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A Nomad's Tent and a Father's Field

Sometimes whisky triggers a scent memory in a powerful way and it’s a wonderful experience to just let that feeling wash over you while you can.

This bottle, a single barrel from Miltonduff bottled by Scotch Malt Whisky Society, is beautiful, delicate, and complex. The nose is full of mead and papaya, wet leaves and vanilla, cardamom and allspice. The palate: thick caramel, orange rind, milk chocolate with a fennel and cinnamon finish. But for me the standout is the Charentais melon.

I grew a field of these true cantaloupes once some twelve years ago. I was newly married with a new baby, an unfinished degree, and still young enough to have enough energy for a massive garden. My wife and I lived with half a dozen friends in a large house on a few acres perched just above the Brazos River. We raised a handful of sheep and small flock of chickens. Our housemate borrowed a tractor to til up half an acre for melons, tomatoes, peppers, and squash. The garden standouts were the Sungold tomatoes (liquid sunshine condensed into small, round form) and the Charentais melons. Sweeter and more flavorful than the fruit that passes for cantaloupes in most supermarkets, Charentais exude an aroma like honey over custard. A single melon is an aromatic delight. An entire field is heavenly.

I can still smell their fragrance as it wafted up from the rows on hot summer evenings, mingling with the aromas of late season hay and sheep wool carried up by cool air from the river. Just a hint of that on the palate of this whisky was enough to take carry me back in time to that field. I was transported. Not just to that single mix of aromas but to everything else in that place. Texas prairie and vegetable flowers, garden herbs and straw and earth. And more than the smells themselves but everything else from my life at that moment. My son curled over my shoulder, the friends I haven't seen in years, the tractor rattling across fresh tilled clay, that house with its vibrant and eclectic mix of joyful and difficult people. At least, that's what happened the first time I tried this.

Now, I get much less of the melon. Now, the palate for me is dominated by lemon pound cake and clove infused simple syrup, licorice candy, dried orange peel, and milk chocolate dipped peanuts. It's still an incredible whisky. Still one of the best I've ever tasted. But that moment - both in its original form and the sense experience reality - is gone. I can strain my memory to find that moment. I can see the sheep. I can recall our beautiful straw covered rows or fruits and vegetables. But the easy transportation through spirit is no more. Maybe my palate has changed. Maybe the whisky left in the bottle has oxidized slightly. Maybe my memory is fading. But this experience reminds me that nothing is permanent. Memory is elusive. Whisky, even in the bottle, cannot (should not!) stay forever.


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