Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My Whisky Fabric

About half a year ago (roughly half a decade in "Internet Time") my buddy Ryan (aka "The Other Ryan") wrote a blog post called "The Whisky Brotherhood" http://whiskey-reviews.com/2012/02/the-whiskey-brotherhood/
The post was about how he bonded in a bar with a stranger over the fact that they both drank brown. I commented that the term had a wider significance for me because I had found the Internet community of whisky lovers and bloggers so warm and welcoming. I had started blogging initially as a way of backing up my Amazon whisky reviews - with the goal of using the web as a free, universally accessible notebook for tasting notes. Quickly, however, I found something else far more valuable and involving: a community of like minded individuals. They were founts of information - about whisky, about bars, about blogging to be sure, but even more; they were full of information about people. They knew who knew. They knew about parenting, spouse "management", about managing and living with the hobby and the enthusiasm and all the joys and challenges that entailed. And, of course, they knew all about whisky: how to manage oxidation; how to share, what to try, what distilleries were coming up. In short, a living Zeitgeist of whisky culture.

This dynamic hit overdrive when I created a twitter account for this blog and started looking around. I had previously used twitter only as an emergency Internet monitoring tool. It had seemed crazy to me: a titanic flood of teenage mindless trending blither of mass culture empty tidbits. Suddenly, now with the focus of a topic of interest, I found a vibrant community of like minded people (many of the same people in fact). On twitter there is a global round the clock conversation about whisky (and virtually everything else). The latest news breaks there first and gets passed along ("retweeted", in the parlance) at incredible speed. Follow the right group of people, or even enough numbers of the wrong ones, and your twitter feed instantly channels the global Zeitgeist in real time. Twitter allow for two way exchange, allowing you to join in. That's how, for example, I was able to converse with Bruichladdich chief Mark Reynier about his feelings concerning the sale of Bruichladdich to Remy in the very hour the news became public.

Indeed, the set of relationships on twitter can powerfully approach friendship and often spill over into other forms of connection such as Facebook (useful for sharing longer form messages, rich media such as pictures, videos, and web content, and for mining existing networks of friends and acquaintances.). Email, still invaluable for one on one personal communication, feels downright quaint by comparison.

One of the ultimate payoffs is actual, real-world, friendships. This leads us back where we began: to the bar or living room, drinking brown. The whisky community is warm and welcoming; more so than some other shared topic communities I've experienced such as IT or food/wine epicureanship where professional competitiveness and knowledge snobbery seem to play a larger role.

A phrase has emerged - a shorthand expression for this complex of global social-network connected virtual whisky friends and knowledge pool: "Whisky Fabric". On twitter it is the hashtag "#whiskyfabric". This expression was created by talented, passionate, Canadian whisky blogger Johanne McInnis, co-creator of The Perfect Whisky Match blog: http://www.theperfectwhiskymatch.blogspot.ca/
(update - Johanne now blogs here:  http://whiskylassie.blogspot.com/)
 
The term first appeared in an interview on The Whisky Guy Rob Blog. Rob Gard wrote:

"Johanne talks about the “whisky fabric” – a layer in the whisky world where writers, reviewers, distillers and everyone else associated with the industry meet and interact."

http://whiskyguyrob.com/whiskyguyblog/?p=334

Johanne has defined this phenomenon succinctly and coined the defining phrase deftly in the same moment. So, if you love whisky, join us on Twitter and Facebook, and in comments at the end of blog posts and in forums like Whisky Whisky Whisky. When the topic turns to this communal feeling, use the term "whisky fabric" and you may be surprised at how many know what you're talking about.

I was tempted, at this point, to list and describe some of the dozens (hundreds, really) of people and entities that make up my whisky fabric.  However, I already do that most Fridays on twitter, as part of an odd recurrent twitter ritual called "Follow Friday" (hashtag "#FF") where people recommend the twitter handles that they recommend others follow.  I have developed the practice of calling out and describing the personalities that make up my whisky fabric in a series of tweets that encapsulate the greats in particular genres.  I call out great writers, whisky bloggers by continent, style and region, great collectors, mixologists, scientists and tough guys.  Join in and follow me (click the blue bird on the left margin) or click here and check it out on Friday and see what I mean!

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