My girlfriend Mary works out at the distillery hand-bottling cases of Blanton’s. At night when 
she comes home I bury my face in the shoulder of her puffy hooded sweatshirt where the particles of 
sweetness linger. If you've ever driven past those eerie warehouses out on I-64 near Frankfort, you 
understand. They call it the “angels' share,” the evaporating bourbon that lingers in the air as part of the 
aging process. Sweet smell, thick with sugar and vanilla, chocolate and oak, and then behind that, the 
homegrown scent of baking bread. 

Mary doesn't drink, which I think is funny. All that bourbon, and she doesn't even want to know 
what it tastes like. Sometimes, when things are good with us, she'll slip a bottle in her backpack on the 
way out and bring it to me. She rocks back on the porch chair with a cigarette balanced in the corner of 
her lips and watches me pour a little, swirl it around and breathe deep. 

“Like the freekin' Christ communion,” she says. I sit on the barrel with rusty hoops that stain her 
porch red. Mary stares out across the lawn, across the street, down the road and I know she’s looking at 
the stuff she cannot change—Mr. Miller’s broken down pick-up truck, the light post that winks each 
night into her bedroom, her father’s chickens cooped up in a fence made out of packing plastic.

She says, “The color of bourbon reminds me of rust, and I don’t want to drink rust.” What she 
really means is bourbon reminds her of her daddy on the porch steps whirling his keychain around, 
calling her name in a sing-song voice that slurs and drips with venom. What she means is she doesn’t 
want to be with a man who reminds her of her daddy, or in a job that changes people into people like 
her daddy, but in this part of Kentucky the union benefits of a distillery job aren't anything to piss on.

I say, "If I could, I would hitch up that lamppost and tighten that light bulb just for you." When 
it's good, she takes my hand, flips it and traces her fingers along my palm. "You would burn yourself," 
she says, smiling. When it's bad she says, "Daniel, don't be so damn cheesy all the time." 

When she gets like this, I ignore her until I've had two or three and my shoulders feel the little 
pinballs gliding around under the skin and the Kentucky air doesn't seem quite as damp. The aging of 
bourbon is like the development of a relationship—the good stuff sits and waits, breathing in and out, 
expanding into its surroundings and absorbing it, becoming it, season after season. Sometimes Mary and 
I fuse together nicely, creating our own flavor, I guess. But then again, mostly we just sit and wait.

Mary says, “One day I want to own a house in one of those developments where everything 
looks the same.” She sometimes drives into Louisville to fancy stores to buy dresses that she never 
wears. She always talks about quitting smoking.

There’s a black fungus that grows on the sides of those warehouse buildings, clings to them like 
moss to a tree until the big boys power spray it off each turn of the season. It keeps coming back, year 
after year. The guys down at the distillery say that after hundreds of years of making whiskey in one 
place, natural selection leaves us with something that can feed only on alcohol. Feed and thrive on it.

Tara Laskowski is a senior editor for SmokeLong Quarterly. She has had numerous stories published online and in print. More than you need to know about her can be found at

My husband and I love bourbon--we have about 14 different kinds sitting on our bar right now. Earlier this year, we went to Kentucky to do the distillery tours, and that's where this story came from. I was struck by the smell - you really can just drive down the highway and know you're approaching a distillery by the change in the air. (It's beyond awesome.) Getting the tours of the distillery, we learned about some of the people who work there and even saw some of them hand-bottling and packaging, and I just started thinking about what it must be like to live and work there. One of our tour guides also told us about the fungus that grows on the warehouses, and that was really an image that stuck with me. I love the idea of a fungus that has learned, over the years, to thrive on alcohol.



Copyright 2009