Wednesday, October 17, 2012

28 Years Later

They were the biggest band in the world. And for a while, I didn't care.

Then suddenly I did.

And I "cared" more than was humanly necessary.

On October 16th, 2012, I finally met the man whose image plastered my bedroom walls (and ceiling), dropped in on my dreams, thrilled my fantasies and much later, peppered my otherwise boozy Twitter feed. John Taylor, bass player for Duran Duran.

Now, I know waiting on line for hours in a book store to meet an aging rock star sounds silly. Haven't I grown up already?

The answer is yes, and sometimes I think maybe even too much.

We forget sometimes before the Internet and YouTube, nostalgia couldn't be instantly gratified. When I was thirteen, before my family even got a cable subscription or owned a VCR, seeing an image or hearing a piece of music still had a fatalistic thrill, because I never knew when it would come on again. I'd wait for hours to hear/see it again, transfixed and shutting out the rest of the world when my patience finally paid off. The first time I saw a Duran Duran video, and caught a glimpse of that cute skinny guy with the square chin and bleached bangs, I felt as though I'd just found something I'd never known I'd lost. Or maybe I lost something I didn't know I had. Either way, something within me changed, and never really changed back after all these years. I had to keep seeing and hearing. When I read more about this person who presented himself, despite his vast fame, style and riches as a highly articulate, artsy, thoughtful and slightly dorky man with a love of F. Scott Fitzgerald (because of him I'd read This Side of Paradise by age 14) and a James Bond obsession, the crush was in full effect. He was different than the others. I liked different. BONUS, I found out we share a birthday! And we're both only children.

Clearly, thousands (possibly millions?) of other people felt the same way I did. Today I even met another fan only two people in front of me on the line who shares the same birthday. Also born in 1971, which means on the very exact day as me. Drat. So much for being different.

So in the midst of a massive world tour with the band, JT somehow found the time to write a book (he's actually an excellent writer, judging by his blog posts.) Part of the book-signing junket would be in my city for one day, in the middle of a busy week. My thirteen year old self would have punched me in the throat with her slave bracelets if I hadn't found a way to go. Wasn't the time I saw him on Lafayette Street a few years back, or the Twitter conversation where he actually Tweeted me back enough of an encounter?

Bitch, please. My only fear was that no matter how early I got there (no thanks to the MTA), I'd be turned away.

Or worse, simultaneously sneeze and puke if I got within a few feet of him. When I heard the excited screams of the crowd (almost entirely women. Guess the gays have better day jobs.), and caught a glimpse of that familiar smiling face, the scarf, the spiky brown hair, walking toward his place at the signing table, this got very real for me. I actually had to steady myself and take a few deep breaths. I began to question if I could keep my cool. Then I got too cold. Then too warm. Shivery sweats at the mere sight of him, knowing he was in the same room? As Kate Winslet would say, "Gather..."

The line snaked through the stacks of books -  past Self Help, past Spirituality, past Nutrition, past Cincuenta Sombras de Grey, Fifty Shades of Grey in Spanish (how many Spanish words are there for "manhood"?) We turned the corner. And there he was...

But I did OK.

I even made him smile once.

I did a lot of smiling too. I'm still smiling.

"Gemini Girl." Sigh.

Hell, maybe there's a reason I've had a little, ahem, extra free time lately. At the age of thirteen, I couldn't have fathomed the kinds of responsibilities I would have (or even, not have) at the age of 41. As this election season has proven, the world is indeed a volatile, scary place (am I just a "binder" to you?) Nothing has turned out the way I thought it would. In some ways, maybe that's a good thing. I like knowing the girl in me still is still kicking around.

Special thanks to Nicole for waiting in line with me and talking me down. And making sure I don't have lipstick on my teeth.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Camp Whiskey Back In Session!

Fall is here and it's time to get back in the groove! Sorry for the long silence. September was all about tending the coals and now that it's October, time to get things fired up!

Can't think of a better way to start than meeting up with the Camp Whiskey folks again. After a short late summer break, Jeff, Gary and Jonathan have assembled a roster of impressive drams fall!

On a schvitzy October night (competing with the Presidential Campaign Debates on full blast upstairs), we gathered in the basement bar of the Counting Room in Williamsburg for this week's theme - New Malts on the Block. On offer was a mini tour of new Scottish offerings from Benromach Organic, the latest edition of Compass Box Flaming Heart, Kilchoman 2006 Vintage, Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or and Highland Park Thor.

