Mark Twain said that travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. When June 8 strikes, it will have been two years since we lost Anthony Bourdain. He is a man I owe much of my curious mind to. He sparked my fascination for traveling, food and eventually alcohol.
It is no secret that I look up to him. You can see a lot of his quotes scattered all over my reviews. You could say that some of my reviews have also been inspired by some of his words. As someone who became one of the most famous and respected food advocates, I wonder what he would be telling us now regarding the Food & Beveridge industry being in danger?
Yes, Tony is mainly known for featuring food, but he eventually used it to ease us into the different kinds of cultures, and global issues he was interested in. He showed the world that every dish and drink has a story. That food isn’t just food. One of his most memorable episodes was filmed in El Bulli. I believe that really gave him more credit for helping chefs and food gain better recognition. If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it in a long time, it’ll show you that cooking can also be magical. He wasn’t very picky with alcohol. But he certainly enjoyed drinking. He could also get fancy, as he is partially infamous for making Pappy more well known in the early 2010s. Through him, I first heard of Pappy when I saw his The Layover: Seattle episode. Because Pappy is so damn hard to get and so expensive these days, I’ll review a Weller 12 instead. It’s all currently just one recipe after all.
Growing up in a stereotypical conservative Asian environment, didn’t really encourage curiosity. Asking questions would bring about the equivalent of martial law. It’s safe to say how he approached life, is similar to how I slowly learned to approach life. He was not afraid to ask questions in his shows. He wasn’t afraid of being or sounding wrong. While he didn’t regularly directly tell his fans to do this and that, but watching his shows regularly, I think, allowed me to unconsciously pick up some of his habits. Hence my reluctance to take the word of the big brands as the whole truth. I’m not saying they’re lying, but they’re not being entirely honest as well. Although, there are some who companies really love pushing their self-serving narratives to the point, they’re just spouting bullshit. No terroir in spirits, anyone?
Watching the episodes, I learned that eating and drinking is an adventure. Something doesn’t need to be expensive to be good. Expensive doesn’t automatically make something good. He absolutely loved street food. Cheap food, like Vietnamese street food, can be so damn good. He helped more people recognize that there’s usually more effort and talent going into making a tasty dish made with offcuts and other unwanted ingredients in the old days. I mean, it’s easier to make a good meal out of a rib eye steak, than making a good meal out of oxtail. Sort of like going from a whisky drinker to venturing out to cheaper yet more interesting spirits like rum and Mezcal. Older doesn’t always mean better. A usually unaged spirit like Mezcal has nothing to hide behind, because there’s no added flavor or aging to cover the faults. Just because it’s more prestigious does it mean it’s automatically better? Are you eating/drinking with your ego or with your senses?
Everyone has their own idols to chase. As someone who was a rare and great balance of wit, eloquence, honesty and wisdom, I’d say he is my idol in the form of a unicorn. I guess my writing for Malt, is my attempt to reach him. But try as I might, even though he is unlikely to make anymore progress, I know I will never catch up to him. For now, I’ll have to collect as much hair that has fallen from that tail to make calligraphy brush out of it.
W.L. Weller 12 year old – review
On the nose: Scents of muscovado sugar and cinnamon slightly enveloped by a not unpleasant soapy scent and leather. These are followed by an assortment of nuts with skin with freshly squeezed orange peels. There are undertones of cherry, red pepper and marzipan hiding behind the oak and astringent sweetness. Surprising that the vanilla here does not jump out at me.
In the mouth: Muscovado sugar, oak, cinnamon, orange peels and hints of lasting undertones of brandied cherries, marzipan. There’s a follow up taste of astringent woody not that makes me think of Japanese temples. It gives way to quick rushes of cloves, rosemary and thyme.
Aside from being of the same recipe as Pappy, I can see why people make a fuss about this. A very enjoyable yet interesting whisky. Because there’s still not too much wheated bourbon in the market, the other ones aren’t as widely distributed yet also, this is a really different experience from the regular bourbons with rye in the mash.
I still prefer the Old Weller Antique 107, especially the one with the 7-year age statement. Aside from being cheaper and easier to find, there’s a better balance between the oak influence and the distillate. I would have given this a score of 7. But because we factor in the price, I’m giving this a deduction of 1 point. I bought this for $100 on the secondary market when I was in LA, sometime in 2016.