A Recommendation You Probably Wouldn’t Expect From Me

I think most folks here know that I don’t drink alcohol and never have. However, I have friends who do, and one of them, my pal Deven Desai, is out here visiting my family for Thanksgiving. He’s partial to a good Scotch whisky, so when he arrived, I presented him with one that I had heard some very good things about: the Master of Malt Single Cask 19 Year Old Tomatin (Cask Strength). Words like “astonishing,” “magnificent” and “astounding” were in the various recommendations I’d seen, which seemed encouraging, so I was willing to take a chance on it and give it to Deven to try out.

I’m happy to say he was extremely pleased with the whisky, and his recommendation of it is couched in terms that science fiction fans will especially appreciate: “This approximates what Romulan ale ought to be,” he said. And, well. There you have it.

This observation was followed by the following, slightly fictionalized conversation:

Deven: Mind you, it’s not blue, like Romulan Ale is supposed to be.

Me: We could fix that if you’d like.

Deven: No. We couldn’t.

Me: Sure we could. We’ve got blue food coloring.

Deven: Don’t make me stab you.

So: Master of Malt Single Cask 19 Year Old Tomatin (Cask Strength). Not blue. But very very good.

Small supplementary anecdote: Athena was watching Deven and Krissy enjoy the whisky and wanted to know if I was interested in trying even just a little of it. I told her that even if I did, it wouldn’t have anywhere near the same reaction. When you don’t drink alcohol at all, you can’t taste the difference between the good stuff and the bad stuff. It all pretty much comes across as iodine to me. It would literally be a waste of excellent Scotch whisky to give any of it to me.

113 Comments on “A Recommendation You Probably Wouldn’t Expect From Me”

  1. Well, if you ever DO decide to start imbibing, Scotch would be the place to start. And finish. It took me nearly 22 years of drinking to realize that I should have started with Scotch in the first place, bypassing beer, wine & vodka. Would’ve saved a lot of money and had a faster initial-sip-to-buzz ratio, and would have probably looked cooler along the way.

    And I shall be adding this fine bottle to my holiday wishlist. Thanks for the tip

  2. Admitting that I am ignorant of Master of Malt Single Cask 19 Year Old Tomatin, I have tried all manners and types of whiskey and in my old age it has come down to a good old American bourbon; specifically Maker’s Mark.

    Perhaps someday I will try the above referenced Scotch just to see. But Maker’s Mark does it for me just fine.

  3. I’m guessing that Master of Malt etc probably isn’t available in those little nip bottles.

    It took me an appallingly long time to realize that beer wasn’t limited to the range of piss-water to not-bad. I may be worthy of good scotch in another 10 years or so, if I work at it.

  4. That’s exactly what I tell people when they learn I don’t drink. In my case it has nothing to do with morality or religion or allergy or addiction. Doesn’t matter if it’s a straight shot or got chunks of fruit and an umbrella in it, I just think it all tastes the same — like medicine.

  5. Tomatin is one of my faves! I have not had this partcular one, though and I’ll keep my eye out for it.

  6. If he likes it, then we all will. Because, as we all know, every single one of us is Deven Desai.

    *puts it on the list of Good Booze To Keep Around*

  7. I have been imbibing alcohol of various sorts since I was about 14 and I’ve yet to find a single drink that I actually like the taste of.

    In my youth, I put up with the taste, or drowned the booze in cola or orange juice, just to get drunk (as you do). Now that I’m not a complete idiot anymore, I have pretty much stopped drinking alcohol at all. I just don’t have the taste buds for it.

  8. “When you don’t drink alcohol at all, you can’t taste the difference between the good stuff and the bad stuff”

    Yup. Every now and then, someone prevails upon me to try some alcoholic drink, and the only ones that I don’t find absolutely disgusting are things like ice-cream drinks and some sweet fruit wines (all of which I would like *even better* without the alcohol component).

    In the case of whiskeys, in addition to the unpleasant alcohol taste there is a very strong flavor of what I’m pretty sure is urethane. It tastes like foam rubber (polyurethane), in any case.

    And if anybody says (as many others have said to me before) “but alcohol doesn’t have a taste”, I will refrain from saying a rude word, and suggest that they speak for themselves. I find alcohol to be quite strongly flavored, chemical-y, and somewhat bitter.

  9. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but you are missing out my friend. Not to mention a little a day is good for you. There just aren’t enough enjoyable things that are actually good for you to pass one up. Sex, alcohol and maybe a couple of food items.

    And because I like to share: Irish whiskey or a good Cream Stout. I’m currently having a romantic affair with a case of Samuel Adam’s Cream Stout. Beer Advocate describes it with words like “magnificent” and whole sentences like “This is simply an all-around perfect stout.”

  10. I always wonder what curled up and died in my sink when my friends leave their empty whisk(e)y glasses in it. Bleh. “It’s peaty,” they say. “Peat is decayed vegetation,” I say.

    Moral of the story: don’t drink swamp.

  11. Clussman:

    “I’m sure you’ve heard this before but you are missing out my friend. Not to mention a little a day is good for you.”

    Coming as I do with some serious addiction issues on both sides of my genetic line, I suspect that it would be less good for me than you might expect.

