Nobody jumped out of their chairs. Nobody even made much of a fuss. A few eyebrows raised, but nothing crazy. Most thought it was "pretty good," a couple "great." Some weren't terribly impressed. Nobody guessed it was Bowmore, nor did anyone seem to think it was anything super-special. These are all guys who know whisky, most of whom are serious, hardcore single malt veterans.His explanation?
Any "legendary" whisky is good-to-excellent, but mind-blowing is impossible. Whisky can only get so good, and the rest is added in your head. Really.
When you're told something is excellent, expensive, rare, and revered, it's going to taste a lot better. It's a proven physical and psychological fact. And that's fine, it's part of the experience.
Which means that, at a certain point, the reason to spend more money, or more effort, to get a particular whiskey can't be based on the taste of the whiskey alone:
|This is purely notional, of course. The curves are atan(x) and atan'(x).|
If only whiskey pricing made as much sense as trigonometry.
Our experience depends on the context in which we interpret the sense data we receive from nosing and drinking, and that context includes not only what we know (or have been told) about what we are drinking, but also all the other circumstances -- the who, what, when, where, why, way, and means -- involved.
As Adam mentioned, one of the circumstances that improves our experience of the taste of the whiskey is the belief that other people value it highly. This effect occurs in experts as well as novices (which, I've read, is why some famous wine experts won't do blind tastings).
|If you live only for pleasure, the scientific conclusion is clear: You're not spending enough on whiskey.|
I'll assume without evidence that this effect dampens out at some point, that even the snobbiest orbitofrontal cortex doesn't insist that a $10,000 ounce of whiskey tastes fifty bucks better than a $9,950 ounce. If that gives too much credit to snobs, we can at least cap our pleasure in tasting increasingly expensive whiskeys by the increasing financial ruin that accompanies the experience.
The good news is that, while every possible experience of the taste of whiskey can't be known in this life, plenty of very pleasant experiences remain possible, even when balanced against all of life's non-whiskey-related experiences. As I've said before, if you can afford to drink whiskey, you can afford to drink good whiskey, and if you look after all the other things that affect your experience of that whiskey, drinking that good whiskey can make for a very pleasant hobby indeed.