many years ago, i should've realized my first marriage was doomed when, shortly after we were married, my first husband asked me, "don't you know anything other than irish love songs and irish rebel songs?"
i thought about it for a moment, and then i said, "i know a lot of irish drinking songs, too."
needless to say, mister ex was Not Amused.
some years later, long after i'd come to my senses, i mentioned to a friend of mine that irish songs are generally sad.
not all of them, he answered. not the ones they sing about booze.
i thought about it, and realized that was more or less true.
the word whiskey itself is derived from the gaelic name for the brew, which roughly translates as "water of life." the song, finnegan's wake, which inspired james joyce's novel, is about a man who literally resurects at his own wake when a bucket of whiskey is inadvertently spilled all over his corpse.
but i never understood why. in my experience, limited as it might be, whiskey was nasty hard-edged stuff that scorched like a flamethrower all the way to your belly. back in the day i could keep up with the best of them, but my preferred poisons were gin and vodka, things that more readily blended with juices and other softeners. (i stopped drinking tequila when i realized it made me take my clothes off in public.)
until, courtesy of a friend of Beloved's, i found midleton's.
in its own words, midleton's is "the most exclusive whiskey ever produced in Ireland. distilled three times by jameson and sons, whose methods go back over a thousand years to when the irish first invented whiskey, the whiskey is aged in specially chosen casks."
i remember how he poured out the liquid in clear shot glasses. you have to try this, he said.
we raised our glasses, and (slainte)... down it went.
i braced myself, ready for the burn. but this stuff was different. it didn't scorch and it didn't burn. instead it rolled, smooth as liquid velvet, all the way down the back of my throat, and when it hit my belly it exploded, in a wave of heat that didnt sear, but turned my blood to gently warmed syrup. the second shot went down feeling positively pillowy.
wow, i thought. no wonder the irish sing about booze.
what can i get you and don for xmas, asked irish moo a few weeks before she was due to come home.
well, i said. seeing that you're 21... there's this whiskey. it can be our birthday and christmas presents for both us.
sure enough, under the tree, santa left us (me) bottle number 026346.
and furthermore, the war will end. slainte!