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It’s a natural progression to find a group of like-minded individuals to bond with when you get involved in any hobby or interest. These are people you seek out to learn from or that have access to help you dive ever-deeper into your mutual interest.
Whiskey is no different. Since the explosion of bourbon in the US over the last 10 years, bourbon enthusiast groups have begun to pop up everywhere.
These groups evolved from sharing bottles and information to selecting single barrel picks and participating in charity raffles of rare bottles.
I’ve observed or been involved with multiple groups over my short time in the enthusiast community. While each one is unique, I’ve started to notice the same personality traits of the members within each one.
Undoubtedly you’ll find parallels of these personalities among any group of enthusiasts/hobbyists, but today we’re dealing with whiskey. So which traits do you fall into?
This one needs very little introduction. This person in your group is constantly on the hunt. Weekdays, weekends, early morning, late at night, it doesn’t matter.
Do they have a job? Do they have a family? Maybe. But that’s of no consequence because hunting is life and they will not be stopped.
The trunk of their car usually looks like they work for a liquor distributor and they probably have one room in their house that is overflowing with bottles.
When they’re not talking about their scores, they’re probably talking about how much they can flip a bottle for and they know the secondary prices like the back of their hand.
If they’re an organized hunter, ask to see their bottle spreadsheets. If they’re a disorganized hunter, then they might not even know what bottles they have until something forces them to search through their sprawling collection.
The Lucky One
A walking four leaf clover, the Lucky One is that one person who buys one raffle ticket and walks out with the Pappy 23. He’s the one guy that the store manager actually calls back and says “hey, we got that bottle you’ve been looking for.”
And it’s not just beginners luck either, this person literally strikes gold everywhere they go. “I went on a business trip in the middle of nowhere and found 2 Dusty Turkey’s on the shelf for under retail,” they’ll say. And they have the receipt to prove it. Speaking of receipts, they also are the ones that just happen to have the register ring up the wrong price in their favor more times than not.
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably not the lucky one. They are rarely into whiskey anyway and always seem surprised when people tell them just how lucky they are to score what they just scored.
The Humble Bragger
Oh you just scored a 2019 GTS? Well I just got a 2009 GTS. New Four Roses Private Selection released around town? Yeah, I just picked up 3 Al Young 50th Anniversaries. A 2020 Van Winkle Rye? Well the 2012 was way better and I have a few stashed away.
The Humble Bragger is, deep down, still a bragger. But outright bragging about your collection or scores is considered rude. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t casually throw around your opinions on other people’s good fortune while also dismissing their bottles.
The Humble Bragger isn’t always as mean as I’m making them out to be, either. In fact, in the right crowd they’re downright generous most times.
That’s the downside to having all of those “sick bottles;” you gotta bring ‘em out in the open to show them off. And when that happens, somebody is going to ask for a pour. That’s why this personality trait is generally tolerated in bourbon groups.
“What bourbon are you guys drinking for breakfast, lol,” “it’s my day off, bottoms up!” or “Damn, killed that bottle too soon,” are just some of the wild messages you see from “The Drinker” in your group.
They simply love to pair everything with bourbon and they don’t care what time of the day it is. Their budget is probably enormous because most of the bottles they are drinking aren’t exactly cheap.
You may know this person by another title; “The Everything Deserves to Be Celebrated” guy (or gal). New baby? Drink. Anniversary? Drink. McDonald’s put an extra order of fries in your drive-thru bag? Drink. Every situation is cause for a drink and most of us wouldn’t be able to keep up.
The “Try Anything/Buy Anything” Person
This person is an equal-opportunity buyer. They don’t have a favorite brand and they don’t have a brand they despise. They also give craft whiskey the benefit of the doubt every time. They love it all and if it’s new, they’ll usually buy it.
For a large majority of the group, the Try/Buy person is how they learn that a new bottle even exists. This is also how others in the group will get to sample it without having to buy it. How can you identify this person without asking everyone in the group to list every bottle they own?
Simple, just ask who has the most empty sample bottles or who has sent out the most sample bottles in the last month. That person is usually the tryer/buyer because they’re constantly letting people sample what they have or they want people to send them samples so they can try everything they possibly can.
The “Why Are You Here?” Person
Groups begin with people that all share similar interests. That’s the whole reason why they started. But this person could give 2 shits about what the group is talking about.
Enjoy Bourbon? They’ve decided they like beer more. Organizing a bottle share? They probably won’t go. And if they do, they’ll swing by for an hour and probably won’t drink anything.
