What Is Whisk(e)y?, Whisk(e)y Wisdom

What’s the Best Whiskey?


The answer is, there is no “best” whiskey. Why is that answer disappointing to some? Because if there is no best, then they can’t have The best. My next question is; who is disappointed by that? The kind of person that isn’t fun to be around, that’s who. Drinking whiskey with that kind of person tends to turn into guess-how-much-this-costs, instead of enjoying the moment they’re in, the people they’re with, and the dram in their hand. Now, let’s talk about why there’s no definitive best whiskey, and why the best whiskey you’ve ever had does exist.

Why is there no definitive best whiskey? Think about what happens when you taste a whiskey. You swirl the glass to unlock fresh scent molecules. You gently sniff. Thousands of newly freed aromatics ignite your nose. Familiar smells and memories are recalled. You take a sip. Taste buds and a host of other sensors in your mouth are activated. More mental images come forward. You swallow. A whole new set of smells and tastes emerge. Patterns and opinions start to form in your mind. You set your glass down. You make a judgment call about the whiskey. Is it good or bad? I don’t know. Only you do.

Do you see the problem with trying to make objective decrees based on a subjective experience? Taste and smell are intimately personal. Why? For two reasons. First, no one can physically smell or taste exactly what you do. Second, and more importantly, the memories and emotions that aromas and flavors trigger are yours alone. This is really the big divider. We can all get pretty close to agreeing on physical stimuli. For example, everyone agrees that soy sauce tastes salty. But what does the taste of soy sauce remind you of? It could be a cherished memory, or it could be the time you ate bad truck stop sushi. See what I mean? One person will love the flavor of soy sauce while the other will probably never touch it again. So who’s right? They both are.

How does this apply to whiskey? While most of us can agree that some whiskeys are better than others, there will never be one definitively best whiskey. For every person who drinks a whiskey, there are that many opinions about it. And you know what? Everyone is right.

Now, completely contrary to everything I just said, let’s talk about the best whiskey in the world. It exists. You just have to alter your perception, not of the word “best,” but of the word “world.” Right now we’re talking about a world of one. Your world. The great part about your world is that there’s no one to contradict your opinion. You get to decide what the best is. Go ahead, think about it. What’s the best whiskey you’ve ever had? You got it? Ok good. Guess what? You’re right! That is the best whiskey you’ve ever had! Doesn’t it feel good to be right?

So what’s the point of this article? There are differing opinions about whiskey. That’s a good thing! It leads to variety. We each get to decide what we consider to be the best. We only run into trouble when we expect others to adopt our view in lieu of their own.

— Zac Smith