Recently I was tooling around the internet, looking for answers to life, the universe, and everything (because that’s what we use the internet for, right?), when I came across the following exchange on the YouTube channel of a whisky reviewer named Ralfy. Okay, so I was looking for answers to life, the universe, and booze… Anyway, Ralfy is well-known in whisky circles for being, by his own admission, rather eccentric. But the fun thing about Ralfy is that he often gives a healthy dose of worldly wisdom to go with his whisky wisdom. This time, he knocked me out of my chair in response to an odd question.
BOOM! Hundreds of years of philosophy suddenly turned on its head by one internet vlogger. Obviously, when Nietzsche was staring into the abyss, he should have been pulling the cork on a bottle of Scotch. Problem solved. There is officially no more need for philosophy.
Naturally, I’ve had to go into hiding because the Aristotelian Society has secret agents looking for me as we speak for preaching such subversion, but they’ll never find me hiding on the internet, so let’s keep this baby going.
Of course, when someone puts it to you that curing cancer might actually be a bad thing, there are only two appropriate responses:
- Let’s try it and find out.
- Let me think about that over a dram of Scotch.
Since I’m not a doctor or scientist, I’ll leave response #1 alone and let the professionals continue to work on it. But I’m all set to address response #2!
I’ve always been an outdoors person. I grew up in the great state of Colorado and I’ve never stopped exploring nature, even after I moved to Illinois and realized that, instead of geography, they have interstates. I still go hiking and camping, and I can even make a convincing argument on why golf is really a bonding experience with nature (it’s not convincing to women, but that’s not the point). On what would seem to be an unrelated note, I have never much cared for alcohol. I neither loved it, nor hated it. It was just something that was around when I went out with friends. But one day, several years back, I discovered Scotch whisky.
Everything about Scotch relates to the natural world in some way, from the barley used to distill the spirit, to the wood casks used to mature it, to the water used to cut it, to the influence of the land where the maturing spirit is stored. A good bottle of Scotch will yield aromas of apples and pears, or vanilla and baked goods, or salty sea air and campfire embers, just to name few. To someone like me, it’s a little piece of the outdoors right there in my kitchen cabinet.
So one day I’m reading about something called peated scotch whisky, where the malted barley is dried by burning peat. This infuses a smoky flavor to the spirit. I had not tried any such thing, but I kept reading about the “bonfire smoke” and “barbecue kippers” and other earthy terms, and I thought that I really needed to try some, like, right away. Instead of working my up to a serious peated whisky, I went right for the top and bought a bottle of something called Uigeadail (pronounced “Ex-pen-sive”), from a distillery called Ardbeg. I poured myself about a shot-glass worth and settled into my favorite chair in front of the television because the Bulls were playing and I like a little NBA action now and again. I stuck my nose in the glass to get a whiff of the drink I was about to experience. Suddenly, a lost about 20 minutes of my life.
Ever go camping in the mountains in the early fall? You wake up in the morning and crawl out of your tent. The air is crisp, dew has formed on the grasses and plants on the forest floor, and the mossy smells combine with the aroma of the remaining ashes from the fire pit that still smolders underneath the remains of burnt wood.
All of that wafted up out of my glass of Scotch. I wasn’t remotely expecting it, but that initial nosing immediately transported me back to my childhood in Colorado (my advice, don’t ever say drinking reminds you of your childhood). I’m not sure how long I sat there staring at the glass without even drinking anything, but when I looked up, I saw the Bulls had lost. Then I took a drink and plummeted down the rabbit hole once again, lost in thought about the great wide world around me and how I was stuck in my house because it was late and I had to go to work in the morning.
This all may sound melodramatic, but it happened. This is where alcohol comes in for me. I’m not interested in getting blitzed or pouring tasteless beer down my throat because everyone else at the bar is. I drink Scotch because it has actual meaning for me, which sounds weird even as I write it. It’s one more way I connect to the natural world while I live and work in the man-made one.
Really, you could go bonkers trying to suss out the deeper meanings of the universe. Ralfy may have a point. It might just be time for a whisky.