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There's a liquer I rather like, Grand Marnier, not exactly rare or OMG-expensive, but a bit more expensive than the alcohol I usually buy (not that I buy even the cheaper stuff very often, so "usually" may not have much meaning WRT my alcohol purchasing patterns), that I was exposed to by a friend at university and then had a few times after meals in restaurants way back when I had a real income and LUMSFS was meeting in the sort of restaurant that had a bar attached, that it seemed very much appropriate to buy a small bottle of to have on hand to toast a decision made long-distance when I next saw the other person involved face-to-face. Alas, before that day could arrive, at least one mind had changed, and that celebration never happened. But it made sense to me, at the time, to hold on to that bottle as a momento-of-an-almost, and to save it for some similarly momentous (but possibly different sort of) special occasion.
Then I moved, and the unopened bottle moved with me. Then I
moved twice more, got it mixed up with a different-size bottle
owned by then-housemates, probably got that sorted out (I'm not
100% certain I came out of that with the actual same bottle,
but it was an unopened bottle of the same substance), and moved yet
again. So that's
four moves, assuming I haven't forgotte...
five moves (whoops, remembered another one two-before the confusing
one ... I bought it when I was living in Greenbelt, in the first
apartment after moving out of my parent's house -- in fact, it still
has a price tag attached, from Greenway Liquors, so it probably is
my original bottle despite the confusion of that one move). In all
of that time, my "special bottle" remained unopened, and for the
great majority of that time I haven't even had Grand Marnier in
restaurants nor anywhere else. Though I began to despair of ever
having quite the Right Occasion, I held on to it. A course of action
made a bit easier by my "out of sight, out of mind" relationship with
alcohol so much of the time -- it was tucked away in a dark corner of
the pantry, easy to overlook.
I went into the pantry for something last night and saw the bottle for the umpteenth (or more like umptieth!) time and this time I noticed that it didn't appear to be quite full. So I picked it up and noticed that the top was loose. A closer inspection revealed that the cap was loose though the tear-off strip was unbroken, and the cork beneath the cap was was no longer attached in any meaningful way to itself (the cork). The cork had dried and crumbled, leaving the precious (well okay, not so precious as some varieties of Remy or a few of the single-malts I can't afford, but special to me) amber fluid subject to the dreaded phenomenon, evaporation.
It was then that I finally slipped out of the curious sort of autopilot my brain had been on regarding this bottle and the preservation of it for The Right Sort Of Special Occasion (and in hindsight there were Other Sorts of special occasion for which it really would have been suitable were it not for a certain degree of tunnel-vision on my part) and really thought about just how long in calendar years I've been carrying this bottle around.
Now I'm no alcohol-gourmand, but I do know on an intellectual level that there's a limit to how long some of these things -- well, most really, right? -- ought to be stored, even in reduced-light environments. But until I noticed that the elements had started consuming my special bottle before I'd gotten to it, I hadn't been thinking of this bottle in wall-clock terms ... it was just this ... er ... magical prize ...
So it will surprise relatively few people, and no knowledgable ones, to hear that this formerly-delightful concoction has passed its prime, alas. Still, 'twas an interesting first-hand experiment to brush aside some of the crumbling cork until a visible hole had been made, then strain out some of the larger bits of cork as I poured, and finally taste my Special Liquid Talisman once natural phenomena had conspired to de-magick it for me (I'm considering buying another wee bottle of it to have on hand Just In Case, just because I kind of like the idea of owning a Magical Special-Occasion Bottle, but if I do I'll try very hard to keep the definition of "the right special occasion" broad enough to ensure that it's consumed before it goes off).
The bite is much, much, much sharper -- bordering on "harsh" -- and the flavour drastically more simple and less interesting than I remember, though I confess it has been quite some time since I've tasted Grand Marnier at all. It has definitely "gone off" due to evaporation. But some faint whisper of what made it seem special is still in there even if the overall effect has been to turn it into a more generic-seeming heavy-amber booze. Whereas the not-spoilt version is one of those "let a wee sip sit in the middle of your curled tongue and breathe the fumes to pull out all the different notes" type of drink (not so far in that direction as the "Glenn isn't permitted to know how much it costs" Remy cognac that a friend shared several years ago, but definitely in that general category, the "even though physically and physiologically I could, in theory drink this quickly, that feels like an impossibility because I can't imagine not savoring it over an extended period" class of ... I don't even want to say "beverage" ... drinking experience category)
wait, wait, where was I?
Whereas the non-spoilt form is one of those "breathe it off your tongue and savor" drinks, the decade-or-two-post-retail, partially-evaporated version just kinda burns if I do that.
But then I got the idea that if -- a big 'if' but a conceivable
'if' -- if proportionately more water and alcohol had evaporated than
So ... memories of a long-neglected pleasure, even if in an oddly adulterated form; a reminder of something I enjoy that I've not had in far too long ... and an illustration of why not to hold on to a "special bottle" for too long. And, of course, simply because of the history of This Particular Bottle, memories of someone I'd managed not to think about too much lately, memories of a major "almost", and those memories given the warm glow of this liquer instead of being sharp-edged and tinged with regret.
Worse outcomes were possible, n'est-ce pas?
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