Western Watchins #126

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Something like this starts and you know inevitably that it’s somehow got to end. Justified began in 2010 and over the course of six seasons took us all on a ride through the hills and hells of Eastern Kentucky with almost eighty episodes of the best television you’ll ever get a goddamn look at. Most of my Watchins are around twelve or thirteen hundred words long and feature a dozen pictures or so. I could write ten times as many words and not fully explain my appreciation for this show or properly caress you into watching it if you haven’t already done so.  I could post a panoply of pictures to expose you to the epic shit-tons of guest stars piled high upon an already outstandingly impressive main cast, but again, my thoughts on the images might not move you to invest the time to see any of them in action. So I’m left, here at the end of my day, seated and solemn like a distiller ready to boil down this meaty masterpiece unto its purest and most convincingly flavorful form. Justified had seasonal story arcs and a few more series spanning main arcs but the soul that lived in the heart that beat in the breast of this, the lord of all lawman shows, is one simple, time tried relationship between two men.

Marshal Raylan Givens and outlaw Boyd Crowder.

 

 

Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins in what might be the performances of their lives. These two were born for these roles harder than Ben Affleck was born to never play a superhero. For more than half a decade, Oly and Gogs took each other to so many different deadly dances that the will they/won’t they/wtf-did-they-just-do dynamic almost takes on a life of its own. And this story is brimming full with life. Several lives in fact. And the hero and the villain are touched by them all and touch them all back, some more violently than others. But for a white hat chasing a black hat in a gray world kind of show populated by guns and gusto Justified never slips into cliché, is rarely predictable and remained fresh throughout its run. Henry Winkler never once appeared in an episode because no sharks ever needed jumping. In a world of Dexters and Sons of Anarchys that sought to convince us the only way to write a series finale was to hire writers who had never seen the show, Justified‘s end was a happy slap upside the head reminder that great entertainment still wanders the wilderness along with lumberjack serial killers and the worst, unnecessarily computer generated biker gang boss in history. And unlike Jax Teller’s last, this ride was always fun.

There were of course serious times and sentimental ones and a heavy sadness grew in every dark corner of those Kentucky hollers we came to love over the years but in the end there was always at least a little bit of hope. Elmore Leonard, who created Raylan Givens and wrote the original novella upon which this show was based, liked his good guys to win even if things got bad along the way. Breaking Bad began as a Disneyland fantasy only to end in a damnation that forced you to feel every damnable act. All merriment was exorcised from that show like a demon. Thankfully the better angels of Justified‘s nature proved “gritty” could still exist in a narrative that kept well outside of the godawfully depressing. Justified always managed to keep its heart light which is an admirable undertaking considering that heart’s size. I rode along for all the concern and for all the carefree too, and I’d enjoyed every country mile. It was mentioned, at least a few times, that Raylan and Boyd used to dig coal together. By sticking close to those two, the producers made sure that no matter how big the world felt you realized this tale didn’t much meander outside of one small town. You moved in as a new resident during the first episode and were sad to be packing up and moving on come the last.

But knowing when to go, and doing that on your own terms, brings its own joy. And that’s why weekly editions of Western Watchins end here today.

I know. I can hear the collective gasp of all four of you as you wonder what you’ll do for five minutes every Thursday morning now but don’t worry…I’m not done writing. Not even done with reviewing westerns. But there is a time for everything and now these wonderful reviews have had theirs. I kept my promise and never once stopped a one of them once I had begun. Sometimes they were fantastic, a few times I was delightfully surprised, more often than I’d wanted all I got was garbage and the stench of that pile wasn’t worth the sniffin’. I’d almost wrapped things up at 100 with Josey Wales but a new reader left me a simple comment that encouraged to me to continue. My words are marked with humor and their own inspiration. That’s a gift I don’t take lightly, a blessing I gladly share and the drive to do so weighed on me so much that the thought of ending my Watchins would bring furrows to my forehead and knots to my gut. I had to understand that it’s not the subject matter being discussed as much as it is the man behind the discussion who truly matters. I’m proud that for more than two years I’ve used my beloved westerns as a springboard to crack jokes and wax poetic about everything under the sun. I’m proud that I’ve made you laugh, moreso that I’ve made you think. You keep on coming back here and, in one manner or another, I’ll keep doing both. Now, before we ride off…

