I have been thinking a lot about this issue—I might add “when I am off the sauce for a few hours”, if I were an a private eye from the Bogie era or a best-selling book writer. Frankly I only get off so that when I sober up I can restart the whole cycle again. Sobriety is merely the prelude to that gauzy state of semi-consciousness which whiskey induces. It is really a way to live in another world. Soulless technocrats might refer to it as The Metaverse. Every writer I know, good or mediocre, lives in a sort of private metaverse. Who needs 3-D headsets which make you look like an invader from another world who has lost his way? But I am digressing.
Since I returned from a brief trip to Barolo I have been thinking about the difference between wine and whiskey. Wine is tasted for its own sake and appreciated as such. Who drinks whiskey that way? Only a pretentious fraud. Whiskey is a means, an indispensable one, to achieve what they call an altered state of consciousness. Yes, some prefer Bourbon, some Scotch. That’s about it. Some people smoke weed to gain the same effect at lesser cost. Unlike whiskey, I think weed obliterates awareness producing an unproductive, stuporous, state of inarticulateness. I am not sure anyone in that state can write a thing. In the south many drink Bourbon. Yes, it tastes pretty good but that is not the point. Wine in contrast is smelled and tasted for itself. No one opens a nice bottle of wine to induce a metaverse state of consciousness! Wine is intrinsically social—it is meant to be shared by its very nature and origins. There is nothing more pathetic than a friendless guy with a big wine collection. A bottle of whiskey, on the other hand, is sort of a friend in itself. But not a bottle of wine. You pay attention to wine for its own sake. Why else pay $1000+ for a bottle of first growth Bordeaux? It is more like owning a fine painting. No one does so without the idea of letting others view it and communicate the experience. Keeping it totally private is utterly perverse. Sharing is essential to wine but not to a bottle of whiskey. A guy at a bar, starting to drink his preferred whiskey can say to the bar tender—leave the bottle. No one orders a glass of wine and then says leave the bottle. The solitary versus the social. This is an essential, not an accidental, difference.
I really enjoyed my trip to Barolo. Such gorgeous countryside. Such kind and noble people and such fragrant wine redolent of everything autumnal. Of all the wines, it is the one I might drink alone. But if it were really good, even then I would want to share it. Wines makes others happy. Whiskey replaces unhappiness with a kind of happiness that comes from the sensation of being at one with one’s own hazy memories and feelings. You do not drink a Barolo or a Burgundy to retreat from the world. Just the opposite. No bottle of booze will ever produce the aroma of a good Barolo. But who cares? Does anyone drink a Gaja Barbaresco, even a rich person, to get drunk? To me the best aspect of wine is the bouquet. Barolo may produce the best aroma of any red wine. Some say Burgundy but to my mind and taste, Burgundy is rarely haunting whereas Barolo, with some bottle age, frequently is. Being haunted is like suddenly experiencing something from the past. That is why I find Barolo interesting. It links you to the past via its aromatics to use that obnoxious term. But aroma is too ethereal to induce the hypnotic state that whiskey leads to.