Every thirty seconds the slow wash of tires passes across my right shoulder, over to the left, behind my neck, out my left ear into the hallway. Spinning forward to my right periphery a red illumination shines from the grove of a black disk, spinning, spinning, spinning, and moaning… “you betta come on / / in my kitchen / / babe it gonna’ be rainin’ outdoors.” It’s a misty, chill December shower. Inside, in the mellow warm candle light with Marrakesh smoke on the air, every thumping bass note on old Bobby Johnson’s thumb seems to urge the floor to tickle the increasingly numb souls of my feet. The draining circulation in my fingers makes for spasmodic and pained typing. Perhaps more pained because I’m still not sure what I mean to say. It is rare this late in December, in this Northeastern clime, to still be awaiting our first snowfall. And yet we are. And still—warm enough to rain, winter enough to frost—I’m ready to embrace an instinct familiar to other mammals, hibernation. This in-between weather, this wet and confused New Hampshire December, I imagine is how most of winter must pass in Ireland. As ancient coal stoves burn, turf stoves, even, I imagine many among the Irish fight the mammalian instinct of hibernation in turning to one more human. I imagine on a night like this, sometime in the 14th century, some tonsured monk drink a fluid warm from the still, and he said to his brethren, “this is the water of life,” uisce beatha.
From these words, uisce beatha, comes the modern word for the sweet nectar and societal scourge, that is whiskey. Of course, if you’re reading a whiskey blog in your free time, I probably don’t need to tell you that. But if you learned something, well, the more you know. Why do I bring this up, with unnecessary verbosity and noir musings? Well, because someone done gone made an Irish whiskey, and guess what they’ve called it…yousebetya, Uisce Beatha.
It takes a fuckin’ fully functioning spleen to go and brand your whiskey as its etymological root. Before you say anything, the spleen does have a purpose, look it up, smartass. Now while we’re on the point, I’ll give you some brief background. Apparently this whiskey, Uisce Beatha, *redundant* is a product fresh from the mind of John Paul DeJoria, who is best known for bringing the world Patron Tequila and Paul Mitchell shampoo. One of these things is not like the other. I think I’m just going to leave your mind lingering on that without further comment. Anyways, the Patron Mitchell guy happens to be a cofounder of a company called Rok Drinks, which has decided to churn out whiskey under its original moniker. Sadly, I cannot figure out where the juice these “Rok Stars” are using to make this whiskey, but they have clearly disclosed that it is blended of whiskies aged at least 4 years in former bourbon barrels. That’s about is far deep as I’m going a googling tonight, so let’s get to the point—I’m seriously flagging in the life department and giving that hibernation thing some consideration. Let us put some life in my blood.
The nose on this is delightfully rich, honey was a given based on the color of the whiskey, but there are pleasant dimensions of richer molasses and dark fruit, a touch of spice and maybe even a hint of hazelnut. The base note which seems to first hit the tongue and then lingers steadily throughout the palate is something akin to a sweet but gristy whole grain muffin. On top of this are layers of flavor, including a more fully expressed cinnamon spice—which I’ll be bold enough is from the barrel of a high-rye bourbon—some light citrus, and the ever Irish honey sweetness which is more than usually subtle in this expression, I imagine due to the bourbon barrels. The finish is very light, with an almost cold breath around the edge of the tongue passing and leaving just a grassy sweet reminiscence of loving life on the tongue.
So, does this young upstart, new to the market from the mind of a tequila slinging hairdresser live up to its Gaelic name? Well, it certainly is whiskey, that’s an accurate start. Beyond that, it’s a pleasant whiskey, distinct from the many other expressions in the field, with a refreshing complexity for its youth. Yes, I do feel a bit less like sinking into hibernation, I feel a bit more blood running in my fingers and toes, and I may in fact be on the verge of having a touch more life.