I drink straight whiskey, and actually enjoy it. I can understand the standpoint of a non-whiskey drinker, in the same way that I often wonder how anyone can stand the taste of coffee (I do not drink coffee). It is an acquired taste, to be sure, but once one has acquired it, there is little else to replace it.
There are a number reasons I drink (and enjoy) whiskey, as opposed to other beverages containing or not containing alcohol. First, in the simplest terms, I enjoy the sensation of a mild alcoholic intoxication. I typically have one drink per day, though I often have none, and occasionally have many more than one. I formerly drank beer, and I often drink wine with meals, but as I got older, my tastes in beer tended towards heavier, fuller-bodied beers, with richer, more complex flavors. These often sit heavy on the stomach (literally and figuratively), so I stopped drinking so much beer.
I’ve never really enjoyed the taste of straight vodka, gin, or rum, plus I typically avoid colas and other sweet sodas, as well as most fruit juices (except a glass of orange juice in the morning), because of the sugar content. Since these are the most common ingredients in cocktails and mixed drinks, I don’t drink many mixed drinks. The non-sugary exceptions, like martinis, [fill in the blank] and tonics, and others have never really appealed to me either.
I have, however, always enjoyed the taste of premium aged Tequila (añejo). The problem is that good Tequila is typically quite expensive, and I’m an insufferable spendthrift.
I don’t want to sound like I only drink cheap whiskey. I don’t. I only drink good whiskey, and if I can find a good whiskey that is also cheap, then I’m a happy man. It just works out that there are very many cheap whiskeys that are also good (examples on request), considerably more than good cheap Tequilas.
Furthermore, whiskey makes an excellent pair to a cigar, better than any other spirit with the sole exception of brandy (God help me that I’ve recently acquired a taste for very expensive brandy).
So in terms of taste, whiskey is an acquired one, like most distilled spirits. Adding to that, it’s regularly available at a range of price points that make it suitable for a daily drink for men of modest means, as well as for high-powered ad execs.
From a social pressure/ gender norms standpoint, in certain social circles, the “ability” to appreciate fine spirits is a badge of honor for men in a similar way that the ability to wear fabulous shoes is for women. It demonstrates discriminating taste, discernment, some degree of worldly experience, and a level of self-awareness, in as much as it requires one to have become keenly aware of what’s good versus what’s really good, not by reputation or brand preference, but by careful consideration of one’s own practical preferences. It also shows a degree of “suffering for the art,” in that one must take the bad (bad whiskey, or for women, painful shoes), with the good, and learn from the experience. In beer circles, one’s credibility can be closely gauged by the ability to not make a face while drinking IPA. With shoes, it’s the ability to walk in 6-inch heels without bending your knees. With whiskey, it’s calling for the right dram in the right context, for taste, value, social impact, or any combination thereof.
I have some friends and associates who don’t drink whiskey, and I always try to peer-pressure them into putting down the “girl’s drinks” and picking up a “man’s drink,” but that’s something totally different. There’s something in men about emasculating other men as a means of proving their own manhood. Come to think of it, that’s probably why we have sports.