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20161212_101747Imagine for a moment the following scene: It’s four o’clock in the afternoon. Aisle five of Walmart is the location. The fluorescent lighting casts itself brightly upon the bustling crowds in search of daily sustenance. My arm is outstretched. The pickles are only inches from my grasp. Intending the slightest tilt of my upper body coupled by what I sense is mostly involuntary muscle control, the pickles are soon to be mine.

“Hey, Andy!” the older man calls, his wife accompanying him and smiling brightly.

“Um. What? Me?” My arm returns to my side. I give way to the voice.

“It’s good to see you again,” he continues and pats my shoulder. “Long time no see. How’re things?”

“Um, hi,” I say.

I’m afraid. I do not say, Are you speaking to me? because the situation is by no means unclear. He touched me. He has approached, addressed, and reached out to touch the man in aisle five who is reaching for the pickles at four o’clock. He has done these things with the tenor of a close friend.

“I’m not Andy,” I say abruptly. It startles him. His wife’s smile breaks its stride and becomes a grin. They both look at one another.

“Yes, you are,” he says. “We just met at church today. I’m Bob, remember?”

“No, I’m not,” I speak calmly. “My name isn’t Andy, and we’ve never met.”

“Sure you are,” he insists. “You were wearing that same red coat. We talked at the church’s coffee shop.”

“I’m not Andy.”

“You said it was your first time at our church, Andy.”

“My name is not Andy.”

“It was right before nine o’clock church.”

“What church would that be?”

“The Freedom Center.”

“Sir, I can assure you that I was not at the Freedom Center this morning for worship at nine o’clock.”

The moment is growing incredibly dolorous. He shifts his stance. She gathers more closely to his side and takes his hand as though she will lead him away from the stray dog that at first he believed was friendly.

“You don’t remember?”

“No offense to you, sir, but it’s probably only because, as I said, I’m not Andy. The real Andy would probably remember.”

“You sure look and sound a lot like Andy,” he says adamantly. “You’re not just kidding with me, are you? The Andy I met seemed like a real kidder.”

“Nope,” I say. “I’m not kidding.”

“Any chance you’d be willing to show me your ID?”

“Not a chance. But I’ll show you the groceries in my cart that I’m trying really hard to buy so that I can go home.”

“Well,” he says, his countenance becoming more constrained. “Sorry to bother you.”

“No bother,” I say. “Blessings in your search for Andy.” He and his bride walk away.

“He sure does look a lot like Andy,” I hear one last time as they turn the corner toward aisle six. I retrieve my pickles and make my way toward aisle four—just in case.

20161212_100117Apparently there’s a gentleman named Andy lurking somewhere amidst the roads, bridges, churches, and Walmarts of the tri-county area who bears a precise resemblance to me. Apparently there’s also a whiskey out there called Booker’s Rye that has been mistaken for the Whiskey of the Year for 2017.

Sure, it’s a good whiskey. And it is one worthy of kindly commendation. But as with Murray’s selection of the Crown Royal Northern Harvest as 2016’s champion, I’m concerned that we’re experiencing another case of mistaken identity.

If there is perfection in the Booker’s Rye, the nose is its only locale. There you will experience a gentle lapping of caramelized rye and a breath of something akin to sun-warmed citrus without the sour. I could sit and smell this whiskey for an hour.

The palate is grand, indeed, but as the initial spice recedes, there is an aftertaste of something caustic. It lasts for only a moment before becoming an overly salted caramel chew and a minim of rye crust.

The medium finish is pleasant enough, giving the impression that the 68.1 ABV has been intentionally restrained by being sponged into vanilla cream cookies. Delightfully sweet. But then there’s that that acidic aftertaste again. It lands on the back of the tongue, just above the throat, and gives a pinch and holds it. I don’t mind it, but it is distracting enough to exclude it from the highest rank.

I know that there will be plenty of folks willing to debate my conclusions. Not to worry, my dear friends. If I can handle an insistent argument in Walmart that my name is Andy, I can handle your criticisms and still get my pickles.