Whisky Wind-down, 2: Done?

A hand holds a mini-bottle of Bushmills 10-year-old single-malt Irish whisky. In the background, a pool, Christmas lights, and a palm tree bedecked with Christmas lights.

Today’s dram: Bushmills Irish Whisky, Single Malt, 10 Years Old

Today’s tasting notes: It’s clearly Irish whisky, smooth and easy, but there’s also some slight edge to it, with a pronounced maltiness you don’t get in the original Bushmills.

I’d like to tell you something about the aroma, but I drank this right out of the mini-bottle, so I didn’t get much.

Today’s thoughts: Bluntly? I’m tired. Good tired, but still.

I spent the day on the road, crossing from mountainous northwestern Costa Rica down to the central Pacific coast. It was a lovely drive, in good company, but still.

Now I sit, resting my bones, in a hostel by the beach, with my whisky and muchos cervezas artesanals, in good company, and it’s all I can manage to post this by midnight back home.

It’s been a long day, one of many in this interminable year, and it’s all I can manage to imagine finishing this commitment as the year ends.

I may not.

It may be the mood will take me away, and I’ll spend the day in good company, ending the year sans whisky, sans writing, sans commentary.

It may be I shall touch the Happy Isles, and see the great Achilles … no, wait, that’s not me.

Sure, I sometimes roam with a hungry heart, but I am no Ulysses, nor his chronicler.

I have much to say before winding the year down with one last whisky. Thoughts that have been brewing all year. Thoughts I alluded to at the beginning of this series.

Only now, at the end, I find myself not wanting to think. Or write. Only pura vida.

So, it may be you’ll hear from me tomorrow, as scheduled.

But if not, don’t worry. I’m fine.

And I’ll return. Some day.

Today’s toast: To good intentions.

Whisky Wind-down, 3: Away

A hand holds a mini-bottle of Chivas Regal 12-year-old Scotch whisky. In the background, a foot clad in a black high-top Converse shoe rests upon a balcony railing. In the distance, a few scattered lights shine in the darkness of a mountain view.

Today’s dram: Chivas Regal, 12 Years Old

Today’s tasting notes: I’ve had this little bottle kicking around in my travel bag for at least a couple of years now. I think it was a gift in my Christmas stocking. Regardless, tonight was the night.

It’s warm and easy, with a fair amount of (sherry?) sweetness. The slightest hint of peat.

I can see why this is a popular Scotch whisky. It’s easy to enjoy, warm and welcoming. The flavors are inviting, not assertive. It would be a handy whisky to keep around.

Today’s thoughts: I’m enjoying this from a mountainside lodge room with a view of Arenal Volcano.

Well, view is a bit of a stretch, as it’s night now and there’s little to see except shadows in the distance. Still, I saw the volcano from here earlier, so I know it’s out there.

Right now, I’m sitting and enjoying the rain, which comes and goes every few minutes at night in this part of Costa Rica at this time of year. Now and again the wind will deliver a hit of mist upon me, and it’s all pretty fabulous, to be honest.

In a few minutes I’ll go next door and join my travel companions, who are likewise enjoying the view and weather from their connected balconies in the next two rooms. They’re chatting, reviewing our day over local cervezas artesanal.

That day included a hike up Arenal, to see the flow from its 1992 eruption, then another hike to nearby Lake Arenal, followed by an excellent dinner in the town of La Fortuna.

Tomorrow we hit the road for the rain forest and beaches to the southeast. We’ve already seen a lot of beautiful country; we’re ready for more.

Today’s toast: To the road ahead. May it be as fulfilling and enlightening as the road behind.

Whisky Wind-down, 4: Take a Chance

A hand holds a half-pint bottle of Crown Towers whisky, holding the loose cap so as to show the price: 1,778 colones (about three U.S. dollars). In the background, the beautiful Costa Rica countryside stretches forth.

Today’s dram: Crown Towers, Malt Based Spirit Distilled Admixture, Fine Spirit

Today’s tasting notes: Burn. Just burn. Like when a cartoon character drinks from a jug marked XX.

Today’s thoughts: I generally like to know what I’m buying, but in this trip I’m living in a bit of grey area with the language barrier. Costa Rica is pretty English-friendly, with many menus and labels appearing in both Spanish and English. Most establishments seem to have at least one fluent English speaker on staff, and many others speak some basic phrases. All of which is great, as my limited Spanish language education is two decades old and wasn’t that thorough to begin with.

A trip to a local grocery today was interesting. Lots of U.S. brands, with prices only slightly elevated for their importation. We mostly purchased locally made beer and snack foods, but I did, of course, peruse the whisky offerings. There weren’t many, and those were mostly familiar brands I could get back home.

But this little jewel was also there.

If I’ve translated the label correctly — no guarantees — it’s made in France from a mixture of malt whisky and neutral grain spirits.

Note to self: In future, avoid whisky made by the French for the Central American market.

