Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Of Scotch Smarts & Honey Mead

Protein Wisdom has started up a wave of comments at his site when he posted on his favorite reasonably priced Scotch. Go there and read the post and comments. Its one of those topics where, if you start it up as a conversation with four people in a room, you get five different deeply held opinions.

Scotch is definately an acquired taste, but once acquired, for some reason it almost invariably becomes a passion. My father, strictly a social drinker, absolutely loved it, though he did pay the price for that one night. I saw him drunk only once in my life. And it was falling down power puking drunk - an unenviable state of being that was inevitable conclusion to a night of drinking cowbells - a mix of blended scotch and milk -drunk to excess to celebrate a particularly good night of football for Johnny Unitas against the hated Bears. Actually, that was the only time I ever saw him mix his scotch with milk as I think back on it. A lesson learned.

Besides the taste, the other great benefit of Scotch is that it is the one liquor that your kids will not surreptiously make off with during their teen years. I caught my then fifteen year old son and a friend of his with one of my bottles of Scotch in his room one night. I walked in to the sounds of massive coughing, choking and spitting. My son immediately handed me the bottle, profusely apologized for making off with it, and asked if I had any different liquor in the house. I took that as an attempt at humor and, given his pittiable state, only grounded him for a week.

Scotch gets much of its unique flavor from the peat smoked malt. Flavours vary pretty enormously throughout Scotland, but the best Scotches - the single malts - come from Speyside in the Highlands and from the Isle of Islay in the Hebrides. Islay Scotch is in a class by itself. The whole island is nothing but a peat bog, so not only do you get the peat smoked malt flavor, but the water they use is thoroughly imbued with the taste of peat when it comes from the ground. There is nothing so bold as an Islay Single Malt. My favorite of the Isaly's is Bruichladdich. It is pure heaven. There is but one required ritual before imbibing. Ome must turn in the direction of the Isle of Islay and give thanks to God and to his gift to the world, the brewmaster at the Bruichladdich Distillery, before sitting down to a double shot of that one.

The only other thing I drink is Mead. Mead - the drink of choice for Anglo Saxons of old and made famous in Beowulf - it is the oldest of alcoholic beverages. You make it by fermenting honey, and it can come out anywhere from 5% alcohol to 18% alcohol, depending on the amount of honey and the type of yeast. If you make it low strengh - under 9% - you can make it like a beer, with natural carbonation. Any higher and you have to make it like a still wine.

I have been making it for a few years now. When it comes out good, it is just exquisite. Two hints if you ever want to try your hand at fermenting some. Use a liquid mead yeast, not a wine yeast to ferment your brew. The difference in flavor is night and day, with the former being smooth and slightly sweet, and the latter being so dry and sharp you have to down a glass of water after every sip. I won't give you the science behind that because it will put you to sleep. Just trust me. Two, age it, the longer the better, and if you can lay your hands on some, age it in used charred oak barrels from a whiskey distillery. Ferment the honey with some juices, such as black cherry and asian pear, add some vanilla bean, drop it in the oak barrel to age, and drinking that is damn near better then sex.


A suprisingly close second.

And on that note, I shall leave with thoughts of a glass of year old sweet mead at sunset.


Dinah Lord said...

Let other poets raise a fracas
Bout vines and wines, and drunken Bacchus,
And crabbit names and stories wrack us,
And grate our lug:
I sing the juice Scotch bear can mak us,
In glass or jug.

Oh thou, my Muse! Guid auld Scotch drink!
Whether thro wimplin worms thou jink,
Or, richly brown, ream owre the brink,
In glorious faem,
Inspire me, till I lisp and wink,
To sing thy name.

From Robert Burns. The rest is at the link:

LOL about the Cowbells and wish I could say Bruichladdich! Wonderful story. I really enjoyed it.

Cheers - Dinah.

Dude, when you said you had some home brew going - you weren't kidding! Great pic of the mead. Nectar of the Gods.

scott said...

Thanks for the poem. That is quite a good one I had not read before. I do like Burns, though he is somewhat difficult to understand. Having spent time around several natives of Scotland in my earlier years, I've found it hard enough to understand their spoken version of English. Burns writes like a Scotsman speaks. You have to concentrate on every word to understand him. No wonder the Scots invented Scotch. Christ, that would drive me to get ripped every day too if I had to live over there.


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