Sipping whiskey exudes sophistication. Yet it can also seem exclusive.

But it doesn’t have to feel this way. Although the amount of knowledge needed to be a connoisseur can seem overwhelming, whiskey is simply a distilled spirit like many others. The product itself is pretty basic. It’s the experience that is elevated.

As a 20-year veteran with the Chicago Police Department, Jeffrey Redding Chicago understands this more than most. When he’s off duty, the investigator reaches for a glass and a cigar to unwind from his stressful day. He’s also happy to share this joy with others.

With years of tasting and sampling, Jeffrey Redding Chicago recommends these low-cost options and tips for aspiring whiskey purveyors.

Selecting a whiskey can be intimidating. The easiest way to identify a whiskey is based on its nationality. While it’s not absolute, similarities exist in determining what country the product was crafted in. The sweetest is American whiskey. Bourbon is also a uniquely American offering. Unlike whiskey, which is distilled from grain, bourbon is created from at least 51 percent corn. Produced from barley and aged longer, Scotch whiskey tastes smokier and earthier. This Scotland import comes as a single malt or blended. Canadian whiskey is also blended but fruitier and lighter. Finally, Irish whiskey is much more full and robust when compared to others. Do your homework before attempting to order at a bar. Make yourself a flight at home to sample different varieties.

But don’t guzzle whiskey straight from the barrel either. Pouring the perfect glass can be as important as the bottle. A low-ball tumbler is often preferred, yet Jeffrey Redding Chicago believes the scent and flavor are heightened in a tulip-shaped glass. Also, don’t overpour. A “finger” is more than enough. Wrap your index finger around the glass and fill to the top edge. As tempting as it may be, don’t down the drink in one chug. Roll the liquid inside your mouth after breathing deeply with the glass under your nose. This method is called “chewing” and exposes the entire tongue to each flavor.

Whiskey should be served three ways: neat, with water, or on the rocks. While seemingly simple choices, these are hotly debated within the community. Enjoy your first glass neat. As Jeffrey Redding Chicago points out, this is the way the maker intended the whiskey to be featured. Beyond that, it’s a matter of preference. Adding slight amounts of water can dilute the alcohol just enough to soften its kick. As with his other recommendations, Jeffrey Redding Chicago encourages you to experiment by using different methods to find the ideal balance.

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