Whiskey 101: The How To Guide To Enjoying Whiskey #sponsored

The 'legs' of the whiskey
Cheap Is The New Classy

Whiskey comes in many different forms. Some have a higher proof, others have a lower one. Many popular brands are produced in Kentucky, others in Canada or Tennessee. Some whiskeys are even made with rye. With such varying possibilities, it is crucial to understand how best to enjoy whiskey for whiskey’s sake.

Whiskey 101

Instructor at Oregon Culinary Institute, Lance Mayhew, makes the argument that higher proof (ranging anywhere from the 100 proof mark or above) can “usually benefit from the addition of a splash of cool water or an ice cube or two.” The small amount of water added to the whiskey helps unlock a lot of the flavors that the high alcohol percentage tends to masks. Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey is a good example of such a whiskey. Without a touch of water, drinkers may miss some of the noticeable caramel, vanilla, and orange notes that reside within it’s taste. When using ice, however, Mayhew advices to let the whiskey melt the ice a little first because the coldness of the ice “tightens” up the whiskey before any individual flavors can become noticeable.

Whisky tasting

Anything ranging from 90 proof (45% ABV) and up can or cannot benefit from the addition of water or ice. This is left up to preference. Willet Single Barrel “Estate Reserve” is another Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey that can shine with a bit of water, or may not depending on the drinker’s preference. Since it is of lesser proof, water may not be needed to hide the alcohol burn and unveil flavors such as tangerine, toasted coconut, and brown sugar. The white oak which the whiskey ages in also gives off a nuance of vanilla. Let the palate be the judge.

All is fair and game for whiskeys with a proof of 80. The distillery has already cut a lot of that alcohol bite from the whiskey, so drinkers can have it straight or “neat” without worry about losing the it’s complex flavors. One popular 80 proof whiskey is Basil Hayden’s 8 Year Old Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey which demonstrates “aromas of spice, tea, and peppermint, while on the palate, spicy and peppery notes lead into a honeyed sweetness.”

It should be said that while mixers can be detrimental to the specific flavors of certain whiskeys, one can certainly use them to make a mean cocktail. Rye whiskey is needed specifically to make an authentic Manhattan. Sazerac 6 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey is a popular choice for such a cocktail due to its wonderful balance between spiciness and sweetness. However, being 90 proof, it can also be enjoyed neat or with a tinge of water to help exhibit the robust character of the rye.

6° Milano Whisky Festival

Again, taste belongs to the palate of the taster. The golden rule is that the lower the proof and quality, the less likely anything will be lost from combining with mixers or using for shots. Some may get a kick out of a whiskey and ginger ale, others prefer it straight. Regardless of preference, muddling quality whiskeys with anything besides a little water or ice will in fact take away from the complex tastes and aromas emanating from a glass of whiskey.

How Do You Enjoy Your Whiskey?


About Dawn McAlexander

Dawn is a full time travel and lifestyle blogger. Besides Cheap Is The New Classy, she also owns and writes for EatPlayRock.com, an entertainment site. Her interests include traveling, home decor, DIY projects, organizing her home and enjoying a nice cup of coffee {or two}. She currently resides in North Carolina with her dog, Daisy.


  1. Jenna M Wood says:

    Wow, great tips- We usually just use Whiskey Stones, that don’t dilete the taste but keep it chilled and crisp, while adding an edge to the ‘kick’.

  2. Great tips! I have never tried whiskey before!

  3. Going to be honest I have never had Whiskey before either. I hung out with a mostly Russian crowd in college and the only appropriate drink was Vodka but you do make whiskey sound intriguing – toasted coconut tangerine, and brown sugar sounds like some sort of dessert! Too bad I am allergic or I would consider ordering the next time I am at an event.

  4. I actually do not drink whiskey. My husband loves whiskey. He is a whiskey and coke person.

  5. I have never been a whiskey fan. Maybe I will try again with your tips.

  6. Ok, I am a bourbon/whiskey/scotch fan…. and now I want to start drinking. Its only 11 am!

  7. I take Whiskey for medicinal purposes in a hot toddy with ginger ale and honey. Girl, No more nyquil for me. Just alcohol>>>>mmmm sleep like a baby and get over my colds.

  8. Before I fell pregnant, whiskey was my go-to alcohol of choice. I miss it, and I’m not classy at all so I would just take shots. A shot after the kids went to sleep, and maybe another before I went to sleep. I’m not an alcoholic, I swear. I just prefer it over beer or wine.

  9. WOW – there is science to drinking whiskey?

  10. The only person I know that drinks whiskey is my grandpa. I wish he was still alive, he would have been very interested about this article.

  11. Though I haven’t had it in years, I’m a Jack and Coke kinda girl! :)

  12. Whiskey has never been my fave — I’m more a white wine kind of girl. But, I’m willing to learn! :)

  13. Sherry Compton says:

    I needed this post. My son has gotten into whiskeys…he knows about aging and different barrel types. My daughter has talked with him some and has gotten some ideas for Christmas, but it’s nice to know a little more about how to enjoy the flavors.

  14. Sandy Cain says:

    I need a drink. I like the part about the ice cube “unlocking” the flavors. I drink once a year – Champagne on New Year’s Eve – so I have to wait just about a whole year for another one. (Maybe I’ll sneak one in….shhh, don’t tell.)


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