This week one of my favourite booze websites, Good Spirits News (GSN), drew my attention to Bushmill’s Black Bush Whiskey. When I saw they had given it an A+, I immediately went online to see if our government booze store stocked it. Score! It was even on sale for $34.99.
For this marvellous shopping trip, I accompanied my mum, riding in her backpack. I hadn’t been out of the house since long before the pandemic, so this was novel. The whole world had changed. Our booze store had even rebranded.
My mum was reluctant to take me along. In the past, I’ve attempted to stay behind at the store. But she told me if I tried to hop out of the backpack this time and take up residence in the Irish whiskey section, I’d probably end up being destroyed (and not in the good, wasted kind of way). She pointed out that I was no longer as fluffy as I was when I first sprang from the liquor store’s Christmas share-a-bear sale so many years ago.
Thus we made a surgical strike, claimed our Black Bush and hightailed it out of there.
Two days later (why??? why do I always have to wait???) we tried it. Our friends at GSN were correct—Black Bush is a fine whiskey that’s weighty and rich in a classic toasty-caramel vein. On the nose you get faint nuttiness and butterscotch. On the palate it has a ton going on—some spices, some dried fruits and some tea tannins. Those flavours develop in your mouth and finish off on the sweet side. In short, it takes your palate through a small journey, much like my foray in the backpack, although without the threat of being darted.
Black Bush is made from 80% malt whiskey and 20% grain whiskey, which makes it a bargain (regular $38.99). It spends years in sherry casks, which confers a sweetness on it that my dad and I noticed right out of the gate. My mum didn’t find it sweet, but that’s because she’s been hanging out in the Canadian rye section for so long. Still, she felt connected to this whiskey because it hails from her mum’s birthplace, County Antrim in Northern Ireland (although Bushmill’s is owned by the folks who make Cuervo).
Given how little travel is going on these days, Black Bush is the closest we’re going to get to Northern Ireland anytime soon, so we might as well drink copious amounts of it.
And you, too, my fellow inebriates. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced whiskey you can sip or mix into a mean cocktail, this is it. Get your mother to put you in a backpack and take you to your local booze shop ASAP!
I promised to tell you about my dad’s tangle with COVID, and here it is.
It was not as fun as I thought it would be. Turns out I had a lot of misconceptions about COVID.
It wasn’t a holiday.
I figured if my parents got COVID, it would be an instant two-week holiday. Our liquor cabinet is stocked. Even by my standards it can cover two weeks of all-out hedonism. But I didn’t account for how shitty COVID makes you feel. My fellow inebriates, my dad went dry while he was sick. He didn’t have so much as a beer.
So why did my dad bother getting COVID if it his quarantine wasn’t going to be a big party?
Turns out my dad didn’t mean to get COVID. In fact, he thought he was being super-careful. He wore a mask everywhere, including at work, except while sitting down at his desk. If he got up to grab a coffee or use the photocopier, he’d mask up again. He was in a large space with high ceilings and no one worked close by. When my mum asked, “Shouldn’t you wear a mask all day?” he’d pull out a piece of paper and draw her a little diagram of where everybody sat and how safe it all was.
To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to this. Bears are teeming with microbes and viruses that could probably shit-kick the coronavirus to kingdom come. I wasn’t worried about my dad because he was so sure things were safe at work. But he had forgotten to mention colleagues who were in the habit of making mask-less visits to his desk.
Who was patient zero?
Before I knew about those people, I would have put money on Miss V. After months of online learning, she had returned to in-person school and was trying to sort out whether she hated it as much or more than virtual instruction. COVID-19 notices had started coming home on a weekly basis, but we hadn’t yet been warned of an in-class exposure. But it seemed inevitable.
But V actually liked keeping her mask on 100% of the day. As soon as the recess bell rang, she would beat it outside and read a book in whatever human-free zone she could find. (She got called out on this once—one of the higher-ranking admin types actually accosted her and told her to stop reading and play dodgeball instead. More on this in another post.)
Anyway, my bet was on school as the scene of transmission, not my dad’s work. So it was a big surprise when nearly everyone there got ill.
Helping the sick
My first impulse was to offer Dad a glass of Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition. His throat was in pain and I reckoned it would help. Stout Edition is finished in Irish craft beer barrels, which adds to Jameson’s already lovely oaky, orchard-fruit complexity and long caramel finish. I was willing to drink from the same glass with him—it would be medicinal for both of us, Dad with his spike proteins and me with my raging bear germs. But he declined.
His sore throat was accompanied by a slamming headache and drenching fever that persisted for more than 14 days. When he finally called the doctor, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and prescribed antibiotics. We didn’t think he was going to die, but he sure looked like hell. He didn’t just abstain from booze; he stopped eating and lost almost 20 pounds.
Meanwhile, the other humans at LBHQ got themselves tested, several times. On the second try, J (formerly Miss P) scored a positive. Fortunately for her teenage self, COVID didn’t alter J’s life or behaviour in any respect. Clearly J had got COVID from hanging out with Dad.
Mum and V began to make a habit of doing drive-through COVID tests, each time negative. Because they didn’t have COVID, the entire family’s isolation period was extended to encompass not just the time Dad and J were sick, but also the window of infectious potential for Mum and V.
We were grateful for the kindness of family and neighbours. Mum’s sister and brother-in-law drove out from Vancouver and braved Langley Superstore to do a big shop. My friend Scarybear was impressed with this, as he had been wondering how we would get more Miss Vickie’s chips. But I was even more impressed by our friends, who dropped off a bag of groceries and a cooler full of random beers. That’s how quarantine should be!
Final thoughts on COVID
COVID seems to come in as many flavours as there are people. You don’t know which one you’re going to get. My dad had a shit time with it, but ultimately he was lucky.
Public health people continue to insist there is no transmission in schools, but V’s school has been sending home exposure alerts almost every single day.
Bonnie Henry, please be more emphatic in telling people not to socialize. Don’t ask them to use their own judgment. That’s like asking someone how much income tax they want to pay. Make them isolate so this so-called circuit break actually stands a chance of working.
People, wear a mask. Masks are far more comfortable in April than they are in July. If we get our vaccines and keep to ourselves just a little bit longer, maybe we won’t have to wear them in July.
Get a test as soon as you feel symptoms. COVID starts with the tiniest little throat tickle. It’s so minor that many of my dad’s workmates didn’t bother going for a test—despite discussing the tickle. Then one person went for a test and set off a cascade as they realized the whole office was infected.
Finally, don’t drink hand sanitizer. (Sorry, that one was for me—sometimes I need a reminder.)
This week I have a find from our local booze shop’s “Consultant’s Choice” display. (Actually there are TWO such displays. I’m praising the <$20 collection—I’ve never had any from the pricey Consultant’s Choice shelf.) For just $13.99, this fruit-forward, full-bodied Italian wine will make your fur stand on end.
But before I start mouthing off about wine again, a backgrounder on Puglia. I had no idea it existed, my fellow inebriates, until it appeared on the CC shelf. Puglia wine comes from Italy, where almost anything can grow. According to the Internet, if it contains notes of plum, raspberry and anise, the grapes were probably harvested off the back of the heel of the Italian boot. The bottle we tried, LUCCARELLI NEGROAMARO (2016) is a stunning example of Puglia, and one that we intend to buy repeatedly.
This wine has that quality that makes you go “ahhhh.” It makes you want to lick the bottom of the glass (which I’m not allowed to do even though I’m very absorbent).