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Pulitzer prize winning journalist and editor Herbert Bayard Swope gave a speech in 1950 in which he said so easily, “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure—which is: Try to please everybody.”

Oh, how such words ring true.

A life spent in pursuit of accomplishing a simultaneous happiness among everyone else is a venture doomed to failure, one that will never even comes close to docking in its hopeful, and yet mystical, harbor. People are people. And while it may be easy enough to find one’s way into an individual’s graces, when you add another individual to the equation—and then add another and another and another—the odds of finding concord begins to slip away, even in the tightest circles of friends.

An example of this is found in the illustration of like-minded theologians fellowshipping while considering a settled doctrine. As the collegial back-slapping ensues, the brothers are observed giving affirming nods and lifting glasses to the pleasing commentary rounding the table of familiar faces—until one of the fellows digs to a deeper stratum of the doctrine, to a more abstract area where the contours of the dogma are less settled. It is here that friends become foes. It is here that the most orthodox of truth-tellers becomes a heretic.

But there’s another piece to this puzzle.

In that same group of theologians, as in any other assemblage of humans, a pleasing peace between all stands a very good chance of being disrupted by default, and not just because people hold varying opinions, but because there’s a very good chance that one of the participants actually prefers the contention of unhappiness.

Having observed this strange phenomenon in plenty of folks, I would even go so far as to suggest that our culture is regularly breeding a good number of people who are happiest when they’re unhappy. And this is a terribly tragic thing. I have my theories, one of which is that in many cases it is purely an egotistical thing. I’m not a psychologist so I don’t rightly know how to diagnose it, but I guess what I’m thinking is that deep within certain people, a feeling of personal uselessness has latched on to a darker “return on investment” type sense. In other words, when the person is swimming in unhappiness, that’s when people pay the most attention. He believes he is of the greatest value to his immediate community when he can continually discover the problem theology in that same community and be the one a few call upon to fix it.

Now, I could be wrong about this. I’m pretty sure I’ve been wrong about a great many things in my life. Still, it sure seems possible. And if so, what to do? How about during one of those little theological jamborees, you whip up the courage to watch for an open window into the person’s most intimate self, and then when you find it, right there in front of everyone in the room, climb in, and ransack the place?

No? Yeah, that’s probably why I’m not a psychologist.

Although, I suppose there could a better, more clandestine, solution—one that would allow for everyone else in the room to actually behold the person’s tendency toward finding trouble where no trouble exists. Go ahead and drop the extra cash to order up a round of the Tullibardine 25-year-old. The whole room—from the ones who like the peaty drams to those who prefer a much sweeter Highland exchange—all will absolutely adore this whisky. And when the one brother doesn’t, but instead begins to highlight all he believes is wrong with it, those around him will almost certainly recognize his truest nature and turn to him in rebuke.

The nose of the Tullibardine 25 communicates the barrel, lending a first-fruit of scorched sherry wood pasted with the juice from a meatier citron. I find this to be an exceptional combination because I think that without the citrus, the whisky’s char has the potential for offering too firm a handshake.

The palate, while gentle enough, is at the same time unmoving. It means what it says, not offering suggestions, but rather telling you to look for brown sugar, butter, and vanilla just beginning to simmer—all the right ingredients for making a fresh batch of butterscotch.

The finish will please the whisky consumers looking for something with a little bit of ash—and maybe even something sharper and a little more Bourbon-like.

To conclude, I suppose there is the possibility that Mr. Swope’s maxim falls a tad short when the Tullibardine 25-year-old is introduced into the fray. With this stuff in hand, it very well could be possible to please everyone—even as those who can’t be pleased hide that pleasure. And when that happens, the pleasing opportunity for a communal diagnosis of the illness will have been accomplished. So in that sense, we’ll have moved toward happiness rather than away. 

All of this having now been said, maybe a better saying would have been: “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure—which is: Withhold the Tullibardine 25 while trying to please everybody.”