PDA

View Full Version : How to Convert the Reluctant Bourbon Drinker



CoMobourbon
08-19-2012, 12:09
So I realize that respecting others' drinking preferences should always outweigh my own interests. It's of course fine for someone to prefer gin over whiskey. And coercion in matters taste just generally strikes me as a bad idea.

But I think my mother-in-law could be ripe for bourbon conversion. She insists that she can't touch whiskey, but she enjoys (and presumptively critiques) spicy, dark flavored red wines, is always willing to try new alcohols and generally enjoys those she tries. I have a BH, EWB, an EC12, and a gift bottle of Johnny Walker Black on hand right now but might be willing to get some more if they could help with the conversion.

How do you recommend that I go about persuading her to try and enjoy bourbon or whiskey in general? (BH first? The scotch? In water? Over ice? In Coke? etc.) What has worked in the past? (I know that some of you must have succeeded in bringing your wives over to the dark side.)

darylld911
08-19-2012, 12:22
My wife enjoyed whiskey when we met, but not nearly as much as I do. I think the first hurdle is to having her being open minded about it. It sounds like she isn't afraid to drink liquor (which is often the excuse I hear from friends, that "hard liquor" isn't their thing), but for whatever reason she doesn't seem interested in bourbon. Might need to find out why she insists she can't touch whiskey (perhaps a poor experience in the past), and try to overcome that first. If she tried it before and just thought it was horrible, that might help you determine what she tried, and what she doesn't like.

I know some friends are stunned when I've shown them a Whisky magazine that describes the tasting notes similar to what they are accustomed to for wine. This has gotten some of them at least open to consideration, so that might work as well?

Good luck!

White Dog
08-19-2012, 14:07
Given the loss of age statements, price increases and scarcity, I want less Bourbon drinkers, not more.

LostBottle
08-19-2012, 15:32
I would say give them a double of Bookers and make them shoot it! In all seriousness though, I would start by introducing someone to a mellow, lower proof wheated bourbon like Makers.

Trey Manthey
08-19-2012, 16:55
I think the key is to teach people HOW to drink whiskey for enjoyment. You don't drink it like water, or shoot it. I find many people consider bourbon to be a catalyst for being wasted rather than something to be tasted and savored.

Therefore, I am always disrespectful when someone declares that they can't drink something. After I rule out the possibility that is a health risk, it usually ends up being a past experience, usually involving shooting something. I feel it is a challenge that I need to help this person overcome.

For example, my mother insisted that she hated tequila, and could never drink it after an experience she had when she was 25. Despite explaining to her that shooting large amounts of gold tequila will make anyone sick, she was insistent. I pretended to give up, then poured her a small glass of Corrido Anjeo and told her it was a special grappa (she loves anything Italian) and that she should sip it. She was furious when I told her after her second glass that she'd been drinking tequila. Mwah ha ha!

A friend got plastered on his 21st birthday on shots of Jameson, and insisted that just the smell of whiskey makes him sick. For some reason, he also thought that Jameson was some top shelf, prize whiskey (and he's British!). All it took to turn him back into a believer was a 1/2 ounce of Sazerac 18 and instructions on how to nose, sip, and taste. He's gone on to bragging about his single malt purchases every time he sees me now.

White Dog
08-19-2012, 19:39
If I may step away from my original, snarky response, I would like to second Trey's point.

When dealing with first-time, hesitant drinkers, I show them first how to smell, but even more importantly, I make them roll it around in the front of their mouth for at least 10 seconds before swallowing. Keeping it on your tongue longer seems counter-intuitive to most people at first, but then after they swallow the spirit they're shocked at being rewarded with flavor, rather than heat.

JB64
08-19-2012, 21:47
Since your MIL already enjoys and critiques wine, try printing out some tasting notes on the bourbons you have on hand and challenge her to see if she can identify the flavors and aromas mentioned in the notes. I have found that my enjoyment of spirits and cigars has been enhanced by reading about other peoples experiences.

darylld911
08-20-2012, 05:22
Definitely agree with the "how tos". I find that folks look at me strange when I order what amounts to a shot of whiskey, and sip on it for 15 minutes. Understanding how to taste and enjoy bourbon is definitely key once they get past the mental block. I like Trey's approach :-) I've known people who don't even want to try something unless it costs a kidney to buy a bottle (as they believe price is the sole determinant of quality), and may try that approach with something they would consider "bottom shelf". I think if they thought that ETL cost $150 a bottle and sipped it for the first time, they'd be like "Wow - this is pretty good!"

Photodudems
08-29-2012, 12:38
When dealing with first-time, hesitant drinkers, I show them first how to smell, but even more importantly, I make them roll it around in the front of their mouth for at least 10 seconds before swallowing. Keeping it on your tongue longer seems counter-intuitive to most people at first, but then after they swallow the spirit they're shocked at being rewarded with flavor, rather than heat.

I completely agree with this. This technique is EXACTLY how I learned to like bourbon as such, and not drowned in coke. Find the flavor not the burn.

sailor22
08-29-2012, 14:09
Completely agree with teaching them to sip slower. They need to learn to SIP not DRINK. Holding it on the tung is a great idea.

