Perhaps I can revive some vitality into the twitching corpse of this moribund meeting place for self-styled gurus of goŭt, the taliban of taste, the self-appointed arbiters of asinine observation.
Help me if you can!
My publishers have suggested that in my forth-coming tome I include what they haplessly describe as 'tasting notes' for the whiskies from the distilleries that I will visit. This has led to some full, frank and furious discussion. 'Anyone who knows anything worth their salt about whisky' I objected, 'will know from my descriptions exactly what the whisky tasted like'. 'But Alfred', objected the pretty young girl who gripped her clipboard to her chest like the Virgin might cradle the god-child, 'they know nothing. Like me they are in a sublime state of ignorance, and unlike in your day, and oh! - Such a day it was - they have to be fed from a spoon with all the information that knowledge might have made superfluous...' I started that this young innocent lass might have been so poetical - had I put words to her mouth? But her point was well made and understood. Apparently you need to be told all - you have no thought or imagination to decide for yourself - self-styled gurus or not!
But help me with this if you may. If I have to write 'tasting notes' (what remains of my corporeal traces shudder at this proposition) what format should they take - what words may I use to connect with your simple minds - what phrases will cause the nihilists among you to rage with spleen and so should be avoided.
'Sweet', 'smooth', 'salty', 'satisfying', 'seaweed', - what banalities must I debase myself to in order to find a place in this so-called modern world?
(Deceased whisky-writer of great repute)
So Alfie, been rattling your bones at the live ones again have we? Moaning about having to write about taste in this wicked new book you're penning. And the good taste is what aqua viti is all about surely? That and a cosy layer of spiritual warmth to help a man through singing the praises at 5 o'clock on a cold frosty morn. Sweet, smooth and salty you say? Salty aqua viti? Well I never heard anything so daft did I? Had they forgotten how to still properly in your days? But it does remind me of a nice little story I call "Brother Kernow's Bath Night". Calm down Alfie, not saucy is this one - nothing to do with Sister Agnes, so dip your nib in the horn and get your scribble pages ready.
Now Brother Kernow came from way down south, west of where the English are, and he spoke a tongue our Gaelic brothers could just about understand. He prayed at a big monastery called Glastonbury, and told a far-fetched tale about a nearby place where hot water poured out of the ground. We said it was the Devil's work but he said it was the Romans - that lot that built a big wall to keep the southern heathens out. Friendly chap was Kernie, but deaf as a post.
Came a time the Abbot was getting a bit displeased with our song singings down at the back of the cellars. That aqua is meant for my vitae he says, and the King's experiments. Too much of it gets sprinkled over the cabbages and though they grow fine and fat under your brotherly blessings, it makes them taste a bit strange for my liking. So he takes Kernie aside and says, 'we'll keep the Devil away from the brothers, go to the kitchen and get some salt and pour it in the cask. We'll turn the aqua vitae into aqua salis. We can easily still it out when the King requires, but the taste will get the brothers out of their nasty habits'.
The Abbott shouts but Kernie doesn't hear all his words and wanders away puzzled. "Salt to keep the Devil away? Aquae sulis? Sounds pagan to me but the brothers could do with a hot tub for sure." Rumours reach us of lay brother carpenters working away in the cellars, and next time we congregate for a few holy drams, there's a line of salt around a big wooden tub of steaming water and Brother Kernow telling us to get out of our nasty habits and into the bath - Abbott's orders.
Did we sing and praise the flavour of the drams in good voice that night? 'Hey Johnnie,' says Brother Thomas, 'this one must have been stilled the time you fell asleep and let too much feints through; a very strong aroma of our nasty habits I do declare'. We nearly drowned laughing, but to be honest it reminded me more of Sister Agnes, and ….. Alfie, Alfie where are you off to then? Well, he's a hard man to please is he not?
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