Desiree Linden Loves Bourbon
Inside the American marathoner’s awesome whiskey collection
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Midpack runners know that the final mile of a marathon is often a meditation on what booze you’ll fill your cup with, post-race. And it turns out that may be true for elites too!
Boylston Street in Boston doesn’t go down easy. But for Desiree Linden, the U.S.’s top finisher at the Boston Marathon, her post-race glass of whiskey does. This year it was Blanton’s, taken neat.
Linden calls herself a “bourbon geek” and collects interesting whiskeys as she globe trots (somewhat literally) to races. Over the years she’s amassed a sizable collection. “Nothing over the top, we have around 25-to-30 bottles,” she says. “Or maybe that is over the top?”
We asked the 31-year-old elite runner about her collection, the bottles she’s still looking for and how she meshes training with whiskey drinking.
OUTSIDE: When did you discover you liked whiskey? Were you the kid at college drinking whiskey neat when everyone else was drinking PBR and wine coolers?
LINDEN: I was all about Jim Beam and Coke—a total college drink! But I was always drawn to the smell of the bourbon and actually enjoyed the vanilla and oak taste. As I got older and was able to afford a proper drink, I ditched the Coke and really [began to] enjoy the qualities and tastes in decent whiskey and bourbon.
When did you start collecting whiskeys?
Ryan [my husband] and I bought one or two decent bottles in early 2010. After trying some decent stuff it didn't take long before “a few bottles” became a nice collection. We lived with a few roommates back then and it was fun to grab something new, hang out, and sit around tasting and comparing. Our collection isn't super rare but we think it's pretty awesome. One of the great things about running is we're at events all over the world, so we've picked up great bottles while in Scotland, Tokyo, New York City, and other places.
What are some of your most coveted bottles and why?
Pappy Van Winkle 23 ($2,000-$3,000), 20, and 12. It's super pretentious but we scored all three bottles of the Van Winkle at the original price, which means we were into whiskey way before the hipsters were.
Black Maple Hill ($350), which is another tough-to-get bourbon. Truthfully we haven't even opened this one up to see if it's worthy of the hype.
Jefferson's Ocean Aged at Sea Voyage 4 ($90). I’m letting my inner bourbon geek shine through with this one. The ocean aging is a totally unique experiment and we were willing to pay a bit extra to taste the results.
What do you look for in a good whiskey?
I'm not all that picky. I really just enjoy trying new stuff and the social component of hanging out with good friends and enjoying a drink. I do always find myself drawn to the earthy, oak, leather, and vanilla tastes. Can't beat a strong and long finish, smooth with some heat but not a bite. I was never in love with the super peaty scotches but I will say they’ve grown on me over the years.
How do you drink your whiskey?
Frequently! It depends on the whiskey, usually neat but it really depends on the bottle. I'm not afraid to add ice or a splash of water if it helps pull out more flavor.
How does drinking whiskey fit in with your intense training schedule?
I try to be a normal human when it comes to having a drink every now and then. Obviously, I'm not going to over-indulge the day before a big workout or long run, but if I feel like a drink after a long day I'll go for it. A lot of our collection is pretty everyday stuff, so it's nice to have a decent variety to pick from based on what I'm feeling like. I'll usually grab something along the lines of Blanton's, Elijah Craig, or Elmer T. Lee. If it's an after-dinner treat I often find myself picking up Prichard's Double Chocolate—don't judge it until you've tried it! If I grab the Booker's it's probably been a long brutal week, so watch out world!
What's the one bottle you'd love to get your hands on but have never been able to?
A.H. Hirsch Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey. We can dream, right?