2019 Whisky Wind-down, 1: The Down

A calico cat, in closeup, stares at you. Over her shoulders, just out of focus, sits a bottle of Ardbeg Kelpie and a tumbler with a dram poured in it.

Today’s dram: Ardbeg Kelpie.

Today’s tasting notes: If you love big, cask-strength Islay whisky, the sort where the first sip scores your mouth to prepare to lay down a sweet ride on the ocean … get thee to your best bottle shoppe and acquire this. I don’t have a seal of approval or such, but this would be on any such list I developed.

Today’s brief preface to thoughts: A kelpie is a legendary creature, specifically a shape-shifting water-beast in Celtic lore, said to haunt the lochs of Scotland.

I don’t know if such things are real. Legends tell us stories we may choose to believe, of things that may have been real once (or remain real but hidden). It’s a matter of choice to believe in them, to seek them out, to find our own truths.

Today’s thoughts: I suffer from depression and anxiety.

This has been the case for me for at least half my life. Until recently, however, my struggle was carried out on a personal level only.

That changed this year.

I finally acknowledged it was time I had some assistance. Getting to that point took an incredible amount of time, frustration, and overcoming fear. So much fear. When you’ve lived half your life learning to cope in certain ways, you really might not be inclined to give those ways up on the hope that someone — an external someone — might have a piece of the solution you’ve been needing.

This is especially true when the one and only person you really trust to talk to about such things is yourself.

I’m not going to make this a long, mopey recovery post. Frankly, I don’t have that in me. I’m still a bit amazed I have this much in me. But one of the remarkable things about the ongoing improvements in my mental well-being is an ability to look at something, keep looking at it, and even start to do something about it.

Not coincidentally, these are all common factors to overcoming writer’s block.

I may never be the scribe I aspire to be. I may never be good enough to be the understudy to the person who carries the pencil box of the person who holds the backup pencils for the official pencil box carrier to a third-tier, semi-notable writer … but dammit I’m going to stop worrying about the outcome and just get some words down.

Nothing else for it.

My mental improvement has been a journey, and it’s not over. I owe tremendous thanks to so many people who helped me get to the point of seeking help, receiving help, and keeping going when the help takes time to, well, help.

Several friends, whom I will not name here, have gone through, and continue to go through, similar issues. Their support — especially, in many cases, just their examples in living their lives — has made such difference in mine.

Several family, whom I will not single out, have also helped tremendously in this regard.

Okay, I will single out a couple, only because I know specifically they will not mind.

Without The Empress of Whisky, my life partner, I would not be here, full stop. She’s the pole star in my wanderings, and the constant that keeps my going. I love her fully and forever.

Also, Cat. She really is the best cat.

Today’s toast: To the future, and to the joy that comes of having one.

Whisky Wind-down, 15: Rhymes With Nothing

An opened 100-ml bottle of Glenmorangie Original (10YO) stands in front of a Glenmorangie tasting set gift box, the contents of which are obscured. Nearby, a Glencairn glass stands filled with whisky.

Today’s dram: Glenmorangie, The Original, 10-Year-Old

Today’s tasting notes: The aroma is floral, as a field of wildflowers on a breezy day, when their honeyed nectar was just disturbed by passing bees.

The whisky is smooth and soft on the palate, its flavors so subtle as to seem diluted. It reminds me of nothing so much as a liquified citrus sorbet.

This is the mildest Scotch whisky I can recall trying. It’s barely there.

Today’s thoughts: Speaking of “recall trying,” I’ve had this one before, several years ago, before I had really immersed myself into an appreciation of Scotch whisky.

A friend, made through our mutual interest in hitting one another with sticks, invited me to a Scotch whisky tasting party at his home. I don’t recall much of what was on offer that evening, but I do remember Glenmorangie was there. In fact, it is the only whisky I recall for certain; that’s the benefit of a distinctive name, I guess.

Today’s note on the future: This is one of four bottles I received in a Glenmorangie tasting gift set. What else is in there? I’ll tell you later. I’ll probably also explain that “hitting one another with sticks” reference. Probably.

