Commentary

Here’s to you Duncan

April 12, 2013 

About the time the last pope retired, two ornery highlander brothers, Angus and Robert, sat around a fire after evening chores. Days earlier, Angus had stuffed an old jug full of newly germinated barley seeds, added brackish pond water, and let it sit in the hot sun. When it smelled worse than Robert’s kilt, they invited their less fortunate friend, Duncan, over for a drink. Duncan obliged and promptly died.

Undeterred, Angus packed another jug, this time adding fungus. Soon after, the concoction bubbled from within smelling decidedly worse than Robert’s kilt. The boys borrowed a Duncan from a nearby village and tricked him into drinking. Not surprisingly, that Duncan died also, but not before singing at the top of his lungs for two hours and finding a hidden ability to dance.

This continued for several years, and hundreds of Duncans, before Angus and Robert hit the jackpot. Angus got the crazy idea to boil the foul barley-fungus mixture, capturing the steam that was emitted, and then letting it cool. The resultant liquid burned their noses and made their eyes water, much like Robert’s kilt the day before his only bath of the year. They faced a significant challenge, however, in that they were down to the last Duncan in all of Scotland. Kill this one, and they would have to import Seans from Ireland. It was well known then, as it is now, that Seans from Ireland will drink absolutely anything.

On the glen that night, Angus and Robert convinced the last Duncan to disregard everything his nose was telling him and drink. Duncan drank until there was no more. There was much singing and happy, happy dancing. Duncan began to talk progressively louder, suddenly he knew everything, he took up pipe smoking, and at one point, punched a sheep in the face. The next morning, Angus and Robert found Duncan passed out on the neighbor’s roof, looking dead, but very much alive. They had done it. Sadly, the last Duncan died a short time later, killed by a lass from the neighboring clan after he told her she wasn’t nearly as pretty as he remembered from the night before.

After years of errors and no trial, and with Scotland fresh out of Duncans, Angus and Robert finally sampled their own beverage. Several painful sips later, with Robert commenting often that it tasted strangely like his kilt smelled, both brothers knew there was work yet to be done. Certainly, the swill was awful, but it wasn’t as awful as it could be.

To make it as rotten as possible, or to perhaps mask the stench of Robert’s increasingly foul smelling kilt, the boys decided to store this near poison in oak barrels. Barrels which, they found out later, the last Duncan had lit on fire and subsequently thrown in the loch minutes after the sheep incident.

Now it was time to go to work. From Wick in the north to Stranraer in the south, Robert handled domestic sales. His pitch was simple: "Not only can you wear a kilt, you can drink one too." Business boomed.

Angus, in charge of long range strategy, formulated a brilliant marketing plan to attack the one thing dumber than any Duncan: middle-aged vanity. He told Robert, "let’s make certain centuries from now, when men are desperate to appear sophisticated, wise, and wealthy, they will put aside good judgment, and order a glass of 20 year old burnt kilt."

Over time, the name changed, but the taste has not. And that is how scotch was invented. Pretty sure.

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