Burned Wines 7: AHB 1.1 and Khayyam

In  February of 2017, my House Blend brandy got off the ground as a simple 400ml mixture of Forty Creek’s Small Cask VSOP and Cortel XO.  Following the expected sipping and sampling that followed, I was soon left with only 100 ml of my first mongrel-like blend.

It is time to evolve.

The recipe for the second generation of AHB (1.1) is as follows:

  • 100 ml of AHB 1.0
  • 200 ml Forty Creek Small Cask VSOP
  • 100 ml Borysfen 5 Year Old
  • 100 ml Cortel XO

Certainly, I continue to lean heavily on the local Ontario product.  I’m going to ascribe that to a combination of regional loyalty and financial prudence.  At this point I want my blend to maintain a tie to my home geography.  I’m also practical enough to recognize that my daily driver (metaphorically, of course as I don’t drink daily and I never drink and drive) should be modestly priced….and if I do choose to buy a more costly brandy, it is certain to last a bit longer if I sample it only occasionally or mix small samples into my house blend.  A way to build a modest brandy collection.

In February, I noted that brandy has 486 volatile compounds which make up the aromas and flavours we experience.  I should have noted that this tidbit came to me from a video on the subject (examples include The Art of BlendingStory of Cognac) unfortunately, I no longer recall which one.  I also learned in the (still to be recalled) video that bourbon has 127 volatile compounds while blended whisky has 184.  I’ve seen other references out there with similar numbers.  This, along with the industry practices that I am imitating, leads me to certainty that blending can be a long and interesting exploration.

As, of course is poetry.  Today I want to recommend the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.  Khayyam, a Persian poet, astronomer and mathematician of some nine hundred years past – OK, let’s just say one thousand –   has been occupying my thoughts for the past week or more. It is interesting to consider that an English poet not only brought Khayyam’s poetry to English readers of literature, but may have had some significant influence on renewed interest in his home culture(s).

It rather pleases me that there is currently room for interpretation about whether Khayyam was a Sufi mystic or an agnostic.  It pleases me a great deal.

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
 A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou,
Beside me singing in the Wilderness,
 And oh, Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
 Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about: but evermore
 Came out of the same Door as in I went.

With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
 And with my own hand labour’d it to grow:
And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d—
 “I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”

I first came across Khayyam shortly after leaving my first bought of university studies in the mid-1990s.  I’d purchased a slim sampler and found myself often disoriented and disengaged from the poetry.  Much as I’d earlier found brandy to be not quite my thing. Also like brandy, I’ve come to appreciate Khayyam more as I’ve aged.

Oh, threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing at least is certain–This Life flies;
One thing is certain and the rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.

Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who
Before us pass’d the door of Darkness through,
Not one returns to tell us of the Road,
Which to discover we must travel too.

The Revelations of Devout and Learn’d
Who rose before us, and as Prophets burn’d,
Are all but Stories, which, awoke from Sleep,
They told their comrades, and to Sleep return’d.

I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell:
And by and by my Soul return’d to me,
And answer’d “I Myself am Heav’n and Hell:”

Heav’n but the Vision of fulfill’d Desire,
And Hell the Shadow from a Soul on fire,
Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,
So late emerged from, shall so soon expire.

As decades have passed, covering old territory has taken on new meanings and new growth for me.  Old vines must be pruned and allowed to reshape themselves.

AHB 1.1 was, and is, a lovely little blend. The Borysfen has been able to make a wonderful impact on the flavour profile while the Small Cask VSOP has anchored the blend.  My primary sampling has continued to be cut with water and with a few cubes of ice.





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