With anything that’s been around for a few centuries and spans the globe with its story like whiskey, there’s bound to be a few myths and urban legends. Some propagate the community down to even the most devout members. Others are some superficial hearsays that have popped up in the past few years and have spread like wildfire. Today, I’m going to take you through some ridiculous and some potentially believable myths and urban legends that have infiltrated the whiskey community.
Color is based on age.
While yes, there is truth to this statement it is not purely based upon the length of time whiskey has been in the barrel. The type of barrel and the environment it is aged in also have huge impact on the color of the spirit.
Older is better.
Another one that has elements of truth to it but not the end all be all. This is more like a guideline. You’re going to want something with some age to it, probably 2 or more years depending on how it is aged. Aging a whiskey is a widely debated topic in the whiskey community so we won’t dive too far into it. Mainly because I’m not a distiller, nor do I have the proper scientific knowledge on the subject to give you the exact reasons why certain processes happen. But what I can say purely from experience consuming countless whiskies from all different ages and aging styles is that whiskey ages in peaks and valleys. Somewhere along the line of aging certain whiskies they hit great peaks but that same mashbill and same barreling can age for a year or two more but not be as delicious as the younger spirit.
The neck pour.
The most ridiculous and baffling to me. If you don’t know what this one is it’s essentially the first pour of the spirit aka the stuff that’s sitting in the “neck” of the bottle. There’s debate as to whether or not this first pour of the whiskey is distinctly different from the rest of the bottle. Typically viewed as worse for the more superstitious among whiskey drinkers, but superstition is all this is. It’s the first sip of a new bottle. If you’re a seasoned whiskey drinker you know, “never judge something from your first sip.” Granted there are absolutely terrible things that you can clearly tell are awful or awful to you. But to really taste and experience a whiskey you have to give it more than one shot. Your palate is always changing and develops over time. You’ll have a few core categories you’ll always enjoy sipping on but you may come to like different flavors or qualities in the future.
Whiskies do “open up” and “breathe” after being opened and left for a while. It is a phenomena that has been widely experienced by the vast majority of whiskey drinkers. This could be where the myth of the neck pour originates. Someone not initially liking a whiskey and then coming back to it a month later and being shocked that they enjoy it now.
Bourbon is only made in Kentucky.
The only geographical requirement for bourbon it that is has to be made in the U.S. or its territories. It’s not region specific like the right to name a sparkling wine champagne.
The higher the price the higher the quality.
Simply not the case. Price is usually determined by exclusivity, quantity and demand. You may find a whiskey you prefer that is at a high price than your everyday drinker but don’t associate more dollar signs with guaranteed quality increase. I can say from personal experience that I have had a handful of very expensive whiskies that were either terrible or astronomically priced for the quality of the booze.
Mixing good whiskey is a waste.
Just think about this one for a second. If you want to create something good, you have to start with good ingredients. The same goes for a mixed drink. To make an amazing old fashioned use some amazing whiskey. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. Now, I’m not suggesting you throw some Michter’s 20 or Pappy’s 23 into a glass with some syrup and an orange peel… But there’s no harm in using quality whiskey to make a quality mixed drink.
If you have any other myths or urban legends about whiskey let us know in the comments below! Cheers.
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Orion has been friends with Greg since their high school days.
His love for whiskey grew as he tried different pours Greg was reviewing for Whiskey Culture. And, when Whiskey Culture began traveling around the country, he went with them to document their whiskey expeditions.
Orion now works full-time for Whiskey Culture managing our production schedule and ensuring the quality of our content. He oversees our contributor program, and can be found alongside Greg during their trips to Kentucky either behind the camera, or behind a glass of fine whiskey after a long day of shooting footage.