Whiskey Tasting

Sent by Jonathan Stark on August 6th, 2018

My youngest brother Tim had me and a few friends over to his house for a whiskey tasting party last night. Tim’s basement is a classic man cave. Big screen TV, pool table, stocked wet bar, huge vintage video library, the works.

So yeah... we spent the evening tasting whiskey and playing 9-ball while a DVD of Caddyshack played hilariously in the background. The whole scene would have been embarrassingly cliche if it wasn’t so much damn fun 😊

For my part, I brought two bottles with me. One was a $65 bottle of Cragganmore that I picked up on the way to the party. The other was the last few ounces of a $500 bottle of Laphroaig 25-year cask strength single malt scotch that I received as a gift last year (thanks again LW!)

Not to be outdone, my brother had a bottle of Johnny Walker Odyssey which he got for $900 at a duty free shop on a flight back from the Middle East.

Perhaps foolishly, we started with the most expensive stuff and worked our way down through about six different bottles. You probably will not be surprised to learn that we unanimously agreed that the pricey bottles were much better than the cheaper stuff.

Was it the placebo effect? Did we subconsciously want the expensive ones to taste better simply because they were more expensive? I don’t think so but honestly it’s impossible for me to be sure.

One thing I found quite noticeable was that the more expensive the bottle was, the longer the story leading up to tasting it. The stuff that people picked up on the way for $50 bucks was sort of introduced with a shrug and a pour. Each of the pricey bottles warranted a 10-minute backstory before we even opened them.

These stories created anticipation and expectation and excitement and tension. You can’t separate the story from the experience of drinking the whiskey. Well, you can with a blind tasting... but why would you?

The flavor of the whiskey is important, of course, but it’s just one aspect of the story. And a good story is what people pay a premium for. It’s the articulation of the experience. It’s what you tell your friends after, just like I’m telling you now.

The story is what made the expensive bottles more special, not the price. Yes, the relatively high price was noteworthy. But the story drives the price; not the other way around.

So... if you’d like to increase your prices, I ask you this:

What’s your story?

Yours,

—J

P.S. If you like scotch, the best bang-for-the-buck of the evening was Talisker Storm. I don’t know if they sell it everywhere, but they do sell it near my house. So I got that going for me. Which is nice.  


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