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Most hardcore whisky lovers have a special bottle or two, that will be opened during those life defining moments. If your spouse is really cool with you, you might even own four or five of these types of bottles. Quite often they're either old, rare, valuable or all three. At times most of us whisky lovers purchase these bottles looking for the perfect moment to open them, and then as they gain more and more in value, that perfect moment becomes harder and harder to find.
I myself have such a collection, a largish collection of these bottles that I term more out of geekiness then any other reason, my Zombie Apocalypse collection, referring to the almost unspoken fact that these bottles will only be opened during the end of the world I will open them all as the undead are banging on the doors and when they break down that door I will be so pickled that I will not care one whit as they eat me.
I laughed when I used to talk about this collection, when people asked me about my bottles, especially as they stared at me in a little bit of shock and disbelief when I said "zombie apocalypse", but somehow sitting here in the dark, with only the flickering candle light to guide my hand as I write these words it somehow seems oh so much less funny and more scary.
Let me tell you the story on how MY zombie apocalypse collection finally became opened.
It was a cold winter day here in Perth Western Australia. I say cold referring to the Australian definition, meaning that if you're from any of the actual cold climates, North America, most of Europe, etc that it's beach weather, with a clear sky overhead, a bright sunny sky and just the slightest hint of chill that my poor climatized hide now could pick up, but just six months ago would have been unnoticeable.
But even under my jumper I was way too hot, it's one of those godawful Australian types of weather where if you're wearing a jumper you're sweating your arse off and if you're not wearing a jumper you're freezing your arse off, but hell what's a poor American supposed to do? I'm damned if I do, and I'm damned if I don't.
It's a Monday which means it's my day off and I'm driving over to Cellarbrations at Carlisle to start my round of bottleshop visits for the day, to talk new whiskies, Dram Full and all things craft beer with the head manager, Joel.
This is something that I tend to do every couple of Mondays, visiting the local good bottleshops such as Tuart Hill Liquor, Cellarbrations at Carlisle, The ReStore, Mane Liquor, Cellarbrations Superstore, you get the idea.
What I do is I take a box of whisky goodies, some supplied by importers and some provided by myself and I allow the managers to sample the goods, in the goal of encouraging more whisky variety in the various bottleshops and helping to just educate the guys in the whisky community here in Perth. It's a task which I'm not paid for, but one which I love as I get to see these experienced veterans try whiskies that they never heard of and marvel on how tasty they all are.
So I'm driving to Cellarbrations at Carlisle as my first stop of the day, windows rolled down, slightly speeding with the music cranked to the highest it'll go as is my usual when there's a news interruption.
"We interrupt your normally scheduled radio program to bring you this important news bulletin...."
"BOOOOOORING" I utter as I flick it onto the cd player.
As I pull into Cellarbrations at Carlisle parking lot, I see a body on the ground. My car screeches to a halt as I slam on the brakes and jump out of the car, running over to the body on the ground, to see what sort of aid that I could render. I've taken first aid courses before, I'm rusty, fuck it I'm god awful, always starting to nod off as soon as the speakers start talking, but maybe I can do something to help this person.
As soon as I roll them over, I feel my gorge rise, and I fight the urge to vomit all over the corpse. This poor burly bastard has had his throat ripped out, looking like he's almost been partially eaten by some sort of animal. The flesh around his throat is ragged and there's a look in his glazed over eyes that can only be described as terror.
I'd like to say that I calmly grabbed my mobile phone from my car and called for Emergency Services, or that I with great poise walked into Joel's bottleshop to request aid from him, I'd like to say that I did those things, but that would be a lie.
Instead I screamed like a little kid, voice cracking, almost a full fledged shriek, dropped my phone and ran into Joel's shop, pausing just a second for the sliding doors to open, screaming the entire time for Joel to come out and help me.
"Oh my god, oh my god, oh my fucking god, Joel were are you?! Joel there's a dead guy out in the parking lot, it looks like he's been eaten by some sort of wild animal!"
I then skid to a stop as I hear an unearthly moan that I chills my blood and raises the hair on the back of my neck. It's an indescribable noise, but it makes my testicles try to creep up into my belly.
I head past the walk in fridges and I see something that causes me to lose my breath.
Kneeling on the ground is Joel, bent over a body on the ground, fingers dug into an open bloody belly wound, pulling out strings of intestines. He's pulling them out in handfuls chewing on them, spilling bits and pieces back onto the body. I feel my gorge start to rise as I stare at the scene in horror.
"Oh my fucking...." I trail off.
"Uuuhhhhhhh" and Joel looks up, blood dripping from his mouth, teeth stained red, with a string of intestine in his mouth. His right arm has what looks like a huge chunk taken out of it, with blood still oozing out of the wound.
To say I scream doesn't begin to cover the noises that came out of my mouth. I grab a wine bottle and smash it across his face as he stumbles to his feet, shattering it on his skull, knocking teeth out of his jaw.
He falls back for a second, before renewing his attack, as I move backwards, grabbing bottle of wine and slamming it at his face, upper body and neck again and again, trying to fight him off. Where the hell is my friend?! He grabs my jumper by the hood and pulls as I start choking, I pull back hard, ripping half of my hoodie off, leaving part of it in his confused hands. I swing again with another wine bottle, smashing it against his face and holding the shards in my hands.
"Joel, what the hell man?! Come on buddy, you know me, it's your buddy SquidgyAsh!"
