Feature photo by neilbetter
“Don’t ride your Tonka in the house!” my mother yelled from the kitchen as she was preparing for guests to come over to celebrate someone’s birthdays. To this day I don’t remember whose it was, but it was one of those occasions where the family gathered at our house to celebrate — which meant that my brother, sister, and I were left to our own devices for entertainment. For me, it meant kneeling on the bed of my yellow Tonka truck and pushing myself along and chasing my little brother. This time, we took it a bit too far and I knocked my little brother down, which created a most obnoxious sound: a tornado warning in the form of my little brother crying. As punishment, I was banished to sit with the old people in the parlor as they talked about boring, non-Captain Planet related things. I sat in silence and answered the occasional question about whatever it is that people ask four-year-olds. I think the hope was that I would just fall asleep, thus allowing the adults to do adult stuff.
After what seemed like an eternity, I got thirsty and instinctively went for what I thought was apple juice. As soon as the golden liquid hit my mouth, the burning and pungent taste told me that this was not apple juice. I felt my face turning hot and red as I spat out whatever this nasty abomination was. All of the adults stopped what they were doing and looked at the small child spit out the mouthful of scotch, now crying because it burned his mouth. Some might hear this story and call it an instance of karmic retribution for making my sickly little brother cry, but I see it for what it was: my first encounter with that sexy, enigmatic elixir commonly known as Scotch Whiskey.
Scotch is the classy older brother to the redneck brown party liquor simply known as whiskey (or Bourbon) and the polite, often overlooked Canadian Rye. This biased introduction is by no way a reflection of how I really feel about all whiskeys. There is a time and place for all of them and I personally enjoy all three, but I have a strong preference for one. I enjoy spirits that I can sip on in a no-frills manner. I feel that scotch lends itself best to that.
What is scotch? In the most basic definition, Scotch is a grain whiskey made from malted barley in Scotland which is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years. It can be further divided into two more main categories Single Malt, which is distilled from a one malt, and blended malt, which is an amalgamation of various malts (typically rye or wheat).
As a gentlemen and a snob, I recommend single malt. It’s better for the soul, has a smoother taste, and works well served neat or on the rocks. Its flavors are typically smooth and smoky with hints of oak and floral fruit. The levels of smokiness and other flavors are typically dependent on the age of the drink and the distilling processes.
When given the option, I enjoy choosing Scotch that is my age or older. As a rule of thumb, anything younger than ten years old may as well be labeled vinegar. A trip to your local spirit dispensary and a chat with the proprietor should help you choose the scotch that’s right for you.
Once you’ve chosen your perfect match, make a trip to your local cigar shop or humidor and pick a nice maduro, invite your buddies to the man cave, pour the scotch, and enjoy your autumn evening.