Like all hobbies, the appreciation of scotch can escalate to the point where diminishing returns set in. I’ve been thinking a lot about the “hobby” lately, and I’d like to take this time to discuss what’s been on my mind.
You can spot them a mile off. They have an Ardbeg t-shirt on, and before they tell you their their name, you know which ultra-exclusive impossible-to-get special release they just picked up. For a good deal, ‘cuz they know a guy. Within a few minutes of conversation you know the size of their “bunker”, and how they don’t buy Kilchoman anymore because it’s gone mainstream, and that they gave away all their Bruichladdich when Mark Reynier sold out to Remy. You know they have Pappy, but they don’t drink it because it’s not Stitzel-Weller anymore. They think it’s cute that you just discovered The Balvenie.
If you’re reading this blog, you at least have an interest in whisky that exceeds the average. That means you have the seed in you. If you let it grow, nurture it and feed it, eventually you might end up like the jerk in the preceding paragraph. Don’t go that far. There comes a point while expanding your whisky knowledge when you begin to forget what got you excited in the first place. You start chasing a high – looking first to special releases from your favorite distillery to calm the itch, and then independent bottlers and retail exclusive single-casks. Before you know it, you’re belittling someone on a forum for thinking this year’s release of William Larue Weller is as good as last year’s. This is natural, a slippery slope, and you have to fight it. You don’t want to be that guy (or gal).
I had been listless in my whisky drinking lately – thinking about expensive and rare K&L exclusives that are way out of my budget range, and that was making old standbys Lagavulin 16 and GlenDronach 12 look boring. Luckily, I had a rare moment of epiphany last night when, groping in my whisky cabinet for something to sip, I found a nearly empty bottle of Bank Note blended scotch. Shrugging, I figured that freeing up a space in my cabinet was worth slumming it for the night. Luckily, that Bank Note happened to be just the right thing to knock me out of my smug elitist mindset. I enjoyed it far more than I’d enjoyed the single malts I’d sipped the previous four nights. Hell, I can’t remember what I drank the previous nights, but I was still thinking about the Bank Note this morning, and how I needed to pick up another bottle. Is it because Bank Note is better than whatever the hell I’d drank previously? Unlikely, but it was the right dram at the right time. It reminded me that in between our K&L Exclusive Clynelish and our imported-by-a-friend-in-his-luggage Yellow Spot, we need to revisit those whiskies that now seem mundane, lest we lose ourselves. We need to occasionally get in touch with our whisky roots, and take a few moments to rekindle the original flame. Remind yourself what whisky tastes like, not just what some overpriced distillery’s whisky tastes like.
Go on, go buy another bottle of Dewar’s 12, or Laphroaig 10, or Johnnie Walker Black Label. Whatever made you want to start searching the web for more information about whisky, whatever gave you that first itch. Put it on ice, or mix it with soda, or drink it out of an old-fashioned bar glass instead of a Glencairn. Your tastes may be more refined now, but your taste memories are still buried in your brain underneath all those neurons devoted to Jim Murray’s latest scores and the percentage of Clynelish in John Glaser’s Spice Tree. Go dig them up. You’ll be a better whisky drinker, and maybe a better person, if you do.