“When I launched Women Who Whiskey L.A. in March 2016, my primary goal was to provide opportunities for women to learn how to nose and taste whiskey, and to learn about whiskey from professionals”, Ohanneson said. “Whiskey is the most complex spirit in the world, more so than wine, and I think that’s intimidating to all non-whiskey drinkers.”
“A common question I get is, ‘What’s the difference between whiskey, scotch and bourbon?’” Ohanneson noted. “Whisk(e)y—which is generally spelled ‘whiskey’ in Ireland and America and ‘whisky’ almost everywhere else—is a distilled, fermented grain alcohol; Scotch and bourbon are whiskeys made in Scotland and America respectively.” From those breakdowns, we get the five major descriptors of whiskey: Irish whiskey, bourbon, scotch, Japanese whiskey, and rye. “Irish whiskey is triple distilled, so it’s lighter and often a gateway whiskey for many people.” Ohanneson continued. “Bourbon is made from corn, so it’s sweeter and richer,” and, “there’s a misconception that all Scotch whiskey is smoky, which is not at all the case,” she added. “Japanese whiskey was first distilled with techniques learned at Scottish distilleries, but is more elegant and delicate, although there are smokier iterations of Japanese whiskey,” she said. Finally, “ryes are bolder and spicier, which is why they stand up well to the ingredients in cocktails.”
Speaking of cocktails, they’re a great way to try out whiskeys. “Try an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Penicillin or other classic whiskey cocktails at different bars; if you really like a cocktail, ask the bartender what whiskey they used and try it neat,” Ohanneson concluded.
Kim Ohanneson: Anything from Islay, which is known for peatier whiskies like the Ardbeg Corryvreckan, Lagavulin 16, the newer Kilchoman “Machir Bay”, and the aforementioned Laphroaig 10. I’m also a huge fan of the Glenmorangie line; Master Distiller Dr. Bill Lumsden pioneered the art of extramaturation: putting aged whisky in wine casks for extra flavor. Glenmorangie 10-year-old is an elegant, very approachable single malt Scotch.
KO: Japanese Suntory whiskeys are among the finest in the world but sadly, are becoming harder to find because of high demand and dwindling supplies. Hibiki Harmony is rich but delicate and well-rounded if you can find it. Toki is a delicious blend that’s great in a classic Japanese highball. I also love the smokier Hakashu 12-year-old. Nikka also makes very accessible whiskeys. I also love Ohishi Sherry Cask, which is basically aged shochu made from brown rice and matured in sherry casks. And while they’re Taiwanese, not Japanese, Kavalan whiskeys, are spectacular: layered and complex with tropical notes.
KO: A go-to classic is Redbreast 12-year-old Cask Strength (meaning no water is added to achieve a lower proof). Teeling Whiskey Co., the first distillery in Dublin in [over] 150 years, is producing very innovative whiskeys and racking up awards; their Small Batch and Single Malt whiskeys are great. Another fave is Connemara 12-year-old: one of the few peated/smoky Irish whiskeys.
KO: Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon from Jimmy Russell: the last of the great, old-school distillers who’s been at Wild Turkey for 60 years, is just sip after sip of goodness. Beam Suntory’s Booker’s is an ultra-premium, small-batch bourbon created by Booker Noe, Jim Beam’s grandson; each year’s themed batch is slightly different; they’re all delicious. Henry McKenna 10-year-old is a perfect sipping whiskey despite its high proof.
Everson Royce Bar
Seven Grand / Bar Jackalope
The Vault at miro Restaurant
The Exhibition Room
Lost Property Bar
Forman's Whiskey Tavern
The Daily Pint
The Chestnut Club
Header image courtesy of @bar_jackalope