There are many different institutions within the booze industry. There are distillers, importers, brands, retailers, special societies, tasting groups, bottlers, and message boards--all of which can breed a certain level of dedication or devotion from their patrons. You might be a die-hard Jack Daniels guy, or a devout Kermit Lynch drinker, or a Signatory gal, or a dedicated K&L fan, or a member of some organization that comes together to celebrate whiskey. For whatever reason, something may have excited you about these various institutions, which caused you to want to be a part of what they were doing--to be associated with their activities. Involvement in such an experience can be rewarding (I like to think that our customers at K&L have a fun time tasting through our different selections and reading along with us on the blog). Overzealous faith and adherence to these organizations, however, can be dangerous.
When we start to believe that our association with a certain institution defines who we are and what we do, we run the risk of bringing out some of the worst possible human qualities and characteristics.
Elitism -- I can't tell you how many jerks have I met in my time at K&L who have condescended towards me and used their preferred whisky institution as the basis to do so.
Fanaticism -- I can't tell you how many insane people I have exchanged emails with who have poured through every single tasting note, blog post, and piece of information I have ever put into text in an attempt to prove me wrong, in the hope of discrediting my institution and thereby improving the reputation of their's.
Disillusion -- I can't tell you how many emails I get every year explaining to me that Ardbeg Committee releases are only for actual members of the Ardbeg committee. People -- these are marketing tools. They're not real committees with boards that make decisions based on the overall desire of its members.
I shiver in fear at the idea that any of our customers head over to their tasting groups, spouting off comments like, "I know David and David over at K&L. Yeah, they totally hook me up. I'm on their insider whiskey list, so I get special access." Ugh. Someone shoot me when that happens. I never want K&L to be the type of place that uses access to create class status among customers -- the idea that some customers are better than others. There's a great scene in the film The Zero Effect where Ben Stiller, the lackey assistant for Darryl Zero--the worlds greatest private detective--tells the overzealous, obsessive-compulsive slouth:
There aren't any GOOD guys. You realize that, don't you? I mean: there aren't EVIL guys, and INNOCENT guys. It's just - it's just... It's just a bunch of guys.
Zero is so obsessed with the idea of being a private eye that he breaks the world down into very divisive categories. I feel like whisky drinkers can sometimes do the same. Must-have bottles. Once-in-a-lifetime bottles. Everyday bottles. You get the idea. But, really, it's just a bunch of bottles. It's just whisky. We're just a retail store that helps you to find the ones you want and provides you with the options to do so. We're not a club. We're not a society. We're not a brand. We're not exclusive. Anyone can buy from us and we welcome absolutely everyone.
This seems to fly in the face, however, of what some whisky drinkers are looking for. Some people are searching for acceptance. Others hope for validation. Many want to have an experience unobtainable by the means of the mere casual drinker. That's all well and good--we are human after all. To take pride in your associations is great. To define yourself by your associations, however, and hope others will be impressed by your membership can be off-putting.