This was supposed to be a story about Whiskey Twitter, and despite its recent and ridiculous rebranding, it still is. “Whiskey X” would instead allude to a misguided renaming of a social media platform in decline, something that started well before Elon musked it all up (and besides, there’s already a festival called WhiskyX, so that name is taken). So from here on out, I will refer to the community of whiskey fans, connoisseurs, brand ambassadors, writers, and enthusiasts who engage in online conversation, such as it is, as Whiskey Twitter.
Sometimes Whiskey Twitter conversations are actually positive, people connecting and sharing information about new releases, interesting tidbits about a distillery or brand, or just their general enthusiasm regarding the whiskey world. Yet, as anyone who has ever logged onto any social media platform is aware, often it veers into anonymous trolling, negativity, personal attacks, and opinion shaming about a topic that is, by its very nature, entirely subjective. But despite all that, or perhaps because of it, Whiskey Twitter has persisted.
So what happens now? Will enthusiasts make the move to Threads to discuss their boozy passion? Or will whiskey collectors and aggressively opinionated fanatics just carry on using X even as Musk continues to ham-handedly disrupt the proceedings? And does online whiskey engagement have meaning anymore in a world where consumers are so much more knowledgeable about what’s in their bottles?
I spoke to a few very online Whiskey Twitter denizens about what the future might look like and why they became part of this community to begin with, and the general consensus seems to be (despite misgivings about Musk and the platform in general) that as long as Twitter is still around, Whiskey Twitter will be there to tear apart brands, post bottle pics, and reveal TTB information about upcoming releases.
That last point can be interesting when you’re cruising the Whiskey Twitter back alleys looking to score some insider info. Brands love to set embargoes on new releases, but the reality is that if you have the time to scour through TTB filings, you can find a lot of public information about what’s in the pipeline. Or you can just follow @SkusRecentEats, a Twitter account run by a lawyer named Steven Ury who lives in Washington, DC. He’s been at it for over a decade, and in addition to posting whiskey label details, he is interested in the ever-changing regulations around spirits of all kinds.
“Twitter also serves as a verbal shooting gallery for people with grievances. When an influencer or personality gets sent free samples from a distillery or their local stores hook them up because they have a lot of followers, it can bring out some pretty ugly comments on social media.”
“In its prime, Whiskey Twitter represented some of the best of Twitter,” Ury says. “It was a great place to exchange info and hear news without a lot of the downsides of typical social media — meaning that it was pretty insulated from trolls and craziness, at least with regard to the folks I engaged with. There was broad participation from enthusiasts, journalists, and industry folks that made it interesting and rewarding to participate in.”
Brett Atlas, who uses the handle @brettatlas and works as a senior writer for the website Bourbon & Banter, credits Whiskey Twitter with helping him make connections, hone his writing skills, and opening the door to him becoming part of the charitable organization Bourbon Crusaders. He says that he’s seen great voices come and go on Twitter, and has learned a lot along the way, but over time the community has become uglier based on a combination of FOMO, jealousy, and legitimate frustration.
“Twitter also serves as a verbal shooting gallery for people with grievances,” Atlas says. He points to the explosion of the secondary market as being the main culprit, with allocated whiskey becoming harder to get and people feeling more than a little salty about bloggers and writers getting samples. “When an influencer or personality gets sent free samples from a distillery,” he says, “or their local stores hook them up because they have a lot of followers, it can bring out some pretty ugly comments on social media.”
Speaking of which, one prominent and divisive voice on Whiskey Twitter is @Bourbontruth, a.k.a. Lloyd Christmas, an account run by self-described security consultant Howard Levinson. I spoke with him on the phone, and while he expressed reluctance about having his name linked to his Twitter handle, he talked on the record for about an hour. Scroll through @Bourbontruth’s feed and you’ll find plenty of grammatical errors and misspellings, but also a general trollish grumpiness and targeting of specific brands, writers, and other enthusiasts with attacks that often veer toward the personal. He also clearly knows a great deal about whiskey, particularly bourbon, and occasionally contributes some compelling details to the conversation.
“If it later comes out that Elon Musk’s plan from the beginning was to purchase Twitter just to destroy it, it might actually make sense.”
According to Levinson, his Twitter account is sort of a satirical character that represents a part of his psyche that he doesn’t unleash in real life. It was born out of his frustration at being thrown out of a whiskey group for criticizing an industry figure (he didn’t reveal the specifics).
“Does [Lloyd] live in my head somewhere? I guess,” he says, before expressing some regrets about his Whiskey Twitter behavior. “There are a lot of things over the years that I wouldn’t do again that were unfair, stupid, I jumped the gun. I didn’t look into things as deeply as I should have. But do you want to put 10 to 20 hours into something?”
Granted, Levinson is not a journalist and doesn’t really have any professional responsibility to research what he’s tweeting about, but it’s a revealing admission. It’s also likely one shared by many people anonymously using Whiskey Twitter as a grievance-filled punching bag — throw a bunch of sh*t at the wall and hope it sticks, regardless of the facts.
Taylor Cope admits that it used to piss him off when people would come at him on Whiskey Twitter. He goes by the handle @TaylorCope1982 and is a contributor to the whiskey blog Malt Review who tweets pretty frequently, often with a pretty sarcastic bent. “You realize, this is all fake, this is all online,” he says. “These are all just keyboard warriors. Somebody had a bad day at work, or their wife made him sleep on the couch, or they’re pissed off and they’re gonna take it out on Twitter.”
Cope admits to having engaged in that type of behavior himself at times, but he generally believes that Whiskey Twitter has been a positive, or at least entertaining, space — although the move to other platforms may be nigh.
Overall, despite any misgivings everyone I spoke to had about Twitter in general (and there were many), it seems like Whiskey Twitter is prepared to go down with the ship. According to Ury, Whiskey Twitter peaked a few years before Elon Musk took over, although he certainly thinks he isn’t helping.
“The people that drink whiskey will continue to evolve and change and grow, communities will evolve and change.”
“Musk put the final nail in the coffin (of Twitter generally as well as Whiskey Twitter) by making the platform less user friendly and seemingly trying to move it in a partisan direction,” he says, adding that he plans to post more on Threads now. Atlas also doesn’t feel particularly positive about the future of Twitter, and believes that Musk’s tweaks and changes are contributing to its decline. “If it later comes out that Elon Musk’s plan from the beginning was to purchase Twitter just to destroy it,” he says, “it might actually make sense.” Even Levinson feels bearish about Twitter’s future, and is looking into alternative platforms to tell people they’re idiots for enjoying a particular whiskey.
Maybe we’re just creatures of habit, or maybe that rush some people get when they see 30 replies to their most recent edgelord Tweet is just too addictive. Whatever the reason, Whiskey Twitter seems like it’ll be here until the platform becomes a full-on alt-right messaging board — and some will probably stay on even after that.
Whatever platform people move onto in the future, people like Cope believe that whiskey is inherently social and that will lead to some type of online community maintaining a presence. “The people that drink whiskey will continue to evolve and change and grow, communities will evolve and change,” he says. “Somebody’s gonna be out there spouting off about whiskey, and whether it’s on Twitter or Threads or the next thing to come, you’ll find it.”