2019 Whisky Wind-down, 26: Comfort

[Note: As foretold, this begins the return of Whisky Wind-down. It’s a little late, for reasons to be noted below, but it’s the first of this year’s series, which will, if not be as extensive as those of prior years, at least exist.]

[Secondary note: Post numbering will be consistent with what I’ve done previously, which is to say each day’s number will be an advent-style indicator of days left in the year (as of post publication). This year there will, however, be gaps in the series. Thanks for bearing with me.]

Today’s dram: Buffalo Trace, standard bottling

Today’s tasting notes: It tastes like recovery.

Today’s thoughts: I’ve had this lingering cold that just won’t go away. It’s down, at this point, to a few fits of coughing, the occasional sneeze, and such. Also, my voice is down about half an octave. Also, also, and more relevant to the matter at hand, my tasting apparatus is not functioning at full faculty, damn the luck.

I kinda need that for the general enjoyment of life’s little culinary luxuries, specifically and especially whisky, dammit.

I’m on the mend, getting a bit better day by day, but it means I’m going to have to put off some of the better drams I have lined up waiting, simply because I refuse to waste good whisky on bad tasting equipment.

So what does that say about today’s choice? Well, for one thing, I’ve had so much Buffalo Trace that I know what it’s supposed to taste like. Hell, it makes a good test sample for how well my sense of taste is recovering. Consider it, if you will, a calibration dram. As of this tasting, I’m running about 80% capacity. Not bad, but not what I want for trying some fancy and new-to-me drams. We’ll get there, though.

A few words about Buffalo Trace in general. I’ve written about it before, twice, so I’ll try not to repeat myself, but say just that it’s a great everyday bourbon, affordable (especially with the 1.75 liter option) and good to keep around. I don’t even mind if guests put ice in it or use it in a cocktail.

There’s a lot to be said, some of which I think I have said, about the process by which Buffalo Trace is made, and the somewhat ancient (by bourbon standards) distillery at which it is made. Seriously, if you’re ever in the heart of bourbon country (north central Kentucky) swing over to Frankfurt and take the tour.* It’s lovely.

*(It’s not on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail, so even if you’re doing that, you need to schedule a side-trip. Just do it. Trust me.)

For today, though, I’ll just say when I’m feeling under the weather, I’m glad to have a bottle of Buffalo Trace at hand. People talk of “medicinal purposes” for whisky, often in jest, but it warms my heart and spirits to have one like this around, especially for any ailment entailing a sore throat.

Today’s random ramblings: Yes, that’s me in the photo. First time I’ve posted one of myself in this series, or, for that matter, on this blog in general. There’s a story there, one that I’ll get into in a non-Whisky Wind-down post, but for now just now that I’ve opted to give anonymity the finger.

About that pic, I shall point out three things:

1) The pipe is unlit. It has, in fact, never been lit. It’s my pondering pipe, which I like to have in hand when I’m deep into writerly thinking and also want to indulge in a little writerly cosplay. It’s made of mahogany and was carved in Mozambique. The Empress of Whisky purchased it there, during one of her travels, and she made a gift of it to me during the first Christmas we spent together. She also made a gift of ….

2) The smoking jacket. It’s silky, oh-so-comfortable, and has dragons. What more could I ask for, especially for the writerly cosplay I just mentioned? I love it dearly. (Also it has a pocket just the right size for keeping the pondering pipe.)

3) Yep. That’s branded Buffalo Trace glassware I’m sporting. It’s not our usual thing, but The Empress and I have kept a few from our distillery touring, mostly ones that are fun sizes or just neat. This has a raised buffalo on it, and you can measure a two-ounce dram by pouring to his, uh, bits. It’s a handy piece of glassware, is my point.

4) I can’t count. Or, at least, I can’t always anticipate the number of things I really have to say about something when setting up a numbered list. Yes, I could edit, but this is funnier, at least to me.

5) There is no 5.

Today’s toast: To recovery, and the whisky encountered along the way.

Whither Whisky Wind-down?

By far the most popular series I’ve written here is Whisky Wind-down.

The original, set in 2016, was my way of combining my love for whisky, my disdain for the events of 2016, and my fascination with advent calendars.

The result? 31 days of drinking, talking about random things, and really enjoying my own words again.

Through 2017, my writing tapered off again, but I got fired up at the end of the year, and I once again laid down a month’s worth of (almost completely consecutive) posts, even though I spent the last few days of that year traveling around Costa Rica.

Then the silence. I still haven’t explained that (and am perhaps inclined not to?) but for the next twenty months the newest post on the site remained 2017 Whisky Wind-down, 1: Life’s a Beach.

