An older man sat alone at a table not far from where my family and I were dining in Englewood, Florida. He appeared to be enjoying the pleasant view of Lemon Bay while eating fish and sipping a whiskey. I don’t know which whiskey he was drinking. I only know he had ice in his glass. I’m guessing he might be a serial killer.
Although, I’m not bothered when whisky drinkers put ice in their drams. Not only does it take guts to betray openly one’s mental illness, but it’s likely quite therapeutic. Firstly, I’ve already written on this topic, having confessed to the same occasional sin. Not serial killing, of course, but rather that there are certain whiskies I enjoy with ice. Not many, but a few. Usually, they’re ones that need a little doctoring. Secondly, I say these things because I’m willing to share my own abnormalities. For example, not long ago, I willfully—deliberately, intentionally, consciously—elected to spend twenty of my hard-earned dollars on a bottle of bottom-shelf whiskey.
It’s been my experience that most whiskies with a price tag of twenty dollars or less have at least four things in common:
- They’re typically horrible.
- They’re often quite horrible.
- They’re almost always horrible.
- Most often, the only way to improve them is to dump them down the kitchen sink.
Mindful of these four usuals, I proved my ability to part with reality when, having caught a glimpse of the Old Camp Blended American Whiskey guarding a bottom shelf, I thought, I should buy that and give it a try. Before I could regain control, my invisible struggle had become knowable to others. I called for the attendant to fetch the bottle as I conversed with myself, saying, “I mean, why not, Chris? It’s only twenty bucks.”
Thankfully, this very public episode was over just as soon as it began. However, the fruits of its truest obscurity blossomed in the privacy of my home. It was there I opened the bottle, poured a short dram, nosed, sipped, and savored, and then concluded so irrationally that the incredibly cheap whiskey was, in fact, pretty good.
Indeed, I liked it. What’s more, I was already on the road to recovery from the incident, having discovered the willingness to admit this whiskey belonged in my cabinet and not in the drains beneath my kitchen sink. With a gentler nose of red berries and vanilla, the whiskey is surprisingly inviting. Its first sip is a bit syrupy, warning of artificial flavoring. But the second spreads out evenly enough to suggest it could be natural, sending along a list of the ingredients: vanilla-drizzled strawberries and nutmeg.
The finish is dry and light, packing very little punch. I was surprised by this, especially since the whiskey’s palate seemed capable of a thorough coating. I’m not sure how I feel about that imbalance, except to say that as someone capable of his own particular imbalances, I probably wouldn’t even notice it while eating fish and wondering which area in the bay would be best for the disposing of bodies.