This week we bring you another installment from the Whiskey Time Traveler. Enjoy and happy travels!
— Zac Smith
CHAPTER 2: UNLOCKING THE TIME TRAVELING SECRET…MEMORY IS THE KEY
Pictures are powerful! A picture can bring back to mind something that we may never have remembered happening. I distinctly remember a VW Beetle that my parents owned the first couple of years of my life in the last half of the 1960’s. What is interesting is that I remember it because of looking at pictures of our family next to the car and not because I can actually remember riding around in the car.
If we can form a mental picture of the events surrounding our whisky occasions then it will be that much easier to recall and tell stories about those events later. It also doesn’t hurt to take a few actual pictures to help us remember the smaller details like how old the whisky was and if it was finished in a special way.
When talking about memory, one story that is often told is about a poet named Simonides. Around 500 B.C. he was speaking at a banquet when a message was brought to him that someone outside needed to see him. While Simonides was outside, the roof of the banquet hall collapsed, crushing the occupants beyond recognition. Simonides was able to identify the bodies by remembering where everyone sat. This experience suggested that a person could improve memory by associating mental images of the items to be remembered (people and whiskies at our gathering) with mental images of the locations for the items (where everyone was positioned). Since mental images are in essence photographs in our mind, we are going to try to use, primarily, this method for improving our memory for our whisky stories.
In most occasions surrounding the drinking of whisky, people are seated. They are sitting around a table or in chairs around a room or maybe even around a campfire. Take a mental picture of who and where everyone is sitting and remember to mentally set one more spot in the middle for our very memorable guest, the whisky.
From your position, you will generally have friends to your left and to your right as well as across from you. Try to mentally form either a rectangle or circle of friends. Not everyone may be sitting in the group. Some may be in another room so they will be positioned either behind you or behind those sitting across from you or again to the left or right but outside of the circle. Now that you have all of the attendees in order, let’s move on to the guest everyone wants to know more about, the whisky.
Just like a person who is being introduced to you for the first time, you are going to want to know three basic things;
- What is your name?
- Where are you from?
- What do you do?
I walk over to a bottle sitting on the table and pick it up. “Well hello there, what’s your name?”
“Glen,” the label responds, “Glen…Rothes.”
“I’ve met a lot of Glens.” I say. “So you’re Glenrothes. Where are you from?”
“Speyside.” Says the label. “It’s in the middle of the Northern Highlands in Scotland…”
“Scotland,” I repeat back. “I’ve been to Scotland and I love it there. So what do you do?”
“Ten years ago I started sitting around in a used oak barrel. Then about two years ago I moved out of that and went into a used sherry cask until recently when I went into a bottle. And now here I am. I’ll be staying in the States until I’m finished.”
“What a sweet person.” I thought.
Treat your whisky like another person at your gathering.
There may be multiple drinks and types of whiskies that are being enjoyed. We sometimes have a mini tasting of three or four different whiskies that we take little sips of just to see what they are like and then we settle on the one we like best and pour a proper drink. Take a closer look at the one you are drinking. Pick up the bottle; what shape is the bottle? What color is the bottle? Look at the label; say the name out loud. Where is it from? Is there an age statement?
Don’t try to remember what everyone else was drinking, we’re going to keep this simple. Choose the one you are drinking and mentally place the bottle in the middle of your circle. Mentally shine a spotlight on the bottle. The brighter the image, the clearer the picture will be. In your mind, place a kilt on the bottle if it is a Scotch. Give it a little green hat if it is an Irish whisky. Maybe a red Mounties uniform if it is from Canada. A white kimono if it’s from Japan and maybe a cowboy hat will work if it is an American whisky. Whatever mental image strongly comes to you when you think about all of the different countries that your whisky could be from, that is the image you need to, in some way, connect to your bottle sitting in the middle of your circle.
This will give you the basics for telling great stories about gatherings and whisky. You will remember who was there, the name of the whisky you were drinking and where it was from.
The next thing we need to do is talk about “markers”- destination beacons that we can shoot for when time traveling.
Time Travel Tips:
- Remember, whisky is any golden-brown spirit distilled from grain.
- Practice taking note of where everyone is positioned at your next gathering.
- Mentally place your whisky in the middle and don’t forget to get at least its name and where it was from.
It was a Friday night the first of April. The sky was dark and clear and the stars…my goodness, the stars were incredible. A beautiful night in upstate New York, woods all around and a small fire to cast a glow on everyone’s faces. Most of us sat around a large wooden picnic table, one last time before my son Zac and his wife LeAnne were to move out of New York. To my right was my wife, Lisa and next to her, Andrea. On the other side of the table sat LeAnne and Zac, next to him sat Andrea’s husband Kaarsten. Amy sat to my left and behind me, gathering wood for the fire, was my other son Jesse and our daughter, Sadie. In the middle of the table sat a bottle of Mortlach, a Speyside single malt Scotch whisky. It was the first time any of us had ever tried a Mortlach whisky and that night, with stories being told and an era coming to an end, that night it was special. Every time I sip a dram of that golden spirit I shall be transported back to that night.
— S. Garth Smith