For all you knew, I had died on that beach. Or decided to live on it.

Anyway, I didn’t.

I spent the next year not writing here, and when December 2018 rolled around, a few people — I have fans! Tens of them! — wrote to me when Whisky Wind-down didn’t start that year. I told them (truthfully) things had been difficult but I still planned (honestly, I planned) to write a reduced 2018 Whisky Wind-down. At first I thought it would just have a late start. Then a late start became “maybe a top 10 list,” which became “maybe just one good, long post to wrap the year,” which became 10 months not writing anything at all here.

Well, I’m writing here again. And whether I ever get around to properly explaining the time I wasn’t writing here, I am, right now, enjoying myself again.

And I still drink whisky.

It’s my pleasure, therefore, to tell you to expect, in the coming days, Whisky Wind-down The Third: The Saga Continues, Following A Hiatus That Will Likely Not Be Elaborated Upon During This Series, Though You May Read With Eagerness Just In Case I Change My Mind, Or, Just, You Know, Read It Because You Like Reading Whisky Ruminations.

I’ll call it 2019 Whisky Wind-down, for short.

Following Al: Weird Weekend

(Note: This is the second post in what was intended to be a trio. Like the first, it has languished in Draft Hell for a good portion of the time I was away from the site. I have finished it more or less as originally intended, so maybe just pretend you found it in the Archives? Great. Thanks. The final one will also happen, though maybe not immediately following this one.)

So, in 2018, “Weird Al” Yankovic was free for the first time.

Free from obligation, that is, to a record label. The prior year, with the release of Mandatory Fun, his 14th studio album, he had, at long last, fulfilled his recording contract and no longer owed anyone anything, professionally speaking.

How did he choose to celebrate? By taking the band on tour. Just the band, though. No costumes, fancy sets, monitors, backups, or extras. Not even the previously obligatory guest appearance by the local 501st Legion garrison.

It was just, as Al put it, “five old guys on stools, playing music.”

Some background here: I already mentioned how long I’ve been a fan. My concert-going days had to wait a while, but ever since I’ve had the means — starting during my college years — I have seen Al at least once on every tour that has come through Georgia, and he almost always comes through Georgia.

I’ve see him everywhere from terrible lawn seats in the Valdosta heat at Wild Adventures to front row at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta, something like a dozen shows all together.

I had not, however, generally gone to the effort to see him more than once on any particular tour. Not that I don’t love the shows, but the big shows have always been pretty predictable — the latest hits, plus a few old favorites, with the odd deep cut tossed in. I loved the shows, but within a tour, they were the same, night to night.

Not this time.

This time, the shows would feature mostly original songs. None of the big parody numbers. And, and … every night would feature a different set list, pulled from about 70 songs the band rehearsed for this tour.

To say I was a little excited would be to terribly understate the issue. I immediately sought out dates near me and found two: A show in Augusta on Saturday, followed by an Atlanta show the next night. I set an alarm on my phone for the time tickets went on sale, and I pounced to get good seats for both.

Two shows! Both different! Wooo!

And yet … there was the temptation for more.

I looked around to see where else, within relatively easy driving distance, the tour would swing through.

Chattanooga.

It’s only two hours from Atlanta. Easy. But … that show was the Friday right before the Augusta show on Saturday. Augusta is also two hours (plus a bit) from Atlanta. Did I really want to drive two hours to Chattanooga, see a show, drive two hours home, sleep (a bit), get up, drive two more hours to Augusta, see a show, sleep (a bit), drive two hours home, then watch a third show?

No, I did not.

Want to drive that much.

I absolutely wanted to see three shows in three nights.

Reluctantly, I let the opportunity pass, consoling myself that I would have two shows in two nights, and that would be fantastic.

Then a funny thing happened.

My job decided I needed to attend a conference the week leading up to these shows. The conference was in Nashville.

Funny thing about Nashville — it’s two hours north of Chattanooga, a total of four from Atlanta.

Now, some people, having bought tickets to see shows on Saturday and Sunday and now having to drive an extra four hours the day before said shows, might be a tad grumpy.

I was ecstatic.

See, I had to drive through Chattanooga to get home.

And if I was going to drive through Chattanooga anyway, damned if I wouldn’t stop for a “Weird Al” show.

Thus it came to pass that, counting from Friday morning through Sunday night, I drove a little over eight hours (traveling about 550 miles), watched three concerts (about six hours total), and slept, well, some.

I was a tired monkey come Monday.

A tired, happy monkey.