Thursday, May 24, 2018

Longing

The restless spirit of spring seeps beneath my skin and I find myself filled with a longing for...more. Is this a passing mood or a recognition of a deeper truth? This question seems to return to me like the seasons: in regular cycles and with fits and starts heralding its arrival.

This spring has been particularly fitful, full of sudden swings - in temperature and temperaments. Warm days followed by snow, hot days followed by freezing cold rains... The buds emerged but then were covered in frost. At times it almost seemed as if winter was just not going to let go. I suspect it is a common story and part of the natural way of things, despite our collective scoffing and apparent disbelief; change of seasons, change of anything, generally comes with struggle.


One of the questions caught up in this mysterious spring-time longing was the allure of Lagavulin Distillers Edition. Was it really he that was so enticing, or merely the newness of him? Alice Merton sings about this tension - the pull between standing still and moving on - in one of her songs. If this feeling is familiar, pack a bag with a bottle and a glass, and wander off with the whisky as your guide, listening to No Roots.


When I first met him I was enthralled, but much time had passed before I had a second meeting. He stayed elusive for a long while, but as winter finally decided to let go of its hold, I found him again. We went back to my home, where I introduced him to a couple of friends. They were curious to meet this debonair fellow I had talked about, so I poured each of us a dram and he and I began to get reacquainted.


The strong impression I had at our first meeting echoed only faintly in my mind. It had been so long that no specific memories of his personality remained - only a cloaked sense of warmth and fascination. It was almost like meeting him for the first time.

In the company of friends, I shyly brought the glass to my nose. His scent was strong but non-descript. The first sip was creamy and sweet, if a bit flat. A hint of iodine colored the conversation, but not in a bad way.

After adding water I didn't notice a big shift. A taste of ash kept things real and grounded; there was substance to this lad. Something that struck me as disappointing, though, was that the sips did not seem to linger. He was warm and sweet, distinguished and reserved, but the sensations faded soon after the glass left my lips. He had character, and I enjoyed our conversation, but...he did not sate my longing.


One might think that should have been enough to settle the question of what my opinion of him was. But there's a funny thing about longing - it can contain a message on either side of choosing; it can mean that we need to stay, or it can mean that we need to move on. And I'm not entirely sure yet how to tell the difference.

As is often my way, I turn to nature for inspiration and wisdom. The buds and shoots in their winter slumber may not know, through snow or sun, what they are being called to do, but the way ultimately becomes clear. When the time is right, they know which way to grow. No matter how cold the winter, no matter how tumultuous the turning, the spring always comes. I trust it will be the same with the lads.

For now, there's still something about Lag 16 Distillers that calls me back. We'll meet another time, for sure, and despite confusion around what it all means. In this uncertain world we travel, often bemused by longing, it is helpful to remember that the uncertainty will pass, and though it may not resolve as we expect -  the longing leads to living, and living is always the right choice.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Impressions

The first time I met Lagavulin 16 did not leave me interested to ever see him again. Perhaps I should not have been so quick to write him off after just one meeting, but first impressions tend to linger. I didn't let this distaste spill over into the rest of his family, however. When I met the 8 year, I was very pleasantly surprised, and my recent introduction to the double matured distiller's edition left me absolutely longing for more.

One way or another, impressions affect us. I recently saw Chamomile & Whiskey in concert and soon after, discovered a song of theirs with the lyric, "everything you love leaves you too soon." It's a reminder to make the best of the moments. If you need help finding the beauty in the fact that all of life is fleeting, pour a dram of your rarest find and take a listen to Impressions:

 
While I was waiting for the chance to meet up with the distiller's edition again, I remembered that I had a small, single-dram bottle of Lagavulin 16 hiding in the shadows of my shelves somewhere. I decided it was time to give this lad a second chance. Perhaps we got off on the wrong foot, and besides - I might be able to discern a thing or two about the family and get some insights into his brother.

Lag 16's nose had a distinctive peaty bacon and strong earthiness to it. At first taste, while I still found him sweet, there was a rough edge to his profile that I didn't remember. I was patient with the conversation this time, and let him open up slowly.

