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My friend over at The Whiskey Reviewer, R.E. Thomas, wrote a hilarious piece rather recently about how to go about annoying those he referred to as Scotch snobs. He defines the snob as “a self-appointed guardian of Scotch whisky purity, someone happy to insult you if you dare spell it ‘whiskey’ and who disdains bourbon, Irish whiskey and even Japanese whisky as a liquid akin to dirty bathwater.”
But he’s right on point. There are plenty of snobs out there. I’ve written in several of my reviews that I used to be one – not necessarily in that I would force my opinions or knowledge on others (in fact, I am more likely to be silent when in-the-flesh whisky discussions are taking place because I prefer to learn and not teach), but that I simply had a hard time finding the same enjoyment in other whiskies that I did in Scotch and was therefore holding it in much higher esteem.
But over the years, as I’ve continued to investigate the distilleries of the world, the horizons have opened and so has my mind. Scotch is good, and so are a lot of other whiskies. This belief has seen me pushed to the fringes in certain Scotch forums and its why I rarely frequent them.
Still, as a former Scotch snob now well into the Bourbon uplands, I’ve learned that there is such a thing as a “Bourbon snob,” too. And with that, here’s a quick list of ways to annoy one. Brother Thomas gave five points. I’ll see his five and raise him five more.
1) Remind the Bourbon snob that American whiskey is merely a regional continuation of something that began centuries before the United States even existed. It’s a relative infant compared to so many other mature, accomplished whiskies. Gently console the poor sod and explain that when it comes to quality, leniency is given for the Bourbon noise because from the adult perspective, that’s what’s expected from the children’s table.
2) Point out that most liquor-licensed Walmarts will have a twenty to one ratio of Bourbons to Scotch.
3) True or untrue, coax the snob from his keep by saying that Bourbon production is pretty much a free-for-all. Scotch cannot bear its title until it has been aged according to the standard of at least three years, but some Bourbons are aged for years while others are dumped into bottles after only three months. Just enough time for the dead cat used in the recipe to decompose, I guess.
4) On his birthday, let the snob know that you have $15 in your pocket and you were intent upon buying him his three favorite bottles of Bourbon. If he says that won’t be enough, respond, “Well, no. Not with prices of birthday cards these days.”
5) While sitting at the bar beside a Bourbon snob, ask him which of the Bourbons on the bar shelf is the best. When he makes his recommendation, order one, but also order up the house’s cheapest Scotch. When both drinks are set before you, dump the Scotch into the Bourbon and say, “Oh, this is just to help make it tolerable.”
6) Be sure to point out that the word “Bourbon” is French. You are a Bourbon if you were born from the royal family that supplied the French monarchs. No true liberty-loving drinker of American whiskey wants that association.
7) Carry the French poke a little further during the conversation that follows. Share that Michael Veach, the well-respected Kentucky historian, said that Bourbon doesn’t really get its name from Bourbon County, Kentucky. He noted that as a myth and continued that “the story that the name ‘bourbon’ comes from Bourbon County doesn’t even start appearing in print until the 1870s.” He added that the usage of the word “bourbon” in association with whiskey began much earlier in Louisville and along the Ohio River into New Orleans where two French business men from Cognac, France, had figured out that they could sell Kentucky whisky to other Louisiana Frenchmen because it was nearly identical to the Cognac of the day. So really, Bourbon is really just a rip off of Cognac.
8) When the snob offers you a Bourbon, ask him to serve it in a Cognac sifter.
9) At a Bourbon tasting, walk around saying how this one tastes like a Rémy Martin and this one reminds you of Hennessy and this one beckons memories of Courvoisier…
10) Get a few drams of the snob’s favorite Bourbon into him and then initiate a discussion on terrorism. Once he reaches the pinnacle of a pro-America rage, observe that it seems awfully “Manchurian Candidate” that Bourbon rhymes with turban.
You know, not much thought went into these. It took about ten minutes to write. Maybe I am still a snob. On second thought, nah. I’m a huge fan of Bulleit, and Michter’s is growing on me like mold. I think I’m okay. And besides, a Scotch snob would never write this article: Ice in Your Whisky is not a Sin.