There is a time and a place for a good ale or lager and that is in the pub with one’s friends or down the local curry house. Otherwise, a more sophisticated drink is needed for the classy gent of today. A glass of wine? Sure, though best enjoyed with food. A cocktail? If you’re in a classy bar or speak easy then by all means. As an aperitif or merely a nice relaxing drink at home a straight liquor, sipped, is best. We would not dare dictate what liquor you choose and have already discussed the benefits of a gin martini. A good tequila or vodka is also a nice sipping drink to be enjoyed, but for me it is whisky.
A quick note on etymology: whisky is distilled in Scotland, calling it Scotch is tautological and shows naivety. Whiskey is distilled in Ireland and to be correct, should be referred to as Irish whiskey. The flavours and heritage are distinct and a true aficionado will not confuse the two. Any other country of origin should be referred to as whiskey (with an “e”, such as some of the fine examples emanating from Japan).
There are 5 whisky regions in Scotland and each has distinct flavours due to the distilling process and resources used: Speyside, Islay, Highland, Lowlands and Cambletown.
There will be people that tell you how to properly drink whisky. I was once in a bar refused service because I asked for an ice cube in my drink. I’ve not been back to that bar in 3 years (good work Bluu). Some have preference for an ice cube to chill and partially dilute as it melts, some put a dash of water in, you can get stones to go in your freezer to chill your whisky without diluting (the origin of the phrase “on the rocks” comes from placing chilled pebbles in your drink) and then you can drink it straight up. Do not allow anybody to dictate how you drink your whisky, it is yours to enjoy. When first starting to drink whisky, especially peaty whisky, a little dilution can really aid you. As you acquire a taste for finer whisky then you may start to drink it straight or may not (though it is more convenient to be able to drink it straight). However you like your whisky though, it is always a sipping drink. I once overheard somebody say that Jack Daniels was not for mixing, it was a sipping whiskey. Well let me tell you, it is a sipping bourbon, if that.
There are 5 types of whisky (independent of the regions) for you: single malt, single grain, blended malt, blended grain and blend. The finest whisky does tend to be a single malt and your correspondent does not have much of a taste for grain whisky, being much lighter tasting. There are some excellent blends though (and never allow a Scotsman hear you say this) so try a few out; a personal favourite is Monkey Shoulder, a triple blended malt. The difference in quality between a blend and a single malt is the artisanal production of the whisky. In order to achieve flavour, a blend can take the best notes of multiple drinks and create a smooth, rounded flavour. A single malt though takes more time to mature correctly and imbue itself with the qualities that give it a distinct flavour. A decent, though not great, analogy would be a solo dancer versus a troupe. In a troupe each athlete’s individual skill can shine through the choreography; in a solo show, there is nowhere to hide.
So take your time. Learn to love the different aromas of the regions and get to know your own taste. Above all though, take your time when drinking; appreciate the drink and give tip of your glass to the celtic forefathers that christened this drink uisge beatha (the drink of life).