Advice for the Brown Beginner

Tips from the pros for the first time brown liquor drinker.

Abrol Saurabh of LeMalt.

Abrol Saurabh of LeMalt. Photo by Michael Barr

“Start with something light and easy on the palate. If your first foray into whiskey is with a [heavy, peaty] Islay Scotch, you may derail yourself before you get started. Get a reasonably priced Highland single-malt: Aberlour 10 or a Glenmorangie 12. Stick to 12-year-old Scotch until you really get into it. Then graduate to a 15- or 18-year-old to understand what age brings about.—Abrol Saurabh, LeMalt

Francis Schott of Catherine Lombardi and Stage Left.

Francis Schott of Catherine Lombardi and Stage Left. Photo by Michael Barr

“If you’re just getting into brown liquor, pick one spirit and explore….For bourbon, Maker’s Mark. For Scotch, Dewars is surprisingly good, and so is the Famous Grouse. For Irish, use Powers, Jameson or Bushmills. Keep that baseline spirit around for making cocktails and also to compare with the next bottle on your journey.”—Francis Schott, Catherine Lombardi and Stage Left.

Thierry Carrier of Avenue.

Thierry Carrier of Avenue. Photo by Michael Barr

“You don’t want something too complex, especially too smoky or bitter. A novice will prefer a whiskey that has a slight sweetness in the finish and has a simple flavor profile. Widow Jane is a great brand for beginners because it features a creamy, buttery aroma with a touch of toffee. It’s aged for eight years and is easy to drink and is made in Brooklyn, New York, so it’s a great story to tell guests. Van Winkle Special Reserve from Kentucky is aged for 12 years and features a sweet maple-and-vanilla aroma with a gentle wood spice. It is a bit more intense and complex, but approachable for someone new to whiskey.” —Thierry Carrier, Avenue.

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