Smoke and Peat

The first day in Europe is always a bit of a fog – the way it works on my East Coast flight is, we leave here around 7pm and get there at 7am – only of course for me it’s 1am or thereabouts, and I’m not good at sleeping on the flight.  I drop my bags at the hotel, stay awake through the morning, take a one-hour nap after finally checking into the hotel, go to bed on local time, and … next day I’m pretty much on schedule.  (I can’t imagine what it’s like for you Left Coast people.)  This trip to Paris I got into de Gaulle at 5:30 am, it was bitterly cold, and I couldn’t meet madame for the apartment keys and bag drop until 9:00 am.  By 2pm I was shaking with cold and exhaustion, but too wound up with coffee to sleep.  So I did something I rarely do – took another look at the contents of the liquor cabinet that had been pointed out to me earlier during the tour of the apartment.

Predictably, it was filled with liqueurs people buy and then leave behind in vacation rentals – to my inexpert eye, mostly the sweet fruit/berry/cordial/digestif things that make me think of ripple.  I wasn’t touching those.  There was also Scotch, a word I recognized.  I think I can say truthfully that I’d never tasted Scotch in my life.  But it sounded warming, and there was an inch or two left in the bottle.  So I poured myself a tot … and stood there in awe.

It smelled delicious.  It smelled smoky and peaty and raw and earthy and wet, and in that exact moment I understood what Christopher Brosius was up to in Cumming, the hilariously named and extraordinary celebrity scent by Alan Cumming.  I like to bring it up on the blog periodically for newbies, because otherwise how on earth will anyone ever hear about it?  Notes are bergamot, black pepper, whiskey, leather, peat fire, highland mud, burnt rubber, white truffle, cigars, heather, Douglas fir.  In theory it’s a men’s scent, but what a smell!  If I ever get around to composing a list of 100 Perfumes You Should Smell, this would likely be on it.  Sephora used to carry it online, but there’s no longer a purchasing link there.  I can’t find his website (cummingthefragrance.com) – does anyone have a different link?  In fact, the only place I see it for sale is the New London Pharmacy.  That makes me sad.  Has Cumming been discontinued?  Will it disappear entirely?

I polished off the rest of that bottle of Scotch one tiny glass at a time over our vacation, bothering Louise and Angie periodically with my ravings about it.  Angie and I went to the Closerie des Lilas one evening (it’s famous as a haunt for Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Hemingway and others), and I ordered a glass of wildly overpriced Scotch  – labeled “smoky” and “peppery” in French.  They apparently didn’t think it was appropriate for a lady, but they brought it reluctantly.

The day I left Paris, the security passthrough was a trial.  First off, the screeners hate my favorite walking boots, which look like Doc Martens and have a steel shank, and maybe the orthotic inserts look like C4 explosives on their viewing screen, I don’t know.  Second, it was one of those days where I set off the metal detector over and over.  I do this occasionally, I don’t know why (no, it is not my bra, or my belt).  They pull me to one side and wand me – nothing blips.  They send me back through, and I set it off again.  The patdowns get increasingly intimate, and as I don’t have any shrapnel, metal pins or steel plates to disclose, the workers sometimes get testy.   This time I looked the gal right in the eye as she was grabbing my boobs and told her it was my “coeur d’or” – my heart of gold.  We had a good laugh.  Eventually they gave me my terrorist boots back and I was on my merry way.

I was walking past the duty-free shops looking for – whoa, hey! Are those bottles open!?? – yes, it’s true, in Paris (have I never noticed this at other airports?) they have liquor bottles open on a bar-shaped counter.  Have a shot.  Have three or four – they’re free!   The sales clerk was extremely knowledgeable about their inventory and spoke perfect English, so I asked to taste the smokiest whiskeys they had.

The bottle from the apartment was sitting right there – Bowmore, which turns out not to be utter dreck but a quite well regarded single-malt Scotch whisky.  Whiskey nuts have already figured this out, but it seems I am a fan of the Islay whiskies, noted for their peaty, smoky flavors, with additional notes of iodine, seaweed and salt.  I tried Bowmore (again), Caol Ila, and Laphroaig, which is famous enough even I’d heard of it.  They were all wonderful, but in that moment, the Caol Ila tasted the smokiest, the peatiest, the strangest.  If Comme des Garcons made whiskey, that’s what it would taste like.

I’m working my way through my bottle, one thimble-sized glass at a time.  I can’t imagine ever getting bored with its powerful, peaty aroma — I probably spend as much time sniffing it as I do drinking it.  When it’s gone I’m going to see if I can scare up small bottles of some other smoky Scotch brands.  I want to try as many as I can.   For a gal whose “hard” liquor consumption is limited to a couple of margaritas in midsummer, I’m amused and bemused to have been bitten by the Scotch bug.  But I said the same thing about perfume, didn’t I?

If there’s a smoky Scotch you love, I’d love to hear about it.  And also, is there a fragrance you associate with the smell or taste of an alcoholic beverage, or (vice versa) a drink that conjures up a particular perfume in your mind?

* * *

Endnotes of truthiness, so argue away or correct me if I’m wrong:

1) Scotch whiskey is generally spelled whisky, and everything else (including Irish whiskey) is spelled whiskey, except … when it isn’t.  There are various articles debating this issue, including this one.

2) Scotch is whiskey (oops, sorry, whisky) produced in Scotland.  Whisk(e)y produced in Ireland is called … Irish whiskey.  If it’s American whiskey made in the south, probably from Kentucky and distilled partly from corn, it’s … bourbon.  Feel free to step in here and join the fray.  While I’m picking fights — counter to popular opinion, religious beliefs and various bar menus, Jack Daniel’s is not bourbon.  It’s Tennessee whiskey.

3) I drink my Scotch neat – I can’t imagine pouring something that fantastic over ice, but most of the photos I find online do just that.  Someone tell me why I’m wrong.

4) The people of Scotland are Scottish or ScotsScotch generally refers to a food or beverage (Scotch broth, Scotch egg).  Calling someone Scotch may be considered mildly pejorative.   Except in Canada.  More here.

image: Nora Maynard, thekitchn.com

  • NLP says:

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    http://www.ontheglam.com/2010/06/problem-dwindling-beauty-supply.html

  • Avery Rise says:

    Nice article.

    This is kind of off-topic, but what is your favorite soil conditioning fertilizer? I’ve tried Bio-Magic on my veggie garden, but I don’t like the results. Anyone have suggestions?

  • Kate says:

    March,

    Love Cumming! It smells exactly like Scotland.

    May I share a Scotland/whisky story? Honeymoon in Scotland included a visit to a distillery in the Highlands. Before the tasting watched film which included a Scotsman in a kilt striding up to the camera (wind whips kilt up a bit) saying, “Let me tell you about the Jew of Ben Nevis!” Me and Mr. look at one another aghast. We realized he was pronouncing the the whisky company: the Dew of Ben Nevis.

  • Jinjur says:

    For those looking for Cumming: The Fragrance…
    I moseyed over to Alan Cumming’s personal website and found this on one of the pages, dated May 6 2010:

    “I am a big fan of your fragrance “Cumming the Fragrance”. However, it does not seem like I can find it anywhere to purchase (online or in-store). Is it still available, and if so, do you know how/where I can purchase it? I would love to stock up on several bottles of it.”
    “Hey Joe, we had to close down the Cumming the fragrance website because of internet fraud, alas. But if you send an email via askalan someone will contact you about how to go about buying the product and replenishing your stocks, while they last!! There isn’t much left!”

    alan’s site is alancumming.com

    Good luck y’all!

    • March says:

      Thanks very much for the Cumming update. It’s too bad; it’s a great fragrance. Once I saw it was gone from Sephora, I got that negative feeling….

  • MJ says:

    I’m a bourbon gal – Knob Creek – but should really get back into whiskey. An overdose of powerful Laphroig fumes did me in one night and I haven’t been back (pity for me).

