Well, Shelby moved to San Diego with a tattooed bartender who goes by the handle “Rico.” I say by the handle because his real name is Andy. He doesn’t know that I know that. Whatever. Point is, she hit the trail to seek her fortune in milder climes. Can’t say as I blame her. Summer’s a bitch in Texas and it lasts about half the year.
The good news is, the preacher called her before she left. Shit, I didn’t even know he was still alive. He was a good man once and I owe him, but we will have words when next I see him. That girl needs her daddy and I’m a piss-poor substitute. A phone call now and then ain’t cuttin’ it. Not in my book.
She didn’t want to tell me she was leaving. She does tend to avoid sad scenes, which is understandable. She’s lived through a few of them. And I think she knows she’s the closest thing to family I’ve got. Dammit. I am going to miss her.
She was working at a bar in downtown San Antonio called The Esquire before she left. Kind of a famous place. Bar is so long you can hardly see the stuffed coyote they have down at the end of it. My girl is moving up in the world of bars, I can tell you that. She’s come a long way since the Concrete Jungle days. I stopped by to have a drink and say goodbye. I suggested she choose the first round and I choose the second and third.
She poured us each a shot of Fernet. I had never heard of it. It’s an Italian liqueur with a reputation in certain circles. Certain snooty circles, you ask me. But hey, give the devil his due. It was pretty good. Different. Bitter and interesting. I’m not going to be drinking it myself, but Shelby likes it, so I’m okay for a taste now and again when I see her.
Then it was my turn. Two rounds on me.
First round. A dram of Balcones Blue Corn Bourbon. Shelby is an experienced whiskey drinker, so she can appreciate this fiery Texas spirit. This is a brash, complex, brawling, rawbone bourbon that just screams Texas right in your face. The label is perfect too. It’s got an ear of blue corn on it that’s so pretty you think maybe this is a gentle and delicate little whiskey.
130 proof. And you know that’s how I like to drink it. I ain’t puttin’ no water in there. When I drink a powerful whiskey like this I prefer to stick my chin out and dare it to knock me down. Give me your best goddam shot, whiskey! I’ve been knocked down a time or two. But I always get up and ask for more.
I drank mine, slapped the bar, and let out a couple of yips. Shelby, being more of an educated connoisseur type, noted the proof and dropped a little water in to back it down so she could taste it. And I respect that. She sniffed it, sipped it, and flashed a million dollar smile. She gets it.
And it’s mighty fine either way. Little water or straight. Brother, you want to taste this whiskey. It’s got everything you want in a bourbon. All the sweet notes, toffee and caramel and vanilla. Honestly, I can’t tell the difference between those, but they are there. Like candy. Rich too. Deep. Dark red. This is just a beautiful Texas Bourbon.
And get ready to start saying “Texas Bourbon” more often. Take notice, Kentucky. We’re making your whiskey down here now and we’re doing it right.
Second round was easy. Had a little surprise for her. I pulled out a bottle of Nikka Pure Malt and told her to take it to California and think about me and her daddy when she drinks it. She hasn’t had this whiskey before. But she’ll get it when she tries it. Cause that’s my girl I’m talkin’ about. And she knows the good stuff.
It was a ridiculously sentimental thing to do, I know. But I can’t help it. I always think about Nikka when a woman I love is going away.