What Are Your Essential Whiskies to Have Around?


Today is the first day of National Bourbon Heritage Month—yes, there really is such a thing—and while I'll spend more time talking about bourbon later in September, today there's a more all-inclusive whisk(e)y question to be answered: What are the essential whiskies that you keep on hand?

This question was prompted by a post on What Does John Know?, the blog from Malt Advocate publisher John Hansell. Today's post was from guest-blogger Nate Nicoll, who can usually be found over on Whiskywall. Nicoll notes that for dedicated whisky aficionados (the same presumably applies to enthusiasts of other styles of spirit), there are several basic categories of whisky to keep on hand, to be brought out, and served for different reasons.

The first and most obvious category is the celebratory whisky, the bottle that's typically old, expensive, rare or all three. It's kept either in a place of prominence or in the darkest recesses of the liquor cabinet, to be brought out to mark Great Life Events. Easy enough, right? But while one's chosen celebratory whisky may often come up in conversation with other whisky lovers, it's the next three categories on Nicoll's list that are more interesting and more relevant to day-to-day life.

Guest Whisky

First there's the "guest whisky." Nicoll writes:

"[S]hould be an expression of you. This whisky is an opportunity to let those you invite into a private setting to get to experience an aspect of yourself that you have come to terms with and that you entrust to those around you. It's easy to impress a guest with something rare or fine, but to share a whisky with them that reflects something of your own tastes and personality gives them insight into who you are, brings them into your inner-circle."

This whisky will likely be above par in both price and quality, and it should take some thought and plenty of research to settle on the appropriate whisky for this particular situation.

The Other Guest Whisky

But what about those visitors who aren't necessarily close friends, nor do you desire them to be, and perhaps they have zero interest in whisky? This is where what Nicoll terms "the other guest whisky" comes into play, and as he bluntly puts it:

"If you have occasion to suffer guests that aren't particularly welcome but seem to occasionally wash up on your shore, you might need something to make them feel special while you hide any whisky of real value."

Nicoll suggests a decent blend, of which there are many, and if you're staying in the scotch whisky category, I'm inclined to agree.

Table Whisky

Finally there's the "table whisky"—the bottle that you turn to with the greatest frequency. Likely it's more on the affordable side, but still plush enough to satisfy regardless of your mood, and since this is something you'll spend the most time with, it should have a character sufficient to bridge the comfort-food / interesting-dram divide.

While Nicoll focuses primarily on scotch, this type of categorization is suitable to bourbon, rye or any other type of spirit for that matter. I have my own preferences, that change from time to time, but while I mull over some of them, let's hear from you.

What whiskies do you like to have on hand? And what are your preferred celebratory, guest (and "other guest") and table whiskies?