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Too many feels and then, eventually, a review of Wathen's Single Barrel

Posted on by Eric Burke

I had a pretty shitty weekend. It was supposed to be good. It was a holiday. I was going to spend time with my family at the family cabin. There would be drinks, cards, a fire, kids, family and friends. Everything was set up to be great. And it started out that way. 

Friday morning, I stopped off for a couple growlers of beer to take with us. As I waited for them to be filled, I thought it might be nice to have a touch of bourbon to close each night. So I looked at the bourbon selection and settled on one I hadn’t had before but could blog about. Might as well take one for the team, right? 

We were supposed to build a new fire pit over the weekend, but I noticed shortly after pulling in that my mom and step-dad had already finished it. This is going to be a nice weekend, I thought to myself. And so it seemed. That afternoon, we sat around the new fire pit and variously, read a book, played a game, or talked. It was a very nice afternoon. We had nice supper and then ended up playing cards. I broke into the growlers. Everything was going well.

It was a nice slow morning the next day. Relaxing. We ran to town, got supplies and generally enjoyed each other’s company while waiting for the rest of the group to get there. One of the highlights of the weekend was going to be the time I got to spend with my niece and nephew who were coming with my brother and his wife that afternoon. 

And everything went well until I noticed how my brother was treating my nephew (well, step-nephew, but I don’t count such things). You see he is on medication for ADHD and is suspected of suffering from depression. He is a rascal, to put it mildly. I identify a lot with what he is going through. I’m also the product of divorced parents. I also had a step-dad who met me while he wasn’t sure how to handle being a parent. I had problems with my mom, my dad, my step-dad, my step-mothers, my grandparents and step-grandparents…I was just generally an angry kid who suffered with undiagnosed depression (it wouldn’t be diagnosed until I was much older and dealing with my own teenager). I saw that I didn’t fit in in most of the “families” I had. Either I was related, but only seen every few months or I wasn’t related and was just another kid hanging about. All except my one set of grandparents. My mother leaned on them so much that my grandfather became sort of a surrogate father to me. He was the one I rebelled against, not my biological father. But he was also the one I looked up to more than anyone else.

I grew up with this hanging over my head for a long time. I was so angry. I was a good kid for the most part, but inside I was searching for why I didn’t belong. I just wanted to feel loved. And if that couldn’t happen, noticed. And when it came time for me to adopt my own daughter, I promised myself that she wouldn’t feel that way. That she would be loved and accepted by the family that I felt, at the time, had never fully accepted me. 

Guess what? I failed. I didn’t know how to be a parent at 19. I didn’t know how to take care of a teenager at 29. I didn’t know how to be the parent of a kid going through normal teenage stuff while dealing with the fact that she knew her dad had adopted her. Knowing that in order for that to happen, another man needed to have decided he didn’t want to be her dad. That’s heavy stuff. I wasn’t ready for it. I lashed out like an angry baby and, much like my step-father and I while I was living at home, we never really saw eye to eye. And to top it off, I don't know that parts of my extended family ever fully accepted her as family either. I have a sister I haven't talked to for years over some of her comments. 

So now, I see this happening with my nephew who is going through the same things I went through and then also the same things my daughter went through. And enough was enough. My brother is a father of two biological kids and can’t see he isn’t treating them the same way. My mother doesn’t realize that the things she’s saying are being absorbed and internalized by my nephew. On three separate occasions, I stepped in where I probably shouldn’t have (though my sister-in-law thanked me). I became an advocate for my nephew because I hate that I can see the same things that happened to me, and then to my daughter, happen to him. I picked two fights with my brother and one with my mother over it. I spent a lot of time alone in the camper because I was so mad I thought I’d do or say something I’d regret. 

It’s a good thing I bought that bourbon. It wasn’t the best bourbon I’d ever had, but it was enough to calm the nerves and let me breathe when I thought I would say something stupid. Nights around the fire may have included more than I should have had, but taking a sip instead of saying something stupid worked ok to keep me sorta talking to my brother. 

That bourbon? Wathen’s Single Barrel. Once I got home, I decided to review it and pour a couple samples for my sample library. That finished the bottle off. So, even though the bourbon was a welcome relief to a shitty weekend, how did it fair in the cold light of day? 

Wathen’s Single Barrel

Purchase Info: $29.99, 750 mL, Casanova Liquor, Hudson, WI.

Details: Barrel number: 4730. Bottled on July 22, 2014. 47% ABV

Nose: Vanilla, caramel, toasted almonds, faint melon and some oak. 

Mouth: Dry woodiness. Hot in the mouth. Caramel, toasted almonds and oak. 

Finish: Lingering heat and oak fading to a bitterness that if it were paired with more than just woody flavors would be pleasant. 

Thoughts: For me? Meh. I’m not a fan of overly dry, woody bourbons. And to my palate, that’s what this is. It’s more so than I would have expect from an NAS bourbon. 

Speaking of NAS, I do have a few beefs with this bourbon. The first being just that. This is an NAS bourbon. But right in the middle of the label is a large “eight” in a a script font. Under that in smaller type is the word “generations.” This subconsciously suggest and eight-year age statement. I know because I had to keep stopping myself from thinking of it as an 8-year old over and over. And I know better. Secondly, I really wish people would use a screw cap. That photo above? That’s the cork. It broke the second time we opened the bottle. Not only is a screw cap going to keep the bourbon inside tastier if it lasts more than a weekend, but it has a much smaller chance of failure. 

So your milage may vary, but for me? I won’t be buying this again. Not even to soothe a really shitty weekend that brought back way too many feels. 


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