Justified is an undeniably outstanding show and one that’s incredibly special to me on a personal level to boot. My wife and I started watching this show with a dear friend of ours and finished it off the exact same way. That man is one of only three in this world I know who, beyond any shadow, would be there for me no matter the cost to himself physically, emotionally or financially. Unplanned, he and I both drained the remaining whiskey from our glasses just as Raylan and his Chief did the same on screen making for one culminating toast I’ll never forget. Then it all ended. Just as it had begun. With Raylan and Boyd on opposite sides of that proverbial coin. How do you even rate the kind of emotion I feel for all of this?

With something as unique as the show itself.

Timothy Olyphant had starred in Deadwood, a glorious show that never got the glorious send off it deserved. This time around I think Sheriff Bullock via Marshall Givens would have none of that. One shining Silver Star then is what I’ll leave here for Justified. The cylinder sits empty, no more triggers need be pulled, the smoke will clear and that star will forever shine. I’ve seen some tremendous T.V. in my day but nothing as good as all this, to say it’s once in a lifetime viewing is not at all an exaggeration.

And I’m not at all exaggerating when I say that it’s been my pleasure to write these 126 reviews, for myself and for all of you. Finding the right place to stop was a decision I did not take lightly and once I’d set my sights on Justified the additional burden of not only giving it a perfect sendoff but one for the Watchins as well sat with no little weight upon my mind. I’d already delayed it by a week and even contemplated pushing it off again doubting my abilities to compose, at the current moment or any future one, the perfect goodbye. But perfect is just an excuse. Wait for perfect and you’ll die having gotten not a damn thing done. I will never write the perfect review. I will never draw the perfect picture. I will never run the perfect race. I will never be the perfect husband. I will never be the perfect friend. And neither will you. But that’s a wonderful reason to get up tomorrow and every day thereafter my dear amigos.

Just to see if, on that particular day, you actually can.

Western Watchins: It’s time

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Got me a busy week ahead, got a busier weekend on the tail end of that and I got a feeling in my gut that next week’s Watchins is gonna be something special. I didn’t feel justified in rushing it out the barn door so allow me instead seven days of delay along with the following insight.

If you’re in a room with other people and you’re the only one talking, no one is listening.

We all know folks like this. The moment they’re in earshot they’re shooting and it’s an unassailable barrage about what they’ve been up to, how great they are and what they’ve been up to makes them even greater. Even preachers, motivational speakers and candidates for public office pause and whether through direct conversation or simply casual eye contact they’ll confirm that you’re hearing them and, more importantly, they are hearing you. Good public speakers acknowledge you, are interested in you. The bad ones aren’t interested in much past the edge of the stage. Someone who listens builds a rapport and earns your respect. Someone who never shuts the fuck up will never be afforded these treasures.

And treasures, I can tell you, they are.

When someone shares with me after an event, in person or online, about how much fun they had, how inspired they’ve become or perhaps just how they felt noticed for the first time in forever, well that right there is my definition of success. And it’s a success more valuable to me than any gold. Anyone can talk into a microphone but it’s another thing entirely to change someone’s life for the better while doing so and have your own life change in return. It’s a tremendous gift, one I’m terribly thankful for, and it all comes back to listening. To the audience as a whole and to each individual heart in attendance.

I’ve stood in front of thousands over the years at so many outings I’ve lost count. As an established attention whore my breast, along with other more manly sounding parts, has always swelled with excitement. Excitement knowing that I’ll soon be bathed in fleeting admiration and cell phone flickerflash sure, but also so excited, more excited, the most excited…that right then and there I’ve got the opportunity to make a lasting connection to anyone within the sound of my voice. I’m here for you, you’re here for me.

