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The first vocation I can remember wanting to pursue from childhood was that of an archaeologist. I longed to find the unfindable. Although, what kid didn’t? And then “Raiders of the Lost Ark” came along. With that, my fate seemed sealed. Then in about fifth grade, I recall reading a book in which one of the characters, a doctor, was the wealthiest man in town. Money was tight in my family when I was a kid, and I knew it. After that, I wanted to be a doctor, primarily a surgeon, which was likely true because I was really into the blood-and-guts horror flicks of the 80s.
Of course, other wide-eyed vocational wants came along. I recall wanting to race cars. “Smokey and the Bandit” helped with that. I remember wanting to design special effects for movies. I’d seen “The Thing” on the big screen, and being amazed by Rob Bottin’s creature designs, I wanted in. My friends and I even made a horror movie in the woods behind another friend’s house. It was based on a short story I’d written.
Then came the film “Top Gun.” I walked out of the theater destined to fly fighter jets. I even joined the Civil Air Patrol that had begun assembling at the rinky-dink airport just outside of town. What’s more, in my spare time, I started learning everything there was to know about America’s turbine-powered arsenal. In fact, I recall a colonel in the Air Force visiting my grade school, and on the way out of the classroom, he somehow took to jousting with me, testing my knowledge of his branch’s preferred weaponry. I remember he asked me the thrust-to-weight ratio of an F-15. Without blinking, I answered, “It’s two to one.” I followed my nerdy answer with unsolicited information about Raytheon’s stock prices, assuming he knew that the primary weapons manufacturer for the missiles fitted to the F-15 wasn’t looking so good and that the Air Force might need to consider partnering with a different supplier.
Per the adolescent usual, other vocational wants swept through and went unfulfilled. That’s okay. As you can see, I’m far from anything I described, and yet, I love what I do.
I won’t lie, though. Being a Lutheran pastor certainly isn’t as it used to be. It used to be that a clergyman could walk down the street without fear, being greeted kindly by the usual passersby. Those are alien days by comparison. In the 21st century, insults are standard. For the record, I’ve been spit on, and it happened without me ever saying a word. I was wearing a clerical collar, and that was enough.
Now, before I stray into the borderland of a much darker narrative, my original point was to acknowledge the one thing that birthed all my childhood aspirations and, in a sense, maybe even my current profession: storytelling.
Like the other kids in the 70s and 80s, I read books and watched movies. Perhaps the only difference between my friends and me is that I was burdened by the urge not only to take in and be entertained by content but to produce it, too. The more I took in, the more I wanted to create. And so, I did, mainly through creative writing.
Most of the stories I wrote were scary. I loved the horror genre. It was a bottomless well of fantastical opportunity. I wrote werewolf stories. I wrote zombie stories. I wrote ghost stories. I wrote stories about aliens. I wrote stories about rats. I wrote and wrote some more. Looking back at these things, I realized I was not destined to be an archaeologist or racecar driver. Instead, I was meant to create worlds in which all of these things and more could be examined and enjoyed—and maybe even understood more deeply. Because my primary vocation in life is that of a pastor, I don’t necessarily get paid all that much to write. Still, I do a lot of it, and with that, I think Roald Dahl was onto something when he said, “A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom.”
There is utter freedom in writing.
Within a few short plinks at the keyboard, I can be anywhere and anywhen as anyone or anything. Even better, with the right words in the proper order, I can bring others into the narrative with me. And no one can harness the story, preventing it from being told. People wonder why I write so much, especially when only a fraction of it reaches an atom-sized splinter of the world’s population. Well, whether what I’m producing is to be counted as gold or garbage, unfettered creative liberty is the reason.
I’m guessing Dahl’s observation applies to other creative vocations, too—the field of whiskey-making being one of them. Stranahan’s certainly emits a storytelling quality, being masterfully imaginative with the editions they’ve produced over the years. The Blue Peak Solera Finish is one such musing.
With a nose of malt, raspberries, and cream, the Blue Peak tells of an explorer wandering from a tropical path searching for something known to exist that has remained undiscovered. The palate delivers on the chance taken, pushing past easy underbrush of warmth to reveal virgin fields of flowering carob trees—which produce seeds that taste like chocolate but are much sweeter. Orange trees and vanilla orchids tinged with cinnamon adorn the spaces in between.
The whiskey’s medium finish is its invitation to return to the newfound paradise anytime the explorer desires—and to bring friends for just as blissful an introduction.
As I said before, I’m endeavoring to use words in ways that encourage examination, enjoyment, and a deeper understanding of things. When it comes to whiskey in particular—mainly because far too many imbibers choose to associate with the well-worn path—my simplest hope is to introduce undiscovered possibilities and, perhaps, to smile with delight when a personal favorite is unearthed and ultimately treasured.
By the way, if I ever play a part in such a discovery, know that I’ll gratefully accept favorited samples. Remember, the whiskies of paradise want you to share.