Heavens, I Was Wallowing in Whisky

My former editor insisted one day that I write a story on single malt whisky. Now I have never been one for whisky, let alone pretensions of knowing one single malt from another. Plus I was young and callow. You know how youth will have its way and make you feel like you are all-knowing. I was always ready to take on any subject, learn a bit along the way, dream of new professions as a result, but this was a task I was not equal to. I did not Like whisky. There I have said it. Have my head, you there nursing the tan liquid in your glass. But an editor shall not be denied his idea and so I trudged to a few whisky bars in Delhi, letting many a dram of single malt dribble down the throat, leaving in their wake a warm burn.

I toodled back to office after the legwork and wrote a piece. Even as I drummed the words out, I knew I was delivering drivel. My editor changed every word in the copy – he knew his whisky – and I could not fathom why he could not have undertaken it in the first place. Naturally, I did not want the byline. But as a junior correspondent there is only that much you can do.

When the story saw the light of day, the CEO and owner of the newspaper – your atypical cigar-smoking, whisky-swigging media baron – called up my editor. He was aghast. Bad story about whisky! Unpardonable stuff. But here was the silver lining. My editor called me into his cabin to let me know about the gravity of the call. Involuntarily the words left my mouth, ‘But it is your story P. The idea And the words.’

Years later I was in the land of that earthy brand of single malt, Talisker, that Robert Louis Stevenson had declared ‘the king o’ drinks’.

In the boggy landscape of Carbost where myrtle grows thick and furious, the smell of peat palpable in the air, we made our way to an almost two-century-old distillery. Adi loves his single malt and would not be denied a visit to the Talisker Distillery.  So there I was, the same person who a few years ago had blanched at the taste of whisky, tasting an aged single malt and actually appreciating it. The classic 10-year-old Talisker.

If you tell me now that I was hallucinating, I might just believe you. But it tasted robust. Peppery and spicy. A few sips and I could think of it being paired with a strong meat. Not for the weak-hearted.

Maybe it was the atmosphere – the land itself had got to me. For Talisker is indelibly linked with the landscape of Skye and I was experiencing a way of life. That good ol’ London lover, who had decided for all of us that if we are tired of London we must be tired of life – yes indeed, Dr Samuel Johnson (Cuptain Cupcake shall have a cupcake ready for clever you) – had travelled to the western islands in 1773. He had made notes about the morning habit of a Scot. “A man of the Hebrides, for of the women’s diet I can give no account, as soon as he appears in the morning, swallows a glass of whisky.” And how Johnson himself loved his dram of Talisker.

At the distillery, an islander told us stories. Of the distillery, of liquor brewed the traditional way, the peaty nature of the brew. That the dark notes of Talisker are derived from the water that flows over peat and down the summit of Cnoc nan Speireag (translated means ‘Sparrowhawk Hill’).

The warm sensation of Talisker making my toes curl, I could well believe in fairies, I will have you know. We devoured salmon baps at a nearby oyster farm, regardless of the ammoniac vapour of seafood, and sped off to chase fairies in the Waternish peninsula.

Fairies are a part of the peninsular charm of the area. There is a fairy bridge, some fairy pools and then Dunvegan Castle, the seat of the MacLeods, where a fairy queen is supposed to have left behind her flag as token of her presence in the world. Fight that. She is said to have married one of the MacLeod chiefs and one day walked out on him. I wonder, could it have been the haggis that did it?

On a more upsetting note, the otters eluded us at the coral beach near Dunvegan. A woman at the tea shop nearby had told us gleefully about them, the whiskered boys who like to float on their back in the waters there. But not a single one showed up even though we stayed hours on the beach catching the glow of the setting sun upon the long grass that climbs over the hill leading to the white crescent of the beach, the ebb and flow of crystal clear water that glinted a heartwarming shade of turquoise and the strange bleached bones of Maërl, a red coralline seaweed that gets bleached by the sun and collects on the shore.

