Identity Crisis (Living in Denial Part IV)

Every now and again I'm not really sure why I drink what I drink. I question myself.  I question everything.

Did I make myself a gin martini because I really wanted one, or because I watched Skyfall this weekend? Did I order that pint of Guinness yesterday because it was what I felt like, or did I feel the need to do so because I was in an Irish pub? Did I actually enjoy the Guinness because it tasted good to me, or did my pleasure stem from the satisfaction of recreating authenticity: the fact that in my mind I was doing what real Irish people do.

Sometimes I'm not sure why I do what I do. I'm succeptable to romance and advertising, very impulsive, and as mercurial as they come. One day I'm all about taking karate classes, the next I'm all about staying inside.

What I do know is this: I fucking love Scotch. That being said, I almost convinced myself that I was over it last week (James Bond drinking Macallan throughout the film might have helped me to remember). I've been feeling like a total fraud lately. "David Driscoll loves Scotch! He's so passionate about it!" Am I? I'm exciting people to drink single malt with a new 16-page whisky brochure, loud and boisterous in-store confessionals, and a blog that's updated almost every day with more info on the latest whiskies. Yet, when I go home I'm not drinking whisky. I'm drinking wine usually. Or Campari. Whisky does not sound good to me when I leave K&L lately. How can that be? How can a guy who encourages other people to buy his special selections have any credibility if he doesn't actually want to drink them? "David, your passion and enthusiasm got me excited about Scotch whisky. Thank you so much for introducing me to these single barrel selections."


You know what the opposite of irony is? Enthusiasm. I had never actually thought about that until reading Christy Wampole's article in the New York Times last week. It got me thinking. I'm not being ironic when I recommend a whisky to people. It's not a sarcastic quip or an insincere jesture. I'm genuinely enthusiastic when I deal with customers because I think they're going to love it and, more than anything in the whole world, I want them to love it. I tried to think of my least ironic moment in life today – therefore, perhaps my most enthusiastic and genuine experience. You know what I came up with? A Cypress Hill concert at UCSD in 2001. We were about to graduate, I was partially drunk, and it was the Sun God Festival on campus with the LA rap group as the headliner. This was not too exciting for some students. By the beginning of the 21st century, Cypress Hill was kinda played out. Listening to Black Sunday didn't really make you very cool. I didn't give a shit, however. I was in the front row, jumping up and down, sharing the mic with B-Real at some moments because I knew every fucking word to every song. All of them. I loved Cypress Hill in junior high and high school. There was no glory in acting like I didn't. I was pumped and I had a complete blast. I was back in my Modesto bedroom. Real enthusiasm, no doubt about it.

Then I tried to think of moments when I had lied to myself. Denial. There are many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many of those moments. Times when I wanted to fit in. Periods where I wanted other people to like me. Snippets of my past where I believed there was more to something than there actually was. I like the idea of taking something complicated or difficult to understand and communicating it to the masses in an easy-to-understand fashion. That's why I taught school for most of my twenties. Wine seemed like another genre to tackle. It was such an intimidating field. People really seemed to really take it seriously. I didn't know anything about it nor did anyone else I knew. Romance, intrigue, mystery. Knowledge. I was hooked.

Six years later, I still love learning about wine. However, what I love about wine is exactly what I've always loved about knowledge – I love it when someone realizes how simple it all is. It's not all that complicated. All the pedantry and high-browed bullshit isn't necessary. That's not to say you can master wine in a day, it's to say that wine isn't something to be mastered. Wine should be enjoyed, not conquered. Despite everything I've learned, I still got suckered in again recently. I won't go into a long, boring story about what happened, but I will say that I once again realized I was wasting money on something that seemed like it should be magical, but in reality was just wine with a big price tag. Why did I think there had to be something more behind them? Why did I think I must be missing something? What keeps making me think I should appreciate something that I don't?

I remember being completely blunted at Tower Records in 1998 when Master P and No Limit Records had ten different albums out with crazy-collage covers and blingy packaging. I stared at the floor stack for about ten minutes, totally transfixed. Silkk the Shocker, Soulja Slim, Mystikal, and many other urban comicbook-esque adventures seemed to await me. I tried to buy everyone of them. Thank God my credit card got declined. I came to my senses the next day. They seemed so interesting at the time, but when my dormmate actually let me listen to his No Limit CDs I realized they totally sucked. I would have been so mad at myself, the same way I've been mad at myself this week. I know what I like. I know what genuinely gets me excited about booze. Yet, I'm totally succeptable to romance and the unknown.

So who am I? Am I the K&L spirits buyer who writes about whiskey, but really likes wine? Am I a whisky drinker who wants to act like he doesn't really like it? Am I just a guy who lets pop culture dictate what he does and doesn't like? Do I smoke when I watch Friday, drink when I read Bukowski? Or do I do what I want to do when I want to do it? It's tough to know sometimes. Enthusiasm, however, will always tell you what's true. I love Cypress Hill and I know that because I genuinely get excited when I listen to it (like right now, as I'm bobbing my head while typing this). And today, when all those whisky casks showed up, I drove down to K&L on my day off and worked with Kyle to get everything squared away. We opened sample bottles and I was absolutely giddy. No faking. No show. I was pumped to taste those whiskies. I was so excited they had finally arrived. They all tasted delicious.

I love single malt. I don't have to drink it everyday to prove it, either. I can enjoy it when I feel like it, at moments that seem appropriate. If I need to take a break and taste some wine now and again, that's fine too. Don't let me forget that. For some reason, I feel like I need to be jumping up and down about it at all times. That would be fake enthusiasm, however. Or denial.

Genuine enthusaism is a great thing.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll