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How To Be A Snob: Drinking Alcohol - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal Page 2
February 26th, 2008
09:49 am

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How To Be A Snob: Drinking Alcohol
Once a year, I spend $75 on a good bottle of Scotch Whisky and bring it to Karla's birthday party. Last year, I brought Talliskers; this year, I brought Cragganmore. I break open the bottle, and ask everyone to take a taste. In this way, we can slowly get an idea of the difference between the various kinds of whiskies. And so it came to pass that I was sitting there with Nate and Genevieve, snobbing it up.

"It's not as peaty as the Talliskers," Nate noted, sipping the Cragganmore with relish.

"And it has a really quick drop off the back end," Geneveive sighed, swishing it around in his mouth.

Bill was standing there, looking confused and envious. "I don't taste any of that," he said, looking down in his glass as though he might be able to see the peat if he squinted hard enough. "I don't have a really good palate. You guys all taste these zillions of things, but I don't get anything."

"Who says we do?" I asked. "We could be faking it. It's really easy, and you can look all cultured without tasting a damn thing. Want me to show you how?"

Step 1: Smell the Drink.
Stick your nose into the glass. Sniff deeply, then close your eyes as though you're processing a lot of things simultaneously. Even if you smell nothing, act as though this drink is a cornucopia of sensations and you're sorting through all of them.

Do not speak. Scent is pretty easy to verify, so if you guess wrong then everyone will know what a yutz you are. If someone ventures their own review as to what it smells like, frown as though you're too busy concentrating on this intense bouquet to interrupt it with stupid words. This automatically gives you the edge, since as a conneisseur you know enough not to discuss anything until the full tasting is over.

Step 2: Drink the Drink.
Take a mid-sized sip, then roll it around in your mouth. Don't swish - that's for chumps - but kind of splash it around on your tongue.

Then - and this is the most important part - hold the glass away from you at an angle. Freeze as though your entire body is concentrated upon analyzing this taste in your mouth. Narrow your eyes and look upwards as you pretend to process this beverage, taking your time as you give every impression of savoring the flavor.

After a minute, bob your head just a little, as though coming to a conclusion.

Step 3: Finish the Drink.
Swallow it and then open your mouth, breathing in. Some people claim they can feel the drink mutate upon their palate as the air rushes over their tongue; they are liars, but convincing ones. And now you can be one of them.

Nod again.

Step 4: Decide Upon Your Pronouncement.
Now, to understand how to be a proper snob, you must understand two things about taste:

1) Taste is a bell curve.
2) Nobody fucking knows what they're talking about.

The first point is easy; you don't taste everything all at once. There's actually a rise and flow to the taste process, starting from when the food touches your tongue, building to the intense mid-section, and then dropping off into an aftertaste. In the case of a McDonald's hamburger, what you'd taste first would be the squishiness of the bread and the oversalted burger, rising to the chewy dog food of the burger itself as you mash it around, ending with that greasy oil slick that coats your throat at the end.

You may never experience this yourself, but trust me when I say that it does happen. You just gulped some whisky, but the foodies experienced a three-act play in their tastebuds. So you must be aware of this flow.

The second part involves understanding that taste is an intensely personal experience, which is to say that you can say pretty much anything and nobody knows any better. In fact, unless you're drinking with a sommelier who knows what she's doing - in which case let her tell you what's in it and nod a lot - then everyone is afraid that maybe they're the ones who don't know what they're doing.

If you say, "I taste a faint hint of paprika," they don't go, "Wow, what a liar" - they become paranoid because they don't taste it. Maybe you're the guy with the super taste buds who catches everything. There they are, sipping this drink and only getting a third of its full bouquet, and if they really had the genetics to appreciate it the way that you do they would taste paprika.

You can say anything. You think people taste oak in a wine? Fuck no. Who the hell eats oak? These fuckers want you to think they're walking around taking bites out of dogwood trees so they can tell what kind of barrel the wine came from - they're awful, awful fakers. And if they can tell you what country the oak came from, the first note you should mark in their aroma is a seething, overwhelming bullshit.

So fake away! But there are guidelines.

First, if you're faking it, everything is faint - you want to talk in terms of hints, notes, and shades. Give the impression that you only barely caught this delicate wisp of a flavor because you were concentrating so intensely back in Step 2. You want to let them tell you what the overwhelming taste of the drink is; it's your job to bat clean-up and talk about shit they might have missed.

Second, some flavors are better than others. Paprika is actually a bad example, since that's a spice. Generally, you want to only talk about flowers and fruits, with maybe some hints of leafy spices when you want to show off. ("Mint" is bad, but "oregano" can be gotten away with if you're an expert.) The only exception is beer, where you want to talk about breads and chocolate flavors; starches are good for beers.

And remember: natural is better than fake.

GOOD: "I taste a hint of blackberry."
BAD: "The tang of Fruit Roll-Ups."

So pick a taste, and pick a place - which is to say it's at the beginning or the end of the curve. (You never want to taste anything in the middle, where the intense flavors are. Remember, you're picking up the transmissions from Alpha Tau.)

When in doubt, go with blackberry. It shows up everywhere.

Step 5: Making Your Pronouncement
When you speak, speak slowly, as though you're coming to a conclusion. Then break out with it.

"I taste a hint of blackberry just at the finish."

Either people will agree with you, or they won't. If they agree with you, great! They don't taste shit, either. You can now tell them you're catching a splash of Strawberry Go-Gurt in the fourth and down, and they'll just nod and stare. You have bolloxed a bunch of clueless snobs; take a bow!

If they don't agree, then frown a little. They won't ever say, "Bullshit! You fucker!" Instead, they'll say, "Really? I don't taste that...."

Stick to your guns. You caught it. Take another sip as though to confirm, repeat the process and say, "No. Still there for me. Not for you, though?" Then laugh about how weird taste is, that some folks catch things that others do. Then spend the rest of the evening nodding and agreeing with the other snobs, only occasionally venturing a guess, because if you spend the entire evening contradicting them then the game is up.

And that's it! By the end of the evening, Bill had learned his lessons, and now he can stare quietly at the ceiling and then talk about the bouquet along with the rest of us awful, awful liars.

Now you, too, can fake anyone out. Remember: use this power only for good, never evil. Or to get laid, whichever comes first.

(147 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

Comments
 
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From:glacial23
Date:February 26th, 2008 05:36 pm (UTC)
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Waitwaitwaitwait...

Wasn't the bottle at Karla's last year Oban? Talisker was present at NYE2006-2007.
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From:theferrett
Date:February 27th, 2008 01:55 am (UTC)
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You are most likely correct. I was just pulling bottles out of mid-air. I know Talisker's was the first I tried, but I can't remember where I started.
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From:jeffpalmatier
Date:February 26th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
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In this adaptation of Poe's "The Black Cat", Peter Lorrie and Vincent Price duel in a wine-tasting contest. It starts about 1:50 in.



Edited at 2008-02-26 06:15 pm (UTC)
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From:lysystratae
Date:February 26th, 2008 06:19 pm (UTC)
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I'm one of those oddballs who can tell you pretty much every spice/herb/ingredient in a recipe by taste... and I still don't get all those "notes" in wines, coffees, chocolates, etc. I decided years ago they were all bullshit the ad department came up with, lol...
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From:xiphias
Date:February 26th, 2008 08:25 pm (UTC)
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That's because they're not taste -- they're smell. If you're trying to TASTE them, you won't.
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From:thewhitedragon
Date:February 26th, 2008 06:53 pm (UTC)
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Next time try the Dalmore 12yr - it's about $35 a bottle and in the blind-tastings that about 30+ of my friends and I have* it's beaten out $200 bottles and 21yr's. In the past five years it's been put into the tasting four times and it's placed in the top 5 (out of 20 or more bottles) each year. Twice it's placed second. Just goes to show that price is not always a clear indication of what people will like the best.

