Does Whisky Appreciation Have a Lifespan?

I feel like I’m falling out of love with whisky appreciation. Not whisky – I still enjoy a good deal of whisky from all over the world. No, I’m talking about falling out of love with the pursuit of new bottles, new distilleries, new information. The prospect of Rosebank distillery reopening used to excite me, now I just shrug and think about all the limited edition “not quite there yet!” bottlings that are going to retail for $150 and I just can’t get enthused about it. I hear about a new craft distillery (that I’ve never heard of) winning awards at a recent competition and all it makes me think about is the other thousands upon thousands of new craft distilleries (that I’ve never heard of) popping up all over the place that I also won’t be able to keep track of. Ardbeg releases yet another whimsical special edition and I assume it will just taste like overpriced Ardbeg.

It doesn’t help that I go to the liquor store to grab a quick refill on the old cabinet, and I find Lagavulin 16 is $85 instead of $55, Glenlivet 12 is $36 instead of $21, and Macallan 18 is $415 instead of $120! You can’t buy anything with the name “Weller” on it, forget Stitzel-Weller, nor can you get a bottle of Blanton’s. All the rye and half of the bourbon on the shelves isn’t made by the distillery on the label (because the “distillery” on the label doesn’t exist), and it seems like they’re creating new NDP (non-distiller producer) brands so fast that there’s bound to be a new one put on the shelf before I’m finished shopping.

I will stop complaining now in order to come around to my point. I am not having a novel experience, here. When I started getting “into” scotch in 2010 I distinctly recall hearing from “old timers” about how the whole whisky industry had gone downhill, with independents raising prices and age statements disappearing from bottles. They were just as frustrated by the constant release of new “limited” expressions, the proliferation of cask finishing instead of full-term sherry maturation, and upstart American “craft” distilleries daring to charge more than $20 a handle for 3 year-old bourbon. They were planning to creep back into their respective bunkers to ride out the mania.

This all makes me think that appreciation of anything comes with a kind of half-life. You start out enthusiastic about everything, hungry for knowledge. Then you settle into a period of confident expertise, keeping up with the times and adapting to the changes. Next you reach a plateau of enjoyment, where you start to get wary of the new and nostalgic for the old. Finally you fall into a pit of disillusionment where you see everything through jade-colored glasses. “It’s all a scam to trick the newcomers into wasting their money.” “Nothing’s as good as it used to be in the good old days.” “It’s all changing too fast to keep up with, so why bother?” I find myself at Costco looking for deals on my old favorites so I can load up the bunker. Meanwhile, somewhere out there some sparkly-eyed newborn whisky geek is camping out on the sidewalk of a boutique shop to be first in line for the new Japanese-Scottish fusion Mizunara cask from Glen Loch Firth, and damn the cost. It’s LIMITED!

I guess my whisky appreciation half-life is about 13 years. I’m not done, I’m not quitting, but I have about a half of a tank of “give a crap” left. In the Circle of Eau de Vie, I guess that makes me the aging elephant trudging along at the back of the pack. Perhaps writing tortured metaphors to convey my ennui is another symptom of this disease. My tank of those is still pretty full.

It’s probably just as well that blogging in general has begun sliding down the back side of the cultural zeitgeist curve. That sparkly-eyed geek is not reading blogs on his phone while sitting on the sidewalk. He’s watching Tiktoks. Or scrolling instas. Or something. My self-indulgent jaded whining will not taint his youthful enthusiasm, more power to him. Godspeed young one, and let me know how the Mizunara is.

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  • I feel very similar to you. I have found my interest to pursue the new hot bottle to not only be gone, but I’ve unplugged enough to the point of I usually don’t even know what’s hot. I quit watching whisky reviewers almost entirely, in fact apparently as of a month ago it’s been a year. I follow yourself and a couple of others online but that’s it anymore. I drink lunch less and certainly buy a lot less. Oh I still enjoy 3 to 4 drams a week greatly, I love the journey a good whisky can take you on. But I know longer care about Springbank, the new stuff, trying everything on my list. I keep certain types of whisky to fit my mood and shoot I’ve got bottles now open for a couple of years. Since I buy so seldom about once or twice a year if I happen upon something I really want to drink I buy it as long as I ain’t getting gouged. Cheers, I appreciate you 🙏

  • I think that appreciation for anything has its ebbs and flows over time. I personally love single malt Scotch whisky as much as I ever did. There are some really annoying industry trends that are becoming increasingly difficult to overlook. Personally I’m particularly irritated by collectors and resellers. Springbank has always been my favorite distillery and now that’s it’s not readily available it’s the favorite distillery of all the wrong types of people. When I got the current 12yo cask strength for actual retail price it was the best dram I ever had because it was one bottle kept out of the hands of those people. You just have to take satisfaction where you can. I really find it funny that I’ve drank multiple bottles of whisky that in some cases is selling for over $1,000 on Caskers. This is what the future holds as long as people are willing to pay these prices.

