Show me the way to the next whiskey bar (or not)

 

Well, here we are, one week into Lent.  For the past several years my Lenten fast has been alcohol related. I have alternatively abstained from beer and from alcohol altogether.  As I considered my options I started taking stock of my life.  What habits were starting to trouble me?  What might God be calling me to change?

The answer didn’t take long.  Whiskey (usually bourbon or rye) had become a nightly ritual.  Just a few years ago it was a very occasional indulgence.  Beer was my undisputed drink of choice.  But since our trip down the Bourbon Trail in 2015 that after-dinner whiskey cemented its place in my nightly routine.

Unfortunately, along with that habit came a gradual increase in my consumption of alcohol. Especially when the whiskey isn’t getting measured out by the bartender it became all too easy to pour a double. Add high-proof varieties into the mix (one of my favorites, Old Weller Antique clocks in at 107 proof on up into barrel-strength whiskeys which tip the scales in the 130’s), and suddenly that “one” glass has the alcohol equivalent of one and half all the way up to three regular 80 proof drinks.

Just to keep things simple, I extended the fast to include all hard liquor, otherwise I’d be tempted to start substituting G&T’s or Armagnac which would defeat the whole purpose.

One week into Lent, I pleased to report that I’m doing OK. It’s been interesting to notice that when I am heading into the living room after cleaning up from dinner, my eyes are drawn inexorably upwards towards the liquor cabinet. While I miss it, the absence of whiskey isn’t causing me any existential crisis. And, as I hoped, it has cut down on my alcohol consumption. While I might choose to have a nice quad or Imperial Stout after dinner, I am certainly not temped to go back for seconds.

Of course I still have five more weeks to go and a lot can happen in that time. But I’m not losing any sleep over it. What will be really interesting is how I re-integrate whiskey back into my life once Christ is Risen. But for now, that’s a question for another day and another post.

What about you?  Do you fast for Lent?  If so, what do you give up?  Have you ever fasted from alcohol?  How did it go for you?

“Where have you been?”

downloadI stopped by my local beer distributor and those were the first words out of their mouth. “Where have you been?”  After thinking about it for a moment I realized he was right.  I hadn’t dropped by more than once the whole summer.  Of course some of the time I had been away, but the real reason for my absence was that this summer I fell in love with bourbon.

It started out innocently enough.  About five years ago my aunt brought us a bottle of Blanton’s and we were immediately smitten.  This will come as no surprise to most bourbon drinkers since Blanton’s is pretty high up the food chain selling for $60 or more.  To put it in beer terms it’s kind of like starting out with a St Bernardus 12.  Of course we didn’t know any of that at the time.. we just knew we liked it.

In time we started to try other, less pricy bottles like Four Roses and Jefferson’s.  It wasn’t long until you could find a bottle bourbon in our cabinet all the time.   In time rye joined the party as well.

IMAG00177By 2014 that gift of a single bottle had ballooned into a regular part of our routine.  But beer was still far and away my go to beverage.  All that changed this August.  In the course of a single week bourbon managed to eclipse beer as my evening libation.

So what lead to such a radical conversion?  The answer was an amazing six day trip to Kentucky.   With some expert guidance from the great Lew Bryson, my wonderful wife managed to map out a way for us to hit 11 distilleries in 5 days plus squeeze in a trip to Mammoth Cave to boot.  I’ll go into more details about where we went and what we learned in a future post.

But this brings me to perhaps the most ineffable, yet also most important, reason why that week altered my preferences in a way I would have never thought possible… namely that the love of bourbon is something my wife and I now share.  Don’t get me wrong- she likes beer just fine.  But in over 25 years together she has never, and I mean never, showed the kind of enthusiasm for discussing and analyzing beer that she does for bourbon and rye.

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Said lovely wife dipping her finger into a fermentation vessel at Buffalo Trace

That added value is what finally toppled beer from its long held zenith.  That few minutes of discussion about which of the now many different bottles we’d like to share that night or the enjoyment of trying something new together… well it really enhances the experience and makes an already delicious beverage all the more enjoyable.

I confess that I am still getting used to this new order of things.  At times when I go to the liquor cabinet for a night cap, it feels like I am cheating on my poor beer fridge out in the garage.  And who knows?  In time beer might just climb its way back to the top.  But for now both my beer fridge and my local distributor will have to get used to seeing less of me.