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Please help me if you can. For my forthcoming new book, the work that will reshape the world’s understanding of whisky and the distilling industry, pretty much as my last did too, which is still, I would wager, the standard reference to which all whisky lovers, either experts or journalists like myself turn – but nonetheless I digress perhaps.
In my researches I have spent many a long hour searching through the public records of Scotland, and those locally preserved muniments of great and small families in the Royal Burghs and market towns of Scotland, and also as such they may be the records of businesses past and present. To know that truth of which vessel was that most chosen by the dram drinker of history, not my Victorian and Edwardian contemporary but those that went before me who savoured and drank deep of the real taste of the real drink of the real people.
But look as I may either in the reality of a reading-room in Edinburgh or Glasgow, and these virtual worlds in which I am now almost entrapped, I cannot find any reference to either the thong or the sarong. Is this something that Martin Martin may have witnessed perhaps? Should I have a thong, had I been more alert when I passed the stillhouse at Mortlach?
I would be grateful, and could advance your career greatly, if you could grant elucidation on this point.
Oh and please Can you tell me who these gentlemen Master Beckham and Mister Ferguson may be – great distillers or blenders perhaps of your modern age?
Alfred B. (gone but not forgotten)
Marcin Miller, the proprietor of this esteemed organ, is the advocate of long thongery. It is to him that you should address your questions regarding the nature and suitability of this flimsy item of apparel as a drinking vessel.
I confess that I am slightly more of a traditionalist than he. I continue to drink my whisky short in a shirt.
Well come on then, time to pour some aqua viti into the beakers and chew some fat together. So what is it you are pestering the lives ones about this time eh? Thongs and vessels is it? Well now, if they are not subjects dear to my Christian heart whatever could be.
But I confess I'm baffled by the words of that live one Iain. Thongs as a drinking vessel he says. Now everyone knows that rawhide soaks up the water, and chewing wet leather on a hot evening can help a brother bide his time till the next cask of aqua viti is broached, but thongs as a drinking vessel? Even Brother Bede would have found that too hard. What a crafty old codger he was, he kept his bulging tummy inside his habit with a rope so long it dangled around his ankles. I remember that time at the well when a novice crept up and tied the end to the bucket and freed the windlass. Poor old Bede was dragged over the wall and perched over the drop like he'd been caught short on the way to the privvy. But when the wine was poured into the vat to be blessed by the Abbott, Bede would always be there, and careless as ever, his rope would dangle in the wine. He sees me frowning, and with a wink says, come and watch this Johnny boy, and we snook around the wall where he gently squeezes the rope into his beaker. A full cup we shared. Water into wine was the work of the lord, and horse hair into wine was Bede's magic, bless his soul, but hardly a drop could you squeeze from a thong, even when soaked with blood as often they were.
Not among our order you'll understand Alfie, but those Jesuits were fearsome with the thongs on the bare flesh. Flagellation they call it, and the stories of armies of bare-backed monks whipping themselves to a bloody pulp with knotted thongs to keep the Black Death at bay are terrifying to hear. Even at the back of the cellar in our cups we all fall quiet when Brother Joseph tells about the sights he has seen, and we know he's not beyond a bit of flagellation himself. Nearer my God to thee he says, but I know it's nearer to Sister Agnes that he's thinking about. My word she can whirl the thongs when she's in a mood to chastise a brother for his sinful ways. A smart crack of leather across the bare buttocks, and Aggie crying Hallelujah, eyes wide as saucers, and…...
Hang about Alfie, no need to rush away as though you were an innocent lamb. Dearie me, the things those people of your days got up to when they weren't hanging petticoats around the table legs.
And what about this Marcin the Miller then? Merrily so merrily, his stones go click clack…what ho Alfie, I'll sing you the Miller's song another day, but doesn't this one sound to be an honourable member of that tribe of dusty lechers eh? A man with an esteemed organ says Iain, and himself drinking aqua viti wearing nought but a cutty sark probably knows it for true. We must get Marcin the Miller to tell us a tale of his long thongs – wonder if he knows Sister Agnes, and…....come back Alfie then, the night is hardly begun
I am still trying to discover in my extensive notes from my travels throughout Scotland, and from my vast researches in the arcane documents and records of that nation, an appropriate reference.
However I do recall reading a reference to chiefs and their cadets consuming aqua from a 'lùireach' - are there other Gaelic scholars in this virtual world of malt-driven madness who can confirm that my antiquarian endeavours are yielding their appropriate rewards ?
And I don't refer to that ridiculous imposter, the anodynly alliterative John Cor.
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