At first, I noticed a sweet woodsy flavor, and a bit of pine. Soon after, a bitter note brushed alongside my awareness. These flavors mingled with a creamy sensation and the spectacular synergy of these elements left me in wonder.

Adding water brought to mind a sea-breeze of salty foam and a bit of heat. Lag 16 was sweet but not overbearingly so, as I remembered.


I had missed all of these complexities in my first meeting with this lad, but I was glad to be experiencing them the second time around. Perhaps I have changed, and thus my perspective is different. Either way, these new layers and flavors were in sync with the season; the fresh earthiness of this fellow reflected the stirrings of Spring.

While I sipped on the spirit inside the walls of my home, the natural world outside was coming alive after its winter slumber. Seeds (that look nothing like the plants they will become) break open into a whole new manifestation of themselves. Sprouts turn into buds or seedlings, and even these cannot always inform us of what is to come. These declarations of growth may go entirely unnoticed, unless you dare to take a second look. The emergence of life in Spring time is rife with miracle.


Yet inherent within this miracle, and in all life and new beginnings is the promise of death and endings. It's a side of things we don't usually like to consider, but it's the one promise that will always drive home the importance of appreciation.


The Chamomile & Whiskey song begins with the line: "The sweetness on the breeze from the flowers in bloom, so pretty with you today, they'll be gone in June - darlin' we're all the same way..."

Not only are the flowers short-lived, comparatively - but our own time to experience them is, as well. And yet that awareness brings a heaviness that can also take away from our enjoyment.

There needs to be a balance, and the delicate blooms are a perfect metaphor of that fine and fragile line between appreciation and disregard.


With the season of new beginnings on my mind, I turned my attention back to the whiskey. Lagavulin 16 bloomed in the glass into a full, round flavor of pepper, blackberry and fruitiness. When I first met this lad, I had heard much about him, and I took for granted that he was quite popular. In contrast, when I met his brother, the 8 year - I knew that he might not be around for a while. I wonder if that awareness helped me appreciate him more than I may have otherwise.

Perhaps. The depth of mystery will go as deep as you want it to. But perhaps some things are just a matter of perspective, a trick of the light, or a chance of impression. Sometimes - maybe more times than not - it all comes down to the timing of how and when we see a thing.

I finished off the last sip of Lagavulin 16, enjoying him in a way I never would have expected. As I reveled in the fading impressions of the fantastic flavor mix on my tongue, I was grateful for the impermanence of things - especially first impressions.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Witness


After partaking in the birthday cake and sampling the delicious spread of food, it was time to begin meeting the rest of the gentlemen. The first group of whiskies I met at the tasting was such a delight. Even if I wouldn't seek all of them out again, I absolutely enjoyed the first-meeting chats. I wonder if part of the pleasure in meeting these new lads comes from the lack of pressure. It didn't matter if I loved them or hated them because Talisker Storm was waiting at the end of the line for me. 

This is something I've contemplated often - how being sure of someone's presence can greatly increase your experience and enjoyment of life. I wonder if, at the end of relationships, that is not the worst of the heartbreak - losing that someone that you know will be there. Everyone can agree that it's easier to get through hard times when you have support, but not having someone to share your joy with can also bring a deep loneliness that is often unconsidered. 

A friend of mine once said to me, "we all deserve to have a witness to our lives." This simple act can be profoundly healing and powerful. It's a subtle thing, though, and hard to pin down. This new piece, by Danieldyemusic, distills the idea into a beautiful song and melody. So, if you're feeling alone, and suffering because of it - find your trustiest dram, take a listen to this song, and sink into solace, knowing - we all need a witness to our lives at times. Here is Gonna Need a Witness



Green Spot was next up. I had heard of this lad from Ireland, and almost met him while I was there a few years ago, but a convenient opportunity never really presented itself. He was attractive - a sporty green and white label that was simple, but striking.

He didn't have much of a nose, but his flavor spoke for itself. Mild and very warm, he had a bit of a bite that kept things interesting and made me smile - the Irish whiskies generally know how to spin a story. Despite this, overall I would say Green Spot was straightforward and no-nonsense. A whiskey you could count on, sure enough.