My personal overall favorite? Glenlivet - it's middle of the road in pretty much everything: peat, burn, nose, finish and tongue. I've always got a bottle of 12yr, 18yr and 21yr over at our place. The 12 & 18 are 'every day' tastes - the 21 only comes out for 'special occasions'.. Tomintoul is another one that I like (it's a Speyside Glenlivet) and another that I usually keep on hand.

*yeah, I'm one of those people who actually can pick out those subtle variances in flavor to determine region (if not particular distiller) and age. I might not be as descriptive - I refuse to use 'hint' and 'note' references - but when you're tasting 20+ bottles at a time you a) get very drunk and b) learn to pick out subtly.
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From:theferrett
Date:February 27th, 2008 01:56 am (UTC)
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Shall do the next time. Sounds like a good deal to me!

I do love Glenlivet. It's quite nice.
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From:phillipalden
Date:February 26th, 2008 06:59 pm (UTC)
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Some people do have "ignorant" pallets, and some just cannot distinguish between Coors and Spaten, (a good German beer.) I have a friend who does not like wine so the subtleties of the drink totally escape him.
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From:theferrett
Date:February 27th, 2008 01:56 am (UTC)
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I know. I think Bill may be one of 'em. Which is why it's so important to learn how to fake it.
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From:chayatapa
Date:February 26th, 2008 07:24 pm (UTC)
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I'm pretty sure you were joking, but on the off chance that you weren't...

Um, yeah, people *can* taste oak in wine, although you'd never know it was oak unless you'd smelled freshly cut oak planks.

It tastes like vanilla (or as certain others have pointed out, *smells* like vanilla, since vanillins don't have taste receptors of their own). It's one of the few wine flavours that's *not at all* subtle or subjective or hard to notice.
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From:kisekinotenshi
Date:February 26th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
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I think it's funny that no one has mentioned in the case of most wines (or at least most of the ones I drink) there are descriptions right on the label of all the notes that are supposed to be there. XD I'm not one of those people with subtle palates, so I never actually taste most of those supposed notes, but I've begun to notice which ones are prevalent in wines I like or don't like particularly.

My favorite wine is $7-8 a bottle (depending on where you buy it). Yeah, I haven't had a whole lot of experience with tasting wine (I'm only 22), but I've had a lot of wines that are mid-range price and a few expensive ones, and for the most part I don't care for them. Papio is my wine because it tastes good (they make Cab, Merlot and Chard, I like all three for different reasons) and it's cheap. Also, they help support primate preservation in Africa. XD What more can you ask for?
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From:scathedobsidian
Date:February 26th, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC)
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This post was so much more fun than my Obama conspiracy theory post. Though mine has a troll.

We need to drink some whiskey together sometime soon. I'm going to try to make it out for D's birthday.
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From:theferrett
Date:February 27th, 2008 01:57 am (UTC)
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That sounds mighty nice.
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From:merle_
Date:February 26th, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC)
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Oh, come on. Give me knowledge and power and insist that I not use it for evil? *grumbles*
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From:inaurolillium
Date:February 26th, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC)
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You forgot (for wines, not whiskies) the bit about sucking air in through your lips while you have the wine in your mouth. Aerating the wine changes the flavor.
The entire process was on an exam I took for school.
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From:theferrett
Date:February 27th, 2008 01:57 am (UTC)
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That's just showy, though. I don't do that for scotch.
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From:butterandjelly
Date:February 26th, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC)
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I missed this ritual at the 2008 fiesta...I think I was busy pushing other drinks in the other room :)
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From:theferrett
Date:February 27th, 2008 01:57 am (UTC)
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You kidding? I think we tried Bill out on YOU!
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From:chaosdancer
Date:February 26th, 2008 11:28 pm (UTC)
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You know, this works pretty well with fellatio too. "Goodness, you must drink a lot of coffee! And...oh wow, is that curry? After we're done here we should go out for Indian food!" Sometimes that doesn't go over very well, for some reason.
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From:lysystratae
Date:February 27th, 2008 04:01 am (UTC)
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Yep, sure does... which is why I try to avoid it if he's been drinking beer all night...
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From:weds
Date:February 27th, 2008 12:18 am (UTC)
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Who the hell eats oak?

