reminiscent of figs, plums, stewed apples, honey, vanilla and cocoa. Whisky can taste sweet, spicy, dry, of oak, citrus and smoky. You can use a website such as Master of Malt to look up whisky you see on restaurant menus or in the liquor store, and it will provide you with the flavour profiles so you can get an idea of which whisky you might want to try when you get the chance.

image via Eva Pang

Second, the only way to really know what whisky you will or won’t like is to try it. There are a few different ways you can go about trying whisky without committing to a whole bottle. You can go to any restaurant or lounge and work your way slowly through their whisky offerings. This allows you to try an ounce or two without spending $60-$100 on a whole bottle that you might or might not like. The only downside to this is that most restaurants don’t offer a large selection. As well, many restaurants seem to offer very similar selections, so there will only be so many you’ll have the opportunity to try if you go this route.

Trying it before you buy it

Another way of trying whisky before you buying is by finding a liquor store that offers a “try it before you buy it” policy. To be honest, I don’t know of any liquor stores off the top of my head that have this policy for certain, although I have heard there are a few that might. I know for certain that if you’re in Calgary, Canada, Kensington Wine Market will offer you a sample of pretty much anything they have – I imagine there are some exceptions to this rule, such as not sampling out bottles that are rare and extremely expensive – but pretty much anything else can be sampled. This allows you to try before committing your hard earned money to an entire bottle.

However, the best way to try a lot of different whisky without a huge monetary investment is to attend whisky tastings and wine and spirit festivals. At tastings run at liquor stores, they can offer a variety of whisky from a single distillery, particularly if the tasting is being run by a sales representative for a specific brand, or the ambassador for a specific distillery. However, whisky from a single distillery can vary wildly in flavour depending on age, barrels used to age or finish them, whether it’s a blend or a single cask, and a whole variety of other factors.

Liquor merchants sometimes run their own tastings, picking a variety of whisky that they enjoy or to show the difference between whiskies from various parts of the world. Festivals allow you to pick and choose which whisky you try or don’t try, and often have a wide variety of distilleries to choose from.

There are in fact, quite a few whisky tastings that happen wherever you may live, you just have to keep an eye out for them. These will provide you with the opportunity to try a variety of different whiskies and learn a bit more if you’re new to this misunderstood spirit. Often from the whisky ambassadors themselves, who not only know a lot about whisky but often have interesting stories to tell!

I’ve found the biggest mistake that most people make when trying to find a whisky they like, is asking a friend, a friend of a friend, a friends’ spouse, a friends’ dad, etc, what they enjoy, then going out and buying a whole bottle of that whisky. No two people will have the same likes and dislikes when it comes to wine, beer or spirits. Your taste buds prefer different things, your experiences will evoke different emotions when exposed to a particular flavour or smell, and even your specific body chemistry could make a difference.

So even if they say “trust me, you’ll love it!”, choose flavours that appeal to you, and don’t try to convince yourself to like something that someone else does because they say it’s the number one ranked whisky in the world and therefore, you should love it. It doesn’t work that way and your personal preference should always take precedence.

Finding the perfect whisky for you takes time, patience, and a lot of tasting. Don’t give up if you don’t find it right away, it’s taken me years before I finally found a whisky that hooked me enough to enjoy it. So go to a tasting, try anything that catches your eye and I hope you’ll have fun enjoy exploring the world of whisky!