Monday, November 2, 2015



No matter how it is spelled, where it is made, or what it is called, WHISKY, WHISKEY, BOUBON, SCOTCH, RYE is arguably the most important medicinal contribution to civilization. (and it's tasty too)

Dragonfly in Amber chapter 6 Making Waves
The door opened, and Jamie came in. He smiled vaguely in my direction, then stopped dead by the table, face absorbed as though he were trying to remember something. He took his cloak off, folded it, and hung it neatly over the foot of the bed, straightened, marched over to the other stool, sat down on it with great precision, and closed his eyes. I sat still, my mending forgotten in my lap, watching this performance with considerable interest. After a moment, he opened his eyes and smiled at me, but didn’t say anything. He leaned forward, studying my face with great attention, as though he hadn’t seen me in weeks. At last, an expression of profound revelation passed over his face, and he relaxed, shoulders slumping as he rested his elbows on his knees. “Whisky,” he said, with immense satisfaction. “I see,” I said cautiously. “A lot of it?” He shook his head slowly from side to side, as though it were very heavy. I could almost hear the contents sloshing. “Not me,” he said, very distinctly. “You.”“Me?” I said indignantly. “Your eyes ,” he said. He smiled beatifically. His own eyes were soft and dreamy, cloudy as a trout pool in the rain. “My eyes? What have my eyes got to do with …”“They’re the color of verra fine whisky, wi’ the sun shining through them from behind . I thought this morning they looked like sherry, but I was wrong . Not sherry. Not brandy . It’s whisky. That’s what it is.” He looked so gratified as he said this that I couldn’t help laughing.

“Jamie, you’re terribly drunk. What have you been doing?” His expression altered to a slight frown. “I’m not drunk.”“Oh, no?” I laid the mending aside and came over to lay a hand on his forehead. It was cool and damp, though his face was flushed. He at once put his arms about my waist and pulled me close, nuzzling affectionately at my bosom. The smell of mingled spirits rose from him like a fog, so thick as almost to be visible. “Come here to me, Sassenach,” he murmured. “My whisky-eyed lass, my love. Let me take ye to bed.” I thought it a debatable point as to who was likely to be taking whom to bed, but didn’t argue. It didn’t matter why he thought he was going to bed, after all, provided he got there. I bent and got a shoulder under his armpit to help him up, but he leaned away, rising slowly and majestically under his own power. “I dinna need help,” he said, reaching for the cord at the neck of his shirt. “I told ye, I’m not drunk.”“You’re right,” I said. “‘Drunk’ isn’t anywhere near sufficient to describe your current state. Jamie, you’re completely pissed.” His eyes traveled down the front of his kilt, across the floor, and up the front of my gown. “No, I’m not,” he said, with great dignity. “I did that outside.” He took a step toward me, glowing with ardor. “Come here to me, Sassenach; I’m ready.” I thought “ready” was a bit of an overstatement in one regard; he’d gotten his buttons half undone, and his shirt hung askew on his shoulders, but that was as far as he was likely to make it unaided. In other respects, though … the broad expanse of his chest was exposed, showing the small hollow in the center where I was accustomed to rest my chin, and the small curly hairs sprang up joyous around his nipples. He saw me looking at him, and reached for one of my hands, clasping it to his breast. He was startlingly warm, and I moved instinctively toward him. The other arm swept round me and he bent to kiss me. He made such a thorough job of it that I felt mildly intoxicated, merely from sharing his breath. “All right,” I said, laughing. “If you’re ready, so am I. Let me undress you first, though— I’ve had enough mending today.” He stood still as I stripped him, scarcely moving. He didn’t move, either, as I attended to my own clothes and turned down the bed. I climbed in and turned to look at him, ruddy and magnificent in the sunset glow. He was finely made as a Greek statue, long-nosed and high-cheeked as a profile on a Roman coin. The wide, soft mouth was set in a dreamy smile, and the slanted eyes looked far away. He was perfectly immobile.

I viewed him with some concern. “Jamie,” I said, “how, exactly, do you decide whether you’re drunk?” Aroused by my voice, he swayed alarmingly to one side, but caught himself on the edge of the mantelpiece. His eyes drifted around the room, then fixed on my face. For an instant, they blazed clear and pellucid with intelligence. “Och, easy, Sassenach. If ye can stand up, you’re not drunk.” He let go of the mantelpiece, took a step toward me, and crumpled slowly onto the hearth, eyes blank, and a wide, sweet smile on his dreaming face. “Oh,” I said. The yodeling of roostersI viewed him with some concern. “Jamie,” I said, “how, exactly, do you decide whether you’re drunk?” Aroused by my voice, he swayed alarmingly to one side, but caught himself on the edge of the mantelpiece. His eyes drifted around the room, then fixed on my face. For an instant, they blazed clear and pellucid with intelligence. “Och, easy, Sassenach. If ye can stand up, you’re not drunk.” He let go of the mantelpiece, took a step toward me, and crumpled slowly onto the hearth, eyes blank, and a wide, sweet smile on his dreaming face. “Oh,” I said.

Drums of Autumn Chapter 60 Trial by Fire
"You were expecting the 78th Heiland Regement?" Fraser asked sarcastically...."I brought WHISKEY".

Of course Jamie would bring whiskey. The term whiskey evolved from a Gaelic word (Irish Gaelic "uisce" and Scottish Gaelic "uisge"), uisge beatha (pronounced - ooshkie bayha) - "water of life". It was shortened to uiskie some time in the 17th century. There are also many school of thought as to weather whiskey is spelled whiskey or whisky. Both are correct, but if it's made in Scotland it is called Scotch Whiskey and is aged for a minimum of 3 years in oak casks.

