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What do you think it means when, with your head barely above the water, your wife’s eyes grow wide with excitement and her mouth suddenly gleams brightly with glee as you suggest she try to hit you in the face with a rubber pool ball? I suppose I should wonder why this proposition would ever even come to mind.

It’s likely these instances occur for the same reasons one might be found hoping for a zombie apocalypse. I don’t say this assuming anyone would desire such a world-consuming end to humanity. It’s more microcosmic than that. It’s more closely related to the need for an individual to open the emotional pressure valve on occasion—a moment to step over what are, for the most part, uncrossable boundaries in order to deal with other humans in ways that might not be appropriate in most contexts but are perfectly acceptable in a few others.

I’ll let you decide what I mean by that.

As this meets with our vacation-time swimming pool activities, I’m cognizant of the fact that for the other fifty weeks of the droning year, there are times in the life of a pastor’s wife when she would absolutely love to hit him in the face with whatever object is most readily available. To keep that from ever being a frying pan, hymnal, mobile phone, or small child, right here and now in the swimming pool is the time to release the pressure behind the valve.

With that, I make the promise to her that I won’t move. I’ll sit completely still. She can throw it as hard as she wants. My only rewards will be her joy and the testing of my nerve. Hers will be both the opportunity, and if successful, the resonating “whap” of a stinging connection.

She wasted little time taking the ball into hand.

You should know my face still hurts. I suppose one thing that bothers me is that much of my calculation was merely a wagering that she couldn’t throw with such precision. Twenty-four years into our marriage, you’d think I would know by now that she could. Also, I’m somewhat bothered that she kept asking to do it again. When I eventually arose from the pool to nurse the red image of Olaf burned into my face by the Frozen-themed ball, I’d already found myself concerned for my wife’s love. Could it be genuine, or is it only for moments like this?

One thing is for sure, when the time was right, she stepped up and made it happen. The same thing can be said for Ardbeg’s “Traigh Bahn” 19-year-old edition.

It may not matter all that much to others, but at first glance, the age of the whisky made me wonder, “Why not wait until it’s 20 years old? Why not bottle it at 12, or 15, or even 18, which is one year sooner, and in the end, really quite common?” Yes, I know there are 19-year-old whiskies out there, but where I live in Michigan, it’s rare to see them on the shelves of the local retailers.

But again, while strange, 19 years into the effort, the time was right, and Ardbeg seized it, making it count.

The nose of this delightful dram shared with me by my friend and newfound whisky accomplice, Alden Erdman, is one of smoke, namely, burnt walnuts. It digs deeper into its prototypical smoky Ardbeg style to discover sugared ash and a hint of something akin to chocolate.

The palate suggests peat-smoked citrus and barbecued sweet-and-sour chicken. With a little water, there’s a sense the chicken was seasoned with sea salt.

The finish is long… and it burns… like my face after my wife hits it with a wet rubber ball from twenty feet away and at what I’m guessing was at least 40 miles per hour. But unlike this tortuous therapy session, the peppering and smoke carried along in its wake are enjoyable, leaving the imbiber longing for more. Although, re-reading what I just wrote, I suppose the finish is a little more like the aforementioned pool exchange than I’m willing to admit. Again, even after my bride peppered my face and wafted away the smoke of her accuracy, she longed for more.

Next year, no matter what the neighbors think, I plan to swim while wearing my stormtrooper helmet. Not only will it look cool, but it’ll serve to maintain my marriage.