Next to meet was Spirit Lab Single Malt. Spirit is a local fellow who I've heard great things about in my travels. He had a mild nose and a warm, smooth personality. His creamy notes blended into his rich persona, exciting the conversation. At the end, he was lovely, if not very complex.

I was enjoying the atmosphere and the great stories and personalities that I was coming across, but it was getting late. Usually after meeting several new lads, my discernment skills start to fade a bit. So many different noses, notes, and nuances - it gets really hard to keep track! I knew it would soon be time to bring the evening to a close, but there were still a few lads I had yet to meet...and thank goodness I stayed to meet them.

Three fine Scotches, distinguished and alluring, stood holding their own at the end of the line. Macallan, Talisker, and Lagavulin. These were high quality lads, and they looked it. Clearly these three would be adored by most folks who were lucky enough to meet them.

I've always loved the Macallan 12. Although not a smoky Islay, that lad was impossible not to get along with. Traditional, respected, interesting, and delightful. This Classic Cut sibling was reputed to be entirely different. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was completely intrigued. Strong, with a bit of smoke, CC was much bolder than his brother.

I was glad to discover that he possessed the traditional and wonderful Macallan family qualities - he was grounded and balanced. Beyond that, though, he had so much more. The aspects that really stood out to me were his sweet and peppery nature and a bit of caramel that lingered, drawing me back for more.

I smiled lovingly at my beloved Talisker as I moved on to meet the final Scotch of the evening. Lagavulin distiller's edition - double matured. I wasn't expecting too much, but I was curious. I had met the usual Lag brother - the 16, and I wasn't impressed. When I met the younger 8 year, I really enjoyed him, but felt like he still didn't compare to Talisker.

The man who brought the Lagavulin to the party is a good friend of mine. It was the first time meeting this particular Scotch for both of us. So, we raised our glasses and toasted to a fine evening with food and friends. Sláinte!


The moment of truth had finally arrived. I approached him carefully, taking time to observe his nose. There were all the important elements - smoke, ash, peat, and an earthiness that I was pleasantly surprised by. He was sweet and smooth and I found myself getting swept up in the conversation. He was mature - balanced, and lovely. After adding a bit of water, he opened up, revealing a warm personality that felt a bit like coming home. As the event drew to a close and the last sips of the evening were whispered between us, Lagavulin brought to mind the nostalgic feeling of a deep enveloping embrace.

As we all said our goodbyes, I found myself wishing I had met the new Lagavulin at the start of the party. I reunited with Talisker and we went home together, but I was distracted. Thoughts of this wonderful new Lagavulin had me questioning my loyalties. I knew it was only a matter of time before I'd have to put the two of them side by side to really know how I felt. Until then, Talisker will keep me happy. No matter what, he is still a lad that never disappoints, and I am grateful to have him there.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Winter's Night


Having been reunited with Talisker, I was enjoying having him at home with me on these winter nights. But for a woman who hates the cold, winter can lead to stir-craziness. So, when a friend of mine invited me to a whisky mixer, I jumped at the prospect. There would be lots of folks and lots of new lads to meet. Naturally, I brought Talisker along to the festivities.


Besides great conversation and new whisky to meet, there was a beautiful pot-luck spread of delicious foods. It turns out it was the host's birthday, so there was also chocolate cake. We lined up all of the bottles in general order of strength and smokiness. Talisker was at the smoky end, second only to a new Lagavulin brother I had yet to meet.

Winter nights have long been a source of inspiration and stories. There's a song that I've recently learned that speaks to this. The lyrics mention drinking wine, but I'm sure Scotch would suffice for the same purposes. Hopeless romantics everywhere, grab a dram of your best and listen to Kent Gustavson's version of Rovin' on a Winter's Night:





I started with Knob Creek, the first in the line-up. A bourbon in a short bottle, he was mild and sweet. He had a bit of a bite, like burnt sugar and a little bit of salt and pepper to him. While I was chatting with KC, I met Margaret who was actually on her first official whiskey date. Having never really met any of the Scotch lads, bourbons, or Irish whiskeys, she was jumping in with both feet and having introductions to all of them this evening. I briefly reminisced on my first whisky tastings, and assured her she would have a wonderful time.