He then lunges at me, teeth bared, jaw open, a wild glint in his eyes, blood streaking his dark blond hair, and I stab the broken wine bottle in my hands at his face, closing my eyes in fear, and then the moans stop. After a couple of seconds I open my eyes to see Joel's eyes glazing over, with the broken part of the wine bottle coming out of the top of Joel's head, the entry wound starting at Joel's mouth.
I puke, I puke my lunch up, then my breakfast and then I start dry heaving, bile coming out of my mouth. My guts are aching in agony as everything I've ever eaten comes up, all over the floor. I lay on my side in agony, tears pouring out of my eyes as I reflect on having killed a good friend of mine and one of my best beer buddies.
"What the fuck is going on here?!" I scream in fear and frustration, rage pouring out of me.
I then hear the radio in the background, and I've never regretted changing the radio station in my life...it's the same station that I'd been listening to in the car on the way over before turning it over to the cd.
"This is a breaking news announcement. Stay indoors, and do not leave your house or place of business unless absolutely necessary. There seems to be an infection of some sort of outbreak of rabies that is causing the afflicted to bite and attack others. This disease appears to be very contagious and seems to nullify the victim's pain receptors. Again this is a breaking news announcement, stay indoors unless absolutely necessary."
Oh my god, is that what Joel had?! Is this what happened to everyone that I've seen in the last ten minutes, how the fuck can it be just ten minutes since I saw the corpse in the parking lot?! Tears are running down my face, vomit and bile covering the front of my shirt, as I slowly pull myself to my feet. I'm going to head out to the car and grab my mobile, call the police and ambulance. Hopefully they can help me put this horrible day right.
As I stumble towards the sliding glass doors I see the corpse that I came across when I first pulled up, except it's no longer a fucking corpse, it's walking towards the door. Oh my god what the hell is going on here?!
I slam the lock down, preventing the door from opening until it's unlocked. Within a minute there's a pair of bloody fists beating on the door, leaving streaks of red on the glass, as I crawl back into the shop, laughing hysterically.
What's happening here?! That guy was dead and now he's at the door, I can hear him beating on it, moaning "Uuuuuhhhhhhh"
I slowly stand up and grab the shop phone to call the police, this is soooo far out of my paygrade as to not be funny in any manner shape or form.
There's a busy signal as soon as I pick the phone up, seriously can this day get any worse, the phones are fucking down!?
I'm stuck inside the shop as more and more pounding occurs on the outside doors, and I glance through the shop cameras to now see five people? zombies? infected? pounding on the doors. I quietly retreat into the back office after pulling Joel's corpse into the cool room. He was a great friend and it's the least that I can do for him. Hopefully this crazy day ends soon and I can explain to his wife and children why I killed their husband and father. I can only hope they'll forgive me, I can only hope my wife will forgive me.
I listen to the radio in the backroom as news reports come out, detailing this outbreak, speaking on how people if they can should stay home and not go out. I'm terrified for my wife, who's at work in our deli. What if something should happen to her?
I try calling her from the shop line, but again and again I get the busy signal. The phone lines are down. Outside I can hear the pounding on the door and I shudder in fear and horror.
I'm stuck in a shop full of craft beer and good whisky which I partially helped choose, surely SOMEWHERE in here I can find something to take my mind off the fear and anxiety that fills me. I don't need to get pissed, I just need to take the edge off.
I decide to lose myself in the act of wandering through a dead man's possessions and after having checked the shop I find myself in the managers office with a bottle pulled down from the top shelf which has my mouth open in surprised shock.
A bottle of 1958 Mortlach from Gordon & MacPhail.
You cheeky arse Joel. You never told me you had this bad boy. Seriously what the hell was I doing giving you Kavalan and you've got a 58 year old single malt in your office?!
I almost feel a little bad for killing you.
Joel keeps glencairn whisky glasses in the shop, mainly for when I stop by with stock for him to play with, so I grab one of them from the shelf and crack his 58 year old Mortlach. My poor friend is dead and gone, so he won't mind if I try his whisky, and if the gods are good the simple acts of identifying nose, palate, and finish will help calm me.
I pour a health dram into the glencairn, look at it, and then double it.
Fuck it, I have no idea what's going on, but I need something to calm my nerves and a 58 year old whisky should do the trick.
The nose slowly sucks me in, begging me to stay with it all day and night, which at this point in time I really do need.
Cloves, ginger, figs, dates, prunes, plums, wood varnish, cinnamon, nutmeg, beeswax, wood polish, deep oak notes, charred oak, slowly suck me in and I slowly start to breath normally. The simple act of nosing this whisky with it's complexity is helping calm me down.
I can still head banging on the doors out the front and from the looks there's ten people, corpses, zombies I dont know what, pounding on the door, and I do a little ostrich moment of la la la la I'm just going to drink this whisky and try and calm myself.
It's a whisky I could drink forever and if the events of the last half hour are any gauge it might just well be the case, the nose sucks me in and then the palate holds me captive.
Spicy, but subtle, again sucking me in, honey, orange peel, all spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa, deep oak, wood varnish, pears, black pepper, deep, like the still waters of a river waiting to sweep you under, intense, but mild as odd as it sounds, this is a whisky where a dram could hold me all night long, and it's the whisky that I do believe has saved my sanity right now.
The finish is long, and once again complex as can be with pepper, deep oak and a little tropical fruit holding my attention throughout the length of the dram.
As I finish my "medicine" I'm able to start to contemplate my next move and how I'm going to get out of my situation and back to my wife. A $2000 bottle will do that for you. I wander around Cellarbrations at Carlisle, feeling a little like the shop is haunted without Joel being alive and the room being empty as I contemplate my next move....