Chris Riesbeck is the Commercial Director at Westland Distillery and connoisseur of all things whiskey. We have previously hosted him on our podcast to discuss the state of craft whiskey and we're blown away by his knowledge on the subject (would highly recommend a listen!).
As we were rolling out our new Lowball & Highball glasses, we knew we had to bring Chris back to teach us a bit about how to properly enjoy a good whiskey. We hope you learn a thing or two as well.
For nearly 15 years I’ve dedicated my career to talking whiskey, drinking whiskey, and loving the community that it brings together. My role as Commercial Director of Westland Distillery in Seattle has taken me around the world, into nearly every part of the United States, and in front of some of the most genuine, good hearted people. Without fail, the question I get asked more than any other, no matter how experienced the room is in the nuance of whiskey, is “How should I drink your single malt?” followed closely by “What’s the best glass for whiskey?” Both are great questions, and the answer is exactly the same. You should do what brings you the most happiness. The reason I say this is that drinking and tasting aren’t the same thing, although they are commonly mistaken for each other. The more time I spend thinking about the glass I’m using or giving others or worried about it breaking or being lost, is time I spend not in the experience and focused on what matters most.
Tasting whiskey is done in a setting of focus, with a notebook, and the goal of analyzing what’s in front of you. It’s important for sure, but you do it once or twice with each bottle of whiskey you buy. The remainder should always be dedicated to drinking. Drinking is about the experience. It can be neat, over ice, in a cocktail; honestly the way you prefer is an innately personal part of the ritual.
To me drinking a whiskey is about what the broader experience is: sharing a great story with a friend, a good book with a better dog next to you, watching the sunset dip below the trees on a warm, summer night with your friends and family. Those moments, especially coming out of the past year, are the things we are all looking forward to the most. Whiskey at its absolute best is the thing that brings us together to foster community.
Now to ensure that you can get the most out of those experiences let me give you a few insider tips for summer sipping:
1) Drink less, but better!
I have never once been disappointed by having a better glass of whiskey instead of an extra glass of whiskey. Treat yourself to a special dram and share it with others, something a little more than the ordinary is a great reason to get together with your group of friends. You’ll remember the experience and the anticipation of something special in your glass will make you want to get together more often!
2) Warm days were made for whiskey!
Whiskey doesn’t have a season; it’s fantastic year-round. If someone tells you that they only drink whiskey in the cold weather months, it’s often because they haven’t learned this little trick. 10 minutes before you want to pour yourself some whiskey, put your bottle in the fridge for 5-10 minutes. It’ll keep the alcohol content from overpowering the flavor and aromatics (especially the case when the actual whiskey is warm), make it a touch more refreshing, and also ensure you don’t need over-dilute it with ice.
3) Think twice before ice
When you’re making a cocktail, ice is fantastic for dilution. It will change the mouthfeel of your drink and helps in brining all of the flavors together. But when you want a neat pour of your favorite whiskey and the day seems just a little too warm, refer back to tip 2 and add a touch of water to a neat pour. When done in the right proportions, diluting with cool (not cold) brings out the brightness of the aromatics in a whiskey. With our Westland American Single Malt, the water makes the citrus and cherry notes really pop whereas ice tends to just make the drink cold without the added aromatic benefit!
Ready to put these tips to the test? Continue on for a delicious warm-weathered beverage.
Skip the sweet, heavy, stuff and go with something light and refreshing. For my money, you can’t beat a highball. A few years ago in Japan, I became a convert and it’s been my go-to summer drink ever since. It’s the rare whiskey cocktail where you can truly taste the whiskey and not just the additional mixers.
You buy a great bottle of whiskey; you should be able to enjoy the flavor no matter what cocktail you make! Honestly, we are in the best time ever to enjoy a highball with the explosion of great soda waters you can really dial in your personal preference:
- Grab a 14oz MiiR Highball with a few ice cubes, and then add 1.5 – 2 oz of your favorite whiskey (I make mine with our Westland American Single Malt Whiskey)
- Pour some of your favorite soda water to top it off
- Go ahead and fancy it up with a citrus peel if you like!
The key to a great highball aside from the whiskey is the right glassware. If you’re going to be enjoying the summer sun, you want a glass that’s insulated and will keep the ice from quickly melting. No one wants a watery, diluted drink.
MiiR's 14oz Highball glasses ensure that your drink tastes the same from the first sip and the last. Its summer cocktail bliss.