    Dying to try Cumming too, sounds weird enough to be delightful.

  • Stephen says:

    There is a saying regarding whiskey and the number of times it is distilled. The Irish do it three times because they are too stupid to do it twice, whilst the Scots do it twice because they are too mean to do it three!. Don’t get upset about the racial stereotyping, I’m Irish with a Pictish ma! I bridge both banks! Favourite Irish whiskey is Black Bush(mills) and my favourite scotch is Lagavulin with notes of smoke , peat and TCP. TCP is a disinfectant for cuts and grazes etc with a very distinctive smell. In our house, it was referred to as ‘tom cat’s piss’. – makes for a gorgeously medicinal, in many senses of the word, sup!

  • Leslie says:

    The only perfume reference I have experience with would be TDC Bois d’Iris; it reminds me a lot of Drambuie. I haven’t tried the single malt whiskeys, but perhaps it’s time to branch out.

    Since we were on the topic of Cumming, I wandered over to CB I Hate Perfume. He has a whiskey accord…but it’s only available in the shop. ( :(( )

  • carter says:

    Here you go, March. Put it on the “to-do” list for your next visit, along with the Costume Institute exhibits. http://newyork.timeout.com/bars-clubs/west-village/40019/highlands

  • Wordbird says:

    Tragically, I have not yet found the Scotch I can love. I prefer an Irish Single Malt, particularly Bushmills 16 year old. But one of these days I’ll do a proper taste tour of Scotland to see if I can find The One For Me. I decided this after I read a great book by one of my favourite authors, Iain M Banks about his own tasting tour – Raw Spirit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raw_Spirit

    Oddly enough, L’Artisan’s Dzhonga smells exactly like the finest Single Malt on me – right down to the oak barrels. Amazing.

    • March says:

      That’s interesting, you’re the second one to say that about Dzongkha. It was just unbearably murky on me. But now you’re making me want to retry it! And that book sounds like a fun read…

    • Shelley says:

      Lord, Iain Banks on a spirits tour? Sheesh, l’m going pretty dark here…gee, let’s find a drink and a scent to accompany, say, The Wasp Factory. /:)
      😉

      BTW, there’s a funny story about that book…how the publisher said it was great, now, do you have something else? But they went ahead with Dzongkha. I mean, Wasp Factory. ;))

  • Elisa says:

    I’ve never been able to drink peaty, iodine-y scotches — to me they smell and taste like Band-Aids. But I hope to get over this at some point. I do like other kinds of whiskey. Cuir de Lancome reminds me of both scotch and band-aids, but I like it! Maybe it’ll be a gateway drug.

    Byredo Blanche, the one time I tested it, reminded me very much of a white dessert wine.

    • March says:

      You say Band-Aids like it’s a bad thing. 😉 I can absolutely see how they would not be everyone’s cup of … Scotch. Really, Lancome Cuir? The new one? It’s like suede and face powder to me. Lovely scent, for sure.

  • Linda says:

    Greetings from Scotland… Seriously, you need to try Bruichladdich, Ardbeg and Bunnahabhain for the full peaty, smoky glory. We’re away to Islay for a week on Saturday and will probably visit a distillery each day!

  • vidaurreta says:

    Funny but I HATED Cumming (to metallic and dry on me) but I LOVE Frapin 1728 (I think), the most delicious fruit-marinated-liquor smell ever!

    • March says:

      Er … we are possibly at opposite ends on that one! But marinated-boozy notes are difficult for me. Dirty, smelly peat though — bring it on! 🙂

  • AnnieA says:

    Do try Strathisla: it’s very good *and* excellent value (can’t get more Scottish than that). A little water does open up whiskey.

    I do dislike the snobbiness surrounding Scotch drinking, much like wine snobbery. I happen to like the spelling of “whiskey” better — it just looks more cheerful — and I was essentially disinvited from a whiskey-fest. No matter, I took the money and bought a bottle of Strathisla…

    • March says:

      Oh I’m just going to ignore all the snobbery. I mean, I ignore it in perfume. [-( And I ignore it in wine. The Big Cheese loves wine and occasionally splurges on a good bottle, and I do think (if you’re into wine) that learning the terminology for discussion, etc., is fun and useful. But being invited to dinner at the house of a Wine Killjoy who lectures about it with every course takes all the fun out of it.

  • Dana says:

    My husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary last summer by enjoying a tour of Scotland. It was wonderful and the tour stopped in a small town called Pitlochry. We stopped at the Edradour Distillery, which is known for being the smallest distillery in Scotland. Very charming town and interesting tour of Edradour. At the whisky tasting they told us never to use ice (used to cover up taste of cheaper brands), but that spring water at room temp is fine. I think I may have to indulge tonight!

    • March says:

      What a great trip! A distillery visit would be very interesting. And it’s certainly cold enough here tonight that I could indulge again … I wonder if it will ever warm up?

  • Aparatchick says:

    Years and years ago I was a 20 something stockbroker and only the 2nd female one in the firm. The guys I worked with taught me to appreciate Scotch; the whole office would go out on Friday nights and sample away at a local bar. I rarely drink it now, but I believe you should always have a bottle somewhere. Just like carter’s neighbor, I use it in emergencies.

    Irish whiskey? You need to drink that in front of your 2nd cousin’s peat fire in the ancestral thatched roof cottage. When you’re 14. It makes quite an impression. I’ve often thought the scent of that room would have made a fine perfume: peat, smoke, booze, a little barnyard odor coming through the door from the barn across the yard. Lovely.

  • Robin says:

    Oh dear. Went to check the Cumming fragrance website & it’s gone:

    http://www.cummingthefragrance.com/

    🙁

    • Robin says:

      Oh, and please do a 100 perfumes post!!

      • Robin R. says:

        I’m thinking we need an update from you, too, Robin. Was the last one in ’07? That’s the only one I found just now when I quickly did a search.

    • March says:

      I know! The fact that his link no longer works is surely a bad sign.

      And 100 Perfumes is on my to-do list. Eventually. I remember how much I enjoyed reading yours.

  • Astra says:

    I am not into the peaty Scotches (I think Laphroig tastes like cough syrup) so YMMV, but we had a great Scotch called Old Pulteney recently. Normally, I’m a bourbon/rye drinker but this one was wonderful.

  • candyrabbit says:

    What a fun post. I was happy to see the Laphroaig pictured at the top, as that’s just about my favorite. Although I’m not a big drinker, my liquor cabinet rivals my perfume stash. Seeking out old, semi-obscure liqueurs and flavored bitters is very much like the perfume hobby. In fact, I “invented” a perfume-inspired cocktail I call the Je Reviens, which is Champagne with a dash of rose, violette, and orange blossom liqueurs; and a splash of Magellan iris gin.

    • March says:

      Je Reviens sounds wonderful! And the last time we had a perfume party at our house, one of the gals brought all these scented liqueurs and mixers and made a bunch of inspired-by-perfume drinks, which was great fun.

    • Shelley says:

      Ah, you’ve tried the Magellan! That’s next on my list…after the local micro-distillery floral gin I just got.

      Isn’t it fun to concoct that way? We should yammer about that sometime…hey, March… :d

  • Disteza says:

    I’ll second Profumum’s Fumidus as probably the most scotchiest-smellin’ perfume out there, followed distantly by Cumming. There’s something in Dzongkha which comes out on me as strongly whisky as well. I can’t say that I could wear any of them though, cause whisky’s one of the few notes that reads as purely masculine for me.

    I don’t drink much of the stuff either, being the high-falutin’ cognac and champange snob that I am. I can tell you that finer liquors rarely benefit from being chilled (dulls the aroma, kills dispersion, desensitizes the palate), and that with cognac you get the most lovely array of flavors and scents–all the way from mineral clay to cocoa and variations of everything in between.

