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Thursday
Jun202013

Storytelling

The more I've written for the K&L website over the past few years, the more I realize the importance of storytelling. I understand the pressure that professional journalists face more than ever, especially when they've got nothing to write about and have to make something out of nothing. Although I try to avoid doing this (mainly because I don't have to write anything), I get why they do it. These people get paid to make sure you read their work, even if it means bending the truth to make the story more compelling.

That doesn't mean it isn't annoying, however. Because of this tendency, you have to make sure you can filter out the news to avoid embarrassing yourself later. What I mean by that is: don't go around telling people about something interesting you've read unless you know it's absolutely true. Otherwise you look like the idiot, not the reporter.

Here's an incredibly embarrassing story about myself that gives a better example: Berlin, June, 2006. I'm studying at the Freie Universität for the summer and after class one day I'm hanging out with a colleague from France and one of her friends. We decide to meet back at the dorms and open a bottle of wine. Naturally, me being an American from California and the two girls being French, we get into the topic of California wine versus French wine. I was one of these new, chip-on-the-shoulder wine guys who thought he knew everything because he attended a few tastings and read the Wine Spectator each month. I was quick to talk and even quicker to keep talking. I'm already cringing just telling you this much.

After talking for a bit, the friend of my colleague says something like, "If you like wine so much, you simply must try more French wines. Let me make you a list of some bottles I think you will like." And what do I say? I say something like, "Didn't California just beat France again in the Judgement of Paris though?" This was right after Stephen Spurrier had organized a rematch of the original California Cabernet vs. Bordeaux blind tasting and the California wines had won in a landslide. "What do you mean?" the friend replied. "I mean a panel of experts just put the best French wines up against the best California wines and, once again, the California wines were considered better," I said, as if I had actually tasted the wines and agreed wholeheartedly with the result. I won't get into any more embarrassing details because this is already painful enough, but let's just say that the only reason I even brought that story up was because I had read it in a magazine. I felt the need to prove not only how much I knew about wine, but also how superior my wine was to theirs. It wasn't even my own opinion! It was some stupid headline that read, "California Once Again Best in the World." Today, I still enjoy drinking some California wines, but under no circumstances whatsoever should they be considered better than French wines. Not necessarily worse, but definitely not better or the best in the world. Anyone who wants to make that type of blanket statement is just looking to pick a fight.

Why am I bringing that story up? Because on the way back from Mexico yesterday Lou bought a copy of Reader's Digest. We were halfway through the flight when Lou tapped me and said, "Hey, what do you think about this?" It was an article called "50 Reasons to Love America." This was number 45:

Guess what America? The world's best single malt whisky is no longer from Scotland! That's right! Because a small panel of British experts, mind you, chose Balcones Single Malt over some unnamed Scotch whiskies in a blind tasting, that means that the BEST single malt whisky in the world is now Balcones!! HOORAY! Even the Brits agree that we're number one! Go suck on that, Scotland! U-S-A! U-S-A!

This is the type of fluff that sends me into the stratosphere because people will now cling to this story like it's God's honest truth. Guys love to pull out little trump cards like this at parties or at dinner. 

Friend #1: Should we order a drink?

Friend #2: Certainly, how about some whiskey?

Friend #1: Let's see if they have Balcones from Texas.

Friend #2: What's that?

Friend #1: Oh, just this little distillery in Waco that just got voted the best whiskey in the world. It beat out all the best Scotch whiskies available.

Friend #2: Really? I didn't hear about that.

Friend #1: Well, it's more the people who really know about whisky that are talking about it. (smirks)

How do I know this type of conversation is going to happen? Because I did the exact same thing when I read something similar back in 2006. It's what insecure guys do when they want to impress other people. I just watched some idiot professor on Real Time with Bill Maher do the same thing last week. They were talking to a guy who had spent five years researching the fracking industry and the possible damages it's doing, but some Harvard hotshot felt the need to contradict him because, get this, he had read an article in the Scientific American last week! I can see not agreeing with someone, but getting into a debate with an bonafide expert on a subject because you've read a magazine article and you feel like you're now qualified to enter into a serious discussion? Seriously? The nerve! The embarassment! The guy ended up getting booed off the program.

Not to take anything away from Balcones, but this blurb is ridiculous and I truly hope that no one goes out and embarrasses themselves by repeating it in public. Balcones makes a lot of whiskey that people enjoy, but I've yet to try one great American single malt from any distillery that even comes close to what Scottish distilleries have achieved.

But then what do I know? If you've read the most recent issue of Reader's Digest, you already know what the best whisky is.

-David Driscoll