    That said, at this point in my life I don’t drink because I’m worried that I’ll become an alcoholic, but because I suspect I’d bloat up like a dirigible.

  12. Iodine! Now, that’s a new one. It tastes to me like black ink. (Apparently the color really does make a difference.) Alcohol really is an acquired taste, and I guess I just don’t have the palette to acquire it. Or the patience. However, since I’m in Scotland for school, and Christmas is coming, I might have to see if I can find some of this stuff, and bring it back.

  13. I actually had my first sip of alcohol over the weekend, at the age of twenty-six, but it was an accident. (Who drinks white wine from a waterglass, and more to the point, who doesn’t say anything when a non-drinker assumes it’s water and borrows it? My girlfriend, that’s who.)

  14. I am so glad to find other “alcohol is gross” folks! Most people just look at me like I’m nuts.

    Every once in a while I’ll try a friend’s drink and it nearly always just tastes nasty. The only exception I have found so far was something that tasted like a Jolly Rancher (don’t remember what it was called though).

    That people drink beer in particular amazes me, the stuff smells so incredibly nasty, even when it’s supposedly “good” beer. Blech!

  15. Cheeses that taste like feet, fishes that taste like pond scum, scotches that taste like diaper fires.

    We all hunger for things that taste good in the normal ways (sugars, fats, and so on), but flavors that embody what I call offness are sought for something other than biological necessity. They are to the taste buds what abstract expressionism is to the eyes and classical music is to the ears.

  16. When I was in 10th grade, the Bio teacher pulled out these little strips of paper. To ~80% of the class they tasted just like paper, and the other ~20% wanted to cut their tongues out. I do so wish I could remember what the chemical on them was called.

    This is why everyone has different tastes, and to some folks whiskey tastes like Iodine (or black ink, or what-have-you). Also why I don’t have the palette to be a foodie, as much as food fascinates me.

  17. I’m exactly the same way. I don’t drink except for small tastes of things forced on me. $90 wine still tastes like bad grape juice to me.

  18. I was trying to decide which Scotch to get my SO for Christmas. I’ll definitely look into this one.

    Perhaps this says more about my background than anyone wants to know, but seeing someone buy a gift that they don’t like, but know the receiver will love makes me disproportionately happy.

  19. Most scotches and vodkas make my stomach clench, which is good for someone who also has alcoholics in their branch of the family tree, but it’s hell to try and develop a taste for it. Once I discovered good beer my love for that beverage increased. Fortunately for me, I’m a cheap date these days. That helps when you like expensive beers (also drinking less than a six-pack a year goes a long way). And give me a good pinot noir (those beyond my ability to afford) and you’ll make a friend for life.

    Phil @ #1, not all ales or beers are the same (nor do they all come in US regulation alcoholic content).

  20. I had to stop drinking alcohol some years ago, because of medication I was on. Now…I’m not sure that’s still the case (new meds), but I find I’m perfectly happy not drinking. The only things I still miss are red wine and Guinness.

    I do love the smell of Scotch, though. mmmMMMMmmm! I love that peaty scent. The flavor I could always take or leave.

    I was never a big drinker. Got sick-drunk a few times, really hated that. But even being slightly tipsy is unpleasant for me. Maybe I just don’t like to be out of control. Maybe my childhood has something to do with it (doesn’t everyone’s dad get meaner as the evening wears on?). Maybe it’s just that I like to sing and dance and have witty conversation with smart people, and alcohol makes me sing off key, dance like a hippo, and think “heh heh, he said ‘crotch'” is funny.

    I’m not completely strict, since I’m not in recovery. I’ll use alcohol as a flavoring for ganache, for example; I find that the volatility of the alcohol helps carry the scent of the other flavors to the nose, enriching the total flavor experience.

    For me it’s like being a vegetarian. I am, but I don’t expect others to be, or try to get them to be. They don’t slip alcohol into something I’m drinking, or meat into something I’m eating, and I don’t put rat poison in their leave them alone too.

  21. I might consider getting this for a friend of mine for Christmas. He’s a real whisky fanatic. I’m a homebrewer, so I tend to give my friends beer, wine, mead and sake all the time, but one of my friends really only drinks whisky from time to time. I’d love to distill my own liquor but that would put me at odds with Mr. ATF and bad things happen to people who make him angry.

  22. DPSquared 19: They are to the taste buds what abstract expressionism is to the eyes and classical popular music is to the ears.


    Seriously, can we agree on “12-tone” there? You may not like classical music, but those of us who do listen to it for just the same reasons you listen to whatever you listen to: it’s pleasing to our ears. I don’t believe anyone’s heart and soul and body are all moved by Schönberg, or even Dalla Piccola, the way mine are by, say, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

    I think you have more of a point with abstract expressionism, but I’d still rather look at a Pollock than a Whistler.

  23. My partner is in the “alcohol is gross” group. It’s not that it’s an “acquired taste” for her — she’s tried. Doesn’t matter what she has tried a sip of, she can taste the alcohol and it tastes bad. At best, a drink is barely tolerable but would be much improved for her if she could take the alcohol out.

