Bottled Up

From a Fellow Traveler

For a spirit to be defined as bourbon, it must meet five very specific criteria:

  1. it must be made in the United States;
  2. aging has to take place in new, charred, oak barrels;
  3. the mash bill must contain 51 percent corn;
  4. the whiskey cannot enter the barrel at higher than 125 proof; and
  5. nothing else may be added but water to lessen the proof.

Over at least the last twenty years, bourbon has been undergoing a renaissance. Fans and collectors the world over search, hunt, and trade for the most limited editions and rare bottlings.

Then, in many cases, the bottles sit on a shelf.

I speak from a bit of experience here—not that I have anything all that rare, but it’s rare to me—and a few of my most prized bottles have been sitting there collecting dust for years.

I’m sure I am not the only one who does this. And I am sure we all have our reasons, good and bad.

We tell ourselves we are saving the best for a special occasion; and then no occasion ever seems special enough to pull that rare bottle down off the shelf. Selfishly, and with pride, we let the collection sit, because it was more about the hunt than it ever was about the liquid in the bottle. Collecting can become nothing more than a way to show your status. Amongst other bourbon fans, it’s just good ol’ bragging rights.

I find this collection mentality has crept into so many aspects of my life; this idea that I can save and store material, emotional, and spiritual gifts and then let them out into the world at that just oh-so-right moment. The problem is, I am a horrible judge of when that moment is upon me. Even when things are going well, I don’t look at it as a time to celebrate, but more as a high before the fall. So I end up keeping the best I’ve got safe and bottled up.

As the first months of 2023 roll by, my family has found itself in the midst of uncertainty and worry. The only thing sustaining us has been the outpouring of support by those who love us—and this is the key—they opened their best bottle. They didn’t wait for the perfect moment in their life to share the best of who they are, they simply showed up to be there in a bad moment of ours.

Our best treasures and blessings aren’t meant for our highs, alone; they are meant for the lows of those around us. This is a lesson I often forget, ignore, and deny.

In this case, the good pour of rare bourbon shared with us looked like shoulders to cry on, ears to listen to our fears, food and water, and rest from a stressful situation. The biggest cop-out many of us have used one time or another is, “Let us know what we can do.” We didn’t have to let anyone know; they just did. This is the lesson I need to burn into my memory. 

Those rare-to-me bourbon bottles are still sitting on my shelf at the moment, gathering dust. But I am not going to leave them there anymore. I am just grateful that God placed the right people around us, people who already knew the best of you is meant to be shared. They opened up and poured into our lives.

I’m asking God to guide me to do the same for others. The best pours are meant to be shared.

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