Whiskey, It's Neat: The Evolution of My Palete
Turning 21 is a coming of age moment for most young adults. At the time, I was a goodie two shoes, follow all the rules type of girl who had never really drank alcohol before my 21st birthday. I’d watched many of my fellow college friends binge drink wine from a bag and consume impressive amounts of peach flavored vodka, and I knew that wasn’t the experience I wanted to have with alcohol. For all of 21, I tried to figure out what I liked. Vodka? No, too much like rubbing alcohol. Mixed drinks? No, usually way to sweet and overpriced for what they were. Tequila? Forget it, I’d witnessed way too many of my friends get violently ill after a tequila bender. My first shot was Jameson. It it was so strong to me at the time, I never thought I’d drink whiskey again. One day, I tried sipping Crown Royal on the rocks because that is what my dad always drank. From that point on, I decided I enjoyed the cozy warm feeling that whiskey gave me. Living in Michigan, drinking whiskey was also a good way to keep warm.
After a year of dabbling with different spirits and cocktails, I settled down with my “usual” order of Crown on the rocks. February 2016, my mom suggested we go to Kentucky for a couple days during spring break to “lift my spirits”. Pun intended. While there, she suggested we tour the Buffalo Trace Distillery. I was 22 at the time, and it was the first time I had ever heard of Buffalo Trace. I thought it was a small company that made bourbon. How naïve I was. Walking into the Buffalo Trace facility is one of the most exciting experiences, even for someone unfamiliar with the bourbon business. At the time, I had never even tasted Buffalo Trace bourbon. It was the beginning of my bourbon love and collecting hobby.
The smell of Buffalo Trace is something I will never forget: sweet, warm, oakey, malty …it almost sounds like I’m describing the scent of a Yankee Candle: “Working Bourbon Distillery”. Reminiscing on all the smells brings back memories of when I tasted bourbon for the first time at Buffalo Trace. Hot, smooth, spicy, burned my throat a little but in a good way. It was a taste experience I had never had, and the first time I had consumed whiskey neat (which is how I prefer it today). Sampling Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare was love at first sip and, Eagle Rare quickly became my favorite spirit. It was the first bottle of bourbon I ever purchased and sparked by desire to venture out and explore more. One bottle of Eagle Rare became the foundation for a growing love for bourbon and the business as a whole. One bottle of Eagle Rare began a collection including Bookers, Angel’s Envy, Henry Mckenna, Weller 107, Old Forester 1920, the list goes on. Looking back, when I had just turned 21, I never would have imagined that bourbon would be come my favorite hobby. The evolution from Crown Royal on the rocks (which I still sip occasionally with my dad), to Eagle Rare, to the vast growing amount of bourbons I frequently add to the collection, it’s been a wild ride and the excitement will only continue. There are many more bourbons out there, just waiting to be sipped. Cheers to the future and the expansion of our palates.