My thunder cracks, and the room goes boom!

I stand in front of you all now in much the same way. For years a few of you have faithfully read my reviews. You all know my favorites, the rest and the worst. It’d be a real shame if I went on ranting and never took a moment to quietly see what y’all have to say. That’s important. Bein’ pals is a group effort else we’re just a gang of miscreants with a mal appropriated mouthpiece that never lets another open theirs. Everyone’s got a voice and while we all use them in different ways not a damn one is any better than any other just for being louder. So for a week I’m gonna go silent on the subject of that there western genre instead hoping you will do the kindness of sharing with me, here or on Facebook, what your favorite western is. Or the one that should be avoided at all cost. Or one of both flavors if’n you’re feeling inclined.

Know how very much I appreciate you, the dedicated, that have kept with me for so long. Hell, I don’t even know how many of you are really out there but figure if I just sit still for a bit, I might just find out.

Gracias, mis amigos, muchas gracias.

Western Watchins #125

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A short list of better things to do than watch this film:

Go shopping for groceries in another state

Debate politics on social media

Lick a donkey’s balls

Have a donkey lick your balls

Shit your pants

Eat that shit

Eat that shit and then die

 

Holy Water Joe (Acquasanta Joe or Weihwasser Joe if you’re one of those Spanish or German foreign people) is a masterfully inept presentation of something desperately trying to call itself cinema. If I had to guess, here’s how it was made. Somewhere in Italy in 1971, trimmed or otherwise excluded material from several late-in-the-era spaghetti westerns were written upon index cards and then thrown onto a writer’s desk. He stapled them together in random order before asking a prop guy to rent a cannon. Armed then with a cannon (that went ‘boom’) and his script (that went ‘bust’) the writer, one director, two producers, and several people who thought themselves actors, proceeded to push this mess out of their collective rectums and into our faces.

Like so many others save for the very worst, Holy Water Joe here contained pieces of what might have been an enjoyable puzzle. The film as a whole however was like taking a dump, spotting a quarter buried in the turd, then quickly realizing it just isn’t worth your trouble as you pull firmly down on the flush lever. There were only tiny treasures here and none of them worth sifting through the slop to recover. It was overstuffed with ideas that went nowhere featuring plenty of plot but no pertinent points. The costumes were the best that the early 1970s and a minuscule budget had to offer (kepis with shiny vinyl visors for instance) and the score was much the same making the entire movie feel like it could turn into a Blacksploitation flick around any bend. Should they ever decided to release a special edition Blu-ray of this one they’ll have to include this clip I found of the composer hard at work.

Almost all of Holy Water Joe is terrible and then the finale is amazingly worse. Our titular ho-hum hero faces off against some jerk who got his hands on the cannon. Of course Joe runs right at him because it’s just one guy right and he knows that even a highly trained compliment of soldiers are only able to manage three aimed shots per minute. The jerk fires off four in the same time span, three of those in thirty-eight seconds. Multiple chances to hit the protagonist plus ramp up the intensity yet he misses on both counts. Four damn shots and almost a fifth but thanks to Joe with a quiver full of arrows, that “I’m not sure I can do this” look in his eye and his many questionable decisions including standing still ten feet directly in front of the cannon before repeatedly taking his eyes off the jerk attempting to fire said cannon, the good guy prevails! Yay, the movie is almost over! A few more poorly scripted, poorly acted and ridiculously portrayed things happen and then it really is over. But mayhaps not for those closely involved…

Of the three leads (not including the cannon) one’s career (Lincoln Tate) petered out well before he died prior to collecting any social security, one (Ty Hardin) felt so bad he became a preacher in Arizona cleaning up the sins of both your past and your kitchen, and the third (Richard Harrison) went on to “star” thirteen times as “Ninja Master Gordon” in various ninja themed/certainly horrendous movies that still probably don’t suck quite as much as this one. 

