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Issue 29 - Lift the winter spirits

Whisky Magazine Issue 29
March 2003


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Lift the winter spirits

Martine Nouet argues that one of the advantages of bad weather is that you can drink strong spirits to keep out the cold

Eveybody fights the rigours of winter in their own manner. Modern conveniences have spoilt us with houses that are (too) well-heated. But think of the old times when peat or log fires were the only way to get some warmth in cold, damp houses.

There were days when the freezing cold necessitated additional fuel. A hot drink of a hefty spirit could help you feel better and cure all kinds of ills.

I remember my grandfather swearing by his lait de poule – a Norman version of egg nog – when he had a cold.

This cocktail of beaten yolks, milk and homemade calvados seemed to have a magical effect on his health, and he died aged 96.

Scotland also has a tradition of hot and alcoholic drinks which have generated fascinating legends and recipes.

Why not greet the cold evening with a toddy or an Atholl brose, classics among the classics; or brighten up a friendly afternoon tea with some reinvigorating warm drinks, rich enough to compete with solid food?

The toddy has a solid reputation as a cold cure in Scotland. My first encounter with this ‘medicine' occurred on Islay.

It was a particularly bitter, cold April weekend. We had come with friends who were eager to learn more about the local spirit on an educational trip combining distillery tours, beach-walking and enough pub expeditions to keep us cheery and awake till late at night.

But we were not prepared for the harshness of a Hebridean spring and the rigours our destination held in store.

After spending half an hour turn...

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