February 29 is one of the rarest of holidays, only coming around once every 4 years. To observe this momentus occasion, your intrepid liquor reporter drinks only the rarest and most special of tipples.
Our story begins on a chilly February evening way back in the year 2000. The world was still shaking its head about the utter non-event that Y2K turned out to be, and muttering that those infernal computers might just be more trouble than they were worth.
There were the usual amount of fringe nutcases that are convinced that whatever deity they follow really dislikes big round numbers, and threatens to destroy the world every time a century year rolls around.
Luckily, those types were holed up in their survival bunkers out in the mountains, so they didn’t disturb the rest of us who were partying like it was 1999.
After the post-millenial hangover wore off, your humble narrator and three other like-minded friends spent the month of February seeking out a collection of fine wines and spirits that we would only consume on February 29.
Each of the four of us buy two bottles of wine and one bottle of Scotch, none of which may be consumed until the following leap year.
We cheated on the first year of our tradition back in 2000, by doubling up the purchases and cracking open one of each bottle on the first night, then waiting until 2004 to see how the identical bottles had improved with age.
The two wines your humble narrator selected way back in 2000 were the Sumac Ridge Black Sage Merlot and the Quail’s Gate Old Vines Foch, both from the Okanagan Valley.
Both wines are still widely available at your local booze merchant, so I enjoy them even during non-leap years. On the upcoming February 29, your intrepid liquor reporter will be cracking open three of the same red wines, laid down in 2004, 2008, and 2012.
Luckily, our original group of four co-conspirators has expanded to include a few other booze aficionados, as there is always lots of wine to go around.
Sampling multiple vintages of the same wine exposes the growing complexity of the body and mouth feel, which has tended to peak somewhere between 4-8 years. Sadly, we’ve had a few wines turn to vinegar from one leap year to the next, but there are always plenty more on hand in case we have to pour a bottle down the drain.
The whiskies are a bit different than the wines, as we don’t have to finish the entire bottle once it has been opened.
We have been tasting the same bottle of Bruichladdich since 2004, and there are differing opinions on how the whisky changes with age, if at all.
Some of the phenols and fusel oils in whisky are more volatile than others, so evaporate off at different rates.
In theory, this can change the flavour profile of a whisky if there is too much air in the bottle, so whisky snobs like your humble narrator will drop glass marbles into an open bottle of Scotch to displace the air, or give a bottle a blast from the same nitrogen cannister we use to evacuate the oxygen from a half-empty bottle of wine.
Sadly, we’ve been tipsy from the wine every year before we crack open the whisky bottle, so no one can remember any subtle differences in the same whisky that we tasted 4 years earlier.
Speaking of Scottish Whisky, the swinging bachelors in the audience would do well to avoid Scottish ladies on February 29. Yes, it is indeed true that those fiery redheads are twice as hot between the sheets, but there is a long-standing tradition in the UK that allows women to propose to men each February 29.
The tradition dates back centuries, to a time when February 29 had no legal status. The village lasses that reached the ripe old age of 22 were in danger of being branded as unmarriageable spinsters, so they would take matters into their own hands by doing the deed of the proposal themselves to one of the village lads.
So remember, gentle reader, on February 29 a Scottish Whisky is good, but a Scottish Woman should be avoided, lest you be collared with a scolding wife forevermore.