Having just cracked open a long anticipated bottle of Yellowstone I have bourbon on my mind — and this coincides with Julia Reed’s discussion taking wing from Walker Percy’s famous essay. Sociological musings aside, I’m of the view that the pitching of Bourbon vs Scotch is a false dichotomy: there is no legitimate comparison. If I had to choose a daily tipple Scotch would always win out so long as it was qualifiedly confined to the single malts especially those from Islay. There is a whole range of uninteresting Scotch available including the high-priced blended ones such as Chivas (a by-word for “luxury”) and a vast middling layer of other well-known brands that are really pretty grim, ones that Julia mentions. This is where bourbon comes into its own. A top-notch bourbon is a cost-effective way of getting something more interesting than over-packaged Scotches — unless one, along with a chum, polishes off a bottle of Blanton’s in the bar of The Read House in Chattanooga. Yellowstone was recommended to me purely on the grounds that the purveyor (a Charleston gem called The Tavern) was allocated only three bottles and hadn’t yet tried it himself. It is good but unremarkable as per this review. In addition to Julia’s witty musings, check out Lenore Ealy’s rich writing on the topic. Though I appreciate Churchill’s style and commitment to alcohol I’m more of the WC Fields school: “Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake”/”Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water”/”It was a woman who drove me to drink, and I never had the courtesy to thank her for it”/”Drown in a cold vat of whiskey? Death, where is thy sting?”/”Now don’t say you can’t swear off drinking; it’s easy. I’ve done it a thousand times”/”I drink therefore I am”/”I never drink water; that is the stuff that rusts pipes”/”I never worry about being driven to drink; I just worry about being driven home”/”Set up another case bartender! The best thing for a case of nerves is a case of Scotch”/”There are only two real ways to get ahead today – sell liquor or drink it”/”Sleep – the most beautiful experience in life – except drink”/”The cost of living has gone up another dollar a quart”/”Some weasel took the cork out of my lunch”/”I never drink water. I’m afraid it will become habit-forming”/”If I had to live my life over, I’d live over a saloon”
The second was that no wonder this country of ours is so messed up—how the hell else are you supposed to keep Percy’s noxious particles and the general trauma of everyday existence at bay without the odd nip?
When the young Winston Churchill covered the Second Boer War as a correspondent for the Morning Post, he took along roughly $4,000 worth of wine and spirits, including 18 bottles of St.-Emilion and another 18 of 10-year-old Scotch.