Please … Let Me Explain

I glanced across the line of shelves filled with eye-catching boxes and broad-shouldered bottles, occasionally pulling one from the line-up to scrutinize with envious enthusiasm.

“I can’t confidently say that I’m an expert at this time, as it’s only been six months, but I figure another year and a half and most customers who walk through that shop door will find me to be a connoisseur of the craft—a malt maven, if you will.”

I glanced up at the twenty-four-year old soon-to-be scotch scholar and gave him an encouraging smile.

“I hadn’t envisioned finding myself in this position years ago when in school in Finland—working as Mr. Worrall’s apprentice—but”—he ran his hands through his buzz-cropped, fair-colored hair—“it seems the puzzle pieces just fell into place.”

“I see,” I murmured, pivoting from one tight space in the tiny London whisky shop to move past the long and lanky Finn toward another shelf filled with other amber liquids I’d yet to see or taste.

I picked up a bright canary colored box. “Huh,” I breathed out, twisting the carton in my hand to view all sides. A whisky made in New Zealand. I’d traveled to the country maybe a decade ago and had been disappointed to discover that the only distillation I came across was the furtive kind—with kerosene cans and rubber tubing. Nothing I could find on the shelves of duty free at the airport to take home. The box in my hand provided scant details.

“Where is this?” I twisted to glance up at The Lad McFinnland.

His eyebrows rose, and then quick understanding flooded his face. “Ah yes, New Zealand is a small chain of islands—two mainly—off the south eastern coast of Australia. Known for its mountains and glaciers generally.”

I stood silent. Then I looked around for something that would cost less than one hundred pounds to throw at his head, as this was a rare malt whisky shop that carried nothing one wouldn’t have to consider auctioning off a kidney in order to buy.

I sighed and rolled my eyes at the American distiller sitting in the corner, wrapping up business with the shop owner. We had developed a few signals during this trip to subtly communicate.

I was tagging along on his travels across the UK, helping him navigate his unpretentious and ballsy bourbon around a country filled with its exclusive, gentry-filled single malt scotch drinkers.

He’s a Virginian, whose teeth were cut on grits and grand plantations. I’m currently a Virginian—by way of a million little detours—who’s spent twenty-five years soaking up the Scottish, the Irish, and everything English.

“Your whisky tastes of marmite and ribena,” one distributer had said.

I’d leaned over to translate. “Yeast paste and black currents.”

“I’m getting a touch of candy floss.”

“That would be cotton candy,” I whispered.

“This one tastes of a water closet’s urinal cake.”

I looked at the distiller. His furrowed eyebrows halted my words. “Yeah, I got that one.”

I’m also here, immersing myself in a side of the whisky world I’m usually not swimming in—all for the sake of research. My newest novel in progress—a book about a suffering distillery on the verge of falling apart—has me seeking more than just the drinking of a dram. The more I know about the inside industry, the better the believability factor.

So, once again I’ve entered the world of spirits where the main players erroneously assume I have as much understanding and interest about the subject as I do about prostate cancer.

“We’re talking about brown spirits, darling,” one Englishman pointed out to me at a tasting event. “An utterly foul habit to the gentler sex.”

“Mansplaining is something we find even fouler,” I looked up innocently.

“Surely not,” he put a hand on my shoulder. “Perhaps we should get you a white wine?”

“A single malt, please.”

“That’s the spirit,” he said with another wry, all-knowing pat. “I’ll order you my favorite lest you find it distasteful. Then I’ll drink it myself.”

This industry has been slow to change. Like the pivoting of a large ship, the whisky world protects its stability. Women can make things tipsy—both literally and figuratively. And parts of the world I travel to are reticent to allow the hand of time to tick as quickly as it wishes to. But there is a growing number of “that gentler sex” that persevere, and for that I’m wholly grateful. As I believe it’s an alcoholic arena that many find too intimidating to enter, and we need a few to boldly clear the path in front of us.

I crave standing in the intersection of the two things I love most: writing and whisky. My aim for the last two decades has been to make it into an explosive crossroads, adding food and nature, folklore and peat smoke. To me, this is the best definition of scotch—purely Scotland in liquid form. It finds me weak in the knees and often at a loss for language.

