bamber wrote:This is a tricky one - not only as it takes more than one dram / pour to assess a whisky but also because factors such as: type of glass and how clean it is, smoke, condition of whisky, level of intoxication, lack of pipettes and the presence of 'booty' can all effect ones enjoyment.
In most of the pubs I go to, lack of the presence of booty is the predominant problem.
They say that bars are not good places to meet persons of the opposite sex, but where else could you expect to meet someone who shares your interest in bibulosity?
JH, you make good points, but in all honesty, I don't much care about making a "fair" test. I care about enjoying a dram. It's not always about empirical research. A dram in a pub is simply an informal way to enjoy whisky, company, surroundings, etc. I very much appreciate, and benefit from, the efforts of those here who take great pains to abstract a whisky's absolute characteristics, but to me, ideally, whisky is a part of life, not apart from it. There is no greater pleasure for me, for example, than to enjoy a dram after a good meal. The food I have just eaten will of course influence how I experience the dram, and that's just fine with me.
So absolutely, yes, being in the pub will have a strong influence on how you experience your drink, and you should take that into account. It leads me occasionally to a dilemma: I don't want to buy an expensive and unusual dram in a pub, because I don't think I will appreciate it properly; but that might be my only chance to experience that particular whisky at all. So you make a judgment and take your chances, or not. That's life.
As for situational appreciation--I swear the best drams I've ever had have been at the end of distillery tours (especially the 10:00am tour!). I had absolutely marvelous drams, for example, at Jura and Bunnahabhain, and have never again anywhere had drams of either that I enjoyed a tenth as much. I guess I'll have to go back and take the tour again....
So back to the original question: Do you feel it is better to learn by the bottle or the glass? My answer is both. Or either. Take (or leave) each for what it is, and do what makes the most sense to you. Of course, it would make a great difference if you happened to live around the corner from, say, the Bow Bar in Edinburgh.