    • I should also point out that I do occasionally get bottles that reignite my appreciation. It happened when the current Glenallachie line hit the shelves a few years ago. I’ve also recently had sherry finished releases from Balblair and Glenturret that rival sherry finished bottles I’ve had. I’ve also seen a post tariff reduction in some prices. Unfortunately the whisky craze became people chasing a trend, instead of something genuine. You know, when we were all just snobs who liked good whisky. I also feel that there are only so many times that there are only so many times that I can be blown away by a new cask strength Springbank or GlenDronach. They’re both still great but I know what to expect now.

  • I think the whiskey furore has died down a bit, at least here in Denver. Prices have dropped (it felt like that was the only direction they could go), whiskey clubs have dried up, and whiskey shelves have narrowed in my go-to liquor stores and bars. I’m slowing slimming down my collection too. But I think some context is useful here too: I think there’s a fair bit of ennui, burnout, jadedness, etc. in the last year or two … call it post-pandemic or whatever, but it feels like a real thing.

    Anyway, there’s always rum, and ‘RumNoob’ sounds like a minor WuTang figure. Feel free to claim that for your TikTok handle.

  • I have followed a similar path. Know that there are those who still read, shunning TikTok for the prose of those who still write.

  • I assure you you are not alone, in fact I’d wager our numbers are increasing daily, maybe not as fast as the mint churning out fresh sparkly eyed newbie geeks, but fast enough to have a real impact on the market.

  • I feel the exact same way, and I suspect we’re not alone.

    You are right that there is just a lot of marketing *snow* in the air these days, and I would suggest that the explosion of new distilleries and NDPs is as much a product of a widespread whisky renaissance than an attempt to profit from one (even though the profit motive is never far away). Indeed, if my thesis is correct, a lot of these new brands won’t survive longer than a few years.

    But times change and tastes change. Remember the famous Whisky Loch in Scotland back in the 70’s and 80’s, when virtually every distillery found itself with warehouses full of essentially unsaleable product. This was a bad thing in that many old warhorses such as Port Ellen closed their doors, but this very same glut is why you and I were able to cut our teeth on relatively cheap whisky of extraordinarily high quality at the beginning of our respective journeys.

    Now we are the old warhorses, and the world is passing us by. But whisky is a creature of time, craft, and continuity with the past – sometimes the very distant past. I’ve always felt that it wore the “Next New Thing” hat very awkwardly (here’s looking at you, Jane Walker).

    Cheers to you, and to all your other readers. Thanks for bringing us along.

  • I distinguish between appreciation and enthusiasm. I’m an appreciator of good wines, whisky, and cigars today, but I’ve been an enthusiast of all those things at some point. I would know what was hot, what I should be getting, I felt the need to hoard it all and chase everything that was buzzing. At some point, I realized it was pretty pointless and my enthusiasm faded away into appreciation.

    Now I still buy enough of these products each year, but more on a need basis. The idea of chasing the latest whisky raffle or queuing for the release of a case of Blanton’s puts me off. Also I feel more immune to the hype of special releases (unless the come from Davidoff) and my wallet is all the happier for that.

  • It seems there are a lot of us in the same zone. The prices are insane, the hype and collectors is annoying, and my particular whiskey learning curve has flattened out. I’ve been exploring more rum and cognac lately, even some non-alcoholic spirits. Ralphy would call those “malternatives,” but it feels more like a new chapter than a break from whiskey.

  • Hi there,
    let me assure you that you are in good company. It’s definitely not just you. Lots of bloggers either turned to something else or have quit entirely. Whisky forums around the world produce far less content or mutated into sample swapping exchanges.
    When All Things Whisky – another blog that died a silent death for whatever reasons – was still active we had a discussion there about the dwindling enthusiasm concerning whisky and the reasons for that. Well, I had and a member named Jeff but others as well.
    Developments within the whisky industry like over-optimisation of the whole whisky making process at the beginning and premiumisation on the whisky selling end have throttled the enthusiasm for whisky imo.
    For me whisky has become boring alltogether . Either you are offered rather young mediocre bottlings for an overprice or the offerings are real old real good and from other eras of whisky making – but they are priced such that only the very rich can reach for them.
    There is so much more money than brains in circulation. I always said that premiumisation and its – unkept – promise that you pay more for better whisky was a money driven cul de sac and a nail in the coffin of whisky enthusiasm. Watching the figures you learn that Scotch has sold less bottles at the beginn ing of this year but made so much more profits. I am sure that that kind of success story will come to a very sobering end.
    Enjoy the drams that come your way and don’t fret. Todays whisky with very few exceptions deserves to be ignored.