Distillation came to Ireland and Scotland around the 15th century. The first evidence of whiskey production is from the Exchequer Rolls for 1494 where malt is sent to Friar John Cor (the Friar's of the monasteries were the only people distilling whiskey) by order of the King of England to make aquavitae (an early term for whiskey), enough to make 500 bottles. Distilling spirit alcohol was primarily for medicinal purposes (used to treat small pox and colic). In 1506 the town of Dundee purchased a huge amount of whiskey from the Guild of Surgeon Barbers (which were the only legitimate producers). But, when King Henry the VIII of England dissolved the monasteries, the monks were now living among the general public and had to do something to make a living. Whiskey was then being distilled in homes and farms for personal consumption. In 1725 the English put a large tax on malt, which forced Scotch whiskey underground (hidden under altars, in coffins and in any available space to avoid the Excisemen. Most Scots distilled at night when darkness hid the smoke from the stills (hence the name "moonshine").

I encourage you all to learn more about this amazing spirit, whose roots are so very Celtic. There are many websites, books, classes and tastings that can not only be informative, but fun. So get your Gaelic on and enjoy a Dram.

Slainte Mhaith! (Gaelic for good health)

Kim Murphy-Winslow

Our co-blogger Nancy has her own Whisky blog for Woman, where she expertly writes about the origin, flavor and distillation process using 'flights' (samples) to taste and study each brand.

The Water of Life
Nancy McGehee Guillory

I’m proud of my Scottish heritage, and the more I research the culture of the Highland clans I descend from, I recognize the origins of many of my own family’s traditions. Discovering Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels also helped me to identify with my Scots ancestors. But what I found most refreshing was Claire’s appreciation for fine whisky, and her capacity for imbibing it with relish, something ladies of Jamie’s time were not wont to do. As a female lover of most grain alcohols, I not only identify with my favorite Sassenach, she’s become my whisky drinking role model.
First, let me explain my passion for all things whisk(e)y. I am not an alcoholic, lush, or barfly (not the kind that Claire drunkenly talked to either). I do not imbibe hard liquor for the sole purpose of getting wasted, and I quite often go days without a adult beverage. True, I no longer drink beer or wine very often in preference for bourbon, or scotch, but it’s just that, my preference. Why do I prefer the taste of whisky(ey)? * (Whiskey with an "e" usually denotes either an American bourbon, or Irish whiskey. The "e"less whisky denotes Scotch, the spelling derived from the Gaelic. To be clear here, I like them all). I suppose you could say I developed an early taste for the stuff, based on my childhood experiences of sitting in daddy's lap as a little girl, sneaking sips of his highball. During my younger party days, I mainly stuck to whatever was cheapest, or freely available, but now that I've matured, I can fully appreciate the complexity of quality distillation. From the rich oaken sweetness of straight Kentucky bourbon, to the pungent warmth of single malt scotch, their flavors and aromas evoke memories, calling to mind my Scottish roots, and colorful southern heritage. There is also a simple pleasure in savoring the savory, smoky notes of peat and salt air, vanilla tinged with the spice of charred wood, or the buttery mouth feel that comes from extra aging in port, or sherry casks. Most amazing to me is the entire distillation process, from grain (be it barley, corn, wheat or rye) to bottle, art and science come together to create what the Scots call in Gaelic, "uisge beatha" (oosh-ka beh-heh) which means the water of life. Starting with the malting of the grain, whisky making takes a great deal of time and attention to detail.  As not only does quality of the grain, the fuel used to dry it and along with the water, yeast for brewing and fermenting; but the success of each step of the process has an impact on the quality of the final product.
Once the malt dries, it's ground into the grist; which through the brewing process becomes the mash that will eventually be fermented to create the wash that is heated through copper stills; in the actual distillation that separates the alcohol from the water and other contents of the wash. Scotch is distilled twice, Irish whiskies three times, and must be aged at least three years before bottling. The aging process is key in the flavor outcome: as time, temperature, air quality, humidity, exposure to sunlight, the quality of the casks, the type of the wood the casks are made of, the amount of charring the wood receives and what was previously stored in the barrel (as by law bourbon makers can only use a barrel once, which is why they are sold to scotch distilleries to be re-used). Then, there is extra aging in port wine, and sherry casks. Prime example: Jefferson Reserve Ocean is an excellent bourbon that is aged at sea, aboard ship, which lends it a very nice saltiness. The combinations of elements that impart individual tastes to a whisky is infinite, as is the same with blending different batches to concoct a totally new and different blended version. It's very mental, mind-boggling when you delve deeply into it, but intricately fascinating, especially once the Angels share has been allotted and the product is ready for consumption.

Whiskey/whisky isn't for everyone, as some are an acquired taste, such as the heavily peated single malt Islay scotches I prefer, which according to my good pal Ashley, "tastes like licking a dirty band-aid". There is a romanticism that partners whiskey drinking, a sensuality in the amber hued liquid as it pours from decanter to glass, kisses ones lips with that first peppery sip of wood and smoke, then slides across the tongue leaving a burnt caramel sweetness that caresses the throat, it's spreading warmth embraces like the arms of a long familiar lover, the finished flavor of soft oak and vanilla like a final sigh of satisfaction. As Mark Twain once said, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” I couldn’t agree more. I think Claire would too. Slàinte mhath!

For a Woman's perspective of Whiskey, go to Nancy's site

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