    For me, the “acquired taste” I’ve never been able to acquire is coffee. Very often, I actually like the way it smells, but whenever I try a taste, it’s gross. Good coffee, bad coffee, black, light, sweet, not-sweet, flavored, whatever. Doesn’t matter. At best, it’s “Ehn, but I might like it if it didn’t taste so much like, you know, coffee.”

  24. @Bearpaw

    Coffee is also on my list of “gross”. I seem to be in an even smaller group that also dislikes the smell.

    And since I’m now curious, for those of us in the alcohol is gross group… where are all of you on the cilantro thing? I’m curious if those are maybe related issues? (I’m cilantro=bad)

  25. Drat. Now I really want to make a cilantro liqueur! But since I can’t really taste it, the world is safe from that grotesque perversion.

  26. didn’t know you were a tea-totaler.


    there is a pleasure, but it must be gauged, not many people can gauge it properly.

    I know that when I drink, I tend not to.

    So GOOD.

  27. I bought a bottle of Remy Martin XO Cognac. I tasted it, and thought – who would pay this much for paint thinner? But then I saw the beauty: there are additional tastes that linger on the tongue AND you cannot drink it fast (unless you are dead inside) = minimal alcohol consumption for maximum taste.

    So every time I read about whiskey, scotch, cognac, or brandy, I add ‘paint thinner’ to the taste list and giggle.

  28. @Xopher #32

    I’ve heard of people putting cilantro in beer and it seems to turn out pretty well. I’d give it a try.

  29. Cilantro’s fine. When I first encountered it, I assumed “cilantro” was just Spanish for “parsley.”

  30. Thanks for the recommendation; I’ll watch for that. I love a good single malt, in an itty bitty glass, taking itty bitty sips. The older I get, the less I drink and so I want what I’m drinking to be REALLY GOOD STUFF.

  31. That IS an awesome scotch. Lucky friend indeed. Mind you I would pass on it if offered the 40-year old Laphroaig but that was many, many dollars out of my price range.

  32. @22: Almost wherever you are in the US (assuming you are in the US), these are good bottles of single malt at various price points:

    <$30: Glenfiddich 12-year (a highland, not very peaty/smoky), Bowmore Legend (doesn't have an age statement, as it uses some younger whisky in the blend (that is, a blend from Bowmore's own production, keeping it a single)) – this is an Islay and as such, much more peat/smoke

    $30-$50: Laphroiag 10 year (*very* peaty, but if you like peat, this is good); Glenmorangie 10-year (the single best selling single malt in Scotland) – a sweeter whisky; Macallan 10-year (a Speyside whisky, a sub-appelation of Highland whisky); Suntory Yamazaki 10-year (a Japanese single malt which is great — and what Bill Murray was pitching in Lost In Translation — a sweeter whisky); Highland Park 12-year (from the Orkney islands)

    $50-$70+: Lagavuiln 12-year (sweet and smoky); Talisker (Syke's only distillery — a great combination of a bit of salty tasty, but not very much peat/smoke to it).

    In any event – take this list to any reputible bottle shop and talk about the kinds of things your SO might like.

  33. Definitely in the no alcohol, no cilantro and no coffee group. I guess I’m the anti-joy. I still keep a full stocked cabinet for my husband and guests, so I may just look into that scotch all the same.

  34. Because I somehow missed it before:

    Xopher @26

    I discovered recently that I really really shouldn’t listen to Beethoven’s Ninth when I’m driving. It consumes all my attention to the point that I tend to lose track of what’s going on around me. Not to mention that it makes me want to close my eyes so I can just enjoy it. All of which are bad ideas in the car!

  35. DH doesn’t drink (same category/reasons as you, Mr. Scalzi), so I don’t keep alcohol in the house as a general rule. However, if offered good beer or one of the wines I have learned to appreciate, I’ll take it with thanks, in moderation. I’ve never had the budget to develop a proper taste for Scotch, so I’ll leave that to those who have. I did try some Loch Dhu once, which I gather is one of those love-it-or-hate-it drinks; I found it ‘interesting’.

  36. After 45 years of abstention from alcohol, I found I really didn’t like most of it. Some things, like peach schnapps, are really tasty. Some, like rum, are OK. Most varieties of alcholol taste like industrial waste smells. Perhaps if someone would make Scotch Zero….

  37. Count me in on the ick, alcohol bandwagon. Though I will drink a few super-fruity drinks and super-sweet (so I’m told, they still taste tart to me) wines and the very occasional drop of Kahlua in my cocoa, I just do not get the liking for medicine otherwise. I also hate, hate, HATE the idea of intoxication. Between the two of those, the only effect I’ve ever felt from alcohol is sleepiness, and that only once. When you take over two hours to drink a wine cooler you’re just not getting much of it at a time.

    And yes, I agree with whoever it was who said that the things with alcohol in them that I do more or less enjoy I’d like even better without. But beer, hard liquor, etc… I do not get it. At all.

    Re cilantro, I may have not minded it at one time; I don’t remember. But after having a piece of fish that was dark green from all the cilantro on it, I just cannot stand it now.

