Beneath the peat bogs of Scotland flows a magical elixir that we call ‘peat bog water’ and it’s delicious.
LACK OF STARS: (Look, I’ve mixed the whole formula up. Stop crying)
My friends eighteenth birthday was held in the Sutherland Army Reserve base, because her dad was the Major or the General or the King or something. At eighteen I was fresh faced and innocent, approaching all experiences with a sense of wonder and dread. Parties had only just become legal drinking experiences, which meant I had to stop drinking whatever Lemon Ruskies some dudes older brother could smuggle in, and actually go to the bottle shop and make informed choices. I had to decide what kind of drinker I was going to be. So, I wandered into this party with my ten dollar bottle of Bombora coconut rum travesty and set about having a grand time.
I quickly discovered that the main difference between sixteenth’s and eighteenth’s, was that alcohol was a catered affair. The family actually provided booze to the punks and gutter rats that were frequenting the event. And provide they did – before my bamboozled eyes lay not only eskies full of chilled beer, but dozens of bottles of Johnny Walker Black Label. Now, I’d never drunk whisky before. At pubs and clubs, my drink of choice was often a Bourbon Whiskey, because of reasons unfathomable to me at this advanced age. I can only assume I thought it was cool. And along that vein, I rather thought that a Scotch Whisky might be dignified and awesome. So, I absconded with an entire bottle of the stuff and embraced the party. ‘Embraced the party’ of course means that due to the all encompassing memory loss of that night, I have no idea what I did, except for excerpts that people have related back to me.
Me sitting on top of an army truck, screaming things along the lines of ‘Eat your heart out, Optimus Prime!’
|Woo! Defence budget.
Me rolling around in the grass speaking to myself aka Gollum and Smeagol. Apparently I was quite good at this, and I’ve never really been able to carry off the voice that well again.
Me rolling around in the grass and vomiting horribly.
Now, it was at this point that an ambulance was called for me. I can understand this from the perspective of a gang of gormless teens – they’d never seen anything so horrible. They were scared, appalled and probably didn’t want to deal with the manic spewing gollum that I’d become. Fair enough. But I would also like to point out, that it wasn’t actual alcohol poisoning. I didn’t need my stomach pumped. I have since been as sick, and even more so – I called it ‘University’.
And when the ambulance drivers came, they were understandably pissed off. Instead of saving lives or fighting demons or whatever it was that they enjoyed doing, they had to cart back some stinking vomit teen, who was still muttering about ‘his precious’. This is probably why in the middle of my rant about ‘taters? What’s taters?’, one of the ambulance men gave me a big old slap. My mate Bob was there, and was pretty shocked. I think the dude was probably justified.
Waking up in the hospital was pretty awful, in the sense that I’d clearly done something wrong. It was clearly a big deal, a major moment of badness. Although, because all they’d done in the hospital was hook me up to a drip, I actually felt fantastic. No hangover for me.
The strange end to this unfortunate tale, is that a day or two later I received a call from the General Dad or whatever in charge of the Reserve. He told me that me and some of my friends (I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t dealt gracefully with free spirits) had caused a bunch of mess, and that we had to come back and clean it up. Turning up once again at the Reserve, this time Windex and gloves replacing my coconut rum and bad decision making, we were led into the spotless army room and sat down. General Dad began talking about our lack of discipline, and then also about the shame of our unnatural lifestyle. I was still expecting to hear that I’d vomited on a flame thrower or something, so that it took me a little while to realise that the two other kids sitting with me, were also the only two openly gay kids in our year of school. Suddenly it all came together, and I realised what was going on. Looking at the other two, they had clearly pegged on to it earlier than me. We weren’t actually there to clean up puddles of day old vomit – we were there because this homophobic military douche was trying to get us to join the military to beat the gay out of us. I’d like to say that we stood as one, threw our pink dishwashing gloves down and marched out – but we didn’t. We sat there quietly for fifteen minutes and listened, desperately hoping this threatening and insulting experience would be over soon.
From that day on, the merest smell of anything whisky related made me feel incredibly ill. I felt no real qualm about not drinking it, because there was a whole world of other alcohol out there for me to drink. Until recently I was at a party, and the host, a mate of mine named Sam Cooney, wandered up to me in his nuns habit and kindly said ‘You need a drink!’
I agreed, and a large tumbler of Scotch was thrust into my hand. It was a loud party, and I felt obliged to drink it out of politeness, so I didn’t demur. And slowly, with great trepidation, I lifted the enormous glass to my lips and tasted the burning, petrochemical tang of whisky for the first time in almost a decade. And I found it good. Gone was the instinctive nausea. Gone was the psychological shame conditioning. Because I’d been shouting all night, I’d lost my voice earlier. Through the power of whisky, it miraculously came back. Whisky was amazing.
Words cannot how exciting this is for me. I’m one of those jerks who thinks deeply about his alcohol. I have a wine cellar. I know about ‘good years’. I drink boutique beers. I know what my martini proportion is. I’m ‘set’ in my preferences, I know what I like and I do everything I can to maintain this standard. And now I’ve been given a whole new family of booze for me to discover. I have no idea what kind of whisky I like, what kind of whisky is good. There’s a bewildering range of whisky’s waiting to get into my face. Do I like whisky on the rocks, or neat? I now have another reason to go to Scotland (there are three reasons, the first is CASTLES). When I’m out with people now, I get to shake them and scream ‘WHAT KIND OF WHISKY DO YOU LIKE!’ I’m just so excited. Thanks, Sam Cooney. Thanks for this great gift.