by Ed Sikov
“You drink too much.” This was Dan’s opener at dinner the night after I passed out from too many Old Fashioneds. I reacted with instant hostility, since I’d spent the afternoon making his favorites: braised pork shoulder with parsnips and white wine; brussels sprouts slaw; and a tarte tatin.
But before I sniped back something harsh – like “piss off” – I considered his point of view. It’s painful to admit it: he was right.
“It’s an occupational hazard,” I attempted. “I have a column to write.”
“That’s a lame excuse, and you know it. It was terrifying to find you like that – unconscious on the floor!” “People are said to be ‘asleep’ at night – not ‘unconscious,'” I replied with futile indignation, since I had been, in fact, unconscious.
“All right,” I sighed as I placed the platter of aromatic pork in front of him like an offering to an angry deity – Athena, say, the goddess of both warfare and reason. “I’ll cut back,” I promised.
“ Way back,” he ordered from Olympus as he skewered a large chunk of moist pork, a slab of cooked meat to which I humiliatingly related.
And so I offer this column on single-malt scotch. Since they’re what my great aunt called “dear,” meaning costly, you’re a fool to gulp it. Even I, a professional drinker, can only have one shot a night. So I drink less. Bank-breaking liquor: a solution to Dan’s concern.
For many of us, scotch is an acquired taste. I nearly spat out my first sip. Then again I was 10 at the time. Rum tasted good then, and so did bourbon. But scotch tasted like somebody set fire to my mother’s burlap sack of peat moss and somehow made rotten moonshine out of the smoke.
I grew up. Now I love the intensely smoky, peaty kind of scotch that you can only get in single malts. Given the choice, most poor suckers go for the bland over the exceptional or unusual, so blended scotches dominate, though they all taste basically the same. But single malts vary greatly. I’m the kind of guy who goes for ultra-spicy food, high-cocoa dark chocolate, and certain out-there sexual practices which shall go unelaborated, so I prefer single malts that are heavily smoky, or peaty, or both.
Oban and Talisker are great single malts, but this time I opted for Tormore. I chose it because the liquor store guy boasted that
Tormore was a single-cask, special reserve made solely for his emporium. That brought out the essential snob in me, so I bought it. At home, alone with (as Gollum would say) “my precious” (Dan had flown off to Toronto for meeting of his medical geek society) I sipped my single shot – neat, of course – for about an hour and a half. Tormore’s first taste is a sharp alcohol tang, which turns into a rich smoke in the mouth before softening. It finishes as though you had just smoked a rare cigar. Perfection.
Tormore Single Malt scotch
Face facts: Unless you live in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Boston, you’ll have to order most small-distillery single malts online. If your state forbids such imports, move. You never liked it there anyway, did you? The Puritanical bastards!