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, 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.

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

2016 Whisky Wind-down, 12: Procrastination 

Today’s dram: Laphroaig, 18-Year-Old

Today’s tasting notes: Strong, deep breath of the sea. Somewhere a fire is burning. Sit here and remember with me, the things we loved in days gone by. 

Today’s thoughts: This one is a bit late, especially considering I had basically all day to get it done. 

Well, not all day.  

I had presents to wrap, shopping to finish, dishes to catch up, probably other tasks that are slipping my mind … 

So, I slept in. 

I thought I might just have a quick lunch and then get going, but Sappho looked at me pitifully, so I sat on the couch and let her flop with me a bit. 

Then she reminded me the remake western The Magnificent Seven just dropped for streaming rental today, and she really likes westerns and The Empress of Whisky (who does not) is away hiking, so …


Decent flick. It ain’t Seven Samurai, but then, what is?

Then an unusual thing happened, the sort of thing that I suppose happens a lot but I never notice because I am away at work — a crew came by to pressure-wash our building. The water made weird sounds out there, and the sounds made Sappho anxious, so I stayed on the couch to console her, and I decided to read a bit …

Next thing I knew, The Empress of Whisky was home with dinner. 

Not only had I accomplished nothing on my personal to-do list, I also had yet to even pick today’s whisky. 

The topic, however, basically writes itself. 

I have long had the great ability to put off ’til tomorrow what cannot be accomplished today. 

“And what can be put off ’til tomorrow might just as easily be put off ’til day after tomorrow as well.”

I forget who said that, but I remember it was Douglas Adams who said, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

I love being on holiday when the only deadline I have is a self-imposed one to daily drink a dram and then write about it. 

I realize how incredibly fortunate a position that is to be in. Moreso, I realize how, when I’m not on holiday I mostly work by a set of generous white-collar deadlines that would be the envy of most workers the world over. 

So being unhappy that I cannot meet my own deadlines is an admittedly advantaged position in which to find myself.

Doesn’t make it any easier. But I do acknowledge it. 

Today’s deeply morbid thought on tomorrow: A good friend of mine — the same who gave me the Laphroaig 18 — once said to me, as I was lamenting my lack of progress, feeling like I was spending too much time on trivial pursuits, “Someday this will all be dust and no one will be here to remember or care; so, in the long run, idle chit-chat is about as useful as anything short of building an empire.”

Today’s toast: To the reader: I’ll have something for you tomorrow. Probably. 

I Have Forgotten How It Goes

It’s embarrassing how little I remember sometimes.

I have an English degree, and the head full of dusty literature that comes with it, but all too often I fail to recollect the lines I need to recall, when I need to recall them.

Others stick forever with me, even if the context of their origin is sometimes fuzzy.

“This is history, how it sounds. What do I love? Remind me.”

That’s a line from the poet Bin Ramke, best I remember it, from his work “When Culture Was Popular,” which is part of his anthology Massacre of the Innocents.

I met him, somewhere along 1997 or so, shortly after that was published. He spoke to an advanced creative writing class I was part of, only a dozen or so students, and we sat in a coffee shop and asked endless questions about his work, his process, hoping, each of us, to capture some bit of magic from this master in our midst, each still sheltering at least some fragment of a dream that we could be the sort of practitioner he had become — stable, employed, respected. Any two of those, maybe. Hell, one, so long as it was part of an existence as a writer.

I don’t have to tell you I’m one of the ones who didn’t make it. That sort of statement is redundant to tell someone who has made it here to this neglected little spot online.

These days the very best lines of poetry I make — any writing at all, really — stay in my head for the little bit of time they last before I dismiss them, usually before even approaching a writing implement.

Then days like this come along — 50 Dead in Orlando — and all I want is to be back in that coffee shop, dreaming those dreams, because at least then I still believed that words mattered, that something someone wrote might make a difference, than any little piece of peace in this world was achievable …

But that part of the dream is as lost as the rest of it, and I just sit here wondering what any of it matters, anywhere, anymore.

I am tired of the sound of history, and I do not remember what I love anymore … but I am trying, I am here today, trying, to remind myself.