“What’s your favorite whisky?”
If I were given a dram for every time I am asked this question, everything I type for the rest of my life will look like this: asbjklfhkdsfds,
When people hear you’re a whisky aficionado that’s the first thing to come out of their mouths, even if they know nothing about whisky…especially if they know nothing about whisky. I don’t look negatively upon that question. It’s a way for people to engage, interact and associate with a subject matter they find unusual and intriguing.
In all honesty I answer that my favorite whisky is any whisky I’m drinking when I’m having a particularly interesting or enjoyable moment. It could be a Glenfarclas 21; it could be a Jim Beam and Sprite. Of course, if the question is being asked by a woman whose legs are longer than those of a Macallan 1946, I end that explanation by saying, “And it happens to be the whisky I’m drinking right now.”
A far more interesting question than asking about a favorite whisky is to ask, “Can you tell me your favorite whisky story?”
Now, THAT is a question.
Whisky, as I discussed last week, is ripe for storytelling. I enjoy beer, I love wine and there are plenty of other spirits I imbibe. However, the best stories tend to involve whisky. Perhaps it’s the communal, yet contemplative, nature of the drink that allows for situations which will evolve into great stories. Beer requires too many dashes to the bathroom during the course of an evening for a really good story to take place. Wine…the pacing isn’t right. You’re either drinking it too quickly or too slowly for it to contribute to a good story. Wine can make for a great evening, but a really great yarn? Too much time spent refilling the glass and opening new bottles. Vodka could give whisky a run for its storytelling money – if you survive the evening. Odds are the vodka or the Eastern European smugglers you steal it from will do you in before the night is through. (OK, actually that IS a great story, but I’ll save it for another time).
This week, my posts will focus on different types of whisky stories. The good. The bad. The ugly. And then there’s this one, which has components of all three:
The Good: It happened a few years ago at the House of Blues in Hollywood and just goes to show what is possible when you have unlimited Macallan 18. Yes, unlimited. And free. I was at HOB for a pre-Grammy VIP concert event featuring a number of famous acts (Sting, Mary J. Blige, The Counting Crows, Jewel, and more) and plenty of other celebrities. I was neither a famous act nor a celebrity. I just happened to know someone who knew someone who could provide me with an all-access pass and instruct the VIP lounge bartender to open up the bar’s only bottle of Macallan 18 and give me and my friend all we wanted.
The Bad: A few hours into the evening The VIP Lounge was nearly as empty as the bottle of Macallan 18. Almost everyone had streamed out to see Elton John’s set. I was in the room with a dozen other people and found myself sitting near one Mr. Pierce Brosnan. He was a childhood hero from his “Remington Steele” days and later as James Bond. I’d seen him earlier in the evening and my friend pleaded with me not to speak with him so as to
not make a fool of myself (the odds of which increased with the more Scotch I imbibed). I still had that in mind as I sat near Mr. Brosnan, so I thought the best thing for me to do was to move away from him and go to the VIP bar, which was completely empty – not even a bartender in sight. There, I could hide out alone. And the bar top could help me stand straight. After a minute, I heard someone walk up next to me and turned to see it was Pierce. He had come looking for a drink, not realizing the bartender had stepped away. I had a dilemma. I was warned by my friend not to open my mouth. On the other hand, we were the only two at the bar and we were about two feet from each other. It seemed almost more awkward to not talk with him.
The Ugly: Unfortunately, I opened my mouth. And I couldn’t shut up. I turned to him, completely uninvited, and blathered on about staying in the same Irish castle where he and his wife were married, indeed staying in the same room (the castle staff made a point about letting me know this). Knowing he is Irish, I then started rambling on about Ireland. Then I moved on to rambling about whisk(e)y and thanking God for those Irish monks. I saw he was getting uneasy with my rambling, so I decided to move into James Bond-like action: “Do you want a drink? I can get you a drink. Here, have some of mine.” I reached over the bar counter and grabbed an empty glass. As I was about to pour him a share of my remaining Macallan 18, he interrupted me, grabbed my hand, shook it firmly, looked me straight in the eyes and said, in the most polite blow-off imaginable, “Good luck. Good luck,” and walked away.
“But, it’s Macallan 18!” I lamented as he increased his speed to a slight trot.
Whisky is made for storytelling. The next time someone asks you what your favorite whisky is, try shifting the conversation to a whisky tale. I know people are amazed when they hear us share details of the whisky world and the whisky making process, but every once in a while it’s good to shake up that amazement with a good ol’ fashioned yarn.
Thanks for reading and if you feel so inspired, feel free to share your own whisky story in the comments.