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There aren’t too many things that scare me. Really.

When I was a kid (and far too young I’d have to say now from my current perspective as an adult), horror movies were my favorite. I watched them all. And there weren’t any in particular that I can remember that truly put me on edge. Well, maybe one. I saw the 1980’s version of “The Thing” when I was about nine years old. If you’ve ever seen that movie, you’ll know why I wouldn’t go near our Alaskan malamute for about a week. Poor thing nearly starved to death.

Aside from the fear of losing my wife or one of my children, I do have a particular fear. Sharks. Don’t like them. Had an “incident” many years ago that has forever crippled my ability to ever enter the ocean, or as I like to call it – “their world.”

But with that, I must edit my list of fears and insert the Tomintoul 16 year old edition into the list just after sharks and right before the loss of my family. I’d have to say that it safely rests in this position because it is not a fear of what “could be,” like the familial fears, but like my fear of sharks, it registers as an actual incident that has occurred.

I ordered this particular bottle (along with a few others) so that during the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations I’d have something new to open and share with friends. I opened this one on New Year’s Eve. Let me describe the “incident” as it is now recorded in my amygdala, that basolateral nucleus region of my brain where neuroscientists claim that fear is conditioned and forever stored. I’d be willing to bet that it is most likely sharing a one-room apartment there with my sharks.

The first sip of the evening that was passed amongst my closest friends came from a new bottle of Auchentoshan 18 year old. We nosed and sipped. Wonderful. I am yet to do a review, but I intend to. The next dram was from The Balvenie 17 year old Islay Cask. Again, we nosed and sipped. One of my favorites.

The next was the Tomintoul 16 year old.

The cork was pulled on this bottle which gleefully reads “The Gentle Dram” and the glasses were filled. All the way around the room, in essence, the responses were nearly unanimous. “The gentle dram, you say?” The nose was comparatively bitter to the previous Scotches enjoyed, almost medicinal. The palate was the same, somewhat biting — like a tiny shark loose in your mouth, swimming in a frenzied attack of your tongue. The shark bell begins to ring as the lifeguard of better judgment stands and calls out to the whisky bathers, “Quick, get out of the water!” I was able to discern some citrus in the whisky just before I hurriedly dispatched it to the depths. Only then, in the finish, did the whisky live up to its tag and offer something sweet — I’d say oranges and vanilla, or maybe it was the other way around. I don’t know, maybe I was just happy to be safe on shore… so much confusion when you are running from shark infested Scotch waters.

Now of course, there may be some demented folks out there who like this stuff, just as there are folks who think it is exciting to swim with their friends, the sharks — right up until they realize that sharks shake hands with their mouths. I guess I won’t necessarily mock such “Hoopers” of the world. But I would ask for a little leniency in my demeanor as a shark hunter, smiling and saying after they’ve tried to explain themselves, “You go in the cage. The cage goes in the water. The shark’s in the water. Our shark.” And broadening my smile, I would sing in time with Quinn and offer my opinion, “Farewell, adieu, to you fair Spanish ladies. Farewell, adieu, you ladies of Spain, for I’ve received orders to sail back to Boston…”