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20151213_185813There’s a particular little dispute within the clergy ranks that has me quite amused. I only run into it every now and then, but each time I do, it almost always causes me to pause, draw a breath, and sigh to myself, “You know, who cares?”

The hullabaloo has to do with whether or not one says “John the Baptist” or “John the Baptizer.”

Yeah, pretty stupid, right?

I think that most folks probably say “John the Baptist.” That’s what I say. But then along comes another pastor to what would be an otherwise pleasant conversation who says, “You mean, John the Baptizer, right?”

“Um, no. I mean John the Baptist.”

“Well, that’s not his proper title in the Scriptures.”

It is at this point that I am sometimes tempted to steal from Jesus and say something like, “You are in error because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). But most often what comes out is, “Were you saying something? I’m hearing sounds coming out of your mouth, but I can’t quite make what you’re saying.”

And honestly, while I’ve heard both sides of the argument, in the end I really can’t side with one or the other because neither’s proofs are more convincing than the other, let alone actually Biblical. Most are circumstantial. What I can do is tell you that when you do finally engage with the Bible objectively on the subject, the Bible ends up pausing, drawing a breath, and sighing to itself, “You know, who cares?”

There are plenty of places to go in the New Testament in order to consider the subject, but to save time, a good place to visit is in Mark 6:24-25. The whole argument is sort of consolidated there. Essentially, King Herod is so impressed by the dancing of Herodias’ daughter Salome, he offers to give her anything she wants. Well, Salome runs out and asks her mother what she should ask for. Herodias counsels that she should ask for “τὴν κεφαλὴν Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτίζοντος,” that is, the head of John the Baptizer. And that’s what Salome does; except for one minor detail. Standing before Herod, the request is made for the head of “Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ,” or, John the Baptist.

So which is it, then? The point is that both titles were interchangeable. Although, I’ll bet the first note of concern I’ll receive from any one of my “Baptizer” clergy friends who reads my whisky reviews will be something like, “Well, that Salome girl, she was an ignorant child and didn’t use the correct expression.” Again, to that, I humbly offer, “Were you saying something? I’m hearing sounds coming out of your mouth, but I can’t quite make what you’re saying.”

Who cares?

You are probably wondering what all this has to do with the Four Roses Private Selection Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Whiskey. The connection is two-fold.

The first is that there is one friend in particular who will argue the necessity of discerning the centrifugally earthshattering concerns being thrown out and around the Baptizer/Baptist controversy, and yet will so crassly say that Bourbon and Scotch are essentially the same drink, just from different regions of the sphere. Now, that’s a duel I’ll accept. Scotch and Bourbon are absolutely nothing alike, and to be quite honest, I am beginning to fear that the differences are indeed so great, and one is so much more wonderful, that I’m really only fooling myself as I attempt to chart a Bourbon course.

The second is that my agent suggested that certain publishing houses were surprised that I didn’t spend as much time talking theology as they expected. But of course, I talk quite a bit of theology throughout Angelsportion, but it is rarely an “in your face” event. It is meant to be subtle, unlike this bottle of Four Roses. This is about as “in your face” as it gets when it comes to any Bourbon I’ve ever tried. And with that, everything that I struggle to enjoy in Bourbon is amplified, making this a thoroughly unenjoyable beverage and making my journey more complicated.

Being that it is essentially a cask strength edition (which when it comes to Scotch I just love), everything in the barrel that brings about the whiskey’s sour nature seems to be plugged in and turned up to 11.

To start, the nose is so tempestuously angry that I can barely sense what I think they want the discerning consumer to smell. And that’s too bad because there seems to be the promise of honey crisp apples in there somewhere – sweet, but thinned – and all but bygone due to a rage filled and overpowering smell of alcohol. There are very few Scotch whiskies that smell like this, and the ones that do, you can buy by the gallon.

The palate is incredibly warm, but just when you think there is still time for this whiskey to fluff your pillow and tuck you in for a pleasant bit of respite, it puts the pillow over your face and tries to smother you. I’ll admit that the death would come with a kiss of chocolate, a touch of honey, and a turn of tannin, but there’s also a piercing sourness in that pillow, suggesting it hasn’t been washed in over a year. Ultimately, there aren’t enough of the pleasantries to convince you that it was a blessed death.

The finish removes the sour and then dangles the pleasantries before you one more time, almost as if the whiskey is saying in a Gollum-like voice, “Give us another go, my precious. You missed some things. Come back. Come back to us.”

Don’t do it. Instead, look that bottle straight in the eye and say, “Were you saying something? I’m hearing sounds coming out of your mouth, but I can’t quite make what you’re saying.” And then go grab a bottle of Scotch to counteract the temptation. Any Balvenie, Glendronach, or Laphroaig will do.

+++By the way, feel free to recommend something, anything, to convince me to continue trying.