Despite the heavy hand of doubt I’m usually greeted with on this male-dominated turf, I’d be remiss if I neglected to point out the bright moments where I’m caught by surprise and filled with delight.

“So,” a tall, Welsh actor beside me starts, “have you been dragged here by a companion you’re unfortunately in debt to, or are you as besotted with this juice as much as the rest of the poor SOBs at this whisky tasting?”

I turned and glanced up. I wanted to hug him. “Definitely not dragged. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

“Ah,” he nodded grimly. “Then I feel doubly sorry for you, as I’m sure like us, you’re continually searching for and finding the next Holy Grail, only to discover after a taste from that chalice, that it’s usually just a few too many precious pennies out of our budgets.”

I laughed and took a sip of the pricey elixir in my hand. Finally, a true compatriot.

He continued. “So what have you been dying to try that seems a little out of reach?”

I thought back to yesterday, in the rare malt shop. “Oh,” I breathed out dreamily. “A new single malt from New Zealand.”

His eyes lit with interest. “Really? Where’s that?”

I couldn’t help myself, and I snorted with laughter as the words tumbled out. “Ah yes, New Zealand is a small chain of islands—two mainly—off the south eastern coast of Australia. Known for its mountains and glaciers generally.”

~Shelley

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Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twas the Night Santa Ditched Us

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas with Earl

by Shelley Sackier (and a little help from Mr. Moore)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and throughout our old post
Not a creature was stirring, ‘cept our dead plumber ghost.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
To hide the big crack in the masonry there.

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The children were splayed on the couch, all serene,
While visions of Family Guy flickered on screen.

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And me in my apron, the dog at my feet,
Made bourbon soaked bonbons, a Christmas Eve treat.

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When out on the lawn there arose such a noise,
I sprang up to shout at some loud redneck boys.
Away to the window, full of anger I flew,
And stared down the barrel of my 22.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
proved Earl and his snowplow were now a “no show.”
When what should I see like a cast of buffoons,
But our Earl on a sled pulled by seven old coons.

With a burly old driver, so mean for no reason,
I saw in a flash Earl’s new job for the season.

More rapid than eagles his complaints rumbled out,
While he pointed an old grizzled finger to shout.

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“Now Bubba! Now, Merle! Now, Otis and Wyatt!
On, Buford! On, Farley! And Vernon be quiet!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now git goin’! Git goin’! Dammit y’all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
My thoughts flew about asking, “Santa Claus, why?”
So up to the front door the hound dogs they slogged,
With the sled full of moonshine and old Earl in a fog.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the stoop,
The grunting and griping of the grumpy old poop.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Through the front door the old codger came round.

He was dressed all in flannel and coon hunting gear,
And his clothes still held bits from skinning some deer.
A bundle of bottles he had flung on his back,
And he glanced all around for a lawman attack.

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His eyes were all wrinkled, his face worn and weathered,
His hands were quite scared and his skin rough and leathered.

His crooked lips snarled, never smiled like a winner,
And the beard of his chin showed canned hash for his dinner.

Some spit on my polished old floor he did spew,
Revealing that Earl had a mouthful of chew.
He had a broad face that was washed clean of dirt,
But a nose that he wiped on the sleeve of his shirt.

He was chubby and plump, a curmudgeonly churl,
Who never said, “Hi”– his lips wouldn’t curl.
A grunt from his girth and a scratch on his bum
Made me ask why it was Santa gave us the thumb.

He spoke not a word, but grumbled with work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And shuffling past me, he dragged down the hall
The rest of the moonshine toward his next port of call.

He slumped in his sled, to his team gave a holler,
And away the dogs pulled, straining hard at the collar.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“I’m raising my fee for each plow, now good-night!”

Haggis Jingle Bells

~HAPPY HOLIDAYS~

~Shelley

 

For the time being, our blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Purrrly Whites

The cat and I share very few similarities other than we both like to have food available to us 24/7, and we want everyone to leave us alone.

Today, we had another similitude.

We both had dentist appointments.

With different dentists, mind you.

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I remember when we first plucked this lionhearted kitten out of a mass of squirming furballs at the animal shelter. She was less than thrilled at being disturbed from her nap amid her breathing blanket, and upon making eye contact with me, swiftly assessed I was less than qualified wearing my new hat of ‘caretaker.’

