3 Important Things I Learned At WhiskyFest

I love whiskey. Like, I would marry it Pee-wee Herman–style if it made sense tax-wise (it doesn't). Not only that, but I've been drinking it regularly for the better part of a decade. So what could I possibly stand to learn about whiskey at NYC's 16th Annual Whiskeyfest this past Saturday? A lot — like you can't even imagine. Here are my three biggest takeaways.

1. American Single Malts Are Kind Of Amazing

As much as I love whiskey, I'm not much for Scotch, generally speaking. That said, there are a couple of American distilleries making some amazing all-barley whiskies that any fan of brown liquor would love. My number-one surprise of the night was Defiant American Single Malt. You know that moment when whiskey on the rocks reaches that perfect point of ice melt? That's what Defiant tastes like neat, and it was one of my favorites of the night. The other American single malt I tried was from Hudson. Their single malt had spicy notes, but without any overpowering peat smokiness. It was like nothing I've ever had, and definitely something I want again.

2. Canadian Whiskey Is Actually Worth Drinking

Previously, when I thought of Canadian whiskey, I thought of Canadian Club. Not anymore. I joined a whiskey-centric dinner hosted by J.P. Wiser and Master Blender Don Livermore, where I learned a few things. Compared to other whiskies, Canadian whiskey is a bit of an open playing field; there are rules about aging, but there aren't the same rules about grain content that you see in bourbon, and other varieties, which provides more freedom for distillers and blenders. If you like rye, I strongly urge you to try J.P. Wiser's Rye. The other Canadian whiskey I tried and loved was 1910 by Pendleton — great for drinking neat or on the rocks, but strong enough in its flavors to stand up in cocktails as well.

3. Embrace What You Love

I'm sure you know what you like, and that's cool; there's no reason to not buy what you love. Sometimes it's great to branch out and try something new (maybe it'll even become one of your favorites), but there's also something about reaching for your long-time favorite. I had a chance to taste a few of my favorite bourbons against all the others at Whiskeyfest and really what it did was confirm my love for them. Bulleit and WhistlePig are a couple of my favorites and still are after this weekend. It doesn't matter why — it's what I like — and you should embrace what you like too. But be open to new experiences, because some of those new whiskies may join your go-to list.

Side note: my overall favorite whiskey of the night was the cask strength bourbon from Angel's Envy. If you see it, buy it.

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