    • Robin R. says:

      Sorry, D., but it could be argued that some of us don’t drink much much cognac and champagne, being the high-falutin’ single malt drinkers we are. 😉

      • Robin R. says:

        P.S. My desert island booze would be Champagne (Krug, preferably), with cognac (Martell Cordon Bleu, not because it’s the most expensive but because it’s just SO damn perfect) a close second.

      • Disteza says:

        OK, this is how I know I’ve spent waaay too much time in colonial re-enactment mode; I automatically place cognac as an upper class drink (cause back in the 18th century it was durned expensive to import), and scotch as something distinctly lower class (cause back then it was all dangerously potent malt whiskey, mostly illicitly produced, and becuase quite frankly, the Scottish and Irish were consuming it), and lowest of all, my dear SO’s drink of choice, rum (cause they distilled it up north and it was cheap, dahlings). Please pardon my anachronistic faux pas!

    • March says:

      I always assumed, possibly incorrectly, that the reason so many of those drinks like cognac are served in snifters is not just to help capture the aroma for your nose, but also because your hand warms the drink if you cradle the glass.

      • Robin R. says:

        Those brandy snifter things! Cognac makers scoff at ’em. They’re like those crazy dumb saucer-like champagne glasses you — thankfully — never see anymore, supposedly modeled after Marie Antoinette’s right breast (or was it left?). (The best shape for bubbly is the classic elongated flute: the effervescence lasts a lot longer and you can watch the little bubbles rise allll the way from bottom to top.)

        In the days before central heating, a snifter was useful when the manservant brought up a bottle from the household stash in the cellar and both it and the house were quite chilly. Back then it did help to warm up the cognac with your palm. These days, though, if anything cognac is served too warm, because our “room temperature” is ten degrees higher than it used to be. If cognac (or Scotch) is too warm, all you smell is a big kuh-whack of alcohol.

        A good Cognac glass looks very much like a large-ish sherry copita: like a small short-stemmed wine glass with a narrowing top. That’s what the Cognac guys in France use.

        A good Scotch glass, March, btw, is either a footed, stemless tulip glass or a heavy lead crystal lowball glass. Be sure to swirl the malt whisky around in the glass to coat the sides and bring out the aroma, and sniff it from the side a bit and an inch or two above the rim so you avoid the central blast of alcohol and get all the nuances. If you can get your paws on a nice Waterford with their famous Thistle pattern, all you’d need is strong Scots’ burr. And that Lagavulin.

        • Robin R. says:

          Oh, gawd, sorry, I must sound like a total booze geek.

          Come to think of it, I guess I am. :”>

          • Disteza says:

            Eh no worries here–I’ve got a pair of old crystal snifters that I use that are noticeably smaller than the fishbowls that pass for brandy snifters today, and they seem pretty good for any liquor, or liquer, that you’d like to inhale on for awhile.
            My desert island champagne is Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes d’Or Grand Cuvee, and my cognac would be either the Camus XO or one of the spendier Pierre Ferrands.

          • Robin R. says:

            I’d like to be shipwrecked on the same island, then. :)>-

          • March says:

            Nope, you don’t! I’m going to hell, I’ve been mostly drinking it out of our stemless white wine glasses (those foofy ones, someone gave us a set, I forget the name), and my mother in law’s quite small Waterford Lismore … I don’t know what they’e called, old fashioned? They hold like 6 ounces? They’re just short, normal glasses. It’s how she drank her vodka. 🙂

          • Robin R. says:

            Those mom-in-law old fashioneds are just the thing.

            And I was just going to mention a bit more about adding cool water to your Scotch: it’s not a set amount. With Cask Strength whiskeys (they’ll say so on the label; they’re a hot ticket right now) you need to add more water, because they don’t have as much water to start with. They’re bottled straight from the barrel without dilution. With regular malts, it’s an individual preference and it can also vary with the whisky itself, but it’s a great idea to play with the amounts a bit. For me, the usual optimum proportion is an ounce of whiskey and somewhere between one and three tablespoons of water – definitely three for Cask Strength. You’ll be able to play around a bit and find your own favourite dose and it’ll become as instinctive as putting milk in your tea.

        • March says:

          PS. Um … my husband was born in Madrid (although of US citizenry). We have quite the copita 😉 collection.

          • Robin R. says:

            He must love his olorosos, then. He probably knows Lustau. Sherries: now there’s a subject. 😡

          • March says:

            Oddly enough, after one too many tipple trips to Jerez that ended badly, he can’t stand sherry. It’s probably the only thing I can think of he won’t drink.

          • Robin R. says:

            Ah, one of life’s little ironies.

  • Linda says:

    My brother has some forty-year old Islay Scotch that is incredible. I don’t think it’s Laphroaig — although he has treated me to that, too. Wish I remembered the name.

  • Aimee L'Ondee says:

    Love this post!!! I drink Lagavulin, and love Laphroaig, too. I have to try Oban now, if it’s salty…

    And I have another smoky perfume treat to recommend that’s cheapo — J’ai Ose parfum, which starts out like a peat fire, but (here’s the cheapo part) gets smothered pretty quickly into a quieter dark vanilla oriental.

  • Olfacta says:

    I drank Scotch while in college, in an attempt to appear more worldly than my beer and rum-drink-chugging pals. I think it was Dewars red label or something. Now, though, all brown liquor puts me at risk for a migraine, and nothing’s worth that. The DH drinks McCallan (scotch) or Maker’s Mark (bourbon) or Jameson (Irish whiskey) in the winter, but I’m pretty much stuck with wine or vodka now. But, if I did drink Scotch, it would be one of those single-malt varieties. They all smell wonderful to me, as complex as the best perfumes.

    • March says:

      SSsssssssssssssssshhhh, don’t say the M word out loud!!! The head-fairies might be listening, and it would be a shame if I couldn’t indulge myself any more… they are very perfumey in their complexity, aren’t they?

  • Kathryn says:

    Thanks so much for all the mentions/reviews of Cumming. You prodded me into trying some and now DH wears it regularly. It’s wonderful.

    My favorite Scotch is a Speyside,The MacAllan, the older the better, but for a more smoky Scotch I like Lagavulin. Several years ago when we were in Scotland, we were fortunate to be introduced to Philip (Pip) Hills, an early advocate of single malts and a founder of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I don’t think his book Appreciating Whiskey: The Connoisseur’s Guide to Nosing, Tasting and Enjoying Scotch is still in print, but if you ever see a used copy, snap it up. It decodes Scotch into fifteen distinct flavor notes, making Scotch tasting maybe even more fun than sniffing perfume.

    • Kathryn says:

      After seeing Olfacta’s post below, I checked my spelling and we were both wrong: it’s The Macallan.

      • March says:

        The Macallan sounds pretty darn terrific, I’m definitely going to have to try that. And I think Lagavulin may be my next bottle, based on descriptions!

  • maidenbliss says:

    What a great post, March. The grocery list for today has taken a turn, I’m afraid. Laphroaig, Coal Ila, Talsiker, Lagavulin, Oban. Any other suggestions before I go into town? I thought perfume enablers were taking a toll on my budget, and now this.
    Lemming some Cumming, as well:d

    • March says:

      Heh, we have the same shopping list. 🙂 My husband’s going to think I’ve lost my mind.

      They’ve got Cumming on eBay for cheap, two bottles auction right now.

  • Silviafunkly says:

    Having day from hell at work but could not resist peeping.
    Not sure if anyone has already made a mention but Fumidus by Profvmum reminds me of whisky.
    Back to 8-x

  • donanicola says:

    Love a good peaty scotch and am grateful for the Coal Ila recommendation. The bunny haven is indeed all that and a couple of weeks ago I enjoyed the gently smoky Jura. My dear granny used to enjoy her scotch (though not the peaty ones) with ginger ale! A splash of water is good for me. Second Denyse’s Le Labo Patch 24 association but there is also Ayala Moriel’s Espionage – yum. Off to look for Cumming……

    • March says:

      They have two bottles of Cumming on eBay right now for 99 cents or so. Just saying.

