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Imagining whiskey invokes an older gentleman against the backdrop of a library study, a fire crackles in the fireplace as he sips from an old fashioned tumbler. While the amber liquid may have an archaic reputation, the whiskey revolution has captivated consumers – from audaciously adventurous tipplers to knowledgeable connoisseurs – inviting a sampling of new and established labels. No longer reserved for crystal decanters in stuffy libraries, whiskey has ventured into the mainstream.
Whiskey is a distilled liquid made from fermented grains that are aged in a wooden cask (or barrel). When it comes to whiskey, which grains are used, what they are mixed with, how long and in what they are aged in, and even where they are made, all affect the whiskey’s quality and identifying attributes. Whiskey categories include: Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, Blended, and Straight. Whiskey has been around for centuries, becoming a staple spirit in homes and hospitality industry mainstays on every continent on the planet.
While whiskey is in itself a classic spirit, its popularity has certainly ebbed and flowed over the years. During the prohibition of the 1920s and ‘30s, whiskey distillers were forced to either stop producing or produce underground, leading to many distilleries to fold. Whiskey was severely impacted and inventory reached all-time lows. Prohibition ended in late 1933, but whiskey’s run was short-lived as World War II required more grain (and money). With limited resources, additional distilleries were forced to shut down. This had a huge effect on the popularity of whiskey as it was not readily available and consequently fell out of fashion. Even after the war ended and distilleries began operating again, whiskey remained on the outs. Spirits like gin, and in the 1970s vodka, had taken whiskey’s place as the drink of choice for the masses, thus adding to the idea of whiskey as the drink of generations past. In fact, some brands like Old GrandDad, have even capitalized on this by using imagery of old men enjoying their whiskey as the main selling point, which to an extent has worked for them.
Take the brands Laphroaig and Macallan, for example. These brands have developed proprietary aged blends products to enhance their luxury appeal, notoriety, and price. To this day, these are still considered top-notch brands for whiskey drinkers and are brought out for many special occasions.
Becoming more than just a drink of the past or a way to celebrate a special occasion, whiskey is enjoying a renaissance and has once again become the drink of choice for many.
Brands like Laphroaig, Macallan, and Glenfiddich maintain the image (and taste) of high-end
whiskeys, and mid-tier brands like Knob Creek, Bulleit, Basil Hayden, and Jack Daniels are helping to usher in whiskey to the 21st century. How? By making whiskey a necessity for the
modern man’s lifestyle.
Over the last decade, the image of whiskey has been recreated. It has been reformed as the drink of winners, the drink of the powerful, the drink of the stylish, and the drink of the fearless. Remember Mad Men, the drinking-zeitgeist? The iconic show portrayed powerful and influential men who always had a decanter full of whiskey on hand. This led to a number of other shows following suit, landing most recently with the popular show Billions, where again all the major players regularly swill Johnny Walker.
However, it’s not just popular TV that has brought whiskey back into the limelight. Social media has been crucial to its forward success as well. Through social media, cocktail
culture has become a major player in the lives of Gen X-ers and Millennials alike. All it
takes is a simple search on Instagram of some popular lifestyle accounts (such as
@apartment_bartender or @whiskyandtailor), to see this. Classic cocktails, such as The Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or Sazerac, accessorize the image of success, reputability, and good taste. Other contributors to cocktail culture and whiskey culture, like subscription boxes (like Bespoke) and lifestyle brands (like Scotch and Soda), are capitalizing on and contributing to the overall push for whiskey as a means to a desirable lifestyle. Spirit brand ambassadors and cocktail writers have brought education and thought leadership to the forefront of the new whiskey revolution.
Meanwhile, whiskey distribution continues to raise in popularity and inventory, having already seen an 8.1% overall increase since 2017. As the tidal wave of whiskey trends grow, so too will brands like Knob Creek and Bulleit’s industry influence since mid-tier brands offer affordable, quality whiskey in bottles that bring home the aspirational aesthetic and drinking experience.
Accordingly, if you’re looking for a unique way to get in on the whiskey scene yourself, or if you are already a whiskey lover looking for something new, there are tons of great events out there that allow you to sample both established and up and coming brands of whiskey. One favorite for those in NYC (and those planning to visit NYC), is Whisky Guild’s NYC Cruise: Scotch & Whiskey Tasting. This is an exceptional experience that totally highlights the cocktail/whiskey culture happening right now. Taking place on a grand cruise around the city of Manhattan, guests set sail to enjoy an evening of fun and grander (just what cocktail culture calls for). You’ll also receive your very own testing glass, an awesome dinner (followed by what might possibly be an even better desert), and most importantly the ability to try over 100 different whiskeys from all
around the world!
Really, there is no better way to enter and enjoy the whiskey game — and lifestyle — than experiencing a night of leisure, sailing around New York City, watching the sun set and becoming a whiskey connoisseur in your own right. That is truly doing whiskey right.
Via Unsplash by Thomas Thompson