Life is endlessly strange. I suspected I would make good friends when I came here to Peru but the friendship I found with Stephen and Rupert over the last two and a half months has been something so left field and unexpected I think it will take a long time to fully comprehend it. This was all the more compacted at the start of last week when they both had to leave, one after the other, and return home, respectively to Ireland and England. I think it is easy to forget sometimes how vital our friends are. I found it all too easy in recent years to forget how deep a real friendship can go and how powerful an effect the presence of real friendship can have upon your life. Time here has been one long reminder of how wonderful great friendship can be. It was not grand friendship compounded by big memories and intense shared experience. It was friendship forged by the continual amalgamation of days spent working together and all the laughter, frustration and ideas that made up the foundations of those days. It was a durable friendship, one not easily dulled by the rub of close habitation and familiarity. A friendship that was born of happenstance, shared humour and common belief.
I accompanied Rupert out to the bus terminal last monday lunchtime. It was his last day and we left, appropriately enough, in a tuck tuck, loaded to the gills with his rucksacks over our knees. Riding down the Pan American highway in a familiar oven of heat and dust, it was not the sort of environment that would normally make you want to reach for a dram, nevertheless that’s exactly what we did. Rupert still had a miniature of Old Pulteney 12yo that his girlfriend had sent him as part of a care package from home over a month ago, we shared it as a silent digestive for the two ice lollies we had just bought for the road.
I don’t drink a lot of whisky here, so by default the quality of any dram I have is magnified out of all proportion by the distortion of starvation. I have probably said this a lot since I travelled here to Peru, in fact anytime I taste anything even remotely resembling decent whisky I have to restrain myself from writing an instantaneous blog post about how I have just discovered the greatest dram of all time. The best example was when Stephen and I were cooking breakfast for St Patrick’s day last week, for the Irish Coffee we had decided to serve we procured a bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label. I can officially say that standing in a muggy kitchen at 7am in the morning necking Red Label from the bottle and giggling like besotted schoolgirls is up there along with sipping 1950′s Highland Park as a divine whisky experience. In that foxhole of a kitchen Red Label was the greatest dram on earth and I was on cloud nine.
I always liked Old Pulteney, all of the range appeal to me. I love the coastal edge it always has, it has never disappointed me as a whisky, seemingly always fresh, zippy and flavoursome. But I was still surprised when I drank it in the back of that mototaxi though. I’ll admit that glugging whisky from a miniature bottle in the heat of a desert afternoon while simultaneously having your spine grated down by the suspension free ride is not the most honest olfactory environment in which to judge a whisky. However I was still taken aback by how intense the flavour of that simple whisky was to me. It reminded me of when I would be fortunate enough to have a sip of my Dad’s whisky when I was growing up. The privileged sensation of staying up late with the grownups while on a trip to Scotland and having a quiet taste of a 10yo Talisker. Those are some of the most powerful whisky memories to me, and as I sat in silence with Rupert in this horrible motorised metal bubble and passed the mini back and forth, I realised that the taste of this memory would stay with me forever as well. It is a potent experience that can make you feel like you are drinking whisky for the first time. To me that whisky was nothing but pure beauty and it seemed like the perfect liquid score to two grown men waiting silently to say goodbye to each other for a long time and trying not to cry. It also hit home just how much whisky relies on circumstance and company, a moment with a truly great friend can transform even the most mundane spirit into something special. Without vital people to share a whisky with it really is a drink without a soul, a pleasant collection of composed and naturally aided compounds and vapours, one that only comes alive when it can be bounced around the pitch of shared experience.
I will miss Rupert and Stephen, while I’m sad they’re gone from PSF I am keenly aware of the fact that you can never be so sad that it makes the experience not worthwhile. I’ll see them again when I return to the UK later this year but to say goodbye and watch them leave this place and this experience, something we’ll probably never have again, is undeniably hard. In the meantime I still have work to do here in Pisco, not to mention further traveling. I’ll just have to remember to bring a bottle of Old Pultney next time I see them.