A few whiskies and the men they remind me of

Jack is pure and simple salt of the earth sort

artist Travis Bedel

Balvenie

Chaz.* Chaz liked nice things, but Chaz was also emotionally unstable. He lived in luxury high rises with doormen, rocked custom-fitted cashmere coats, and drove an Audi, but also wore fake Breitlings and played emotional war games.

Chaz drank a lot and frankly he should also have Dewars, because Dewars is what he’s burn through a bottle of a day, but in public he claimed his favorite was Balvenie.

*Not his real name but it might as well have been

Basil Hayden

John. Not that he really earned this or had anything to with it — he was just the guy I happened to be dating when I decided I wanted to try to whiskey and the one who paid for my first real glass. I did the research and I picked the pour and I drank it, while I’m sure he ordered himself a cabernet to go alongside, but I want John to have a whiskey and I never took note of what he drank the few times he did, so he might as well have Basil.

The people I really think of for Basil Hayden are women: like the woman who wrote the article I found recommending this whiskey for starters, which inspired me to make it my first (I wouldn’t second her on this.) And the young woman I met from Kentucky — thoroughly cool in her own right — who casually rocked a jersey dress with a slit uptohere and sat out on the patio with her fiancé while all the dudes smoked cigars; who smelled E. H. Taylor when Chad (see below) handed me his glass to taste, and then told us it was nice but BH was her favorite.

Blantons

Pete. Pete and I worked together for about a year and have been friends ever since. He’s the sort of guy with one style and one mood; the style being “what, I just like button downs” and the mood “solid as fuck.” He isn’t who you call to get the party started but he also isn’t the one to crash it or ruin the night. He’s the sort of guy you have as a back-up to your back-up in case you never get married, and definitely the one you take to brunch.

He and I would routinely meet for drinks at his favorite bar, which had been there since the beginning of Chicago time, where he was such a regular the (dude) bartender would only charge him for one pour. We also went to the horse track together, or watched horse racing at one of the remaining OTB bars in the city, and Pete actually knew his horse-betting shit.

One of the times he finished the bottle, he asked the bartender to have the horse figurine cork and handed it to me, casually saying “here — some people collect these.”

And by now I’ve probably tossed it. Because I am an ignorant asshole.

Breckenridge

What even was his name? Some dude and his friend that my friend and I met in Breck, where we were celebrating our birthdays together. We wanted a shot-ski, our respective boyfriends bowed out (butthurt about something; I don’t recall) and these two locals stepped up to pick up the slack. When the bartender asked “what shot?” the first one answered “Breck.” They proceeded to show us a good time for the next several hours.

Buffalo Trace

Derek. Good kid; perpetually in need of a haircut. We were at a company retreat in Vermont, in this little ages-old shut-away “resort” if “resort” is what you would’ve called that 80 years ago, where the only bar within walking distance was the one in the lobby, and that bar shut down about 2 hours before the last few of us were ready to turn in.

Derek had a bottle of Buffalo in his room, and he ran up to get it. We proceeded to keep our little party going for a while longer — until Derek got tired. At which point, instead of leaving it with us and letting us buy the remaining from him or whatever, he took it to bed with him, effectively ending our night.

Bulleit

Gary. Tailored, tight, but chill AF. No Bulleit drinker has ever done me wrong, and Gary was no exception. More adorable than he needed to be and slicker than you’d expect; disarmingly genuine and nice. Gary lived in a luxury high-rise apartment, and he’s now traveling the world for a year. Gary was very kind. Probably still is. Just drinking more caipirinhas and ouzo these days.

Defiant

Tim, the owner, whom I met at a whiskey-tasting event in Chicago in 2015 when I first found Defiant. Also a deep-sea salvage diver and all-around pretty cool guy.

Also, Stephen, the guy who came into my bar and ordered first Defiant and then Laphroaig — my favorite American whisky followed by my favorite scotch — totally validating my own palate and securing a minuscule corner of my heart.

Dewars

Chaz, see above. But also “Mr. Holly,” the guy who wears white undershirts with each sleeve rolled up twice and orders Dewars White Label on the rocks — and then picks up the tab for half the bar.

Never judge a book, man.

Eagle Rare

Johnny, my current bar manager. Which totally makes sense, because he also likes soda, listens to 1940’s “cigar shop” music, and refers to women as “females” in a way I’m sure he means as loving.

E. H. Taylor

Chad insisted we order this for the bar. To be fair, he’s good friends with Johnny, which helps, but what also helps is that he knows his stuff.

I’m not even a bourbon fan, but poured this for Chad one night and spilled a bit on my hand, and when I smelled the way it hit my skin, I was like “holy shit, man.”

When I later came round to clear the patio’s glasses as they settled into their cigars, he ordered another and offered up the rest of his first glass to me, and, yeah, it tasted as good as it smelled.

