Distilled Memories

Those of you who read Dan’s little blatherings might understand why I — as an avid Scotch man — might be a little upset. I can’t claim to be nearly the tippler he is (not in some years, anyway), but I see no cause for denigrating the fine whiskey of the Scottish highlands and islands.

Scotch has always been the unofficial Coughlan family drink (at least in the hibernal months), but I must admit it took me some time to develop a real taste for it. Even then, I had never thought my palate refined enough to appreciate the glory of a single-malt variety, as (at the time) I most frequently mixed it with soda (one of the first magic coin tricks I learned was called “Scotch and Soda,” but I digress). Imagine my surprise when, upon finally partaking of the purer stuff (at the Kennedy Center Hors d’Oevrerie), its superiority was immediately palpable. I still drink blends more often than not (my pocketbook not allowing otherwise); of those I’m partial to Justerini & Brooks (being both a preferred family blend and the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question that won me a game a while back).

Still, when time and finances permit, I’ll latch onto a nice, mid-range single malt. It’s often said that Glenlivet is the ideal Scotch (though I believe Glenmorangie is the more popular single malt in Scotland proper), but my personal favorite is Talisker, which hails from the only distillery on the Isle of Skye. It’s got a distinctive, smoky peat flavor that I find singularly appealing (though some of my compotators disagree). It’s usually stocked at most finer drinking establishments, though far scarcer on liquor store shelves. I also enjoy Oban, which is also part of UDV’s “Classic Malts” family (along with Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Glenkinchie, and Lagavulin). At present I’m enjoying a nice Glenfiddich I received as a gift, which I disembogue from a remarkable crystal decanter (also a gift).

One of my favorite Scotch stories took place in a little tavern in Annapolis, where a group of my compatriots was sampling the single malts. One friend, whom I’ll call David (that being his name), took a fancy to the bottle placed highest on the shelf, Macallen 25, and immediately ordered a glass. An unexpected thirty-five dollars later — for just the one drink — he decided not to run a tab.


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