There were a couple of other bourbons besides Knob Creek, and even though I knew I wouldn't really hit it off with any of them, I didn't want to be rude. So, I introduced myself to all of them, in turn. Old Forester was distinguished looking in his simple, straightforward bottle. He was mild and kind, but I didn't spend much time with him before moving on.

Next there was a local fellow from Kopper Kettle. He and his brothers were at the Women Who Whiskey event back in November, but I didn't really get a chance to speak with them. His nose was a bit floral with notes of cream. I enjoyed our chat and he was sweet, of course, as most bourbons are. I also noticed a musk overtone and hints of pine. Overall he was a lovely gentleman.

While I was getting to know the last of the bourbons in the line up, I met one of the other guests at the gathering. Aaron, a true bourbon fan, told me fun stories from his childhood growing up in Kentucky. We exchanged praises of our favorite liquors, and when I told him of my love for Talisker, he admitted that he wasn't much for the Scotch lads.

This made sense though, since the distillery was such an integral part of the area he grew up in. During Christmas time, he and the other children would travel there to meet and take pictures with Santa. You can't really compete with the notstalgia of childhood memories when it comes to picking a favorite spirit. When I asked his personal favorite? Aaron had a hard time choosing, but picked 4 Roses Bourbon. Sadly, that particular whiskey wasn't at the party, but I made a mental note to keep an eye out and have a chat with him should our paths cross.


Next up was a very exotic specimen. The tallest and thinnest of the line up was Brenne French Single Malt. I didn't even know you could find a single malt from France. I didn't think they did that kind of thing in the country, but there he was, looking smart with his blue label and standing proud with his neck stretching far above the others.  I doubt I'd find the chance to meet such a one as him again, so this was a wonderful opportunity. He was very different from any of the other single malts I've ever tried.

A fresh pineapple and banana nose flowed into a soft and complex flavor of fruity vanilla. Adding water strengthened his nose and revealed more flavors such as citrus and peanut. It almost made me think of juicy fruit gum. He was lighthearted and shy - very surprising, but such a delight to chat with.



It was time for birthday cake, and I thought it would be wise to take a break and enjoy some of the fantastic looking food. There were still several lads to meet, and I knew things would get interesting. I realize that Lagavulin 16 didn't impress me much, but I was fond of his younger brother - the 8 year. So, all night at this party I couldn't keep myself from eyeing their older brother, the Double Matured Distiller's Edition. At the end of the line, next to Talisker Storm, the Lagavulin stood patient and nonchalant; but I couldn't wait to meet him...



Monday, January 15, 2018

I Wanna Get Better


On New Year's Day, a couple of friends and I went on a short winter romp through some hiking trails. It's a lovely tradition that started last year, and I hope it continues for many years to come. There's a certain magic to the beginning of a new year - in a way it's like the birth of a new companion. Taking a walk in the winterness of January 1st feels like an introduction to this new friend that has entered into my life. Time will tell exactly how this year's personality will unfold and reveal itself, but it only seems proper to officially introduce myself in this way.


January is also a month rife with resolutions and hopes for change. Unlike many, I really love resolutions and I think New Year's Day is the perfect time to start them. A song I've heard recently feels fitting with its talk of mistakes and the yearning to grow. In this newly born year, if you haven't made any resolutions of your own yet, grab a pen and paper, a dram of something spicy, and listen to Bleachers' I wanna get better:


Soon after the hike, I had an impromptu meeting with a friend of mine I don't often get to see. I didn't know which lads would be at the bar she suggested, but I was confident I'd find someone enjoyable to talk to. Turns out I was right. 

We headed over to The Shebeen, which has been a favorite of mine since I moved to town. They had a few Scotches on the shelf, and I quickly spotted the lad I wanted to have.

The lovely bartender, Simone - graciously agreed to allow me to take her picture, even though I didn't have a good camera with me. She poured me a dram of the lovely local whisky - made from Scottish barley brewed overseas, but then aged and finished here in Virginia.
 
Virginia Distillery's Highland whisky is one that I've met and chatted with on several occasions. Since our first surprise meeting at the Blues Festival, I was really impressed by this lad. I've been meaning to find some quality time with him to really get know the deeper aspects of his personality.


