Thursday, July 15, 2010
In the classic 1971 film, Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood's character, Harry Callahan, utters one of the most famous lines in the history of cinema:
". . . you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?"
"Well, do ya punk?"
My answer would be: "Yeah! I do because I received a great email the other day."
Here it is:
Just wanted to drop you a quick line thanking you for being a beacon of refreshment in the otherwise pretentious laden arena of scotch reviewing.
Within the past month or so, I have delved into the wonderful world of scotch - primarily driven by the direction of my professional life (got tired of being the odd man out when it came time for a dram as my earliest memories of scotch was back in high school when me and a buddy sneaked some of his father's one night - needless to say it was a mess and I never had tried to recover from it).
As I started looking into the various distilleries, types, ages, etc - my eyes glazed, then went bloodshot trying to figure everything out. So I figured the best approach would be to read reviews... I figured that if I could find a "generally accepted" scotch that, that is where I should start.
Well, after reading, oh I don't know, about 150 reviews - all which used terms like "hints of silicone, leather, and blackmary (is that even anything?)" My eyes started to glaze over again.
I finally got a foothold after going to a local liquor store and speaking with an employee. He started me on a sample box of small JW black, gold, and blue. It took a while to get through them, but as I did - I found your blog and have used it as a rough guide and it has truly served me well. The reviews just plain makes sense and I seem to have a similar tastes. I now have a very rudimentary understanding of locations and distilleries and also feel that I am starting to appreciate all the varying subtleties that lay within the drink.
Now that I am about 6 different bottles in I am really starting to enjoy the process and more importantly the taste of scotch.
. . .
When I receive an email like that, I do feel lucky. Hell, it "makes my day" (to borrow another well worn Eastwood line from another one of his films: Sudden Impact). It validates the experience I went through when I first started to develop an interest in whisky. It is also exciting to meet someone who is starting to develop a keen interest in whisky!
I will receive an email of this nature every couple of months, which means that readers have a need for scotch whisky (and other whiskies of the world) to be de-mystified. We are not talking rocket science here. It's all about likes and dislikes . . . your likes and dislikes. My aim is to get you to trust your own judgment!
Read scotch reviews on the web and out of books, but if a reviewer consistently praises whiskies that you dislike, then stop reading his or her reviews. Their tastes are not congruent with your own. Find a reviewer's whose tastes match your's. In my case, I find that I agree mostly with the reviews of the late whisky expert, Michael Jackson (not the late entertainer who needed a check-up from the neck up). Conversely, I do not agree with many of the scotch reviews of Jim Murray, the world's current, best selling whisky authority. Hence, I don't bother to read his reviews. Mr. Murray is an enormous fan of the Ardbeg distillery. Clearly, he enjoys the peat bombs. While I like peat in scotch, it is not the most important aspect of the flavor profile.
Anyway, you get my drift. If my reviews and recommendations miss the mark for you, tell me so, and stop reading them. Find a reviewer who can provide a road map of sorts during the scotch whisky journey that you are a part of. Don't let some snobby SOB (how's that for alliteration!) in your workplace or at the golf club make your purchasing decisions for you. Have faith in your own judgment.
My only caveat would be that over time, it is very possible that your tastes will evolve. Be open to other points of view, but not dogmatically accepting them.
Until next time . . .
Photo Credit: Screenshot from the DVD version of the 1971 film Dirty Harry, extracted from Harry's infamous "do ya feel lucky" monologue
Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2010. All rights reserved.