But I will not be denied an otter. So when I met Oscar at a small farm shop in a crofting village that sits in the shadow of the mighty Cuillins, he came home with me. Now he just makes the occasional trip to Skye when he needs his diet of wild fish.

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Carbost

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The only distillery on the Isle of Skye
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Whiskered fella of Talisker
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Non-whiskered fella at Talisker, oddly exultant about something
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The Red Cuillin

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Claigan 
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That tiny structure sticking out right at the end is Dunvegan Castle
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The coral beach at Claigan
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The walk to the beach through little piles of cow dung and kissing gates
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Dessicated bits of Maërl and a bit of cheesiness

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Meet Oscar. Here he is shamelessly flaunting his catch of the day. Then he shall slip it quietly into his satchel. 
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Oscar’s Skye home

94 thoughts on “Heavens, I Was Wallowing in Whisky

    1. If he is reading this, he would turn purple in the face. I have stories, Jen 😉 Otters are such adorable creatures. In my future menagerie, I would love to have an otter. Take Adi to a distillery or a brewery and he is right at home! xx

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  1. Good lord! Lex would be in seventh heaven at the distillery. He’s such a fan of single malt and splurges on anything with a “Fiddich” or “Glen” in its name. You always come up with an amazing blogpost with stunning photos!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Neek. You do know that the word amazing is a reflection of your thought process and the way you look at the world?
      🙂 If you have not fainted at the cheesiness of that statement, Adi a fan of single malts. His father is even more of a connoisseur and they like their share of the ‘Glens’ 😉 So I can see them getting along like a trio of whisky lovers on fire. And yes, Lex would love Talisker. It has a certain charm about it. xx

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      1. Hey! I like cheese. Thank you for the kind compliment. Lex says that Talisker is one of the best single malt whiskeys on the market and would love to try it one day. He’s determined to find it at our local store. (as Neek rolls her eyes). Have a great weekend!

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      2. Hahaha, I can picture you rolling your eyes alright. I do hope Lex finds his booty of Talisker at the local store. If not, you can always book a holiday to the land of Talisker 😉 You guys have a lovely weekend too! xx

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    1. Hahaha hmm he had his ways 😉 I lean more towards beer but I can make exceptions for whisky! Skye was a dream alright. You will see it stretched and wonder how long can she waffle about it! 😀 xx

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  2. Well written and lovely pictures. I am not a whiskey fan the burn on my throat as it goes down my throat is a little too much for me. Enjoyed reading the post. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  3. That story with your editor was a bit of a downer. Seems like a strange idea he had in the first place to be honest. Does he often write articles while drinking whisky himself? Or maybe he thought it sounded cool? Anyway, the takeaway is that Carbost looks lovely. Also I was also upset that you didn’t get to see otters. Oscar is a good alternative though 😀

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    1. Oscar bows to you solemnly, his whiskers twitching with pride. Psst: I shall cuff him for the pride bit later.

      The thing is single malts were my editor’s passion. As for drinking whisky and writing, I think he would love the sound of it 😉 He was in his late 40s, Angela, and he was anything but cool 😛

      I think I was jinxed at the time. Just before this I had been to Sardinia where pink flamingos appear on a certain beach without fail in the mornings. But the morning my friends took me, there were none. And right after, an otter no-show in Skye. Talk about the time not being right!

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  4. Don’t you love how food (drink) tastes different in different places because you sop up the feel, history, wonder and stories as you imbibe? Who needs fairies, that’s really magical! I am curious as to what other animals would be in your menagerie?

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    1. Ah ah ah, now you’ve got the juices flowing. Consider yourself warned. All of these shall arrive as babies. A panda, a polar bear (for Adi because he is obsessed with them), two Golden Retrievers, a Leonberger, a Chow, a Maremma, an elephant, a horse, a hippo, a beaver, an otter and a lion. I might make place for one or two more if I have missed them out. The only raw deal is the hippo. He would stink up the place and I would have hell cleaning his pool but his cuteness shall be my reward.

