So tonight I caught myself with my pinkie finger sticking up while tilting a Glencairn of Speyside malt into my mouth. Holy crap, I thought. What am I doing?! Pretension is a big part of the luxury spirits industry. A lot of money is made on pretension. Just the right leaded crystal tulip glass to concentrate aromas. Nothing but the finest filtered Scottish spring water to reduce a cask-strength. Only closed scotch distilleries and organically-farmed US microdistillates, please. Stitzel-Weller… but only from Jefferson’s bottles filled before everyone else started drinking it.
It’s hard not to get sucked in to the culture of luxury spirits – you’re paying enough for a decent bottle, you may as well act like you don’t care what it costs, right? It only makes sense to follow up that investment with a series of supportive investments – the books, the glassware, the imported water… pretty soon it’s possible to be drinking scotch not because you’re enjoying it, but because it’s what you’re supposed to be drinking. A modern man (or woman)-about-town such as myself, we think, can’t be seen knocking back Coors and Jim Beam at the local watering hole. If we’re not drinking the best, we feel, we may be slipping back down the social ladder.
Peer pressure doesn’t help matters. When you discuss fine drinks with others who enjoy fine drinks, there tends to be an air of one-upsmanship. Macallan 18 isn’t cool anymore, because it’s mass-produced and well-known. “You’re still drinking Lagavulin 16? Please. I moved on to Kilchoman and old Port Ellens.” “You haven’t tried the new Yellow Spot? Oh, I know a guy in the U.K.” Pretty soon, any conversation about whisky becomes a minefield of possible faux pas and the awful probability that people will realize I get all of my opinions from Jim Murray and The Whisky Magazine.
I think we all need to relax. Pour a little Glenlivet 12 or Macallan in a rocks glass and just drink it. Open that special bottle you’ve been hoarding and share it with some people. Don’t tell them it’s special edition, limited release, single-cask… just tell them it’s good. Saving up for a $400 splurge on a bottle of Glenfarclas 40? Give yourself a break and buy something cheaper (or several somethings!). I think if we all drank our fine whiskies with more attention to the enjoyment of the drink, instead of the pretension attached to it, we’d all be a little less stressed-out. And for God’s sake, put your pinkie down.