The 3 mistakes people make when buying, ordering, and drinking whisky -- and what to do instead

Johnnie Walker Black Label


  • Business Insider spoke to drinks giant Diageo’s in-house Whisky Master.
  • Ewan Gunn told use where so many whisky drinkers go wrong.
  • They Gunn focus too much on age over flavour — and abide by outdated “rules” too closely.

Whether it’s what brand to order, or simply the difference between whisky and whiskey, there’s a lot of knowledge that goes with properly enjoying a glass of scotch, bourbon, or rye.

Business Insider spoke to Ewan Gunn, Global Brand Ambassador and Whisky Master for the global drinks giant Diageo, which produces mass brands like Johnnie Walker, and several others which he mentioned.

We asked Gunn — who has 19 years’ experience in the industry — what mistakes people are making when they drink whisky, and how to fix them.

Buy based on flavour, not age

“When people buy a whisky, you do sometimes come across an obsession with age, when really, in my opinion, you should be buying based on the flavour,” Gunn said.

“People have this perception older is always better, which is not always the case,” he added. “We have some amazing whiskys focused on flavours and styles.”

“You buy a Scotch whisky to drink it, not to look at the label,” he said.

Ignore the “rules” you think you know

“People often have these rules they think they must follow when appreciating a scotch,” Gunn said.

“‘You should never add water, never drink it with ice, never add a mixer, you have to be older to enjoy it, it’s a man’s drink’ — they’re all nonsense.

“I would certainly not worry about all of these rules. The people who make it make it for you to enjoy, and they’re not precious about how you enjoy it.”

He said that even going back centuries people were drinking whisky in cocktails, combining it with herbs and spices.

“You’re seeing scotch featuring more and more on cocktail menus,” he added.

He said his favourite way to start a weekend is with Johnnie Walker and ginger ale. “It’s a lovely drink, it’s easy to make, and it tastes magnificent.”

Don’t just drink it after dinner — pair it with food

“When it comes to the holidays, people enjoy eating lots of rich and flavoursome foods, and a lot of people are increasingly enjoying Scotch whisky paired with foods,” Gunn said.

He added that, while there’s a preconceived idea that whisky only works with heavy food, there’s actually a range of dishes you can pair it with.

“Talisker with oysters is incredible, and Lagavulin paired with blue cheese,” he said. He added that Haig Club and crème brûlée is another recommended pairing.

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