Today’s dram: Johnnie Walker, Double Black
Today’s tasting notes: I haven’t said much about blended Scotch whisky.
In truth, I’m not a huge fan.
What a lot of people think of as everyday or ordinary Scotch whisky, the sort of thing you might mix into a Rob Roy or a Rusty Nail, isn’t to my taste. I find most blends too easy-going, and I prefer the more interesting profiles of single malts.
Having said that, ain’t nothing wrong with a good blend. And I try, really try, not to be snobbish about this. (Or other things. Success is variable.)
Johnnie Walker makes some of the best-known and best-selling Scotch whisky around, and it’s all blends, sold by color. Hell if I can be bothered to get into figuring out what the various colors represent.
What they are, though, is successful. John Walker & Sons started blending and bottling in 1820, and they’re still around for a reason. They make good whisky.
Back in Whisky Wind-down 23 I wrote about Johnnie Walker Black: “There is smoke there. Not faint, either. Distinct. Not Laphroaig, mind, but then what is? Otherwise, smooth. Very. Not much peat to speak of, but there. It’s Scotch whisky, for sure, and if you’re not a Scotch whisky drinker this might well bowl you over.”
Double Black, then, is a more intense version of Black, per the marketing.
Since Black is smoky enough to get your attention if you’re used to easy-going Scotch whisky then Double Black should be more so, yes?
It has an aroma of smoked honey, and it tastes sweet and smooth. There is peat and smoke on the tongue, and on the finish, but it glides down and fades fast. I’d call this a very approachable whisky. Maybe it could be a gateway whisky for someone looking to get more adventurous.
Today’s thoughts: I grew up in a fairly conservative part of the country. I had what you might call a traditional evangelical upbringing, and though I don’t intend — today, at least — to get into religion as a topic unto itself, I want to make the point that this upbringing included homophobia. I say that not to lay blame or make attack; it is simply a fact of how I was raised.
The first gay person I knew personally was a band-mate who came out toward the end of his junior year of high school. I was a freshman at the time, and while I “knew” then that gayness was “wrong,” I also knew this guy personally. Not well. We weren’t in classes together, and we were in different sections of the band, but I knew him. The fact he was brave enough, in a small rural southern high school, to come out at 17 and boldly be who he was, to weather the storm of small town scorn … 25 years later I think of him as a hero.
I only wish I had been brave enough, myself, to realize that at the time and tell him so. To have gotten to know him better. To have been not just a fellow musician, but a friend.
The fact that I wasn’t actively rude to him isn’t enough, to me, to justify not being a better person. Standing by isn’t collaboration, but it might as well be. I wanted to be a better person, but I was afraid.
Afraid to step up, yes, but mostly afraid that maybe the bigots were right.
Fear, coupled with religion, held me back. When “God” tells you it’s okay to fear The Other, well, shit, what’s a fellar to do, son?
I left that small rural town and that evangelical faith and, eventually, that homophobia.
It wasn’t overnight, and it wasn’t because of any one person.
It was, like much else in my education, a matter of getting away from myself and my upbringing and the tiny world I grew up in and finding the larger, more diverse world around me.
Then losing my fear of it.
Friendships came later.
Good friendships. The sort who share milestone birthdays and good whisky.
Day to day, I don’t think about this much.
Then sometimes I look around, at the game table, or at the bar, or at a party, at the people surrounding me, and I realize how far I’ve come from that scared kid I used to be.
I don’t pretend my journey is anything next to theirs.
Ultimately, a straight white guy is likely to be comfortable pretty much anywhere.
Too many, though, prefer to stay comfortable where they started.
As much as I’d like to go back and tell my scared former self to get over it, I want to tell the rest of the scared folk back home, the ones who stayed, the ones who cower, the ones who still hate whom the preacher tells them, just how very small their world is.
Today’s note on compassion: We’re all afraid. Those of us who have it easiest have the greatest obligation to overcome our fears and stand for others.
Today’s toast: To growing up, breaking out, and journeying on.