Note: I recently posted this on my Facebook page but, in the event that social media decides to bow out on us some day, I revamped the post with some minor edits here for posterity.
My wife, Marissa, and I have always been a partnership of opposites. While there are things that we have historically enjoyed together, the list has always been rather small and we have always had our respective spaces where we could be our own.
Like a lot of marriages, we went through some turmoil awhile back and, in the midst of that, we found a common bonding over bourbon.
It wasn’t a quick transition…
Many people who knew us when we first started dating in 2009 know that not long after the relationship began, I sobered up and didn’t have a drink for about four years. I just found that drinking didn’t do much for me so I left it alone.
When I did decide to pick it back up, it was on our honeymoon when we were “gifted” with a bottle of French champagne while we stayed in Paris. I guess the adage is “When in Rome…” but as it applies to us…”When in Paris…”
However, Marissa was always open to nice wines, craft beers and the occasional liquor. I was having trouble trying to find alcohol that actually sat well on my stomach and, for some reason, bourbon became the settling place.
Initially, bourbon had too much burn for Marissa, so we made a segue way with Manhattans which I got to be fairly good at making. Then, she was able to transition to bourbon on the rocks and finally, neat, the way I take it.
So, last year, we made our first trip down to Kentucky to officially experience part of the Bourbon Trail for our 6th anniversary. We had a wonderful time and had some experiences that we still talk about to this day.
Since then, we’ve come through the Trail a total of four times, knocking out different parts that we either hadn’t seen before or just had a desire to see again.
This past weekend, we went down for our fourth trip celebrating her birthday and our 7 year anniversary. If you don’t know much about bourbon, each distillery is an experience. Maybe you visit because you love the product, or the history or both. I tend to like the product more than the history while Marissa enjoys a combination of both.
On our third day and the final full day of bourbon tourism, a great deal of sampling, driving and history, we had what I believe was our most fascinating experience yet.
When you go to a distillery, you are at the mercy of the tour guide. They share the story, the product line and…maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll get to sample or buy something that is rather unique.
As a bourbon lover, maybe you get to be a part of a single barrel pick that might yield, say, 180 bottles. That means, that once those bottles have been purchased, you’ll never experience the exact same blend again.
Today’s experience trumped that.
We went to a place in Georgetown, Kentucky called Bourbon 30 and we had an experience unlike anything else we’ve had before. We entered a room with probably close to 50 barrels (maybe more) and the option of picking our favorites which we could then blend into a one of a kind bottle.
The safest route is to sample what you like, pick 2-3 favorites and blend them down. We picked 5 initially and asked the owner to provide some guidance in blending the final product. He saw what we picked and whittled down 5 options to 2 and then made a ratio: 75% of one barrel and 25% from another. We tried it and it was delicious.
Then, he drifted off and said: “Hold on a second.”
He changed the ratio and picked a third barrel to go 75/20/5. The final product was even better.
We bottled it, named it, and a picture of it is below.
Some people like beer and maybe the beer industry has something similar. I haven’t touched beer in probably 4 years and I have no desire to go back.
Wine lovers may also have a similar experience and it’s been about as long for me since I’ve had wine as it was with beer. (Marissa still tries wine from time to time).
It’s a long way of sharing an experience that I think speaks a lot about marriage…bear with me on this.
You’re going to experience a lot of things in a marriage…the good, the bad, the amazing, the sad, the painful, the beautiful and everything in between.
Live for the experience (read that again).
You have one life to get this right and you’re going to screw up a lot. Find someone who can help you steer the ship straight again so you don’t make a fateful crash.
I found that person and I hope you did (or I hope you do, too).
Sometimes, you find the perfect “blend” early on and you’re fortunate, you’re happy and life is good.
Sometimes, it takes some “aging” and a little bit of guidance (like we had at Bourbon 30) to come up with something better than what you did on your own. Of course, that guidance can come from a family member, a therapist or a friend and make all the difference…
Sometimes, you just have to live a life that provides enough entertainment, passion, trauma and tension to make you look at each other and say: I want this more than anything else in the world and there’s no one else I want to experience this with but you (the blend)…
And when Marissa and I bottled up our one of a kind bottle, number 1 of 1, I called it “7 Years Later” because I’ll be damned if it didn’t take every day of the last 2,555 of married life for us to arrive here today, share that moment, craft that bottle and say: “We are here because we fought like hell to get here and this little memento signifies 7 years of every moment, good and bad, that it took to get here.”
When I looked out into that room, across all those barrels, I saw something similar: the good, the bad, the great, the not-so-great, and somewhere in between…a little combination that made something magical.
Yeah, I know it’s just bourbon…I might be a bit melodramatic…
But it’s a marriage, too…and there’s drama, and magic, and spice, and laughter, and love, and determination, and perseverance and (if you’re lucky) something called a family.
However, it’s uniquely ours and I hope you have a life, and a love, that provides you something like that too.
Monday the 11th was our official anniversary and, let me just tell you FB fam, I picked a winner in the woman I married, limited edition 1 of 1…just like our bottle.
And to my wife…our very best years to date are these years right here.