The Uncle Nearest’s nose blows opens with me writing on a chert blackboard using chalk alternately dipped in honey, then molasses, then slightly-waxy melted chocolate chips. It’s as desserty a whiskey as my sugar-loving olfactory receptors could hope for. It’s making an Olympic-sized derby pie in my mind that I cannonballed into and am now lazily floating in. There are also black currants; a nuanced undercurrent of them—no John, I will Not. Write. “Undercurrant.” We’re better than that!
[Stephen: Actually, Bill, we’re not better than that.]
There is so much vanilla; a full vanilla extract in a Full Metal Jacket. As a somewhat disconcerting counterpoint, we got also dancing candy canes wearing corduroy pants—I swear none of us had been drinking a cocktail of the Uncle Nearest mixed with ayahuasca. It’s an intoxicating nose, inveigling a deeper exploration. The mouth is spicy and bold. This is a whiskey that’s a Tai Chi master wearing velvet gloves; if you loutishly mouth off to it, it gently deposits you, supine, on the floor without you feeling pain or really understanding what happened. By which I mean, boldness and hedonistic pleasure fight for the victory—and the game is already in triple overtime. The vanilla continues to put in a long day’s work in a life richly rewarded with the internal satisfaction that comes with honest work at a fulfilling job. After passing the vanilla stress-test, we found wisps of cinnamon, gracefully curling up around the edges.
The finish brings bone broth* and vanilla taffy. (Perhaps you’re detecting a few subtle throughlines here?) Bombastic—or should we say, “bombtastic”—evocations of kirsch and milk chocolate, melting in your pocket on a 96º day, are locked into a struggle to win the flavor-champion’s cup with…baked Faschingskrapfen. WTF? Stephen, you need to move back to the States, pronto! After the Faschingskrapfen, there is a barrel of crème brûlée: Rich, cloying, custardy, and flavored with the Lord’s Own Mango/Clementine mix.
(Sorry for this pause in the review, but John began singing, “Cla-mango, Cla-mato: Let’s call the whole thing off!” It was distracting, as you might imagine.)
It gets richer and richer, like a gold mine that gets, uh, veinier and veinier? Is that what a miner would say? It doesn’t open, but like a mine shaft, it gets deeper and deeper, seemingly drilling to the core of the World Beneath the Planet of Delicious Desserts. Morpheus whispers to me, “Take one sip, and I’ll show you how deep this whiskey goes.”
* Try saying “brings bone broth” aloud five times fast!
On the scale of cover versions of delightful pop songs–
The Uncle Nearest 1856 is Smash Mouth’s cover of “I’m a Believer”–Why? A few reasons. First, the Monkees’ release was happy, boppy, poppy; an upbeat confection of an earworm. I’d like to say that Smash Mouth took it to a dark, orotund, profound place, but that’d be silly! Smash Mouth’s cover, appearing in Shrek took everything good in the original and intensified it, magnified it, and made it so much more than it had been. Second, I admit to being skeptical of the Uncle Nearest; I worried it a cash grab responding to moods sweeping the country. I couldn’t have been more wrong; it stands on its own. I’m a believer.
–Our thanks to Uncle Nearest for the sample!