    Xopher: One of the more startling moments of my music undergraduacy was when a GSI discussed “Cool” from West Side Story as a twelve-tone fugue. I’d known that musical well from before I made any serious study of music and had never thought about how it was constructed. I mention this as an example of someone sneaking twelve-tone music in and disguising it as a rather, well, cool song. :)

  38. My husband doesn’t drink either. I think he never liked the taste since he doesn’t seem to come from a family with addiction issues. Frankly, I’m happy to be married to my designated driver.

    My initial reaction to tasting cilantro was to think that there was something wrong with the food and cease eating it. Now, however, after I’ve learned that this is an okay taste, I love cilantro. There’s even a local restaurant that makes a lime cilantro vinaigrette I just love.

  39. Good to see someone else took the abstinence route with the serious addiction genes problem.

    Funny anecdote: I used to think only “drinking WHILE driving” was illegal because I knew so many people who would get drunk and then drive that I felt it couldn’t possibly be against the law.

  40. Funny that you mention iodine, since that’s a common, even desirable, characteristic of Islay single malts. Are you sure you didn’t taste it?

  41. That said, at this point in my life I don’t drink because I’m worried that I’ll become an alcoholic, but because I suspect I’d bloat up like a dirigible.

    This is in fact why I hardly ever drink! (The addiction genes kept me from it in college.)

    I can drink beer but wine forever tastes like cough syrup to me.

  42. I always just thought my distaste for alcohol (and tea and coffee) was because I was brought up in a household without it, so never got the chance to acquire the taste for it while growing up (my parents are Mormon). But now i’m wondering if that really is the case given all the people here who have expressed the same distate without similar background (seemingly).

    As for alcohol that i have drunk, I occasionally drink alcohol to prove that i can and i’m not a total killjoy (I’m not very good about sticking to my guns with the no alcohol rule) and sometimes I find something I could like, if it weren’t for the alcohol – which I can taste no matter what anyone says – but then when i try it again I do not know why I halfway liked it in the first place! But still i’ve only drunk alcohol on maybe 15 occasions in my lifetime (I’m 25).

    Coriander/Cilantro is fine – quite good actually.

  43. I started on Scotch in college and always felt it was a natural progression, given that I grew up in a coal mining region. I had no problems with that taste or appreciating beer now, but coffee? Bleah. My wife, OTOH loves coffee and can appreciate it. Knowing that, guess what she got me for my birthday this year…yep. Knowing I’d pass it back to her.

    On a side note – does anyone remember the old handbook of the distilleries of Scotland that was published ~35 years ago? Man, I planned many a vacation (in my mind) around that as an appreciative student…

  44. So far as my own palate goes in our unscientific study:

    Cilantro = yum
    Scotch = overpriced turpentine
    Coffee = tolerable, but tea is much preferred

    Why waste malt on whisk(e)y or beer when you could have a chocolate malted? Or unmalted barley in a nice beef and barley soup?

    Count me as another who can’t honestly think of an alcohol-containing drink that wouldn’t taste better without the alcohol. That said, however, I think many wines, beers, and liquors are wonderful to cook with and the alcohol can really help with how the dish develops.

  45. I like cilantro, coffee and alcohol. Can’t stand tea though.

    Count me as another who can’t honestly think of an alcohol-containing drink that wouldn’t taste better without the alcohol.

    My favorite, a See Through, would just be a slice of lime without the Bombay Sapphire. Yea. Gin. Many a die-hard sot will recoil at it, but I loves me some X-mas tree flavored booze.

    Speaking of which, the end-run around the Romulan Ale being blue thing is to drink out of a blue bottle!

    But I only drink on occasion. I’ve had a 5th of Sapphire in the fridge for six months now and it isn’t even half gone. My intoxicant of choice is less… legal. Not to mention less addictive and less debilitating. Funny how that works.

  46. Todd @ 2 / Tanita @ 15

    If you put “whiskey+iodine” into Mama Google, you get in excess of 1.1 million hits. It’s not the actual iodine in the drink, but an approximation of the “medicinal” taste that is common in island scotch. (In a similar vein, there’s no tobacco or leather in red wine, but wine critics perpetually call out those flavors.)

    That said: my palatte thinks whiskey is about two steps up from paint thinner. On principle alone, I refuse to drink anything for which the flavor is improved by pouring it through mud. (the mud of a swampy graveyard, no less. Ach, that’s nae iodine, that’s me ancestors!)

    I do drink other stuff, just not that. And for the record, I can’t even taste cilantro unless it’s a salad’s worth.

  47. oh and one more thing:

    I hear you loud and clear and must say that I respect your decision, Mr. Scalzi. No desire to change you and no, you’re not missing out.

    Of course, I can’t for the life of me figure out the Coke Zero thing, but that’s me and my tastebuds.

  48. John@14:

    Thanks for that — and I wonder why some people treat declining alcohol at a party as some kind of horrible social insult. The rest of the world doesn’t have to go dry because I’m an alcoholic child of an emotionally abusive alcoholic parent (or if I was pregnant, on medication, the designated driver for the evening etc.), but please repay the courtesy… “No, thank you…” should be the end of the discussion.

