Bagpipes, Oatcakes and Scotches – Oh My!

Posted on December 4, 2012


Regrettably, I have been influenced by the dark side yet again – the dark amber side. In the aftermath of hosting our inaugural Scotch nosing and tasting soiree the other evening, I sheepishly admit I was wrong about Scotch drinkers being “just manly men with a longing for the aroma of burning peat bogs”. Along with five other gals, I was coaxed into sampling a few lighter choices of the amber potion, and I was astonished that they were, in fact, quite enjoyable and warming, with a fragrance and taste not that far removed from a cognac. Where I personally drew the line was at the point where the Scotches became sharper, not as smooth on the palette, bordering on something medicinal with hints of composted dirt. At least, as a novice, I did try to appreciate the nuisances at the mild end of the spectrum – to the surprise of Hubby and our children.

There’s nothing finer than a good Scotch – unless there’s several!

Our party followed the traditional pattern of sampling a couple of drams of Scotch (working our way through the varieties from delicate notes into the heavy, peaty ones), with noshes of hot and cold appetizers in between tastings. With each invited couple bringing an appetizer or dessert, as well as a Scotch or Irish whisky of their choosing, we had ample food to balance the alcohol intake. When plans initially came together for the gathering, we were figuring on five or six assorted Scotches from the different regions of Scotland. Before we knew it, we ended up with two fine Irish whiskeys and seven types of Scotches representing the Highlands, Lowlands, Islay and  Speyside distilleries. It became imperative to balance the spirits (in appropriate smaller quantities) with the food, alternately, as we were not in favour of any hurling, haggis or otherwise, off our back patio area.

We had printed up several informational sheets to accompany the tastings. One element that we also incorporated into the evening, which turned out quite well, was a brief Scotch history quiz and a trivia competition about all things great and small which were Scottish related. (I had a tremendous time researching forty random questions for our guests.) Each couple invented their own clan name, and their answers were scored by others in the group throughout breaks in tasting and refueling at the buffet table. At the end of the evening, each individual could select a surprise gift from a hamper basket based on their score standing. With door-prizes like Scotch mints, MacIntosh caramels, Scotties tissues, ScotchBrite cleaning sponges, Scotch brand lint-removal tape, a package of coloured chalk sticks for marking a hopscotch, and a dispenser filled with Scotch brand wrapping tape, it was fun as everyone unwrapped their prizes. (I scoured the drugstore for any products/names with a Scottish connection.) Top scores and honours went to one couple with genuine Scottish links. They were rewarded with a Scottish terrier Christmas ornament and a miniature bottle of Glenfiddich disguised in a full-size Scotch carton weighted with drainage rocks – thereby “Scotch on the rocks”.

Scotland’s official and unofficial flags

There’s certainly no doubt that we will host another Scotch tasting party next year; the date’s been pencilled in on the calendar. In fact, as conversations about the evening have expanded, so has the perspective guest list. Maybe that’s the sign of a good party. It was a tremendous way to bring together Scotch drinkers and non-drinkers, learn some Scottish tidbits, share a communal banquet and pretend we’re back in the Highlands, clan against clan in a battle. I don’t know if we’ll try caber tossing at next year’s party, but I think that a roaming haggis may just make an appearance, you never know.