      Actually … I’m sure it’s committing a crime, but Scotch and ginger ale sounds tasty. I’d definitely do it with bourbon or a cheaper whiskey. And some ice. :d

      And does anyone drink Shandys any more? I think it’s beer (a light one, like Red Stripe) and ginger beer. It sounds disgusting but isn’t. Every time I see the ginger beer now at Trader Joe’s I’m tempted to make some.

      • Linda says:

        March – I’m sure Robin would concur but, if you want to try a mixed whisky drink, there are a couple of really good blends with a ‘heart’ of single malt: Black Bottle and Grouse (and Black Grouse is especially good)are my favourites. Highland Park is gorgeous and Glengoyne beautifully soft – an afternoon malt!

        • Robin R. says:

          And Oban is a terrific breakfast whisky. :-\”

        • March says:

          I think I should try a blend, since apparently (from what I read) single malts are often deployed that way. After all, I have to have a well-rounded education…

      • sweetlife says:

        Oh March. The ebay thing. How could you? 😉

      • Shelley says:

        Hmmm…shandy…sounds good…and while we’re on the ginger front…how about a Dark and Stormy? I have Gosling’s stashed away for just that purpose. My kids have become ginger beer connoisseurs, and they have pegged that as best, unfortunately, so it tends to disappear.

        Then we could return to gin (hi, Francesca!) and bring out the Pimm’s for a cup…though the Gosling’s is kinda dark (!) for that.

      • janh says:

        Shandys in our local Welsh pastie shop (AZ) are made with beer and a lemonaid tasting drink.

  • kathleen says:

    I know why you are “wrong”, if you don’t mind me saying. I learned, in Scotland, why you should add a drop or 2 of water to the whisky. When you drink it neat, the first sip is always the best. The reason for this, the whisky numbs your taste buds. If you add a drop or so of water, the flavor spreads over the tongue, and you are better able to taste the nuances.

    We are, Glenfiddich people. But we did find an old bottle of Chivas Regal, whilst clearing out my mom’s house, and have been enjoying that. With a drop or 2 of water, of course (my dad would be rolling, to hear this).

    • Robin R. says:

      Kathleen, so crucial to mention! That’s standard practice among the pros. A wee splash of water (preferably Scottish spring: some single malt makers bottle their own from the same source they make their whiskys, for the sole purpose of accompanying their beloved bottles) really opens up the structure, “lifts” the nose so you can appreciate the scent better, and moves the flavour across your tongue most efficiently.

      If you order a glass of whisky at a restaurant or bar, just ask for “water on the side” and a little carafe will magically appear. It shouldn’t be ice cold; the ideal temperature to appreciate fine malt is cool room temperature.

      And never, EVER add ice! [-x

      • kathleen says:

        I agree, ice would just be bad

      • sweetlife says:

        I hear you, Robin, I hear you! No more ice for me…:)>-

        But you can see how the practice started, especially in an America where ice was far more common than special, cool-but-not-cold spring water.

        • March says:

          Yup, we can just fill up one er those 64-oz Big Gulp tubs at the 7-11 and pour our Caol Ila over it … stick a straw in … 😉

      • March says:

        Thanks so much — the ice idea held no appeal for me whatsoever, so I wouldn’t do it even if I were “supposed” to. But the wee bit of water makes total sense.

    • March says:

      Thanks so much to you and Robin R! Pouring spring water out of my gallon plastic jug here just seems wrong 🙂 so next time I’m at the co-op I’m going to look for some fancypants spring water in a glass bottle… and I’ll put it in a wee pitcher.

  • Melissa says:

    I’m not a drinker, but your post gave me a blast of nostalgia. When I was much younger (and the legal age for buying alcohol was 18 in many states), I dabbled a bit with various whiskeys. The only one that I really liked was Scotch. I think that the smoky, peaty scent was a good part of the draw for me. I generally disliked beer, was indifferent to cheaper wines, but I liked expensive, complex wines and scotch. And perfume. This was many years ago, so my memory of the tastes and smells may be off. Even then (at the ripe old age of 18 or so) I seemed to have been drawn to scents and tastes with common themes. Such as “my friends drink Michelob and I’m playing with Glenfiddich and my mother’s Chanels”. They thought I was kinda weird.

    • March says:

      See, that’s just it, isn’t it? You don’t even need to be a big drinker. It’s the perfume of the liquors that’s so enticing. If you can sniff that, who wants Michelob?

  • waftbycarol says:

    I’m not a scotch drinker , but the Captain is…he usually drinks Dewars and TONIC , which is weird and unheard of , and always gets scotch and soda and has to send it back….but he says his favorite smoky scotch is Knockando …i can see you getting sideways glances when you order a shot , neat .
    You might have to start carrying a pocket flask !

    • March says:

      Hah. The Cheese always orders vodka martinis, very dry with an olive, and gets back all sorts of odd things, I think mostly gin, or an onion.

      I was clearly violating some sort of unspoken chesty-haired drinking mandate. But it’s not like I threw it back and demanded they line up three more shots in front of me! It was very funny, though. They kept saying … but how about this one? Or this one, this one’s nice!! The one you want, it’s veeeery smoky…

  • claudia says:

    I was introduced to “real” whisky, i.e. Single Malt Scottish Whisky, by my fiance 7 years ago on our first date, it was a 12-year-old Coal Ila. Needless to say that I have kept the man and his whisky.
    But, I totally second Shelley, please DO try some Talisker! It’s not the most exclusive and not the most expensive Single Malt out there, and the better for it, but I think it’s definitely one of the very best smokey Single Malts available. Definitely my lonely island Single Malt. Just make sure it’s the 18-year-old.

    • March says:

      Oh, I am sure I will get around to the Talisker! :d My bottle of Caol Ila is going faster than you’d think, even in a wee glass.

      And I wanted to mention: I wish you could have seen my husband’s face when I unveiled and opened it. I mean, I am sooo not a mixed-drink, hard-liquor person, and they are all drinkers. So what do I come home with for My First Time in duty-free? This thing that smells to him (I think) like the La Brea Tarpits. He took one tentative swig and said, no thanks!

  • sweetlife says:

    Oh gosh, Rapp, now I don’t know whether to rootle out my Cumming sample or wear my Mitsouko.

    Loved this, March. My DH got into Bourbon, first, which I’m fond of as a very occasional winter tipple. Heretically, I like it very much as a slug in my hot cider. Then he got a bottle of Laphroaig. What a revelation. I always think descriptions like “smoky and peaty” are going to be over-optimistic PR speak, you know? It’s so fantastic when all the smells are so CLEAR and yet so complex. Now you’ve given me some others to go after.

    Regarding the ice: my father, a longtime Scotch drinker, used to say that is “opened up” the drink (as Denyse says “lifts” for the spring water). It’s not about temperature, it’s about the ice slowly melting (that’s why you see people swirling their glasses), and the smell and the taste of the drink changing at it does so. It might just be bunk, or the wrong thing or whatever but I’ve tried it and it does seem to change the rate and intensity at which I smell different things, as warmth does with perfume.

    • sweetlife says:

      Rootled the cumming. (Now doesn’t that sound fun!) I get that bilge water note CB is so fond of in the opening then it settles into something deliciously smoky and light at the same time. Huh. I almost want MORE. Will have to dig out my sample of Onda. Now there’s some serious peaty goodness…

    • March says:

      Yes, how could it really be smoky and peaty? In a way I feel very blessed about my ignorance. I could go into it with no preconceptions at all and just be overwhelmed by it, take it all in.

      Bourbon in hot cider doesn’t sound heretical! ARen’t people always dropping booze into hot cider? It sounds delicious.

