Sunday, June 30, 2013

Another, More Appreciative, Home

Many, many years ago, I had a glass of scotch that was beyond superb. Now, I wasn't a hard liquor drinker. A brandy, very so often, when I had an upset stomach (Don't laugh. It works.), an amaretto and 7Up, those were the extent of my ventures into hard liquor. My dad used to make us whiskey and 7Up on the first New Year's Eve after we turned 16. That was the only time, until we hit legal drinking age, that we got alcohol. I wasn't much for Jim Beam but I had some in my cupboard for years because that was all I knew.

Scotch is considered the "water of life" in Scotland. The combination of barley, malt, water and aging create a drink that is quite unique. It's funny. I can't remember where I was but I can remember the scotch as if I just took a sip. It was called "Aberlour" and has been around since 1879. That's a long time to be brewing and bottling a caramel colored liquid.

This one was superb. It was the color of Kraft caramels, if they had been turned into liquid. I remember being given a shot first and then 3 fingers in a glass with water. The water made all the difference. Someone more knowledgeable than me can tell me why water enhances, not waters down, scotch. I didn't and I still don't quite understand how this drink personified "crisp", but that came to mind. There was the taste of the earth. What sticks in my memory most profoundly, however, was that after I'd swallowed, the lingering taste was one of dark chocolate. Chocolate! How do they do that? I always wanted a bottle of Aberlour but it was quite expensive and very hard to get in the US at the time.

A couple of Carole's friends went together at Christmas one year and got me a bottle of scotch. They tried to get Aberlour but I think they were told it wasn't available. The guy helping them recommended the bottle to the right as being very similar in taste.

While Aberlour produces three kinds of scotch for direct sales, Clynelish produces one kind, a small run of around 13,000 bottles each year. The rest of its production goes into the blended whiskey, Johnny Walker. This is a light, almost honey-colored liquid, compared to the caramel color of Aberlour.

Aberlour has been in continuous operation since opening in 1879. Clynelish was opened in 1819 but closed in 1968. It reopened in newer headquarters across the street from the original distillery and is, thus, considered to date from 1968 and not from 1819. We might shrug and say, "So what?" but to whiskey aficionados, this is important.

I never got around to opening the bottle, I'm sad to say. I put it in the basement with good intentions, but those intentions never materialized into actually trying the drink. So, while the contents say "14 years old on bottling", it's actually about 20 years old now.

You know that I no longer consume alcohol due to the medications I take for rheumatoid arthritis. For the most part, the alcohol I have in the house is what I use in cooking. I can still do that. Bratwurst boiled in beer, beer basted pork chops, mahi mahi in a hazelnut liqueur glaze; I can still eat those because the alcohol is burned off in cooking, leaving only the flavor. But I can no longer sit down with a wee dram, sprinkle some water over the top and enjoy the flavor of a good malt. What to do with something like this?

Well, you prepare to run a raid in World of Warcraft and, as you're getting up to get your can of seltzer, you ask, casually, "Can I get anyone anything?" Bearsilver responds, "Sure. I'll take a scotch and soda, please." Oh, really? Three emails later and I know who is getting a bottle of scotch.

It left my hands on Tuesday and arrived at its destination on Wednesday. I packed the heck out of that. I was even going to open the top and wrap the bottle in bubble wrap, but I couldn't get the top off. As of yesterday, Bear had not opened the container to try the scotch. He was going to share it with a friend.

There was a twinge of sadness as I packed it in foam and bubble wrap. I always meant to give it a try, I really did. I was so surprised and honored that the guys went out of their way to get something they thought I would like. I probably would have. I know that Bear will like it even if it's not the best scotch he's ever had. I'm very happy it's found a good home and will be enjoyed. Now, what to do with the bottle of Canadian Club I found on the back of the top shelf.

Beverage:  Mixed Berry Seltzer


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