Table Talk: Amanda Schuster
There have been some new additions to The Distiller Tasting Table, and we always want you to know the brains behind our reviews a little better. Today, we chat with Amanda Schuster; a former buyer for Astor Wines & Spirits in NYC, certified sommelier, writer, and editor of The Alcohol Professor, Amanda has an expansive palate, and we’re thankful to have her on board.
Distiller: How long have you been in the spirits industry?
AS: 8 years
D: When did you really start to delve more specifically into whiskey?
AS: When I became the Assistant Spirits Buyer at Astor Wines & Spirits in 2007.
D: Is there an inherent trait that draws you to whisk(e)y?
AS: The inherent trait that draws me to whiskey is its unpredictability. So many factors affect its outcome – from water, grain source, mash bill, style, barrel, age – that no two whiskeys from different distillers, even if made the same way on purpose, are ever the same. There is one for every personality and mood. That’s why I can’t stand it when someone says that hate whiskey. No, you just hate the whiskey you tried already and haven’t found the right one.
D: Any ‘dream’ bottles that you’d love to be able to taste some day?
AS: Anything bottled from the Prohibition era or before, especially a rye. Are we really making rye according what it used to taste like before it almost became extinct? Are current environmental factors affecting the flavor of our native spirits in ways they didn’t used to? Are the recipes truly faithful? I’m dying to know!
D: There’s been a boom in world malt productions, is there something new hitting the market that you’re particularly interested in?
AS: the answer to that is that there is always something new to try! I can’t categorize it. I’m always excited to try new offerings from anywhere, well, as long as the distiller is taking the time and attention needed to roll it out.
D: Current Favorite?
AS: “Sophie, which of your children will you choose?” Come on. I can’t. My favorite whiskey is almost always the one I haven’t tried yet that once I do, I want to stick with for the rest of the drinking session.
D: Given that the costs of high end spirits can often be prohibitive, is there a more wallet-friendly bottle sitting at the top of your go-to list these days?
AS: Speyburn 10 Yr single malt, Elijah Craig 12 Year Bourbon, Fighting Cock 6 year old bourbon, Old Overholt rye, Glenrothes Select Reserve.
D: Anything else you’d like to add for those of us who are just beginning the whiskey journey?
AS: My advice for anyone beginning their whiskey journey is to start in the middle, something not too smoky or sweet or overproof and really pay attention to what you like or don’t like about what your are tasting. Try it neat, then with a little water, then with ice. From there you can pinpoint what pleases your palate and find the bottles and ways of serving it that make sense for you to drink. Don’t ever start with something huge or something consumed on a dare. Maybe even try a whiskey cocktail first, just make sure you don’t drink prefab sour mix!