  • Ann N. says:

    Nice post, March. I’m not much of a drinker at all, save for the occasional glass of champagne at weddings and New Year’s Eve, but can appreciate the smoky aromas of which you speak. And nice job on the Scotch/Scottish, whisky/whiskey, etc., issues! As a (currently unemployed) copy editor, I raise my (empty) glass to you!!

    • March says:

      Yeah, and to think we used to think of editing as a legit job. =)) My degree’s in Journalism. Learning to make buggy whips would probably be more practical. It was fun reading and researching as I had no idea and was curious myself — I’d noted the spelling variations before, and had no clear idea about what Scotch was, as opposed to whiskey. (I thought it was an entirely different spirit…) Somewhere in that article it points out that the NY Times, arbiter of all things style/editorial, used to always spell it “whiskey” until the Scotch fans badgered them into making the Scots distinction.

  • Francesca says:

    I enjoy single malts very much, too, and my favorite is a fairly hardcore beauty called Lagavulin. The grain is smoked over seaweed, so it’s got a real iodine note. Wonderful on a freezing-ass cold winter evening. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever drunk it in hot weather–but that can be rectified. Plus my downstairs TV room is always cool unless we have a fire going.

    From what I understand, Scottish single-malt aficionados do put a tiny splash of spring water in their drink. I tried it, and it makes the fragrance bloom even more, somehow.

    As far as fragrance reminding me of a drink, Escentric 02 reminds me of martinis. Then again, gin is itself very perfumey, especially such varieties as Tanqueray 10 and Bombay Sapphire (I don’t think they spell it like that) which I don’t like to drink, but they sure smell purty.

    • March says:

      Yummy, Lagavulin! Another one for the list. You know you had me at “fairly hardcore beauty.” I will try my Scotch with a tiny splash of spring water for that bloom…

      When I asked the drink/fragrance question in the post, the most common one I could think of was gin/tonic! That dry, juniper smell…

    • JAntoinette says:

      Lagavulin, yum! Lagavulin 16 is the tops!

    • Robin R. says:

      Good one, F! I was quickly scrolling down, wondering when Lagavulin was going to be mentioned, as it MUST be. March, it MUST BE!!!!!!! And Francesca did, bless her tastebuds.

      One morning I tasted over 40 Scotches before 11am (I write about wine and spirits and things professionally and judge them, too) — quite the marathon — and Lagavulin is just about as smoky and peaty and iodine-y and that’ll-put-hair-on-yer-wee-chesty-y as a single malt can be. It also happens to be superbly complex and magnificently profound.

      And when you’re ready for something a little more elegant — if Lagavulin, Talisker, et al are the Cummings of the malt world, I mean something more along the lines of vintage No.19 — do find yourself a bottle of 18 year The Macallan, or 25 year Highland Park (called The Rolls Royce of single malts). It’s another world. ^:)^

      P.S. And lots of woody scents remind me of exploring cool, dark sherry bodegas in Spain, violets remind me of an excellent Cabernet Franc from the Loire, and most recently Fat Electrician hit me with the most eerily familiar buzz of a mature Australian Shiraz. Must’ve been the vetiver/vanilla combo. 😕

      • Robin R. says:

        And another P.S. Prepare to pinch your pennies. While Lagavulin is well under $100, the 25 year Highland Park is over $250. It’s from the Orkney Islands, a considerable way off the coast of eastern Scotland. Wildly beautiful as hell. 😡

        • March says:

          … my guess is that I’ll work my way up. I want to try some of the lower end first, to get a sense of the nuances of what I’m exploring. Like, the 12-year-old stuff (not that low end, you know what I mean! Under $100.) I wouldn’t buy it regularly, but I can see treating myself to a bottle of $250 Scotch for a special occasion. In the meantime when my Caol Ila is gone, I must get ahold of some Lagavulin! We have a lot of liquor stores around here … and if I can’t find it, it looks pretty easy to buy online… is that a legit way to buy spirits?

          • Robin R. says:

            Oh, you’ll find it easy. You’ll probably have several Lagavulins to choose from, in fact. I think the best bang for the buck is the 16 year old.

            Being from Canada, here in the backwoods, we can’t get alcoholic bevvies on line, but I’m sure in the US it’s as legit as buying fragrance, and there are deals (I quickly checked) galore. Speaking of which, I think you’d be intrigued by the (now-discontinued: so much like niche fragrances!) Glenmorangie wood finish line. Each different “edition” has been aged in a different kind of barrel, which adds just a really interesting dimension. There’s Glenmorangie Madeira Wood, which is quite golden and honeyed, Sherry Wood, which is warm and nutty, and Port Wood (my fave) which is slightly fruity and almost chocolate-y. The quality is excellent. (BTW, Glenmorangie is pronounced Glen MORE un jee, like orange-y with a Glen in front of it.)

            One of my all-time favourites, in the warmer weather when those heavy, oily, peaty, smoky numbers are just a little bit much (kind of like Serge Noire), is Bowmore 15 year. It is crisp and assertive, amazingly complex for the weight of it. We used to carry a bottle at all times on the sailboat in the summer and it was just perfect: it’s got a slight iodine tang and an outdoorsy kind of thing going on: the Dans tes Bras of single malts. It’s good value too, at well under $100. (P.S. The Bowmore 1964 Black, OTOH, will set you back $4,459.88 at a B.C. Liquor Store. No fancy bottle, either. These guys are pretty serious about their whisky.)

            I just remembered that we were messing around with a Cask Strength Macallan one evening and a woman spilt a bit on her hand. All the guys said she smelled great. So maybe a little behind the ears on a hot date? 😉

          • March says:

            I would absolutely see how one of those dabbed behind the ears would be alluring. Really, I think the Caol Ila smells like an excellent perfume… I’d be a man magnet!

            Since Bowmore was my introduction, the 15-year sounds great. (I think the one I found was 12-year.) And I love the idea of the Glenmorangie. Thanks for the specific recommendation of the Lagavulin 16 year!

          • Robin R. says:

            Right. Yeah! I’d forgotten that cosmic bottle in Paris was a Bowmore. Well then, perfect! Oh, and the 15 year old has a special name to it: Bowmore Mariner. It’s got, hmm, a seagull or a sailboat or something similarly nautical on the label. I swear, you’ll feel like you’re out on the ocean with the wind in your teeth when you toss back a wee dram of that puppy. Invigorating and relaxing at the same time.

            Hmm. I know a little too much about this subject, methinks. I am slightly embarrassed that I have seen the bottom of more malt whiskey bottles than is probably good for me. :”>

          • March says:

            I’m online reading about TJ’s Scotch. Apparently the states you can buy hard liquor at TJs are CA, NV and NM. They have Bowmore, Macallan…. you don’t know too much on the subject! You’re an enthusiast!

      • sweetlife says:

        Just back from a quick google of the Macallan and found this in the comments section of a popular whisky/whiskey tasting blog called “The Accidental Hedonist” (great title!):

        “I like The Macallan 18, and here’s a tip for those of you living in the US near a Trader Joe’s – they sell the Macallan 18 in their own bottle (though it still says “Macallan 18-year”) and it’s about one-third the price. I paid $47 when other stores have it for $135 and up. I asked what the difference was and was told that it’s the same exact scotch, but TJ’s bought it by the barrel and bottled it themselves. Same barrel, nothing “special” about it.”

        I know you often find yourself at TJ’s, March… /:)

        • Shelley says:

          First off, “vintage No. 19” pricked up my ears and quivered my nose. Now have added to my other list of snorts to sample.

          And the Orkneys…home of Macbeth…were a but a vision off the bow after a stay in the Shetlands, even further up. Incredible. But my return to the “mainland” meant that I had to spend my first 24 hours in Anna’s Edinburgh parked on a bench, figuring out how not to be overwhelmed by “all those people.”