F.E.W.

Ben. Ben and I worked together and he was incredibly particular and meticulous and, frankly, a little too high-strung for my taste. I called him “Benin” and he hated it but it took him months to tell me. Ben had it out for me and I found it endearingly funny, like when a kitten goes on the attack.

Ben eventually rage-quit, but chilled out a lot after later coming out.

Jack Daniels

Nobody in particular, and yet a very specific sort of man: the salt of the earth sort, blue collar roots, chilled out AF. Names like Matt or Dave. Or David. They can do no wrong in my book.

Laphroaig

Nobody. This one is mine.

To be fair, an ex-boyfriend introduced me to it, but he can’t have it because he didn’t actually like it. He just saw it in the bar where we happened to be drinking and he knew it was a wild card polarizer — knew you either love it or hate it — and I think part of him was fucking with me because I was not real far into whiskey at the time.

Jokes on him, though. Laphroaig lasted longer than he did.

If I think of anyone, I think of the other people who love it — the two or three customers who have come into my bar to order it, each and every one of them my sort of people and all but a living and walking embodiment of the man I picture when I personify Laphroaig: solid AF, good stature, smart expression, and a little unpolished and imperfect in a perfectly alluring way.

Macallan

Pretty much half of the men who order scotch in my bar.

Old money or might as well be, with their gingham Brooks Brothers and Sperrys, drinking this like it’s the only scotch on the shelf.

Oban

Falan. tbh I pushed it on him but frankly the pushing suited him, so I guess it works for now.

I personify some scotches, and with Oban it was always “kind introvert; scholar” and finding someone who would either prove or disprove this was on “my list” (see below.) So when Falan asked for a whiskey recommendation 30 seconds after his buddy/wingman told me he was a philosophy PhD, I was like “please humor me — Oban.”

Poor Falan endured a “philosophical” lecture from the religious bigot on the barstool next to him and my laughter from behind the bar the whole time, and when I later asked him his favorite philosopher, he wrote down one living, one dead, and his number.

Pappy V

Nate. I had never even heard about Pappy V until Nate said it was his favorite.

I always saw Nate drinking Mount Gay rum and every time he bought a bottle, he would make the same joke about the island on the label looking like a penis. What I never saw Nate drink, however, was Pappy V — which I guess is fair, given that we were like 21* at the time and Pappy would have cost us like an entire weekend of work — but I guess I also hoped that, for as much as he talked about it, he’d at least had it. But maybe he did — after all, Nate also married a woman who’s first appearance on his social media was their wedding (which I wasn’t even 100% sure was their wedding because she was wearing a white sundress.) So what do I know about him.

*we were 20. lol

SIA

Ken was my colleague and found SIA in a little liquor store in the Chicago loop where we worked — not the sort of store that’s been there for 60 years (cougheverywhereChicagocough), but rather a new, tidy place that only carried a few bottles but knew them up and down.

Ken bought it for us and brought it into the office, where it thereby became our first and only “office scotch.” And to some extent, SIA also reminds me of our man-child boss who tried some and I think pretended to like it just to keep up, then snuck pulls from his apple juice box under his desk.

I also think of Carin, the founder, with whom I spoke on the phone right before starting my business.

Stranahans

Clint Eastwood.

I mean, you drink it and tell me that’s not how that shit hits you.

Also, my brother, because I bought him a bottle for Christmas one year. I’d be willing to bet home skillet still has it, because he’s more a white zin man at heart 😂

Remaining men I want whiskies for

  • My late maternal grandpa. He was born and raised in Kentucky, so I’ll be damned if you try to tell me he didn’t drink the occasional bourbon — knowing him, it was some small brand that got popular in the 60’s but has long since gone out of vogue. Frankly, I like to picture Ancient Age or Old Crow.
  • The current boy. He does this thing where he says he doesn’t like whiskey and I’m like “yeah, yeah I get it.” Respect. But I’m curious to give it a shot anyway. I so very want it to be a Japanese (and delicate; a little floral), because it would suit the dear so delightfully well, but I think it could also end up being a blended scotch. Maybe I’ll ruin him proper, pour him J W Blue, and call it a day — I mean, if he’s one and done, what’s it matter*? lol…

*nah. it would ruin him and the game alike

Remaining whiskies I want men for

Like some kind of bucket list like I hear some people have for sexual partners.

  • All of the single malt scotches. And by “all” I obviously mostly mean the big ones — like, I used to say I wanted an Oban because “I bet he reads and/or writes in bars” and I still want a Bruichladdich who doesn’t order it second or based on color — but whatever, the more obscure, the stronger the story and connotation
  • Balcones. Especially Rumble.
  • Mellow Corn. I just want to know who drinks this.
  • All of the remaining American ones too, tbh — who am I kidding? ❤

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