Whimsical Whiskey and Awful Adjectives

With two weeks of classes and three weeks of residence under my belt, I feel that I’ve finally settled into a comfortable routine. Although my routine of classes, coffees and late-night study is only loosely routine—adventures and stray cats still lurk around every corner, inviting me to join/pet them. As soon as classes began, they really began. I wasn’t comfortably eased back into schoolwork—I was plunged.

Although I love my courses (Gaelic, Scotland and Orality and Edinburgh in Fiction), the workload is daunting. I have a Gaelic lecture every morning, and it seems as though vocabulary words come pouring out of my ears faster than I can cram them into my brain. In my fiction class we are assigned a novel every week, which is no easy task, especially when said novel happens to be penned by Sir Walter Scott. A brilliant writer, but brief he is not.

But course-work can be so enjoyable in a city crammed with coffee shops and cozy study spaces. I’ve carted my books to the labyrinth in George Square, the tables in the library that overlook the Meadows, and the stools in the window of Black Medicine Coffee Co. (a spot which gives you the added benefit of spying on passersby when you are pretending to read). I am also slightly embarrassed to admit how much joy I receive when I purchase coffee from one of the police box cafes in George Square. No one can convince me that one of those police boxes isn’t the real TARDIS, and that it isn’t a Time Lord, and not some harried employee, handing me my latte.

But in between study sessions, I am still checking items off of my Edinburgh to-do list. Last weekend I took my second hike up Arthur’s Seat with my flatmates. (This experience was considerably better than my first excursion up the mountainside—that day, the wind was so powerful that I was blown off my feet not once, but twice, and the rain pelted my face so fast that I thought someone was throwing pebbles at me.) But this afternoon was sunny and beautiful, and Holyrood Park was so crowded that the entire city must have been outdoors. The Scots, it seems, are not accustomed to good weather—when the sun shines, everyone goes mad. On our way down Arthur’s Seat, we witnessed (and almost got knocked over by) a summersault race between five or six giddy young men.

The Summit:

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On Top Of The World:

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We also saw this sweet message written in stones on a plateau just below the summit—I wonder what she said?

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The same weekend, two of my flatmates and I decided to check out some of the local pubs. The Jazz Bar in the Teviot and The Brass Monkey (where the seating consists mainly of BEDS!) got good reviews from us, although we still haven’t heard any jazz in the Jazz Bar…perhaps the musicians are on strike. But by the time we reached The Albanach, a whiskey bar on the Royal Mile, I had already downed a few gin and tonics—which may help explain what happened next. I ordered the cheapest whiskey on the menu (which was still a whopping £3.75), and proceeded to laugh hysterically over the whiskey menu. My amusement increased as the amount of whiskey in my glass decreased.

So that you can fully understand my glee, I have provided a few choice samples from The Albanach’s whiskey menu:

Isle of Jura 21 Year Old: A brilliant fruit and spice combination, long and intensely malty, Jaffa Cakes, mushrooms and honey.

Ardmore 25 Year Old: The initial aroma is of marzipan with just a trace of peat smoke that is overlaid
 by the Morello cherry and blackcurrant fruitiness. The peat smoke appears immediately as a touch of leather that fades and allows the creamier fruit and heather flower rich softness that is balanced by the tang of oak.

Aberfeldy 12 Year Old: Toothpaste and green apple skins on nose, quite waxy.

Am I alone in my incredulity? I mean, can we all agree that no one has ever tasted Jaffa Cake or leather in a glass of whiskey? I imagine that the employees fiendishly made their menu as ridiculous and pretentious as possible, just to see how much the tourists would swallow. Or that the Albanach actually did hire a professional whiskey taster, and that he foolishly decided to taste ALL THE WHISKEY and write the menu in one night (which would explain why the last few pages of the menu are the silliest).

Even if someone can prove to me that these whiskeys taste like ‘marshmallow’ and ‘toothpaste’ and will give me an ‘oily mouth feel,’ isn’t that poor advertising? I want whiskey to taste like whiskey, not like ‘peat,’ ‘oak,’ ‘overripe banana,’ ‘polished wood,’ or ‘charcoal.’ Nor do I take my liquor ‘industrial,’ ‘unctuous,’ or ‘ghostly.’ And I absolutely do not believe that a whiskey can taste like ‘a day at the funfair on the beach.’

All jesting aside, whoever wrote this menu has the best job in the world. Who doesn’t want to get paid to describe what they’re drinking? Since I haven’t heard back from any of the local whiskey bars or restaurants, I’ve decided to go freelance. Here are a few samples of my work, and if anyone needs a new whiskey menu, or really, anything described at all, just give me a call. It’s my dream. It’s my destiny.

Glengoe 14 Year Old: A wet coffee filter, a used sock, a whiff of fish oil. Subtle flutter of a pigeon’s wing, then goes down smoothly like a drowning sailor. Finishes with a hint of Jammy Dodgers.

Macallan 26 Year Old: An extraordinarily rich and complex whiskey, like an heiress with emotional problems. Hints of burning tire and gum that’s been chewed by a dog. Notes of zucchini hover, and then fade into an aftertaste of beef stew.

Glencairn 18 Year Old: Aged in an oak cask that accidentally rolled down a hill and floated into the sea, this whiskey is for the lover of adventure. It pummels your palate like an enraged, lemon-flavored boxer, and then soothes your wounds with a dash of industrial smoke and elegant melon.

Now that I have thoroughly mocked a Scottish institution and whiskey lovers worldwide, it is time to say goodbye for another week, and to scribble out the rest of my whiskey menu in secret, until the time is ripe for it to be revealed to the world.

Up Next: Gaelic Gloom and Wacky Weather