During a recent BYOB (bring your own bottle) event at a friend’s place, one of his friends got to chatting with me about the length of our whisky adventures. “I am a whisky noob,” she said. “I only started drinking whisky about three to four years ago.” When she knew that I have been drinking whisky for the past ten years, she exclaimed, “Wow! Then you must know a lot about whisky!” I said no, for there are still way too many things that I do not know. We soon moved on to other topics, but her comments stayed with me. It makes me uncomfortable because I believe that nobody is truly a whisky noob.
Getting to know Whisky is a Journey
I do not know what all of you think, but for me, drinking whisky is a learning journey. It is almost like a new friendship that I forge with someone whom I do not know. When a complete beginner starts the journey, it is likely that the person does not know what she is drinking and follows what her friends are drinking. The exploration begins that way for most of us, and we slowly but steadily move forward on our journey.
If we are lucky, we meet someone who is far advanced in his or her journey with whisky, and this person can guide us in our learning journey as a beginner. While we may not know as many things about whisky as the other person, both of us are on a trip of discovery. We are just on a different level.
Everyone learns at a Different Pace
It is hard to tell how long a person has been drinking, even if he or she is spouting tasting notes like an expert. As whisky drinkers, all of us learn at a different pace because we start at varying levels. A person could learn a lot about whisky in less than a year and improve his or her knowledge at an alarming pace while another person could be drinking whisky for ten years and still be clueless about many things.
Be Open to Try
I think being open to trying the various type of whiskies is one key factor in our learning journey. When we want to discover new things, the best way to do so is to try it. Therefore, a person who is willing to try different whiskies all the time walks along the whisky path faster than someone who is always drinking the same thing. Of course, the openness to try should be coupled with the willingness to learn from others, as well as the diligence to read some excellent whisky books.
It is also about the Passion
If you wonder why some people move faster than the others in their whisky adventures, it could also be the fact that they are more passionate about whisky. I know of someone who hates whisky for a large part of her life and then gets introduced to a whisky which suits her palate. The hate melts instantly into love, and the passion she has for whisky develops into an almost intense relationship. Her desire to learn more, the willingness to keep trying made her practically geeky to some extent. Sometimes, she scares me with the tons of questions she has. I am inspired though because her passion for the liquid gold makes me ever so keen to drink with her. We explore whiskies and discover new things together. Her enthusiasm was contagious!
Time does not always measure your knowledge of whisky
Most of us think that time measures our knowledge of whisky. To some extent, it is true for some people as they explore different whiskies all through their lives. However, it is not for some of us. A person drinking the same few brands of whiskies for the past 30 years will not know much beyond what they drink. Their knowledge is similar to someone who just started drinking whisky and sharing the love for the same few brands. Conversely, a person who is drinking whisky for five years, but have been trying different brands of whiskies, and exploring independent bottlings, will probably know more about whiskies in general. Therefore, time may measure the depth of your knowledge for one brand of whisky but does not measure the general understanding that you may have for whisky as a drink category.
Exposure to the “right” people
Just as how we should mix with the “right” people for our career, our profession and even our moral characters, exposure to the “right” group of people when drinking whisky is also a factor. It sounds slightly weird, but when we are exposed to people who know more than us about whisky in general, these people inspire us to learn more. At the same time, they guide us with their knowledge as they are more advanced in their whisky journey than us. We shorten our journey because of these beautiful people whom we call friends and learn faster because they bring us up to their advanced level by journeying with us.
There is not one person in this world who knows everything about whisky. There is too much to learn for one person, and everyone is an expert at some subject matter of sorts. Even the master distillers at the various distilleries have something new to learn about whisky; sometimes, they learn something new from a beginner too!
Therefore, if you are just starting out on your journey, be happy that you have someone who drinks with you. It is a beautiful journey, so enjoy it and ignore people who may call you a noob. Nobody is a noob. We are each on our journey to learn more about whisky.