His nose immediately struck me with caramel, sweetness, and a hint of burnt sage. I sighed into the glass - regretting that it had taken so long to discover these things about him. The first sips revealed much of what I remembered - he was smooth, warm, and gentle. I was thrilled at how this night was beginning. Continuing the exchange with VA Highland, I turned to my friend and we started to catch up.

We reminisced about last January when we met up to do much of the same - chat with the lads and catch up on each others' lives. We were both so hopeful, at the beginning of 2017, for what the year would bring. This time, talking about the differences between now and then, I named what felt distinctly different to me: in hindsight, last year's drive for change came from a much more desperate place.  This year the drive is pure determination.

 

 

Change can come from desperation or determination, but with determination, your odds are better.


We toasted to good things ahead and decided to order dinner. I was excited to eat one of my absolute favorite dishes in town - the Sadza Cakes. These lovely corn polenta steaks are served with sautéed spinach, snow peas, sundried tomatoes, a delicious buttery lemongrass sauce, and the whole thing is topped with parmesan shavings. Disappointment is never part of the experience.


I turned back to the Highland to see how he paired with the magnificent medley of flavors, and he did just fine. As I sipped along, I found more elements of his own personality revealed. There were notes of cinnamon, ash, and smoke. His nose opened to sweet banana. There was a flatness to the finish which I noticed, but it didn't lessen my enjoyment because the flavor stayed firm otherwise. At the very end I noticed bitter and a bit of lemon. He was much more complex than I expected.

My friend and I talked more while we ate and enjoyed our beverages. We realized that in many ways our situations had improved in the last year, and that was encouraging. It was lovely to find time to reconnect with both my friend and the VA Highland, but the hour grew late, and we all had to head our separate ways.

Whatever the reasons or motivations, deciding to strive towards growth and improvement is usually a good idea. Resolutions are a great way to do this, but the most important thing to remember is that you need to show up. For friends, for life, or for the newborn year - you have to show up to meet them and see what they might have in store. The rest you can figure out along the way.



Saturday, December 30, 2017

End of the Jedi

The end of year holiday season always brings a bustle of activity. Parties, shopping, travel, family, decorating, baking, eating, drinking...


It's quite the whirlwind, even for the most grounded of people. And being grounded is not something I'm usually accused of. Even though I've been working on simplifying my life, I did not quite escape the frenzy. However, as I found myself whisked about here and there between the currents of traditions, obligations, and nostalgia, I was somehow able to maintain a sense of calm through it all.


One of the highlights for me from the past couple of weeks was seeing the new Star Wars movie - The Last Jedi. In listening to bits of the soundtrack, I stumbled upon a young composer who writes his own music in the style of various popular culture themes. This poignant piano piece touches that calm, soft place within that is perhaps what allows us to find guiding stars in the swirling night: End of the Jedi by Lucas King.



I met with a few friends at the new Alamo Drafthouse. I had never been to one of these movie houses before, and I was looking forward to being served a dram directly at my seat while I watched the story of the Resistance unfold.

The theatre was bedecked appropriately with a blow-up R2D2 and Darth Vader and a Christmas tree covered in various Star Wars themed ornaments with several mini light sabers, to boot. There were also several fans dressed in various costumes milling about.

I had read the menu ahead of time and was excited to enjoy the company of a good ol' Islay - Oban 14. When we originally met I knew that nothing significant would come of it, but it was good to reconnect with him -  a stout and smoky lad. The lights went down before I had a chance to snap a picture, but he was a warm and delightful companion to watch the movie with.

A couple of days later, it was time for Potter's Craft Cider's annual Wassail. This event is a young tradition that I am proud to have been a part of since its creation, four years ago. In past years it has been very rainy, but this year the sun was shining and the skies were clear. It was cold, but more brisk than bitter - the perfect weather to enjoy the last bit of autumn with the fresh scent of apples and cider drifting in the air.

  
This perfect day was made more so by the delicious food provided by Bo Hatchet Catering. This was my first time trying their food, and I was thoroughly impressed. Their veggie option was butternut squash soup, topped with cream and roasted sage, and served with jalapeño corn bread. It was superb.


