Whisk(e)y Wisdom

For the Love of Whiskey


My longtime friend Josh and I were having lunch out the other day when he asked, “So why the whiskey thing?”

I said, “I’m not sure I understand your question.”

“Why did you quit your job and then spend thousands of dollars going to Whiskey Sommelier school? What are you planning on doing with it? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s awesome. I’m just curious about what motivates you.”

I paused with my hamburger halfway to my mouth. “I plan on making a living out of it. And as for what motivates me…”

A dozen reasons flashed through my head. The first eleven were superficial. Reasons like, “Because it’s cool, duh.” Or, “Because I love whiskey.” Or, “Because I wanted a job other people wish they had.” Or, “Because I was tired of working just to get paid.”

While those reasons are true, they aren’t the answer I gave my friend. Instead I put my burger down, looked him in the eye and said, “Josh, remember when we were growing up and I was always tinkering, always learning new things?”

“I’m not sure what this has to do with whiskey, but yes I remember.”

“Did you ever wonder why I was constantly trying to learn how to do new stuff?”

“I just figured you liked it and/or were bored.”

I grinned. “While that’s part of it, the real reason is I remember reading something in a book when I was a kid, something that influenced me in a profound way.”

“Oh lord, you’re about to get philosophical, aren’t you?” 

“Only a little bit,” I said, “bear with me.”

“Ok but only a little bit. I’d like to have time to finish my lunch.”

“Deal. Now let me ask: how many new things did you learn from me growing up?”

“Oh man,” he said, “more than I can count. I just always remember that as soon as you finished learning something or figuring out how to do something, you would race right over to teach me.”

“The reason I did that was because of what I read in that book. The book said that each time you learn a new life skill – even little things, like how to thread a button on – you grow as a person and become more valuable. So I tried it. I learned how to do something new, and you know what? I felt a little taller, a little more capable, and the value came in the form of self-worth. I liked the way learning how to do new things made me feel, and I wanted my friends to feel the same way. And you know what else? After I taught you how to do something new, my good feeling multiplied because I saw your eyes brighten up with confidence, like mine had.”


“Yeah. And that’s why I’m doing the whiskey thing. I love teaching people about whiskey. Whenever I host a tasting or a class and I get to see the ‘Aha’ moment on people’s faces, that’s the best! Watching their confidence and self-worth go up a little and knowing that I had a hand in it, that’s what makes me do this.”

“Hmmm.” Leaning back in his chair, “So when can I hire you for a tasting?”

“Hire me?!? Josh, you can’t afford me!”


“But seriously, we’re too good of friends for me to take your money. You know I’ve got you. So what do you have in mind?”

And with that we spent the rest of lunch planning a killer whiskey tasting.

— Zac Smith