Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The adventures of opening bottles, starring Speyburn's father's day package

After I applied antibiotic ointment to my thumb, and put away my large toolkit with the wrenches and pliers, I sat down to enjoy Speyburn's father's day package gift.

The idea is appealing: a 750 ml bottle of Speyburn 10-year Scotch, and a 100 ml bottle of water from the same springs  the Scotch is made from. Scotch is not only distilled from water; it also is usually bottled with water to lower the alcohol percentage. Maybe I could taste the similarity?

First, though, I had to get the damn thing open. The Scotch is easy. There's a little plastic capsule, and a nice resealable cork closure. Somebody put some thought into packaging the Scotch.

The water, though -- it's a water hazard. The 100 ml bottle was sealed with a screw cap and a jagged piece of metal  extended from it. I tried very gently turning it; nothing. I  grabbed it with a towel and turned it; nothing. I whacked the screwcap with a butter knife a few times and then tried turning it (pro tip: this often works on recalcitrant wine bottles.) Nothing. So I got out the tool kit.

Eventually, using an adjustable wrench, I was able to get the water bottle open. Writing about wine and spirits is fun because you learn a little about a lot of things. I know that a screwcapping machine must be precisely calibrated. For a run of 100,000 bottles of cheap rosé, it's important to get it right. But for a few 100 ml bottles of spring water for a whisky promotion, it just wasn't well-sealed. I don't know how I cut my thumb, but it wasn't serious; a little Scotch and water would be fine medicine.

I like Speyburn, a Speyside Scotch with a gentle mouthfeel and a judicious amount of peat. It's very good value at under $30 in a world where whisky prices keep going up. It's not the most complex dram you'll find but it's balanced enough to drink straight, yet not so expensive that I feel bad about having it in a Rob Roy or a current fave, a Rusty Nail (somebody sent me a bottle of Drambuie and it's making frequent appearances in my NBA playoff cocktails. I like to imagine Draymond Green barking at the referees in a Scottish accent. Fewer technicals if they can't understand him.)

I tasted the water, and thought, well, that's good water. It has depth and some body. I don't taste Speyburn in it -- in fact I taste very little -- but I like the mouthfeel and can see why one would want to add this to Scotch.

Then I read the fine print on the hazardous 100 ml bottle of water: "Uisge Source waters come from springs close to the popular distilleries in the whisky regions of Scotland. From the Cairngorms Well in Moray comes a soft, low mineral water, typical of the waters used by Scotland's Speyburn Distilleries."

Well that just destroys the whole illusion of water-Scotch relationship, doesn't it? First, Speyburn distilleries, plural. Second, it's just water from some well in the area.  I risked injury for just some neighborhood water? It's like going to see the Loch Ness Monster and getting a sodden Bigfoot instead. It's not the same!

I'm sipping some Speyburn neat as I type this, and I am feeling mollified. It's still a nice looking-package and it probably works as a father's day gift because 1) Your dad won't read the fine print, and 2) When you tell him he'll need his tool kit to open it, that's a feature, not a bug.

Buy the gift package here. 

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