And so to the point: September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, and if you thought I was rowdy on Saint Patrick’s Day back in March, wait until you see me celebrate National Bourbon Heritage Month. One of my favorite hobbies is drowning ice cubes in amber liquid, and friend, I ain’t talkin’ about tea.
Some of the best writing I’ve ever done was composed under the influence of bourbon and, yes, there is a dollop within reach as I write this. My favorite pour is Jack Daniels which, while not marketed as a bourbon, is technically one of the better bourbons available today. My dream is to one day be able to afford a barrel of Jack Daniels Single Barrel. This is the finest liquid gold to ever come out of Lynchburg, TN. The distillery will select a premium 12-year-old barrel, bottle it, box it, and shrink-wrap the whole thing, along with the barrel it came out of, and ship it to you. You have to make arrangements through a local liquor store, and state and federal taxes make the price vary, but suffice it to say that if you flinch at dropping fifteen large on a damn fine whiskey, son, you’re out of your league here.
Yep, I’m out of my league here.
Still, some great writers have changed the face of American literature while sipping my go-to libation: Old Crow Kentucky bourbon. Legend has it that two of my heroes – Mark Twain and Ulysses Grant – did their best work while partaking of the dirty bird. President Abraham Lincoln (a liberal Democrat by today’s standards) famously told Grant’s critics to find out what bourbon Grant drank and he’d send a cask of it to each Union general.
While Grant wasn’t much of a wordsmith, his one great literary contribution – his memoir – is long on plain-spoken prose and completely lacking in self-justification. That he wrote with such clarity, precision, and frankness while choking to death on throat cancer is nothing short of amazing. I would point out that the cancer is generally blamed on his smoking, not on his drinking.
I do not smoke.
Twain, on the other hand, defined the turn-of-the-century American man of letters with a pen in one hand and a glass of bourbon in the other. I won’t say that Twain’s best work went on paper while he was imbibing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.
My son the chef insists that I imbibe only Colorado’s own Brekenridge, and while it is by far the second-finest bourbon I have ever tasted (nothing can touch Blanton’s, including my wallet) it is also a very expensive pour, and something I reserve for special occasions. Or, as I tell my wife, “Honey, any time I can drink Breck, that’s a special occasion.”
The worst bourbon I’ve ever tasted is something called Wyoming Whiskey, distilled in small batches in Kirby, WY. It is, like its namesake state, raw and unsophisticated, and best enjoyed disguised as Coca-Cola™.
Whatever your daily pour, whether it’s humble Old Crow, staunch Jim Beam or the ethereal kiss of caramel and hint of mint of Blanton’s Private Reserve, join me this month, won’t you? Let’s hoist two fingers of the good stuff in celebration of a truly all-American beverage. And the oftener, the better.