The edits to Human Game are done; I sent the manuscript back to Penguin last week. To celebrate the completion of yet another step in the publishing process, I went out last night and bought myself a nice bottle of scotch (Oban). When I’m done writing this, I plan on enjoying a glass.
I first drank scotch, appropriately enough, in Scotland. I was eighteen and sitting at the bar with my father in the Hawes Inn, where in room 13 Robert Louis Stevenson wrote some of Kidnapped. I’m British by birth but have lived in the States since I was seven, so legally sitting in a bar as a recent high school grad, enjoying a drink with my dad, was something special. Up until this my point, my tastes had not strayed far beyond bottled beer. But now, with the kilted barman (yes, he really did wear a kilt) asking what I wanted to drink, I decided it was time to branch out. Feeling very debonair, I asked for a scotch on the rocks. It would prove to be the first of several scotches that night. The taste, I admit, was an acquired one—but I enjoyed the slight burn as it went down.
It was a beautiful summer evening. The door to the bar was open, allowing me from where I sat to watch the Firth of Forth flow under the Railway Bridge. As I drank and enjoyed my surroundings, I noticed a gentleman at the end of the bar eyeing my father. More than eyeing, actually, it was pretty much a full-on stare. As extreme coincidence would have it, the guy (Angus) turned out to be a friend of my dad’s from many years before. Additional rounds were quickly ordered, and the business of catching up got underway.
After a few drinks, Angus invited us to his nearby house to sample some of his scotches. Having just been introduced to the stuff, I was eager to try more. We walked from the hotel to his home, which offered a tremendous view of the river. The room we sat in was straight out of Architectural Digest: dark wood paneling on the walls and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves crammed with what seemed to be thousands of books. One end of the room was dominated by a massive window that looked out over the water. A wet bar stocked with an impressive number of scotch bottles vied for attention at the opposite end. Angus was a collector of fine scotches. As he retrieved a number of bottles from the bar, his wife entered the room with a tray of cheese and biscuits. This, indeed, was the good life.
And so the evening progressed with Angus pouring us glasses from various bottles, explaining distillation and the sort of barrels used in the aging process. Most of what he said that night—along with the names of the scotches—were lost to the incredible buzz that soon followed, but a love affair with the drink flourished.
I’ve always believed a man should have a signature drink beyond wine or beer. For many years, mine was scotch–although I’m now trending toward gin and tonic. Nevertheless, whenever I want to celebrate something special or mark a milestone, scotch remains my drink of choice. So now I’m off to pour a glass.
To the folks reading this, I’ll raise my drink and say, “Cheers!”