In my office I have two cabinets, one filled with single malt Scotch whiskys that I refere to as my everyday drinking scotches. The other cabinet holds my ever growing rare Scotch collection. These bottles are held in reserve for those special occasions like zero year birthdays and anniversaries. I justify keeping them around because of their growing value as collectors items like this $250,000 bottle. Jaden is not sold on the whole Scotch collecting idea yet, despite my attempts to assure her they truly are liquid assets.
When she ventures a taste of what ever I’m drinking, I am inundated with comments of “This taste like gasoline and turpentine mixed together” or questions of “How can you drink that stuff?” While Scotch whisky may be intimidating to the novice, once past the initial burning phase they open up to a whole world of complexities comparable to wines. Deep aromas, subtle flavors and regional variations in environment all impact on the flavors of Scotch.
I first started drinking Scotch over 20 years ago. My 21st birthday happen to fall during our Spring Break Concert Tour. A few of my friends and few local host took me to a well regarded drinking establishment in Bismarck, North Dakota. By the way, someone should have pointed out to our promoters that Spring does not come to North Dakota till some time after the first week of March. We all saddled up to the bar and after much hoopla from my friends and hostesses about it being my first legal to drink birthday, the bartender asked what I wanted. I never thought about what my first drink would be. I didn’t ponder for hours what beverage with alcohol would be the first to cross my lips. I just did what I suppose most 21 year old men do. I blurted out “I’ll have a whiskie!” I swear I saw the bartender roll his eyes with disgust. Another naive newby was trying to order a drink. He glared back and asked in a cold tone that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, “And what kind of whisky would that be? Bourbon, Tennessee, Scotch?”
After the moment of total embarrassment passed, my mind grasped at the first tangible thought it could. My dad’s Scottish, and I’m half Scottish, then I should have Scotch. It made perfect sense in my mind. With new found confidence I fired back “I’ll have a Scotch on the rocks!” The bartender went about his business and returned with my drink a little later. After a few cheers from my friends, down the hatch went my first drink.
And yes, it tasted like gasoline.
I told my dad that story some twenties years later. We laughed and then shared a great conversation about his glory days when he used to drink Scotch and play bagpipes in an award winning band in Rochester New York. He recounted to me yet again how he had acquired his Boer War warpipes and how they played a little louder than the rest of his bandmates. He mentioned that his favorite Scotch of the time was Glen Grant and how he enjoyed a wee dram back in the days. And we laughed at how “wee dram” is Scottish for small glass filled multiple times.
Last December I had stopped by a local store to pick up a bottle of Scotch for a friend when I happened to spy a bottle of 10 year Glen Grant. I had never seen it there before nor have I seen it in stock since. I bought it and gave it to my dad for Christmas. After the Christmas rush passed, we shared a wee dram in my office. I had not heard of Glen Grant before, so my dad explained how he liked the deep golden color that reminded him of my mom’s hair. The slightly sweet start that finished in a very dry hint of floral and herbal notes. He lit up as he talked about it. It was warming, much like the drink itself. It was a softer side on my father that I didn’t get to see often. After we finished I placed the cork back in the bottle and placed it with my other drinking scotches. Little did I know that it would be the last drink I shared with my dad.
My father passed away last month. Although I flew to New York several times in the weeks before his passing, his declining health prevented us from sharing more moments like that.
As I recall that moment with my father, I feel I should move the Glen Grant over to my collectors cabinet. I’m not ready to finish the bottle nor am I ready to say farewell to my dad.