Wall Street Journal: How to get over an aversion to whiskey

Thirty-five years after an unfortunate experience with spirits, novelist Matthew Klam confronts a bottle of Nelson’s First 108 Tennessee Whiskey and his anxieties

I’M PROBABLY NOT the only one, but since November I’ve been drinking more. To look forward to a drink at the end of another bizarre day is not a crime. So it seemed well timed when an editor at The Wall Street Journal sent me a bottle. Then I saw it was whiskey. For a long time I’ve thought whiskey tastes like old socks soaked in gasoline. I had an experience with Yukon Jack at a Ramones concert in 1982 and have kept whiskey at arm’s length ever since.

This bottle of Nelson’s First 108 Tennessee Whiskey from Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery arrived along with an official history: Charles Nelson, age 15, set sail from Germany, together with his parents and siblings, for a new life in America. His father, John, had liquidated the family’s candle- and soap-making business, converted his assets into gold and had the gold sewn into his clothing for easy transport. On the crossing, John fell overboard and drowned. The family arrived without a penny but somehow recovered. Young Charles later moved to Tennessee and became one of the largest manufacturers of whiskey in America. But the business went belly-up in 1909, following the passage of legislation prohibiting the manufacture of alcohol in Tennessee. A century later, Charles’s great-great-great-grandsons, Andy and Charlie Nelson, revived the brand.

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