Things I've Heard Or Been Told This Week

My buddy Adam Herz from the LA Whiskey Society emailed me this week about my Whisky Algorithm. Not only had he created the same chart long before me, he had made one that was far better and more explanatory (and wonderfully sarcastic!). You can check that out on his webpage, but I've posted it above for fun. He wrote: "We had to create an easy answer for all the people asking us on Facebook, 'Is this any good?'" Well done. That answers the question pretty clearly.

Yesterday I was listening to my colleague Joel (whose desk is next to mine) talk to a customer who was asking about Pappy availability (which still happens every day). "We used to have it on the shelf all the time a few years ago," he said. "Sometimes I'd buy it." That cracked me up. The guy on the other end of the phone was obviously shocked to find out that Pappy wasn't all that big of a deal when you could get it at will. "Why didn't you buy it all?!" I heard the guy scream through the speaker.

The idea of something being cheaper or readily available in the past is an interesting subject. "Why didn't I buy in (or buy more) when I had the chance?" people tend to lament. Why? Because no one can predict the future, that's why, and nothing is ever as special in the moment as it is in our memory. We never think things are going to go as far as they do, and we're always shocked and dismayed when we're wrong. In 2008, $600 was a lot of money for a bottle of Port Ellen. I watched more than a few customers struggle with that number. They were really uneasy dropping that amount of coin on a bottle of whisky. Today, however, that's a drop in the bucket compared to the current $3000 price tag. Pappy and Port Ellen aren't the only examples though. It's just the progression of time. That's how life works.

My parents told me this week that they bought their first house in Modesto for $25,000 because the other one they were looking at for $33,000 was just too expensive. Of course, knowing what they know now, they would have spent the extra eight grand.

Working in a wine store I tend to hear a lot of Americans complain about the Bordeaux market being influenced by big money in the East. Asian customers travelling from overseas are willing to spend thousands for first growth Bordeaux wines, putting them out of reach for many local clients who aren't willing to spend nearly as much. "This is just getting ridiculous," I heard one person say yesterday when they were looking at the prices of our big ticket bottles. "What's funny," my colleague Jeff later told me, "is that the British felt the same way about the Americans in the 80s." Apparently, the American thirst for Bordeaux at that time drove prices up past what British claret drinkers were willing to spend. This, of course, led to a number of British collectors unloading their cellars and doubling, if not tripling, their money to finicky American buyers.

Basically, Americans have no room to talk when it comes to complaining about foreign interests driving the booze market. In any popular movement there was always someone there before you, and you probably ruined it for them. Someone out there saw the Sex Pistols in a room with three other people at one point. It probably got way too commercial when the venues starting holding, you know, maybe twenty five people. My co-worker Gary told me yesterday, "I remember when we would go see Operation Ivy and Green Day on the same bill for five bucks. If you had a few extra bucks you could get a 40 oz., too. It was fun, but it didn't seem all that special at the time." Today, people would pay thousands of dollars to see an Op Ivy reunion. Speaking of punk rock, you could quote Minor Threat's "Salad Days" here: "Look at us today, we've gotten soft and fat, waiting for the moment, it's never coming back."

In my experience, the people who are constantly longing for the past aren't the ones who lived it, but rather the ones who never got the chance. I wish I could have been at CBGB in the late 70s, or on the Manhattan streets in the early 80s looking at Keith Haring subway paintings. To be there would have been amazing, in my mind. But when I once met a guy who had hung out in New York at that time, all he said to me was, "It was fine." Isn't that always the case? The people who actually got to experience these things are never as reverent about it.

I feel like the people who were late to the party are always the ones with the chip on their shoulder about it. I had a guy tell me yesterday in the store: "You know, I was drinking wheated Bourbon before it was popular." I told him, "You, and everyone else." He kinda tensed up and said, "No, I was actually doing it. You don't believe me?" It's not that I didn't believe him, I just didn't really care.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll