1. olfactory bulbsI’ll start with the suggestion that none of us are born with noses or tongues ready to accept distilled spirits. But should we be surprised? Distillation in towering copper pot stills & maturation in cured, masterfully coopered oak casks goes so far beyond any effort our evolving bodies could have possibly motivated. We’ll need to call whisky a post-human liquid, and grow ourselves to meet it, on its own terms.

Pour yourself a glass of whisky and bring it to your nose. Wait, and track the sensation, as one small analytical knot in your brain gets busy with tabulating the whisky’s heat and approachability, while the rest of you skips into airier, fairier worlds. Without a say in the matter, we’ll catch the scent of a childhood memory in the glass, and get rocketed, whole body, into the past. Given the chance, and without our permission, our minds will make themselves up — a labyrinth of neurons firing in the dark!

And what a blessing. What a lovely design of nature that our olfactory bulbs paint strokes so recklessly onto the amygdala. Ringer of gongs, speaker of koans, an articulated pair of sinewy tissues strapped to the base of our brains, right above the nose, as if for a ride, sending signals blooming into our emotions and decisions.

I’m not a cognitive scientist. But what I can tell you with confidence is that the whisky in your glass will take you somewhere. Exactly where that is, will, without a doubt, be different than where that exact same whisky will take your neighbour.

So let go. Because aren’t the most interesting whiskies the ones that torpedo us into a whirlpool of ambiguities? Those with the ability to drag us into a rip-tide of space and time, a satori ‘woah’-ness? Whiskies that fasten us to a particular spot; places we’ve been, or dreamed, and those strange & unfamiliar places we have yet to be?