Drinking, Learning, and Remembering in Midlife

Yes, these go together in midlife. You can drink booze, learn stuff, and remember things when you’re over 60. Read on to see how you, too, can combine liquor and learning!

Brandy Notes

I’ve been wanting to tour the brandy distillery near my new home since before I left the U.S. Lourinha in Portugal and Cognac in France are two of the only four demarcated brandy regions in the world. Lourinha is walking distance from where I live.

Ain’t no mountain high enough…ain’t no trail muddy enough…ain’t no weather shitty enough to keep me away from you, brandy baby.”
Yeah, the distillery is walking distance, but sometimes driving is the smarter option.

My Portuguese friend scheduled a tour of the distillery for this week, and we drove to the morning tour. It turned out to be a private tour that lasted all morning, and included drinking educational tastings for the sake of science and hands-on learning.

It’s official. Graduated cylinders and beakers confirm that drinking is science.
Science = Learning!
More science-y stuff

Being in the brandy distillery brought back many happy memories of my days as a 61-year-old whiskey distillery intern last year. The oak barrels with different char levels; the recipe and finishing experiments; the proofing; the plate-and-frame filtering; and even the dreaded bottling line. Their hand-labeling of bottles (they label 250 bottles a day by hand) also brought back memories.

My favorite part. Project-based learning!
The spitting bucket was totally unnecessary.
Memories of bourbon tasting notes, which I always got wrong. Same here. I chose “Topazio” (amber) as the color for this shot tasting sample. Nope. It was “Esverdeado” (a greenish hue). I also pegged the aroma as vanilla (“Baunilha”). Nao, desculpe. Wood and smoke were the correct answers.
On the plus side, I was able to correctly read all the words in Portuguese. Except for that word for greenish. Not bad.
Holding the glass sideways over a white napkin proved the brandy sample was greenish.
OK…if you say so.
As a retired teacher I understand the need for a lot of practice to support my learning and retention of information.
The joy of learning!
Collaboration is important in education.

It was a wonderful morning of new learning and activating my schema by making connections to prior learning. Science is so awesome!

Seriously, I think I’m so invested in my journey from blackboard to bourbon to brandy because the distilling of brown spirits reminds me of myself in midlife. It’s a perfect metaphor for the beauty and power of aging, and finding your strength and sweet spot.

Language Notes

My learning of Portuguese, on the other hand, is proving to have an elusive sweet spot.

Weekly Portuguese lessons take place here in the senior citizens center of Lourinha — the same village renowned for award-winning brandy.
I needed a swig of something when I saw what my class was working on my first day.
I’ve been getting a lot of “Very Good!” marks on my “Portuguese Without Stress” assignments. But my self-paced workbook pages are causing muito stress…
Even native speakers think this is too difficult. I’ll drink to that!

Learning a new language, like learning to nose and taste brandy or bourbon, takes time and practice. The rewards of both are well worth the effort. I’m having fun practicing speaking Portuguese, and having way more fun practicing drinking tasting and sniffing brandy. Next week, friends from Cleveland will be visiting and they’re bringing me a bottle of my beloved Christmas Bourbon I once helped make as a whiskey intern. I will be activating the hell out of my schema as I make lots of connections between my prior bourbon drinking learning and my new brandy learning. Cheers to the joy of being a lifelong learner! See, you can drink, learn, and remember in midlife.

All images are my own.

The Hot Goddess

Instagram: retired_rewired_inspired

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  1. Natalie, in the 4 by 3 matrix of small photos there is a picture (cell 6m if counting as if you were reading a paragraph) that looks like a collection of small wooden boxes. Intrigued as to what that might be.


  2. I’m not much of a drinker, but an occasional brandy sounds fun, especially from the distillery with education. I love Brazilian music, so I wonder if I would enjoy learning & listening to Portuguese. Cheers Natalie on your attitude, humor, and advanced studies. 😋

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I cannot say it enough…These posts/updates bring me so much joy!

    Also, I totally forgot you were a whiskey connoisseur! My hubby just started being all into bourbon, so if you have any expert suggestions, please shoot them my way.

    Liked by 1 person

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