How I started drinking bourbon

posted by Frank May 29, 2016
Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky | Daily Delicious Eats

I remember it vividly: I had a few glasses of single malt whisky with a group of friends at a whisky tasting event. It was probably 8 years ago. The day after was massive headache day. I decided as a 19-year old (the legal drinking age is 18 in the Netherlands): never again. Years later, I decided to give it another shot. Kentucky straight bourbon this time. Without the headaches.

It was a weekday evening in Amsterdam. We were at the well-known L&B Whisky Bar in the Korte Leidsedwarsstraat near Leidseplein. It was my first time trying anything stronger than beer (5-10% ABV) or wine (~12% ABV). The whisky tasting event was great fun. We got to try four or five different single malts (40+% ABV). An expert at the bar told us how to drink a single malt whisky, preferably with a one or two drops of water added with a pipette. And so we did.

The headache

I didn’t get drunk that night, not even close. Still, my head was exploding the morning after. My saturday – I think it was a saturday – was totally ruined, and I decided to never drink any whisky ever again. There’s one thing I despise even more than raw onions and airplane sandwiches and that’s a headache you have to cope with for an entire day. Ugh. For years after the dramatic consequences of a night of whisky drinking I didn’t touch anything stronger than beer or wine.


All that has changed. It wasn’t too long ago Daphne had a parttime job as a sales promoter for liquor at Schiphol Airport. To be more precise: she sold everything Jack Daniel’s. Now that’s technically not a bourbon, since it’s not made in Kentucky. It’s a Tennessee whiskey. I gave it a try – if I remember correctly Daphne brought back home a small sample. I didn’t like it that much at first, but decided to buy a bottle anyways. I kind of felt like I was missing out on something, since she sold a lot of expensive bottles to travelers.

Around the same time we started watching one of my favourite tv series, Justified. It’s about U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant, who is a great actor and deserves more screentime in big Hollywood productions) who moved from Miami to Eastern Kentucky to chase down bad guys. I saw him and others drink Wild Turkey bourbon. Justified is famous for its bourbon loving characters. I felt I had to drink bourbon to fully understand the series, which might sound a little crazy but really, it isn’t. It’s the same with country music, one of my favourite music genres. If you don’t understand bourbon, you don’t understand country music.

My favourites

So I opened and searched for an easy bourbon to start with. I bought a bottle of a famous and dirt cheap whiskey: Jim Beam. It was so much sweeter than those single malts. And no headaches. Every time I took a sip of a straight up, no ice bourbon I felt like I was back in America. It was like our holiday in the deep south in 2013 when I asked Daphne to marry me all over again – although I didn’t drink bourbon at the time. Bourbon is America for me, just like dim sum is Hong Kong and boerenkool is the Netherlands.

Bourbon collection

My current stash of bourbons

After that first bottle of Jim Beam I bought a whole bunch of bourbons (which probably is why bourbon production hit a 48 year high in Kentucky with 1.88 million bottles in 2015). Jim Beam Black, Wild Turkey, Four Roses Small Batch, Woodford Reserve, you name it. These are my favourites at the moment. I’m a small but passionate bourbon collector now. I’ve always got at least six to ten different bottles sitting on the shelves, waiting for that perfect moment. The new season of Bloodline is probably a good one to grab a glass with. Bourbon is my go to drink. I don’t have anything against scotch (except I don’t like the whisky snobs who hate on bourbon), but I just like bourbon better. A lot has changed since that first whisky experience.

Recipe for a tasty whiskey sour

I like my bourbon straight up, but a whiskey sour with the right bourbon (Jim Beam, for example) can be perfect for a sunny day. Here’s a great recipe with egg white, lemon juice, sugar and ice cubes.

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