Here's the deal: Like any good Mad Men fan knows, whiskey is meant to be sipped slowly. Maybe at work. But more ideally at a place like Smith Commons, which just so happens to have a superb selection this American favorite. In fact, they're celebrating this iteration of giggle water tonight (July 11), from at 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. with food, spirits and the founder of one of the world's best brands, Tom Bulleit.
But while sipping this golden amazingness Draper-style—that is, out of a tumbler glass while learning how to treat women as equals—is a fine option for a casual drink, there is much more to a proper whiskey tasting sip than simply the swallow. No, whiskey tasting isn't as complicated as finding the Higgs-Boson particle, but there are a few guidelines to keep in mind.
STEP 1: GET THE RIGHT GLASS
As we'll learn later, aroma is going to be a very important component of a proper whiskey tasting, and so it's important to ditch the wide-mouthed rocks glass and go for a snifter, which features a pear-shaped body and a more narrow opening. This shape helps keep the aroma at its strongest.
STEP 2: HAVE WATER ON HAND
Not because you need a chaser, but because you may need a mixer. Unlike wine or craft beer tasting, whiskey tasting packs a punch—a burns-going-down-your-throat punch because of its high alcohol content. While that's awesome if you're looking to get crunk, that burn can actually mask the flavors you're hoping to taste. The solution? Add a bit of water. Not a lot, mind you, but just a teaspoon or two after you've given your snifter of whiskey a couple minutes to breathe.
STEP 3: SNIFF IT
After you've swirled your drink around the glass right quick, be cautious as you move your nose closer to the glass. Even if you added water, the strength of the alcohol content could cause a bit of a flinch effect, so sniff slowly at first. In fact, here's a protip from Mr. Bulleit: "Trick of the trade: open your mouth and part your lips to avoid getting the burn in your nose. If you smell with your mouth closed, you very much will." Once you get the gist of it, go in for a little more. This is where you'll find your first hints of flavor, which could range from spicy to woodsy to floral to whatever. Let your olfactory system be the first judge.
STEP 4: SIP IT
Don't shoot it. As a bartender friend of mine said, "As with most any (quality) spirit, you should do the 'Kentuck chew,' which essentially looks like you're trying to your best impersonation of Mr. Ed." The idea is to get it all around in your mouth and tongue, and hold it for a few seconds. At the same time, breath in through your nose as you swallow so you can get the characteristics. Common ones to look for are pepper, vanilla and maple, but keep in mind these can vary greatly depending on the type of whiskey being consumed—bourbon, rye, malt, etc.
And voila! You're a veritable expert! Come show off your newfound skills in a bar full of other whiskey lovers tonight. From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., get a deal on a Bulleit-designed cocktail named The Kentucky Buck. Then proceed up to the third floor to sample spirits and a special menu of food infused with Bulleit whiskey. Finally, stick around at 7:30 p.m. to hear Mr. Bulleit and whiskey expert Ewan Morgan talk shop.—MP
1245 H St., NE