Friday, September 01, 2006

Drinking. scotch.

I remember my first encounter with Scotch. Macallan. It was older than I was, but then, I was 22 years old and already accustomed to drinking wine older than I. That was the summer I spent several weeks in China, ending with two weeks with my grandfather in Shanghai. Those days in Shanghai involved sleeping in until noon, shopping all afternoon, going out to the pub every other night, and drinking beer. And scotch. Which I then thought tasted the way benzine smelled. It was made palatable with lots of ice and soda water, which is a terrible thing to do to expensive scotch, as I would later learn.

There is a book by Peter Mayle about how to enjoy the finer things in life, called Acquired Tastes. I think it is a collection of articles he wrote for a men's magazine, probably GQ, about such things as caviar and champagne, bespoke suits and shirts, three-ply cashmere sweaters, and most amusingly, keeping a mistress, the most expensive luxury of all. There is a chapter devoted to the single-malt scotch, and this is where my education began. He mentions Glenfiddich as being an excellent malt for beginners, and this is what I drank when I started drinking scotch. It is not cheap, but it is not expensive, either, considering how slowly I drink it. It is light and gentle and pleasant to drink, particularly after a long day at work. I would sip at my glass while puttering around the kitchen, throwing together a simple dinner.

After about a year of drinking Glenfiddich, it was time for something new. Time to take off the training wheels. I was not prepared to spend over $100. A bottle of Lagavulin 16-year beckoned. It was not so expensive as to make my wallet shudder convulsively, but expensive enough so that I would prefer not to share it with anyone. Excellent choice, said the clerk as I handed over the Lagavulin and my credit card. You'll like it. A line began to form behind me as he began to expound effusively on its rich flavor, its smoky taste. I can hardly wait, I said. That was yesterday.

I came home to my new place today. Naked beds, empty shelves, boxes heaped in mountains, bedding wrapped in black plastic garbage bags. The week had been a whirl of packing, frantic last-minute shoving things into scrounged-up cartons that once held reams of copier paper and latex gloves. This morning had been spent running around after the movers, directing them around my empty new space that was rapidly filling up with bits of furniture. It is no longer empty; I'm home. Time for a drink.

Fortunately, one of the many things in the moving truck was a case of glassware. I have no dishes, no silverware, no pots and pans or cooking utensils. But I have glasses, chic, octagonal ones, heavy in my hand, perfect for a sip of whisky before bed. In the cold fluorescent glare of the kitchen the scotch glows deep amber. It smells of smoke and peat and warmth, and it tastes the way it smells. It is everything the clerk promised me. I curl up with my computer (I have no phone, no lamps, no tv, none of the aforementioned kitchen supplies, but I have internet) and my drink. Welcome home.

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