A Book I Must Buy

Jason Wilson, “Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits”

When it comes to flavor, I am drawn to the Old World. I like liquor with hard-to-define tastes: the bitter complexity of Italian amari, the ancient herbs of Chartreuse, the primal maltiness of Dutch genever. And I’m also drawn to the wilder, untamed parts of the New World: the agave bite of real tequila; the earthy, rustic edge to Brazilian cachaca; the strange, dry conundrum of Peruvian pisco.

I don’t know why. I guess it’s the same reason I like stinky cheeses, funky wines, wild game and yeasty beers. I’m of a similar mind to A.J. Liebling, who wrote in his classic food memoir, “Between Meals”: “I like tastes that know their own minds.”

Perhaps what I’m describing is the exact opposite of what has become the most widely consumed spirit in the United States: vodka… This is not to say there is anything pernicious or immoral or wrong about liking vodka. Plenty of good, decent people do, and some of those people I count among my friends.

Inside, deep down, what I really want to do is grab them by their lapels or elbows or throats or whatever it is one metaphorically grabs. What I want to tell them is this: Try something new. Try something strange. Expose yourself to flavors you’ve never considered before. Taste something – anything – that makes you stop for a moment and pay attention.


11 thoughts on “A Book I Must Buy

  1. brioche bread pudding with Limoncello over ice cream yum =]

    stinky cheese? only if the taste doesn’t make my face curl up
    like some kind of weird alien
    I like going to the markets where one can taste the odd cheeses – better than buying a wedge to find out later… see above lol

  2. Caol ila aged 12 years Islay single malt whisky, now that is something. My son brought back a bottle of that elixir last week after giving a lecture at U.C.L. in London. It is aged in oak casks and made of peat filtered water. That taste!!! At first you feel next to nothing, then it explodes in your mouth and you taste it for several minutes of pure extasy.
    But I don’t think Québec imports it, what a pity.

  3. Well, I am one of those clearly in the Vodka camp, but I’ve learned to appreciate other things over time. Some scotches, some brandies and ports too.

  4. Try something strange. Expose yourself to flavors you’ve never considered before. Taste something – anything – that makes you stop for a moment and pay attention.

    This I believe to be a good philosophy for life in general also, not only for drinking.

    As for Vodka, I drank it in Russia of the best kind, but I always found it tasteless. Which was confirmed by the Russians themselves who said the lack of taste is one of the reasons they drink it so quickly – since there’s no point in savouring it. Possibly it is this tastlessness that makes vodka ideal for cocktails.

  5. I hadn’t had or heard of limoncello until an old client went to live and work as a freelance journalist in Rome and got a lesson in the making of it one day. It was the beginning of a long slide into decadence, which included having to keep it out of the hands of a 15 year old son of a friend who thought it was dandy.

    @Paul – Caol Ila.. I tremble with envy. Good single malt can make me weep just to smell it. You might be able to get shipping at an acceptable price from the Whisky Exchange online.

    I actually like some of the lightly flavored vodkas once in a while, but then I suppose they are not true vodka. Absolut Pear is something I buy in a miniature about once a year.

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