A 21st of Scotch

A couple decades and change ago, my great friend Johann (the same Johann mentioned in Wild Pigs), suggested that we get together for a night of single-malt scotch tasting. The pool of victims that he picked were some of the members of the recreational soccer team that we both played on.

Now, when I say we played on a soccer team, don’t get some impression of fit young guys running around with ceaseless energy. Concentrate more on that “recreational” part. Few of us had played soccer before this league started, and when it did start, we mused that it might be fun. Chaz had played before, but he was younger than the median age. Johann and Jack had come from New York, so they were in a culture that played the game more. The rest of us, it was pretty much watching and maybe helping coach our kids.

And I knew very little about scotch, except that it was whiskey-ish, and it mixed well with cola, although doing that always seemed to make a few bystanders sneer or shudder. Johann assured me that this was going to be higher class than that a Diet Coke/JB outing.

I know what you’re thinking. Guys getting together to drink. Cigar smoke. Vulgar noises. Maybe some cards if they’re well-behaved, maybe some inappropriate television or a scantily-clad lady dancing to the beat if they’re not.

Nothing like that. We had high-humored conversation. We talked about some news and human-interest articles. Everyone brought a different dish, and the food was thoroughly enjoyable. We reveled in learning about the variety of scotch tastes (although years later, Chaz finally confessed that for the first few years, he was just there for the good company, and the price of that good company was sipping what seemed like gasoline. But it had grown on him).  We arranged for rides home or took a cab.

Years passed, and the gatherings continued, once a year, always close to Robert Burns’ bio anniversary. We’d read poetry. One big hit one year was a Robert Burns poem, “Cock Up Your Beaver,” referring, of course, to tilting one’s hat at a jaunty angle, and delivered with what seemed at the time was a ring-true Scottish accent but no doubt was horribly corrupted. Another memorable diversion was making up names for a group: If you have a “murder” of crows, or a “clowder” of cats, what would be a group of attorneys? A “conspiracy.” And so on.

The 10th one was probably the best. Certainly the most memorable. We had to do something special for that anniversary. We started early, had a limo driver courtesy of our host that day, Romy, and went to the Big City to eat, drink, shop for the scotch that night, walk through the town – it was a lovely day, especially for January – stop at a bar, eat, drink, don some beads for a reason I can’t remember and that I didn’t participate in, and finally get into the limo, back to Romy’s, have the driver take a group photo, and then go inside, where the smell of well-seasoned all-day pot roast was filling the house.

We’re getting set now for our 21st annual scotch tasting. Longer than some marriages, even some marriages in our own group, although the dynamics of our gathering allow for a little more mutual tolerance than marriage, arguably. Kids have grown or, in one case, appeared new on the scene. Our recent get-togethers aren’t without background concern. Jack had a big health issue that he’s still grappling with, I had my own well-documented heart attack, and where gray hair was a rarity in the first year of this event, it’s now prevalent.

And if there are lessons in this, I’m not completely sure what they are. Maybe it’s just that what matters most in this life is the people and love that we have around us. Or perhaps it’s the knowledge that when you have something good that brings happiness and surcease from the worries of the world, even for an evening, it’s worth holding on to.

Whatever the lesson, if there is one, thank you, gentlemen, for the great times over the decades. For everyone else, I encourage you all to find your own social pressure valve release.


— Grandpa


  1. The Daughter says:

    You all look so young 😉


  1. […] Tasting Party gathered. This is the same event chronicled a while back in my blog entry, “A 21st Of Scotch,” which is alarming to me when I realize how long I’ve had this blog […]

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