In my younger years, I really wanted to go to the Irn Bru Carnival, an indoor event held in Glasgow over the festive period where there are lots of fairground rides, food stalls and the likes. Think of intoxicating smells of sweet popcorn in the air and the exhilarating bright lights of rides and stalls everywhere you turn. I had been there only once before, but I remember absolutely loving it. The year in question, some of my friends at school were going with their families and I wanted to go as well, but my siblings didn’t want to take me. Being the youngest, I was sadly viewed as a pest. That feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) was heart-breaking for my young fragile heart. I knew I wouldn’t be able to relate my tales of this magical wonderland and join in with my classmates. Instead, I stayed at home in my jim jams and drank hot chocolate.
Over my (albeit relatively short) time in the whiskyverse, one thing I have noticed is a lot of FOMO when whisky is involved. When I first started my exploration, there were lots of whisky clubs to choose from, and I could see the benefits. For me, it took a long time to find one; there were a multitude of reasons, but my main one was that I simply didn’t want to drink too much. Believe it or not, I do not do well in crowds, and that was another reason why I turned down quite a few invitations at the beginning. I prefer to sit quietly, scribbling down notes, which can make me seem quite the anti-social individual!
Even before I entertained the thought of joining a club, I had heard of the possible issues involved. There is the potential of social pressures, either real or imagined. What if you missed out on a tasting and your friends were there? Maybe that gentle teasing about what you weren’t able to try and the banter that was had by all could make you feel a bit down. Or, what if you self-applied pressure to attend every single one just in case you miss that special unicorn? FOMO can really show its ugly head!
I have now been in a club for almost a year, and it has been great fun. There is a nice even mix of genders and members across a wide age range. We do around five tastings a year and an outing to a distillery, plus meet-ups for anyone who can make it to a pub to catch up. There is absolutely no pressure, and it is super chilled and relaxed.
Finding the right group was key. I know of people who have joined groups, and they attend every single tasting, as well as other events out with the club—these can add up to 30+ tastings a year! Some folks even join multiple whisky clubs, adding up to a number of potential day trips and nights out that might be enough to make your poor liver weep!
This is what I definitely wanted to avoid when I chose my club. It may be easier to downplay or simply ignore the real dangers of drinking too much alcohol, but sometimes it should be discussed. Like Adam did with his line in the sand, I want to give my own views on the “unthinkable” side of over-indulgence.
Good health is the most precious thing that a person can be gifted with; to lose it for a hobby seems so silly, but it can happen. That hobby can be taken to excess, sliding towards dependence or even addiction, and it is a downward spiral. I have decided to write about this subject openly and personally because in my lifetime, and in my immediate presence, I have witnessed the devastation of alcoholism.
Both my father and my uncle passed away from liver failure. They were the ‘a few brandies a day’ kind of people. When you notice the signs and the realisation hits that they won’t—or can’t—be helped, you can only watch. My brother, as a doctor, noticed straight away when my father bore the worrying signs of liver disease; among them, the yellowing of the skin and eyes. Without getting too much into it, once admitted into the hospital, he didn’t last very long. That outward sign can often be an indication that it is too late.
I worked with my uncle for a couple of years, and in that time it quickly became obvious that he drank on the job. It was worrying, but even though his immediate family and I told him to drink less, he was still putting away a minimum of half a bottle of brandy a day. He became aggressive and irrational. It was quite a stressful workplace, which ultimately contributed to my decision to leave. Before I left, however, I suggested to the family some things to help stop him from drinking so much and gave as much advice as I could. I had already experienced this before, and I hoped for a different outcome this time. A few months later, I received a call to let me know that he had succumbed to his addiction.
I’m sorry to hit you with so much heavy material when you may have been looking for some light-hearted commentary and a whisky review. This is quite a serious subject, but I think one that should be talked about from time to time. Sometimes, being in denial is the easiest route to take. On a related note, I think the ‘all in’ attitude should be re-evaluated. Take a wee step back to enjoy, and don’t drink for the sake of drinking.
I think a similar outlook can be applied to bottle purchases and the rush to avoid ‘release envy.’ I know whisky friends who covet bottles and will buy for the sake of buying. In my previous pieces, I have written of how I tend not to purchase unless I have tried and enjoyed something. Whisky is not cheap, and when you do buy a bottle, there is a chance you will finish it yourself. Some members of other clubs I know like to buy bottles and share between those who have chipped in; that is by far a better way, in my personal opinion. At least you’re not consuming one whole bottle yourself: a definite step in the right direction.
There is, however, a flip side I have seen to this admirable open and sharing approach between club members. Let’s say you go along to an organised tasting with maybe six whiskies laid out, but in the spirit of sharing with fellows and friends, many attendees also bring a bottle of their own to share once the official line-up of the night has been seen away. That could be up to another 20 bottles; do the maths, guys—it’s a lot!
I am by no means telling people what to do, but kindly suggesting to be aware of one’s intake. Maybe even learn to spit? I have been trying to do that myself, and though it is hard at first, you get used to it. Or bring a wee sample bottle and take some home to enjoy at a later date. Let’s keep FOMO at bay!
Again, I apologise for the more serious nature of this piece, but I am sure that after the overindulgence of the festive period, early in the year is the perfect time to nurture our health. It is still the first part of 2020, after all, and the first stepping stone of a new decade. Maybe swap a whisky for a wee mug of hot chocolate! Chin chin!
Images kindly provided by Irn Bru, NHS Grampian and CBS News.