Drinking Update, Non-alcoholic Division

I’m not much for marking personal fitness milestones.

Okay … I’m not much for having personal fitness milestones.

Still, a few exist.

I have been soda-less for six years.

If you’re curious about the back-story, I wrote about it at the time: Liquid Pro Quo.

I rarely miss it.

Six years later, that’s still the biggest surprise.

Despite spending decades swilling carbonated sugar water, I managed to drop the habit like a hot slippery thing. Then, having let go, I wondered why I ever wanted to pick it up in the first place. I mean, look at it. All hot. And slippery.

My daily routine hasn’t change much since that first experimental week six years ago. I now buy caffeine pills in bulk online and drink tap water from a refillable stainless steel bottle. My body, wallet, and recycling bin remain grateful.

As for rum-and-Coke … just the thought of drinking that again makes me feel a little sick inside. (Who needs it when there is so much good whisky to drink neat? Not I.)

2016 Whisky Wind-down, 2: Revival


Today’s dram: Four Roses, Single Barrel 

Today’s tasting notes: I really can’t taste today. I had a brief reprieve from my head cold yesterday, but that was just the tease before the end, apparently. Today I am stuffy and coughing and cranky. Boooo. 

Anyway, let me tell you a story.  

I first heard of Four Roses while reading an older book. Not old-old, just mid-’90s. But in this book, which was set in the ’70s, I think, there was an older gentleman (Korean War veteran) who, as a matter of routine, had a nightcap from a bottle of Four Roses.

That’s it. No detail given. As I was reading this prior to the blossoming of my own interest in whisky, and prior to the days of good old reliable Google-at-your-fingertips-to-answer-anything, I lived for a time in mystery as to exactly what Four Roses was. 

(It’s bourbon.)

Once, it was a famous brand, and I now realize part of the author’s purpose in having that character drink that whisky nightly was to place him in time and attitude as a certain type of man, an older gentleman who knew the good stuff when it came to whisky. 

Trouble is, by the time I learned this, Four Roses had fallen greatly in stature and had become seen as cheap rotgut whisky, not worth drinking neat or savoring. 

For a time, it was no longer even sold in the States as straight bourbon whisky. Here, it became a cheap blended grain “brown spirit,” hardly worth the name whisky and legally not allowed to be sold as bourbon. 

And yet, overseas, especially in Japan, Four Roses remained true to its heritage and sold straight bourbon. Its success there was such that a Japanese company bought the distilling operation and, gradually, restored the traditional methods while expanding capacity to return to one, global, superb product. 

Today, if you visit Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky — as The Empress of Whisky and I did, last October — the tour and tasting staff are upfront about all of this. I appreciate that. Rather than try to cover an inglorious past (as some marketing hacks might recommend) the company admits and embraces its history and uses it as a springboard to talk about the quality bourbon it turns out today. 

And it is. Quality. 

The standard Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon is fine sipping whisky, and the small batch is quite a lovely step up from there. 

The single barrel promises a unique experience — hand-selected by the master distiller and bottled at a higher proof (though not quite cask strength) for a rich, decadent sipping experience. 

In my experience, single barrel whisky is good stuff. It is also, usually, available only sporadically, at a higher price, in good bottle shops. And while many (maybe half?) of the distilleries we visited offered some for sale at their in-house stores, only Four Roses made it available in tiny 50ml bottles. 

Naturally, I bought one. 

I’d planned to drink it today, but it would be a shame to waste that good spirit on my hampered senses just now. 

So, it will wait. 

Today’s thoughts: I was gone for a long time. I wasn’t writing much, here or elsewhere. That has changed, and I hope to keep going as a new year dawns. I have thoroughly enjoyed 2016 Whisky Wind-down, and not just for the daily drams. It has been a good excuse to get me to the keyboard daily, and it is my hope that when this ends, I shall keep that momentum, like a child who keeps pedaling after the training wheels come off. 

I hope to keep giving you something to come back for, anyway. 

Today’s sincere note: Thanks for reading along. One more to go, then we’ll see where life takes us. 

Today’s toast: To many happy returns. 

2016 Whisky Wind-down, 5: Home, Health, Heartache

 

Today’s dram: Conecuh Ridge, Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey

Today’s tasting notes: This is borrowed. Specifically, I begged a sip from The Empress of Whisky, who received it as a gift from her sister this Christmas. 

Conecuh Ridge is something of a newcomer, one of few distilleries operating in Alabama. 

This bottle is an homage to Clyde May, who was something of a legend among the state’s moonshiners.  Whereas his contemporaries were content to sell the raw product of their stills, May aspired to something greater. Inspired by the great bourbons of Kentucky, he aged his spirit in new charred American oak, but he included a twist — dried apples. The result he dubbed “Alabama Style Whisky.”

