Monday, December 28, 2020

What Pretentious Scotch Reviews Taught Me About Writing

P.T. Phronk
A post by P.T. Phronk,
of Forest City Pulp fame
I have a few days off this holiday season, and that means I can get tipsy every night without having to worry about working with a hangover in the morning. My wonderful girlfriend also got me a bunch of scotch for Christmas, so that's been my drink of choice.

Have you ever read reviews for scotch? Google any random example and you'll see they're all pretentious as hell. Here are five egregious "tasting notes" about various drinks, from Whisky Shop Magazine:

“Absolutely filthy… like doing a bog swim without a snorkel.”
“The nose is a TNT banana, exploding bursts of fruit…”
“The hug of sherry is soporific”
“A pleasant dram, but lacks nerve and buoyancy.”
“Like putting Benny Lynch into the ring with Marciano.”


Ridiculous, right? I don't even know who those last people are.

Yet I find myself reading reviews for each scotch before I drink it. The more reasonable reviews may not mention TNT bananas, but they do include various fruits, spices, and inedible items like smoke and leather.

Wait ... meat?

And you know what? I enjoy the scotch more after reading these reviews.

Last night, after reading about Ardbeg's peaty nose and impression of a distant wildfire, I cleared my mind of the day's worries, watched the snow fall outside, took a sip, and was transported to a boggy landscape with a hint of smoke in the air. It was a nice experience. I could even compare it to a hug.

I don't know if that pleasant sip was a direct result of the chemicals in the scotch reacting with my tongue, nerves, and brain. I probably imagined half of what I thought I tasted. But it doesn't matter, does it? Taste is subjective anyway. If it can be enhanced by some pompous scotch blogger halfway around the world causing my brain to embellish a little, then I will continue reading flowery booze descriptions until I see the world through purple-coloured glasses.

Here's where I tie this back to writing. Writers sort of do the same thing as these scotch reviewers, except the embellishment is intentional, and we aren't constrained by the physical reality of liquid on the reader's tongue. If we're doing our jobs, we can make a person vividly hallucinate coastal air, a beach bonfire, and a soporific hug—no strong liquor necessary.

In a year when inspiration was badly needed, that's where I've most recently found mine. I hope you find yours too, and have a very happy new year!

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