2016 Whisky Wind-down, 13: Whisky, Cats, Fortune

Today’s dram: Craigellachie, 13-Year-Old

Today’s tasting notes: I rather enjoy this one, even if I can never remember how to spell or pronounce it.

It’s a warm whisky with a bit of bite, but it isn’t peaty, and there’s no smoke. There is a real sharpness to it, though, and probably what I’m getting (and failing to adequately describe) is the sulfuric note that is supposedly this whisky’s trademark. (The distillery refers to it in marketing as “Scotch with a touch of brimstone.”)

Whatever is going on, I rather like it. It’s the sort of whisky I like to sip slowly over an afternoon, never quite remembering what I like about it, then sipping to recall, then forgetting again. It’s weird that way, and I love it.

I’m not sure what’s up with the age being 13 years. Most single malt Scotch whiskies are at least 10 or 12 years old, with the next jump usually to 18 (though 15 pops up here and there) then 21, and beyond that you can’t afford it, anyway.

Does the extra year make a difference? I’d have to taste it at 12 to tell you. And that isn’t an option, since Craigellachie doesn’t bottle anything younger. Only relatively recently, in fact, has it bottled much at all under its own name. Despite being around since 1891, for most of its existence the distillery has sold its production for use in blended Scotch whiskies, notably Dewar’s.

With some irony, the production of its own lines seems to have begun only after John Dewar & Sons, Ltd. bought the distillery in 1998. (Production was increased to keep up enough for both purposes.)

Why age the first one 13 years, though? I couldn’t say.

Maybe the distillery is just making a point about superstition.

Today’s thoughts: I’m not superstitious. Mostly. I grew up with a few superstitions, including religion, but I have mostly gotten over those. Mostly.

The thing about getting a weird idea in your head is that it can be hard to shake. I mean, when your mom tells you that her mom told her that her mom told her that … you should not wash clothes on New Year’s Day because to do so would be to “wash someone out of the family” in the coming year, your rational mind can realize this is bullshit while the lizard-brain still feels queasy.

So, you say, “Fuck it. I don’t like washing clothes, anyway,” and you put it off a day. Totally normal. If it happens to make Mom feel better, that’s fine, too.

I always thought the bit about the ill luck of having a black cat cross your path was just nonsense, but that’s probably because we had a black cat when I was a kid, and she crossed my path so many times — seriously, did the person who thought this up not consider how much cats get around? — that I would have been an utter shut-in had I tried to avoid having her cross my path daily. Also, if you believe this, when does the bad luck from the crossing expire? Do you have to see the black cat cross your path for it to count? What if one went by just before you rounded the corner? Would you appreciate someone rushing forward yelling, “Stop! Whatever you do, don’t keep walking this path! Black cat alert! Black cat aleeeert!”


The “don’t walk under a ladder” thing just makes sense. Things fall. People knock ladders over. Be reasonable.

What else?

Oh, being born a Southerner, I am under obligation to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, lest I suffer a terrible run of luck the next year. Fortunately, I love black-eyed peas, so I don’t see making a big pot of them that day to be any hardship at all, and I expect them like pie at Thanksgiving or pizza at Christmas.

(You don’t eat pizza at Christmas?! No wonder your luck is lousy.)

Today’s unrelated note: Although she is not a black cat, it can be serious bad luck if our calico crosses your path. I mean, she really likes to trip people, so watch it.

Today’s toast: To the superstitious: Good luck!

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