Neither preaching nor mystical teachings could have saved this one though and maybe Lincoln just decided to croak before having to ever watch it again thus proving himself wiser than us all. 1 round in the chamber and it’s probably the wrong caliber if anyone bothers to check. There is so much I could have done other than spend time watching this like anything other than watching this so I’m glad someone else on the internet took it upon themselves to post a warning for everyone about Holy Water Joe and whether or not you should partake. When you see the following know that it is better produced, more finely performed and singularly less retarded than the film of which I’ve just written:

 

 

I am not joking in the slightest when I say that the priest was more animated and the puppets more convincing than nearly everyone in this week’s Watchins. Which brings me to next week’s. More than a hundred movies are in the books. We been on this road a long, long time and traveled so many, many miles. Some of ’em great, some of ’em ungodly, but every last one of ’em lending something to my experience. 

And that amigos, in the end, is what life must be about.

Western Watchins #124 (Wetting Your Western Whistle Part 2)

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Years ago great herds of bison traveled through Frankfort, Kentucky and when the time came to ford the comely Kentucky river legend has it they did so at a locale just north of the current Buffalo Trace Distillery. Legend also has it that those same buffalo built the original distillery with their very own hooves. You can doubt me, or that part of the legend I just made up, but I have whiskey so soon I won’t care what you think. I’m kidding, I don’t care now. But, I do care a lot about fine whiskey and even more about the mighty buffalo who made this distillery, the oldest continually operating one in America, a must see for little old me.

 

And what a sight it was:

 

 

As soon as you park you’ll know you’re someplace special. Look at that brickwork! Look at the water tower! Look at the sign that says you’re missing the last tour of the day! Oh shit on every shingle, we’re going to miss the last tour! This can’t be happening. And it wasn’t. After straining to keep my cool while running like a lunatic into the gift store the assembled staff, lovely ladies all, smiled past my coolunatic exasperation to assure me that while the online information was up to date the onsite signage hadn’t been changed just yet. I was relieved. Details like this one don’t often escape me. I’m so anal-retentive I have backed up bowel movements from kindergarten and the thought I had blundered with the buffalo so close at hand had me concerned. The staff’s kind reception immediately turned that dismay into delight:

 

 

That’s Kim on the left, with her easy smile that let’s you know she’s just full of Southern hospitality. And that’s me on the right, with my idiot smile that let’s you know I’m an idiot. Or at least as happy as one. If you were seeing what I was seeing, you too would gladly smile any smile that came to your lips.

 

 

We’re deep inside “Warehouse C” now. It dates back to the 1700s and holds 24,000 barrels, give or take, tenderly within it’s wooden guts. With almost an hour to go before the last tour began proper Kim walked Angie and I over and allowed us a few moments to stand quietly in what is basically a bourbon lover’s Holy of Holies. The angel’s share hung heavy in undisturbed air and with each rarefied breath I drew came the realization that this was another of those perfectly imperfect moments we had been blessed to experience damn near constantly as we drove around the heart of Dixie. Just my wife and I wandering amongst delicious oaken history. I couldn’t thank Kim enough and the actual tour hadn’t even started yet. And then the actual tour actually started!   

We kicked off with a recounting of where the distillery had come from surrounded by artifact full shelves (full of artifacts!) and pictures from every era and incarnation of the property. There was no mention of the original buffalo that had built the place but other than that oversight the facts we were presented with were numerous and tantalizing.

