On Monday, I got some horrible news that my beloved uncle Tom had passed away. He was a huge inspiration on my life and spending summers at his house in North Carolina really shaped me. As a young man, he taught me some pretty important life skills: golf, poker, how to read a sports line. But he also taught me a lot about integrity, living up to your word, a love of your country and how important it is to be involved in local politics. He also tried to get me to like Duke Basketball & Rush Limbaugh so not all of his lessons necessarily stuck...
Toward the end of his life, Tom decided that he had enough Jack Daniels and was ready to start learning about some real bourbon. In fact, he was a honorary member of the Dallas Bourbon Club and read every Friday bulletin since they started. He encouraged me to writing these and was so excited about everything this organization was doing. If there was ever an extra DBC pick, I packed one up and shipped it North Carolina for him. He was so blown away by the Old Forester bottle, he ordered a second one. It was such a joy for me to share this hobby with him and to connect with him on bourbon whiskey. He was a huge fan and always so excited to show off something a colleague bought him or what he won in poker game.
It's easy to say that it's just a hobby, or that it's only whiskey. But for the real enthusiasts, bourbon has a really unique way to connect people. It's a common interest yes, but it can be the catalyst for connection, re-connection, stories and countless hours of conversation. American whiskey has always been a part of my family, but to discover connoisseurship with Tom was truly a huge joy of mine. I always happy to talk him off a Willet Pot Still ledge or help him organize his birthday bourbon tasting because it made an opportunity to catch up with him, chat about the Cowboys (he was a Saints fan and hated the Cowboys), talk about my son growing up, and so much more. I'll look back on those calls and FaceTimes and smile for the rest of my life.
Some of the best advice I ever got, I got when I was in college. My friends dad told me: "The best thing you can ever do is spend five minutes and call your grandma on Sunday." Those words have really had an impact on me. Calls to my grandma turned into calls with Tom and those calls turned into some great whiskey down the road. Of course our relationship wasn't all about bourbon, but it was one facet to our relationship that was really meaningful and always a topic of conversation.
In closing, this is a pretty special hobby that's so much more than collecting rare stuff or drinking limited releases. It's a hobby that connects people from all walks of life. It brings people together and creates fond memories that will last a lifetime. It's not supposed to be decisive. It's meant to be the opposite: to celebrate and to unify.
Whiskey didn't make the bond between Tom and I, but it sure made it more fun. Always call those aunts & uncles, those cousins you grew up with, or your best friends on the other side of the country. You never know when they could be gone. And when the special people in your life are around; open the great whiskey. Never miss that opportunity to connect with them and make a special memory.