There are whiskies. And then there are whiskies…

From: that make you wonder why you ever liked whisky.

Whiskies that, if a friend served them to you and you’d never had whisky, you would have to wonder what you had done to make your friend dislike you enough to give you such nasty brew.

Just the questions we were asking ourselves yesterday when our run of delicious whiskies in the advent calendar hit a bit of a snag with two samples that we didn’t even finish.

The first was so strong, so potent and at 67%, so flammable that we were afraid that either it or we would spontaneously combust from the fumes alone. We worried about nearby lightbulbs igniting our glasses. We could have used it to power a mouse-sized chainsaw, or disinfect a wound. We could have mixed it with water, but the taste just didn’t warrant it. Maybe we’ll use the rest to light a flambé, or if we run out of kerosene some dark winter night.

As my husband said, you could power an entire flock of hummingbirds on the stuff. My grandmother told me tales of Prohibition-era moonshine that made the occasional drinker go blind – I imagine it tasted something like this, even though I’m sure the whisky sample we had meets all current safety standards and wasn’t brewed in a bathtub.

In contrast, second sample was so bland, so lackluster, and so sad that even with 18 years of aging, it hadn’t reached even the minimal level of maturity you might expect from an adolescent. I’m still so bored by the taste that the thought of it’s making me drowsy the next morning. Unsweetened oatmeal would be a thrill ride by comparison.

On a brighter note, I did find this thoughtful and thorough and maybe even historically accurate description of the difference between alcohol ‘proof’ and ‘percentage’ on an answer site:

“In the United States, the proof of an alcoholic beverage is twice its alcohol content expressed as percentage by volume at 60°F. So an 80-proof whiskey is 40% alcohol. Recently the United States has begun to label bottles containing wine and spirits with the percentage of alcohol by volume, instead of proof.

In Europe a different proof system, called Gay-Lussac, is used; it is also the percentage of alcohol by volume, which is half the American proof. The European Union has adopted Gay-Lussac proof as its standard.

In Great Britain the situation is much more complicated. A distilled spirit was originally “proved” by one of several methods.  One method involved dissolving gunpowder in the spirit and trying to ignite it. If it wouldn’t burn, there was too much water. If it burned evenly and steadily, the spirit was “proven.””

Thank you, contributor harl12345, whoever you are. There’s more, but I won’t reprint all of it here. I mainly liked the use of gunpowder in determining the alcohol level of a beverage intended for human consumption. The notion that if it lights, but doesn’t explode or fizzle, you’ve reached the Goldilocks standard of alcohol. You can go here if you are interested in more.

We’re hoping these samples were in the advent calendar just to elevate the other samples, and to remind us of just how lucky we are most of the time.

And no, I will not be listing the names of the perpetrators here. I will save that for my upcoming whisky cartography and let people figure it out. I just can’t quite bring myself to name names.

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