Today’s toast: To the poets, who know rhyming is usually the least difficult part.

Whisky Wind-down, 17: Void

Today’s dram: None.

Today’s tasting notes: None.

Today’s thoughts: Some days, it hurts to think. On those days, it may or may not hurt to drink. Sometimes, when you stare into the Abyss, it stares back. Other times, the Abyss would just like to know how you’re doing, catch up a bit, put lunch on the calendar.

Today’s bit of honesty: It isn’t always difficult. Just often. Too often. Even accomplishing the joyful things becomes difficult, in this theoretically most joyful month.

Today’s toast: To all who struggle; struggle on.

2017 Whisky Wind-down, 30: Wrecked

[Note: If you’re new, catch up at the 2017 Whisky Wind-down Primer.] 

—–

A bottle of Ardbeg Corryvreckan lies on its side, apparently empty, its cork a filled whisky glass nearby. These items are arranged near a keyboard and a computer monitor. On the monitor is writing about whisky.

Today’s dram: Ardbeg, Corryvreckan

Today’s tasting notes: This is cask-strength, big Islay whisky at its finest, and it’s where I left off last year.

I am tempted, by both laziness and a love of my own words, to just repeat the description I wrote last year, but that would be a disservice to you, me, and this cask-strength 57.1 ABV monster.

Really, calling it a monster is another sort of disservice. A kraken is a monster. A corryvreckan is a swirling whirlpool about which a kraken might feel a trifle anxious.

As an anxious person whose sigil is squid, I find this whisky delightfully appropriate.

Much like its namesake, the whisky is a complex swirl. Sometimes I get straight campfire in the aroma, followed by a woodsy burning on the palate. Other times, it’s brine in my nose and saltwater burn on my throat. I can’t say it’s the same thing every time I try it. It’s shifty, spiraling on my palate and in my mind, and that’s why I keep coming back to it.

I know my perception is influenced by the name and legend, but isn’t that part of the point? If labeling and legend don’t matter, just buy a bottle of Fermented Grain and call it a day.

I remember my first dram of this one, taken in the kitchen of an old friend. I’d gifted him the bottle, which he immediately opened and poured, and we were both blown away. I’d bought it on reputation alone, and we were both expecting … something. What we got was a punch in the mouth, but one that left us refreshed and searching.

Today’s thoughts: Here’s where I tell you the plan that didn’t come to fruition.

Last year, I had this bottle set aside for the conclusion of 2016 Whisky Wind-down. My intent was to take it with me to an annual New Year’s Eve party hosted by some lovely friends of mine, at which I would share it, wax philosophic about it, and generally commiserate with like-minded folk over the wretched year ending and the one to dread ahead.

I would have written the post, published it, then perhaps added updates as the night wore on and the year wound down.

Alas, I got sick instead. A few days shy of the end of the year, actually. And it wore down my enthusiasm for writing, as well as my capacity for fully experiencing whisky.

I didn’t miss any posts, but I still feel those last few were not what I wanted them to be. Granted, little of my published work is ever what I wanted it to be. There’s a disconnect between thoughts, writing, and publication that I shall never put together to my satisfaction. Frankly, I don’t know how any writer does. I don’t know if the ones who seem to are just the rare breed, or liars. I do know I once spent half an hour in the leasing office of my college apartment complex because I got writer’s block when the office manager asked me to write down my reason for not renewing my lease.

That’s … not really uncommon for me. The feeling, if not the outcome. Deadlines are good, if only because something will (usually) get done, but deadlines are horrible because whatever gets down will (usually) not be as good as it could have been.

Nothing ever is. Struggle, struggle, struggle.

And here, where there are no deadlines except my own, and I am the most lenient deadline-giver that ever there was … things don’t always get done.

What have I been doing all year, instead of writing?

Well, to be accurate, instead of publishing? I’ve written. My drafts folder rivals the size of the published folder.

But nothing’s ever good enough.

Let me explain, by going back to the bottle.

