Steve posted this in the comments field for Part III and I felt it was important enough to become Part IV. He has a blog site about eating around LA and he has guest blogged on Hansell's webpage as well. Here is what he had to say:
"Going back to your original question, why are we interested? I think for the people I know who are real spirits afficionados, it's wholly experiential. I love whiskey for the same reason I love all manner of cheese and dark chocolate and that I seek out regional Chinese cuisines I've never had before, because it provides for a unique sensory experience. It's about experiencing the most you can in life, like an art museum (or film festival) for the palate. Whiskey offers a complexity and a combination of flavors just as complex as any museum piece. Once you get into it, it becomes an intellectual pursuit as well, as you work at identifying styles, tasting changes in expressions, sensing the difference between oaks, finishes, grains ages, or just good and bad. That's why I would nearly almost rather try a bad whiskey that I've never tasted than a good one that I have (though, sorry to tell you, it doesn't mean I'll buy the whole bottle).
As you've pointed out, there are those who drink for status or who collect trophy bottles, and those people are surely satisfying some other need, probably just as legitimate. If someone wants an uopened bottle of Stagg to decorate their mantle or loves the unlikely gamble that a given whiskey will one day turn them a profit for them, who am I to tell them otherwise? It's just not my gig.
As to intoxication, it's actually a side effect I'd rather do without. I wish I could drink without getting any more than a slight buzz, so I could taste endlessly into the night, drive home safely and suffer no ill effects, but hey, I also wish I could eat all the cheese I could find and not gain weight and that ain't happenin' either."
If you're one of those drinkers who wakes up face down on the couch because you couldn't help but taste everything in your collection, then you relate to this. If you're one of those people who never buy the same bottle twice because it seems like a crime when there's so much out there to try, then you relate to this. If you are truly interested in booze and finding out everything about it, then you relate to this. Sometimes our enthusiasm can cause our skin to itch. It sends our eyes over to the clock in search of a justifiable hour to begin imbibing. It makes us drive half away across town just to sample a few drams or find that one missing nugget of experience we long for. To me these are signs of honest passion and I want to thank Steve for pointing out what does constitute a serious interest in booze, especially since I've been all over the place dwelling on what doesn't.