Roughly a century after May’s heyday, the Alabama state government finally got around to legalizing the distilling of spirits. Enter Conecuh Ridge. Among their offerings is this homage to the late great May and his innovative whisky. 

I think it tastes like apple juice spiked with vodka. 

Today’s thoughts: I had not intended to write about this one, but life intervened. Between a long drive home, a sore throat (that might be the foretelling of something worse), and the news of Carrie Fisher’s death, I am just burnt today. This is my token effort, based on a sip I begged yesterday. I am currently drinking bourbon for medicinal purposes. May tomorrow be better. 

Today’s note on the passing of an icon: If you read Whisky Wind-down 17, you know something of what Star Wars means to me. This year has been relentlessly reaping celebrities, many of them icons of my youth, but Fisher’s death is a stab in the damned heart. I know only little of her struggles with substance abuse and mental illness, but she is a hero for the way she openly wrote and talked about those issues, aside from anything else she ever did. Obviously, she will always be Leia. I can barely begin to say how important she was as an icon to young girls, but I know just how much she meant to one young girl in particular, my younger sister, whose love of Star Wars is second to nobody’s, my own most definitely included. I’ll write more about that in happier times, I’m sure. Today, though, I’m going  to leave the last words to my favorite Star Wars fan. 

Today’s toast: Courtesy of Jennifer Pierson: “To my favorite princess, thank you for inspiring me at a young age to speak my mind, take no crap, stand up for what’s right, and be brave. You’ll be missed.”

Just Some Words, 9/11/13

“Here is history, how it sounds: what do I love? Remind me.”
— Bin Ramke, “When Culture Was Popular,” Massacre of the Innocents

Those words, from a better poet, echoed with me 12 years ago, and they always run through my head whenever this anniversary rolls around.

The same thoughts, the same memories, the same feeling of helplessness.

Some tempering, though. Some acknowledgement of powerlessness. Some realization of accountability.

I spent the afternoon 12 years ago in my favorite pub of my hometown, commiserating and consoling with friends, some good, some barely acquaintances, all together in the same doubt-filled boat, applying alcohol to our wounds in lieu of better medicine.

Sometimes I think I’m still in that place, still having those conversations, still wondering whether this is how the world ends, neither bang nor whimper but instead the look-at-me destructive antics of fanatics, followed closely by the look-at-you destructive antics of patriots … and we’re all simmering together, oblivious to our fate, a needle in the groove of a record, but the music is so terrible no one really hears the scratch-and-repeat rhythm.

Some day I’ll remember how to spell rhythm.

Today is not that day.

Today is yet another day when I rely on the spell-checker.

Today is yet another day.

A day I’m tempted to make a list, make a reminisce worth reading, make a better memory, make something, anything, preferably a difference.

It’d be easier to say I have no words, but these are the words the I have, and it’s time I at least put them somewhere.

Remind me.

Afterword: Inspiration

Regarding the previous post

I listened to Amanda Palmer’s “The Killing Type” this morning.

Elsewhere, I read her explain one lyric: “i once stepped on a dying bird.” 

It was her explanation that brought all of this to mind. It’s not often I write from that sort of inspiration, but there it is, today. (It’s not often I write the why behind a piece, either, but considering the way I read the why behind that lyric, it seems exactly appropriate today.)

(Not) The Killing Type

I murdered a frog, once.

Flung a stone and spattered it to pieces.

Then wanted desperately to take it back, rewind time just a few moments.

Back before the other boys laughed and threw their stones, cajoled me to throw mine.

“Get him!” “Get him!”

I should have thrown wide, deliberately.

Or, better, I shouldn’t have picked up the stone.

Or, best, I shouldn’t have spent time with boys like those.

***

I murdered a bird, once.

Raised the rifle, shattered it to feathers

Then wondered, disbelieving what I had done.

As the other boys congratulated me.

“Great shot!” “Nice one!”

We were hunting squirrels, not songbirds.

And I wondered why I had done it.

And I aimed to miss the rest of day.

***

I killed a deer, once.

Twice.

I missed more often.

As the other boys consoled me.

“Too bad. “Next time.”

I did not consciously miss them. (I did not aim to miss.)

I think my conscience missed them. (I might have aimed, amiss.)

And still remorse hunting for a purpose, for venison.

***

I killed a pastime.

Let it go, watched it drift.

Let my father believe I wasn’t interested.

Let him think, like the other boys, that I was too good for it, anymore.

“City boy.” “College boy.”

Every bit of that is true, of course.

But, mostly, I remember the frog and the bird.

And the truth is, I’m not the killing type.