What Makes a Connoisseur?
There are three stages of whisky enjoyment: 1) Beginner 2) Snob 3) Connoisseur. The first stage is often the most fun. Everything is new. We are open to trying most anything and the mind is a sponge, soaking in knowledge and experience. The palate is constantly challenged, this being the most important aspect of moving to the next level because you are frequently giving your palate variables that act as a training method. This stage can fly by fairly quickly into the second stage but exceptions are common. Sometimes a beginner does the work and graduates straight into the third stage. This is the desired path, to be sure. But sometimes, unfortunately for us, they graduate headfirst into Snob…
Snobs know it all. They know everything, in fact, and there is nothing you can do about it. Please note that this is not a complete exaggeration for these folks are often encyclopedias of knowledge. Even what they don’t know, snobs know, somehow. The reason why is because it is difficult for a snob to acknowledge the merits of a new idea. To put it bluntly, a new idea, style or category of whisky is not worth the effort according to the snob, so why pursue it further? This is commonly manifested in a blind devotion to only one style above all others. The snob is reluctant to acknowledge positive or redeeming qualities in “inferior” whiskies due to the rigid box they have put themselves in. This unfortunate reluctance can also produce outright dishonesty when refusing to acknowledge those redeeming qualities in a given whisky or whisky style.
Another troubling aspect of a snob is the reluctance to share or transfer enthusiasm to a beginner. In fact, snobs often are found to be quite demeaning to beginners. Snobs are unwilling to share good ideas or knowledge with others for the purpose of educating. In fact, if a snob is found to have a large output of advice or knowledge it is for one reason alone: the feeding of ego and self-worship. A snob is desperate for attention, which nicely explains the sea of whisky blogs available on the internet (most of them). This stage can last a long time for one should never underestimate the power of ego and self-importance. The unintended consequence of this behavior, though, is that snobs are found to be snobs fairly quickly and are thus written off. They then influence no one at all. We hope these fine people find a way out of snobbery into the next phase…
Connoisseur. They too possess an incredible knowledge of their hobby but they offer their informed opinions willingly to others, especially beginners, in the effort to help them join in on the joy of their hobby. Connoisseurs are at heart explorers. They are generalists who appreciate the entirety of the good they find in the whisky world and are generous to the poor qualities found as well. This open minded approach is still honest, however, for a connoisseur can review anything, anywhere without the aid of an audience or outside influence, pointing out positives and negatives. They are experts with the source material. This expertise is organically grown as a result of what they can learn from the whisky itself. In other words, they like or know a whisky well because they themselves determine it from the work done, not because anyone else does. Yet, they can still accept new ideas or improvements to their own. The palate is ever evolving and a connoisseur is willing to improve it.
A connoisseur does not seek fame or enlargements to their ego. They are in fact a very grounded, mature group. The joys of their hobby are more important than the number of people kissing their ass. Ironically, beginners and connoisseurs commonly enjoy whisky the same way and they are much more fun to be around than the snob, not surprisingly. Finally, and this is the hardest trait to attain, the title of connoisseur is not self-proclaimed but earned and awarded by the community they are a part of. They do the work, they’re patient and they don’t forget what really matters in life. Good luck to you in your pursuit, whatever it may be. Cheers.
Spokane Whiskey Club