For drink, I opted to go with Potter's Craft Highland Cider, which is aged in VA distillery's Highland Malt Whisky barrels. Those barrels initially hold bourbon as it ages, then the sweet seasoned wood is filled with whisky brewed and distilled in Scotland, and finally the barrels give of themselves again to age the cider.

I sipped slowly, and contemplated the molecular level swirls of interactions - between whisky, wood, and cider. The sun began to set, and I found myself in one of those moments of calm. Grateful for the nourishing comfort food, the music, the friends, and the festivities - I marveled at the beauty of tradition and connection.


That same night was a work party that I wasn't exactly excited about attending, but I promised one of my coworkers that I'd introduce her to a Scotch. The menu wasn't extensive, but Glenlivet would be there. I knew he was a decent enough lad to enjoy a conversation with, and I thought he was also mild enough for a first timer.

The party was at Wild Wing Cafe and the kind waitress, Jeanie, obliged me by posing with the Scotch. She poured two drams and I brought one over to my friend. My friend took one small sip...and then walked the other way. She had no interest in him.

I sighed, remembering a phrase I often say: you don't develop a taste for whisky until the burn of your life makes the burn of the whisky pale in comparison. I wouldn't say she's had an easy life, but she is young yet and clearly not ready for the whisky.

I also drank a beer that night - Goodwood's Bourbon Barrel Stout. It was quite delicious, and again I thought of those currents that run between. I wondered if the barrel used to age the beer I was drinking then might have also crossed paths with any of the other spirits I'd had in the past days.

The next week things ramped up: to-do lists grew while the time passed quickly. Thankfully, life - as does nature - provides us up with opportunities for balance. As I swirled through the days and activities, I found myself tapping into a deeper rhythm. Like the eddies in rivers and rapids, the hectic pace of our days naturally will ebb and flow, and if we pay attention we can catch those little calm spots where sometimes the current stands still or even flows back.

There are respites built into the fabric of things, if only we decide to find them. 


I found one of these eddies at an impromptu meeting with another friend of mine. We stopped by BJ's, a new taphouse in town, and it turns out they had a Scotch I hadn't yet tried - Glenfiddich 14 - Bourbon Barrel Reserve. I also ended up running into another friend I hadn't seen in a while, completely randomly.

It reminded me of how we need to make space in our life for the hands of serendipity to reach us. It's not just for our sanity that we must find the eddies amongst the rapids, it's for our greater destinies. It's in the calm and gentle swirls of quiet moments with friends, with our thoughts, with our dreams - that's where we find the resources to leap back out into the fray and continue on our journeys.

Perhaps it was the influence of the season, but this Glen tasted a bit like Christmas to me. The smoke and spice were there, but also a bit of salt or brine, and a hint of pine. 

The next day I traveled back home. I found that even the time spent there, while generally hectic and overwhelming, did not seem to unsettle me as much as it usually did. In fact, I had a wonderful time seeing family and friends, filled with laughter and love.

On Christmas morning I was surprised and warmed by the sight of Talisker Storm under the tree - he had come home to me, and I was so happy to see him.

Perhaps it is the impending end of the year or perhaps it is the poignancy of traditions, in general. But it seems there are pauses and moments that want us to find them. Those little safe havens amidst the rapids of life that we long for - somehow also seem to long for us. Don't deny those moments, because then you deny yourself, as well. Go to them, take a bottle of your favorite dram, and rest in those spaces before heading out into the rapids of life again.


 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Women Who Whiskey - Part II

The Women Who Whiskey event was, very simply, a great time. (Read about part I here.) It was well run and organized and at the same time very laid back and comfortable. Sometimes life gives us these little treats of a day: feel-good weekend afternoons with good music, good friends, and good spirits. You can't go wrong with a mix like that, really. Like a classic dance song, it's guaranteed to lift the mood of those who come along.

If you're feeling a little ho-hum and need a change, call a friend, grab a dram, and listen to this ageless number by by Blue Swede - Hooked on a Feeling:


It was a beautiful Fall day with clear skies and mild temperatures. A little chill on the air reminded us that winter was near, but the sunshine and blue skies assured us that it was not there yet. After my friend and I met a few of the local fellows and listened to some live music from the band, we were hungry.


