Whisky Wind-down, 28: Hectic Night Calls for Basic Done Right

Today’s dram: Wild Turkey, 101

Today’s tasting notes: Oh, she bites, this bird.

Between the high proof and the elevated rye content in the mash, this one is a bit of a spicy burner. Now, bourbon is usually sold around 90 proof, so it tends to be a little rough around the edges. At 101, this one shoots a mite further, as they might phrase it in the backwoods.

(Yes, the 101 in the name is also the proof, which, if you don’t know booze math, is a fancy — overly complicated? — way of saying it’s 50.5% alcohol.)

Unless you’re new here, you know I like high-proof whisky. I don’t think a jolt of alcohol in and of itself makes a tipple more enjoyable, but I am pretty fond of cask-strength booze: whisky right off the wood, undiluted, flavors raw and pure as nature made them.

I don’t just mean that as pretty language, either. Tour Kentucky bourbon country and more than one distillery tour guide will tell you, “We make white dog; nature makes bourbon.”

“White dog” is what licensed distillers call raw, unaged whisky; folks in the backwoods distilling outside the law call the same stuff moonshine.

Take that raw whisky, place it in a charred new oak barrel for a length of time — years, folks — and what emerges is bourbon. As it was explained to me at my very first distillery tour — which *cough* was at Wild Turkey’s Lawrenceburg home — it’s the changing temperatures across the four proper seasons in Kentucky that make the magic happen, pulling the whisky in and out of the charred wood, slowly drawing flavor while time concentrates the liquid into something far greater than the pile of corn, rye, and malted barley it started as.

(If you want to be pedantic, there’s more to it than that, legally speaking. I admire pedants, and often am one, but not tonight.)

At any rate, Wild Turkey makes fine bourbon, and 101 is probably my favorite widely available variety. We can talk later about Rare Breed. Or Kentucky Spirit. Or Forgiven. All fine bourbons, all made under the same roof.

Still, there are times when a spicy belt is called for, and at those times, I go back to 101.

Today’s thoughts: It’s late, I’m tired, there a thousand things to do, and … well, whisky.

Actually, it isn’t that late, just after 8 p.m. as I sit to the keyboard, but that’s plenty late enough to have zero words and not even so much as a whisky in mind to profile.

I am tired, though. Not for any particular reason besides maybe Monday, which in legend of song and feline comic strips, is the worst day that ever there was.

Monday unto itself is bad enough, but then there’s listening to how bad everyone else’s Monday is going, which just makes your Monday all the worse, and yes — self-awareness! — I realize I’m adding to the vicious cycle.

“Who invented Mondays, anyway?!” groused a coworker recently, only to be set back when another, cleverer coworker (not me) chimed in that it’s just a product of the weekend. Blame the labor movement. Once upon a time, everyone worked all the time, and so Monday meant not much. Now you get to experience the joy of weekends, which set you up for the misery of Mondays. Praise labor.

Have I mentioned that I like the people I work with? I like the people I work with. That’s another post. Maybe. Right now I owe one of them a Secret Santa gift for the office holiday party tomorrow, and I might have kinda sorta also committed myself to baking something, too.

These are a few of the thousand things I have to do. And it’s only the fourth of December. As the month rolls on, the tasks pile up. Only a fool would add to his pile with a commitment to write daily, too.

But I like you people.

Also, whisky.

Today’s thought on the passage of time: It takes time to make whisky. Bourbon is relatively quickly made, compared to some others, like Scotch whisky. Blame the relative climates. Still, the older I get, the faster the time seems to go. That’s not an original thought, I know, but how about: I should start some whisky. It won’t be long now before it’s ready.

Today’s toast: To taking the time to take the time for things that make the time worth taking.

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