I once had a wife of a member of the Austin Scotch Lovers tell me that she couldn’t understand why when we drank Scotch we had to talk about it the whole time! Of course wine lovers talk about their favorite beverage as much as we do, but I wonder if any other Spirit inspires as much conversation, philosophy and pedantic pedagogy as Scotch Whisky? Can you even claim to be a Scotch Lover if you don’t also spend at least some time reading about it, writing about it, and of course, talking about it? Well, of course you can, as there are no rules that can ever define someone as a lover of anything other than their self proclamation of it, as each person is their own authority on what they love! It is just that it seems that part of what makes Scotch so great is that it is so interesting and offers so much material for discourse that in addition to just loving how delicious it is, one can derive great joy from sharing stories, facts and, of course, where to find the best deals or even a rare bottle!
My love of Scotch is intimately connected to my love of Scotland. This is another topic of infinite conversation. This country (yes, I call it a country) is many things to many people. It is gorgeous, contains great history and stories, and conveniently is one of the best places to make whisky! The temperature that allows a slow evaporation of the Spirit as it ages in the casks allows for a long aging which really gives it time to become what it is meant to be. Of course it is debatable whether one can determine that a single malt whisky came from Scotland or elsewhere just by taste, but most people who love Scotch say the taste of it is like no other whisky from any place else, and attribute it to the water, the peat, the air, essentially the terroir of Scotland itself. This is so romantic, when you have been to this great land and experience all the loveliness of it, that when you are home in Texas you can go back to Scotland a little every time you drink some Scotch! So can you be a Scotch Lover and not love Scotland? Of course, but I think loving Scotland can lead you to love Scotch and loving Scotch can lead yo to love Scotland!
Getting to share your opinion about a topic is a great joy of life. If there are quite diverse opinions about a topic, oh the juice we get out of hours of discussion about why we believe what we believe. On the surface, whisky seems so simple. You take barley, sprout it, dry it, grind it up, mix it with water, add yeast to ferment it, distill it, age it in oak casks and then bottle it. Yet each distiller, from over 100 distilleries in all of Scotland, makes a unique product that is distinguishable from all of the others! You can see how this in and of itself adds to the richness of the topic, but add in the strain or barley, the type of yeast, the type of cask, how big it is, how long you let it age, where is aging, what position the cask is in and you are just scratching the surface of topics to pursue. Then, if you are drinking Scotch while discussing these topics, you can’t discount the effect of alcohol on the process! Can you be a Scotch lover if you don’t know about how Scotch is made, and can’t pass a quiz about the rules of Scotch? Of course you can! But I hardly ever meet anyone who isn’t interested in these things as part of their love of Scotch!
Scotch is loved by a small percentage of people in the world overall, so being a Scotch Lover allows you to belong to an exclusive club that you initiate yourself into and no one can throw you out of. Most of my friends find the flavors too strong, the burning sensations too unpleasant and the cost too high if you just want a buzz. I suspect they are representing the opinions of a great portion of society. Are Scotch Lovers wired differently in the taste department? I don’t know, but I know that for me, I strictly like the Scotch that I like because of how it tastes, and I am loathe to buy a Scotch I haven’t tasted. So I respect that it isn’t for everyone, and really, this is a good thing because it makes the world more interesting.
We complain about how expensive Scotch is, but I suspect that that is also part of the allure. It is just a bit more expensive than most spirits, but not so outrageous that it is out of reach. This allows us to feel like we are part of a luxury experience, which can help us feel important, loved, taken care of and just over all pampered. We also can feel better about drinking if we are drinking something nicer. You don’t believe me? Think about how we drank in college, buying the cheapest beer or wine coolers to get drunk! Most of us would not have considered buying a bottle of Scotch to get drunk on! Think of how you view people who buy wine in boxes. Think of how you feel about hearing someone order a rum and coke versus a Macallan neat? What about someone who orders a house white wine versus a Sterling Cabernet? There is certain cache that goes with Scotch, and I think this is part of the allure, too!
Would you love Scotch if it didn’t get you drunk? I think I would, believe it or not. I get frustrated sometimes that in trying to taste and enjoy all the Scotch available to me, I have to be limited because of the physical effects. I, like most people, have to navigate everyday things like shopping, cooking, laundry and a myriad of other every day activities that can’t be done well if you are drinking alcohol! So we have to wait to enjoy a dram once our chores are done or it is a celebration time! Yet it is so tasty and such a delight, I often want to have some because I was reading about it in a magazine or an online article someone tweeted out. Of course it is lovely to feel the effects of the alcohol when you do enjoy it, and that is part of what most Scotch Lovers are after in loving Scotch.
Do you love studying about, talking about and learning about Scotch Whisky while you drink it? Do you like to compare different expressions by drinking small drams side by side? Do you love collecting bottles, growing a collection that you secretly hope can one day contain a bottle from every active distillery in Scotland? Do you love that most people you know don’t like Scotch and that you belong to a group that is almost like a secret society? Do you love Scotland, and hear a bagpipe band playing “Scotland The Brave” every time you drink a gill? Do you love reading controversial blog posts about Age Statements, pro and con? Do you know the difference between a heather nose, a leathery start and a long weathered wood finish? Even if you answered no to all of my questions, you are a Scotch Lover if you can answer yes to just one question: Are you a Scotch lover? I am.
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