I'll Take Mine Neat

Award-winning whisky expert shares tips for better imbibing and predicts upcoming trends

Award-winning whisky expert shares tips for better imbibing

Mike Raymond Dave Broom Reserve 101
Reserve 101 co-owner Mike Raymond with whisky expert Dave Broom. Photo by Eric Sandler

Whether it's in the form of bourbon at Julep, paired with sherry at Public Services or the Japanese-focused list at soon to open Izakaya, Houstonians are more interested in both American whiskey and global whisky than ever. Simply put, people can't seem to drink the aged spirits fast enough.

Looking for a little insight into where this decade-long surge is heading, CultureMap caught up with author Dave Broom, who recently earned two Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans for Best Cocktail & Spirits Writer and Best New Spirits Book for Whisky: The Manual.

He is, if not the world's foremost expert on whiskey, certainly on a very short list of people who could be considered for the title. Beyond the acclaim, Broom's Scottish brogue certainly lends his words an air of authority and his convivial demeanor helps demystify the complex spirit. Prior to a tasting at downtown whiskey bar Reserve 101, Broom shared some insights on the current state of whiskey and what drinkers can look for in the future.

CultureMap: What do you think it is about whiskey that appeals to people?

Dave Broom: I think what people are looking for is flavor. The vodka generation has kind of passed on. What they had been looking  for was something that was pure and clean and didn’t really taste of anything. Then if you look at what’s happened with food and what’s happened with drink, people are really interested in provenance, they’re interested in local spirits, they’re interested in flavor. Whiskey ticks all those boxes, because it is genuine.

Something that’s really interested me is the number of distilleries which are springing up around the world. Obviously, you’ve got many new distilleries in America, but you look at what’s happening in Scandinavia. I mean, there’re 100 distillers in German-speaking Europe who are making whiskeys these days. It’s just going absolutely ballistic, but all of them are concentrating on making their own whiskey. That’s what makes it great. Nobody is just copying Scotch or copying bourbon.

CM: What are people doing wrong with whiskey?

DB: People are still a bit scared of it. I think people still have the idea that it can only be drunk at a certain time and in a certain way and by certain people. I think it’s still being seen in Europe as kind of exclusively male, 40-plus, probably after dinner, and it’s not a versatile spirit, which is complete rubbish. One of the things which I try and do is break down all these conventions and all these rules.

It’s a great, complex drink, but it’s just a drink. You can mix with it. You can make cocktails with it. You can drink it neat if you want. You can have it with water. It’s just got a great range of compelling flavors and everyone will like it. Everyone will find a whiskey that they like. You’ve just got to keep trying until you find it.

CM: What countries should budget-conscious whiskey drinkers look towards? 

DB: I think Ireland will be coming out with some really good stuff. I think, having spent the past couple of years going around to Canadian distilleries, that Canada is finally realizing it does produce some good whiskeys instead of just stuff for the bottom end. I think you will see some decent volumes of high-quality Canadian whiskey. It’s kind of been the sleeping giant. Japan will continue, but they’ve got real stock issues that are not going to ease for another five to seven years. The cost of production in Japan is just higher, so Japanese whiskey is always going to be slightly more expensive.

CM: Have you tried any Texas whiskey? If so, what do you think?

DB: All we get in Great Britain is Balcones, which I’ve been really impressed with. I’m looking forward to trying Garrison Brothers tonight. The issue has been one of distribution. It’s difficult to get ahold of in the UK. One thing that I’m doing when I’m over here is really beginning to search around and find the great new whiskeys.

CM: If you're not drinking it neat, how do you like to consume whiskey? 

DB: I’m a big fan of a highball as my end of day, just walking into a pub. A good whiskey soda or ginger is just a fantastic, fantastic drink.