Why Intelligent and Powerful Men Drink Whisky
This story originally appeared on businessinsider.com.
James Bond is famous for loving a good drink. In "Skyfall" he drinks Macallan, a very fine whisky indeed, with his antagonist Silva. This seems to have converted him from his traditional Martini, because in his next Film "Spectre" he can be seen drinking Macallan again.
One has to wonder if this is just a product placement ploy by the Scottish distillery who makes the brand, but one does not wonder too long. Most agree: Good whisky does not need marketing.
Because for decades and probably centuries this special drink represents everything that Bond does: masculinity, power, intelligence and audacity.
But how come that everyone, from the high-class Gangster in a Hollywood movie, to the Wall Street banker, to virtually everyone else who has great ambitions in the world, drinks whisky?
Whisky’s excellent rap is very old indeed
Stefan Gabanyi knows what he’s talking about when it comes to whisky. For 23 years he worked as a Barkeeper and whisky expert in one of Germany’s most famous bars: Schumann’s in Munich. He has since opened his own bar for good liquor and cocktails.
He believes that Whisky came by its reputation for one good reason: The magnificent marketing campaign led by the Scots of the 1800s. "The Scotsmen realized very early on that their product would sell better if it came attached to a certain image. And so they marketed whisky in England as the harsh beauty of the highlands." They advertised it as something both wild and noble. French Cognac was the socially acceptable drink of the time, but whisky was something special.
The rest is (colonial) history: Great Britain’s huge empire came with expansive cultural influence. This is how whisky came to India and to the United States, accompanied by its excellent image of power and danger.
The remarkable thing is: This reputation still holds true today. Don’t let the whisky-coke offerings at run down beach resorts convince you otherwise. Whisky is the drink of the intelligent and powerful, for these six reasons.
Whisky is masculine
"In the 19th Century all hard liquor was a drink for men, with very few exceptions. The strong and sharp-edged taste of whisky made it the best example of a man’s drink," Gabanyi says.
American authors often used the masculine, wild and noble drink as a device to characterize the "lone wolf" archetype of masculinity found in cowboys and gangsters of the west. Hollywood largely kept the device and made it popular around the world.
That is how whisky became the ultimate drink for men, a fact that even famous female whisky drinkers like Ava Gardner or Hillary Clinton cannot change.
Whisky is precious and unique
Everyone knows by now that whisky is made from fermented mash of cereal grains. Making whisky is not an expensive business at all. The special thing about the drink is the way that it ages. Good whisky is left to mature for many years in wooden barrels. And the longer it matures, the more it evaporates. This is why the oldest whiskies are also the rarest.
But very good whisky is also unique: "Single Malt" is the distinction given to whiskies that come from just one single distillery. And every whisky can have a very different taste depending on how long it was left to age and in what kind of barrel.
The Macallan M is the most expensive whisky in the world right now. In 2014, a buyer paid a record-breaking 630,000 dollars for 1,5 gallons of the drink at an auction in Hong Kong.
Anyone who can afford a bottle like this or even just the slightly cheaper variants isn’t just showing off his wealth. He also shows a certain penchant for thinking ahead. Which brings us to the next point…
Whisky is bought by people who look to the future — or just want to enjoy it
Once we get past the point in our lives where we are struggling just to pay for necessities, we need to start thinking about saving for the future. Some people buy gold, some invest in real estate and others purchase whisky.
Whisky collectors can buy a new edition at release for 150 dollars or less and then sell it later at a profit margin of several thousand percent. But some distilleries are better for this kind of investment than others. People who know what they are doing buy known brands immediately after bottling and hope that they will be worth a lot someday. But if they aren’t, at least they can still drink it.
Whisky is a status symbol
The rise of the Scottish whisky hundreds of years ago explains why whisky is seen as a kind of status symbol today. The Scottish king James IV is said to have been the first nobleman to try the drink in 1506. He then went on to introduce it to his court and to the more well-off circles of his country. When whisky came to England it did so as a drink for the upper classes. "Sailors drank rum, but the officers drank whisky," Gabanyi says.
Maybe that is the reason why whisky is a symbol of wealth today. Whisky is also becoming more and more popular in countries like China, Brazil and India. This is not a coincidence: These are all countries with an increasingly wealthy middle class. If a host serves whisky to his guests, it is taken as a sign of his wealth.
The great men of history drank whisky
"The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky. By diligent effort, I learned to like it," is a saying attributed to the former british prime minister Winston Churchill. He was a passionate whisky drinker. The author George Bernhard Shaw called it "liquid sunshine". The Hollywood icons Frank Sinatra and the author Mark Twain also loved whisky – and never got tired saying so. Sinatra was even buried with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7.
For these people whisky was not some kind of guilty pleasure. It was an expression of their lifestyle.
Being knowledgeable about whisky makes you look educated
It is not a coincidence that whisky is sometimes called the wine of Wall Street. It is a drink men love to discuss in depth with business partners in order to impress them. Anyone who can tell elaborate stories about the history and taste of whisky will appear very educated.
And not for nothing: Anyone who has studied the century-long history of whisky and has worked on refining his palate shows interest and engagement with a venerable tradition.