          As for Accidental Hedonist…I love that blog! I’ve had it bookmarked for a couple of years and visit frequently. And Sweetlife, I *just* was at TJ’s, discovering that their Chariot Gypsy red has magically returned. Will look for their Mac.

        • March says:

          There must be statewide regulations — here (in MD) our Trader Joe’s is not allowed to sell alcoholic beverages. However, I am fairly sure they can in Virginia — but I think it’s only wine (two-buck Chuck) and not spirits? Hm. Must research further. You know, I bet my local TJ’s guys could tell me the scoop.

          • Shelley says:

            The regs are per state. So there are plenty of purveyors on the internet, but you’ll have to see if that category of spirit can be delivered in your state. (The wine peeps, for example, have a different set of rules designed to protect local vinters’ interests.)

            I am pleased to report that I can receive pretty much anything in my state…but one bottle arrived boldly and largely marked in red FOR 21 YEARS OLD AND OVER ONLY, and was delivered by a cute but very embarrassed young UPS driver who for all he tried could not look me in the eye.

            Was it bad that I took the delivery in my pajamas and robe? (Oh, no, I can’t even pretend to say “pegnoir and ostrich mules.” Does.not.happen. Nope, I probably looked like some crazy lush mother who wouldn’t exit the house for her goods. Oh, if my friends could see Goody Two Shoes… 8-| =)) )

          • maidenbliss says:

            As long as the robe was not see-thru. Furry slippers?
            No alcohol @ TJ’s in PA:(( and according to one source PA is only one of two states that don’t allow online liquor sales. I hope I’m wrong, but don’t think so.
            After reading Angela’s post about Paris and armagnac I tried to buy it online-no can do.

          • Disteza says:

            There’s no liquor allowed in Trader Joe’s in VA–in fact the only place you can buy hard liquor in the whole state is in one of the state-run ABC stores. VA is the other state to which you cannot have alcohol shipped via mail. It blows! Thank goodness I have mules, erm, friends that live in the District.

          • maidenbliss says:

            :((:((:(( Annoys me so much! I’m originally from Twin Cities-spoiled by great wines,
            any alcohol imaginable and reasonably priced. PA is same as VA, state owned, no discounts on
            cases of wine, prices are jacked way up. I go to MD to buy. I don’t :(( have mules, er:) friends
            to make liquor runs for me. I’m about 5 hours from the District and many miles from any big
            town. What’s up w VA and PA? And TJ’s here? Virtually nothing like the real deal. The best
            ones are in Vegas – I miss the 2 Buck Chucks and all the goods>:p

          • March says:

            Liquor is so much cheaper in DC (more competition, lower taxes) than MD. We buy it in DC. However, it’s funny — because of the recent 5 cent bag tax, you see all these people now hauling their bottles of vodka, etc. out in their bare hands.

          • maidenbliss says:

            March, I’m stunned! Are u saying there is such a thing as a
            bag tax? Where I live–in the sticks–people
            do NOT even recycle. Another thing-went to MD yesterday
            and ‘showed’ the woman who owns the liquor store my grocery list of scotches (did ya think I was gonna attempt to pronounce some of them to her? She refers to Merlot as mer-lot :d
            She was completely stymied and said she had never heard of any of them.
            :(( Guess I’ll be taking a road trip soon so I don’t fall behind the
            rest of the serious scotchies:”>

          • March says:

            Hah! I wonder what he thought was in that box! And I want some of that TJ’s whisky — I can’t order it online, can I?

        • March says:

          Oops, wrong place — looks like it’s just TJs in NM, NV and CA, here’s some dicussion of their scotch:

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/318561

  • Shelley says:

    Ah. You’ve crossed over. (Scoots over on the couch to make room for March.)

    ((Notice that was “scoots” over, not “Scots over.” Or “Scotch over.” I will, mind you, scoot over whilst you have a skosh of Scotch. Whisky.))

    Talisker? Have you tried Talisker? Put that on your list when you’re ready to try another island. Or Oban, which is seaside, but not surrounded. Of the Islay, I really only know Laphroaig. A happy acquaintance, as I recall. I am not full-throttle on the malts, yet. But I do enjoy both whisky and whiskey at the right time.

    Personally, coming out of the cold damp, I am reminded of my Duty Free dream…locating one of those bottles of limited edition Drambuie available only through duty free shops. WTH is this business of only being allowed to purchase liquor at the U.S. duty free if you’ve disembarked from or are embarking upon an international flight? Is someone really afraid I’m going to start making trips to one of the world’s busiest airports as if it was a “convenience” store??? (You see, I am a naif, a rube, not to mention a dork, when it comes to international travel. I can cite chapter and verse about commuter dating though.)

    Peat. See, again with the dirt. It’s great. It’s not easy…but it is something. Which sounds like Cumming might be.

    (Oh, dear. Bring on the entendres.)

    As for ice or no…I tend toward no, myself. You know there is a whole sub-culture of branch waters and such for the “just right” blooming of the liquor. Crazy people. Next thing you know, somebody is going to suggest some perfumes smell differently on different skin.

    • March says:

      On my list I now have Talisker and Oban and that funny thing Lee suggested… I was so laughably unfamiliar with the workings of duty-free liquor that I had to have one of those duh conversations with the nice lady who was helping me. (“I carry this on the plane?”)

      That perfume/skin thing, now, that’s just the crazy talking. [-(

  • Rappleyea says:

    I should have known you’d love Scotch at first sip. It, like Mitsouko, is something that is said one needs to grow to love, to acclimate to, to understand. Nah! I too loved my very first sip, just as I loved Mitsouko at age 15 in high school.

    You’re exactly right about the bourbon issue – it MUST be made in Kentucky to properly be called bourbon. Otherwise, it’s whiskey.

    I need to experience Cumming though…. 😉

    • March says:

      … you haven’t tried Cumming yet? 8-| You really should.

      🙂

      Yup. First sip. To me it makes sense, though — I am like the inverse of the glass-of-vodka drinker. No G&T for me, thanks. So I think I’d be attracted to the perfume-ier potentials. Angie’s armagnac smelled wonderful. I like the smell (although so far not the taste) of Calvados.

      • Rappleyea says:

        No G & T for me either. I only drank the stuff once in my life, during a weekend long bridge marathon and the G & T’s were made up in enormous several gallon jugs! I’m actually surprised I survived! 😮

        I’m also unfamiliar with Calvados. How did I get to be so old and still so inexperienced?!?

        • March says:

          Calvados is made from apples (I believe it’s apple brandy) and smells lovely. Most of the rest of the fam drinks it — it’s a tradition for them.

  • Louise says:

    sadly. that tape is often just called “scotch” in the US…what’s the proper Scottish name?

  • Erin T says:

    Absolutely lovin’ all the Islay fans on here! I’ve been a Bowmore drinker for years, never without a stash in my cabinet – and you’re absolutely right, because even in Canada, the second home of Scotch, they sell me bottles and shots with reluctance, like “Who is this 12-year-old drinking this stuff we sell mostly to the souses?” I have not ordered it in public since I’ve been visibly pregnant, since I don’t want to be the victim of a public stoning (don’t get me started on very moderate drinking during pregnancy, it’s the sort of thing I’m freakishly over-researched on, which scares people. Nobody likes when you’ve read all the braver medical literature…)

    In the Frozen North, we have a brand name of clear tape that everyone calls “Scotch tape” (made by 3M and with a tartan pattern on the label). My mom learned the hard way that you don’t go over to Scotland to visit the relatives and ask for Scotch tape for your parcels. They get very sarcastic and give you Scotch labels, Scotch markers and Scotch stamps to finish up.

    • Shelley says:

      Oh, we have that tape. It’s actually a better quality option of its type, and as a result of that and the brand recognition (yes, “Scotch”), the price point makes it, erm, not thrifty.