  49. @40 Good list. I just picked up a bottle of the Laphroaig 10yr last weekend, which I think occupies a good price/quality equilibrium. I believe Glenfiddich is a Speyside, though.

    @49 Re: iodine…you beat me to it. One of the qualities of the aforementioned Laphroaig, in fact.

  50. @58 – you are certainly right that Glenfiddich is also a Speyside (although that’s a subdivision of Highland as I understand it – all Speysides are Highlands, not all Highlands are Speysides) – I fired that list out on the fly. But you are right.

  51. Love me a good hearty red wine, love coffee, hate cilantro in any shape or form, and really can’t stand Scotch whisky. I don’t mind Jack Daniels on the rocks or mixed with cola and actually like most decent vodkas and tequilas, either straight up or with a mixer. Go figure.

  52. I had no idea all alcohol tasted bad to some people. Huh.

    Back in my partying days when people would hand out shots and expect you to drink no matter what it was, I learned that I *can* taste the difference between good quality tequila or whiskey or other liquors that I don’t like. I still don’t like them, but I can in fact tell the difference between good and bad quality.

    These days I stick to a couple good beers every now and then. I hate cilantro and love coffee (but can only have decaf due to migraines). I also don’t like wine much, but I don’t like grapes or grape juice either and wine tastes like grape juice.

  53. I’ll have to follow up on that Scotch recomendation. I like a good single malt.

    I also like a good craft beer, the typical “american” bers tast awful.

    Celantro is fine unless there is enough to taste it, in which case it’s nasty. Plus the texture is icky.

    Coffe is good, but Tea tastes like old leather, I’ll drink it ot be sociable, but much prefer black coffee.

    The one thing I absolutey hate is Green Bell peppers. Nasty metalic taste. Like sucking pocket change, and the flavor pervades things so you cna’t even pick the damn stuf off.

  54. I wonder why some people treat declining alcohol at a party as some kind of horrible social insult. The rest of the world doesn’t have to go dry because I’m an alcoholic child of an emotionally abusive alcoholic parent (or if I was pregnant, on medication, the designated driver for the evening etc.), but please repay the courtesy… “No, thank you…” should be the end of the discussion.

    I had a waiter once– a waiter!– get all pissy when we didn’t want wine with dinner. I’m sure he had his tip in mind, but my thought was then: “I won’t get dessert and overpriced espresso now, jerk.”

  55. As far as I’m concerned, alcohol has a strange, strong taste. It’s not bad, but no amount of other flavoring will cover it. People used to hand me drinks and say things like, “Be careful. You can’t really taste the alcohol.” And I’d wind up sputtering, because it was about 60 proof, and I couldn’t have missed the taste of the alcohol even if the rest of the drink were Tabasco.

    Coffee smells divine, but it’s really only drinkable if the beans were very high-quality and the extraction was quick.

    Worth looking up on wikipedia, if you like home science experiments: “supertaster”.

  56. I am a fan of scotch but $70 for a bottle is a little out of my price range. The most I’ve paid for a bottle of anything is $35 for a bottle of Santana champagne that I still haven’t opened.

  57. @Xopher@26: Insert jazz, twelve-tone, electronica, etc. if you like, but I think you may have misread my intent. My comments were not meant as a value judgment (and certainly not a negative one), but rather as an analogy between “off” flavors and non-representational art. These are media that can speak to us emotionally without reference to the physical world outside of art. A ballad may tell the story of a relationship, a painting may show a room at a certain time of day. These things can be beautiful, no doubt. But a Rothko or a Mozart doesn’t communicate in the language of the natural world. They speak through abstract form.

    That’s what scotch does for me as compared to, say, a turkey sandwich, which can be fantastic but is ultimately a thing I eat in order to survive.

    We may describe these non-representational experiences by reference to the natural world (It looks like a sail boat, it sounds like cannon fire, it tastes like crocodile snot), but when we do, we’re merely reducing the breadth of the sensory experience to the meager capacity of language.

    For what it’s worth, I love both scotch and abstract expressionism. I am neutral with respect to the above music genres.

  58. My taste opinions are:
    scotch = good
    coffee = bad
    tea = bad
    cilantro = good

    and anther one that puts many people off, except those that love it (like me): retsina – yum

  59. Re: #29:

    Probably unrelated, yes.

    I’m in the Cilantro=soapy/yuch camp — & also in the Chiles=I like the top of my head just fine where it is, thankyouverymuch, category, as well as the “a mild alcoholic/cannabinol mellow buzz & relaxion of inhibitions is okay, but difficult to maintain” one. And most of the (many) alcohol-containing drinks I’ve tried have been… interesting, & often pleasant to visit, but… I wouldn’t want to live there.

    (I note that Change is a Constant — at 80+, I am now (sadly) finding that more than one alcoholic drink (or joint) tends to put me to sleep, which is really not what I want to do in situations where there is a potential for social or intellectual interactions.)

  60. Persia@63:
    I had a waiter once– a waiter!– get all pissy when we didn’t want wine with dinner. I’m sure he had his tip in mind, but my thought was then: “I won’t get dessert and overpriced espresso now, jerk.”

