Be Kind To The Whiskey Tater, Not A Tater Hater - The Whiskey Wash

Be Kind To The Whiskey Tater, Not A Tater Hater

Two words used often in whiskey social media are “hater” and “tater.”

Most of us know what a bourbon “hater” is: a garlic-souled critic of others’ preferences and purchases; someone who spends a depressing number of hours spewing venom onto others’ whiskey posts.

But not everyone knows the meaning of a whiskey tater. A tater is the unflattering label stuck on those demonstrating abundant whiskey ignorance and naivete in a vain attempt to appear expert. Far from a damnable offense, of course, but at least vaguely annoying to most.

Why such a person is linked to the nickname of a stem vegetable, I don’t know. But it’s kind of funny. And speaking of which, these entertaining descriptions of a tater can be found at Tater-Talk.com. Surely with some effort from other tater haters, Tater-Talk creator Wade Woodard has compiled a list of 82 possible “Reasons why you are a whiskey tater … .” Some doozies:

  1.  Liking your own Facebook bourbon group comment/post
  2.  Offering a platter of turds in ISO of a unicorn
  3.  If a bottle is FS in a group, you make offers/try to buy bottles in the background of that bottle’s picture
  4.  Post whiskey crotch shots or selfies with your ‘finds’ on social media
  5.  You call every liquor store in a 100 mile radius asking if they have any Pappy
  6.  Post picture on social media while inside a liquor store on the whiskey aisle and ask ‘what should I buy?’
  7. Refer to whiskey as ‘juice’ (Agreed, since no juice comes from dry grain.)

The whole list is funny and worth reading, but fair warning, you might find yourself described in one or more traits. (Sorry, haters, I’m not saying which tater trait might fit me!)

Van Winkle Whiskeys

Van Winkle whiskey sometimes falls into tater territory. (image via Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery)

It’s logical that here in Bourbon Country, where I’m from, we’ve got quite the large crop of taters. Plenty of them are home grown (locals who know zero about bourbon but who’ll talk your arms off with stories about finding “Crown Royal bourbon for a killer price” at a Rite-Aid drugstore), and plenty who visit from afar.

Taterism is top of mind for me lately because of chats I had with multiple Kentucky liquor retailers in the runup to a presentation I made at a recent Beverage Alcohol Retailers Conference. I wanted retailer stories on what it’s like to serve modern day whiskey hunters. Most said it’s still largely fun, but increasingly it’s getting tatered-up.

“We spend a lot of time debunking what bourbon is, not to mention the idea that it’s only made in Kentucky,” said one retailer. “You see people make the most ridiculous claims, and you can’t talk them down from them.”

Another said that it’s a good lesson in learning how to smile at jerks.

“They’re usually from out of town, guys and girls who watch distillery websites for releases and then start calling us, ‘Did you get your Pappy yet?’” and we can’t get them to believe that we have no idea when the distributor will release it to us,” he said. “When you do put something like Pappy in the lock-up case, they’ll start dickering with you on the price. When you tell them, ‘I promise it won’t stay here long even at that price,’ they’ll say, ‘What price can I get if I buy three or four?’ as if we have three or four of those bottles lying around.

Another retailer detailed how he handles the practice of tateristic threatening, i.e. telling a retailer they’ll get a bottle elsewhere. He recalled one tater saying a bottle priced at $200 in his store could be had for for $129 back home. “I’ve learned to say, ‘You can get it at that price? Well, I’d get it if I were you, and then could you get one for me? That’s a great price!’”

My favorite story of some real nerve-grater-taters was about people who call one retailer, ask him to take a picture of what’s in his lock-up case–and then send it to them “so they can see if it’s worth driving to my store to buy. … Some have even told me the price they’d pay for certain bottles, and that when I’m ready to sell those bottles at that price, to give them a call!”

He said a handful of those messages are taped to a wall of infamy in his office, where he can look at them for laughs.

Despite their complaints, every retailer I spoke with used this same phrase commonly: “It’s still about hospitality, so we try to be as nice as we can.” Telling someone they’re wrong rarely generates sales, they said, so why not let them their moment believing they’re right–even when they aren’t.

“We love the educational part of selling bourbon; we’re passionate about that,” said one retailer. “So once you sense they have a strong opinion about something, that’s when you back off, smile and maybe change the subject. I never want anyone thinking we’re a bunch of bourbon snobs. I want them to remember having had a great experience in our store, even if they don’t buy anything.”

In other words, just ‘cause taters gonna tate, you don’t have to be a tater-hater.