This past weekend, I headed out with a couple of friends to grab a few drinks at our favorite whiskey bar and watch some MMA. Originally we were going to have a tasting party and buy the PPV but after a fight was removed from the card last minute, we decided this was probably a better option. Sure we’d spend more in the long run but it would be on delicious brown juice and not the fights themselves. I was not prepared for what would certainly be the most entertaining fight of the night; my buddies (Xavier and Dimitri) arguing over something I’d really never given much thought about until that night.
“X” and “D” (how I’ve referred to them for years because who needs to deal with three-syllable names while drinking?) are both what I would consider aficionados of the whiskey world. Both know their whisk(e)y, both know their distillery history (domestic and foreign), both know the complete distillation process, and they both definitely “know” how to drink a dram. Their way. The right way. The only way apparently… And even though they may be drinking the same exact bourbon or scotch on any given night, they are certainly enjoying much different pours than one another.
It’s no secret that X loves his ice. He buys custom made, crystal clear, home delivered cubes in bulk and stores them in their own stand alone freezer. He even makes his own using directional freezing which he chips or carves into whatever shape he fancies to fit many different glasses. He prides himself on both his creation and use of “the best ice in the world”. The perfect, slow melting, transparent trinket in his glass.
D, on the other hand, calls himself a whisky purest. Each bottle was filled with exactly what the distiller intended him to consume. They’ve already been sampled and adjusted if need be by masters. They are bottled at the exact proof and dilution (or lack thereof) for a reason. It’s his responsibility to preserve that greatness by pouring it in a glass (usually a glencairn), letting it breathe, and sipping the elegance throughout the night.
These are the two guys who joined me for drinks. The two friends that I, without giving it much thought, decided to plop my butt down in between at the bar. The two men who would, very loudly throughout the majority of the PPV event, try to convince each other why what they were doing is right and what the other was doing was “drinking wrong”. I don’t even remember what they ordered but I saw it coming a mile away when that gigantic, prismatic cube hit the bottom of X’s glass. Before the bartender even started to pour, D was all over him.
“Want a nipple with that?”
(Here we go…)
“What?” X asked, chuckling.
“A nipple. For your watered down baby drink. Why do you do that?”
“No Dimitri, why do YOU do that!? Why do you always give me a hard time for enjoying my drinks properly?”
D laughs, “Properly??? Come on Xav! You’ve taken something amazing and ruined it! Why not just get a cocktail with well liquor?”
“I’ve brought it to a temperature I enjoy and added a little dilution at the same time to bring out many of the subtle flavors you’re missing. Science says the best way to enjoy whiskey is to add a bit of water. When you do that silly “chew” thing that makes you look like and old man missing his dentures, what do you think is going on? You’re diluting the whiskey with saliva to taste what I’m already experiencing without looking like a psycho!”
“Science says… science says” parrots D in a demeaning manner. “Science also says that chilling beverages hides flavor profiles. Much like that swill of a light American lager you drink. There’s a reason it’s served at 34°F, to hide the taste of sadness. You’re chilling the whiskey you claim to have just opened up with dilution. You’re back to square one but now it’s 70 proof, which is something I imagine doesn’t offend your delicate baby-like palate.”
“Honestly Dimitri, I’m amazed you can even pull any flavors from your whiskey. You go straight for the barrel proof and cask strength all the time. What are your tasting notes like? Nose: burn. Palate: burn and tingle. Finish: spicy burn followed by tingle… and cinnamon. You’d save a lot of money both at home and at the bar if you just bought Everclear spiked with cinnamon.”
Meanwhile I’m over here laughing my butt off. Cinnamon is one of D’s favorite tasting notes when reviewing whiskey. Everything is cinnamon. He obviously notes many other flavors but I can’t remember a time where he didn’t follow up with “and cinnamon”. Then it came. A swift kick to the head and he was out! Not at the bar, on tv. I toned these two out long enough to catch the tail end of the first of three championship belts to change hands that night. Cheers erupted throughout the bar and it would seem that something other than worrying about how someone else enjoys their drink became the focus of my friends. That’s not to say that they didn’t take stabs at one another throughout the night or that they’d ever reach a middle ground regarding the issue but the tension did ease up a bit. I’ve seen people reach more common ground when discussing politics, sports, religion, or the proper way to place toilet paper onto the holder.
Obviously these guys are much more passionate about the use of ice than I ever could be but I have to admit, it was insightful to sit between them and hear both sides. Ideas and thoughts I’ve never had were brought to light that night but ultimately I walked away with the only concern I walked in with earlier. How do I want to enjoy my dram? After all, that’s really the only concern I should have.
If you have a position regarding this, want to connect with someone who shares your point of view, or just have the desire to learn and share whiskey, bourbon, and scotch knowledge, hop on over to the “Whiskey Bourbon and Scotch Enthusiasts” Facebook page. You’re sure to find an enthusiast with whom to discuss (or argue) the subject. The beauty is, as long as you enjoy your glass, everyone is right! Unless, of course, you load toilet paper in the under and backward position. In that case, you’re completely wrong and all hope is lost for you.