Bourbon Beyond Borders

I reported to my current posting here at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador, in mid-October of 2017…just in time for the annual Marine Ball.

U.S. Embassy Wall Header

Editors Note: Today’s post is from Slade Searight, one of the semi-finalists who are applying to become a regular contributor to Bourbon & Banter. We hope you’ll read all of their posts and let us know what you think of each applicant by commenting below the post, sharing online or dropping us a note via email. .

Marine Ball Cake Photo

I reported to my current posting here at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador, in mid-October of 2017…just in time for the annual Marine Ball.  Each U.S. Embassy abroad is protected by United States Marines, and each year around the Marine Corps birthday (On November 10, 1775, the Marine Corps was established) there is a formal ball and cake-cutting ceremony to celebrate that birthday and honor the Marine Corps.  It is an occasion for us, as U.S. diplomats, to invite host-nation counterparts in order to build relationships/partnerships.  In most cases, more than a few adult-flavored beverages are consumed…and the people-watching is fantastic!

As I typically do in such scenarios, I attended November’s Marine Ball with a flask in my tuxedo jacket that couldn’t hold one additional drop of Eagle Rare bourbon.  I knew the Ball would have an open bar, but suspected that it would be light on bourbon.  You see, bourbon is RARE outside of the United States.  Most people abroad have no idea what bourbon is, let alone what makes it different from other whiskeys/spirits.  It turned out, in this case, that my suspicion was correct…the only American whiskey behind the bar was Jack Daniels Old No. 7.  Once my wife and I found our table, and greeted all of the Ecuadorian counterparts sitting with us, I took out the flask of Kentucky nectar and told the table of its contents.  They were all incredibly interested, and I responded to their interest with an impromptu 101 on bourbon…mash bills, new oak container aging, etc…as best I could in Spanish.  Following that, the flask made its way around the table, and was empty by the time it got back to me.  I didn’t get a sip, but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.  Every Ecuadorian who took a sip said that they loved how the bourbon was dryer than rum but sweeter than Scotch.  A huge win, and well worth my having to drink Jack Daniels Old No. 7 the rest of the night!

Marine Flask Photo

I wanted to share this story because we Americans (I certainly include myself in that collective “we”) have gotten to the point of taking our immense liquor (especially bourbon) selection for granted.  Almost daily, I check my Twitter feed and read posts from people who just aren’t happy unless they get their hands on a rare/limited/expensive bottle of something.  Few are the posts from people who are thoroughly enjoying something good that also happens to be relatively available/inexpensive.  Almost non-existent are the posts from people who recognize just how good we have it, liquor-wise, in the USA.  I’ll never forget the time when I was living in Guadalajara, Mexico, and a Mexican friend of mine made a reference to U.S. grocery stores being like “GringoLandia”.  When I asked him to explain further, he told me that there is so much selection in the U.S. it is like Disneyland…in other words, a fantasy or something unreal.

Let me encourage you to remember my new Ecuadorian friends, and the billions of people who live outside of the U.S., next time you head to the liquor store and can’t find that bottle of 21-year old rum or that bourbon that says “Van Winkle” on the label.  I also encourage you to remember when you first started to appreciate spirits and the art behind their production, and grab a bottle of something that might have started you down that path.  Bourbon & Banter’s hashtags, #DrinkCurious and #Respect TheBottomShelf, both support these ideals.  Finally, I encourage you to NEVER go to social events without a flask full of something you love.  You never know when or how a liquor-sharing experience will present itself!