Midlife reimagined

Rules for Bourbon…Rules for Dating?

There are strict rules for being able to label your booze “bourbon.” In midlife dating relationships, what are the rules for labeling your boo?

I’ve been posting regularly about my “Midlife Reimagined Apprenticeship” at a local bourbon distillery, and how I’ve been applying the lessons I’m learning there to other aspects of life. I wrote here and here about what the sensory evaluation of bourbon can teach us about midlife dating and relationships.  This post examined what working with charred barrel staves can teach us about ourselves, while this Whiskey Workout post was a fun look at how those barrels are building up my physical and mental muscles.

As a whiskey intern I know there are rules for making a whiskey designated as a “bourbon.” To be labeled “bourbon” a whiskey must be:

• made from at least 51 percent corn

• made in the United States (does not have to be Kentucky)

• stored in new, charred, oak barrels (only bourbon labeled “straight bourbon whiskey” must be stored for a minimum of two years)

• free of added coloring or flavoring

• distilled to no higher than 160 proof off the still, enter the barrel at no higher than 125 proof, and bottled at minimum 80 proof.

Proofing is serious business and not something left to an intern. I just observe. Screwing up the proofing by adding too much or too little water can be a costly mistake resulting in government fines or ruined batches of bourbon.

Proofing in process

Another job not left to an intern is nosing the head, heart, and tail of booze coming off the still. When it comes straight off the still, this clear and potent alcohol is moonshine — sometimes called “White Dog,” or “White Lightning” — before it’s put in new, charred oak barrels and aged to become bourbon. The very first liquid out of the still is called the foreshot, and drinking it can blind or kill you because it contains methanol. Immediately after the foreshot comes the head, which contains acetone. Think of drinking nail polish remover. Terrible taste and a hella sick hangover. The heart of a still run is the good stuff. The sweet spot you keep for aging into bourbon. The tail comes after the heart and, like the head, tastes bad. Kind of like drinking oily water. You have to be able to tell — by smell, taste, proof, and temperature — when the whiskey has reached its just-right sweet spot off the still to capture for the barrel.

In distilling, knowing when to “make the cut,” as it’s called, is all a matter of timing. It’s better to wait and get a little heart in your head cut than to move too soon and end up with some head mixed in with your heart. You also rather get some heart with your tail cut than wait too long and mess up your heart cut with some tail. If this doesn’t sound exactly like dating I don’t know what does. All this talk about making cuts, waiting for the heart, and holding out for head and tail…Damn.

What’s Good for Bourbon is Good for Boo

Of course, you know where I’m going with this, right?  Like bourbon, dating relationships are all about timing, and (often unspoken) rules.  I’ve written about the joys of over-50 and over-60 dating in these posts:

What Traveling Solo Around the World Taught Me About Dating

Stages of Dating

More Fun Dating Observations

Do You Want Some Water Before You Go?

5 Ways to Find Something of Value in Everyone You Meet

One thing I always struggle with is what to call people I’m dating. I prefer to not label folks, but in my experience the man always goes there. There are conditions and rules implied, such as mutual exclusivity, which may or may not be happening IRL. A so-called Defining The Relationship conversation can be quite awkward, which is why I am quite content to not go there.

I am not a woman who uses the term “boyfriend.” I’ve always called people I date “my friend.” “My lover” sounds so sophisticated and adult AF, but seems a bit TMI to me.  If I’ve been dating one person exclusively for more than two months, I refer to him as “my sweetie” (a more casual version of “sweetheart”) in my writing, but never in person. Ick. Last month, my sweetie started using “boo” in jest. It works because it’s funny to us. Some folks use “bae.” And there’s always the tried and true “my gentleman (or lady) friend.”

What labels do you use for people you’re dating?  If you’re currently married or boo’d up, what terms did you use when you were single?  More importantly, at what point in the relationship do/did you start using the labels? There are no rules for this stuff. When does a person “make the cut” to a certain dating label or relationship designation?

Like with bourbon, timing is everything.  The “head” of a relationship is too early for a label. The initial attraction is too strong and hot. The “tail” of a relationship is too late. It’s on its way out and the good taste is fading. In distilling, the tail is literally when sweetness starts to fade. The key is taking your time, being patient as things naturally flow, and waiting until the “head” has run off and the “heart” of a relationship — the good, sweet stuff you can linger over and sip without regret — starts to appear. It’s wonderful, whatever you call it.

I think a rule book, recording sheet, practice kit, and a couple gauges here and there for reading the temperature and strength of things — like the bourbon-makers do it — would be hugely useful, no? I was going to create more of my popular and handy infographics, but I can’t even think of any rules for this dating labels stuff. I can tell you booze rules but I am clueless about boo rules.

So instead, I’m proposing a Dating Sensory Kit, to help sniff out characteristics of various dating labels. My prototype looks something like this:

I’m still working on descriptions of the characteristics. Any suggestions? Any labels I should add to the kit? Stay tuned…

As always, thank you for reading. May your Fun Friday be spirited, smooth, and sweet. Happy weekend!💜

All images from thehotgoddess.com retired_rewired_inspired.

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  1. Great article! Hmmm yeah early dating is tough bc there are so many unknowns. In conversation I might actually say “the guy I’m dating” ha! I always like using beau because it’s kinda disco and silly. I was always pretty impatient with labels and was happy to get the gf/bf thing defined early. But now, 3 years in, I mostly say “partner” when referring to him. Someday, hopefully soon, it’ll be husband and then I don’t have to worry about it anymore. But this is just my story 🤷🏼‍♀️💖Thanks for letting me ramble 🤣 Glad you’re enjoying this relationship!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, just wow. Love the analogy between bourbon and relationships, especially the “off the still” process. I have so much to learn about bourbon– this was such an informative and fun read!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kay! I love that you’re a bourbon fan, too❤. I have so much more to learn about bourbon…but already know more about it than I do about relationships.🤷🏾‍♀️😁


  3. “You also rather get some heart with your tail cut than wait too long and mess up your heart cut with some tail. If this doesn’t sound exactly like dating I don’t know what does. All this talk about making cuts, waiting for the heart, and holding out for head and tail…Damn.”

    I’ve read this like three times now and laughed heartily each time.

    Liked by 1 person

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