Want to send samples to them? They’ll politely turn you down. Why. Are. You. Here.? The most obvious answer is probably because they have lost interest in the hobby and just can’t find a way to break things off.
Another reason could be because they’re good friends with someone in the group and still wanted to keep that bond with them.
Sometimes they misunderstood just how into whiskey everyone was and it ruined it for them. But they’re still hanging on… like a wallflower. Until eventually, someday, they just stop participating.
Face it, we’ve all started out as newbs in some way and every group still has them. Newbs only break out of this stage once they either: 1.) learn to hunt 2.) educate themselves enough 3.) show critical thinking into why they buy what they buy.
In bourbon, a newb will typically pick a low-hanging fruit to latch onto as their prized bottle they’re looking for (Blanton’s is popular). They want samples from other members to expand their experiences, but they don’t know what to ask for. Many times, they are stuck on obtaining only one particular brand. Actually, let’s not be coy about it, they stick to Buffalo Trace products.
Which ones? All of them. They think there’s nothing better because that’s what the internet tells them. It’s the job of the rest of the group to break in The Newb to the wonders of other distilleries. Bonus points are awarded to The Newb if they come into the group expressing fascination with virtually any other distillery’s products other than Buffalo Trace.
This person either has a connection to a liquor store or works at one. That newest allocated bottle? Already got it. The next single barrel pick? Likely has 4 cases reserved. Bottles in the backroom? They’ve already seen them.
The hookup seems to get whatever they want. Maybe they forged a great relationship with a liquor store years ago. Maybe they went to High School with one of the managers. But you can bet they’re not waiting in lines at 6AM hoping to get 1 bottle.
The Hookup also “knows a guy” who has the bottle that somebody might be looking for. It depends on whether or not they like you if they’re going to find that bottle at retail, slightly below secondary or full-secondary pricing. Envied by all, everyone tries to befriend The Hookup for an obvious reason.
The Dinosaur is the oldest guy in the group. But sometimes it can just be the person who has been drinking the longest in the group too. Either way, experience has taught them one thing: Drink what you like and be happy with it. The dinosaurs will likely try your new craft whiskey or even a dusty or two.
But they will always fall back to the bottles that have always “treated them right” (i.e. the ones they don’t have a memory of throwing up over).
These bottles are usually very affordable and easy to find. That’s because the dinosaur doesn’t want any hassle in finding it. Occasionally, some dinosaurs will have expensive taste for a certain rare bottle and price increases don’t seem to bother them.
Nobody messes with the dinosaur or tries to change their mind about anything except The Newbs and The Geeks. The Dinosaur does not want to hear from those people though.
The Diehard has concrete opinions about everything they know or drink. You cannot change their mind. You cannot win them over with really good blind sample bottles. You cannot tell them a new label won’t be “trash” if they already believe so. The Diehard is very stubborn.
They will never change their mind once they’ve verbally committed to an opinion. If you have genuinely surprised the diehard with facts or samples counter to their opinion, they will deny that it ever happened from that point forward. This is not their only trait because usually the Diehard is also another personality type on the list (most commonly The Dinosaur or The Humble Bragger).
That’s why everyone puts up with them in the group. And usually, the Diehard’s polarizing opinions are what has drawn members to the groups in the first place, as odd as that may sound.
The Geek needs no explanation. This person either knows or is constantly learning and spouting off information about all things whiskey related. Much of that information nobody really cares about. Oftentimes they are used as a Wikipedia quick reference guide.
Typically the group will have multiple tiers of geeks or geeks that are broken down into which distilleries/whiskey types they are most passionate about.
Geeks also keep up on trends and know about products coming out before the rest of the group. Geeks serve a vital purpose though.
The group will typically get stuck in a rut of talking about the same things over and over. The Geek can help by interjecting new thoughts, opinions or news into the group so that the conversation doesn’t get stale. The Geek likely has spreadsheets too. Ask to see them.
Although these personalities were explored somewhat in jest, there is a larger picture here. Whenever you have more than one person, things are going to get diverse.
And diversity seems to be more and more shunned in society today. But whiskey groups will continue to have people with a wide range of views and opinions yet they generally get along and tolerate each other.
Many of the groups I know of have strict “No political or religious” discussion rules and they’re some of the most civilized and respectable groups of people out there. A hobby should be more about the focus of what brings everyone together, not what differences you have.
So if you ever find yourself in a group, just remember, it’s not always about the personalities that separate us, but the common interest that brings us together. And bourbon is just about the most perfect thing that can bring two people from different backgrounds together.
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