Nana lived 96 years, but she never got old. It may sound strange or even preposterous to say that about anyone approaching 100 years of age, but, for dear Nana, it was true. She was 96 years young, still going strong, still living a life that would leave others shaking their heads in admiration and delight. Her life was full of grace and kindness, smiles and dancing. Oh, and bourbon.
I should rephrase that… her life was not full of bourbon, but seeing Nana with a glass of bourbon or Tennessee whiskey in the evening, among friends or family, was a common sight. I am fully of the belief that a whiskey a day can keep the doctor away, and Nana’s life seems strong support for that notion – she was healthier than most people half her age, or even a quarter of her age, for that matter. Amazing. But she wasn’t always a bourbon drinker. She started on Scotch.
Nana married Bert E. Barnett back in 1938. They seemed a perfect pair, but there was one jarring jolt in the harmony of their relationship. Bert drank bourbon; Nana drank Scotch. It may not seem such a problem today, a husband and wife preferring different breeds of whiskey. But back then in Memphis, restaurants required diners to bring their own bottles. Suffice it to say, carting in a bottle of bourbon AND a bottle of Scotch simply wouldn’t do. A compromise would have to be brokered.
Nana never shared exactly what it took for her to stow aside the Scotch and join her husband Bert on the bourbon side of things. I imagine it was really another example of her Southern graciousness, putting aside her own personal preference to bring a bit of joy and harmony to the world around her. But Nana did discover her own joy in her decision – she become a bourbon convert. The brand or the age of the bourbon didn’t much matter, just the bourbon-ness of it. I could go on about how Nana was like a glass of bourbon – a bit strong, a bit sweet – but I think I’ll just stop and offer a toast. To dear Nana.
Here’s a clip from a short documentary made about the life of Nana, on Scotch and the “worst thing you can do” to a glass of bourbon:
One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Dear