 

 

Another fabulous building and a good shot of the ubiquitous flags proudly proclaiming that the Buffalo Trace Distillery is a National Historic Landmark. Presumably because of the buffalo builders I’m sure existed. What also exists in this picture, unbeknownst to both myself and my lovely camera girl at the time it was taken, is that unassuming little building in the distance. It’s called “Warehouse V” (that’s awesome), it’s the smallest bonded aging warehouse in the world (that’s incredible), it has held every millionth landmark barrel since 1952 (that’s outstanding), and if you get too close buffalo will run out and trample you to death (that’s hopefully true!) Before I could confirm what I already knew to be indisputable buffalo facts, we took a load off in here:

 

 

There were old church pews and more neat old things all around then you sat down and were treated to a short, endearingly cheesy, all-American retrospective on why whiskey is great and Buffalo Trace among the greatest of whiskeys. We were ready to roll over to bottling when our guide Scooby-Doo-ed this secret door open:

 

 

This led into another warehouse stacked full of barrels. A secret whiskey warehouse! That bookshelf was like the door to whiskey Narnia and I imagined that once inside a good, kingly lion would not have to die for my sins but rather get loaded with me before we both went and committed some. You can never tell what a sip from those experimental barrels might lead you to do and while on prominent display here (check that pic again for the labeling) Buffalo Trace’s master distiller has experimental barrels stewing all over the place. His name is Harlen Wheatly and he’s a bit of a madman which makes for a bunch of amazing tastes coming out of Frankfort. This warehouse and that one too, Harlen’s got ’em in all the warehouses, and even one (“Warehouse X”) that holds nothing but whatever curious concoctions he just came up with in a building specifically designed to vary and monitor the influence of temperature, humidity, light and air flow. It’s the one environmental impact study anywhere that I actually give a shit about because it isn’t full of shit and is being utilized to make more delicious shit that one day I can put into my mouth exclaiming past the flavor “this right here is the shit!” Lord Wheatley even makes vodka. So whiskey and vodka and buffalos all in one place. I checked my pulse and was still surprisingly alive.

After stumbling (still alive!) around the grounds for a few more minutes we came upon Blanton’s Bottling Hall. Tis a magical place wherein spirits are put into bottles for shipping unto you at which time those spirits will be removed with earnest. There’s a pride in this room as, like Maker’s Mark, every bottle is hand touched for a fine finish before it leaves the door. The folks inside were genial and hardworking, grinding out arduous hours so that you and I will never be without those wondrous whiskeys.

 

 

I was moved to the point I almost considered playing “Love Will Lift Us Up Where We Belong” on my phone just so I could pick someone at random to carry outside triumphantly as the tune crescendoed. However, unlike Richard Gere, I did have somewhere to go and a handful of stranger, albeit a pleasant one, would have prevented me from filling my hands with the forthcoming samples.

And Buffalo Trace has a lot to sample.

Eighteen brands to be exact and at the end of the tour we got a mouthful of four of them in their under construction/soon to be renovated tasting parlour. Two were familiar to me: Buffalo Trace Straight Bourbon Whiskey which tastes like a warm afternoon in the sun and White Dog which tastes like giving the sun a blowjob. One is a pleasant burn filled with flavor, the other is an opened Ark of the Covenant burn filled with regret. How the delectable former evolves from the damnable latter is a mystery I need never understand but will forever appreciate. Just as I appreciated Maker’s Mark Mindy for giving Ang and I the heads up that we absolutely needed to knock back some Bourbon Cream. Beyond any doubt, Bourbon Cream is the elite of all like libations. Right before we had tried Eagle Rare and it was good, Angie’s new favorite in fact, but Bourbon Cream is fuck my face five times till Tuesday flabbergasting. And it made raiding the gift shop far too easy.

 

 

That’s a real happy camper right there but the location, liquor and loot had little to do with that. Spending some time anywhere with someone you love any day makes that precise moment one of the times of your life. That day the clouds were growing grey to match my hair and I ached a bit from the road but I was standing at a place where pioneers used to walk and pioneers still do, my beautiful wife and I among them. Man and beast had been drawn here through the ages, not hard to figure out why.

6 rounds in the cylinder for the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Our tour here had a different pace and different things to peruse compared to Maker’s but it was just as enjoyable if for different reasons. One way to sum it all might be to say that in Loretto we learned about the feeling behind a great whisky while in Frankfort we learned of the facts. Here our guide was a former state folklorist and what he lacked in comfortably conveying his thoughts he made up for with his quirky tidbit-based breadth of knowledge. Mindy, you took the blue ribbon on that front but Buffalo Trace still got a hold of me as only something buffalo themed ever could. I’m a sucker for that kind of sentiment. I was a fan before I stepped hoof on property, after the tour I was a diehard. That was from just one tour. The distillery offers five distinct versions and all of them free of charge. Plus they host a 5k run every Fourth of July? Well damn amigos, I’m brassbound and bison proud, guess another turn at the Trace is in my near future. So now…what about you? 

Why not have yourself a drink and then an honest think, about where’n you might like to go.

Then, by all means, go!

Western Watchins #123 (Wetting Your Western Whistle Part 1)

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If you’ve watched even a fair share of Westerns it’s easy to determine that the drink of choice back in the day was whisky. Good guys drank it, bad guys drank it, babies and barnyard animals drank it too and what would the town drunk be without this holiest of spirits? Probably just a regular priest or something. Whisky is one of the three main ingredients that must be included for any Western to earn its salt with me. The others, as I’ve oft stated, are generous or creative gunplay and generous or creative prostitutes. If you regularly partake and don’t do so with whisky it’s safe to say something is horribly wrong with you. I’m not judging as much as I’m sitting here wondering what is horribly wrong with you. Well, maybe I can help you out as this week if not to enjoy then to at least appreciate as I buttress that grand relationship between the American West and her favorite libation.

A few years back, say six or seven, I signed up for the Maker’s Mark Ambassador program. It was easy to do and easy to maintain as I’ve had to do absolutely nothing since that day except drink Maker’s Mark whenever I chose to do so and wait for my Golden Ticket to arrive. After a few years, still say six or seven, that ticket arrived! 

 

 

The missus and I planned an immediate visitation but that’s no fun so we waited till time had almost run out on that glorious gilded invitation. We procrastinated for sure but one earlier trip was postponed because Kentucky had become Antarctica and subzero temps seemed not at all fun for bison seeing and bourbon sipping. Putting off the visit was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made fore when we arrived in Loretto the sun was shining and a cool breeze was in the air blowing perfect puffs of clouds across a bright Kentucky sky like lazy thoughts drifting over your brain as you fall into a nap on a Sunday afternoon.

 

 

A day like that in a place like that you can almost hear God whisper in your ear past the bourbon on the breeze “being alive is pretty grand eh lad?” The black buildings with their distinctive red shutters might look hellish but make no mistake: you’re in whisky heaven. Look a little closer and you’ll notice that every shutter features a prominent cutout of a Maker’s bottle at its heart. Attention to detail is a sign of any great craftsman standing tall at the top of his craft. The entire look of the Samuel’s family distillery is a reflection of the pride and perfection of the product they produce.

So, how do they make Maker’s Mark?

Well it’s one of those really simple/incredibly complex kind of things. Anyone can make meth right? But it took Walter White to perfect it (along with murder and child poisoning!) Bourbon craft is no great secret, crafting great bourbon is. I went through the entire tour, understanding the process with a newly educated smirk on my lips and a gleam in my eye that said “I still don’t have a fucking clue!”

 

I’ve seen enormous vats of mash…

 

 

I’ve seen the polished dual spirit safes…

 

 

I’ve seen centuries old warehouses filled to bursting with barrels…

 

 

I’ve seen the one lady that cuts out every single label by hand and the group of ladies (and some dudes) that hand dip every single bottle by also their hands!

 

 

I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate! Wait, no, all this whisky has made me a little Batty just like you would be if you thought one tour and maybe the internet (and for sure being drunk) would put you on par with the rarified breed that is the master distiller. Chemist, biologist, artist and madman. The more of those four qualities you posses the further along you’ll be but seeing as there are less than a dozen true of these gentlemen in the world that’s still not too fuckin’ far, comprendes? But lift your head because the masters are also a generous lot sharing the fruits of their laborious love with the world in the form of Kentucky’s finest export. At the end of any tour you’ll have earned your taste, and what a taste it was at Maker’s Mark.

 

 

Four distinct samples with four distinct tastes all presented with alacrity by our fantastic guide Mindy. Original Maker’s is still my favorite but the White surprised the hell out of me. A lot of this raw whisky has been showing up on the shelves as of late from all sorts of distillers. My first experience was with Buffalo Trace’s White Dog. If you could imagine for a moment all of of your sinuses being filled with turpentine White Dog is worse. Angie and I both recoiled from the current offering but were soon rejoicing as Maker’s Mark White was astonishingly smooth and flavorful without the “dear Lord why have I never made out a living will” thoughts that come with the Trace’s version. Not a bad taste to be had in the bunch. Then, once you’ve seen all the sights and swilled all those swell samples, you realize the real fun is just beginning.

Remember…I’m an ambassador. And that comes with some privileges earned simply by being a fan of this fine and storied whisky. Look back at that picture of my Golden Ticket and you’ll see the classy little ribbon I was gifted with upon first arriving on site. I wore it proudly all day and when people asked, after their eyes had fallen upon my glistening breast, “what’s that for? Are you some kind of whisky war hero?” I’d laugh and say “oh goodness no, much like you I’ll suppose, I am but a humble and heavy drinker only.” And then we’d all laugh if it had ever happened which it never did. Most folks in my tour knew what was up because they were ambassadors too or travelling alongside one. But I was one of the few that wore my ribbon in lieu of the nametag they also give you at the start. Nothing wrong with it, all pleasantly filled out with my full name and presented with a smile but to me the tag smacked of some awkward social gathering, church potluck or AA meeting, none of which I wanted to conjure comparisons to at the present moment nor did I feel the need to have my actual name published prominently on my pec. I value my privacy and the ensign on my lapel told you all I felt you needed to know at the time. Plus, a “my name is” tag will never be as cool as a black and red emblazoned bourbon badge:

 

Tourist #4 with a name tag: “Hello, I’m Mike from Poughkeepsie.”

Me with my medal: “Hi, I’m fucking awesome!”

 

And about to get even moreso, as the time had now come to hold in my hands the very reason I ventured deep into the bluegrass at all. You see that Golden Ticket I mysteriously mentioned before only arrives once your whisky is ready for you. Yes, your whisky:

 

 

The main reason for becoming an ambassador, the hook if you will for your willing fishy lips, is that Maker’s will engrave a plate with the names of you and your cask mates upon it before fastening it to a barrel wherein your own personal batch of bitchin’ bourbon will sleep, quietly dreaming of that far off day when you’ll arrive to, with thine own hands, affix the label and crown with wax one very special bottle:

 

As if walking under an enchanting Chihuly installation on your way towards a most competently stocked gift store wasn’t enough you’ll know that this uniquely charming moment awaits as well. And after the drive across rolling hills filled with postcard perfect plateaus around every bend, after a red carpet welcome worthy of royalty, after a most substantial and entertaining tour, after seeing modern machinery working hand in hand with hardwood history to create one of the finest tastes you’ll ever bring to your lips, well, to borrow a wrestling term, it was hard not to mark out for Maker’s Mark.

6 rounds in the cylinder and all of them aged to perfection. I threw money harder at the cash register lady than I’ve ever thrown at a stripper but even though I walked away with lots and lots of consumables what was more valuable to me was walking away with a most memorable day and all the memories that came with it. Those five quick days I spent on the road with my wife will be some of the greatest I will ever know. Everything, I tell you every last thing, fell into place over those two thousand plus miles. Not the perfect place but just the place they needed to be. 

Maker’s was a big part of an unforgettable adventure.

I knew how special that time had been and reflected on it all as I lunched on the porch of an old gatehouse turned cozy barbecue joint right at the front of the distillery. The whole place was a great place, and full of great people. Every person there was jovial and knowledgeable and passionate. 

Amigos, that’s a great goddamn way to be.

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