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  5. Otterly charming tale 😉 You did make me laugh with your ill-fated forray into whisky journaliam … and I am so glad you got to taste the real stuff in its natural habitat. I am not a lover of the malt but my father was and my stepson is. All I can say is that drinking Champagne in Champagne the other day was wholly a revelation… suddenly I understood exactly and precisely why it is different to any other Cremant and why it is the only thing to pair with rich buttery fish dishes, lobster (pink champers please) and berry ripe meringue desserts (demi sec not brut ). I have seldom been more delighted not more replete! Your post inspires me even more to visit Skye and perhaps to risk some Talisker to drink in memory of my beloved Daddy. Xx

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    1. The whisky journalists would have chased me with a truncheon. I say do go to Talisker, where they say, the whisky is made by the sea. Sounds so poetic, does it not? A drink tempered by its environment. There is something so beautiful about that. Your daddy would be proud of you, Osyth.

      Drinking Champagne in Champagne! Now that sounds like something I would indulge in without a second thought. You make it sound luscious. The buttery fish, lobster and berry berry ripe desserts. Also, you had me there along with pink champers 😉 The only time I had an amazing time quaffing the pink bubbly was at a calendar party thrown by the liquor baron Vijay Mallya. I was working and yet what delightful work that was 😀 I think I should plan a trip to Champagne now after this!!! xx

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      1. Here’s the real…. I’ll suffer Talisker and the poetry of drinking whisky made by the sea if you will endure Champagne and the arduous task of quaffing vintage pink bubbles with luscious lobster! 🍾 xx

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      2. SUCH a girl after my own heart …. let me know when your endurance is to be tested and I will happily furnish the secrets of my own sparkly sojourn 😉xxx

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      3. That will take time so I would rather have the secrets of your sojourn first, please. Sparkly always wins my vote, and to reiterate my enthusiasm I shall say, without fail 🙂 xx

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  6. Great story! Hope your former editor reads this one. The landscapes are glorious and perhaps I’d like whiskey too if I tasted it there. Come to the west coast of Vancouver Island if you want to see more of Oscar’s friends.

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    1. He really would turn a strange shade of purple when he used to froth at the mouth with anger. Rare but I have seen him change shades. Your hope would give us purple pleasures here! He is not too bad. With the passage of years he did get more agreeable 😉

      Thank you Caroline for the lovely words. I would come in a heartbeat. I shall remember this when we plan out visits to Canada. xx

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    1. Physical distance too 😉 I have had worse editors, Caroline. Ones who would make your nerves singe. That old boss of yours could do with a stint of living on a remote island. It might help on the improvement front or alternately save others from his presence.

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  7. I keep meaning to acquire more of a taste for whisky. I’ve got to start somewhere, but it hasn’t much happened yet. The image of Claigan is my favorite. I imagine myself Elizabeth Bennet walking that field on her way home.

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    1. Hello Elizabeth, I see you walking through those long grasses bending over with the wind. Dreaming a bit. Wickham bothering you much? That is one of my favourite images too and you fit right in 🙂

      Whisky is still not my first choice and I wonder if it ever will be. But something about giving into the drink and the very atmosphere of Skye you know? xx

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    1. What is the rubbish stuff though, I am curious. Bell’s? 😛 My friend used to have it so often. He used to leave a bottle at out home for the purpose of pre-Friday night outs. Ginger with whisky actually sounds great! More fiery 😉

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      1. That is a potent combination. I think it would be a perfect winter drink – whisky with ginger. He knew his poison clearly 🙂 Talisker is the only good stuff I remember. The rest that I tasted before have melted away because I guess I never enjoyed them.

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  8. Your story made me feel identified, although I still hate whiskey 😛
    I guess many of the good things in life take time to be fully appreciated (beer, whiskey, caviar…). Another fab post about Scotland 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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