Denver Bar Association
October 2006
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Please Don’t Sniff the Cognac

by Paul Kennebeck

It is good the general assembly does for us what we can’t do ourselves. We might drink all night if the general assembly didn’t close the bars at two each morning. We might start smoking at a young age if minors were allowed to buy cigarettes. It is the purpose of government to regulate our bad habits.

One of the worst habits is drinking brandy. What makes this habit so bad is the expense. A single glass of a small amount of brandy can start in the $7 or $8 range, but very quickly move up the scale to $20 and $30 dollars a glass. Rare bottles of Cognac sell for hundreds of dollars. Some of us need someone to step in and say, "No more." Luckily, the general assembly has done so.

The government didn’t outlaw the drinking of brandy, it allowed the sniffing of it. This is clever. It is like outlawing the precursors to drugs instead of the drugs themselves. Sniffing brandy is the precurser to drinking it. People who drink brandy enjoy sipping it slowly and enjoy its fragrance resting in the bottom of the snifter. The snifter has a wide bottom that fits in the palm of the hand, which helps warm the brandy. The sniffing, the waiting, the leisureliness of the process is part of the enjoyment. And that’s the part the government prohibited.

Colorado Revised Statutes§18-18-412 provides; "No person shall knowingly smell or inhale the fumes of toxic vapors for the purpose of causing a condition of euphoria, excitement, exhilaration ... the term toxic vapors means ... alcohol. ..."

As soon as you see the words "causing a condition of euphoria, excitement, exhilaration," you know the statute is meant for you. Euphoria is why you pay $10 a glass.

There hasn’t seemed to be much of an outcry against the legislation. The manufacturers of brandy haven’t responded. And the manufacturers of brandy snifters haven’t either. Is possession of a brandy snifter akin to possessing drug paraphernalia?

It probably is true that the image of brandy drinkers is pretty much as described by Wisegeek on the Internet: "A brandy snifter has become an iconic image. Most people see them in movies, where they are held by the snooty rich at cocktail parties or by brooding men in smoking jackets." At Rockies games you see beer vendors.

Hotdogs, fries and Cognac don’t mix. But can the snooty rich (and the rest of us) be stopped from sniffing the stuff?

I’ll sniff it in the privacy of my home.

In restaurants I’ll ask for a straw.


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