Scanning the shelves of my favorite shop, my eyes beheld only the familiars, those I had seen so many times before. It was late. I was tired. I stopped in on the way home from a hospital visit, taking the chance that the proprietor, my friend Tony, would have a surprise in waiting. Finding nothing, in my downcast exhaustion, I decided on a familiar highland single malt, called for Tony, and then made my way to the register while reaching into my pocket to retrieve the sum total of my “Squirrel Fund” (which is the secret stash I keep hidden year ’round, feeding it every so often with single dollars and loose change).
And then, in an instant, something happened. A wormhole opened in time and space, but only for a moment. Charged particles swirling and flashing, rumbling percussion wafting in misty gases from worlds unknown began circling the fluorescent lighting and threatening to destroy the establishment; we thought it was the end. But when the physical laws finally calmed, and the bending plane receded, something had crossed over. I sensed its alien presence, something unfamiliar to our world.
Drawn to the shelves still smoldering from the grand passage, my eyes discovered the strange visitor sitting lofty high and tucked between the familiars. I asked him his name.
“Benromach 21,” he said softly, leaning out from behind the other familiars watching closely. He asked, “Where am I? What is this place?”
“You are in Michigan, in Locke’s,” I responded.
“You’ve never been here before, have you?”
“Tis true, weary traveler. I am an ambassador in this land, and I’ve never set eyes upon you. I pray you are a kindly and enjoyable soul, visiting us in peace?”
“Wonderful. I kindly ask that you would be my guest. My home is as yours.”
“Thank you,” he said with a smooth and settled spirit. Let us depart because I believe my time here to be very short.”
“Surely not,” I said quietly to myself. But he was right.
Benromach is a rarity. Michigan is a vast but restrictive wasteland ruled by an evil and ironhanded Liquor Control Commission. As far as I can tell, Benromach was granted entrance once and, since then, has been unduly forbidden. It saddens the heart since I know from experience that this particular Benromach resident is full and golden, bearing warm and soothing sonnets of spice and sherry.
In the days since our first meeting, I’ve learned that the Benromach distillery met with extinction in the 1980s. But in the storehouses, a remnant survived, lying in wait for a generous ruler to revive what was a glorious 100-year history of whisky regalia. In 1998, Charles, the Prince of Wales, did just that.
This particular friendship required from me $70, and it was worth each penny. This whisky is indeed one of my most cherished. Unfortunately, I’ve not seen this edition available in Michigan since then. With that, I can only visit this friend every so often. I do this so that his time in my home is carefully extended. I have, however, seen the Benromach 21 available in other states for nearly double what I paid. Do you think Prince Charles would entertain an invitation to come to Michigan and serve as our Governor if we gathered enough signatures?