    Zing! Thought the best alcohol-related slap-down I ever heard was this: “I’m seven and a half months pregnant, what the $#@! is wrong with you?” Didn’t know whether to laugh or start backing towards the nearest fire exit. Don’t piss off a hormonally turbulent woman who is seeing her last adult night out for a very long time turn to crap. :)

  61. Thus far, my favorite tipples are Knob Creek Bourbon and Lagavulin Scotch. But I’m hearing wonderful things about Buffalo Trace, and hope to find a bottle in New York when I go up there for Thanksgiving on Thursday.

  62. Oh my. John, it was a very thoughtful gift. I’ll look for it in the local shops for my annual “Christmas Scotch”.

    Knob Creek Bourbon ++

    #40, Pathetic Earthling, good list.

    I drink more Laphroig than Talisker, and more Talisker than most of the others (very roughly two Laphroigs to one Talisker to one combined of the others) but that’s my taste. Laphroig is not something I’d recommend to someone who was going to start drinking Scotch. Talisker or Bowmore are better places to start.

    I have discovered that I like “Dark and Stormy”. a mixed drink of ice, ginger beer and dark rum; one of the few mixed drinks that I do like.

    Offering alcoholic drinks at social or business functions used to be a sneaky test of whether you were an alcoholic who was abstaining. I think it said as much — or more — about those using such a test as it did about those abstaining.

  63. Scotch = Meh, can take it or leave it.

    Coffee = Delicious.

    Tea = Also delicious.

    Cilantro = Also, also delicious.

    Marmite = salty, rancid monkey butt.

  64. @70: No list is complete, of course, and Caol Ila 18 is one of my very favorite single malts, almost every bottle shop carries Laphroiag. Caol Ila (even the 12) not as easy to find.

  65. Thanks for the insight John, I’ll keep my eyes open for Tomatin when I’m out and about.
    I am a fan of Laguvuiln and Talisker but am always willing to be pleasantly surprised by something new to me.

  66. Worth looking up on wikipedia, if you like home science experiments: “supertaster”.

    I’ve seen that before and was fascinated by it. The only thing on the list that I like is grapefruit juice.

    Although I did see another “supertaster” list somewhere else (don’t remember where) that included dark chocolate. Which is decidedly NOT true for me. I am firmly the darker the better on that subject!

    I wonder why some people treat declining alcohol at a party as some kind of horrible social insult.

    Completely agree. The majority of my friends don’t make a big deal about it, but every now and then there’s someone who just can’t seem to get the concept through their head. It shouldn’t be any different than someone saying “no thanks” to the green beans!

  67. Mark Horning @62 – I’m totally with you on the green bell pepper hate, although I love red.

    Chris @ 74 – marmite = yum!

  68. Persiaon @ 50:

    I can drink beer but wine forever tastes like cough syrup to me.

    Hint: Avoid the Manischewitz.

    Far be it from me to disparage religious traditions, but some things can be taken too far.

  69. Craig Ranapiaon @ 57

    Thanks for that — and I wonder why some people treat declining alcohol at a party as some kind of horrible social insult. […] “No, thank you…” should be the end of the discussion.

    Ye gods, people still do that? How quaint Neanderthal.

  70. I am also in the non-drinking group. It just don’ t taste good and, with a strong dose of Amerind genes, I don’t want to court problems. Oddly enough, I come from a long line of moonshiners. The family never really drank the stuff, they just made and sold it. Besides, moonshine has no taste just as the bullet that kills you makes no sound. It could go into a drinker or the truck gas tank with equal elan.

    (I once soaked some ramps and habanero peppers in some shine. The brave and maybe damned soul who tasted it compared it to drinking gas with a lit match chaser.

  71. I can see why some people think Scotch tastes like paint thinner. The cheaper whiskies do to me. But single malt scotches which cost over $30/bottle (to put a loosely defined line down) work just fine for me.

    I had a couple of shots of a bottle of Macallans 25, one of the really good batches, which were like butterscotch. Best alcohol I’ve ever tasted.

    A lot of people dislike the peaty or iodine tastes, but there’s a whole variety of single malt out there and only some have either of those.

    Also, if you find scotch harsh, try it with a little (25-50%) water dilution, or on the rocks (about the same amount of water, as ice, NOT over ice to excess which is just a waste), rather than straight. I like it both ways – but it’s very different, and the same brand and vintage are very different each way.

  72. Isn’t there some old expression about not trusting a anyone ho doesn’t drink alcohol?

    and:# Frankon 24 Nov 2009 at 11:30 am
    Admitting that I am ignorant of Master of Malt Single Cask 19 Year Old Tomatin, I have tried all manners and types of whiskey and in my old age it has come down to a good old American bourbon; specifically Maker’s Mark.

    Sorry Frank but Bourbon isn’t scotch and only Americans seem to think it is.
    -that said it’s hugely popular in Australia – although mostly with labourers.

  73. I love coffee and tea, like beer, wine and cilantro. I avoid hard liquor — maybe because of a couple of times in college when I ended up with a migraine-like hangover after drinking the stuff. However, when a Russian friend of my older son’s gave him some Kazakhstan Berkut vodka; we had a taste (he doesn’t drink alcohol usually). It was the best Vodka I’ve ever had, but one taste was enough.

