The Esquire Guide to How to Drink Whisky: 8 Things You Need to Know Before Taking Your First Sip

Whiskey or whisky? Neat or on the rocks? Time to educate your alcohol-loving self.
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Whisky has come a long way from being a “daddy’s drink.” From the wine cabinet in your parent’s room, whisky has migrated to basically every local bar that’s worth your time. Newer generations have warmed to it to the point that it is slowly becoming the drink of choice for many. But many people still don’t know how to drink whisky, and many of us are probably not too well-versed in the finer details of drinking it.

Well, that’s why we’re here. Educate your alcohol-loving self with this list of the eight things you need to know before you drink your next shot of whisky. You’re welcome, by the way.

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1. Whisky or whiskey?

We can’t properly drink something if we can’t even spell it right. Historically, the Irish use ‘whiskey’ with the extra ‘e’, which also seems to be the preferred spelling in the United States. But the Scots are more comfortable with ‘whisky’ and are sticking to their guns. So, which one should you use? It’s all a matter of preference at this point. We suggest that you follow whatever spelling your favorite brand uses.


2. How should we drink whisky?

Ah, the age-old debate on how to best drink whisky. According to Macallan Brand Ambassador Adrian Tecson, a first-time whisky drinker should first try it neat.

“Drink it neat first because that’s the way the whisky master (the one who creates the whisky) would’ve wanted you to try it, and he developed it that way because you’ll smell all the aroma and taste it properly without any mixers,” shares Tecson.

“But then, after that, you should just enjoy it the way you want it. Whether that’s adding a bit of water or pouring it with ice, it really doesn’t matter. Drinking whisky should be more about the experience than the mechanics.

3. Is it wrong to use whisky in cocktails? Doesn’t it destroy the whisky’s taste?

“You cannot shoehorn anyone into a single way of drinking whisky,” says Tecson. “A few years ago, you go into bars and see maybe two bottles of whisky. Now, you see at least 10 and everybody’s trying to experiment with whatever they can mix with whisky. Does it change how it tastes? Yes, it does. But if it contributes to more people drinking whisky, then why not?”

So, stop being ashamed of not being able to drink whisky without cola, you’re doing just fine my friend.

Macallan Brand Ambassador Adrian Tecson delivers a talk on drinking whisky at Chateau 1771

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4. Where and when is the best time to drink whisky?

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If you really want to focus on the taste of the whisky, there are a couple of external factors you must consider, including the lighting and the smell of the general vicinity. 

“When I conduct whisky tastings, if the lighting is too dark, then you can’t see the difference between the types of whisky,” says Tecson. “If you’re doing it in a fast-food joint where the smells are overwhelming, then you can’t also properly taste the whisky.”

But beyond that, if you just want to enjoy your whisky with friends or during a gathering, then it’s basically a free-for-all affair.

 “Where’s the ideal situation? It is wherever you can actually enjoy it,” shares James Du Vivier, Chairman and CEO of Future Trade International, the local distributor of Macallan. “Personally, I’m really into sailing, so a glass of whisky while on a boat is perfect for me.”


5. What type of food goes best with whisky?

While many drink whisky after having dinner, some types of food do pair well with whisky. At the top of the list is chocolate, which really complements whisky and brings out its flavor (pro tip: If you’re having a fruity-tasting whisky, go for dark chocolate). Cheese and steak are also great choices to pair with your whisky. Chateau 1771 at One Bonifacio High Street in Taguig has a wide selection of steak and other meat dishes (and delectable desserts, too) that go perfectly with whisky.

6. Single-malt or blended?

Before we try to debate which one’s better, it’s important we get to know first what they really mean. Single-malt whisky simply means the whisky was distilled from a single distillery, while a blended whisky is made from combining single-malts and grain whiskies which can come from different distilleries.

“You cannot shoehorn anyone into a single way of drinking whisky,” says Tecson

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‘So, what?’ you ask. Let’s keep it simple: Single-malts are heralded for having distinct character and flavor, being closest to a pure whisky as possible. Blended whiskies, on the other hand, have a less stronger, more pleasing flavor for a wider range of drinkers, including those just starting to appreciate whisky. What’s best for you? If you want to discover as much about whisky’s history as possible and crave for the “pure” feeling, go for single-malts. If you’re more forgiving and adventurous with your drinks, go for the blended.

7. What’s the most expensive bottle of whisky ever sold?

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According to Macallan, it recently broke its own record for the most expensive bottle of whisky ever sold. A 60-year-old Macallan 1926 was sold this year for a headache-inducing $1.5 million. It was bottled in 1986 after maturing for six decades at Macallan’s distillery in Scotland. So if you have roughly P80 million lying somewhere in your house, go ahead and look for the 1926 Macallan.


8. James Bond also drinks whisky and not just martinis

Apparently, James Bond also likes it not shaken and not stirred. The most popular spy (contradictory, isn’t it?) in the world was seen sipping a Macallan in both the Skyfall and Spectre movies. And just so you know, everyone’s favorite TV lawyer Harvey Specter (from the TV show Suits) also drinks a Macallan.

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