Avoid Whisky Snobbery

There are too many things in life about which people get snobby. Unfortunately, I like a lot of those things, too.

I’m going to also admit that I’m something of an ex-snob. I’ve been there, but I have come back from the dark side.

Whether it’s wine, coffee, French food, whisky, even barbecue, the world could use less snobbery. And what I mean by snobbery is the attitude of superiority that some people have about whatever snob-item is involved. The most obvious example I saw of this was my first trip to Napa Valley. I went to Sterling Vineyards, and got to the tasting room through a room of barrels that smelled of aging wine. Once in the tasting room, the servers brought over wine and talked about it in all the right high falutin’ words and an air of “I know better than you”. I also found out that the great smell of barrels was a scent that was piped in, for show only. The whole experience was kind of plastic and not very much fun.

Scotch Shelf

In contrast, we were soon at Grgich Hills winery, in a tasting room of lots of plain wood. It was inviting, but somewhat utilitarian. There’s nothing wrong with a nice tasting room, but it’s kind of nice to have one that’s just a room with a big counter. The server poured some wine, offering no flowery verbiage about how fancy it was going dance on my taste buds. We tried it, and he asked if we liked it. That was it. Nothing fancy, just good wine. Very good wine, in fact. His intent was to find out if we liked the wine, not if we had studied the right tasting terms to pass a snob test.

I’ve been in the barbecue world for about 7 years now, and there’s even a form of snobbery there. Most real barbecuers get past it, but not all. Instead of the “I’m higher class than you” snobs, barbecue snobs know that the way they do barbecue is the only “real” way. If you don’t use logs only to cook, you’re obviously inferior. If you like sauce on your ribs, you’re just a commoner. You get the idea, I’m guessing. The one that really gets me is the newbie that has a “secret ingredient” that he won’t share. For one thing, someone else may well have done it already, and for another, why not share it if it’s so great? If a cook isn’t going to market a rub or sauce, why not let other people know so they can enjoy it, too? Isn’t this all about enjoying it, and doing so with others?

Supernova on Robbie Burns Night

Scotch snobbery can be really sickening, I think. Maybe the best area to pick on here has to do with water. If you add water to your whisky, someone is bound to loudly complain that you’ve ruined it. It’s one thing to suggest that ice not be added, or suggest trying without water at all, but if someone else likes water in their whisky, don’t belittle them for it.

The whole single malt vs. blended whisky is another area. Sure, I prefer single malts generally, but blended whiskies can be very drinkable, too. At a party, why not have a glass of Black Bottle while you’re walking around? Not every glass needs to hold the best dram you could possible get your hands on. It’s ok to enjoy pleasant whisky. I personally find it ridiculous when I see someone showing off at a pub by ordering something like Macallan 18… on the rocks… But they’re buying it; they can have it however they want it.

So as Livefire Whisky continues, I will do my best to avoid snobbery. I’ll tell you what I enjoy and how I might enjoy it. I might suggest more or less water (I tend to like a drop or two to open up a single malt). But if you think I’m being a snob, please call me out on it. And, by the way, price doesn’t equal snobbery… it just means more money was spent on booze.

Highland Park 12yo and Graeter's Ice Cream

To stay unsnobby, I’m going to try to use plain language in reviews, talk about all kinds of foods that may go with whiskies (from chocolate chip cookies to pulled pork sandwiches to foie gras) and just enjoy whisky for what it is, not for how much better it makes me than someone else because I like the stuff.

About Curt McAdams

I guess I'm a bit of a foodie, learning to cook from my mom, then getting obsessed with outdoor cooking, competition barbecue, bread baking and just about all things food. Lately, I've been trying to upgrade my photography skills a bit, though I still have a long way to go.

6 comments

  1. Hear, hear! I often find myself making jokes about the same things you refer to, especially regarding on the rocks, but in reality I try to stick with the same philosophy of you-paid-for-it-drink-it-your-way.

    I had a wonderful non-snobbish wine tasting experience at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. They held a short wine and chocolate pairing presentation (they called it a seminar, but that sounds a bit high-falutin’ for me). Part of it was tasting the wines and giving our impression of it. The gentleman went around the room asking opinions, and there were several people of the stuffy, pinky in the air type. Brought to mind a few episodes of Frasier. They tittered when others were “wrong” about the wine. (I’ll shorten this by leaving out how it went when it got to my turn). Long story short, at the end the guy said we were ALL right, because as you mentioned in another post, everyone gets their own impression.

    I’ve enjoyed the blog so far, and look forward to more. I’m also trying to catch up on the barbecue blog, although it’s tough because I keep getting hungry.

    • Garry,

      We do a wine party every year, and it’s very unpretentious. We don’t do the fancy language descriptions, and we don’t write down anything anyone doesn’t want to. We just try out new wines to see what we like. You might hear people talk about this or that flavor that they get, but none of the “I get flavors of honey from bees in the southwest that have fed off of lavender trumpet vines that were slightly dehydrated”.

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed LW so far… I’m going to be adding some comments and reflections from some of the others that have joined me in the barbecue group, too. On Livefire, try the chocolate chip cookies! :)
      Curt recently posted..The Cincinnati DogMy Profile

    • I could deal with that kind of wine party. And EVERYONE knows that the best honey flavor in wine is comparable to when the bees fed off of blue trumpet vines. Pish posh!

      I’m looking forward to trying bacon chocolate chip cookies. A friend is making some to send to be waiting for me when I get home next month. Not the same recipe, she just took her favorite chocolate chip recipe and added bacon. Had to try it before sending them to me, to perfect them. Or that was her story, and she’s sticking to it.

      If I stay some place where I get to cook, I may try one or two of your recipes.

    • Garry, for a great chocolate chip cookies recipe, try this one:
      http://livefireonline.com/2007/10/18/jaays-best-ever-chocolate-chip-cookies/
      Curt recently posted..The Cincinnati DogMy Profile

  2. Bravo, Curt! I agree with the no snobbery thing. It’s one of the things that brought me to your blog. I like the way you understand and allow peoples differing opinions. No one likes a “snobby” person trying to intimidate them. What is the “best” wine, scotch, or bbq to one person may be the worst to someone else. Neither one of them are wrong, just different tastes. I enjoy reading other peoples reviews of all kinds of things and then trying it and deciding what I think.

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