Distilling the Divine

Distilling bourbon

Being a born and bred Kentucky girl, I know a little something about bourbon. I’ve visited a few distilleries in my time and learned about the process of producing as well as the proper tasting of this caramel-colored nectar of the Bluegrass. When something is distilled, it’s boiled down to its essence. All of the impurities and imperfections of the mash are slowly heated to a slow roll as the character, structure, and nature of the whiskey begins to take shape.

Put into new charred oak barrels, the aging process begins as the liquid becomes infused with the smokey taste of the singed wood. Depending on the type of bourbon, the wait could be as little as a few months or as long as several years. Bottled-in-bond must be aged at least four years, straight bourbon aged at least two years, for others there is no time limit on how long, or how little, time it must be aged. Like life, it’s in the aging process that the fullness and depth of the bourbon builds. Just as with someone who has experienced all that life has to offer, there is a complexity, intricacy, and depth to a mature bourbon.

I love bourbon. I especially love drinking bourbon with friends and family discussing ideas and beliefs. We all seem much more philosophical and tend to think ourselves more enlightened with a glass of bourbon in hand. The past few months, my wife and I have been meeting up with my cousin and her husband each Monday evening for dinner and drinks. The dinner course may change, but the drink remains the same – at least for Jeff and me – bourbon. Over the course of a few hours, we debate theology, politics, and dive deep into the struggles of our daily lives.

How to support children transitioning to adulthood, what to do about kids with learning challenges, which cancer treatment should be chosen, and what to do when you and your spouse are struggling to connect are all distilled down as the character and nature of ourselves and God are discussed and examined.

Whether it’s alcohol, ideas, or beliefs, I’ve learned the distilled part is decisive. Over the course of time, these gatherings over dinner and drinks have served to refine our faith and boil down to the crux of daily matters. No longer do we get hung up on our imperfections. We don’t marinate on what might be seen as impurities, character flaws, or what others may refer to as “sin.” Instead, we see one another at our very essence, beloved children of God, made in the image of God, trying to do the work of God, as best we know how. And we get to have some tasty bourbon in the process.

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