2016 Whisky Wind-down, 12: Procrastination 

Today’s dram: Laphroaig, 18-Year-Old

Today’s tasting notes: Strong, deep breath of the sea. Somewhere a fire is burning. Sit here and remember with me, the things we loved in days gone by. 

Today’s thoughts: This one is a bit late, especially considering I had basically all day to get it done. 

Well, not all day.  

I had presents to wrap, shopping to finish, dishes to catch up, probably other tasks that are slipping my mind … 

So, I slept in. 

I thought I might just have a quick lunch and then get going, but Sappho looked at me pitifully, so I sat on the couch and let her flop with me a bit. 

Then she reminded me the remake western The Magnificent Seven just dropped for streaming rental today, and she really likes westerns and The Empress of Whisky (who does not) is away hiking, so …


Decent flick. It ain’t Seven Samurai, but then, what is?

Then an unusual thing happened, the sort of thing that I suppose happens a lot but I never notice because I am away at work — a crew came by to pressure-wash our building. The water made weird sounds out there, and the sounds made Sappho anxious, so I stayed on the couch to console her, and I decided to read a bit …

Next thing I knew, The Empress of Whisky was home with dinner. 

Not only had I accomplished nothing on my personal to-do list, I also had yet to even pick today’s whisky. 

The topic, however, basically writes itself. 

I have long had the great ability to put off ’til tomorrow what cannot be accomplished today. 

“And what can be put off ’til tomorrow might just as easily be put off ’til day after tomorrow as well.”

I forget who said that, but I remember it was Douglas Adams who said, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

I love being on holiday when the only deadline I have is a self-imposed one to daily drink a dram and then write about it. 

I realize how incredibly fortunate a position that is to be in. Moreso, I realize how, when I’m not on holiday I mostly work by a set of generous white-collar deadlines that would be the envy of most workers the world over. 

So being unhappy that I cannot meet my own deadlines is an admittedly advantaged position in which to find myself.

Doesn’t make it any easier. But I do acknowledge it. 

Today’s deeply morbid thought on tomorrow: A good friend of mine — the same who gave me the Laphroaig 18 — once said to me, as I was lamenting my lack of progress, feeling like I was spending too much time on trivial pursuits, “Someday this will all be dust and no one will be here to remember or care; so, in the long run, idle chit-chat is about as useful as anything short of building an empire.”

Today’s toast: To the reader: I’ll have something for you tomorrow. Probably. 

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 Sappho crosses your path. I mean, she really likes to trip people, so watch it.

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

Mental Images: The Man in Line Behind Me

The man in line behind me at the supermarket is purchasing dozens of cans of cat food and a six-pack of Corona. 
I do not want to stare. I do not stare. But I wonder.   
Does he have many cats and therefore need to buy this much on a regular basis? Maybe he has just one cat and a stock-up shopping attitude.

Does he have cats at all? Maybe he is actually allergic to cats but loves them anyway and this is his donation to an animal shelter and the Corona is for the pain. 

Does he plan to eat the cat food himself? The only other thing he’s buying is Corona …
Then I’m paying and I’m carrying my bags and I’m driving my car and I’m sitting on my couch all while the man is somewhere with his dozens of cans of cat food and his six bottles of Corona, probably living a more interesting life than any I imagined for him. 

The Littlest and the Last

Several years ago, shortly after I graduated college, I returned home, broke and jobless, to live with my mother and my younger sister.

I was not jobless long, and therefore not broke long, but I did continue to live with my mother and sister for a while as I gathered my financial strength and prepared to leave home for the last time.

On a rare weekday off — young journalists don’t come by many — my quiet reading time alone on a spring afternoon at home was interrupted by the doorbell. Our next-door neighbor was there, and she asked me to follow her outside because there was a problem in our backyard.

Out back, near the fence beside our neighbor’s yard, was a tree, or, more precisely, a stump. Quite a stump, though — roughly 30 inches in diameter and about 12 feet tall to the jagged, broken top from which the rest had been lost to a storm just before we bought the house. The sellers refused to have it removed, and it wasn’t hurting anything, so we left it.

I really hadn’t given the stump much thought until that day, when the neighbor brought to my attention that it was mewling.

I fetched a scaling ladder a bit shorter than the tree and climbed to investigate. The splintery top of the tree was open enough that I could see down into a hollow crevice within, where lay three tiny tabby kittens, all orange.

I affected a rescue, passing the kittens one by one down to the neighbor, who placed them in a box.

As soon as I was down the ladder, the neighbor said something along the lines of “Congratulations, new father,” and left.

Since I found them, since kittens need names, since I thought (incorrectly) that orange tabby cats were always male, and since I was reading Feist’s Riftwar novels at the time, I named them after the three noble sons from those books: Martin, Liam, and Arutha.

Over the weeks that followed, we kept the barely weaned kittens in a bathroom before eventually having them checked out by our vet, who corrected my misunderstanding about orange tabby gender. Turns out, only most orange tabby cats are male, not all. The orange coloration is recessive in females, so they are less common, but it is not unheard of, for example, to find a litter of orange tabby kittens two-thirds of which are female.

Martin stayed Martin and soon found a home with a friend of my younger sister’s, who, for reasons inexplicable, renamed him Sparky Chicken. Sparky grew to be a large (not fat) cat of great vigor and zest for life.

Liam became Lia, at least until she found a home with another friend of my sister’s, who, for reasons inexplicable, renamed her Osiris, though that old Egyptian deity is male.

Arutha, the littlest and the shyest and the quickest, who suckled milk from my finger before her siblings, whose first reaction to cat litter was to try and eat it, we decided to keep.

Well, mostly I decided.

I officially dubbed the little kitten Arutha D. Cat, keeping in place a family cat-naming convention, but we always called her Ruth.

She joined Boo, our beloved aging large orange tabby, and Sullivan, the young stray grey tabby Boo and my sister had found on the porch of our old house one summer day two years earlier.

She would always be on the small side, and she was ever a bit shy, but she was a great cat from the moment I pulled her from pitiful abandonment atop a storm-broken tree — my good, quiet friend, a reading buddy, a comforting presence at all times, and the gentlest cat I have ever known.

When I left home, I contemplated taking Ruth with me, but by then she was an inseparable part of our cat family, the little sister who completed a kitty trinity, who brought the smiles and kept the peace and grew the love.

I still saw her often for a few years as I lived nearby, but I have lately lived farther away and so my visits with her have been as infrequent with the rest of my family.

I would, however, usually say hello to her whenever my mother called.

A couple of hours ago, my mother called … Ruth did not wake up today.

I have spent the time since thinking and writing and neglecting house guests because I am an absolute wreck, but doing this is all that helps, though it helps very little: the last cat of my childhood is gone … no matter the words, there are no words.

I am told when the rain stops, if the rain stops, my family will bury Ruth alongside Boo and Sullivan, the inseparable kitty trinity together again beneath the red clay earth of my hometown.

RIP, Arutha D. Cat, 2000-2013