I’m sitting here now, watching the 145th Open Championship…..the British Open. Phil Mickelson has just teed off, and I am settling in for what I hope will be a fantastic round of couch golf, sidled up next to a pour of another champion, that of a 2010 William Larue Weller. I find it a fitting pour. Also, yes I drink bourbon at 9:35AM on a Sunday. Don’t you?
I love golf. I’m so passionate about it. I play whenever I can, which used to be three times a week before the kiddos came, but this wasn’t always the case. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine swinging a club, let alone watching someone else do it on TV. Nothing, in my mind, could be more boring or mundane. I didn’t understand the amazing subtleties of the game. Outside of Tiger, I was unaware of the amazing personalities in the sport. I didn’t recognize the extreme finesse it took to put just the right amount of English on a ball to get it to make a hook at 13’ to putt in for birdie. I had no idea that there was a perfect club for each shot, carefully selected, resulting in art when executed properly. Honestly, I wouldn’t have known a word I just said. I was completely uneducated on the game. But one day, I think it was a Saturday morning, early, sun just peeking through the window, I opened my eyes and had an immediate thought.
“I need to play golf,” I said, “right now.”
In fact I believe I said it out loud. That set off an obsession that is unquenchable. I began to read and study everything I could about golf. Book after book about the greats; Harry Vardon, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus. I subscribed to magazines, pouring through them for information, studying techniques and theories. I wore out a copy of Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons.” I studied the legendary courses; St. Andrews, Pinehurst #2, Pebble Beach, Augusta, Cyprus Point, and the men who created them.
I wish golf loved me as much as I love it.
Bourbon was much the same way. I became enamored with it immediately. I couldn’t just drink it though, I had to study it, understand its complexities, its history. I am obsessed with it, in a way that is similarly unquenchable. I spend countless hours studying, in pursuit of knowledge. The distilleries. The master distillers.
Drinking bourbon has come to me much more naturally than teeing off and sculpting the perfect draw with lots of people watching. But sipping the perfect pour gives an amount of satisfaction and heart flutter similar to draining a Sports Center-worthy 30 foot putt, birdying a par three with a sweet backspin off the rear banking or seeing the beer cart come rolling back past us for the 6th time of the round. (Perhaps you know the fifth man in our group, Ulysses S. Grant?)
I query myself multiple times, “Should I be drinking scotch during the British Open?” Maybe? But I’m not. I never do, defying my good Scottish roots. Oh well.
So about this pour, the 2010 William Larue Weller. God, where do I start? It’s a 12 year old mega wheater of 126.6 proof.
The nose is a sweet sugar bomb of alcohol and summertime breakfast at the farm. Woody and oaky. A log cabin, old hewn log walls and floors. Buckwheat pancakes cooking in the kitchen, on a cast iron griddle. Thick, sweet maple syrup drizzled over a melting pat of butter. The spicy sweetness of dark, juicy tobacco hanging long from the rafters of an old painted barn next to a cornfield sweating in the late morning sun, the haze of humidity keeping the smell low, and thick. But to me, it’s proper. Much like the staid confines of the Royal British links I’m sitting here watching. All manners and tradition. That’s fitting, since the name William Larue Weller is akin to Old Tom Morris.
Flavor, palate, etc….neither term does this pour justice. It’s more like a “main course”. If someone asked me to describe the 2010 WLW in two words, they would be “superbly mannered.” It’s hot, but it’s also sweet. Not cloyingly sweet, but shares a similarity with buttery candy. The creaminess of a Werthers, with the explosive bite of 63% alcohol. That goes doubly for the mouthfeel. The bourbon is rich and bursting with flavors; more maple syrup, and an element of fruit; a dried fruit. Not in the vein of fruitiness you’d find in a Four Roses OB recipe, which is more forward with the reds, but there is something fruity happening. To me it tastes like dried blueberries. So, blueberry pancakes. Oh, and more of that sweet oak, the inside of the barrel exuding its charred, caramelized soul. There was a tail off of vanilla towards the end that was almost like an afterthought. The flavor plumed up through my olfactory in a practically visual way. Fantastic. I was able to get an extra blast of flavor by exhaling through my nose after the sip. I did this a few times, with pleasure.
The finish gallops out of the gate like a race horse on an easy morning workout, reaching stride quickly and effortlessly, and presents itself as if the juice in the barrel was formulated specifically with the finish in mind, rather than the luck of the process. It hits all over my mid-palate and the sides of my tongue with a pizzazz and sizzle. A long burn, soft around the edges, but coursing with sweet flavors down the middle.
The post nose was all about buttery oak and baked bread with a hint of tobacco. What a great, great pour. An absolute A.
As I finish this, Henrik Stenson has just putted in and I am in awe of the round of golf I’ve just seen. I applaud the screen and ring up the local clubhouse to check for an open tee time, inspired.