Reader Reactions: First to the Party

I get a lot of emails from readers, so every now and again I like to post one here (with their permission). Mark wrote me this message in response to last night's piece about buying in early:

I just read your "First to the Party" post, and I couldn't resist chiming in again, with the perspective of a fairly new whiskey drinker.

I only started REALLY getting in to it earlier this year (I'll spare you that story though). As I did, I started reading more and more blog/review sites, and came across all the stellar reviews for BTAC/Van Winkle etc, which, as you could probably imagine, made me start looking around for it, and realizing fairly quickly that finding some of it would be somewhat akin to finding a real, live unicorn, and being disappointed I was late to the party. There is a part of me that would very much like to just not care about all those hyped products, and it has me testing the Armagnac waters a little bit (who knows how long before that takes off though). I went and got a bottle of 25 yo Delord for $70, and while the intrinsic quality of it is quite good, perhaps just short of the BTAC if tasted blind side by side...the excitement factor just isn't there. The buildup to getting, and the excitement when I got my Stagg, ER 17, and Pappy 15 (I had quite a streak of luck) was light years beyond getting anything more easily obtainable. I had the same feeling when I got the BTAC/Pappy that I did when I was a kid on Christmas morning, which is something that hasn't happened in a long time.

I think my point is the excitement level when the hunt pays off by itself almost makes it worthwhile. I'm not sure it will be the same again though, now that I've had a chance to try that stuff. On balance, though, my preference would very much be to have the currently hard to find whiskies more regularly available. There are whiskies more readily available whose intrinsic quality is right there with some of the BTAC/Pappy - but, to go back to your car analogy in the article, it's like if Hyundai made something just as fast and handled just as well as a Porsche - it's still not a fucking Porsche.

Also, I'm much more a victim of marketing than I previously thought.

Mark pretty much nails the modern whiskey crisis on the head here: the hunt is so important to the reward. There are so many of us who feel that same giddiness--that "Christmas morning" feeling we get when we finally track down a special bottle. The same sense of awe often applies to elite brands, which is exactly why they've spent millions of dollars for decades: to create that image of elite status. Only a Tiffany diamond will show her how much you love her. Only Dom Perignon will be enough to celebrate the diamond. And they're right!! Because of the engrained emotional response in all of us there are simply some products that will always hold a special place in our hearts--regardless of if we're able to see through their marketing. As Mark also states, the glowlingly-positive reviews from magazines, spirits bloggers, and professional reviewers only heighten those desires. I'm totally susceptible to it, as are many other whisky drinkers out there. But I love it when people can just admit it, rather than try and disguise it (and not very well, at that) as contempt or disinterest.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll