Distiller’s Notes Vol.7: Finding Whiskey, in The Future Times
Call me “old fashioned”, but there’s something I miss about reading a real, physical newspaper. What do we even call these things now? “Real Newspaper”? “Paper Newspaper”? “Old Fashioned Newspaper”? Something so imperiled in the wild deserves a proper name…am I right?
In the past – before my stoopid smart phone – bumping into a second-hand paper at a breakfast joint was a nice surprise. Even if you already knew the important current events that week, there was always something you might have missed or weren’t in the mood to learn about the first time around.
But looking back, it wasn’t just the news; it was the layout, the stoic photography, the atlas-style pages…it all seemed to be an attempt at the art of telling the truth…and it seemed even more “real” in ink-on-paper form.
Nowadays, things are a little more sci-fi. Newsstands and gently-used papers are rarer finds. Instead, the past and present are cast from our fingertips and – each time we pull out the newspaper in our pocket – we give the platform permission to transport our mind to another place. We swipe, scan, glance and click through content, advertisements and advertisements disguised as “content”, leaving behind nothing but a trail of cookies to be utilized and managed in our absence. Then, like a stray dog we once tossed a scrap of food, old purchases catch back up to us in the form of banner ads and search results…making you wonder…”How much of my own money paid for this advertisement?”
Nevertheless, we click and click and click…searching for the past, present and future in every corner of our electric landscape.
In the past, grains like wheat grew wild. Then we humans hung up our running loincloths for farming overalls – selectively breeding the grasses to feed civilization’s growing appetite for what brought them to settle down in the first place: bread and beer. Nowadays, we distillers search for varieties that match our requirements for flavor and “extract” …our farmers search for varieties to match their requirements for yield and hardiness…and we meet somewhere in the middle. Together, we test new varieties through years of cross-breeding and testing in fields and distilleries; working toward a more “ideal” grain for everyone.
In the future, once “fertile” lands might suddenly turn arid, and genetic modification could become a necessity derived from scarcity and volatility. If so, new strains of wheat would be plumper, more disease resistant and hardier, but less interestingly diverse; all in the name of yield and sustenance. From that, our whiskey might taste a little more like our neighbor’s; that is, if they still call it whiskey by then.
In the past, peat was formed by a slow, wet, sinking decay of organic remains called bogs. Then humans dried & dug out the blocks of carbon-rich fuel to burn & heat the demands of civilization. Nowadays, peat-fired power stations have made room for a more potent blend of on-earth fossils and off-earth star-power. Meanwhile, some distillers quietly continue a time-honored tradition of burning a portion of the moss to dry their barley; vapor infusing the grain with the bog’s essence and bottling up a retro-style uisge beatha that pristinely captures it all into a single dram.
In the future, our hazy & gray, post-post-industrial memories might suppress our ancestral appetite for smoky & charred flavors & aromas and – as a reprieve – we could turn to a cleaner, lighter spirit; pouring a crystal clear whiskey, if only for a moment’s drink. If they still call it whiskey, that is.
In the past, a portion of a civilization’s crops were given to brewers and distillers to ferment and boil though a series of pots nestled into fire pits. These sacred trials of alchemy poured a drink that would act as both a currency and societal lubricator; built to travel long distances and accompany a kingdom’s attempt to spread their particular traditions further…and further. Nowadays, our spirit still travels, but instead showcases provenance, story and style; attracting the attention of any like-minded person who is willing to listen and pay a range of fees, taxes and tolls.
In the future, whiskey will be fermented continuously and designed by flavor houses once thought of as “distilleries”. A familiar potion will drip from a blockchained black box in your kitchen; the code of which will contain the cumulative sum of your purchase preferences, derived from an analysis of your social platform and delivered directly to the dual-lit pleasure & memory center of your cerebral cortex. Everything is “liked”, regardless…and the only thing left of our comfort ritual will be an emoji of our likeness with a glass in its holographic hands and a smile on its digital face. People might even call that emoji “whiskey”, but will probably have no idea why.
Or maybe not.
Maybe the future isn’t so black and white and bleak. I’m beginning to think that using the past and present to predict the future is a bit like choosing your favorite story based on your mood.
Maybe instead, someday we’ll cherish our newspapers and our whiskies as temporary yet holy artifacts designed in defiance and in spite of artifice; serendipitously connecting us to our past, present and future. If so – like a newspaper in a café – they might be the only things we can just “bump into” on our way from one thing to the next; earmarking our memories in some chapter of our own story.
Maybe someday, we might still smell and taste something solely at the risk of not “liking” it. And if so, our newspapers and whiskey will share only one requirement: proof of authenticity; proof that every step that brought you, your information and whiskey together are real, something worth discovering and something worth remembering; today versus tomorrow, regardless of yesterday, and all in the name of realizing it’s something happening to you right now.
Why not pick up that old paper bundle and treat it with the reverence we give to our last sip of whiskey? Why not dig out the last of that sacred bottle and treat it with the interest we give to our newest notification? What would you call these small acts of defiance, in a future-age? What would you call that creased & tattered second-hand news? What would you call that whiskey you decide to finally experience completely, one last time?
You might call these things or the experience that brought you them, “authentic”, “genuine” or “real”.
Call them whatever you want…
…but I wouldn’t call them old fashioned.