Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Be a Better Whiskey Ambassador
Do you remember the first time you really got into whiskey? How did you go about learning more? Did you reach out to friends? Liquor stores? A social media group?
When someone who is obviously new to whiskey (usually they'll volunteer that information) tells the world about their favorite pour, you can take it to the bank there will be folks who chime in. Much of it is congratulatory because most people are decent.
The remainders are the haters. Haters come along and just ruin the day for everyone. Haters aren't like trolls, who try to simply stir the pot for their own amusement. Haters are under the impression their opinions are fact and who will make you feel horrible for even asking a question or making a statement.
As an example, someone posts to a group and says, I just picked up Bib & Tucker for $39.99! I'm so excited! There are a variety of supportive comments: Congratulations! Nice find! I love that! and others.
The haters chime in with their responses: That's the worst whiskey I've ever tried! You wasted your money on that! Why would you buy that garbage? and similar, less-than-positive statements.
If someone posts, Hey, I found Bib & Tucker on the shelf for $39.99, should I buy it? Then, at least one of the haters might be giving a correct response. My own might include, Set the bottle down, turn around very slowly, then run away.
What's the difference? Aren't the haters just giving their opinion? Sure they are, but the problem is the poster in the first scenario wasn't asking for opinions on Bib & Tucker, they were excited about what they considered a find and wanted to share their joy. However, the haters had this compelling need to rain on the original poster's parade. In the second scenario, the poster was specifically asking for opinions. Even so, the haters could have at least provided responses that don't shame the poster. But, haters gotta hate.
In May 2017, I wrote a piece for Bourbon & Banter entitled The Life and Times of a Whiskey Reviewer, and I explained the most cringe-worthy question posed to me is, I have a favorite whiskey. What do you think about _____? The reason for that is the haters who will attack once they learn I don't like whatever that favorite whiskey happens to be.
Another example can be someone in the business who makes an innocent, minor error. I'll use myself as an example. I wrote a review on a locally-distilled whiskey earlier this year. I made a very minor error defining a sub-category of whiskey. Two people, both in the business and neither with the distillery involved, pointed out the mistake. One approached me in a comment and told me about my error. I thanked him and fixed it. The second took the opportunity to tear into me and then berated me for having the audacity to write and talk to people about whiskey since I was so stupid.
As you can see, these are two very different approaches to pointing out my error. I know both of these people. I respect Respondent One and value his advice and knowledge to this day. Respondent Two is also very knowledgable, but I feel like I need a shower whenever we interact.
Interestingly enough, as I'm writing this, one Facebook user asked in a group, What is MGP? and another chimed in with an easy-to-understand complete answer. I was ready for a bloodbath that, thankfully, never came.
At some point, you were new to whiskey. You asked questions. If the liquor store owner gave you an answer that made you sound stupid, would you keep going back? If you asked in an online forum and were treated like a moron by morons, were you quick to ask another question?
We have choices in life. We can choose to be nice. We can choose to be helpful. We can choose to act like a schmuck online in an effort to prove how knowledgable we are, while if they said that same thing in public, they'd likely be trounced. Whiskey is meant to be enjoyed with friends and I believe it brings people together in a positive way. I've been blessed with a plethora of great people and opportunities in my life because of whiskey.
Go forth upon the world and spread the whiskey love. Don't be a hater. Be a better whiskey ambassador.