Alcohol is like __________

I have to talk about spirits a lot.  In fact, I've done nothing but talk about spirits all day so far.  There are so many people looking to learn more about the liquor they love and I'm happy to help them.  When I was a teacher I would constantly use metaphors to help describe confusing lessons to my students.  I've just always related to real life examples of things that I could comprehend.  When talking about specific trends in the spirits world with customers, I'm always gauging whether or not I'm giving them too many specs and not enough understanding.  "This was aged in casks for two years and distilled on a copper pot still......blah, blah, blah."  That bores some people right off the bat and I can see their eyes glaze over as they nod out of politeness.

For that reason, I'm starting a new series of posts called "Alcohol is like _______" which I hope will convey some of the issues on my mind with greater clarity.  Today's post is going to be "alcohol is like an action movie."  Here's why:

Remember when one could make a living as a stuntman?  There were all kinds of guys who prided themselves on doing amazing feats captured on film.  Jackie Chan always did his own stunts and he was very proud of that fact.  There was no trickery, no special effects, just him making everything look as real as he could.  The glory days of stuntmen are over, however.  CGI has taken over the movie industry with sweeping shots of grandeur that could never be achieved in real life.  Many traditionalists believe that CGI has lead to a decline in the quality of action films because there's little acting or plot anymore, simply one giant special effect after another.  Big budget studios are pumping out the CGI flicks as fast as they can, however, because there's a lot of money to be made, if not quality cinema.

The same is true for wine and brown spirits today.  There are more special effects today in alcohol prodution than in the Star Wars prequel trilogy.  I went to Cognac and watched two year old swill get sweetened up with oak chips, sugar, and caramel until it tasted rich and soft like an older, more mature spirit would.  Wine of a mediocre quality is getting blasted with new oak until it tastes rich and smooth like people expect expensive wine to taste like.  Like a scene from a Roland Emmerich movie, it may seem amazing, but it's all fake. 

Now, of course, there's nothing illegal about pumping your alcohol or action movie full of special effects.  However, the public always has more respect for the people that can actually do the backflip, leap the chasm, or fly the helicoptor to safety.  The same goes for alcohol production.  If you can make your wine or brandy taste great without the use of special effects, then you deserve some credit.  It's easy to whip up some CGI magic, but doing a stunt for real takes talent.  It doesn't always work out perfectly and the results are always dependent upon the capabilities of human hands.

Now, of course, there's something easy and comforting about watching CGI action crap.  But I recognize it for what it is.  It's a lesser form of entertainment.  It's a guilty pleasure, like Cheetos or something.  But when I see real life action, with real humans doing real things, I'm always more impressed.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll