I ended up in a seminar full of people one day, in between the coffee pots full of Hotel Blend and the light snacks of some weird Spanish cheese and water crackers, listening to some guy from some agency in Los Angeles talk about marketing to Millennials. These Millennials are apparently running the show right now in terms of consuming and culture and communications and the word Millennial is so controversial that a) no one can agree on who they really are and b) Spell Check in MS Word doesn’t recognize it. So if you’ve had your head under an ashtray, let me help you: a) they’re the largest generational cohort of persons born at a time starting from (arguably) 1981 and ending (arguably) around 2004; and b) right-click on the word Millennials and when the menu pops up click “Add to Dictionary”. Your Uncle has always been here for you.
The guy said that, according to surveys, the Millennials consider their parents their “BFF” (BFF stands for Best Friends Forever…again, you’re welcome) for the reason that they consider the value of the passing of wisdom from one generation to another as a highly ranked virtue. And the analogy he drew was the relationship of Obi Wan Kenobi to Luke Skywalker (do not make me explain them to you). The Jedi Knight reveals “the Force” to the brash, young apprentice who, now empowered, goes off to fight his own father and lose a hand.
Ok, that part didn’t go so well, but he did lead a rebel army to destroy the Death Star and he got a medal in the end. Kids…waddayagonnado?
This idea of passing of knowledge from one generation to another and then taking it to the next level of some other form of knowledge stuck with me for a while and I was ruminating over others that this has happened to: Michael Corleone, for example. Or Tom Cruise in “Cocktail” or maybe…this cigar and whiskey I have in my hands right now.
When I clipped off the head of this Cohiba Nicaragua N4x45 I got to thinking that I don’t always enjoy the short stuff smokes of this type but there was something adventurous in the fact that this proprietary Cohiba blend moved away from its Dominican roots (ok, Cuba, but that’s a longer story, Part IV) and blasted over to the wild lushness of Nicaragua. Really tight construction on this little guy had little of the give I’m used to but it’s trading in of a Camaroon wrapper to Honduran Oscuro gave off a rich note of undergrowth and oily leather that was absolutely enticing.
The first third was one burst after another of big, rich smoke from Nicaraguan filler, not the mild spice of its parent but the easy draw was offering me a challenge: Light Sabers at close range. Luke had taken the restrained, mellowed wisdom of his mentor and transformed it into a bold, feisty rumble under a sky with two suns. As packed with flavor as it was, it didn’t burn with the impertinence of youth, but it showed that it had learned the lesson its elder impressed on it: “use the Force”.
It’s liquid corollary is just as brash in forging its own path and just as deferential to its older generation. Rick Wasmund of Copper Fox Distillery had an early encounter with the peaty smokiness of single malt Scotch whisky that eventually led him to an apprenticeship with the renown Jim McEwan, Master Distiller at the Bowmore Distillery on the Isle of Islay. There, on one of the last of the distillery malting floors in the country, Rick learned from this master of malt how to craft flavors from the floor up, carefully raking and shoveling the germinating barley malt as it slowly dried to enhance the sweetness of the grain. Then completing the process in the kiln, where it was cured with smoke from dried peat that infused its pungent aromas deep into the grain and leaving traces of its phenolic terroir: salt air, seaweed, fecund earth, rich vegetals and medicinal traces that make Scotch whisky its own unique liquid gold.
But coming back to the US, Rick created Wasmund’s Single Malt using his own brand of smoke: his floor malted barley is infused with the burning embers of his childhood obsession: the smoke from American hardwoods like apple wood and cherry wood. The result is a uniquely flavored, bold, juicy liquid that envelops your nose and mouth with the sweetness of honey and olive tapenade, wrapped in silky ribbons of flavor that suggest dried apples, brown sugar, orange marmalade on rye toast and root beer float. Sensual and rich, the wood fire smoke and spices meet up with the Cohiba’s earthiness in an extra-terrestrial pas-de-deux, like two clouds from distant galaxies meeting on the event horizon.
This new generation, taking the established grounding of their elders and raising the bar to a different height, must be what that guy was talking about. The combination of the Cohiba Nicaraguan and Wasmund’s Single Malt left me with the impression that there was another angle to his thought: “may the smoke be with you”.