One of the highlights of our honeymoon to Ireland was what could actually be considered one of the misfortunes of the trip. We were delayed in Philadelphia by engine trouble for long enough that we had to spend the night there (so frustrating, as it’s only an hour and a half from our home and we could easily have caught a train to our next destination). When we did manage to get on our flight the next day, we were given separate seats on the short flight to Newark.
There I sat, already exhausted by a full day of travelling with a broken foot, and the gentleman sitting next to me began to make small talk. He was amused by my wedding stress-fracture adventures, and appropriately sympathetic of our missed day in Ireland. We passed an enjoyable hour in the air, and by the time we landed he had introduced himself as “Cousin Rob” to Army Boy and shepherded us into the Continental Club so that I would be able to put my foot up for the day before our next flight.
We spent some time talking before he caught his flight, during which time he ALSO called our airline and somehow mysteriously pulled stings to get us bumped to first class for our return trip home. He then walked off into the terminal, leaving us completely stunned and marveling over the kindness of strangers. We tried upon returning home to contact him and thank him for his generosity, but too much random questioning at his company could probably get one posted on the TSA watchlist.
He did, however leave us with two bits of advice- while in Ireland, visit the location of “The Quiet Man”, and make sure to try Midleton whiskey.
Somehow, we managed to fail at both of those tasks, being limited in our activities by my charming walking boot. We kept a quiet week around the small town of Clifden with some short drives to nearby attractions in Galway. We’ve already planned that our return trip to Ireland will be much more like our recent vacation to Scotland, with loads of driving and much more of the country seen.
This week, we finally managed to enjoy Midleton whiskey at an amazing whiskey pairing dinner at a local restaurant.
The menu was five rich courses focusing on Irish/British cuisine and highlighting some of the common tasting notes found in whiskeys. Each course was paired with a different variety of whiskey, from regular Jameson to Red Breast 12-year, culminating in a tasting of the Midleton Very Rare. It was fun to see the sparkle in the eye of all the diners as the Midleton was brought out, as all of us were equally looking forward to tasting this rare dram. Paired with velvety grilled duck, it was a completely sensuous experience.
The evening was a bit unique for the shared seating style that we enjoyed- we were paired with a group of four gentlemen enjoying a work dinner. We made introductions, and quickly got down to discussing our respective whiskey adventures. Each course we chose a “table trivia” topic (Favorite foreign food enjoyed, most disappointing vacation spot, most random celebrity encounter) and the conversation was as much fun as the meal itself.
At one point, the gentleman on my left looked at Army Boy and I and toasted to us, staying “I just read somewhere that finding a woman who likes whiskey is as precious as gold.” We both grinned at each other like nerds, and laughed because it’s something we’ve definitely learned about and come to enjoy together.
But, as he said that I was reminded to glance around the room. There were far more men there than women, and I was the youngest among them. One of the wives remarked, “I’m here for the food! At least I have a happy husband!”
So, what gives? Where are all my fellow whiskey-drinking women at?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a taste that was acquired all at once. In fact, the first time we went whisky tasting in Scotland I was actually pretty disappointed. We pulled up to the gorgeous Dalwhinnie distillery nestled in the foot of the Cairngorm mountains, and it smelled amazing. There was this warm, grainy scent of mash permeating the air with notes of honey and vanilla, and I couldn’t wait to taste Scotch straight from the source.
It was…. STRONG. And burny. And I somehow missed all of the delicious flavors that I could smell in the air. What was I doing wrong?! I couldn’t reconcile this bracing, almost astringent liquor with the booze so sensually savored in the local pubs.
Not ones to be daunted by disappointment, we tried a tasting highlighting whiskies from the different producing regions of Scotland. While it was easy to distinguish between the styles, I wouldn’t necessarily have called any of them “delicious” at that point.
We completed three more tastings during our time in Scotland, each one more informative than the last. We learned about swirling the whiskey in the glass, adding a drop of water to release the flavor and breathing while sipping to allow the aroma to reach your soft palate. By the end of our trip, we’d narrowed down our search to the lowland malts, including Glenkinchie 12-year and Auchentoshan. Those came home with us, and we continued tasting and studying while back home in the states.
A year and a half later, there are definitely occasions that call for a few fingers of whiskey, rather than a beer or a glass of wine. One of these occurred recently while I was on a trip for work. It was my first solo business trip, and at the end of my stay I felt like I wanted to celebrate a bit. I stopped in at the hotel bar downstairs, amidst a crowd of other business travelers.
A group of men who looked to be in their mid-to-late 50s was at the bar ahead of me, ordering up a round of margaritas and bantering with the bartender. They stepped aside as their drinks were served, and the bartender turned to me.
“What’ll it be tonight?” he offered.
“Can I have the MacCallan 12-year on the rocks?” I asked. You could have heard a pin drop.
“Is that for you??” questioned one of the other patrons in the bar. I must have looked confused, because he elaborated, “Not many women your age drink Scotch.”
“Yup, it’s for me,” I smiled, taking a sip and heading back to my room.