I could see her point. I’d broken the cardinal rule we both share:

Unless I come to you, don’t come to me.

She breaks our cardinal rule far more often than I do. She brings me a dead leaf approximately the size of a mouse in exchange for one of those doodads in the treat jar on the counter. A dozen times a day. In her mind, gluttony is justification for her behavior.

Plus, rules are for schmucks.

Brushing a cat’s teeth is not a job for anyone hoping to retain either their hypothetical friendship with their cat, or the same amount of blood they possessed in their body before starting the procedure. It is an adventure one goes into with the understanding that it will be pleasant for no one and likely fairly fruitless.

Chances are it would make an entertaining YouTube video that may have better than average odds at going viral.

Three years ago, upon securing this peevish puss, my daughter also amassed a collection of references in order to aid her on her journey of surrogate motherhood. The cat was “hers”—a birthday gift long awaited and finally realized. The gift also came with a few caveats that were not so gifty.

– Feed her

– Amuse her

– And dispose of her deposits.

PS. You get to brush her teeth. Good luck. Love mom. And remember pretty is on the inside.

The scratches didn’t leave scars, thank God, but we did figure out that a glass of wine helped to make the whole job easier. We also figured out that the cat preferred bourbon, so I took over with the glass of wine. Brushing the feline’s canines was clearly a two man job. My daughter wrestled the cat into submission while I sipped my way into oblivion.

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It was a win win.

Eventually, our bicuspid brushing bash trickled down from our twice a week joint shout of “SHOWTIME!” to my daughter’s “Yeah, I’ll get around to it,” and settled firmly at the bottom of my vet’s “Now, I’m not suggesting braces—you can decide that later after you’ve had a chance to discuss it at home—but your cat would surely benefit from scraping the three pounds of tartar off her teeth.”

Well, at least she’ll only be two pounds overweight once they’ve finished the job. Bonus.

It’s often said that it’s an easy slip to let the cat out of the bag, but getting the cat INTO the bag is usually more of my problem. Some cats do not see the appeal of a bag no matter how many pieces of dried chicken strips and dead mouse toys you throw into it. But I am not one to wither and give up. Plus, I really didn’t need that second eye anyway.

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Getting my teeth cleaned is not such an anxiety-ridden affair any longer, but stopping the whole procedure to answer my cell phone can be tricky. Talking to anyone with a mouthful of foam, a suctioning tube hissing away from the side of your mouth and a tartar pick embedded in the side of your cheek can be extra tricky. Telling your dentist to back off and give you a second can be trickiest of all—especially since he’s still within reach of all the sharp, gleaming surgical instruments and is running behind by thirty minutes. One must be delicate.

It turns out that the vet was calling to let me know a few quick things:

Firstly, the cat voiced an immediate complaint about her new lodgings and was not the warm fuzzy wuzzy widdle kitten you said she was upon dropping her off. A note has been made in her chart. And if you’re aware of anyone with even the minimum amount of experience and training, would you please pass on the word that the office is now short and in need of a kennel technician and receptionist.

Secondly, one must pay extra for anesthesia when the staff must employ the tranquilizer gun.

Thirdly, no more sugar for the cat—no matter how much she gazes longingly at the supersized bag of Sour Patch Kids.

Finally, why don’t we give her a few more hours before you come by to pick her up? Just to be safe.

Why so long? Surely her meds have started to wear off by now, I say.

At the moment we’re just waiting for her to stop hissing and spitting at everybody.

What? I thought you said she’d received anesthesia.

Well, to be honest, we’re not entirely sure that it ever kicked in.

Did you have to remove any teeth?

‘Have to’ is a relative term. We voted and decided that in all likelihood, any tooth that we originally had our eye on is bound to come out sooner or later of its own accord.

So the cat is back home, more pissed off than ever, partly because we’re back to the old tiny teeth brushing routine, and partly because I ran out of her favorite brand of bourbon. But after nearly choking on the bill presented by the vet, I announced she was just going to have to get used to generic.

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Here kitty kitty …

“SHOWTIME!”

~Shelley

**Gotta Have a Gott**

Last week, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Click here to see the cartoons in competition and to cast your vote.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.

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