George Bernard Shaw called it “liquid sunshine.” My mother called it, “Your father’s favorite remedy that won’t cure a cold.”
Whiskey settled the west. Yes, whiskey got in just ahead of bibles and because of that misfortune the west is not settled yet.
So what gives whiskey its unique flavor, that flavor you can actually hear as it pours into the glass? Trees. Yes, trees. While grapes give wine its flavor and grains give beer its flavor, trees give whiskey its flavor, and I’ll tell you how.
It’s the cask. It’s all in the cask. Men, and a few good women, have known this secret since Pliny the Elder smacked his lips after sampling whiskey that was casked in the foothills of the Alps.
First came the wooden wheel, and man wondered, “Hmm, I wonder if this would store whiskey.”
As it turns out, it does store whiskey and really well. Some experts maintain that 80 percent of the flavor of whiskey comes from the cask in which it is stored, and white oak seems to be the cask of choice, white oak being tightly grained and boasting aromas of vanilla, nuts, coconut and butterscotch to the discerning palate.
Today all reputable distillers of whiskey maintain their own cooperages.
This time last year I was in London introducing a new brand of whiskey aged 19 years in casks sourced from the Mark Twain Forest in Missouri.
Can you imagine a single malt distillery from northern Scotland, Glenmorangie, going to Missouri to buy trees for their whiskey? Well, they did and it worked. I brought back of a bottle of Ealanta, made several life-long friends with it, and have been awaiting its arrival on these shores ever since.
Then just last week, Ealanta, with a score of 97.5 out of a possible 100, was named “World Whiskey of the Year” in the 2014 edition of the Whiskey Bible.
Perhaps I shall avail upon King Ron at the Village Market to look into the matter. Should Scotland get her independence, and I hope she does, the price of Ealanta, at $120 a bottle on today’s market, could skyrocket overnight.
Meanwhile, I shall wait impatiently, hoping Ealanta will arrive in time for “Mark Twain’s Hawaii,” on the 25th of this month at the Mark Twain Cultural Center. The late King Kamehameha and his late sister Victoria both drank unlimited whiskey.
Who knows, Ealanta might prominently figure as an aid to civilization and secure world peace, for as one antagonist told me after a taste of the same, “You are a kind and noble friend and I shall honor you forevermore, and say, do you have any more of that stuff?”
So if you’re thinking about going into the bourbon business, take it from one who knows. Harvest your casks from the Mark Twain Forest in Missouri, store those casks in a safe place for 19 years, then come out of hibernation and rejoice.
You might be just in time for the water wars, as according to the United Nations, by 2025 two thirds of the world’s population will no longer have a secure water supply. Your newfound friends of 2033 will enjoy your whiskey, and be adequately charged to fight over water.
As I will not be around to join in that skirmish, I shall enjoy my small portion when I can get it, and toast the great white oak of the Mark Twain Forest.
Learn more about McAvoy Layne at www.ghostoftwain.com.