If someone told me they were going down a dark alley to score a little pappy van winkle, I would have an idea what they were talking about, but I would be wrong. Well, I haven’t had my pappy winkled in a while.
Pappy Van Winkle is however a thing that exists, apparently most people have heard of it, and a lot of them would like to get their hands on some. It’s a barrel-aged Kentucky bourbon that might retail for about $300 per bottle but can fetch up to $4000 on the street. And it made the news here in Oregon because apparently a lot of high-level employees of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission have been discovering a lot of Pappy Van Winkle in their possession. Which is clearly a striking coincidence—in spite of which they are accused of “running afoul” of state ethics laws, and have been duly reprimanded. By a small arthritic nun with a rubber ruler. They’re all still showing up for work, even the top guy whose resignation was politely requested by the governor.
And they’re still diverting bourbon. Evidently the state warehouses emergency safety bottles of booze in case any of it runs afoul of gravity on the way to the liquor stores. I had no idea the state was running a Strategic Whiskey Reserve, or that we needed one, but apparently it does get tapped from time to time, such as when the managers of the OLCC direct the bottles to be delivered to specific liquor stores and set aside so that they can go buy it for themselves. (Hey, this ain’t New Jersey.) Weirdly, some of it ends up in state lawmakers’ possession too.
Problem is, the reason that $300 bottle of hootch has such a thumping secondary illegal market is that it’s really hard to find. Unless you socialize with the top officials at OLCC, you are not likely to see it. In fact, it’s so rare, the state runs a lottery for the chance to buy a bottle. Odds are slim, but if your ticket comes up, why, you will be allowed to drop a few hundred bucks for a bottle of liquid that could strip a new Corvette down to primer, and if that’s not lucky, I don’t know what is.
It can’t be any good. It’s whiskey. I’ve tried it so I know. It’s clearly poison. You have enough of it and you’re in doornail territory. It’s like taking a chance on that homicidal pufferfish. I have watched people sipping away at the stuff with studious and even rapturous looks on their faces. “Smooth,” they say, nodding knowingly, or off. I don’t know what they mean by “smooth.” Every sip is clearly an assault on the corpus, and altered consciousness can be the only point of it. As the street gentleman who asked me what I’d bought in the little paper bag said, when I showed him the small gift bottle of inexpensive whiskey, Yeah, that’ll get you there.
I think “smooth” means you can get it all the way down your gullet without bursting into flame, but it’s not much of a recommendation. And these people are not to be trusted. These are people who will suck the snot out of an oyster shell. These are people who freely indulge in voluntary licorice. If you really like this stuff, you’ve got a problem. Not me. I like my alcohol in measured, modest, foamy, friendly, frequent doses administered a few times a day for fifty years or so. I like it very much. I don’t have a problem.
The more you age a whiskey, the more the flavor of burnt wood seeps in to delight the connoisseur. Also, the more of it evaporates. So your nice barrel of aged whiskey has considerably less whiskey in it than it started with and acquires even more rarity. Mo’ money, mo’ money! If the people in charge of controlling alcohol in your state skim a batch right off the top, you’re looking at serious resale value on the street. The executive director of the OLCC says he bought his fair and square and kept it for himself, and didn’t resell it at a thousand percent or more profit, but no one could blame him if he did; he’s scraping by on $220,000 a year.
I’m with you on the “frequent doses administered a few times a day for fifty years or so.” I have worry and anxiety issues, and find that alcohol takes the edge off. I use it to feel “normal”… whatever the hell THAT is, rather than spending my days on “high alert” and my nights with insomnia. My drink of choice, however, IS whiskey. A small dose of Rye in a glass of water. I like the fact that it CAN be diluted and still taste good. Beer made me gain too much weight. Wine gives me a headache (probably the tannins) and some whiskies, like Bourbon are too sweet. I do not have a sweet tooth at all. Rye is the Goldilock’s Spot for me. And I don’t like raw oysters (but love them deep-fried in an oyster po’ boy sandwich) and I don’t like licorice. Plus, everything is either poison or remedy; depends on how much you take.
I’m trying to figure out what a remedial dose of Polonium is. I’ll get back to you.
