Some whiskeys exist to confirm the sad fact that life has always been a four-front battle of the harried individual against the unrelenting, unconquerable forces of hurry and exhaustion, longing and despair. For most of us, anyway, that is the case. It’s a sad, hard, uphill climb on a cold damp night for most of us.
Hence mankind’s predisposition to leap irrationally at anything promising relief.
Hence this whiskey.
Without the need for deep, distracting, seductive pleasures, would a whiskey like this one, like a darkling distillation of the flowers of Lethe, ever have blossomed into the light of human day? With this glass of Longrow 7 Year Old Gaja Barolo in front of me – try as I might, I can focus on nothing else. I have things to do, deadlines looming, people to connect with, obligations to meet, peeves to pet and real problems to solve – but, rather than focus on any of that, I cradle this whiskey like a lovelorn companion and rock the glass under my nose yet again – and again and again – and take a slow, small, very deliberate drink from the glass… Aaahh… All is well, now is now, all toil and trouble be damned.
I am well aware that this is an odd question to ask in a whiskey review – however: Do you really care what this tastes like? If you don’t like the taste of savory peat and sea plums, say, would you push away the elixir of limbo just because it tastes of sea plums and savory peat?
You might? Well, then…
The nose is littoral peat smoke and sea salt in a coastal fishing village at low tide on a very humid day. Un-showered urchins sprint about the distant docks, squeezing tangerines under a blistering sun.
The palate is rich and full, smoky, big and warm – and somehow both sullied and undefiled, an unwashed old virgin stewing plums in sweet lime-laced, oak spiced brine in a burnt-black kettle over a peat fire on the beach while the upturned, thin crescent moon holds water.
The finish is pitted plums in a carved oak bowl left exposed in waning sunlight on the deck of a fishing trawler in need of a wash-down and a new coat of paint.
But the overall impression – the defining, philosophical core of this experience – is intoxication. Not in the “making drunk” sense, but in the sense of an almost sexual, body-and-soul-absorbing call to intoxicating, time-dashing pleasure. And as the savory burn of this pungent elixir slips down your throat and surrounds your heart with the deep slow heat of nature… Aahhh, yes… All is well, now is now, all toil and trouble be damned.