Monday, December 28, 2009

A Peaty Epiphany

Remember the scene in Ratatouille when curmudgeonly food critic Anton Ego takes a bite of the title dish and is instantly transported back to his youth? A similar thing happened to me recently with a peat-laden scotch. Well, it didn't take me back to my childhood, thankfully, but it carried me to a warm, comfy cottage perched on the edge of Galway Bay in western Ireland.

I've never been one for amber spirits. Whiskey, rye, bourbon, rum....gah! Something about them triggers my gag reflex. They always have. Even the smell is enough to roil my cookies. I'm sure that growing up in sour mash country didn't help. Irish whiskey, because it's triple distilled, is a bit easier, and I've even managed to enjoy a splash of calvados on occasion. But still, I much prefer the clean crispness and bright herbal qualities of a good gin.

Then a few days ago Himself came in with a bottle of Laphroaig, a 10-year-old single malt scotch. He poured a wee dram of the stuff, set it on the arm of the sofa and went off in search of a book, safe in the knowledge that I'd never pinch his drink. I leaned over and took a sniff. The rich peaty aroma reminded me of the fires in all those cozy living rooms and bedrooms and sitting rooms I've enjoyed on trips to Ireland and Scotland. So I ventured a sip--and my senses and memory merged to catapult me from my living room in Los Angeles and plant me next to a peat fire in the Connemara. I could see that kitchy living room in front of me, and I actually teared up from the remembering. It was as if I were breathing in the essence of the fire our dear hostess Mamie had laid for us before she headed out to a wedding, singing a sweet, "Don't wait up for me, dearies!" as she closed the door behind her.

I've never had an experience like that. Himself knows how I am about ambers, so he long ago quit offering me a sip. He walked back into the room and found me holding his glass.

"Wow! I love this!" I said, and I thought he was going to keel over. A look came across his face that said, "Who are you and what have you done with my wife?!"

So what do I call this? Molecular memory? Whatever it is, I'm glad to have discovered the peaty stuff. It's like enjoying a cigar without the smoke.

I'm eager to try some of the other peaty Scotches. Himself has his favorites, of which this is one, his others being Caol Ila and Ardbeg. I look forward to trying them after we polish off this bottle. But it's not a whisky to knock back. It's to be sipped, savored and enjoyed. I can wait for the pleasure of trying the others.


Mark B. said...

"A look came across his face that said, "Who are you and what have you done with my wife?!"

Um, that's not what that look meant. That look meant, "Dang that stuff's expensive and now she's developed the taste for it, and I'll have to share."

Hungry Passport said...

From the look on Himself's face when he read your comment, I'd say there's much truth in your words!