Desiree ‘Des’ Linden has traveled the world with her feet and today they have brought her to New York City. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, a brisk Sunday morning, and Des is one of 24,659 people running the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon. She finishes fifth among the 12,354 female runners, completing the race in 1:11:22. It is unclear how soon after she celebrated with a whiskey, but the bourbon fan clued Whisky Advocate in on her post-race preferences.
The days leading up to the NYC Half were as much about press as they were about rest for Des. In April 2018, she became the Boston Marathon women’s open champion, the first American to win in 33 years, and placed fifth in 2019. Linden’s life has been busy.
“I like an Old-Fashioned,” says Linden. “Nothing straight up, because after a marathon we’re dehydrated,” adding she is open to exploring whatever styles of whisky are on offer across her world travels. “I’ve had some really great opportunities to celebrate, and talk about running in places that don’t necessarily get a lot of running coverage,” she says. “It’s been fun. But it’s been a lot of work, too.”
That balance of work and fun on the road recently took Linden to Kentucky’s Woodford Reserve Distillery. In collaboration with the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon, Des and her team created a custom Woodford blend with the help of master distiller Chris Morris and assistant master distiller Elizabeth McCall.
“We started with about nine barrel-proof samples and started selecting it down to basically the final four, and then each team came up with their blend,” she said. “It was an amazing experience. I mean, I’m 96 pounds so I had a ton of fun and they’re like, ‘Taste and spit,’ which would have been prudent, but [you] live and learn.”
Linden’s custom Woodford blend yielded just 170 1L bottles that were offered for sale at the race in March for $90. Attendees had a chance to taste it alongside a blend created by the Run The Bluegrass team to see who crafted the better bourbon.
“I really enjoy the process of tasting and comparing,” she says, recalling how a bourbon tasting conducted with friends a few years ago signaled the start of her appreciation. As for a preferred style of bourbon, Linden says she is still developing her palate.
Traveling to Japan and Scotland has delivered Linden to the heart of some great whisky-making nations. But even less obvious travel destinations are a place for her to check out the whisky scene: when she spoke with Whisky Advocate from Scottsdale, Arizona, she was sizing up the scotch selection at the hotel bar.
As a traveling athlete, Linden seeks more quiet and restful watering holes when on the road. “I learn a city a little bit better because that’s the thing that I look for; if we get time, let’s go find out what these cities have to offer,” she says.
At 35, Linden estimates that she has a few more good years of racing in her before her priorities start to change. And naturally, whiskey will be a part of whatever comes next.
“We were just in Lexington and it was just to Woodford, so I think going to Kentucky is step one for me and just spending some time there,” she says. “I need to put together a retirement tour, to be honest. It might be my post-running bucket list.”
Who: Desiree Linden, professional athlete
Career highlight: Boston Marathon women’s open champion of 2018
Favorite style: Bourbon
Go-to whiskeys: Prichard’s Double Chocolate Bourbon, Woodford Reserve, Eagle Rare, Elijah Craig
Favorite Cocktail: Old-Fashioned
Preferred bar: “I want a very mellow, calm, quiet experience where you can really sip a drink. I don’t want a party.”