Benromach Organic is "interesting" in a that's-the-kindest-thing-to-say about it sort of way. It's a certified organic single malt. Which is tricky if you consider that not only do all the ingredients and production methods have to comply with certified organic guidelines, but so does the wood it ages in. Most single malts are aged in previously used barrels, most commonly sherry or Bourbon. To be absolutely sure of the source material, Benromach used completely new, unused American oak barrels, a.k.a. virgin oak, from a "green" forest, meaning one that complies with environmental re-forestation initiatives so as not to deplete all the trees.

So how does it taste? In a word, "interesting." It's very thick, almost chalky, but also manages to have an almost oily feel. There's a pungent smokey flavor mixed with bitter chocolate. But that's about it. Short finish. Sedate. Guess that virgin oak needs a few more times round the block to show some gusto, nudge nudge wink wink know what I mean? Weird, considering new barrels should impart more robust, not subtle flavors. It's a malt that would definitely benefit from more experience and flavor integration, which I hope they work on, to match quality with the humanitarian message.

Flaming Heart 2012, on the other hand, is a prime example of what is produced with time and experience. This is John Glazer's fourth go at blending a selection of single malts and letting them get to know each other as they spend time in the appropriate barrel where they achieve a precise, flavor-driven dram. It's a pleasure to sip, at once smokey, sweet, floral and spicey, with none of the flavors too loud or pointy, and no artificial colors or fancy filtering. Last night happened to be Flaming Heart Night around Williamsburg, as there was also, from what I hear, a rip-snorting great time at Noorman's Kil for its official release. Cheers, Glazer et al! Well done.

Kilchoman 2006 Vintage Release. Another "interesting" one. Kilchoman is the first new distillery on Islay (btw, the name of the island is not pronounced "iz-lay" or "eye-lay," though at least that's close. It's "eye-lah," rhymes with "sky-la") in something like 124 years. They're taking cues from American cousins by growing their own grain, doing their own floor malting, etc. Seems like they're on the right track, but also, much like a few American whiskies who are excited to greet their public, this five year old tastes very young. It's super peppery, not just in the vegetal sense, but also the chili sense. And oddly, kind of garlicky, almost like an Asian garlic chili pepper sauce. Then it's just smokey. Do we drink this or pour it into a bowl of ramen? Mmmmm. Ramen...

Well, after some salty ramen, one might want to drink Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or. Not exactly sure why this was considered one of the newbies, though it seemed new to many of the campers who hadn't yet tried it. This product is an example of the sort of board meeting discussion they can have at (parent company) Moet Hennessy in which people say things like, "We have access to some of zee best Sauternes casks. What eez zee harm in aging all zat extra Glenmoran-jjjie in it, non?"

Answer: "Zer eez no harm."

Although it's a very sweet expression. This time tasting it, I detected more of a balanced acidity, much like the nuances of, well, a good Sauternes - ripe and dried apricots, orange peel, ripe peach, dates, vanilla and caramel. It's a pleasant treat once in a while. Just try not to think about all that extra caramel color they add to it.

Finally, we tasted the Highland Park Thor (God of Thundah!!). This is the first of their "Valhalla" series, named for Nordic gods. The distillery is the most northern in Scotland, on the isle of Orkney, where they no doubt saw some Viking action back in the day. Essentially, this is Highland Park 16 in very fancy packaging (that wooden ship skeleton that holds it is fastened by magnets and looks just as impressive open as it does closed.) I've always been a huge fan of Highland Park, which in my opinion is one of the few single malts that is consistently smooth and complex throughout its range, without getting too hot in the older vintages. The 16 was previously only available as a duty free release. So hey, dress it up in armor, bump up the price by $100 a pop and...

Honestly, I can't get too mad at it. It's quite delicious, with tropical flavors of coconut and banana bread in the fore, vanilla, macadamia nuts and figs in the middle and a salty, sweet barbecue smoke to finish it out. If I could afford a bottle... face it, it looks awesome. Glad to know it's beautiful on the inside too.

Looking forward to seeing the campers again in a couple of weeks! Until then, drink responsibly, kids.