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In a sense, I suppose that brilliance is synonymous with genius. Both terms communicate a certain level of exceptionalism that isn’t common to all. And by exceptionalism, I don’t mean skill alone. An athlete making fifty million dollars a year is doing so because he has talent, but that doesn’t necessarily assume he’s brilliant. Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher, is the one who said, “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.”
As artless as these words were, Schopenhauer’s brilliance beamed through them. They show that true brilliance requires a pairing of both intellect and skill, and his words hint to the fact that brilliance is often more a spark than a bonfire, more so something of simplicity than a complicated matrix of overthought confusion. Einstein and his theory of relativity being prime examples—a man and a tiny equation giving birth and contour to so much. Mozart, another example, heard simple tunes in his head that became extravagant orchestrations on paper and in performance.
I only wish more of the brilliant minds among us were at work building things like parking garages rather than helping to design neutron bombs and writing musical compositions. I say this because earlier today I spent thirty-five minutes—yes, five minutes past half an hour—in a long line of cars circling heavenward in a hospital parking structure only to discover not a single available space at the top. Once up there, I waited another fifteen minutes until someone left before I was actually able to park. Perhaps worse, had any among us in the joyless line changed our minds along the way, having become uncommitted to being where we were, there were no avenues for exiting the lemming-like death march to nothingness. We were trapped. I don’t know about any of the others, but I certainly couldn’t call for help—you know, maybe at one point around the third level trying to get a call out for an evacuation chopper to meet me on the roof. The concrete and steel monolith in which I was being digested was more than confusing my mobile phone signal.
Hey geniuses—get to work figuring this out, okay? I guarantee that no small number among the populace would appreciate it. And while you’re at it, you know what would make us smile while we traverse the corridors of your state-of-the-art parking garage? If you changed all of the shepherding departure signs with arrows that say “Exit” to something a little more intellectually honest. I already have a suggestion. Change the word “Exit” to “Escape,” because in the end, that’s what we’re really trying to do.
Interestingly, when I finally did escape and returned to my office, I discovered a box on my desk that contained a bottle of the Paul John Indian Single Malt Whisky “Brilliance” edition sent to me by John Distilleries in Goa, India. I have to admit that when I receive whiskies for review directly from the distilleries, I get a little nervous. I know it’s not the same, but I have to imagine that when the procedure is done, if the news is bad, it’s a splinter of what it’s like to be a surgeon tasked with telling the family in the waiting room that their loved one didn’t pull through. I don’t enjoy being the one to do this because I know how much time and effort goes into any particular edition. With that, it’s an unpleasant thing to see it fail.
But I assure you in this case, the name of the whisky—Brilliance—is fitting. This is one that meets with Schopenhauer’s words. It proves John Distillery’s skill for hitting the target, while at the same time, imagining and reaching new ones unseen by others.
The nose is a splendid structure, one of overly buttered caramel poured into a mix of spicy malt. A slight draft comes at its end, the kind of tickling breeze you get while simultaneously smelling and sipping a glassful of Coca-Cola. I almost expected some carbonation with the first sip.
The palate matches the nose’s equation, but at its end adds a little something more to its intriguing character. The first sip beams the spicy malt. A second realizes the buttered caramel. Both form a mixture rightly measured. A third sip adds to the recipe a nip of citrus jam and well-browned sourdough toast, bringing the whole experience to a balanced level of exceptional loveliness that’s certainly present in other whiskies, but not necessarily attainable by most.
The finish is a medium casting of what has been shared coupled with a bite that reminds you you’re drinking whisky and not something for the faint of heart.
Overall, the Paul John “Brilliance” edition is a demonstration of what guys like me would like to see accomplished by other whisky makers, especially here in the United States. In fact, maybe the Paul John folks could visit us here in the states and share some of their insight. And I suppose while they’re here, if it isn’t too much trouble, perhaps they could stop by and weigh in with whichever think tank in Washington D.C. has concerned itself with infrastructure. It’s obvious we need a little more brilliance when formulating architecture meant for accommodating the public masses.