Time and time again I have tried flavor infused whiskey and been let down and almost have felt dirty for having tried it. I once believed it to be an affront to everything I love about whiskey and that it was ruining the character of the drink I love. This opinion has softened a bit. Do I still feel adding flavor to whiskey is wrong? Yes!!!!!! But like adding color to whiskey, the distilleries are again using something foreign to try and appeal to a larger audience.
By adding the flavors more people might be prone to trying the whiskey. I am always for people trying new things, and if flavoring whiskey opens the door for some people to such a wonderful drink, then let it be. My hope is at some point these people try an unflavored whiskey and find out what an amazing drink it is. Some people have advocated that adding flavor is exactly like aging the whiskey in wine or rum barrels to impart different character, and to a point they are correct, but there are major differences. In one process the maker is pouring flavoring into a batch of whiskey and bottling it (simplified explanation of the process). In the other, the master distiller is choosing barrels which will be married together and pouring them into the finishing wine or rum barrel. Then the distiller will use his/her years of experience and after some more aging bring those barrels together creating a whiskey enhanced rather than flavored (again, simplified explanation of the process).
One process takes decades of practice to master, the other, a machine can be programmed to put just the right amount of artificial additive. Put it that way, how can anyone want a flavor whiskey? It’s in the numbers unfortunately. Sales of flavored whiskey are rising and companies are beginning to put more product on store shelves to accommodate. This trend only seems to be hitting the U.S. and Canadian products (and yes, most of the Canadian distilleries are owned by U.S. companies) with the most of the rest of the world watching the effects. It makes me hope that it is only a fade and dies away in the near future, but until then…
So in summary, the consumer will like whatever they want and my opinion is just that, mine. I will continue to avoid flavored whiskeys, but I understand why they are becoming popular and will continue to hope they are a gateway for people to appreciating whisk(e)y without all the extras!