Goddam Daniel Whittington. Sonuvabitch gave me a bottle of Nikka Pure Malt Whisky as a present, and he knew EXACTLY what it was going to do to me. I love Daniel, but he will use whisky to fuck with you. That’s just a fact.
Shit. Now I’ve gone this far I guess I gotta lay out the whole story for you.
I was married once. Long ago in a different life. I had both eyes, lots of friends, and was fairly normal, so they tell me. Close enough anyway. I was twenty-five when I met her and she was the quirkiest woman I’d ever laid eyes on. She could throw a football in a tight spiral, didn’t carry a purse cause she thought they were stupid, and she wore nothing but jeans and tennis shoes unless forced to do otherwise, in which case she would hobble around on high heels, cussing, until she gave up, pulled them off, and went barefoot with her heels dangling from her left hand.
God help me, even now when I think about her. When I think about her turning around and smiling at me, the bottoms of her feet smudged from running around barefoot and those heels hanging from her hand. I’d say, “Just throw those heels in the trash, darlin’. You don’t need ‘em.”
And she would say, “No.” That’s it. Never explained herself. Just “no.” Wouldn’t wear them. Wouldn’t throw them away. God I loved that woman. My heart is pounding in my chest right now. RIGHT NOW while I write this. Boom, boom, boom; I can feel it.
Shelby’s father married us. That was before she was born and before he lost his religion and ran off. We got married by the Frio River up in the Hill Country. Yeah, she was barefoot. You know she was.
And she was a straight whisky drinker, which as you probably know is one of the sexiest things a woman can be and do. She drank Japanese whisky before anyone else ever heard of it. This was in the late ‘80s. In particular she was fond of Masataka Taketsuru’s whisky. She used to get it from her dad, who had some kind of connections in Japan – I don’t remember what they were. But anyway you couldn’t find it in stores back then.
Nikka whisky. Might as well call it Scotch, even though it’s from Japan. It’s as if Masataka Taketsuru found the heart and soul of whisky in Scotland, brought it back to Japan and mixed in a little of that crazy-ass work ethic that have there to produce what I think is the platonic ideal of malted barley whisky. I shit you not. This may be what God had in mind when she made Scotland. That’s what she drank, my girl. And so that’s what I drank with her.
She was mine for ten years. Then she got sick. Real bad sick. It was drawn out and awful. I don’t want to say anything more about that. But I will never get over her, and I don’t want to. I’m going to keep her name to myself. That’s mine to have. The pain is the only thing left from that relationship, so I keep that too.
After all that I went my own way. Took a more lonely route, I guess you’d say. Somehow twenty years slipped by, and I swear to God I can’t see how that could have happened. But it did. I lost an eye and my best friend, the preacher. I had a little religion in me back then, and that went away too.
And I don’t drink Japanese whisky anymore.
So Daniel called me up a couple of weeks ago and invited me to the Toad and Ostrich in Austin. Said he had a surprise for me. Gave me a bottle of whisky wrapped in a brown bag. When I saw it was Nikka it was like getting punched in the gut.
“Goddam you,” I said. “Whaddya go and do that for?”
He didn’t say anything at first. He opened the bottle and poured us both a dram. He smelled it. He sipped it. Then he said, “It’s been twenty years now. She’s gone. Nikka Pure Malt is one of the finest whiskys in the world, and I just can’t bear you missing out on it. It’s time to get back in the saddle.”
What the hell. I took the glass he offered me. We’ve been friends a long time and friends earn certain rights, including the right to shake you up a little from time to time. But I was not prepared for the thorough ass kicking this whisky was about to deliver unto me.
Jesus, the smell of it. One note. Clean. Opening like medicine or perfume, then just smoothing out. Ever run your nose gently over a woman’s arm, just kind of slowly breathing in until you feel goosebumps rise on her skin? That’s the smell. Beckoning. Whispering. Try me. I was made for you.
Oh it just sits on your tongue and then vibrates a little. Hold it there. It’s gentle but this is not tame whiskey. It tickles. I can’t find any particular flavor cause the feeling of it is so strong. It’s alive. It lives.
And then the swallow. It gathers and slides. And God love me, the boosh at the end is amazing. It goes down with a light burn and then just before it’s disappears it sneaks back up and kisses the roof of your mouth.
Then it’s gone.
I must of held my glass with my eyes closed for two or three minutes. I opened them, and Daniel was sitting there, smiling. He knew what he was doing. I’m going to tell you something now, but if you ever tell anyone else I’ll deny it. I hugged him and kissed his cheek.
God bless you, Daniel. God love you.
Nikka Pure Malt Whisky. Highest marks. Everything it asks of me I will give.