, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

McDonald’s was relatively quiet. But of course it was. The time was a little past 4:00 PM and the dinner rush had yet to come in for a landing.

An elderly couple sat only a few paces from us. A kindly gentleman to his wife, the man helped his bride with her chair. She smiled at us as he did. We smiled back.

“What a beautiful young girl,” she said, leaning ever so slightly toward my daughter, Evelyn. “How old are you, sweetie?”

“I’m nine,” Evelyn answered, giving a bright and friendly smile. “How old are you?” she volleyed, revealing her unguarded approach to anyone willing to engage in conversation with her.

“Oh, I’m much older than you, dear,” the woman answered, unwrapping her McChicken sandwich and seemingly unaffected by the less-than-appropriate question. “Are you enjoying dinner with your dad?” she continued, stealing a wandering glance of my clerical collar.

“Yep,” Evelyn replied.

“Well, that’s nice,” the woman offered, her grandmotherly voice well-rehearsed. “It’s nice to spend time with dad.”

“Yep,” Evelyn said.

“I’ll bet as a pastor, he’s gone a lot helping other people.”


And then in an instant—and not uncommon to her flightiness—Evelyn broke off the engagement and turned the conversation back to me, asking a completely unrelated question. “Daddy,” she said, “when can I start saying the a-word again?”

“Not for a while,” I answered, noticing a sudden expression of shock between the elderly couple. “We’ve got quite a few weeks to go before you can say it again. After that, you can say the a-word all you want.”

“That’s such a long time,” Evelyn moaned. “I love the a-word. I love to say it and I love to sing it.”

“I know you do,” I said. “Just hold on for the next few weeks and then you can say and sing it as much as you’d like.”

“Okay,” Evelyn said, taking a bite from one of her hamburgers dressed only with ketchup. She looked back to her previous conversational partner, but the woman had become strangely removed, her eyes a bit wider than before. This didn’t bother Evelyn at all. She continued with her meal and started a different thread of discussion with me, something about a scene that came to mind from the movie “The Avengers.” Still, I sensed the abrupt disconnection on the part of the woman beside us and it made me wonder.

It wasn’t until we were back in the car and making our way down the road that I realized the woman’s concern. But first, you may need the same explanation she required.

At the time this occurred, we were in the pre-Lenten season known as the Gesima Sundays. This church season lasts three weeks. Right after the Gesima Sundays, Lent begins. Lent lasts six weeks—Ash Wednesday to Good Friday. During this time, nine weeks in all, it isn’t unusual in historically liturgical churches like mine to jettison the word “Alleluia” from the liturgy, hymns, and general vernacular of the congregation. Alleluia is a Hebrew word which means “Praise the Lord,” and since we’re contemplating more closely the suffering and death of Jesus during these combined seasons, we set alleluia aside. At Easter, the congregation welcomes the word back into her speech, singing it boldly in celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

Evelyn was referring to the word alleluia. But that’s not what this woman understood.

Instead, sitting two tables away in her favorite McDonald’s was a nine-year-old daughter of a clergyman who apparently allows her to use a certain expletive. And while the little girl was currently barred from using it because it would seem she had a great love of employing it, after a time of temperance, the day was coming when her father would once again allow the word to roll from her lips with some measure of control. Additionally—and I’m guessing here—it’s quite possible that the woman assumed the explicit descriptor came into the little girl’s mind during their short discussion together, suggesting that perhaps Evelyn’s peculiar boldness in asking her age, the short answers of “yep,” and the sudden inquiry of her father regarding her freedom to use the a-word were all pointing to a crass little girl who was restraining her candor while being annoyed by a woman she didn’t know.

Again, looking back, this is really rather humorous. But it also teaches a lesson on human stupidity and the tragedy of miscommunication in the hands of assumption. I suppose this same lesson is more than applicable in the case of the Grand Traverse Distillery’s “Ole George Whiskey” maple finished edition sitting before me right now.

Consider the voice of the label. In person, the label itself communicates the high probability that the effort to design it wasn’t hired out. Such carelessness with the label stirs a questioning of the quality of the product inside the bottle it adorns. Add to this the heralding of maple finishing, which for me is tantamount to putting a notice on the bottle which reads: “You will hate this. Don’t drink it.”

But even as the beverage itself was being carried by a miscommunication that was harnessing my assumptions, it took a solitary sip to break through such human stupidity and deliver a pleasant delightfulness worth sharing with you.

This is a really good whiskey.

The nose of this edition of the Ole George is one of sweet rye spice and cinnamon toast. Add the tiniest drop of water and you may be tricked into sensing the fizzing carbonation of cherry cola.

A sip reveals the maple finish, and the folks at Grand Traverse Distillery show they have what it takes to get such a finishing right. It’s a subtle, almost gentle enhancement. It’s certainly not added to hide the medicinal sour of a bad whiskey, but rather it compliments a good whiskey, giving it just enough sweetness to make it unique—and dare I say, better. With the higher ABV, one might expect some burn, but instead it comes off with balance, bringing along a tart nip of caramel to grab at the tongue.

The maple is fast-fleeting in the finish. Still, I’d say the finish whirls at the edge of medium and long. There’s just enough of the rye spice (which before was sweet but is now found buttery) to keep it in the medium category. At the same time, the nip noticed by the tongue continues beyond this, implying the desire for a lengthier stay.

In the end, whatever you decide, don’t let the label keep you from being in the position to actually come to a reasonable conclusion. Do what you can to suppress the nature of human stupidity—which we all contain—and give this whiskey a try. It’s a good-hearted and youthful dram that means you no harm. And I’m almost certain that after a sip, you’ll choose to enunciate Evelyn’s a-word as opposed to the one the old lady foolishly presumed while eating a McChicken sandwich beside us.