I’d always found that good whiskey differs from all other alcohols in that it had never begged me to share it in large quantities. A case of beer is distributed throughout the party; tequila shots are poured indiscriminately. But fine whiskey is sipped and savored, shared only with close friends and family deemed worthy.
Because of this, whiskey has primarily been a private endeavor—two fingers after a long day or poured over the rocks on a lazy Sunday. Maybe I’d describe the smoky aroma to a family member or take the time to explain the finer points to a good friend, but I’m not one to pass around a bottle or order a round of whiskey shots. I’ll save that for those who still think Fireball is whiskey.
This may, in part, date back to my first experiences with whiskey. Like many, I was a teenager the first time I took a drink, and I clearly remember the taste of that Canadian whiskey my friend and I had swiped from his father’s liquor cabinet. It was just the two of us, cringing with every sip of V.O. and slowly growing dizzy as we decided to quell the burning by mixing our Seagram’s with Mountain Dew Code Red.
My next experience with whiskey came years later. The classic college booze was vodka—cheap, cheap vodka that came in plastic half gallons, smelled like nail polish remover and seemed always to be branded, in all its various incarnations, with a classically Russian name. This sufficed for a few years until I discovered a bottle of High Ten in the freezer at a pre-game party. I couldn’t bring myself to take another shot of vodka, but there was something about this High Ten that was different. While nearly as cheap as the Vladimir everyone else was drinking, this alcohol had a taste to it—one that I didn’t find altogether abhorrent. I alone drank that whiskey, and I think I liked it.
I drank whiskey alone through the years that followed, slowly developing a palate and discovering what I liked and didn’t. I sometimes discussed it with friends, but I primarily drank it alone.
That has all changed.
The opening of Saloon 151 has created the opportunity to sip, savor and try an ever-changing list of high-end whiskeys without having to hit the liquor store every weekend. I no longer have to endure the frustration of finding out—no matter what the online reviews say—that I don’t particularly enjoy the flavor profile of the bourbon on which I’ve just dropped all my Friday night spending money.
Better yet, Saloon 151 has made whiskey a social experience in West Chester. I have friends who’ve never tried anything outside of Crown Royal and Maker’s Mark who’re sitting beside me sharing thoughts on flights filled with Booker’s, Whistle Pig and Oblivion.
Don’t get me wrong: I still enjoy my lazy Sundays and a fat glass of bourbon after an awful day at the office. But much the way switching from Vladimir to High Ten introduced me to the notion that liquor doesn’t have to be one-dimensional, Saloon 151 has introduced new layers of complexity to my drinking life.
I think I’m going to like it.