I’ve been nursing this one all year. In and of itself, that’s not unusual. I tend to keep whiskies around forever, pulling a dram now and then as the mood strikes, but acquiring new bottles at a far greater pace than emptying old ones.

But I’ve been at this one lately, reminding myself what it represents, why I’m compelled by it. I’ve been caught in a corryvreckan for over a year, treading water, going with the flow.

I want to find the optimism with which I pretended to face this year, the hope with which I believed I could still proceed, the faith in certain people …

But, no.

I stopped writing for a reason.

Reasons.

Beyond any particular personal failings (or illusions of such), I did not think a string of words mattered, anymore.

At some point, if you do not have common ground with people who are important to you … what?

Don’t misunderstand. I am as close as ever to almost everyone I care about. I have, even, to my own surprise, formed a few new friendships and found formidable firmness in some others already extant.

But.

I let some go. Others, I keep only beneath a modest shroud of shared pretense.

To be perfectly frank, I stopped writing here because some of the things I was compelled to write about threatened to pull that shroud right off.

Right.

Off.

But it’s a year later, and the world rolls on, and I’m still aboard, and growing bored, and, well, shit, what is a writer who does not write?

Today’s overwrought symbolism: Obvious, isn’t it?

Today’s pithy summation: Writers’s block is all in your head. Too bad you live in your head.

Today’s toast: To being back at the keyboard.

2017 Whisky Wind-down, 346: Not My Whisky

[Editorial note: You probably remember 2016 Whisky Wind-down. Hell, it basically just ended. Am I saying 2017 is already so bad that it’s time to start a similar countdown already? No. I am not. However, some days beg to be noted in time. Also, some days call for a stiff drink.] 


Today’s dram: Ruskova Vodka Real American Whisky

Today’s tasting notes: Blarg. Gak. <string of expletives>

Today’s thoughts: Appropriately enough, I woke up sick today. Psychosomatic? Could be.

At any rate, I hadn’t been awake long when my phone rang. T-Mobile customer service. Without getting into the specifics, I’ll just say the company and I have an ongoing billing dispute. They’re wrong, of course. The service reps — I talked to three, over the course of 90 minutes — acknowledge the problem, but say they “can’t change that in the system.”

All in all, it was a frustrating experience, being in the right but still unable to make a positive change. Powerless before the needs of the corporation. Pay up or lose.

Which is, again, appropriate enough for the day at hand.

All the facts in the world don’t matter if one side has power and the willingness to use it.

All the reason in the world doesn’t matter if the other side is unreasonable.

Try as you might, the inertia of the system will carry you away, regardless.

Today’s notes on the immediate future: And so … I drank my selected “whisky.”

I poured a second.

After a bit, it got easier.

I mean, if you have low expectations.

No, lower than that. 

Afterward, I went to my happy place. 

Not the bar. 

My other happy place: the kitchen.  

There, I baked Christmas cookies.

What with travel, various sicknesses, and other conflicts, this weekend is the earliest I have been able to coordinate gathering with my family to observe the holiday.

It’s harder than it used to be, and I don’t just mean the scheduling. 

See, try as I might, I can’t convince some of them we’re better off, by far, than we were eight years ago, and the next four years bode poorly for all of us.

(In fairness, try as they might, they can’t convince me of the opposite, either.)

We resolve these differences mostly by ignoring them. 

At least we agree on cookies. 

Today’s toast: Nostrovia, comrades! “May the wings of liberty never lose a feather.” –Jack Burton

Autumnal Equinox 2016

As autumn arrives, I sigh at surviving another summer.

I get that seasonal affective disorder is a thing, and this is the time of year when it starts to kick in for some people.

I get it, yet I am utterly, completely wired the other way.

Reaching the end of summer for me is like coming up for air — cool, damp air with just a hint of decaying plant matter.

And while the mere change of a season is unlikely to make much difference in the greater scheme of life — especially as I seem to be living in a version of the United States that is damned and determined to replay the worst hits of the 1960s, day by day diving ever deeper into divisiveness — I cannot help feeling a little better now the longest days are behind us.