Spirits

Beat the heat with bracing Celtic liquors

 

fredtaskerwine@gmail.com

As we enter the dog days of summer, we need coping strategies. Some people are helped by looking up the schedule for the approaching college football season, to picture the clear, cool days to come. One friend used to take out The previous year’s Christmas cards to remember the weather that went with them.

My South Florida survival strategy used to be this: As the steamy peak of hurricane season neared, I’d buy one of those artificial fireplace logs, put it in my fireplace, light it and turn my AC down to its lowest setting.

I know. Wasteful. Profligate. But it was only for an hour, and it saved my sanity.

In the glow of that fire and the AC’s chill, I would slowly, contemplatively sip a glass of single-malt scotch or Irish whiskey.

Now, these are expensive, powerful drinks, so you want to treat them properly. Of course, imbibers differ strongly on what is proper. I can only offer my version.

With scotch, I like to pour about two ounces into a wine glass, so I can swirl it and stick my nose in to appreciate the heady aromas. I also like to add about a teaspoon of water — filtered, at room temperature, and never any ice – to open up the aroma. Other tasters insist on drinking it neat.

I take a tiny sip, roll it around in my mouth (no gurgling, please), hold it there for a bit while it warms, revealing more flavors. Then I swallow, close my mouth and breathe out through my nose, savoring the finish.

Irish whiskey can be sipped the same way. (Note the Scots spell it “whisky” while the Irish have inserted an “e.”) The Irish also sometimes mix their whiskey with cola or ginger ale. Or add apple cider and a lemon wedge to make a Kilbeggan Highball.

If you want a snack with these drinks, see what moves you. I know people who nosh on tuna tartare, brie, walnuts, wild game, even chocolate. It’s up to you.

Finally, you have to decide whether to tell your friends you’ve done the fireplace bit. They might think you’re eccentric. Just keep in mind the words of Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everybody else is already taken.”

Tasting notes

Speyburn Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky, aged 10 years: pale amber color, a hint of smoke, with aromas and flavors of dried apricots and figs; $29.

2001 Balblair Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky: amber color, with aromas and flavors of tropical fruits, tangerines, vanilla and toffee; $60.

Glenmorangie “Original” Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky, aged 10 years: pale gold color, aromas and flavors of vanilla, oranges and tropical fruits; $50.

The Macallan 10-Year-Old Fine Oak Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky: pale gold color, floral aromas, flavors of wheat, nuts and caramel; $70.

Kilbeggan Traditional Irish Whiskey: pale amber color, aromas and flavors of toast, vanilla, apricots and caramel; $24.

Fred Tasker writes about wine and spirits for McClatchy News Service. Contact him at fredtaskerwine@gmail.com.

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