There’s something that seems right about drinking Scotch next to a huge fireplace with a deer head looking down on you. I feel like Ron Swanson would approve. This is about as close to a Scotch hunting lodge as I am going to get. And actually, it’s not too bad of a setting for bourbon, either.
I don’t do a ton of day drinking, especially on a Thursday, so it felt unusual to be drinking with the sun streaming through the windows of a ski lodge. But then I would look outside at the cowboy strumming guitar for people sitting around a fire pit in wooden rocking chairs and think, well, it kind of fits.
It’s becoming harder to find whiskies I haven’t tried for my New Year’s Challenge to taste 33 new whiskies in less than 30 days, especially at a typical bar that doesn’t have 100 kinds of American whisky on the shelf or an immense collection of Scotches. We’ve left Brooklyn for sure, Toto, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good whiskies to find in Colorado – even if the pairings are a little less calculated and a little more “what can I try from this menu that I haven’t tried yet.”
Today, that took me to a couple of interesting options – a High West bourbon called American Prairie Reserve and a Scotch from Campbeltown – Springbank 15 year old.
Without intending to, I set up the rough versus the gentle whiskies today. Seriously, Tonintoul calls itself “the gentle dram.” Colonel E.H. Taylor doesn’t declare itself rough, but I will.
The colonel, though, he’s like a challenging conversation. I stick around because I think I feel like I will learn something. I like that. And then I go to Tomintoul for a hug. Because I like hugs, too.
After enough evenings sitting at a bar doing tastings on my own, I got a nice reminder how social whisky can – and should – be by sharing a couple of bottles of Scotch with my coworkers. It is not unusual on a Wednesday for an ice bucket and glasses to appear in one of our conference rooms with a bowl of popcorn. And for people to wander in after their day and help themselves to a pour.
You know people enjoyed a Wednesday when you come in Thursday to your office – a little bleary-eyed – and find two almost empty bottles of Scotch, a very empty bowl of popcorn, and tasting notes from fellow drinkers who scribbled things like “I feel like I’m falling down a hole when I drink it.”
This week, we sized up two blends of single malt Scotches. One I was quite familiar with – Monkey Shoulder. Adorable bottle with three monkeys on it, representing the three distilleries from the Speyside region that make the single malt Scotches inside. I can’t technically count this toward my challenge to taste 33 new whiskies in less than 30 days because it’s already such a good friend. I will say I enjoy it, though. Very drinkable.
The other one – Sheep Dip – I had tried once, but long ago, so it counts. This was a favorite of my gun-in-his-boot grandpa who enjoyed a Scotch on the rocks regularly. The name came from trying to get the bottles past the tax man back in the day when they taxed more for the stuff that got people soused than they did for the stuff that got sheep de-loused (which I assume is what Sheep Dip was).
On a cold, wintry evening, sitting in a library by a fire with a Scotch and jazz music playing is about as perfect as it gets. The only thing I would have added is a purring cat on my lap, but I don’t think they allow those at the Brandy Library.
The Brandy Library really seemed more of a whiskey library to me and featured my favorite décor – shelves of bottles surround the room, bathed in an amber glow, and little ladders roll across for easy reach to their extensive collection. They have cigars and a fireplace and comfy chairs. For those who have read Little Women, it’s kind of like I picture Laurie’s grandfather’s library if you take out the books and replace them with whiskey. It’s also very quiet like a library.
Tough to choose off the menu. It’s one of the better Scotch selections I’ve seen in New York – many lines of delicious-looking unpronounceable names. I went with Aberlour’s A’bunadh to start out with. And then I also tried W.L. Weller 12-year. It's a bourbon not Scotch, but I couldn’t resist – I haven’t seen it anywhere and I like all the other Wellers. If Scotch is for a wintry evening by a fire, bourbon makes me want to sit on a porch in the shade, but actually either of these would be fine anywhere. Especially in my mouth where they belong.
Classic Hollywood actresses are often described as having a “whiskey voice.” They are strong, suave, sultry, and classy. And they don’t take crap from anyone. Think Ava Gardner:
“I wish to live to 150 years old, but the day I die, I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other.”
There’s a reason Lauren Bacall was chosen for a Suntory whisky ad in 1978, Bette Davis advertised for Jim Beam in 1974, and most recently, Christina Hendricks is the face of Johnny Walker. They bring a cool sophistication. Women want to be them. Men want them. And everyone wants the whiskey.