There were two wonderful food truck options available to us: Blue Mountain Grill and Spiked Booze Infused Sliders & Subs. It was hard to decide, but I finally went with the veggie tacos from the Spiked Truck and the Pumpkin Cheesecake from Blue Mountain. My friend got the soup and grilled cheese from Blue Mountain. It was all fantastic.


One of the coolest parts about the event was meeting all the interesting folks who were tasting and pouring the whiskeys and other spirits. There were also a few booths offering edible wares. The good feeling vibe pervaded every stop we made. It was clear that the folks there were passionate about their craft, whichever it was.

At many of the booths, it was the owners or creators of the companies offering samples. It was quite a treat to meet, first hand, the very person(s) who created the spirit I was about to meet or the food I was about to eat.

We met Izzy from Caramont Farm, and John and Nancy from Goodwin Creek Bakery. It was hard to choose, but my friend and I both decided to buy a baguette for the trip home.


Bill from KO distilling was there with several of his fellows. His name tag identified his position of "Thirst Responder," which I found very clever and amusing. Through conversation I also realized that he was one of the founding partners of the distillery.


I introduced myself to two of the whiskies - the Virginia Moon White Whiskey and their newest - Bare Knuckle Bourbon. The White Whiskey was intense, as Bill warned me he would be. I accepted the offer to temper this one with a bit of pineapple juice. The Bourbon, though, was smooth peppery spice with a musky finish. This newest addition to the KO family fit right in with the theme of the event. The front label features a historical woman who was a boxer, and the back label offers homage to women, in general, who have fought for their families, their voices, and their dreams.


As we sat listening to music, we met a woman who had done all of these things. Diana was a new business owner having recently added entrepreneur to her other titles of veteran and mother. She told us of her confectionery creations, and a little of the story behind the inception of her business, Lillie Pad Creations. - "If you don't find what you love, you're just gonna die."

Lately I've been hearing this sentiment from more and more people. There seems to be a collective awareness rising about the importance of following your passion.


 Looking around at all the people at this event who are bravely entering into the risky venture of running their own businesses, it was inspiring. Some of the businesses have been around for generations and some are barely a few years old, but there is that common bond. The road is the same, even if they are at different points along it, and one can act as mentor for another.


The importance of having a mentor or guide in ventures such as this cannot be underestimated; forging a path down these roads is always challenging, and often risky.
 
And yet, you can't let that stop you. As Diana told us, you need to find what you love. I would take that a step further, as well. You need to find what makes you come alive...and then you've got to go and do it.

 

 Success is guaranteed to no one, but if you never try, it's guaranteed that you'll never succeed.


As I contemplated these thoughts, we continued to visit the different booths and meet more of the local fellows. At the Vitae both, I tasted the Golden Rum, which was sweet and creamy. It probably would have paired well with the pumpkin cheesecake, but my timing was off and I finished the rum before the cheesecake showed up.

One of the last stops I made in the day was to the A. Smith Bowman booth. Jacob and Tori, who were pouring, introduced the selection of brothers with the boast of being the oldest legal distillery in Virginia. I try not to let lineage impress me too much when I meet a new whiskey, but the next fact they told me about peaked my curiosity. Bowman's Single Barrel Bourbon is the first whiskey ever to win the "World's Best" competition two years in a row. There's a lot to be said for consistency and quality in that statement. 

There were a few others there I wanted to meet as well but it was getting late in the day, and I had the conversations of the many new fellows I met swirling in my head. I had a short conversation with the esteemed Single Barrel Bourbon and I was quite impressed, to be honest. He was smooth, sweet, and balanced. I knew I'd have to make plans to meet him (and his Port Finished brother) in the near future.

Soon after, we realized that sunset was near and it was time to go. I took one last quick walk around to at least shake hands with some of the fellows I didn't get a chance to chat with: the Kopper Kettle boys from Belmont, the group from Chesepeake Bay, and the lone rogue from Ironclad.

Happy and sated, my friend and I gathered our wares and headed back for the bus ride with Earl. As we neared the end of our journey, the Blue Swede song came on the bus radio and we all sang along. It was a perfect ending to the day.