Drinking to Drink

We get this question in the store all the time: I'm looking for some "everyday" wine. Just a few "everyday" bottles. I need some "weeknight" red wine.

Do you know what that means?

It means the customer is looking for wine to drink on a Wednesday night when they don't want to break out the good stuff. It means an inxpensive bottle of sauvignon blanc to open while watching the latest Modern Family episode. It's the difference between a $10 bottle and a $50 bottle. Who wants to drink pricey Bordeaux on a weeknight, anyway?

If you're a beer drinker it might mean popping a can of PBR in the parking lot at Oakland Alameda stadium while you tailgate the A's game. It might mean a light, refreshing lager to enjoy on that warm Tuesday evening instead of the Bourbon-aged porter you've been saving since last weekend.

What either of these situations does not insinuate, however, is the idea that most wine and beer drinkers don't understand the difference between fun booze and quality booze. They know the time and place for a bottle of high-end Bordeaux. They can comprehend the need for an easy bottle of crisp white wine in the meantime.

Do whiskey drinkers understand that, however? Do whiskey fanatics get that there's a time and a place for Old Overholt and a time and a place for Sazerac 18? I'm not so sure.

The new push towards quality single malt and Bourbon seems to have forgotten an important facet of whiskey enjoyment: no one ever said the inexpensive stuff wasn't good.

Nevertheless, prices for bottles like Old Pulteney 21, Pappy Van Winkle, and Macallan 18 continue to skyrocket, while prices for Glenlivet 12, Buffalo Trace, and Glenfiddich remain inexpensive and consistent. Why is that the case? I thought whisk(e)y was the hot commodity. Could it be that the demand for hard-to-find, collectable bottles has hit an all-time high, while the entry level booze never really took off? It makes sense, right? All the collectors and hoarders went right for the "good stuff," leaving the basic necessities untouched. We'll never see a bottle of Weller Larue on the shelf ever again, yet Weller 107 still stands pat at $20 a bottle. What the heck is going on?

I'll tell you.

Whisk(e)y customers have forgotten about Buffalo Trace. About Four Roses Yellow. About Old Grand-Dad. About Glenmorangie Original. About the Bank Note in liter bottles. About simple pleasures and everyday hooch. Why? Because they're not collectable. Because they're not rare. Because they're not being talked about on message boards. But the tide is turning, trust me.

Pappy? You might as well bust out your old MC Hammer pants. Ardbeg Supernova? Why don't you pass the C&C Music Factory CD over to my boombox. You're dating yourself. There's a new movement on the way.

This is what happens when a genre gets played out and exploited by the masses: backlash. What happened to drinking whiskey just to drink it? What happened to popping a bottle of Old Fitzgerald while catching the latest Warriors game? What happened to session whiskies like Jameson, Paddy, or Old Crow?

Are we creating a society of drinkers who only purchase collectable, rare, top-shelf spirits? Wine drinkers aren't that narrow. Neither are beer drinkers. So what's happening to the liquor aficionado? Why are wine and beer drinkers fine with diversifying their collection to include the everyday, while spirits drinkers choose only the "best" or the "finest?" Why do my wine customers specifically ask for inexpensive wines, while my spirits customers ask specifically to avoid the inexpensive whiskies?

Are they losing touch?

I'm sipping on a big, fat glass of Old Overholt right now. Why? Because it's Wednesday. That's what we do mid-week. I'll save the Mortlach 22 until Saturday. That way I'll really appreciate it.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll