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The whisk(e)y season is dear to Ireland, Scotland
Posted on March 4, 2010 by William M. Dowd
The portal is about to open on a season dear to the Gaelic and Celtic folk of Ireland and Scotland and, indeed, their millions of descendants all over the U.S.
March 20 brings in Alban Eiler, known elsewhere as the spring solstice or vernal equinox. Weather be damned, it means spring has arrived and will last until June 20, the longest day of the year, when we will encounter Alban Heruin, the summer solstice.
Flanking that date we have such frolics as St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 and Tartan Day on April 6, or close to it depending on festivitiy plans in different cities and towns.
St. Patrick’s Day honors the patron saint of Ireland who drove the snakes into the sea where they became sharks, politicians and TV reality show producers.
Tartan Day celebrates that time in A.D. 1320 when King Robert the Bruce and his Scottish parliament sent off a letter called the Declaration of Arbroath to the Pope in Rome asking him to get the English off their backs. That worked so well that England rules Scotland to this day.
Both historic events, as well as the arrival of Easter, spring and a bunch of other traditional religious and secular days, will in this span be marked in many communities with once-a-year church attendance, parades, festivals, dances, silly hats and drink specials at your favorite pub — featuring Scotch and Irish whiskies, in particular.
Scotch whiskies usually are distilled twice, Irish whiskies three or four times, thus increasing their purity and smoothness. In some instances, further aging in used bourbon or sherry casks or a bit of blending creates a crossover taste between the two categories.
American whiskies vary widely, from the single malts so beloved by the Scots to blended whiskies to bourbons to Tennessee sipping whiskey, which differs from bourbon in that it undergoes a charcoal filtration process.
As is the case with most such things, there is no right or wrong, best or worst. There is only personal preference.