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Surely you are familiar with the Rorschach test, yes? It’s a visual tool used by psychologists to assess the general outlines of a patient’s emotional state as well as his or her personality. It’s most familiar form is probably that of the inkblot test. After showing the patient a series of inkblot images and asking what is represented by each, the psychologist tallies the answers and scrutinizes the results. After this, the Doc will finally have the evidence needed to either give you a “Good Job!” sticker and send you home, or recommend to the parole board that you be put away for a very long time.
School starts at 8:00 am. Our usual routine involves arriving to my church office around 7:20 am or so. The kids don’t leave for the school side of the building until 7:45 am, so this means they have about 25 minutes to read, play, or do whatever. Sometimes they bring a toy along to help pass the time, but they know that when they leave for the day, they must leave it behind in my office. One day, my youngest daughter decided to bring along two of her baby dolls.
On one particular day, I was in another part of the building when they left for school, but when I returned to my office, I discovered that my youngest, just as she was mandated, left her dolls behind – except she’d left them in the middle of the floor near my office door.
Intending to pick them up and set them on the bookshelf, I reached down. I paused in mid-reach. I reached into my pocket and grabbed my phone to take a picture.
Now, here’s a little Rorschach test for you. What do you see?
Two baby sisters hugging? Perhaps just a coincidental arrangement?
Be careful not to judge me, because first, I’d be willing to bet that many of you thought something relatively parallel; and second, I know my zesty six-year-old. She’s the one who sings, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors, and see all the zombies!”
Now, these babies may not have been fashioned for a murder scene, but I was willing to wager that they were, at the very least, having a disagreement and were decided upon settling it according to the ancient ways. I showed the picture to my daughter and asked her what they were doing. She said that they were hugging. Clearly my initial perception was skewed.
I’m embarrassed to say that there’s a similar connection to be made with this bottle of the Virginia Distillery Company’s Virginia Highland Malt that I received as a gift from my good friend, Emily.
At first, I beheld the label and thought, “You’re just a Bourbon wishing to be a Scotch – which you will never be.” I said this because the contents are clearly an American craft, and yet the distillery chose to adorn the label with all sorts of Scotch indicators – “Highland,” “Uisge Beatha,”and the word whisky spelled as the Scots do, with no “e” before the “y.” Together these stirred an intolerant response: Pretenders are always just that – pretenders.
But then I took a sip.
Ultimately, I will only admit to being partly wrong about my judgment. Yes, it is an American whisky, but it doesn’t taste like Bourbon at all. It is very close to, if not almost indistinguishable from, many of the acceptable Scottish Highland single malts; and after reading a little bit from the whisky’s website, it would seem that this is within the boundaries of the distillery’s objectives. The copper stills were imported from Scotland, and with a countenance set to produce a dram unlike anything else in the United States, the company continues to import the barley from Scotland as well.
The proof you need that this is a worthy dram even for a Scotch snob is first given in the nosing. There you will discover a lighthearted Speyside sweetness. And sure enough, the palate gives malted honeys and full fruits that carry over into the finish – not long lasting, but enough to let in a brief reminder that the whisky’s ancestry includes a port wine cask finishing.
The Virginia Distillery Company has imagined an exceptional American whisky edition here, and no matter your initial perceptions, even a Scotch snob would be lying if he claimed to despise it as a whisky lesser. If you doubt me, just pour a little bit of this elixir into a glencairn, tell him it is the Glenlivet 21-year-old and my bet is that he’ll never even consider asking if you’re sure that’s what you gave him.