The Right Tumbler

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I don't know if you've had the same experience, but acquiring just the right whisky tumbler can be the quest of a lifetime. And how is it, do tell, that the same dram from the same bottle tastes different in different glass, earthen, and metal ware?

Acute readers will notice that I used the word "right" rather than "correct" in the paragraph (and title) above. Intentional, of course! Ideas of correctness go hang. I given't a lamb's turd about prescribing correct drinking ware. If you care about such matter you will have to turn, respectfully, elsewhere. Drink from a scallop shell if you please, but, please, do drink.

I myself have tippled from wood, stone, crystal, glass, copper, precious metals, shells (sea and bullet casings), dixie cups, coffee cups, a coffee pot, a garden hose, and once from an ice cream cone. I own Copitas, Glencairns, Edinburgh crystal, Royal Scot crystal, Cumbria crystal, Darlington Dimples, Zwiesels, Scottish Thistle singles and Grasmere doubles into the dozens, and I enjoy drams from each. None, however, is my specific right match. (And my right match will not be your right match, so much not so, in fact, that I will not even share with you, by dram's end, a photo-shot of my eventual champion tumbler. I would not so delude you, gentle reader, nor insult your soul by prescribing a one-size-fits-all solution.)

The quest of a lifetime, I say, and I am not exaggerating. I've been questing since I inherited my dad's whisky cabinet at thirteen, and I've just now, two shots shy of fifty, settled the matter.

At first I thought the journey would be easy. In fact I didn't think there was a journey. I poured a healthy dram of cask strength Glendullan 22 to toast my dad in a smallish crystal tumbler with etched sides, and marveled at my bigness, my grownupness, my I've-arrived-at-my-father's-estateness. That tumbler, at that moment, declared that God was in His heaven and all was right with the world -- save of course the passing of the old man, who I now admired even more for leaving me, as he did, whiskies he prized above his dukedom. Love, you know, that's what I felt. I felt loved, and I loved back in return. And that tumbler in my hand at that moment signified all of the rightness and fitness and arrivédness I felt.

The tipple, however, went back a little too far and too fast. Before I could catch my breath I had inhaled 62.6% ABV, and my system reeled from the shock. The sense of momentary displacement was only surpassed by the sound of shattered crystal on the flagstones beneath my feet. My dad's favorite whisky tumbler in slivers on the ground!

No whisky has since caught me off guard, but no tumbler either has put that sense of rightness in my grasp. And so, at aged thirteen, my quest began.

. . .

Thirteen can be a cruel age, particularly as relates the pocketbook, and my earliest searches involved a bike, a basket, and stop offs at every antique store, thrift shop, jumble sale I could locate. And I indeed found some gems there.

One in particular continues to bring a glint to my eye. It had been priced well out of range, five pounds fifty in a secondhand store where scarce a glass sold for fifty p.

It didn't bear a maker's stamp, but I picked it off the shelf and enjoyed immediately the heft of the thing and the etched and raised diamond pattern against my palm. I had, thankfully, a flask with me, and I poured in a spot after wiping the lip and interior of the tumbler with my shirt. I eyed the clerk knowingly as I did this, and asked if she too would like a tipple.

She produced a tumbler of her own from behind the counter and we sipped together.

"You know," I said, "I think there's a print error on the price label of this crystal. Who ever heard of five pounds fifty for secondhand glassware?"

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