Whisky Myths and Legends – Part I

This is the first part of a two-part post about myths and legends in the world of whiskey. Get ready, dear readers. Time to get nervous.

Boitatá, curupira, headless mule. Satyr, faun, centaur. Werewolf, vampire. Every culture has their mythical creatures. They were born from the need to explain what was previously inexplicable. Or simply ensuring that people behaved correctly and didn’t do anything barbaric. After all, it’s easier to explain that a winged demon will suck your blood at night than to rationally explain why you shouldn’t satisfy your lust with your best friend’s partner.

The world of whiskey, too, is full of beliefs and folklore. Myths, which no one really knows where they came from. And, in a world of post-truths, fueled by immediacy and the enormous flow of (mis)information, these beliefs multiply and perpetuate. Some are based on purism. Others, in rather strange analogies. And others, still, must have sprouted from the ground out of the blue, because they don’t make any sense – like the talk about the abovementioned demon.

Here we identify some of them, and explain why they are not true. Rationally.


This is probably one of the most popular legends, it’s like the headless (and brainless) mule of the whisky world. The reality, however, is that single malts and blends are just different. Due to the different production process, blends tend to be lighter, more accessible – sensorially speaking – and with a more balanced flavor profile. The idea of ​​blends is precisely this. Create standardization and reach the largest consumer base possible, creating a pleasant and accessible product. Blends benefit from having hundreds of different whiskies at your disposal to generate sensorial richness.

Single malts, on the other hand, are the most profound experience you will have within a given sensory profile. Because they are produced in a single distillery, using only malted barley, and are necessarily distilled in pot stills, the range that a given single malt can have, sensorially speaking, is more limited. In other words, perhaps obvious: it is easier to produce diametrically opposed blends under the same brand than very different single malts under the same roof. On the other hand, what single malts lose in balance, they gain in depth and intensity. As a general rule – and there are several exceptions here – single malts are more intense and deeper.

This Dog’s opinion is that there is learning curve here. When we start to like whiskies, we gravitate towards single malts. It is a process of rupture and return. We must break with what we already know (blends) to discover the new (single malts). As we progress, however, the story changes, and we slowly describe an arc and understand why the Chivas Regal 18 Year Old is absolutely incredible, for example.


The keyword is hidden. Quality can be both sensorial (synonymous with complexity) and of production. If it is the first, the statement is a lie. Just because whisky is simple, “bland”, dull or whatever adjective you use, that doesn’t mean it will give you a hangover. In fact, if you’ve had a hangover drinking a dull whisky, it’s anything but dull, because you probably drank too much. One of the most common reasons for a hangover is, precisely, dehydration and consequent loss of water-soluble vitamins and electrolytes, due to excessive alcohol consumption (note that excessive alcohol consumption here is not discretionary).

Production quality, however, is a more delicate matter. If the production quality is low, then perhaps we will have a hangover. It can also be caused by ingesting methanol. Methanol is present, in small quantities, in almost all alcoholic drinks, as it is a product derived from fermentation. Our body transforms methanol into formaldehyde and formic acid. These substances are responsible, in part, for the unpleasant symptoms of a hangover.

So thirsty

Some drinks have higher levels of methanol than others. This, in large part, has to do with particularities of the production of each type – tequilas have more methanol than vodkas, for example – but also with some choices made by the producer. Most methanol is produced at the beginning of the distillation process, when the “foreshots” of the spirit is extracted. A wider foreshot cut – with a lower alcohol content, leaving part of the foreshots to run with the heart – can bring more methanol, for example. The curious thing here is that this has nothing to do with the price of the drink. There are incredible single malts that have more methanol in their new-makes than entry-level blends.

What is the solution to all this? Drink moderately.


This is a new legend, which was perpetrated by internet misinformation. Some fake whiskies, depending on how they are counterfeited, can even change color when in contact with bread. This happens in very – but very – rudimentary fakes, where the forger uses iodine to color the spirit, so that it acquires a tone more similar to the original whisky.

The problem is that the most common form of counterfeiting is not putting a spirit distilled in the backyard, or vodka, or cachaça, and coloring it with iodine. But rather, putting a cheaper whisky inside a bottle of more expensive whisky. In this case, no method works, because what is inside the bottle is whisky. In other words, it’s whisky inside a whisky bottle. But a liquid worth 30 reais inside an empty bottle of whisky worth 200 reais.

Because of this, there is no point in shaking the bottle or tapping it with the pen. The best way to ensure that a whisky is original is to buy from a reputable place.


This is another myth that probably arose from the need to explain something very quickly or prevent something imminent from happening, like, well, someone putting a bunch of ice in a whiskey glass. In fact, as always, one must behave in accordance the moment. In fact, guys, this is a rule for life. Always behave in accordance the moment, do not embarrass yourself in public. But anyway, I digress.

There are two distinct consumption situations. Analytical tasting and drinking for pleasure. At the first case, it’s really not a good idea to add ice. Ice reduces the temperature of the drink and can alter its sensory balance. The bitters are more intense and the sweets are softer. Furthermore, the low temperature makes your taste buds less sensitive, which makes it a bit difficult for you to feel the more delicate flavors. In analytical tasting, therefore, the ideal is to drink it pure, or with a little good quality still water – this reduces the alcoholic impression of the whisky, and binds together some congeners responsible for the flavors and aromas.

If you want to drink for pleasure, however, anything goes. You can drink it with ice, with coconut water, mix it in a cocktail, put an ice cap inside your glass and just a little whisky. Or a floating mini-ice like a sailor adrift on the ocean in an abysmal cesspool of booze. The watchword here is fun. Whisky is a supporting factor. You just want to drink something delicious, be happy and have a good time. It’s like they say, you don’t need alcohol to have fun, but you don’t need sneakers to run either, it just helps a lot.

Finally, there is the issue of ice quality. Large ices made with neutral, quality water are best if your idea is to better preserve the aromas and flavors of the whisky. They have less dilution, and fewer impurities, which can bring flavors that interfere with the drink.


Well, cocktail history practically began with a whisky cocktail. The Old Fashioned. That’s why today it’s called Old Fashioned. Furthermore, many of the most classic cocktails in the world contain whisky. Manhattan, Highball (Haiboru), Boulevardier, Rusty Nail, Godfather, Whisky Sour and Penicillin are just some of them. So, I think it’s pretty clear that you can mix whisky to make a cocktail, and if you disagree, the ghost of Jerry Thomas dressed as a satyr will pull your leg at night.

To be honest, we are very purists. The phrase “the whisky spent years maturing in a warehouse for someone to come and mix something with it” demonstrates a certain hypocrisy. The sausage spent months maturing. The cheese spent weeks curing. That doesn’t stop you from mixing everything together on ordinary toast, adding an ocean worth of ketchup and mustard and – worst of all – drinking coke to wash everything down your throat.

Subchapter – you cannot make cocktails with single malt. Here, the prohibition is more specific. Single malts tend to be more expensive, and because of their high price, it can seem like a waste. It is said that if you are going to mix it, the whisky doesn’t make any difference. But this is untrue. Firstly, because the sensorial characteristics of your base drink will have a huge impact on the cocktail. In the same way as, for example, the type of cheese you put on your sandwich. If the base you are using for your cocktail doesn’t make a difference sensorially, in the end, you are making your cocktail wrong.

Secondly, because sometimes using a specific single malt is the only way to achieve a desired flavor profile. Peat, for example. When looking to create a drink that has a predominantly smoked characteristic, using a single malt may be the only option. Here, the important thing is to – as in life – know what you are doing.

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