If your dealing with a wine drinker you need to be sure and tell them ahead of time not to breath in over the whiskey while it's in their mouth. For a beginner that will load up their sinuses with ethanol and ruin the experience for them. It really is a different technique than wine.

jwevan01
08-30-2012, 10:14
The suggestions given so far have been excellent, particularly the focus on nosing, sipping, and how to handle the sip while imbibing. Another approach might be to try introducing bourbon as a cocktail base. I'm pretty fond of well made cocktails and spend a lot of time tinkering around with ingredients and techniques. Back in May my wife gave me a copy of "The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book" by Joy Perrine (longtime Louisville bartender). Joy's premise is that pretty much any well known cocktail can be made with bourbon and she then goes on to provide her modified recipes. Thus far, I've been pretty happy with the results of following her choices and have had good reviews from my wife (dedicated scotch drinker) on the bourbon based cocktails that we have tried. Just another way of easing people into appreciating the flavor of bourbon without overwhelming their palate.

Joel

CoMobourbon
08-31-2012, 05:15
Well, dammit.

I really appreciate all of the advice; the notion that slow nosing, sipping and description of flavors to be tasted seem like great suggestions.

Unfortunately, when I finally found an opportunity to put some Basil Hayden's in front of my mother-in-law, she picked up the glass and downed it as soon as she agreed to taste it. She is actually a pretty cultured person and does know better, but she clearly has preconceptions about her liking of bourbon. She actually likes me a lot - hence the willingness to try something she was sure she would hate - but obviously she decided to treat the whiskey as bad medicine that just had to be put down as quickly as possible.

ILLfarmboy
09-01-2012, 05:55
Well, dammit.

I really appreciate all of the advice; the notion that slow nosing, sipping and description of flavors to be tasted seem like great suggestions.

Unfortunately, when I finally found an opportunity to put some Basil Hayden's in front of my mother-in-law, she picked up the glass and downed it as soon as she agreed to taste it. She is actually a pretty cultured person and does know better, but she clearly has preconceptions about her liking of bourbon. She actually likes me a lot - hence the willingness to try something she was sure she would hate - but obviously she decided to treat the whiskey as bad medicine that just had to be put down as quickly as possible.

If she ever agrees to try another bourbon, give her only a sip in riedel.

White Dog
09-01-2012, 06:53
When someone offers me BH, I also try to politely knock it down as fast as possible.:lol:

CoMobourbon
09-01-2012, 12:16
When someone offers me BH, I also try to politely knock it down as fast as possible.:lol:

Yeah, it's not exactly my favorite either. But for a first timer...?

bllygthrd
09-01-2012, 18:04
but she enjoys (and presumptively critiques) spicy, dark flavored red wines, is always willing to try new alcohols and generally enjoys those she tries.

I generally agree with the suggestions made ... and add ... ask her to treat the bourbon tasting with the same respect and technique she has/uses when tasting wine. She'll eventually convert!

ILLfarmboy
09-05-2012, 14:42
.... but she enjoys (and presumptively critiques) spicy, dark flavored red wines,


As do I.

I've long suspected a connection between one's wine preference and distilled spirits. Red wine drinkers like the tannins.......

Try giving her some, and I'm might get flamed for this, but try giving her some Maker's 46. Give her just a couple small sips in a Riedel or one of those scotch glasses everyone raves about nowdays. The name excapes me.......

Rutherford
09-05-2012, 16:41
Try giving her some, and I'm might get flamed for this, but try giving her some Maker's 46. Give her just a couple small sips in a Riedel or one of those scotch glasses everyone raves about nowdays. The name excapes me.......

Glencairn?

I agree with the Maker's 46 (or regular Maker's) recommendation. I don't personally care about smoothness much and don't keep Maker's around, but it did help get me started on bourbon. Something at a reasonably low proof, which is reasonably smooth, and which isn't overly oaky is probably a good choice to start. Four Roses Small Batch might be a good choice as well.

HighInTheMtns
09-05-2012, 16:47
As do I.

I've long suspected a connection between one's wine preference and distilled spirits. Red wine drinkers like the tannins.......

Try giving her some, and I'm might get flamed for this, but try giving her some Maker's 46. Give her just a couple small sips in a Riedel or one of those scotch glasses everyone raves about nowdays. The name excapes me.......
I think this is a good suggestion. The main thing I thought when I tried Maker's 46 was "tannic." I think smoothness and lowness of proof (I'm guessing these are among your reasons for selecting BH) are less of a concern, higher proof comes with more flavor and a red wine drinker likely isn't too concerned with smoothness.

bad_scientist
09-05-2012, 16:52
I think this is a good suggestion. The main thing I thought when I tried Maker's 46 was "tannic." I think smoothness and lowness of proof are less of a concern, higher proof comes with more flavor and a red wine drinker likely isn't too concerned with smoothness.

My friend drinks red wine but he must stick with Roses or something, because every time he tries a bourbon above 40%, he grabs his throat and complains about the burn. I just told him he really shouldn't be drinking whiskey.

