Monday, July 1, 2019

The Water of Life

Dear Friends,

If you're considering swearing on stack of graveyards to record one song a month, I recommend against it. Sometimes, I wish I had made a promise that would be easier to keep, like making an annual donation to the Audubon Society, or getting a facial tattoo of every Pink Floyd album cover.

I was at a work event the other night, and a casual acquaintance asked if I was still writing a song every day. I told her no, just one a month. "Are you sure?" she asked, "I was pretty sure it was every day."

It was clear that even when she thought I was 30 times more prolific, it was only barely interesting enough to talk about. Now she couldn't even understand why it was a thing. It's like asking a colleague if he is still doing 120 sit-ups a day, only to learn that his regimen has always been 4 sit-ups a day, but yes, he is sticking with it. On one hand, who gives a crap either way, but on the other hand, if it's only 4, why do you even associate this guy with sit-ups?

I found myself apologizing. "I'm really sorry it's just one a month," I told her, trying to redirect the conversation, "How are your 60 school-aged children?"

So here's the new Hard Taco song for the entire month of July 2019, "Peepholes Are Peepholes." I'm happy with it, but not quite as happy as I would have been with a Dark Side of the Moon forehead tattoo.

Scotch Tasting Notes
We've been on holiday in Scotland since Friday, and the most remarkable thing I've learned so far is how to spell Whisky. It's from the old Scottish tongue for "water of life." In Ireland, they call it whiskey, which is Gaelic for, "We put extra e's in every feckin' word, like feckin' and Gaelic." In the U.S., we also call it whiskey, because the first bottles came across the pond with Irish immigrants during the potatoe famine, which is Gaelic for, "Here we go again with all the feckin' gratuitous e's".

Scotch malt whisky comes from six main regions: Islay, Speyside, Highland, Lowland, Campbelltown, and the other Islands. Here's everything you need to know before you pour your first measure.

Most famous distilleries: Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Lagavullin
Islay malts tend to have a peaty flavor. Scotch aficionados use that word a lot, but I wanted to know what it really meant, so I spent my first day on the island licking a peat bog. I would describe it as firm, smoky, dignified, austere, rich, complex, layered, tarry, balanced, youthful, subtle, sweet, succulent, vibrant, soft, thick, creamy, peaty, and difficult to describe.

Most famous distilleries: Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Macallan.
The Speyside region is small but has more distilleries than the rest of Scotland. Speyside whiskies are often described as having hints of grass, hints of oak, hints of pepper, and hints of orange rinds, colostrum, moth wings, Elmer's glue, stage fright, shingles rash, moon craters, and justice. Only an expert-level connoisseur can drink an entire glass of Speyside whisky without asking for any hints.

Most famous distilleries: Glenmorangie, Dalmore
Highlanders mistrust outsiders, and insist on using their own adjectives to describe their whisky, such as fleich, daggie, drell, snookit, nump, smeelit, tartan-brighty, plowtery, smirr, speefle, flitters, and watergaw.

Most famous distilleries: Auchentoshan, Glenkinchie
Lowland whisky creates powerful connections between the olfactory centers and the hippocampus, making it the perfect dram for drumming up repressed memories. A sniff of Auchentoshan, for example, may bring to mind your physically-abusive schoolmarm or your war buddy dying in your arms, while the mouthfeel of Bladnoch is more likely to invoke the time Aggie MacDougal called you a dobber and you pissed your kilt.

Most famous distilleries: Glengyle, Springbank
Not to be confused with the smash hit show tune with the same name, Campbelltown Scotches are inexpensive and keep well. Many Scots stock their bomb shelters with shelves full of Campbelltown flavors such as vegetarian vegetable, cream of mushroom, tomato, and Chunky old-fashioned vegetable beef.

Most famous distilleries: Talisker, Jura
The Scotch Whisky Association does not recognize the islands as a separate region, instead considering them to be part of the Highlands. This makes sense, because at one point, the whole landmass of the world was one supercontinent called Pangea, and Scotland was connected to Greenland. The Western Islands will probably be considered a separate whisky region as soon as the Scotch Whisky Association looks at a map that is not 270 million years out of date.

With warmest regards,