  74. Sorry, been doing lines of cilantro between pouring shots of Single Barrel whiskey in my coffee. Where were we?
    Right – Rule of thumb for Scotch/Whiskey/Bourbon – Single barrel is better than blended, older is better. I have found inexpensive American Bourbons that outshine blended European bottles.

    It is very much a matter of personal taste. I have had stuff that others have loved and wanted to spit it out, and there are things that I likewise enjoy beyond measure that others tell me taste like dung.
    As far as why someone chooses to drink, or not, just be cool about it (The waiters above killed me! @63 @71) and have a good time.

  75. #40 Pathetic Earthling.

    As a bit of a lightweight I rarely drink the hard stuff and tend to stick to beer, but I approve of your reasonably priced and widely available selections.

    Whisky just tastes sooo nice, I sort of wish it was a booze free substance, then I could just sip it all day.
    It isn’t though, and that way lies disaster..

    Mmmm whisky.

    I recently posted a bottle of decent Highland Park to my father in law, despite the sturdy packaging the postman insisted on keeping it in the passenger seat with a seatbelt on for the trip, just in case.

    It’s a cultural thing I suppose.

  76. I have no strong feelings on scotch myself, mostly because I’ve never really had the good stuff. If I’m drinking liquor I prefer a good tequila.

    And for what its worth the “beer” they sell as Romulan Ale is really nasty, and I like beer.

  77. I *hate* the taste of ethanol. Most of its delivery systems taste even worse to me. I’m quite fond of intoxication, though; so i put everclear or equivalent in high quality fruit juice and enjoy them both. Non concentrate Orange juice can get to about 15% alcohol for me before its tastes too bad to swallow, really high quality apple cider/juice with that cloudy muddy texture and pectin flavor still in, maybe 20%.

    I can’t understand, personally, why people buy vodka etc… if it’s 80 proof, you’re paying alcohol taxes on 60% water.

  78. WRT Bourbon, Bookers or Basil Hayden for me.

    Theophylact – Park Ave Liquors lists Buffalo Trace in stock. You should call them and reserve a bottle.

  79. At the risk of sounding like “Angry tourist board guy”…

    Whisky is not Bourbon or whatever passes for “Scotch” (is that even a real word?)

    Slap your gums around a 15 year old Highland Park or even a cheapo GlenM, even the Irish Frog is better.

    They are not in the same league, they aren’t even playing the same sport.

  80. jeffron@83:

    Yes there is, but I wouldn’t really trust anyone who has to be asked “What part of I don’t drink, now fuck off before I break this soda bottle and use it to sever your carotid artery don’t you understand?” There are some people in this world who just don’t know when to take a hint, and go away.

  81. I kind of skimmed the responses. I do drink but now limit my consumption to beer and wine. All hard liquor drinks taste like a bit like medicine to me and except for the occasional bloody mary or daquari (SP?), I’ll just pass.

    Most Scotch tastes to me like iodine on a bender. I do like a few, really weird ones like an Islay or something else that’s otherwise smooth.

    Otherwise, I’ll just pass. I’m also in the school of folks who’d like to go back in time and let Bob Tucker find something other than Beam’s Choice for “Smooths” because BC is Nassssssty.

  82. Steve@92:

    Ain’t that gospel truth. One pretty significant part of the reason I gave up was realising that an awful lot of people weren’t returning my calls — and I couldn’t remember why.

  83. xopher@#26: Sorry, but I simply couldn’t leave your comment about Schoenberg alone. While one’s reaction to the actual sound of a given work is the foundation of musical pleasure, there’s a lot to be said for knowing how the work in question connects with other works in the same tradition. (In a similar way, the visual appreciation of animals in the wild can be enhanced by knowledge of their ecological niches, evolutionary heritages, etc.)

    Schoenberg’s twelve-tone music presents formidable challenges to listeners, but it becomes much more approachable if one understands how it relates to Schoenberg’s earlier music, and how that music in turn developed within the German/Austrian romantic tradition of which Beethoven’s 9th symphony represented an early culmination.

    One step at a time, though. If Beethoven’s 9th is your kind of thing, then might I recommend Schoenberg’s “Gurre-Lieder”, a large-scale vocal and orchestral work that got a 15-minute ovation at its premiere? I don’t say you’ll enjoy it as much as Beethoven’s 9th, but you might have to reconsider your belief that Schoenberg can’t be as moving as Beethoven.

  84. “I think most folks here know that I don’t drink alcohol and never have.”
    Not having been around here long I’m in the not-most-folks category.
    However, I do share that trait. I like my brain the way it is.

  85. Jeff @ 83

    Sorry Frank but Bourbon isn’t scotch and only Americans seem to think it is.

    True. But both Bourbon and Scotch are Whisky.

    And I believe I was attempting to say that of ally the types of Whisky, I prefer Maker’s Mark Bourbon.

    And for the record, I drank tea when I was young and still like it. I came to coffee late and like that too. Don’t know if I’ve ever had cilantro.

