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Introduction

Are you a Single Malt Whisky Fanatic? Serge from WHISKYFUN.COM posted a link on Twitter to this smwhisky.com web page, detailing the five stages of single malt whisky fanaticism: Curiosity, Enthusiasm, Fanaticism, Obsession, and Terminal.

Please follow the link to the original description (which is pulled from a Yahoo newsgroup from 2002), then select your stage in the poll. I’d be interested in hearing more details in the comments, too (have you figured out how to stop the madness?). I’ll provide details on why I’m a mid-level Stage 3 Malt Fanatic after the poll:

Confessions of a Stage 3 malt fanatic

I felt like such a sheep after reading about these stages and seeing how closely I fall in line with the provided descriptions. Where’s my originality?

Stage 1:

Curiosity: The novice may have tried a couple of expressions of malt, and finds that he or she really enjoys the experience, or is perhaps curious about malt from what he or she has read or overheard from other enthusiasts.

Analysis: I became curious about scotch whisky shortly before a business trip to the UK about a year ago. A day trip to Edinburgh, and a visit to The Scotch Malt Whisky Experience, propelled me right into Stage 2…

Stage 2:

Enthusiasm: The malt enthusiast gets into the game.  Unquenchable thirst for knowledge (and malt) drives him to begin buying books about malt whisky, surfing the web (and how did you find this site?), maps and other Scotland paraphenalia, and of course, bottles of Scotch. Typically in this stage, a form of denial may emerge where the enthusiast will refuse to spend over a set amount (maybe $50 or $100) for any bottle of malt. Bad move. Law of supply and demand. Good whisky costs money. Crap whisky can cost big bucks too (ask around before you buy if you are unsure), but good cheap whisky only comes along rarely (like $50 bottles of 100 proof Springbank).

Analysis: Let’s see:

  • Buying books – Michael Jackson’s Whisky Definitive Guide; Malt Whisky Yearbook 2009; Offringa’s Whisky & Jazz. Check!
  • Surfing web – Check out my Resources page. Check!
  • Scotland paraphenalia – Not yet, but searched a little bit to see if I could buy a block of peat like they give you to smell during the Whisky Experience tour.
  • Bottles of Scotch – Uh…yeah. Check!
  • Price limit denial – Initially $100. For my 40th birthday, I bought myself a bottle of Laphroaig 30. Check!

Stage 2 sidebar (connoisseur vs collector):

Somewhere in stage 2, two distinct personality types emerge: The connoisseur and the collector. The connoisseur firmly believes that all malt, no matter how rare or expensive, is meant to be consumed, preferably by sharing among friends. The collector hoards malt, puts it on a shelf to worship and collect dust and invites other collectors over to drool over his collection. He probably offers them a taste of crap whisky to quench their thirst, as he won’t destroy the collector’s value of his malts by opening them. The collector may then put bottles up for auction when he can be assured of tripling or quadrupling his original outlay. Connoissuers hoard malt as well, but only to trade among fellow connoisseurs or for drinking sometime in the future. Connoisseurs detest collectors.

Analysis:

The last sentence makes it sound like the two are mutually exclusive, but I have it in me to be a bit of both. I’m headed down the connoisseur path now, trying everything I can get my hands on. However, if I had the means, I probably would have bought a second bottle of Laphroaig 30 year and stashed it away. I’d love to be able to buy one to drink and one to collect for rare malts.

Stage 3:

Stage 3 – Fanaticism: The malt fanatic’s collection is now burgeoning. He may drop $1000 or more in a single liquor store visit. Cases of whisky begin filling his closets; he may invest in industrial grade shelving to store his malts. The fanatic may also register his own whisky related website. By this stage, he has already visited Scotland at least once, or is planning it. If he has visited Scotland, his luggage upon return is loaded with bottles of booty. He travels cross country to attend malt extravaganzas (like Ardbeggeddon). Unhappy about the number of malts available in his hometown, he orders them online from stores in distant lands. He possibly has a separate credit card account that his wife doesn’t know about and has malt shipped to an unmarried friend’s home, or at least stores some bottles there.

Analysis: Now we get into the scary stuff. I can say NO to the first couple…no $1000 trips to the store, and while our kitchen is filling up with 30-some bottles and lots of miniatures, I’m not buying by the case yet.

However…

  • Not only did I create a WordPress blog, I registered the ScotchHobbyist.com domain.
  • While my first trip to Scotland doesn’t count, as it wasn’t driven by malt fanaticism, I AM trying to set up a 2011 Feis Ile trip.
  • I’ve purchased from The Whisky Exchange and LFW in the UK. [totally worth it just for the 200ml Port Ellens!]
  • No separate credit card. However, it’s possible I used cash on a couple of bottles and accidentally failed to mention it to my wife.

Stage 4:

Stage 4 – Obsession: The obsessive probably has more whisky stored than he can drink in the remainder of his lifetime. He probably also owns casks (or shares of casks) that are maturing in warehouses. He knows distillery managers on a first name basis. Bank accounts are drained, maybe carrying a balance on credit cards or a second (or third) mortgage to finance his malt aquisitions. If previously married, probably divorced by now, or else has the perfect wife.   Count me as jealous!

Analysis: Danger! I’ve probably got 3-4 years worth of whisky, and I’d love to own a share of a cask (must resist). I’ve also spent roughly 2.5 times the scotch budget I set out at the beginning of the year, and there are still 5 months left in the year! Hmm…getting dangerously close on a couple of these.

I guess it’s time to really start watching myself. My wife has actually been very supportive, though, and has even humored me as I’ve talked about going to Feis Ile. Yes…you’re allowed to be jealous.

Stage 5:

There may also be a terminal stage 5; the terminal obsessive may wish to purchase his own distillery, thereby assuring himself of a perpetual supply of malt whisky. I have not personally witnessed this phenomenon, but I suspect at least a couple of my personal friends may be prone to this stage.

Analysis: I do kind of envy the Wild Scotsman.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it. I’ve confessed my malt fanaticism sins. How about you? Were you sucked in as easily as I was, or do you have more self control? Do you want to stop, or are you shooting for Stage 5?

Cheers,
Jeff

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