“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” ― Mark Twain
The picture was taken where friends and family gathered, a night back in January. The moon was building, the air was quiet, the earth a motionless sphere in cooling space. Stepping outside, one breathed in the cold, across which the faint scent of a fire touched the palate with smoke. Above, the night streamed in thick indigo threads, beyond which lay myriad points of crystal lights. It was a good night for a small glass of whisky.
Whiskey vs. whisky? The difference between whiskey and whisky seems simple but it's not. Whisky typically denotes Scotch or Canadian versions and whiskey denotes the Irish and American beverages. Although both spellings are of Celtic origin, there are substantial differences between the countries products, include the selection of grains, number of distillations, the maturation period and the type of still and barrels used. Each country's style has its own unique characteristics to savor and there are some further divided into sub categories like bourbon.
Irish vs. Scotch? Unlike Scotch, the malted barley in Irish whiskey is dried in enclosed kilns, not roasted over peat fires, which is why it does not have that distinct smokiness of Scotch. Irish whiskeys maintain the natural flavor of the barley, fragrant, with a unique but softer roundness of body. It's an enjoyable drink indeed, but not the beverage of this cold winter evening. I want something that brings the echo of smoke across my tongue, down my throat, and leaves me with the smallest bit of heat on my breath, after that last sip, that soft lick of flame as a candle gently sighs and goes dark.
Just as in the wine world, where names like Napa Valley, the Okanagan Valley, Bordeaux or Rioja tell someone not just where a wine was made, but what it will bring as far as color, clarity and taste, scotch whisky has its own geographic intricacies. But among all, there is one common thread, the origin of the drink is Scotland. If you see Scotch Whiskey made in Massachusetts - run!!!
Scotch isn't something to drink because it's there, as it's not cheap. One doesn't drink it to get a "buzz". It's the warm sip of history and tradition, a celebration of artisanship and the deep pleasure of life. It's a developed taste. It's a journey; one that will take you though the rugged Highlands, along the waters of the Sound of Islay to the Isle of Jura where George Orwell penned his novel 1984 at the age of 46, describing the place as an extremely "ungetatable place".
Besides, it makes up for the times when we're about ready to go on duty and we need to have iced tea.
Since I started spending time with folks that actually knew what a good whisky was, and even better, would share it with me, I've learned a lot. We've also come up with a number of ideas for introducing others to such fine beverages (forget that Bambi Airstream idea, let's get one of these).
(1) Taste buds usually recover from the shock by morning. May incite anarchy in redheads.
(2) Chock full of dreadfulness. Put aside for the next Democratic National Convention or Sheep Dip, whichever I would want to attend first.
(3) Suitable for anti freeze, almost as tasty. May improve with age, but usually drunk by the very young at a shotgun wedding bachelor party.
(4) It's like a root canal, sometimes you know you just have to have one. Doesn't mean you are going to like it. Often blended with 7-Up to get rid of it.
(5) The Keltec of adult beverages. If it was all that was in the house, I'd sip it. Otherwise, no.
(6) It's 10 degrees out. It's this or hot tea. Maybe I'll just put a splash IN the tea.
(7) You're getting warmer.
(8) Very nice. I'd not be embarrassed to have this on my side buffet with guests.
(9) I really feel badly that I didn't try this 20 years ago.
(10) It's like a good quality firearm. When you want it, cost doesn't matter that much.
It's not a drink for youth or debutantes or post tractor pull. Its taste, whether drunk during travels, or at home, is an invitation, leaving you with a fading aftermath of promise, that secret affirmation, like taste itself.
A Dhé, beannaich an taigh - Brigid