Credit: Kevin Callan
There are campers out there who truly believe that the only spirit that should be packed along on a trip is a single-malt whisky. I’m not talking about brands like Yukon Jack, which is a honey-based liqueur labeled “the black sheep of the Canadian whiskeys,” or something like Crown Royal which is a rye whiskey. I’m talking about a barley-malt Scotch whisky distilled from barley and made in Scotland.
The word “whisky” is from the Gaelic uisgebeatha, or “water of life” and is technically an alcoholic liquor made by distillation of a fermented starch compound (usually grain). The act of fermenting grain dates as far back as the 7th century AD by the Chinese, which is five centuries prior to when Europeans were introduced to it. But it’s Scotland that’s become known for developing is diverse taste.
Becoming a scotch snob isn’t such a bad idea on the trip. After all, a little bit goes a long way. Tradition states that only two ounces after dinner, preferably with a cigar, is all that’s required on trip. The only bulky part is the container holding it and the glass you’re drinking from. It’s a sin supposedly to use anything but glass. Scotch stored in a Nalgene and sipped from an enamel camp mug is definitely frowned upon — but it’s still certainly doable and its what I use.
To make it last a little longer, it’s quite acceptable to add a bit of water — but only the best water obtainable (tradition states it should be distilled water). Some experts claim you add the scotch to the water and others state it’s the other way around. Most believe that adding water to the scotch helps bring out the flavour. Adding ice is an extra bonus but most unlikely during a camp out.
The flavour of Scotch brands is varied and most take time to acquire a taste for. It’s not like wine which has slight differences. Scotch can be peaty and rich, light and smooth, or somewhere in between. Anything sounding Anglo Saxon and aged 10 to 18 years old is acceptable for camping trips but brands from the Isle of Islay, such as Lagavulin 16-year-old, Ardbeg 10 years, Bowmore 17 years, Caol lla 18 years or Laphroaig 10 years are legendary among hardy campers. Ten-year-old Talisker from the Isle of Skye is a great choice. Highland Park from Orkney Islands, northern Scotland, is the most economical liberation in its class and was the source of many Hudson Bay Company employees. And there’s no sin in packing blended Scotch. It’s a lot cheaper and some brands are pretty darn good. My favourite to bring on trip (or have at home while watching the Bill Mason film WaterWalker for the hundredth time) is: The Black Grouse, Islay Mist and Teachers.
What ever the brand, make sure to give scotch a try on your next trip. After all, with so many outdoor enthusiasts glorifying it so much, it’s got to have some magical quality about it.