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This following review was inspired by a Twitter post I saw from Darryn King. I have included it below. Truly, it made me laugh—out loud. And by it, I imagined Joyce Kilmer traveling along in observance and conjuring his famous poem “Trees.” With that, as you should expect, I was stirred to jot down what I was imagining and then seek its inner truth… as it relates to whiskey, of course.
“What a beautiful day this Year of our Lord 1908 has produced,” the young poet, Joyce Kilmer, mused as he rolled along in his Holsman High Wheel. “The sun is beaming its warmest gilding upon the earth’s face. The sky is singing a clear, blue song of cloudless joy. The grasses in the fields are waving, yes, as if to me, to share a greeting with all passersby who would, and should, smile in return and tip their hats so fondly.”
He bumped along and looked higher. “And the trees, oh, the mightiest of the fieldlings! How lovely they are!”
And suddenly, he sensed it. The furnace of whimsical regard was unexpectedly, and again, aflame within the youthful lyricist, and so he began to chime what he could feel venting from both his heart and mind.
I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is prest, against the earth’s sweet flowing breast.
Titling his cap only slightly and scratching his head, “I rather liked that,” he said. “I pray there’s more,” he petitioned into the air while scanning an approaching farmstead. He went to repeat the phrases that had only moments before rolled forth so easily.
I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a… EGADS, MAN, AND GOOD LORD!
Kilmer swerved, nearly missing a stone-framed bridge, and just in time to turn into the rounded carriage path that almost touched the front stoop of the farm house he’d every intention of passing only moments ago. Turning the wheel and stopping just past the stairs, he climbed down from the motorcar and observed the monstrosity a few meters from his pose. After a few moments, he turned and climbed the steps to the front door. He reached out to announce himself with what was a goose head doorknocker. As if already in wait, the inhabitant, a bedraggled but well-dressed fellow, opened the door with a swift pull by the third rap, startling enough to send the morning visitor back to a lower plank.
“Whatchee want?!” the man said and leaned through the doorway.
“Ah, yes, kind sir,” Kilmer fumbled and removed his cap. “I was wondering about that thing in your yard,” he said and pointed to the frightening upcrop.
“Is that what that is?”
“Eeyah,” the man said for yes. “Thar’s a tree. A very ugly tree.”
“Indeed, sir,” Kilmer continued, “it is truly peculiar. When I beheld it, it nearly caused me to steer into the marshland beyond your stone bridge.”
The man stared. The poet considered that one of the man’s eyes was a tad lower than the other. To break the discomfort, Kilmer interrupted, “Ah, yes, well then, pray tell, might you have a callbox that I may ring a friend and speak with him right quickly?”
“Eeyah,” the man answered. “I’ve a Stromberg Carlson. Me wife fancied it for complaining to her mum in Canada. She’s dead, though. Me wife, that is.”
“Splendid,” Kilmer said.
“I thought so, too. Buried her near to where that ugly tree is growin’.”
“No, I meant splendid that you have a callbox, although I’m terribly sorry to hear of your bride’s deceasing.” The man in the door laid his stare upon Kilmer again. “So,” Kilmer continued, “may I have a borrow?”
“The tree or me wife?” he asked. “Whichever, you’ll have an ache trying to dig ’em up, me thinks.”
“Ah, no,” Kilmer chuckled at the edge of his nerves. “Your callbox, I meant. May I have a borrow to ring my friend?”
“Eeyah,” the man growled and stepped aside just enough for Kilmer to see the callbox on the wall above a hall table filled with photos that appeared to have been knocked over. “But be hasty, as I’m expectin’ the sheriff,” he said and leaned out to scan the horizon of his property. His words and posture explained his ready presence at the door, and yet stirred for the young man a moment of dread.
“I see, and not to bother you any further, good sir,” Kilmer added. “I’ll just continue on my way and speak in person with my friend when I arrive to town. He’s a man with a photographic device, you see, and I’m sure he’ll be quite interested in your… well… tree.”
“However you’d like,” the man said, gave a gruffly scowl, and then shut the door.
Back in his high wheel and somewhat stunned by the morning’s events, the prosaic furnace within the young man was stoked once again, although its embers were producing a different incense. “I guess there are ugly trees,” he thought and then rhymed:
I think it is I shall not see, a tree or man as strange as thee, both set to cause me ’wareness grim, a fear to lose my life or limb.
Thankfully, it would appear that Kilmer was still able to produce the infamous “Tree” poem in 1913, even after having gazed upon the disagreeable one in the man’s yard. Nevertheless, we can learn something from this little yarn, which by the way, is a story I cannot guarantee actually took place.
Okay, so, I made it up. Still, what may be learned?
For one, don’t set truisms that you may have to recalibrate later. Such things may lead you to places you’d prefer not to go. In my opinion, Kilmer must not have lived near any significant number of trees. If he had, he would have understood the backbreaking labor required when autumn comes calling, and I’m guessing had he ever experienced an entire day blistering his hands with a rake, he might not have written his poem about the loveliness of trees. With that, and perhaps more to my point, not every tree is beautiful. Some are downright ugly. Maple trees, in particular, are terrifyingly ugly. I’m allergic to maple trees. This makes them ugly.
I’m wandering a bit.
As all of this applies to whiskey, at one time I held to the maxim that Bourbon was the lesser dram of the whiskey world. But having been introduced to the Jefferson’s lineup, I’m recalibrating my original maxim with each edition I try. And it looks as though I’ll have plenty of fine tuning to do as I make my way through the six bottles contained in the Jefferson’s Ridiculously Small Batch Wood Experiment Collection. The first of the group—Wood Experiment Number 3—was positively delightful.
The nose of the whisky is one of sweet molasses brought to a boil and readied for making rum. If you sip with your eyes closed, you may even discover that the molasses is boiling in a seaside vat which, every now and then, catches and mixes some of the salty air into its plumes.
The palate is just as ornate, packing quite a bit of charm. There’s the American Oak noted on the label—singed and peppered—followed by what I had a harder time defining. My guess, at least what came to mind, was the image of strawberry shortcake warmed in a pie crust.
The finish carries you back to what was experienced in the nosing, except now the warmed molasses has been used to sweeten cornbread.
If Wood Experiment Number 3 is at all a foretaste of the feast to come in the other bottles offered in this collection, I’m sure the days before me will be inspiration-filled.
Even now I feel a poem emerging.
I think that I shall never see, a Bourbon whiskey fit for me. Alas, my dear, behold, I’m wrong. Jefferson’s is a whiskey song…
By the way, a special thanks to my good friend, Shirley, for the gift box!