Look, I was fourteen and there was nothing to do. That was the year I ate my purse, for crying out loud.

purse-eating: true!
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From:theferrett
Date:February 27th, 2008 01:57 am (UTC)
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Did you crap a sow's ear?
(Deleted comment)
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From:theferrett
Date:February 27th, 2008 01:58 am (UTC)
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We need to get one, too. Maybe if we had some visitors....
From:sevenslashfour
Date:February 27th, 2008 12:48 am (UTC)
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Your genius is showing again.

Also, I think getting laid usually falls under "good." Unless, y'know, you're trying to score with The Baroness.
From:whoa_bitter
Date:February 27th, 2008 05:07 am (UTC)

Tasting

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Another tasting trick is aeration (aka "slurping"). Takes a couple of dribbles to get the hang of it, but it can lead to an amazing contrast in flavors.
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From:puckathon
Date:February 27th, 2008 05:19 am (UTC)
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Next time I'm over, I'll bring a bottle of Manaschevitz... Blackberry.

;)

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From:gieves
Date:February 27th, 2008 10:58 pm (UTC)
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Gah!! I HAD THAT at a Seder once. Never again...
From:noumignon
Date:February 27th, 2008 02:30 pm (UTC)
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Amateur. True wine-tasting is done like this.
(Deleted comment)
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From:theferrett
Date:February 28th, 2008 11:41 pm (UTC)
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Not so! It claims to be "smooth." What kind of smooth whiskey will drop a man?
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From:gieves
Date:February 27th, 2008 10:58 pm (UTC)
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Hey now, I think I actually said something about herbal overtones, pulled out the oregano comparison, and that was when Bill said "WHAT?!"

Personally, I also think that Talisker tastes like burning peat bog. I've never had the joy of consuming a bog itself, but I'll stand by my description. Talisker is not my Scotch of choice.
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From:theferrett
Date:February 28th, 2008 11:41 pm (UTC)
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It's totally mine, though. Alas!
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From:hummingwolf
Date:February 29th, 2008 07:29 pm (UTC)
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From:daghain
Date:March 6th, 2008 07:39 pm (UTC)
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Don't forget to ask the price. Apparently this is a big determinant of your enjoyment of the wine.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 6th, 2008 07:40 pm (UTC)
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Bah, I fail. Apologies for not reading through the previous 140 comments before posting.
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From:m_beebe
Date:July 16th, 2008 08:34 pm (UTC)

You got linked from the comments section of the NYT

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Be ready for traffic.
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From:docscarabus
Date:July 23rd, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC)
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So what I'm getting here is that people who are capable of having sensual experiences that you can't are faking it and are a bunch of pretentious snobs.

Right.


If they don't agree, then frown a little. They won't ever say, "Bullshit! You fucker!" Instead, they'll say, "Really? I don't taste that...."

This is the fundemental fact that the liars of the world don't get; just because people don't contradict you doesn't mean they beleive you. When you tell people that you were a Navy Seal trained in microbiology and ancient greek (which you unfortunately forgot due to a blow to the head sustained during a hand-to-hand battle with a Persian Ninja) they will most likely smile and nod, while waiting for you to leave so they can ridicule you.
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From:culculhen
Date:August 9th, 2008 05:41 am (UTC)

stumble upon'ed

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Darn it, ferrett, do you know how strange it is to stumble upon a journal you're already reading for 4 years? makes the internet feel small

Stop being funny so this won't happen again to me! :P
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