Friday, September 16, 2016

Whiskey, Woman, and WiFI, a HOTR Classic

“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 but where the true difference in flavor comes from is the aging process. Irish Whiskey is an enjoyable drink indeed, but not the beverage of the upcoming winter evenings. 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!!!

There are friends I know socially and professionally that enjoy a good Scotch. Enjoy to the point there is rumored to be a Scotch Club amongst some of them, a fluid society of friends who meet to share stories  of good guys and bad guys, of airplanes and automobiles, while sipping the best of that liquid mystery which is brought forth from barley and water. None of us are kids.  Most kids today can't keep up with us.

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.

But, in all honesty, I never tried Scotch whisky until I was  in my 40's, when my best friend brought some back from "duty free" on a business trip overseas.  I'd tried some amber adult beverages in my youth, but they were of the ultra cheap American variety, smelling of uncapped magic marker and tasting of sharp heat, the taste equivalent of pulling a hot cast iron pan off the stove with your bare hand. After that, the scotch was a revelation, the honeyed, warm glow of meeting an old friend. 

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).

As for the many varieties and price ranges of whisky/whiskey. I'd classify them on a HOTR 1 to 10 scale.

(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.

So, if you wish to venture into the aisle of whiskys, don't go cheap and don't necessarily go for the brand you see on billboards with a floozy blond.  This isn't a drink for Monday night football and wings.  This is a drink for those gentle dark nights of retrospect, a sip of warmth before the long corridors of sleep.  This is the clink of a glass next to the fire, sipped slowly under the long sound of rain, the taste, a whisper of smoke.  It's  life lived richly, profoundly enjoyed in amber miniature.

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


  1. I LOVE that teardrop! My dream camper. And that bar is pretty cool too, ha. Nice post, as always!!

  2. I recently changed my often stated words from, "No, I don't like Scotch whiskey," to, "I don't like cheap Scotch whiskey."

    And it was because friends set up a taste test and introduced me to the good stuff.

  3. Whenever someone asks what I want for Father's Day, Birthday, Christmas, etc. I say Scotch Whisky. In that way I've been able to build a collection of some of the more expensive ones. It's also opened my eyes to the goodness of a good blended scotch.

  4. Eadar bhonn agus bhràigh, Bhonn agus bhràigh. :-) And enjoy the good stuff, always! :-D

  5. Scotch should be old enough to drive on a learner's permit at the very least; and, if it is old enough to get married without parental permission, that's even better.


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