Scotch – Not for the Youngsters, but for the Young at Heart
By Andy Eversole
Scotch Whiskey. Your Dad probably sips it. Your Grandfather likely had a bottle stashed away in a cupboard somewhere, ready for special occasions, from which your Grandmother snuck nips. It’s the kind of libation that rarely finds its way to the drink counter of a party, or the open bar of a wedding. Perhaps this is due to its price tag ($40/50 on one end, $5,000+ on the other), or maybe it’s just the imported nature of it. Whatever the reasons, Scotch is something you have to seek out, to learn about, to experience. The complexities of the flavors, and the history that this drink tells, is something that I am only beginning to understand. But I feel the kilt is being lifted, and I am slowly but surely getting a glimpse of the magic that is underneath.
I was born in Harlan, Kentucky, where it is mythicized that we drink bourbon out of baby bottles. This was not me, however. When I became old enough to drink, you know, 16 years old at high school camping parties, while everyone else was drinking Jack Daniels and Wild Turkey, I was doing my best to get down doses of Zima and Budweiser (If you don’t know what Zima is, consider yourself lucky.) My palette and my body were just not ready for the hard stuff. And, I have to say, that ended up being a good thing. But now that I’m deep into my 30s, I’ve seen many strange things. I’ve been around the world. I’ve had loved ones pass away. I’ve lived through several American presidential elections. Now, with this accumulation of life experience, I think that I am finally able to sit down, relax, and really appreciate and enjoy a good glass of Scotch Whiskey.
The first mention of scotch comes from 1495 in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, which are records of royal income and expenditure. The literature reads, “To Friar John Cor, by order of the King, to make aqua vitae, VIII bolls of malt”. John Cor was a distiller in the Country of Fife, and the above record documents eight bolls of malt be given to him by the king for distillation. This was enough malt to produce 1,500 bottles, suggesting that the process was quite robust at this point. According to this document and historians, the original name was Aqua Vitae, which is Latin for “Water of Life”. The name is evidence of the reverence the Scottish people and culture have for this holy concoction.
History aside, you’ve never really had the full experience of a glass of scotch until you’ve sat down in a pub, in the country of origin, and ordered from the source. I was lucky enough to visit Scotland this past summer, and promptly upon arrival, found the first watering hole. “What al ya have?” in that wonderful Scottish accent, echoes from behind the bar. Since I have been doing my research on the plane ride over, I know what I’m looking for. “Ardbeg”, I say, “and a Scottish Ale”, as my southern Appalachian accent begins to take on Scottish undertones. “Aye”, says the bartender. I take that first smoky, rich, complex sip, and the hair on my arms stands at attention. As it slides down my throat and warms my soul, I turn to the old lad next to me at the bar, ready to share some stories.