Burning Question: Again, Why Don't Women Drink Scotch?

Yeah, we've never done this before. Revisiting a topic while the body's still warm and quivering just isn't our kind of thing.

Unless, of course, it involves drinking heavily in the middle of the afternoon.

You see, after we answered this very same question last week, the folks from Macallan called up wanting a second chance. Our young, innocent, non-whiskey drinking editorial assistant Sarah had twitched noticeably after a hearty swig of the esteemed brand's 12 year Scotch and barely suppressed a violent gag reflex.

"Last week was not a happy experience for me," Sarah recalls (through our own Merritt Martin--she no longer speaks directly to any Burning Question crew member). "I wanted to crawl into a fetal position."

Sarah at the end of last week's Burning Question
Sarah at the end of last week's Burning Question
Daniel Daugherty

So they sent along brand ambassador Jay Liddell with bottles of the Macallan 15 and Macallan 18. And we, once again, delve into the ever-important issue of women and brown spirits.

Just about any form of drinking becomes habit because of socialization--peer group pressure, if you will, that sometimes changes according to location or situation. For instance, a guy might like to sip sherry on Saturday afternoons, but it's highly unlikely he'll order anything but beer or liquor while watching basketball with the guys.

These drinking habits, once formed, can change over time. Our first encounter with whiskey or any other spirit is rarely very positive. But, as Liddell points out (he is talking to us), "when you start to learn more about it, it's fascinating."

Ah, the definition of an acquired taste. Seems many women see little value in the acquisition, once they've discovered a set of drinks they readily enjoy.

Some female drinkers do appreciate whiskey, however. As "Graygrrrl" commented in response to last week's version of this question, "I'm a woman in my late 20s and I LOVE whiskey and scotch." Of course, she acknowledges, "there is definitely something amazing about this to guys."

Yes--amazement, which often means awe mixed with fear.

"A woman interested in Scotch is the kind of woman who knows what she wants," Liddell says.

Well, little Sarah's comfort zone is limited to beer and wine. When the Macallan ambassador set two full bottles of the brown liquor on our mini conference room table, she gaped for a moment before muttering "I'm nervous."

Last week we kinda pushed Sarah up to the bar and ordered. But with Macallan's reputation on the line, Liddell opted for a gentle, more educational approach--the whole examine, sniff and taste routine. "The first time you smell it, you'll smell alcohol," he tells her. "The second, alcohol. But once you get that, what else do you smell?"

"It smells smoky," Sarah responds.

"And rose petals?"

"No, I don't smell that," she says.

Liddell's spiel wanders through the meadows of grain and lore of the trade. It's all rather poetic when you leave out the part about rotting mash, old sheds and still masters lunching on haggis. But his purpose is to lull innocent Sarah into a new comfort zone. "There's nothing but love and cobwebs surrounding the casks," he concludes, nodding for her to take a sip.

The result? "No bad face," she exclaims. "No gag reflex."

Sampling the 18 year malt, Sarah even manages a grin. "I really like this," she finally says, beaming. "Who knew I would enjoy whiskey?"

Forgot to tell her the 18 retails for about $150--a stretch on journalism pennies. Then again, she's still not speaking to us. No matter. For Macallan it was a day of redemption. Instead of forcing stomach contents back down, young Sarah stuck around for another few sips. Then she began encouraging other women in the office to give the 18 a try.

Yep, peer pressure. So again in answer to the Burning Question, all drinkers--men as well as women--respond to a set of influences. Whether you're talking about martinis, tequila or whiskey, the appreciation must be acquired through one or more of these.

Clearly women can enjoy Scotch. Most just choose to avoid it.

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