      Incidentally, I ran around the house looking for “scotch tape” as a kid once, and my father rousted from his quiet contemplative about-to-write at the typewriter self to inform me that a) there was a pejorative connotation to the name (quick lecture on “Scots,” “Scotch” and “stereotypes,” along with three words for “thrift”), and b) I think perhaps the first reference to Uncle Donald Ronald MacDonald.

      So, I learned that there were subtle forms of ethnic slander in the form of cello tape on rolls, and that in one branch of the family tree, whisky and whiskey came together in a mixed marriage.

      :d

    • March says:

      Wait.

      1) Visibly pregnant?!? Congratulation!!!! <:-p And yes, my funny story in that dept. involved being HUGELY pregnant with kid #1 and picking up a 12-pack of beer and some cigarettes for a carless friend. The looks I got. :-ss Um, didn't all our moms smoke and drink while pregnant with us? 2. But that's what we call it -- Scotch tape! I can't even think of what else to call it.

      • carter says:

        It is trademarked. Scotch Brand tape by 3M.

        • March says:

          And thank you! It’s been driving me nuts all day, I finally remembered — I’ve learned to call Kleenex “a tissue” when I need it. As Kleenex is the BRAND. But wth else do you call Scotch tape? Transparent tape? That just sounds dumb.

      • Erin T says:

        Sorry, M, I thought you knew! You’d certainly know if you saw me – 12 weeks to go, but I’m already waddling. At least I’m not at the stage of sort of holding the baby in as I walk. I remember that stage, and I remember fondly your story of the Cheese buying you the recliner chair “with a mixture of love and horror” when you were pregnant with the twins. I have only one babe of unknown gender in there, but it must be a large ‘un.

        I kind of forgot you guys had Scotch brand tape in US. Canadians weirdly tend to think of it as their own – although not quite as much as duct tape. Duct tape is our National Symbol.

        • March says:

          Well, heartiest of congratulations and squeees!!! How are you?!?!? Have you gained a lot of weight? easier with #2? How’s #1 taking all this? Have your feet swollen? Here, I’m now going to reach through the screen and tell you a birthing horror story whilst groping your pregnant belly. Because women find that so comforting.

          I am so, so happy for you. Did it put you off perfume temporarily? I don’t think I wore perfume once; I’d have retched.

        • Shelley says:

          Hey, not to hassle a pregnant woman, but how do Canadians manage to claim Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing? Just ’cause they say “eh” and wear toques, like those crazy Yoopers? [-x 😡

  • Austenfan says:

    I don’t drink whisky. Love the smell. The one perfume that really reminds me of that particular smell is Eau du Fier, Goutal. Wonderfully strange perfume.

    • Melissa says:

      Eau du Fier singed the hairs out of my nose…in a good way. 😮
      Although I couldn’t successfully wear it outside of the house!

    • March says:

      Oh Do Fear!!!! I love/am terrified. They still have it at the AG Boutique in Paris, btw, so rumors of its demise are just that. Rumors.

      • Austenfan says:

        I bought my bottle there last August. It’s just the opening that is rather fierce. ( which always reminds me of Piglet, who was not fierce, just very afraid of fierce animals; like heffalumps ). It dries down to apricots, smoke, leather and Lapsang Souchong. Bliss!

        • March says:

          Hee. I’ve never made it to the drydown! But I do think I have a decant of it around here somewhere …

          Piglet. I love my piglet.

          • Austenfan says:

            Piglet is wonderful. Especially when he says that: ” It makes him a little anxious to be a very small animal entirely surrounded by water”
            My favourite is Eeyore though, I am a lot like him.

  • Fiordiligi says:

    Not a whisky fan at all but it was my darling dad’s favourite tipple – he was a Glenfiddich fan. and no ice. As an American once said in my hearing “I think the English lost the recipe for ice.”

    You have the facts about whisky, whiskey, Scots, Scotch correct! A person is Scottish or Scots but scotch is a drink.

    Er, perfume? I got nothing, as you Americans say!

    • March says:

      Har har — although we Amurricans, used to our 48-ounce Big Gulps, do find the ice thing a bit baffling. The grossest thing I got in London was a fruit smoothie (strawberry banana?) and when they handed it to me it was WARM. Blended fruit. Here it’s a frappe, I guess is the right word. Also it cost me like ten bucks. Other than that, it was perfect. 😉

      I am of Scottish ancestry. And I’ve never forgotten being corrected quite sharply by a neighbor once when I said I was Scotch.

  • Louise says:

    Ah, Scotch 😡 I am such a lightweight drinker, but when I needs a hit, it’s only Scotch for me. My mom drank only this (quite a bit, in fact), and I was having sniffs and sips from early on. Breast milk, bah! Give me Islay (right as always, dear Brit), and my usual Glenlivet.

    I got to amuse my son for years by coming home after a long day, grabbing to bottle, slamming it on the dining table for good effect, and pulling a long draw. And, then, done 😮 I do use a glass on occasion, but never sultry to goods with ice or water, or mixers.

    I’ve been off all alcohol for a year or so (migraines), but will return to the mothership soon.

    You did love your peaty, smokey drink, lassy :d/

    And Cumming is indeed all that. I think I need a bottle….

  • Anna in Edinburgh says:

    Laphroaig is heavenly, neat in small nips. The peat smokiness is just perfect. Stick to small nips and keep enjoying “the angels’ share” (the evaporating scent:-)

    “Breath of God” by “b never too busy to be beautiful” has the smoky opening of cade and cedarwood that some people love or hate. I love peat fires and peaty whisky so this scent works just fine on me, with magical hints of ethereal fruity/floral otherness peeking through the smoke, developing and changing it.

    Also, you mentioned citrus rose in an earlier blog, I think, and I wonder if you could try “agnes b. eau rose”? It’s a sparkling effervescent lemony rose tonic spray. A life-saver on hot humid days.

    cheerio

    • March says:

      Are you IN Edinburgh? I would move there in a hot minute. I loved it so much it’s ridiculous. The food! People laugh over here when I say that, but it’s true — lots of good eats. And everything else, of course. And I love to ramble on foot, and it’s perfect for that.

      Thanks for the angels’ share — that is precisely what I’m enjoying! I love that expression. And you’ve reminded me, I STILL haven’t tried Breath of God, I should get on that.

      Several of us share this blog, and I am … not the rose-lover. Perhaps it was Patty? The rose, she and I are generally not friends except under extraordinary circumstances, like YSL Paris. Oddly enough. Because Paris will strangle most normal people.

      • Anna in Edinburgh says:

        Yes, I’m in Edinburgh and I certainly do appreciate being here. Great city.

        A light touch when applying the “Breath of God” works best – the crook of one’s arm is a good place. (I wonder whether the spritz was applied too heavily for the folk who didn’t find it to their taste?)

        Sorry for muddling you with a rose lover – but “Eau Rose” is light and fresh and lemonade-rosy. So uplifting, and I think it’s not available anymore, sadly.

        cheerio and “slainte mhat” (good health)

        • Anna in Edinburgh says:

          oops, lost the last “h” – “slainte mhath”

        • March says:

          I’m smiling, I would have nooooo idea at all how to say slainte mhath! And I can see that perhaps a dab of Breath of God would do better than a spritz…

  • Lee says:

    Our Scottish ex-prime minister has just headed back to the motherland. No doubt he had a wee dram on the journey. He deserved it.

    Funnily enough, Caol Ila is my favourite whisky – most of the time. As Louise knows, I’m an Islay fan (she is too, I think!), and you’re right, Caol Ila is one of the more angular and startlingly iodiny numbers. Smoke and seaweed. Denyse wisely points out that a splash of water brings out the flavour, though I think this might’ve applied to whisky when it used to be sold most frequently at cask strength – it no longer is. At least, not as a matter of course.

    I’d try out Bunnahabhain too – equally wonderful.