Anyway, for my wife, it helped a lot to serve bourbon in a rocks glass to let lots of air get to it. The spirity notes in whiskey get concentrated in specialized glasses, and non-spirits drinkers (or at least my wife) is pretty sensitive to them. I gave her some 4RYL once and she's hooked, but she won't have it out of a Glencairn.

HighInTheMtns
09-05-2012, 17:00
I submit that the perception of "smoothness" isn't directly connected to alcohol burn and its physical effects on different individuals although alcohol burn may be a component of that perception. Other things like rye content, (lack of) age, etc also have an influence.

I agree with you about the Glencairn concentrating spirity notes. Time in the glass helps. When I pour a high proof drink for someone who doesn't drink a lot of whiskey, I make them wait awhile before indulging.

In general this expresses what I think about new drinkers: if you (a bourbon drinker) were going to try another alcohol, would you want to start with a "beginner" expression or something more flavorful? If you have gotten into another alcohol, was it the "beginner" drink that got you into it or was it something better? Obviously some bourbons are just too much, but I think the best way to get someone to drink bourbon is with something that you're personally excited to drink. Excitement rubs off. And that's probably going to be a good pour.

troyce
09-05-2012, 17:31
Given the loss of age statements, price increases and scarcity, I want less Bourbon drinkers, not more.

I agree, let 'em drink Crown Royal

sutton
09-06-2012, 17:05
Speaking as someone who drinks and makes red wine, I think some of the "burn" issue is technique - this was discussed elsewhere on this forum. When you drink red wine, you draw quite a bit more into your mouth and pull air over it intentionally, and move it around your mouth a bit more aggressively. When I first did this with whiskey as aggressively as I was used to doing with a glass of wine, my eyes popped out of my head.

For someone new to bourbon coming from red wine, I suggest drawing just a very small sip into the front-center of the tongue and then slowly moving it back. Pulling in some air is OK, but at maybe a tenth the rate you might do with wine. Gently, gently, gently.

While red wine drinkers are used to tannins, just like bourbon, if they are aggressively notable, the wine is either out of balance (just like whiskey), or unlike whiskey, you are drinking it either too soon, too warm a temperature, or both, IMHO...

ILLfarmboy
09-08-2012, 11:13
I submit that the perception of "smoothness" isn't directly connected to alcohol burn and its physical effects on different individuals although alcohol burn may be a component of that perception. Other things like rye content, (lack of) age, etc also have an influence.

I agree with you about the Glencairn concentrating spirity notes. Time in the glass helps. When I pour a high proof drink for someone who doesn't drink a lot of whiskey, I make them wait awhile before indulging.

In general this expresses what I think about new drinkers: if you (a bourbon drinker) were going to try another alcohol, would you want to start with a "beginner" expression or something more flavorful? If you have gotten into another alcohol, was it the "beginner" drink that got you into it or was it something better? Obviously some bourbons are just too much, but I think the best way to get someone to drink bourbon is with something that you're personally excited to drink. Excitement rubs off. And that's probably going to be a good pour.


I wouldn't start someone off with at the top because with bourbon that means extra age and often higher proofs.

Something in the 6-9 year age range and preferably something a bit less than 50 ABV. But also something that in terms of taste profile doesn't lean to any extreme, except that I'd lean to wheaters more, something that has wide appeal among experienced drinkers, but nothing too harsh/spicy/high proof that it would turn off the novice. Buffalo Trace, Weller SR (Weller antique if they are used to other spirits) Maker's 46, maybe even Beam Black. I'd shy away from stuff like WLW (too high a proof) OGD/BH (too high rye)

CoMobourbon
09-09-2012, 09:51
1.) Compare and contrast bourbon sipping with wine sipping
2.) Something I like
3.) WSR or similar milder / sweeter juice that I like ( = excuse to get more WSR)

Added to the list of tactics. I think I will see her again in a few weeks; I'll be damned if we aren't drunk and 2/3 the way through a fifth of some brown juice by Sunday night.

Flyfish
10-08-2012, 11:15
I wouldn't start someone off with at the top because with bourbon that means extra age and often higher proofs.

Something in the 6-9 year age range and preferably something a bit less than 50 ABV. But also something that in terms of taste profile doesn't lean to any extreme, except that I'd lean to wheaters more, something that has wide appeal among experienced drinkers, but nothing too harsh/spicy/high proof that it would turn off the novice. Buffalo Trace, Weller SR (Weller antique if they are used to other spirits) Maker's 46, maybe even Beam Black. I'd shy away from stuff like WLW (too high a proof) OGD/BH (too high rye)

If you really like the convertee, you might offer some Blanton's. It is complex enough to satisfy an afficianado yet mellow enough to not frighten a newbie whose hair would stand on end if given OGD114.

ILLfarmboy
10-08-2012, 15:36
If you really like the convertee, you might offer some Blanton's. It is complex enough to satisfy an afficianado yet mellow enough to not frighten a newbie whose hair would stand on end if given OGD114.

Excellent suggestion. How did I miss that one?