I had dinner with a close friend this past week who I hadn't seen in almost two years. We drank and talked until late into the night and she gave me the lowdown on some other old faces I hadn't thought about in some time. In the case of one of our historically-depressed acquaintances, I was both curious and concerned to know what he had been up to for the past decade.
"He finally moved home," my friend told me. "I think that was always his goal in life: to get back home somehow and be closer to friends and family."
"So is he happy, do you think?" I asked.
"To be honest, I don't think so," she answered. "I think he's just an unhappy person by nature and, no matter where he goes, he's going to think there's something better just down the road. It's his way of coping and deflecting blame from his own behavior."
I know people who have moved out of the Bay Area over the past few years due to increased traffic, higher rents, and a general loss of artistic culture. Some of them went to Portland, some to Seattle, and others to Austin. For many, if not most of them, that move brought them an incredible amount of happiness. Their rents are now lower and their commutes are a lot shorter, which was ultimately the source of their displeasure. For a few of these folks, however, the move to a new location only relocated the same emotional baggage. They quickly identified new problems in their new environments and went right back to being unhappy.
I remember a few years back when Rittenhouse Rye was out of stock just about year round, there was a customer who would come by the store every few weeks and ask if we had any. The answer was always no. Then, when it finally came back into stock, I remember being excited to tell him it was available again. He came in a few days later and asked about it.
"Yes! I've got tons!" I told him.
"What do you mean tons?" he replied with a surprising lack of excitement.
"I mean like 600 bottles," I responded.
He seemed defeated and he left without buying a bottle. I was rather shocked at first to tell you the truth, but then it dawned on me: he only wanted the whiskey in the first place because he couldn't have it. Once he could easily find it again, the idea of owning a bottle was less thrilling.
I think a lot of whiskey companies have already found out the hard way that placating that type of personality is impossible. I think a lot more are going find out the same hard lesson in 2017. I have another friend who's planning to build a distillery in Kentucky this year. He told me about it a few months back while we were having lunch.
"There's a Bourbon shortage," he told me. "We're going to help satisfy that demand."
I sat there for a few minutes wondering if I should burst his bubble or not. Then I finally said to him:
"My friend, there's a ton of Bourbon available. I've got Bourbon coming out of my ears at K&L. There's no shortage of Bourbon in general. There's only a shortage of special Bourbon, which is only now special because you can't get it. Once it becomes available, it becomes unspecial; which means no one's going to want it anymore."
"You're shitting me," he said.