Wednesday, June 25, 2008

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Scots Distilleries Go Dry

We've had to stop production for the past 10 days.

~ Mark Reynier
managing director
Bruichladdich Distillery

Penguins seem in good shape for our lifetimes, though I suppose I'll miss the polar bears, destined as they seem for extinction. I did not, however, expect to hear that climate change would have such an immediate effect on distillers. My friend and distiller Brooks Hamaker passed on a disturbing bit of news.

Over the centuries, famine has affected the distilling industry—even a casual reading of British legislation regulating grain since the 17th century reveals restrictions on how grain may be used in times of want. Nothing new there.

The twist this month in Scotland seems to be that there is a connection to global warming patterns. Uncharacteristically sunny and warmer days have meant that the rainfall is down enough to stop production outright at a number of Scotland's whisky distilleries and slow production at others.

My brother has inherited a taste for Scotch from our grandmother, an appreciation that has passed me by. Regardless of how much Scotch I may or may not keep around the house, I hate to see any artisans get hosed by circumstances beyond their control.

It is a sad day for these distillers and my heart goes out to them. See the Gaurdian's write-up here.

In penance for once having said an unkind thing, here's a nod to Scotland's dessicating distilleries:

Camper English and I were sharing drinks last summer at San Francisco's Bourbon & Branch, discussing some of our favored spirits with a local home distiller. Camper ordered a Scotch-based Blood & Sand cocktail and I must have pulled a face.

"You don't like scotch?" he asked, as if maybe I had claimed that I don't like cake, holiday bonuses, or long vacations.

"Feh. I'd rather lick an alleycat," I said, somewhat overstating the case.

"Well." He blinked. Paused. "You're wrong." And to prove it, the Scotch evangelist offered me a dose of his cocktail when it came.

For just a fleeting moment, in the dark recesses of the secluded loft, away from the ears of the other patrons, with Billie Holiday playing through the speakers, great conversation about unlicensed stills flowing, and perched on a chair in good company, it seemed as if I'd tasted heaven when my lips touched that glass.

Then the familiar peatreek taste came to me. If that's the taste of heaven, it's probably for the best that I'm headed to the other place.

The Blood & Sand Cocktail

1 oz. Scotch
1 oz. orange juice
3/4 oz. Cherry Heering (a Danish cherry liqueur)
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth

Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a brandied cherry.

Ok, ok, this is better than an alleycat. But I'm still waiting to try the Scotch whisky that will make me eat my words.


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