The End of the Mad Men Era

Tonight is a very big night for whiskey drinkers (whether you know it or not). It's the end of an era—the final accent on the most influential television program of the last decade, and possibly the death knell of the spirits revival it helped to create. American whiskey began its big boom in 2007—the exact moment that AMC aired the first few episodes of Mad Men. Viewers instantly gravitated to its hard-drinking, fast-living, booze-pounding cast of characters; none more mysterious and romantic than Don Draper himself. By 2008, thanks to the public's new-found fascination with classic American cool, rye whiskey would become the drink de jour and we at the K&L spirits department would begin buckling up for the brown booze ride of a lifetime. As a whiskey drinker, you may have never even seen an episode of Mad Men in your life, yet you've undoubtedly been affected by it. Mad Men has had more of an impact on upscale American drinking over the last ten years than any advertisement or critical endorsement could ever dream of.

And it's not just the style and the romance. Personally, my intimate relationship with Don Draper goes far beyond our mutual affinity for strong drink. I see aspects of his personality creep into my own—both in my desire to reinvent myself as a different person from my past, and in the way I've dealt with the consequences from chosing work over the more meaningful relationships outside of it. I see familiarites to K&L within the offices of Sterling-Cooper, and I see connections to the spirits industry from the business being done within them. For me, watching Mad Men is like going to church—it's an allegory for me; a way to analyze the track my own life is taking and come to terms with my decisions by looking at the actions of others. I do this, of course, while having a cocktail and putting my feet up at the end of another long, hard week. Sunday nights, instead of Sunday mornings.

All this fanaticism and sadness in the media right now about the end of a television program may seem silly to you, but it isn't for many of us Mad Men devotees (especially those of us in the booze business). This little program has had a huge impact on our lives and our livelihood, and now it's all coming to an uncertain end. The bigger question for tonight's finale, rather than how Don's story will end, is: what does the end of Mad Men mean for the American spirits revival, and will the public continue its fascination with hard booze in the post-Draper era?

I'm dying to find out the answer to both. Even if it means tragedy on both accounts.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll