The Wonderful World of Whiskey
So many of our first experiences with whiskey started back in high school, or the early days of college slamming shots of rot-gut down our throats to the point of……..well, we all know what happens.
My story is not much different from that. And yes, most of that night is still to this day a blur. However I do remember an experience that changed my view of whiskey and in turn changed my life…..
I was 22 years old and visiting my mother down in Cochran, Georgia. Cochran is a very small rural town in the dead center of the state: population less than 5, 000. My Uncle Tony was there as well discussing the family business of pulp wood farming.
One night after dinner Tony was taunting me, as usual, about everything under the sun: religion, politics, social standards, school, women, then…to his favorite subject………booze. Tony has always been a fan of raising the wrist. I don’t know of a time that he didn’t have a drink ready to pour or one in hand. Anyway, somehow we got on the subject of bourbon, and Tony produced a bottle of Booker’s.
“Have you ever tried it?”, he asked me with a devilish grin.
“No”, I repleid wondering what the look was for.
He pulled to glasses from the shelf, and poured a couple ounces in each. I took my glass to my lips then got a whiff of this tipple, and pulled back from the intense aroma. Tony chucked (now I knew what the grin was for) and said,”You might want a little water in it.”
I put an ounce or so of water my glass, and raised it again to my lips. I was not gonna let him get the best of me on this one: I would never live it down if I did. I took a sip.
Never had I tasted somethng as amazingly beautiful than this. I felt like I had been transported to a new plane of existence. Such intense and deep flavors: vanilla, smoke,and wood that lasted for what seemd like days. I looked at Tony as if I had been initiated into a new world. I had graduated to the grown-up table!!
I sat there savoring this tipple for an hour as we talked and taunted each other again over other worldly topics. This bourbon continued to taste better and better to me as the night went on. This began my torrid love afair with bourbon, which to this day is my drink of choice.
Years later I had the pleasure of sharing a glass of this elixir with Booker Noe himself, the creator and namesake of the bourbon my uncle had introduced to me. Booker was on a tour with his distributor (I’d mention the name if they were endorsing my work!!) and was visiting the Eldorado Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico where I worked as the Head Bartender at the time. Mr Noe was a huge presence of a man: large not only in size but in his command with a deep resonant voice that echoed in the room, much like his bourbon. With him, he brought a special bottling of Booker’s that marked the 10th anniversary of it’s release. Needless to say I purchased an autographed bottle that night, which I opened and shared with friends the night my daughter was born.
Nowadays, I still enjoy a glass of Booker’s which I reserve for special occasions, but I will never forget that first night I tasted it’s glory and splendor.
Here’s to you, Tony! And to you Booker Noe for your incredible creation, may you rest in Peace.