    • March says:

      Lord. You haven’t stuck your head into the oven? Thank goodness. Yes, a wee dram seems called for. Also, I giggled like a girl at all the hung parliament jokes. Sorry.

      Now, looky there — what great taste I have for an amateur! 😉 I had to look all this up when I got home, I still didn’t know what I was drinking and loving so much. I was worried (how would I know?) that I couldn’t buy Caol Ila over here. But I can.

      Bunnahabhain. I want to say it out loud. It’s probably pronounced “bunbain” or something close…

      • Lee says:

        I pronounce it ‘bunny haven’ and imagine a land of rabbit paradise. I think it’s something like boona-haaven, with the oo not too drawn out, and the aav as in Ave Maria.

        No head in oven. Yet.

        Yeah – hung parliament. And of course, they’re ‘members’ of parliament too… And the latest lot are a bunch of dicks.

        But hey, I mustn’t be partisan.

  • I’ve loved single-malt whisky for… well, for almost as long as I’ve been legal. When I did a story on the Glenfiddich distillery some years back, I learned that the best way to serve it was with a very tiny splash of pure spring water, which lifts the flavor. No ice though!
    I find some of that smoky, cresolic goodness in Le Labo Patchouli 24 and the fiercer vetivers, like Les Nez’s Turtle.

    • karin says:

      Yes! My husband and a friend taste-tested with and without water and decided that water did indeed bring out the flavors. My brother (another Scotch connoisseur) promotes this, too. I am not a Scotch drinker, so can’t comment, though now you’ve intrigued me, March!

      • March says:

        See, I love that. Get in there and taste it and decide for yourself! 😡 Is the water supposed to be room temperature? Or more like refrigerated water?

        Hon, I am a non-hard-drinker. I mean, I’m probably consuming a couple of tablespoons. It’s all about the smell.

        • karin says:

          No idea on the temp of the water! Good question!

          Ah…you’ve inspired me to appreciate the aroma, not necessarily the taste; though now that I’m sampling it for the smell, I may actually appreciate the taste more. Didn’t mean to imply you’re now a hard liquor “drinker”!! 🙂 Hmmm…must get into our liquor cabinet and check out my husband’s stash!!! (Uh-oh…he may not like this…ha ha!)

          I really think there is a connection between perfume, eating, and drinking. Much related to smell and taste. We’re really all hedonists at heart, eh?

          • March says:

            I do think there’s a connection (lots of perfume nuts are foodies) and I was unclear in my comment — what I meant was, if I, a non-drinker of liquor, could fall so in love with the stuff, perhaps you might as well. Don’t tell your husband it’s my fault, though!

            And it sounds like everyone’s saying room temp. water…

    • March says:

      Now there’s a useful tip! (over here, perhaps that’s what they’re referring to with the expression “bourbon and branch water.”) It will depress me to pour spring water from the plastic gallon jug, I’m going to have to find a small pitcher to decant it into … should the water be chilled? And I have some of that Le Labo Patch around here … and also their vetiver, which I find earthy…

      • Musette says:

        and so it begins.

        this is why people have ‘barware’, honeybunny – I mean bunnyhaven! Scotch and bourbon always tastes best in good crystal. And you definitely need a small crystal pitcher.

        xo >-)

        • March says:

          Wait, I’m not your sugartitties anymore? 🙁

          😉

          I probably *have* a small crystal pitcher, from our wedding, still in a box somewhere. Annnnd…. courtesy of dearly departed Cheese Mom, some rather nice, small glasses. I am not on board with the giant glass. [-( They look silly in my hand.

          • Musette says:

            Pull that pitcher out and use it. Life is short. And brutal. Might as well drink from good crystal while you can!

            I totally agree that the glass, whatever glass it is, should fit comfortably in your hand. I think a lot of bit ol’ crystal is for show – there are smaller versions. But a nice glass is part of the enjoyment, particularly as you are savoring the smell/feel/taste of liquor rather than just bolting it down. I favor heavy cut crystal because it’s harder to break but there is a line called Triton (I think) that is smooth crystal and break-resistant. And it’s not huge.

            I’m suspecting Cheese Mom had some slammo barware.

            xoxo >-)

          • Musette says:

            And yes, you are still my sugartitties! 🙂

            You are now the Official Bunny Haven Sugartitties!

            xo >-)

          • March says:

            Cheese mom, as I said below, favored (I had to look up the name) the Lismore crystal, a small old-fashioned glass that I never even see on the websites — it’s smaller than their single old fashioned more like 7oz than 9. It’s a great size. She was a relatively petite woman and since she filled it up with vodka 🙂 that was her measuring device.

  • Pimpinett says:

    Cumming is fantastic. I really hope it isn’t being discontinued, because that would mean that I have to buy a bottle ASAP and I can’t really afford that at the moment. Also terribly sad in general, of course.

    I don’t really get whisky. Like cognac, it smells great but tastes… well, less so; unlike cognac I don’t have much use for it in my cooking. Being a whisky geek seems like it might be sort of fun, though.

    • March says:

      To me, those drinks are much/mostly about the smell — in fact, I believe Angela had a fine armagnac that same evening.

  • tmp00 says:

    Laphroaig has so many memories for me. It’s what our Dad’s drank and I one of my first and few hangovers; my BFF Moo and I went to her parent’s beach house and drank most of a bottle. I remember waltzing on the beach and us waking up and debating which one of us was less puking sick to drive home..

    I still love the stuff but am more of a wine drinker these days. I should get a bottle just for the heck of it.

    Oban is lovely also, it has a salty note to it that may make it the Secretions Magnafique of Scotch. Of course I write that not having tasted it in years..

    • March says:

      I’m laughing at this. Personally, retching up an entire bottle of Laphroaig would probably put me off it for life. I feel that way about tequila sunrises…

      • Tom says:

        I don’t know why it didn’t. Well, I was like just 18 or something, so that’s most likely it. I just learned to have two, tops.

        Tequila I don’t have an issue with since it puts me to sleep faster than Ambien. Two Tequila Sunrises and Tommy Sunsets..

  • Eric says:

    I Love Cumming! There I said it!
    Really, a very good mens cologne….

  • carter says:

    I had a dog get hit by a car one day when I lived in Brooklyn (incredibly, she was fine) and my across-the-street neighbor took one look at me, sat me down on the stoop of his brownstone while he went inside for a moment, came back out, and proceeded to pour most of the contents of what I later found out was an extremely spendy bottle of Scotch directly down my throat.

    Best thing I ever drank; went straight to my brain…and my knees…without ever coming in direct contact with my taste buds.

    • March says:

      Oh! Scotch sounds like the perfect antidote… so glad she was fine! And how generous to share the top-shelf stuff with you. 🙂

      • carter says:

        I think it was probably all he had — he was that kind of guy — but truly it was extraordinarily quick and smart thinking on his part. You always see it done in old movies, but never in real life. I was nearly in a state of shock, shaking like a leaf, and that stuff really set me right in a jiffy.

        I have drunk good Scotch for pure enjoyment and it was enjoyable, indeed, but my problem is that when I want a “real” drink, I can’t pass up a Gibson. Scotch has always been one of those “interesting–must investigate further” things that of course I never get around to actually doing.

        • Musette says:

          Gibsons is grand, ain’t they? I love Brillante because it reminds me of a Gibson – both the smell/taste and the aura of drinking a Gibson in elegant setting, amidst elegant company. I suspect you and I should prolly nebber spend much time together in a bar!=)) The onions would be a-crunchin’!

          xo >-)

          ps. i was hoping you would join in the lelong chat – what did you think of it?
          xo

        • March says:

          … I don’t even know what a Gibson is (hides face.) But I’ve always wanted to order a Sidecar. It sounds like fun. As does a Gibson, come to think of it.

          And liquor under those circumstances *is* medicinal. Takes the edge right off.