7/06/2008

Johnnie Walker Gave me a Moment of Clarity

I love scotch, scotchy scotchy scotch. Down, down, into my belly.

I'm a particular fan of the Johnnie Walker family of scotches. Some will question my taste, it's true, since aficionados prize single malts like Glenfiddich, Laphroaig, The Glenlivet and McCallan's and eschew the more prolific and milder blended varieties like JW. What can I say? I'm a plebeian and I like what I like.

The crowned jewel of the Johnnie Walker collection is JW Blue. Perhaps you've seen it at the package store in it's satin lined box, kept under lock and key. It does retail for well over two hundred dollars, after all. Maybe you've seen it on a featured shelf at finer public houses. Perhaps you're familiar with John Spencer's monologue about it from third season ofThe West Wing. If you can afford it, you should try it, at least once.

Myself, I'm not so wealthy at to be able to indulge in more than a portion per year but I do love it so. I love it, but not why you'd think. Sure, it's flavor is smooth and robust. It's timbre uncharacteristically dark. It's aroma rich and inviting. It goes down easy and can be a digestif for a proper winter meal, a perfect compliment to a finer cigar or a distinctive standalone treat. These things are all well worth the savoring but they are not why I love Johnnie Walker Blue.

I love JW Blue philosophically.

Some of the individual malts that go into this blend are upwards of sixty years old. When these whiskeys were first fermented my father was but a boy and my mother not yet born. The peat for these libations was harvested during the second world war, before computers, before commercial air travel, before the space program, before the cold war and before television.

Don't misunderstand. I don't love the heart of this scotch because I fetishize what is old. No, I don't so much admire the age as I admire the patience involved. Any decent scotch sits in it's cask for at least twelve years. Finer scotches age for upwards of two decades. That's a mighty long time for a distiller to wait to see if their hard work, their execution of craft has come to fruition.

The malts in JW Blue sat in their barrels, absorbing the wood tannins, deepening in color and tithing to the angels well more than half a century.

That means the man who first casked that whiskey at the tail end of WWII did so knowing that he would not live to see it bottled, fully aware that he was beginning a job that he would never see finished.

That's a kind of dedication to craft, a kind of long haul thinking that we just don't see any longer. Does anyone even think in terms of legacy anymore? Does anyone have the gumption, the pride, the altruism of spirit to work and slave at something knowing they will never get credit, that perhaps their grandchildren will reap the rewards?

That's why I love Johnnie Walker Blue. It's a taste of history, three fingers of posterity and a reminder of an ethic I can only hope to emulate. That's on top of being a fantastic scotch.

And so, to that man who casked my scotch without the first hope of ever tasting it himself, I raise my glass. May the road rise up to meet you.

5 comments:

killyin said...

Brilliant post, sir. Now get your ass out to Los Angeles and help me brew some beer! I'll reward you with a bottle of your beloved Johnny Blue should you make the trek.

peony said...

As the person who gave you your first taste of Scotch...from a bottle of Glenfiddich you gave me (with purchase assistance from your step father as you were too young to enter a liquor store)...bravo. I remember your comment at that first sip: "Well, that's an acquired taste." You have indeed acquired taste. And with much love I concur with killyin in everything he says, as only his "other mother" could.

killyin said...

Thanks for the much appreciated back up, Mom =]

AZ said...

I love the first line of this post.

waldo said...

A venue manager liked a band I was in so much he cracked a bottle for us after a gig. We drank half and the last was as good as the first.