Whiskey in the Winter: Neat v. Rocks?

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Whiskey is made for winter.

Its undertones of caramel, toffee and roasted notes go perfectly with wind whipping at your nose and chilling you to to the bone.

The warm sensation that you get when taking a sip of whiskey is what most people like to call liquid insulation.

Being a Penn State grad, I know a hell of a lot about liquid insulation. When bundling up like Randy from A Christmas Story isn’t enough, whiskey will do the trick.

A few questions then arise.

What do I buy? How do I drink it?

If you’re still thinking of Jack and Jim as your only choices when it comes to whiskey, this section is for you.

Cocktails like an Old Fashioned and Manhattans are great cocktails. To really get to know a whiskey you need to strip it down to its purest form in to ways. Neat and on the rocks.

Michter’s American Whiskey:

michters whiskey

Michter’s was once located just a short jaunt away from Harrisburg. It was the official whiskey of the American Revolution, and I can see why.

I got a bottle of Michter’s U.S. 1 for Serbian Christmas, and it is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Neat: You will really get to experience the full flavor of the whiskey. After the first bite from the alcohol you get a sweet flavor with a strong lingering butterscotch flavor that entices you to take the next sip.

On the rocks: The flavors get extremely mellowed out. The bite from the alcohol is subtle rather than bold when drinking neat. The butterscotch taste completely dissipates with the addition of ice.

Clyde May’s Alabama Style

clyde mays

This is something that Sara has become a huge fan of recently.

Clyde May’s deviates from traditional whiskey making practices by adding oven-dried apples to the barrels to produced their own Alabama-style whiskey.

Neat: Apples. In the nose, upfront and throughout the entire experience with hints of cinnamon towards the end. All of the flavors are followed by a burst of vanilla and caramel to sweeten the palate.

On the rocks: The apple taste is still present, but diminished. Instead of a rush of flavors, the taste is smooth and blended perfectly.

Dad’s Hat Rye:


Rye disclaimer: Rye whiskey is very different from a lot of whiskey. Your first sip might seem like it has an incredible bite, but it’s just the spiciness from the rye used on the blend.

Neat: Spicy — which is to be expected — burn in the back of the throat. If you sit on the flavor for a while you will get oak, cherry and subtle tobacco notes.

Rocks: Adding an ice cube does a lot to this drink. You still get the spice on your tongue from the rye accompanied by sweet caramel notes without the burn.

Dad’s Hat also makes ryes that are finished in Vermouth barrels and Port barrels. I would love to get my hands on some to do a comparison between the three.

In the end it all comes down to your own preference. I personally like a little bit of bite to my whiskey, especially in the colder months.

Drinking it neat will warm you up instantly.

Putting one single ice cube in it changes it drastically. It almost completely takes away the sting from the alcohol. Ice can mellow out some flavors while uncovering other flavors that you might not have taste previously.

I would suggest grabbing anyone of these bottles and doing a test. Drink it neat and then drop one ice cube in to see how much the taste changes.

James Werner
Author: James Werner

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