I just opened a bottle of 28 year old Scotch distilled at Glenglassaugh Distillery. A bottle I’ve held on to since I bought it in September of 2005 in a London whisky shop. It was distilled just before Christmas, 1976. Ten years after this whisky was placed into a cask to mature, the distillery was mothballed after 111 years of making whisky. The elixir in this bottle has been waiting to be imbibed for nearly 37 years. And here, on a warm Los Angeles night in October 2013, it is finally fulfilling its purpose.
Why tonight? Why not later this week? Or six years ago? Or 15 years from now? The answer, my friends, is because now is the right time to drink it.
Timing, timing, timing is everything. In life. In whisky. In living. In drinking. Whisky making is a delicate dance of timing. Mess up the fermentation time, the distillation time, or the time you keep a whisky in a cask and the entire effort is wasted. And lord knows that timing is crucial for life. The wrong place at the wrong time, the right place at the right time, the nick of time, timing is off, just in time – our language is filled with idioms that capture our fascination with the capricious nature of time.
I said goodbye tonight to someone that I barely had time to know. Emily and I met for the first time a month ago when we talked for two hours over drinks. The fact that I was able to converse at all is a minor miracle. I spent the first ten minutes with my head voice screaming, “Good lord she’s beautiful!” at neuron rattling volume. But, talk we did. It wasn’t one of those conversations that leave you shaken to the core with the “wow” of an intense connection (which are, ultimately, often short-lived). Rather, it was a fun conversation. An easy flow. But, there was an undertone of energy led me to recognize we were kindred spirits. We were fellow curiousity seekers, rabble-rousers, secret door openers and risk embracers. The kind of people who could say the most hilarious thing at the most inappropriate time and be unable to contain our laughter, even with the rest of the room looking on in horror.
Something about her transported me back in time. I felt like I was 15 with all the nervousness that accompanies a boy when the pretty girl from Spanish class calls and he answers the phone all a’flutter and a’flubbing. OK. That’s a little Rob revisionism. If the pretty girl from Spanish class had called me I wouldn’t be here today because my heart would have ceased to beat from the shock. Thankfully, I outgrew that nervousness years ago. In fact, this summer I went out for drinks with a famous actress. I was suave, smooth, calm and cool as ice. But, get me on ice with Emily, as happened on our second date of ice skating, and I felt like I was back in the junior high roller rink days of trying to avoid smashing into small kids due to being too distracted by the hottie near me.
The ice skating was followed an evening of rye whiskey cocktails (and a quick lesson about LDI) and Korean fusion tacos. And, it was filled with more fun, twisted conversation and the same undertone of kindred energy I’d detected before. The night was delightful. I knew that, given time, exploring the person beneath her eclectic exterior would be a journey worth taking.
A few days after our ice dance, she told me her company had informed her that she was being transferred out of state. She’d be leaving in a week.
The same weekend Emily was to bid farewell to me and others in LA, some of my favorite whisky personalities were saying hello to each other in New York at WhiskyFest. Many of them were meeting in person for the first time after years of sharing thoughts, insights, jokes and playful insults with each other online. They each came into the world of whisky from different places at different times, but the threads they wove together formed what is now known as the Whisky Fabric: “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”
Wait. That’s the definition of “The Force.”
Still, those in the Whisky Fabric are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to loyalty, friendship and sharing drams. Everything aligned for those East Coast members of the Whisky Fabric to come together for the first time. I’m sure they enjoyed plenty of whisky together. What were the whiskies? It doesn’t matter. They could have been awful. Those Fabric friends still would have enjoyed that moment in time together.
Time is what told me to open this bottle of Glenglassaugh tonight. One of only 279 ever made.
I bought it while traveling in London with Katie (whom features prominently in my book “Distilling Rob”). Without getting too much into that tale (buy the book!) I will say the bottle has special significance. The trip with Katie was a turning point in our time together. The years that followed that trip were a compressed lifetime. There was a time I thought I’d marry her. There was a time I thought I’d resent her forever. A time I thought I’d never hear from her again. A time to move on. A time for forgiveness. And a time for redemption.
Through it all, the bottle sat unopened. At first, I kept it sealed to save it for a special moment. Then I kept it sealed out of some cold, twisted sense of keeping the past in the past. Most recently, it was kept sealed because the bottle had become a good remembrance time capsule of sorts, thanks to warmth returning to my memories of that trip.
Katie and I are again in touch, our connection now bonded in friendship. She’s married. She has a young daughter and young son. Two weeks ago, her father died. Too soon. I shared with Katie a conversation I had with her father years earlier. It was a short conversation. Maybe 30 seconds. His words stayed with me. And those words he spoke came back through me to give Katie some measure of comfort in her time of tremendous grief.
My mom told me a story yesterday. Two weeks ago, a church in my hometown held a special anniversary ceremony celebrating its 100 years in the community. Church leaders asked, and then pleaded, with an older woman in the congregation who had a penchant for poetry to write a special poem for the anniversary. The woman reluctantly agreed.
At the anniversary celebration, she stood up in front of the entire church and began her poem:
“A time to remember…”
She paused. For effect, she looked up at the congregation. Slowly, she looked back to the poem. Then, she collapsed to the floor, dead.
Her timing was perfect.
Rarely is timing perfect. Something we can control and anticipate. But, that is fine with me.
It’s the unexpected opportunities that time gives you which make life interesting: meeting a unique girl just in time to have her touch your life before she leaves it; stumbling across a whisky shop on the other side of the world and having your girlfriend give you the time to explore its offerings; taking the time to allow 140 character tweets shared between whisky writers around the world to meld into true connection and friendship; having just enough time left in the ticker to make a grand exit in front of the entire congregation.
That’s why now is the right time to open this Glenglassaugh – because there was never a wrong time.
It’s time for me to have another sip. So as I end this musing, I raise a toast for Katie and the journey we’ve shared; I raise a toast for her father and the lives he touched; I raise a toast for my Whisky Fabric family; I raise a toast for the dead church lady; and I raise a toast, in the words of Paul Simon, for Emily, whenever I may find her.