By: Sailor Guevara, Founder of Sailor Guevara Experiences & Winner of the 2020 World of Whiskey Icon award
I am often asked questions from new whiskey drinkers. I try to be thoughtful and think back to things I wish I was told early on or what someone could have said to me to make me feel welcomed into what seemed like a very exclusive group. Because there is so much to learn (and that’s the fun part!), I have distilled most new whiskey drinkers’ anxieties down to these two questions.
What flavor profile should I be looking for when choosing whiskey?
These days, we are truly lucky to have American whiskey being made all over the US, so flavor profiles are expanding and becoming a gorgeous representation of local terroir and climates. Bourbon tends to be a sweeter tasting whiskey; however, there are so many other factors that play a part in the flavor of bourbon. Many say rye whiskey is spicier, but I tend to disagree and believe it may be more of a dry spirit. I think yeast plays a larger role in the differences in flavor.
The type of grain bill you use (your recipe) can affect the flavors. The choice in yeast strains can add tropical or banana notes for example, and the type of barrel you age and/or finish your whiskey in can make an impact on flavor. There is so much more to whiskey than just bourbon. Walk into your new local hometown distillery and you will get a peek into the future of American whiskey.
What does a new drinker need to know about bourbon?
Explore, explore, explore! You can taste beautiful bourbons from all over the country now, from California, Colorado, Utah, Chicago, New York. Don't let anyone tell you what is right or wrong—taste is subjective. Know that your palate will change over time. The more you drink whiskey the more you will learn about your own flavor wheelhouse and the more your taste will develop. It's an exciting journey with so much to offer and, what's more, welcome to an amazing community! Whiskey lovers devote a lot of their time sharing knowledge and really enjoy the experience of sharing drams with one another, be that virtual or in person. There is a really big community out there waiting to welcome you!
Seek out groups like Women Who Whiskey, Bourbon Women, and Black Bourbon Society, which have chapters around the country, attend an event and you will likely find kin you never knew you had.
Sailor Guevara, a veteran of the spirits and hospitality industry, is the 2020 winner of the World of Whiskey Icon award – bestowed on the individual who most capably advances understanding and appreciation for the craft of whiskey making. She is an author and contributor to American Whiskey Magazine and an acclaimed podcast host and published mixologist. Sailor’s passion for whiskey and spirits history is unmatched and easily contagious when she’s in a room. In late 2020, Sailor launched her own company, Sailor Guevara Experiences, providing virtual cocktail and spirits experiences and custom experience boxes.