Today was the winter solstice, that is, the first day of winter. Here in my part of New Mexico it was all gale force winds and, well, wintery. I was chilly all day long. So naturally my thoughts turned to warmth: Warm layers, cozy fire, and a nice hot toddy.
Accordingly, on the way home from town I stopped in Western Drug and General Store, which really is an amazing place that sells just about anything a human being could want. My pretense was that I needed to pick up a birthday card (and I did do that, got a nice one) but I also wanted to get some whiskey because it seemed to me whiskey would make a proper hot toddy.
Now here’s the thing: While I don’t like the stuff, I feel like I should. Every damn mystery and science fiction book these days seems to have characters who drink single malt and double malt and hey — I love chocolate malts so shouldn’t I like whiskey?
So far, I never have. It tastes like paint thinner. Nasty, nasty stuff, no matter how aged it is and how many malts it is. Whatever that means anyway. But I had noticed a while back that Western had whiskey in little metal flasks (375 ml to be precise, but as a die-hard non-metricentric, it is little to me) and it was labeled Apple Crisp Whiskey.
Oh wow! I like apples! I like apple crisp (that is a dessert, isn’t it?). How bad could whiskey be if it was Apple Crisp Whiskey? And on top of that, the label also said America’s Finest. And a cute, candy-apple red metal flask!
Well, I had to have it. I had visions of an incredible hot toddy after the evening’s chores were done, the cozy fire blazing in the wood stove, me bundled up in my jammies and bathrobe. But no.
You knew that, right?
First hint: I could have sworn on the way home I smelled whiskey in the cab of the truck. And, well, yes, when I picked that flask up in the store, it did stick to the shelf it was on. But such a cute, candy-apple red metal flask it was, I had to have it! Probably some other flask had leaked, right?
The seal was still intact on the little tiny cap (so cute!). And maybe there were some kind of sticky droplets on the side of the pretty candy-apple red side of the flask, but that could have come from anywhere. At home I gave a moment’s thought to returning the flask unopened, since it seemed that maybe the flask wasn’t quite as full as it might have been but… no. I was determined to have that damn toddy. Tonight. The fire was roaring, I was warming on the outside and I wanted that hot comforting drink to warm my innards.
I opened it. I sniffed it. Kind of.. ewww. Paint thinner with a hint of rotten apple, overlaid with the tang of metal. I poured some hot water into a cup, added a big tablespoon of honey, and a slug or two of Apple Crisp Whiskey. Stirred well. Tasted.
Have I said ewww yet? I thought maybe I was mistaken. I mean, I never have liked whiskey or any of its relatives. So I took another sip to be fair.
But that metal taste. Really. Bad. In the lingering aftertaste I was sure it was less apple and more compost that coated my tongue, compost liberally tainted with steel. Was this the normal taste for something that claimed to be America’s Finest?
OK time to read the fine print. Proprietary all-natural recipe. Estate-grown corn.
Corn? Where are the apples?
Traditional copper still. I sipped a bit more. No, definitely not pennies I was tasting, but steel. Remarkably mellow flavor and smooth finish… wait, what about the apples? I read the other side. Aha! Corn whiskey infused with apple crisp liqueur. Whatever that is.
Maybe I’m too picky. Or maybe I simply have an uneducated palate. But I think that maybe somebody accidentally put some kind of solvent in that flask and it’s dissolving the welds. Because I swear, I rinsed the outside off and dried it and there are sticky droplets along the seam again.
So… happy solstice. Winter has come. Meanwhile, I’m drinking Merlot, the fire is cozy, and after I recover from the toddy I’ll get my jammies on.