The sky was relentless in her anger. She waged a vicious war against the sea below, cursing every drop of ocean tide as her lesser, driving the depths to churn and spew back a hostile defense. Though the coast was not far, we would never make it. The waves pounded with merciless rage against the hull of the ship, a whisky vessel. Each wave measured her strength and found her lacking. The main mast had snapped with ease as the sky reached down to assault the sea and flicked the mainsail aside in annoyance. It traveled her evil breeze, high in misty clouds of vengeance, being carried to the nearing shore. The mortals aboard feared an almost certain and impending death if they continued the struggle toward safe harbor amid such cross-firing warfare.
The captain shouted above the winds, “Every man to a barrel! Empty her, laddies, and into the sea with ye! Make for land!”
Heeding my captain’s order, all the men and I filed swiftly below to the cargo. But there below deck, I met with a thought more troubling than that of the villainous sky above us or even death itself: dumping perfectly good whisky to save our own lives. Seemed somewhat wasteful. I would need quick wits and swift action.
The men charged the stock. I reached for the brig sword and took a stance between the helpless cargo and her panicked violators. As the ship tossed and rolled and the water rushed through the damaged planks, I called for sensibility.
“Wisdom, mates, wisdom! Shall these casks be emptied without care? Shall ye choose so lightly? What if ye be not destined for shore?!! What if the Fates carry ye into the open sea and into the bosom of Davey Jones?! Shall ye die atop an empty cask? Is it not better to choose carefully, release only enough for buoyancy, and be accompanied to ye’s doom by an experienced malt? And if the Fates carry ye to shore, ye’ll have the spirits for celebration and a fuel of perfume for a warmin’ flame!”
“Aye! He’s right, men!” they growled back in time. One of the men called out, “Choose well, me hearties, and then to the deck!”
I dropped the sword and began my search. I looked for a malt that I was yet to have savored and found only one: The Balvenie, Caribbean Cask, 14 Years Old. Apologizing to the beauty, I pulled my knife from my trousers, pried the tap loose enough to let a bit flow, and then recapped it with the metalsmith’s hammer.
As the men made their selections, each helped another carry his barrel to the topside. One by one, they lifted them into the blackened sea and then jumped in to follow. I was the last.
Having already put my blade firmly into the barrel’s side, I turned it in the water and tied my belt to the knife handle to keep me close. When I awoke, indeed, the sea was calm, but I was adrift further from the coast than before. I was surrounded by bits of floating wreckage, but the ship herself was gone, and so were my shipmates. The sky shone brightly as the adversaries had apparently reached an acceptable resolution.
I pulled out my knife and started to carve my way through a barrel plank, enough so that I could crack the wood and snap pieces free. I reached inside and scooped the whisky with my palm. As I did, I heard a voice calling across the waves.
“Brother! Help! I chose Glenkinchie!”
It was my good friend Joseph. My other mate, Shawn, he was clinging there, too.
I filled my lungs and called back, “I’m here, brothers! And I’ve got The Balvenie 14! She’s the Caribbean Cask!” At the news, they both kicked free from the barrel and began swimming. Once they arrived, they both reached in and scooped a bit.
“Oh, that smells sweet,” Joseph exclaimed.
“Aye,” I responded. “She smells of a sweet and spicy rum.”
“And the honeybee’s nectar!” Shawn added.
We all sipped together, deciding that the palate was that of fruit sprinkled with something sweet, perhaps vanilla or brown sugar, and then warmed slightly in milk. And the finish, well, that was enigmatic and took us a little longer. In the end, we noted it to be lengthy with a hint of spice.
We drifted together for days. We never even noticed the rising and setting sun, and we always came to the same conclusion: We were being well cared for by a good whisky. Eventually, we were retrieved by another whisky vessel charged by His Majesty’s Navy to search for survivors. We were hoisted aboard and given fresh quarters. Our bellies were filled with beef and bread, and we were tended to by an exemplary clergyman. All was well. But that evening, whilst dining in comfort, we three shipwrecked survivors reached another conclusion.
As the last of the seamen took his rest, and the only waking eye was the night watch in the crow’s nest, we crept through the galley toward the cargo hold. It was there Joseph had discovered another barrel of The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14. We prepped it accordingly, carried it up and out into the evening sea’s air, rolled it over the edge, and jumped in after.
Yes, it is that good.