The Scottish Terrier is Indeed a Shaggy Dog

William Kent

(This rough draft of a story still needs work, especially with local color, such as the names of Scottish places and fine Scotch whiskeys, as well as the terminology of the distillery.)


The descendants of William Wallace and his cohorts are a proud race, and of nothing more fiercely proud than their legendary Scotch whiskey. The makers guard their secrets more ferociously than their daughters’ virginity.

Once each year, shielded from the glare of publicity in the little village of [X] in the green hills outside Glasgow, the makers gather to vie for the McLaughlin Sword. A jury of patriarchs of the oldest clans in Scotland grants this honor to the maker of the finest Scotch whiskey laid by exactly twenty years earlier.

Chivas and Dewar’s were there, of course, as well as [need a good adjectival phrase here]: Glenmorangie Single Highland, The Singleton of Auchroisk, The Balvenie Doublewood, Old Rare Usquaebach.

Everything matters. The sound as the whiskey pours into the glass, the body as it pours and as it swirls in the glass, even the color as it pours and swirls. The first pungent whiff in the nostrils, the headier aroma on the tongue and the back of the mouth. The taste, of course, in advancing and receding waves slowly on the tongue, swirled in the mouth, manly fire on the tongue, the sweet smoky tamed lava coursing down the throat, leaving its mark the length of a man’s chest. The aftertaste, too, lingering on the tongue, spreading up and down in all parts of the head, filtering as gold into the brain itself.

The pleasure is great, the responsibility greater. It is no lightly taken task for the judging patriarchs. The highest honor in all of Scotland is at stake here and, while each whiskey is quite distinctive in its own right, each is itself the finest whiskey in all the world.

The qualities are so evenly matched that each maker strives mightily to find the subtlest nuance to set his above the others. Each seeks and cultivates and imports sturdy and exotic blends of the finest malts. Each seeks the finest, clearest, sparkling waters from the liveliest highland springs and the deepest ancient wells. Each grows and imports exotic variants of fine oak for their casks, carefully crafted and soaked and aged. Aging cellars are set deep into the hills, shielded from light, temperature profiles managed with the accumulated wisdom of the ages.

And yet, for the last ten years, the outcome has been the same. Each patriarch poured, swirled, sniffed, savored, swallowed, and studied each whiskey. Each would extol the fine body of one, the delicate aroma of another, the sturdy march on the tongue by a third. They sat mostly in contemplative silence, occasionally voicing a comment that would be analyzed and revisited from many viewpoints in the spirit of Talmudic scholars. The whiskeys are, after all, each the finest, all so evenly matched even with their uniquely individual qualities. And each year for the last ten years attention slowly gathered on the finest of differentiators, the color of the whiskey. As closure neared, the patriarchs returned again and again to the look of sunshine sparkling on the greenest hillsides. And of all the whiskeys, Dewar’s was the one whose look they remembered. They said that if you could see the sound of a bagpipe, it would look like Dewar’s. If you could see the spirit of men marching into battle, it would look like Dewar’s. If you could see a mother’s love, a father’s pride, a groom’s passion, they would all look like Dewar’s. For ten years in a row it came down to this, and Dewar’s won the Sword of McLaughlin.

The other makers, proud Scots all, redoubled their efforts year after year. They tinkered with the water, with the malts, with the crafting and aging of the casks, with the cycles of cooling in the dark, all to no avail. There was no matching the color of Dewar’s.

Proud and honorable Scots, all of them, they were loathe to suspect any sort of chicanery. Yet slowly over the decade their doubts and suspicions grew. Something must be rotten in Dewar’s. After the tenth loss of the Sword, the other makers huddled in secret conclave to plot a desperate act. They would conduct an immediate unannounced inspection of the Dewar’s distillery, to determine once and for all whether there was anything amiss.

The enlisted the aid of the judging patriarchs, who circled the warriors of their clans around the distillery in a lightning raid. The makers and their men quickly went everywhere, searched everything.

Glenfiditch pride burned with a deep abiding passion. MacEnerny (?) pride burned as deep. They hated each other, had hated each other through all the history of the clans, yet they hated these upstarts even more.

There was treachery here. They searched high, they searched low. They knew not what they sought, but the smell of deceit hung in the air. They felt it in their bones. It tingled in their ears, twitched in their fingers.

Open the cabinets. Feel behind the casks. Scour the lofts and the cellars. Pound the casks and pry the lids, seeking something hidden. Angry eyes darted high and low, probing each and every nook and cranny.

All the while the Masters of the House (?) watched, stony faced. Masks of pride betrayed no feelings. Impassive eyes followed prying fingers, watched casks tipped up and rolled over, watched desk tops rolled back, watched drawers pulled open and rummaged, watched the search of apron pockets.

To no avail. Pride hung in the air, injured pride, and anger and frustration. But through it all there still lingered the smell of deceit, the taint of treachery.

Something did lurk here somewhere.

And there it was. In the furthest, darkest, mustiest corner, beneath a pile of rags beneath a pile of straw, a small wooden crate. Aged a deepest brown, stained with generations of weathered fingers, musty with ages among the casks and vats.

It had the feel, the aura of shame. The Master’s face hardened into harder stone, his eyes drew into tighter slits, as the elders gathered round the box. They looked deep into the Master’s eyes, and back at the box, and they knew. It was here.

Slowly they slid back the lid. The very demons of hell came spilling out, cackling a horrific cacophony, and vanished into the darkest of the darkest night.

Twelve little bottles, twelve little vials nestled carefully in the straw. Twelve sinister dusty glasses radiating the deepest, richest, densest amber glow of their dreams. A nut brown decadence, redolent of frustrated pride, glowing with desperate passion. This vision, this magical color, clutched their hearts, sang siren songs in their ears, filled their eyes with tears of lost love and vanished youth. It filled their hearts with everything a man had ever died for.

It was, indeed, the sinister elixir, the essence of deceit, the wellspring of treachery, the bane of their wounded pride.

It was twelve bottles of shame. It was the guilty secret of the Dewar clan, the fraud of the false colors that had brought them the undeserved Sword all this past decade. The Dewar clan had indeed fallen on hard times, sunk to desperate measures. It was a case of Dewar dye.