Aisling started to notice something peculiar while doing legal work at The Hague. She shared an open office with investigators, most of them men, and every Wednesday at 6 p.m., they would sneak off with little glasses. What is this – some kind of boys club? She asked them. They insisted it wasn’t a boys club, it was a whiskey club, but that girls don’t drink whiskey. Aisling sized up the Aussies, Kiwis, and Fins in the group, wondering what exactly they would know about whiskey.
“If we could find a girl who likes whiskey, she can join,” they said.
So, Aisling was inducted into the WWTATA (Wednesday Whiskey Tiblers and Tasters Association) – and she has the lifetime certificate to prove it. Every week, they met, tasted, and rated their whiskeys. Aisling’s induction bottle was a Connemara that she picked out at the duty free store without having tried it, and it was the group’s highest rated whiskey of the year. Eventually, two other women also joined. Even though the group was more about the company and the drinking, by trying so many whiskies, she was also learning the difference between a Spreyside and an Islay Scotch, and how a blended malt whiskey tastes in comparison to a single malt whiskey.
"I find whiskey fascinating, the slight subtleties in taste and the complexities," she said.
Aisling, who is in her thirties, insists that she is not a whiskey expert, despite being from Dublin, Ireland and being able to easily converse about sherry casks, triple distilled Irish whiskeys versus Scotches, and the best place to seek out people to talk about whiskey in Manhattan. She may or may not have a drawer full of whiskey bottles at work (pictured right), some impulse buys she got talked into at her favorite liquor store, Park Avenue Liquors. She now shares whiskey with her office on Whiskey Wednesdays, loosely modeled on WWTATA, but with many more women and no rating system except for nods and smiles.
She easily dismisses the idea that only men drink whiskey. She said “more than a handful” of her friends who are women enjoy whiskey. She likes the taste – less peaty, more the Sherry-cask whiskeys of Ireland – and the social aspect of being able to sip away an evening with friends. Although she discovered while working in Kosovo that a glass of Jameson can also be enjoyed alone.
“When it’s cold, and you don’t have reliable electricity, there’s nothing like curling up under a couple of duvets with a sip of whiskey to keep warm,” said Aisling. “Whiskey became medicinal survival.”
Aisling wasn’t always a whiskey drinker. A bad early experience kept her away from it for years. Then she visited the Jameson distillery in her mid-20's with some out-of-town friends and got chosen to do a tasting at the end where they had lined up Scotches, Irish whiskey, and bourbon. She tried to get out of it, claiming she didn't like whiskey, but ended up being convinced. To her surprise, she liked it.
“I realized if you don’t knock back the whiskey, if you sip it, drink it, it is really enjoyable,” she said.
She has made many discoveries along the way. As a bar waitress in Germany, she was running the floor when some man kept yelling out to her, “Tell me about you!” She ignored him as a flirt, but every time she passed, he would say, “Tell me about you,” "Tell me about you." Finally, desperate, he pulled on her sleeve and pointed to a bottle of Tullamore Dew whiskey. And she realized that the slightly drunk guy with the German accent actually just wanted a drink.
“And that’s how I learned about that whiskey,” she said.
And she continues to learn.
“You can go through your whole life and not try them all,” she said.
Aisling's Whiskey Thoughts
What do you drink?
I drink both Jameson and Bushmills – those are my fall back, “everyday whiskeys,” but not every day, of course. I tend to drink more Irish, probably a national bias. I hopefully can someday afford a Midleton very rare (she keeps one in her office for inspiration). There are definitely some great Scotch whiskies. I haven’t tried many American whiskies, but I’m willing to try them and be converted. Maybe my New Year’s resolution will be to discover my favorite American whiskey – that’s a resolution I’m less likely to give up by February.
What do you like about whiskey?
I don’t like the heavy, peaty, smoky ones. I like Irish whiskey finished in a sherry cask. It has a slightly sweet hint. I prefer to not have it in cocktails; I tend not to adulterate it with soda. It’s a very social drink, or you can have it at home and curl up for a nice, cozy evening.
How do you like your whiskey?
I prefer to drink it neat with a little water. Ice destroys the taste. To create the portion of water to whiskey, use a straw, drop little by little to exact right amount of water. It makes the flavor more lively.