    • I think that everything that has been said here by everyone including myself can be summed up perfectly in your final two sentences.

  • I recently discovered your blog and am the richer for it. When there is so much choice it is natural to go back and enjoy the cadre of brands you know and enjoy. I did get a chuckle when I read “ that bottle of Lagavulin 16 is $85, not $55 “………$165 plus tax here in Vancouver BC. That’s why I was delighted to find your site, I can finally find some value and some decent reviews. I salute you !

  • Hi SB, even though you may be slowing down in your enthusiasm for scotch/whisk(e)y, I have really enjoyed your writing and reviews. I have slowed down my enthusiasm a bit too, but more because I have found that I just really like my Isaly peated scotch and I don’t need to have my tastebuds explore as much anymore. Still, I’ll keep checking in to see what’s what in the world of Scotch!

  • Actually, I check this blog virtually every time I buy a new bottle. At about double the prices you mentioned, being in WA State…
    I think there is a lot of value, maybe less in the exploration of new whiskeys, and more in helping people sift through the crap. So please continue to write, even if it is just to tell us what gems are still out there and what’s worth buying. As silly as it sounds, I still love spending must nights with a glass of scotch, listening to Bach (old music), reading old literature… yeah, you get older and that stuff is so much more appealing. But that is partly because you’re wiser and you know what’s worth your time, money, energy.

  • I feel the same way. I’ve particularly tired of the many iterations of Laphroaig and have stopped buying them. They’re all pretty much identical. Same with Ardbeg. Just variations on a rather limited theme.

    Bourbon has started to bore me, too. With prices insanely high (who in his right mind would drop $70 for bottle of bourbon?), my main source of entertainment now comes from checking out the “bottom shelf” stuff to see if there are hidden gems. Not only are there some (I confess I kinda like JW Dant, $13 for a liter, about as much as the fancy stuff), but the price of experimentation is low.

  • I started my journey with Whiskey thanks to your excellent selection of scotch for beginners. I think it was in 2014. I have been following your blog since then, and you inspired me to do something similar for Coffee.
    I am with you about the “fatigue” of the trends, however. I am still chasing the bang for the buck and enjoying discovering new things (more than I ever will taste), but I refuse to be victim to fads. I am also very tired of anything “Buffalo Trace” nowadays. When I started, I could find endless quantities of bottles of EH Taylor at $39 at my local store, Now I almost need to sell my firstborn to get an allocation, and I have seen Eagle Rare 10 at >$50 at some stores in TN…

  • Me again. Last time I promise. I’m mainly a single malt scotch drinker. I dabble in single pot still Irish, brandy, fortified wines and gin. I tend to not drink much of anything from this side of the Atlantic, my taste in beer and wine included. If I was into bourbon or rye, would I be far more disenchanted? As much as I find certain industry trends annoying to put it mildly, everyone here seems far more disgusted than I am. I ask out of curiosity, because in general, I’m not the worlds most easy going guy.

    • For what it’s worth, I feel the market trends in rye and bourbon have been pretty similar (in trajectory) as single malt, but more severe. Price increases by % have been much higher, but then they started much lower. NDP brands are a bigger problem, as it’s way easier to bottle MGP juice and not say anything than it is to rebottle single malt and get any kind of attention.

      • That does seem like it would be harder to overlook. In fact that’s part of why I was never able to get into bourbon and rye in the first place. Being a Scotch drinker first, I was never able to get my head around the fact that there were so many bottles on the shelf that no one really knew where they came from.

  • I wholeheartedly agree with all of this. Very similar arc to my path. Very little hunt left in me and all thats left is basically for finding Eagle Rare at anything close to MSRP. Zero interest in new limited collaborations or pop-culture themed releases…
    May still grab the occasional compass box release because I like Glaser…

  • Might be time to move on to the appreciation of other spirits. When I began to lose interest in really pursuing and keeping up-to-date with whisky, I shifted towards Armagnac, rum, mezcal and baijiu.

  • You can add me to the ever-expanding list of Scotch drinkers who have given up on pursuing every new bottle that comes down the line. A combination of price, availability and weariness have brought me to the place where I have a few favorites among single malt scotch & bourbon and I stick to those brands. In fact recently, I’ve rediscovered Gin after a number of years and there are some great new distillers out there doing wonderful things with the spirit.