Which Came First: The Whiskey or the Glass?

What drinking whiskey has taught me about living a happy + meaningful life.

This past week I was catching up with a few of my close friends and it seemed to be a common thread in our conversations that we were stressed about certain things in our careers, relationships and personal lives.

To bring us all together to further dissect these challenges we were facing we organized a get together and my friend Taylor hosted us for some whiskey (and musing). Once everyone had arrived, Taylor went into the kitchen and came out with a large decanter full of whiskey and more interestingly, an assortment of cups.

From crystal old fashioned glasses to rare beer sampler glasses to gold rimmed tumblers to red solo cups there were some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite and before we knew it, we were invited to choose our favourite cup and pour ourselves some dram.

Now let me just say at this point it became a free for all. After spending many minutes examining our glassware options, and carefully selecting the perfect cup, we sat there checking out each others’ selections as the decanted, unmarked whiskey was poured.

While we all began to sip our beverage Taylor smiled and said “now did you notice that all the nice looking cups have been taken, leaving behind the cheap and plastic ones?”

Yup, all that remained were the red solo cups and plastic, cheap looking glasses.

Taylor continued, “It’s normal for us to want to choose the best options for ourselves in life but having so many options and trying to choose the best is the main source of your problems and stress. Think about it, the cups we chose themselves add absolutely no quality or flavour to the whiskey. In many cases the glassware is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we’re drinking. What all of us wanted was the whiskey, not the glass, but we consciously spent a lot of time choosing the best glass and then eyeing up each other’s choices without even asking what kind of whiskey we were going to drink.”

Now the main lesson from this anecdote is that life is like the whiskey. Our jobs, our hobbies, how much money we have, how we dress or our social status (or social media status) are the glasses. They’re just tools to hold and contain life, and the type of glass we have doesn’t define or change the quality of life we live. Sure some may look prettier, be bigger or be more expensive than others. But does it change the taste of the whiskey? Usually no. Oftentimes the glasses will hide the contents inside and yet the quality of the whiskey inside will be undrinkable.

If your favourite type of whiskey is a complex peaty scotch and you have the choice to drink it out of red solo cup or drink an overly sweet un-aged bourbon out of a crystal old fashioned glass, which would you choose?

By focusing on what’s inside the cup, and choosing it over the look and style of the cup itself is what’s going to make us happy in life.

Life is like the whiskey. Our jobs, our hobbies, how much money we have, how we dress or our social status are the glasses. They’re just tools to hold and contain life, and the type of glass we have doesn’t define or change the quality of life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the glass, we fail to enjoy the whiskey. Savour the whiskey, don’t worry about the glass.

I’m not saying that we can’t have it all, because we can have a beautiful glass and also have the whiskey of our preference. However, by concentrating only on the glass, we oftentimes fail to enjoy the whiskey. So focus first on choosing the best whiskey for you above all else and when you’re satisfied, then you can look for a great, complimentary glass.

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