  86. Single Malt Scotch is one of the pleasures that I have had to give up due to a 2003 Diabetes diagnosis.

    Most of the other things that I have to be careful with (Sweets, pastries, alchohol) I can actually have once in a blue moon, and still get the enjoyment.

    I can’t do that with Single Malt Scotch. Right now it has been so long since having any scotch, that I would not be able to taste the things that make Single Malt Scotch special. Strangely enough Cognacs and Brandies don’t do that to me. I can have a brandy once or twice a decade and enjoy it. Given the once or twice a decade limitation, I can actually splurge on the really good stuff.

    My alchohol drinking is confined to very occasional wine and high quality beer. With wine, I can cook with the left over stuff, and beer comes in single packagages.


  87. I like to imagine all of the money my friends spend on alcohol instead sitting in my bank account.

  88. There must be some physical change to most taste buds between the age of 21 and say 41. Rum was the way to go in my youth. In hindsight it should have always been white light or amber, never dark. A very famous guitar playing individual once said,”Listen up boys and girls, if you can’t see through it, you shouldn’t drink it”.

    Now rum is dead to me. Now I drink whatever Alec Baldwin, Don Draper, and Mr. Scalzi recommend.


  89. @62

    YES. THIS. Green Bell peppers are of the evil. The smaller you chop them, the longer it takes for me to hunt them down and deposit them on my husband’s plate.

    (Other data points: Cilantro == ok in small quantities if I’m expecting it (such as in Mexican or Thai) but don’t sneak it up on me. Coffee, tea and alcohol are all qualified yesses, depending on the accompaniments and quantity.)

  90. Skipjim, I bought a case of the Romulan Ale as a gift back when the Star Trek attraction was still running in LV. Getting it home was a labor, because we couldn’t check it, and the flight crew didn’t know if it was okay to carryon. Coors produced it, and it was a poor specimen of brewing: nasty, nasty, nasty. Because of the blue coloring, it wasn’t even suitable for cooking; it tinted the chili a vile color.

  91. I guess I should have checked the label a little closer before I bought it.

    it might have been drinkable as the 9th or 10th beer of the night after your tastebuds are numbed well enough to endure the abuse but not before.

  92. Speaking of Romulan ale, the Society of E.B. Milliways (Sewanee, TN) makes a local pan-galactic gargle blaster that is blue. It also tastes blue. Most people don’t believe that until they try some, but many times I have heard the slightly astonished sentence, “You’re right, it really *does* taste blue.”

  93. Oh thank God, there ARE other ‘just don’t like it, don’t feel like it, and don’t want to’ non-drinkers out there. And so many, looks like! I’m so glad. I feel like such a freak sometimes.

  94. I’m the non-drinker in our family, and my husband is the taster. He samples widely, but with his current Scotland kick–don’t ask–Scotch is the drink du jour.

    I came across him drinking one evening and asked, “Isn’t that the Scotch you said tasted like dirt?” (wondering why he was drinking it).

    “Yes, but it is the dirt of the Scottish Highlands.”

    I guess anything is palatable, if you have the right attitude toward it.

  95. Just wanted to dip in and give my 2 cents worth here guys – I’m the Sales Director at Master of Malt, and wanted firstly to thank Devan Desai for his kind words about our whisky… It’s one of my personal favourites from our extensive selection.

    [shameless pitch]We have probably the lowest delivery charges to the USA of any retailer in the United Kingdom (shipping 6 bottles to the states costs about $10 a bottle) and I’d be absolutely delighted to include a small tasting sample of the 19yo Tomatin and a glencairn crystal nosing glass completely free of charge with any order from our site for the next month so that you guys can try it for yourselves. [/shameless pitch]

    If anyone wants to take advantage of this offer, please just type the word WHATEVER into the delivery instructions box at the checkout.

    #The Pathetic Earthling – that is one of the closest lists to my own personal favourites I’ve ever seen – you should try Ardbeg Uigeadail – it’s the most fantastically rich and complex Islay I’ve ever tried.

  96. I am the last Tasmanian badger. I make my own whiskey. Then I throw it away and rink rum because rum is better. I make it blue by using smurfs as a primary ingredient. I am the last Tasmanian badger. I haunt the forums. I lurk.

  97. I like all three – coffee, alcohol (Whisky) and cilantro (great in Thai food – spicy coconut chicken soup – mmmh :)).
    My favorite coffee is Maragogype – south american giant beans. Taste great and are affordable.
    With Whisky I tend to like Speyside and Islay single malts. My favorites are the Aberlour a’Bunadh and the Talisker Distillers Edition. Recently I have discovered the Orkney Malts and love the Scapa 12 yo.
    @Ben: I also could not resist taking advantage of your offer and ordered some christmas gifts :)

  98. #20, that could have been phenylthiocarbamide, which tastes like nothing to most people and is very bitter to “supertasters”.

    #73, I love Talisker, but I can’t imagine recommending it as a first scotch. It has a very distinctive taste and can be a little… assertive (not Laphroaig assertive, but still enough to kill small animals from across the room). How about Oban as a more gentle introduction? Or even the classics Glenlivet or Glenfiddich?

    I’m not sure I have any friends that I like quite enough to give this stuff to except for… well… me.