Or, you won’t.
“…nodding knowingly, or off.” And in New Jersey, we just hijacked what we wanted and paid the driver to let us.
I am aware of that about New Jersey. We’re a little quainter here.
I used to enjoy a nice smooth bourbon, before I gave up alcohol, pretty much completely. I like raw oysters and licorice too. I wonder if it’s a genetic thing. As for Pappy Van Winkle, you need to talk to Walt Longmire about that.
I never made it far enough into that series to hear about Pappy.
Although I think licorice is ok, and I do love raw oysters, the upper echelon of whiskey, scotch, etc have no appeal. Beer however, good beer, I do enjoy. A Dogfish 120 would make my day.
A old friend of mine is a single-barrel scotch fanI , and he’d bring over a bottle and reverently pour mine into a brandy glass, which I’d promptly pour into my beer. The friendship has lasted, surprisingly.
But…I would go into the alley with someone else’s credit card for a 1945 Chateau Lafite. I have a taste for good wines that exceeds my means.
Well shucks, since everyone is weighing in here with their preferences and their favorites, I thought I’d share a recipe for one of my old faves from 1998, which I now refer to as:
— Start with a 32oz. glass (we lovingly referred to ours as ‘The Flowerpots’)
— pack with ice
— fill to the brim with Vodka
— sip about a 1/2 inch of the Vodka
— top off with chilled “Diet Fresca” (may substitute “Wink”, but NEVER “Sprite”)
This was my campy/white trash “Summer Drink” in 1998. It served me well until I somehow ended up in a medically-supervised detox that October. 🙂
I’m sure it was just a coincidence you ended up in detox.
I don’t know about the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, but I’m doing just fine with my cheap Manhattan of Jim Beam and Gallo vermouth, along with a toke or 2 of home grown. I guess I’ll never achieve their level of enlightenment.
You have to have money for that kind of enlightenment.
For a few years I was drinking Islay single-malt scotch, as long as the price of Laphroaig (did I spell that right?) at Costco seemed tolerable. (Lately it’s beginning to scare me off, so I’m back to the Canadian stuff.) I was always puzzled by people who said Islay scotches taste like peat smoke and iodine. OK on the peat smoke — that’s the part I like — but I worked for years with pure iodine in a chemistry lab, and I went to considerable lengths to make sure that I NEVER found out what iodine tastes like. I wonder how they knew?
I’ve never had an oyster but I KNOW what they taste like. Reminds me of that old Guinness ad: “I haven’t tried it because I don’t like it.”
I recall a junior high music teacher saying that the expression he has often heard should have instead been “I don’t know much about music but I like what I know.”
Watch the movie The Angel’s Share. We all know that ALL alcohol is poison. Just pick your poison, or not. As for oysters, sometimes but never anytime. Licorice, love it, but never Twizzlers other fake stuff. Did have to get used to salty licorice from Scandinavia. With enough sampling poison can start to taste, well, um, good.
I’ve never heard of the movie, but I do know what the angel’s share is! Do I get points?
I’ll stick with water. It’s a LOT cheaper and after several glasses I can still walk a straight line and make sense of what I am seeing.
A straight line right to the potty.
And too much making sense of what we are seeing is WHY some of us drink.
I’m not American and struggle somewhat with your acronyms and sport-related jargon. But I guess that a country that puts the regulation of alcohol, firearms and taxes in the same bracket…oh, shoot! Just stick a D in front .
That’s Alcohol, TOBACCO, and Firearms (ATF), I believe. Taxes (income taxes and such) are another mater for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), although there are certainly taxes on alcohol and tobacco (probably firearms, too). It IS a very confusing system.
That’s okay. The Republicans are going to get rid of all that and put in a massive Fair sales tax for all the little people.
Murr…. Are you okay? It’s not like you to not respond to comments, and I’m worried.
Appreciate that! I only realized this morning that I hadn’t visited my blog yet. It has to do with forgetting what day of the week it is. Now THAT might be worth worrying about. Thanks!
Jesus Christ, Murr! Don’t scare me like that! I already mentioned my anxiety/worry issues. Now you have proof. Whew!