Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hair of the Dog - Halloween Spirits

I have friends that get together each month to sample different types of Scotch.  It's an evening of camaraderie, sensible drinking, and lots of old stories.

A recent selection was as above  The group overall preferred the  Deanston  I've found it jut a tad too sweet for my taste, but overall, a very nice choice.  Of the four the guys selected, I like the Benriach, a wonderful inexpensive scotch for the new palate, nice, but more complex then some of the others in it's age and price group that are more well known names. The little bit of almond (marzipan?) undertone is a surprise along with the peat.

But it's always fun to try new ones, or old ones that seemed too expensive, until one day you realized you don't work your rear off and have people occasionally try and kill you just to drink cheap hooch.

This is a group with some history.  This is a group that knows what's important.  Duty, honor and a really good scotch.
The one that got the most attention for that Monday Night Scotch Club, if only for the Donnie Darko style ghost dog on the bottle and it's somewhat unique original Twitter launch (seriously?  Twitter?) was the Cù Bòcan from the distillers Tomatin.  It gets its name  from the legend of a spectral dog, Cù Bòcan, who has haunted that Highland village for many years, his legend embellished by his increasing fractious behavior (I'd be cranky too if a peated beverage was only made one week a year).

Sightings are rare, once in a generation, it is said, and always terrifying. A distillery worker, out walking late, was once relentlessly pursued by the formidable black beast, steam spiraling from flared nostrils, fangs showing against a maw, dark as spilled blood, only to have the creature dissolve before his eyes, as he reached out a trembling hand in mercy.  He stood there, the taste of ash on his tongue, as all that was left was but a vacuum of  bitten silence as a dark cloud of smoke disappeared across the moorland.

I wish the beverage drew me in as well as the tale.   It's perhaps just showing it's youth, and at 8 years old, I'd be  happy to try it again in a couple of years  But it's very sharp citrus, almost too sharp, at first, though tempered with a bit of ginger.  Then there is the initial promise of burned love letters, drying down to overcooked popcorn and peppered ash. The feel on the tongue was the butter intended for the popcorn.  It wasn't bad, but for lack of better description, the Scotch Club simply labeled this one as "Chewy and Oily". 

The Hound of the Baskerviles, it wasn't.

Still we'll see how that old dog matures, it might be a nice surprise in a couple of years as the distiller was quite candid when they stated in the launch that the first batch was only 18,000 bottles and the peated element is only aged 8 years, even if in some nice virgin oak, bourbon and sherry casks. 

But I admit, I was suckered in by the ghostly dog story. What is it about a ghost story that draws one in? Few people truly believe that headless ghosts haunt Celtic castles, that restless spirits chase the shadows in every abandoned old farmhouse. Most of us go through life, not observing what was not meant to be observed.

But sitting in a darkening room, the light dancing on a glass bottle or two, the taste of smoke and the moors on one's tongue, one can't help but summon up the genuine wonder for those things that are never truly explained. I believe that despite our outward desire for explanation and logic, most members of the public would rather tell stories of haunted trestles than listen to a litany of logic.
For despite our modern conveniences, our science and technology, can we not be surprised that modern man still feels that shadowed belief in spirits, haunting those places in which they were once so affected, when we ourselves scarcely separate ourselves from past lives and past longing, ever hovering over bygone times and all their emotions, in late night, darkened hours, lingering in the past places in which we were loved. Hoping in the dark misty hills of our hearts, we will remember and be remembered.

For despite our technology, we are still dreamers. Certainly I know one woman that is, even if she is still a big kid at heart.

As Shakespeare said.: We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

Whether our dreams are that of coherent order and forensic logic or haunting memory of those places we wish we could revisit, I can't help but think just how small my being is. How infinitesimal within the world's workings, the grand chaotic design. As the wind picks up a howl, across open land,, I'll light a small lamp.  For suddenly, I feel very insignificant. Insignificant and small, as moonlight flits amongst the shroud of tree branches, the wind tapping on the window like a ghostly finger, the night but one last lamenting kiss.

Off in the distance, comes the keening howl of a dog.


  1. Never got into drinking Scotch. I was always a Bourbon guy....

  2. I've had Deerstalker. It's okay... A little peaty for me. Interesting story on Cù Bòcan, I don't think I heard that before. And at 8 years old, I'd pass too...

  3. Ditto to drjim, I also never even have tried Scotch. Tell me, do you drink it straight, with a splash of water or with ice? I tend to drink Bourbon straight and sometimes with a single ice cube, or with a chaser of a good cold amber bock beer. I know, how dare I? Don't knock it till you try it. Especially on a hot summer night on the porch, watching the sun set after a good day.
    Then again, any day that ends sipping Bourbon and drink a cold beer is a good day. I try not to make it very often, though. It could become the entire day, not just a good ending!

  4. "...old stories."

    I see Operation Ivy Bells by Robert G. Williscroft is on sale for .99 cents as a Kindle book through Amazon.


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