Today’s toast: To adventure! En el supermercado!

Whisky Wind-down, 5: High-Altitude Impulse Purchase

Three glasses of whisky clink in airline cups. Inset: A mini-bottle of Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

Today’s dram: Buffalo Trace, Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Today’s tasting notes: Excellent, as always. It’s a great balance of sweetness, warmth, and burn. Drinks smooth, finishes clean.

Also? It smells glorious — a mild, sweet aroma that puts me in mind of a ready-to-harvest field of grain.

Today’s thoughts: Yeah, I could have (and did) pack some travel whisky, but Buffalo Trace is a favorite. Seeing it listed on the in-flight menu was a pleasant surprise, so The Empress, a friend, and I went in on an party pack that included three bottles at (by airline standards) a reasonable price.

It might surprise you to learn I don’t regularly order whisky when I’m out and about. Selection can be iffy, and while I’m no miser it does pain me to pay by-the-dram prices that typically run anywhere from a fifth to a third of what you’d pay for an entire bottle of the same whisky.

I will occasionally spring for an unusual dram that’s new to me. And (obviously) I make some exceptions when I’m on holiday.

Also? I can’t not drink on Spirit Airlines.

Today’s toast: To the travelers. May your flights be on time, and may the babies on board be sleepy.

Whisky Wind-down, 6: Rest Ye Weary Dead

A bottle of The Sexton single malt Irish whisky sits next to a glass filled with same, on a mantel with red holiday garland.

Today’s dram: The Sexton, single malt Irish whisky

Today’s tasting notes: Aroma is sweet and woodsy. Flavor is smooth and slightly sweet, with a warming bite in the finish.

It’s different. I don’t drink a lot of Irish single malts — they’re not terribly common, compared to Scottish single malts — but I enjoy one now and again, especially as they are a departure from standard Irish whisky. This one reminds me a bit of Highland Scottish whisky; probably I’m drawing that comparison from the sherry cask aging used here.

All in all, it’s enjoyable; I’ll probably keep this around for a cold night by the fire. Or, perhaps, I’ll fill a flask for company on a particular walk.

Today’s thoughts: The bottle lore on this one speaks of a graveyard by the River Bush, from which you can sometimes detect the aroma of distilling spirits.

It’s been awhile since I’ve walked a graveyard, but it was an old hobby of mine.

It’s an autumn sort of hobby, the sight of nature in decline serving to accentuate the stark stone reminders that mark our mutual finish line.

Works in winter, too, though. Then the cold breeze bites and the empty trees shiver, and everything says your time will come, too.

Many years I’ve sought such places in these final days of the year, when the festivities fast fade and the year’s last gasp is in the air.

It’s quite the melancholy week — a transitory time fit for reflecting upon the expiring year, all its good, all its ill.

It all starts again soon enough.

Today’s toast: To the dead: beyond the need for a dram, past all ambitions great or small, gone from the wheel.

Whisky Wind-down, 7: Holiday’s End

A bottle of Seagram's VO Gold sits next to a pair of glasses, in front of a Christmas tree.

Today’s dram: Seagram’s VO Gold, 8-Year-Old

Today’s tasting notes: It’s smooth Canadian whisky, a tad sweet, with just a touch of bite. Finishes clean and easy.

Today’s thoughts: For most of my adult life, whenever I’ve been home for the holidays, we end up at my dad’s home by late afternoon and stay there for dinner and dessert. And once the blizzard of grandchildren and presents has passed, and things quiet down, Dad usually asks if anyone feels like a Christmas drink. For as long as I can remember, for him, that means a couple of ounces of Seagram’s VO Gold, over ice, topped with Coca-Cola.

The older I get, the more I appreciate this ending to a long Christmas day. I’m even getting to like the VO Gold, minus the cola.

Today’s toast: To holiday traditions, holiday tipples, and holiday tipple traditions.

Whisky Wind-down, 8: Happy Place

A glass of Crown Royal rye whisky stands next to an empty mini-bottle on a yellow KitchenAid stand mixer.

Today’s dram: Crown Royal, rye

Today’s tasting notes: How do you make traditionally easy-going Canadian whisky bite back? Mix in rye.

This one is 90% rye, though, so maybe it’s actually the Canadian bit that’s smoothing an otherwise harsh rye?

At any rate, it’s a pseudo-sweet, biting-but-smooth dram, just right for a nightcap at the end of a long day.

Today’s thoughts: The long day was mostly in the kitchen, which is one of my favorite places, with two of my favorite people, Mom and The Empress of Whisky.

Between us, we produced two varieties of cupcakes, lemon chiffon pie, lemon syrup, a chicken and pasta dinner, and pizza dough for the traditional lunch tomorrow.

We also played games, told stories, went shopping, and assembled furniture.

All in all, great day.

Today’s toast: To the holiday hustle; it’s the good kind of tiring.