Sam Simmons - Who Drinks Whisky (Part 1: Intro)
Whisky is for rich people
Women don’t drink whisky.
Whisky is for old men.
Japan/China/someone-far-away-about-whom-I-know-very-little is drinking all our Scotch.
But let’s start at something at least slightly closer to truth...
Whisky is an acquired taste for most, and those who come around to it rarely do so without being spurred on from the buzz of victory over an adversary to become quite passionately engaged with it.
Whisky has cachet, as what was once “not for everyone” is now appreciated and gives one a sense of pride, a pride that can vary from pure joy to toxic arrogance (and probably will in the lifespan of the enthusiasm)
As if the sheer number of names weren’t enough, we revel in learning the strangest ones and dropping them at every opportunity. Bunnahabhain (boona-havin’), Auchroisk (awe-thrusk), Oban (o-ban... okay, maybe not that one).
Then we learn more of the lexicon and maintain the buzz by using “neat”, “dram”, “cutting with water”, etc. Then we advance to the next stage, “sherry butt”, “bourbon barrel”, “hogshead” until finally getting to “cask strength”, “non-chill-filtered”, “e150a”, and “traditional floor maltings”
And then, if we haven’t already, we associate sweeping value judgments with all of the above like “The OB Oban is dulled by the caramel colouring”, “I try not to drink chill-filtered whiskies”, “It would be better if it were bottled at cask strength”, “Whisky was better in the (insert decade here)”
A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.
So who drinks whisky? Generally people who like, or indeed, love whisky. All of the above are things I have heard people who (allegedly?) love whisky say. I have certainly said a few gems myself! So I find it incredibly interesting that the most passionate fans eventually become the most vocal detractors, just look on any online forum or blog and you’ll find evidence.
In an Atlantic piece published earlier this year, Noah Berlatsky writes, “Geekdom is built on cultural knowledge; on how much you've consumed; on what you've consumed; and on how long before everyone else you were able to consume it. That knowledge is—deliberately, essentially, intentionally—used, and meant to be used, as an identity, and, therefore, as power.” How does such passion for something eventually breed such resentment, and is this unique to whisky?
A rhetorical question that cannot even be considered properly without first trying to understand who drinks whisky, so in this series let’s look at who is consuming whisky, where, and then possibly, why.