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It’s a good sign you’re on vacation when you can call to the back of the van, “Hey, guys, what day is it?” and you get five different answers.

No one knows for sure.

I like that. And while I know what day it is, I still like to pose the question because it serves as a reminder that vacations only last so long, and living carefree enough to be unaware of the day’s name is a short-term pleasure that must be maximized. It won’t be long before the days will no longer tolerate such ignorance. Very soon they’ll be back at one’s door, and like the devil’s delivery men, they’ll come with a cargo of cares.

2020 has been a pretty rough year in this regard, wouldn’t you say? As a point of reference, I went into the year’s mindless pandemic, man-made massacre of the economy, and equally imbecilic rioting weighing 207.2 pounds. I’m 178.8 as I type this. Admittedly, some of this can be attributed to sit-ups, but the rest is thanks to top quality, 100% grade “A” disquietude.

I’m living proof that stress affects the body in very real ways.

I know I’ve told you before that I love my job as a pastor. For the most part, I love all the people I serve.  Still, I’ll admit that sometimes a good day in the ministry isn’t much more than finding an extra packet of post-it notes in my desk drawer when the dispenser beside my phone is empty. That, my friends, is a successful day. Everything else is peppered with human carnage—scenarios that most folks wouldn’t even believe let alone understand, and for the most part, cannot be vented to anyone because of the pastoral binding to professional confidence.

Sometimes I think it would just be easier to be an octopus. I hear that when certain octopi become stressed, they eat themselves. Imagine what an unhappy or offended person with his finger in my chest would do if I suddenly started eating myself. Come to think of it, just in case I find myself overwhelmed by the urge to try this, I’m going to start keeping butter, virgin olive oil, red wine, and some mushrooms in my office refrigerator. I’m pretty sure I’d go well with a side of sautéed mushrooms.

It’s a thought, anyway.

In the meantime, I drink whisky as a means to endure.

Now, let the pietists among us take their usual moment to grumble while they assume they know what I mean.

Are you finished? Good.

And now before I explain myself for the thousandth time, I should also remind my critics not to kid themselves. With the levels of daily disdain being aimed at guys like me from both inside and outside of the Church, I’m pretty much ready for whatever you’re packing. Nothing I write or say in public is ever immune from attack. Why? Because I’m a white man. To make matters worse, I’m a conservative. To make things doubly worse, I’m a Christian. To throw things into a frenzy of worseness, I’m a pastor. This means I could write that I love the whole world and want to give everyone in it a million dollars, and someone would find a way to call me hateful. It’s just the way it all works these days. The inability of our current culture to choose a position from two opposing ideas and still allow for the other to exist at all no longer astounds me. And yet, the venomous hatred for guys like me remains proof that these virtue-signalers demanding tolerance really don’t even believe what they’re preaching. If they did, I’m sure the Books-A-Million in Davenport, Florida would have been just as likely to sell a voodoo doll of Obama as it was of Trump. But reality whispers in such scenarios, “Good luck with that, pal. This door only swings one way.”

Intolerance, hatred, and inequality are most certainly alive in America, but not necessarily in the ways you’re being told.

In the end, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve grown so used to being attacked for just being the person I am that I’ve formed a shell against most assaults, the least effective of the muggings coming from teetotaling pietists attempting to riddle me with guilt for being a clergyman writing about booze. Trust me. I’ve been at this gig for so long, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it all before. Pietist insults always ricochet. They never sonromnom… rogenom… yom… toomnom…

Sorry about that. I started to eat myself.

Anyway, as I began, a vacation is a time meant for leaving such stress-laden shores in search of better lands. It’s a time for discovering and dwelling in realms where the days have no names and life is far more substantive than the successes of a full dispenser of post-it notes or the backwardness of a perpetual exhaustion that has you saying each night at bedtime, “Well, at least no one actually tried to kill me today.”

For me, apart from reading, writing, or watching a movie, the enjoyment of whisky is a God-given, vacation-like respite that’s available right into the middle of life’s everyday dimness. With so many vibrant variations budding in its landscape, the whisky world brings with it opportunities for inspiration, creativity, newness of experience and thought—all of which I thoroughly enjoy handling through words in order to share with you.

As of late, I’ve discovered that making my own blends with whiskies from some of my favorite distilleries—actually creating editions that I’d pay top-dollar to buy and drink—has become another way to visit the distant uplands of personal relaxation.

Take for example the whisky I’m sharing with you now. It’s one of seven different editions I’ve produced under the label “CLERGYMAN BLENDED WHISKeY,” all of which have been absolutely splendid.

This one in particular—one I’ve named the “End of Quarantine Edition”—was the result of seventeen test batches across three months of experimentation, ultimately becoming the perfect combination for celebrating a formal ignoring of all of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders. And indeed, it is a flawless grouping of The Benriach, Glengoyne, Oban, Highland Park, Aberfeldy, The Macallan, and Glendronach.

The nose of this dram is one of rich truffles—nutty and thickly sweet, and barely tinged by a hint of smoke. A deeper gathering of the scent tells stories of the fruits to come.

A sip gives itself over to an infinity of zests—fleshy fruits such as plums, apricots dotted with cinnamon, and malted raspberries warmed in the sun. Beyond these immediate sensations, there’s the sense of buttercream and salt, with just enough of a campfire’s plume to make it interesting. Even someone who despises the smokier whiskies will find room in their heart for this fusion.

The finish is one of the best I’ve ever experienced from a blended whisky. Seriously. I meant what I said when I told you I was making stuff I’d pay top dollar to consume. With a carefree stride, the sweeter elements described in the nose and palate dissipate for the most part, leaving behind a satisfyingly dark maltiness that beckons you to revisit the bottle and give it all another go.

I’ll surely be making this confection again, that is, once I deplete what I have available—which really isn’t very much. I only made eight 750 mL bottles, with an accompanying handful of 50cL editions. And because I like the stuff so much, I’ll probably get through all of it by the end of the summer.

By the way, I should be clear that this stuff is not for sale, which means you’ll likely never experience it unless a legally licensed distillery decides to help bring it to you—or you stop by my house to enjoy a shared dram. I offer this clarification, first, because I have to; and second, because of what I said above about people gunning for me. It’s true. They are. To cement this point for you, I share the following note I posted on Facebook not long after sharing pictures of this newly completed batch.

I was kind, wouldn’t you say? And for the record, I’m by no means done with my whisky-blending efforts. Of course as I’ve already made very clear, I’m not selling the whisky. I never have sold it. Also, let it be known I’m neither challenging the Michigan Liquor Control Commission nor poking at my stalkers (who are really more like die-hard fans because they pay such close attention to me).

Okay, so maybe I am poking a little. How about just considering the words I’m sharing right now to be a gentlemanly encouragement to certain folks to put their two-faced pretentiousness into their bongs (which I know they probably have) and smoke it. And perhaps while marinating in the haze, they could figure out a better way to vent their so-obviously pent up stresses so that the rest of us can live in relative peace.

Actually, I vote they just eat themselves. Watching the rabid insanity of the cancel-culture as it devours some of its own champions, I’m fairly confident they could actually do it.