Found myself in Dripping Springs, Texas recently on a long Friday night. I say long because after I got my ass handed to me in one place, I got run out of another place by security for reasons I don’t fully understand or really even remember. I’m not proud of that, but it happens.
Anyway, they have a couple of bars in Dripping Springs, but I was told the best whiskey selection would be at the Mercer Street Dancehall. They say there’s a woman in town who knows about whiskey and they stock a special selection just for her.
That was all I needed to know. I went inside and headed for the bar. There were a couple of women there drinking whiskey, which caught my attention. Looked like a mother and daughter duo. I sat next to them.
“What are ya’ll drinking?”
The mom looked at me and said, “It’s whiskey, but I don’t know if you’d like it. It’s pretty strong.”
Oh no you didn’t. Game on. Game is SO on.
I tapped the bar and a young bartender came over. Her name was Shelby. She’s about the same age as my Shelby too. I took an immediate liking to her for reasons that are obvious to anyone who reads this blog.
“I’ll have what they’re having.”
Then I introduced myself properly. I was drinking with Deb and her daughter-in-law Emma. Turns out Deb is that woman in town who knows about whiskey.
“So Deb, what am I about to drink?”
She lifted her glass and said, “Octomore.”
That didn’t sound like any whiskey I ever heard of.
“Sounds like a Chuck Norris movie to me, Deb. Or a villain in a Spider Man comic.”
Deb just smiled. And something about that smile worried me.
Shelby appeared and put a glass in front of me. I held it up and looked at the color. Golden yellow. I swirled it around in my glass, though I have no idea why. I just swirl whiskey sometimes to look like I know what I’m doing.
“Let’s see what we’ve got here.” I put my nose into the glass and inhaled. Then I jerked it away.
“Got damn. What the hell is this stuff?”
I went back for another sniff. Then again and again and again.
-Singed nose hairs. (My own)
-Used World War I gauze.
-Peat, certainly, yes. If someone stuffed peat into a tube sock and beat you with it.
I gave up after that. Typically a whiskey will settle down after three or four smells and give up its more subtle nuances. Not this whiskey. It wasn’t giving up shit. I was dumbfounded. Stupefied. A bit freaked out, to tell you the gods’ honest truth.
I looked over at Deb and Emma. They were sipping away and smiling at me like it was no big deal. Like they were sipping Mint Juleps on a Sunday afternoon.
“This is Octomore?”
“This is what you ladies are drinking?”
She nodded again.
“Okay then. It smells like a walrus ate a tub of cigars and farted, but maybe it doesn’t taste like it smells.”
I took a sip.
PEAT. OH MY GOD. PEAT AND BURNING.
I coughed and sputtered like a middle school boy tasting his first beer. And oh, how Deb and Emma did laugh. Total humiliation. Completely schooled by two nice ladies drinking the most badass whiskey I’ve had to date. Period. Nothing else comes close.
I immediately fell in love with both of them. These are my kind of gals. Now I mean that in total innocence. Emma’s too young and Deb is so far out of my league I’m not even playing the same sport. I’m a broken-down old fart with one eye. I know what the ladies think of me. I mean I fell in love with them in an admiring kind of way. I love these two women. Admire the hell out of them.
And let it not be said that I don’t admit defeat with grace and humor. I stood up, bowed, and yielded to the victors.
Then I went back for another sip. Cause you know I never back down when a whiskey has knocked me on my ass.
I wish I could say I mastered this whiskey. On about my 20th smell I did pick up some of the fruity notes that you will find lurking behind most scotch whiskeys. But damn it was hard to get there. And to be perfectly honest, I never could get beyond peat and fire when I tasted it.
This is absolutely the most challenging whiskey I’ve ever had.
Bruichladdich Octomore is AWESOME. Look, this is not a whiskey for beginners. But I respect the hell out of it. It’s going to take some work and practice to appreciate it fully and entice it to give up its secrets. But isn’t this why we love whiskey, after all?
-Because it’s not easy.
-Because it’s not safe.
-Because it’s a challenge, an initiation, a goddam rite of passage.
I finished my glass and nodded at Deb and Emma. They looked back with respect. I did finish it. I earned that much respect anyway.
I held up my glass and said, “Slàinte!”
They said it back. They knew what it meant. Of course they did.
We’re friends for life, as far as I’m concerned. Octomore and these two fine ladies!