Only our car headlights enabled us to carve our way around the guardrail-less, mountain road in western North Carolina. It was a starry-starry night long remembered in the backward smiles of my youthful stoopidity.
We were weaving ‘down-the-road-just-a-piece’ as our moonshine guide was directing. This new-found friend had enticed us into an adventure: To drink some great “wheeeaah-skeee!”
He pronounced ‘whiskey’ with an animated zeal like I imagined General George Patton would be ordering his third double.
Down-the-road-a-piece turned out to be well over an hour’s drive to the other side of the ominous mountain. No doubt in Hatfield and McCoy country. Where shotguns were cradled. And everyone was en garde for government revenooers.
It’s pretty much understood in the South that you can’t get away from whiskey, bacon or barbeque. Dip a moon pie in that from time to time. And maybe an RC Cola chaser. And you’ll swear you’ve dined on the divine southern part of heaven.
‘Wheeeaah-skee!” the unshaven Dudley would snort like a happy child. He was tasting the delight with every turn in the curvy road. It disturbed my compatriot in the back seat. Later he told me that Dudley’s primal mannerisms caused him moments of high anxiety. Then again, so did most all of my ‘stoopidest’ adventures he seemed defenseless to resist.
We finally arrived, after a turn off from the main cow path and parked under the darkness of a stand of trees. This was a place only the eyes and nose of a mountain boy like Dudley could have tracked. And after collecting the required cash from us, he disappeared through an unlit door.
Three of four minutes later he returned. Followed by a man with something odd dangling from his hand. When he crossed his oversized forearms I made it out to be some kind of big ol’ revolver.
Hmm… At that he just sniffed over our surprised faces like a bloodhound on a possum’s trail.
Then in a low voice and a behind a hidden smile he nodded his big, oval head. His instruction to us was: “Enjoy it, boys. Sum of my darn best …”
And out of the mouths of those two peach jars, and into the parched mouths of frightened tongues we drank sum of the sweetest ‘wheeeaah—skeee’ that ever passed through my bourbon loving lips.
Mmm….mmm. Found our way with Dudley to that hidden alcove on two other sojourns. But then one night it was simply gone. Just like that. Sum of the greatest sour mash bourbon to be sipped down my gullet no more. Gone, disappeared forever.
Which brings me to the Kentucky bourbon folks at Maker’s Mark. And what they almost did the other day before they came to their sobered good sense. Second generation family management isn’t known for being so obtuse. Usually it takes until the third generation to be this darn daft.
As I’ve learned over the years: Bourbon is by far the most popular of all remedies that won’t cure a cold.
And it ain’t no cure for stoopidity either.
The Maker’s Mark distillery was actually going to reduce the 90 proof tasty measure by six points, in order to keep up with the vertical uptick in demand. They forthrightly announced their downright inane intentions to ‘water it down’.
I think that another brand or two in the past 10 years had done something similar. But Jack Daniels said it was for its drinkers’ taste – and NOT to meet increased demand. True or not, it was the right message. And the follow-up public relations kept its poker face.
But this Maker’s bourbon family must have a memory like most men’s memories – shorter than their winkys
I mean, what was it… a mere 25 or so years ago when Coke tinkered and tampered with its namesake soda. That was before consumer backlash tarred and feathered the company. Forced them to come out with ‘Coke Classic’ after a few short months.
I think the bourbon outrage amounted to much more than a mere: Hell no, son! Not with my bourbon!
I even screamed to the hollows and the hills: You can take my ex-wife (pull-leese!), hang my dawg, burn my house. But you ain’t touching my bourbon…nor my cigars… nor my neighbor’s pet pig – that’s future barbeque, boy!.
Now, admittedly, Maker’s Mark isn’t quite as favored with me as say… Elijah Craig… or Ezra Brooks… or Evan Williams… or Heaven Hill… These are a few of the tasty delights of legendary Bard County, Kentucky – the yellow brick bourbon road of the only true American whiskey… or sour mash… or just call it bourbon.
But Maker’s Mark is nothing I’d ever kick out of bed – even if there is more room on the floor. And the imbibers let it be known plain and sober: They’d rather deal with occasional supply shortages than any change in the bourbon they brung to the dance.
I mean the world may be pitching us screwballs. The economy’s in the tank. Folks are being tossed outta their homes like an invasion of Army parachutists. Global warming is shakin’ and bakin’. London Bridge is only one of a thousand falling down. Highways got a bad case of chicken pox….
Well, you get the point – whether you drink or you’re a Southern Baptist.
Yet I don’t hear folks roaring as loudly ‘bout that stuff as I do ‘bout their bourbon, car racing and country music.
That’s why life is life… and ain’t it just grand.
Among the many things I have never been able to fathom is screwing with success. I mean bourbon and whiskey sales have been soaring in recent years. That’s what precipitated the shortage in the present six-year distilling process. But you don’t water down your product to meet demand — no matter how many polls and survey and blind taste tests you’ve conducted.
It’s just bad for the branding. The competition would run you over like a ‘bama fullback chuggin’ in for the winning touchdown. You’d be nothing more than vulture meat. Heck, I heard that Wild Turkey was ready to run a campaign of: Less water. More flavor.
This ain’t prohibition days. It’s hard enough to build a brand.
Furthermore, success is like the horse the bank robber is fleeing on – you ride that nag till she drops! And then you eat the bones clean…
I don’t know about you, but maybe one possible rationale for why I’ve had so many exes is because they couldn’t quite season and broil the chicken like my mother did for my first 18 years. Don’t get me wrong… I am open to new and different. Just don’t be changing: Oh, baby, you-know-what-I-like!
I don’t even drop in an ice cube in my sour mash. Water? Isn’t that the stuff that rusts pipes? I drink my perfectly distilled bourbon, neat. Just like my coffee. When they ask how I want my java, I often reply: Like my date last night – hot and black.
Look, like many great bourbons, many great coffee houses these days go to great longitudes and latitudes to pluck the cream de la crème of the coffee roast.
And what do dem and dose barbarians do with this de rigueur, delectable Ethiopian ground?
They over-douse it with cream and sugar.
There oughtto be a law: You splash your bourbon with soda and you gotta wear bright pink lipstick in the daylight.
I mean: Would you splash the Mona Lisa with house paint?!
To tell you the plain truth, I don’t quite understand in this day and age of California wines and microbrewery aficionados why there has been this dramatic uptick in bourbon sales. I’d like to think because it’s made in America.
Then again, so is Budweiser….
Look, Kentucky supposedly produces 95 percent of the world’s bourbon supply. There are 4.9 million barrels of bourbon aging right now in the state – which outnumbers Kentucky’s population – even counting all the thoroughbreds. Any shortages will undoubtedly be overcome with increased distilleries…
Okay, it still takes six years.
Hey… every bad situation is a blues song waiting to happen. But as my dear ol’ bourbon sippin’ Pappy use to exhale between those omnipotent puffs on those omniscient corn cob pipes: “Don’t cry over spilt milk. Hell, boy, it could have been bourbon!”
Indeed, light travels faster than sound. That’s why some people appear bright until you hear them speak….
And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…