Well, the year has flown by- and that seemed an apt way to start this little page.
My last session of the year was fast approaching and was a private booking at a flying school near London, a Christmas Party for the pilots and their families. Arriving at the venue, it was pitch dark, cold and raining, but the stars were out in patches and incredibly visible due to the lack of light pollution around the airfield. Of course, the struggle then began trying to move two cases of whisky and a bag full of glassware across the ink black car park, interspersed with frozen puddles of water just to make the journey a bit more interesting!
It was a small venue, but already filled with people and a warm welcome once inside. Had a coffee and set my things out ready to begin. Within the first 10 minutes, a Russian gent wandered over and started discussing whisky. Well I use the term “discuss” lightly as he decided to tell me about his whisky and the fact that the selection i had brought along to try was shit. yes, that’s right, shit!
Amazed by this response, I retorted and said that his superior palate my not be challenged this evening in the way he was hoping but perhaps the more educational side of the talk would be of interest? I asked what he normally drank and Fine Oak Macallan or old Glenmorangie was on his list. Again, his responses where not really worth putting down here, but safe to say his card was marked from then on. I decided to let him try something special a glass I had poured for myself, away from the rest. Just a little something to relax me and warm me up.
“Here, try this” I said, handing him the Glencairn Glass with a base filled with whisky.
He nosed it, and drank from the glass without hesitation. After a second or two, he said “Its OK, got quite a nice spice to it and a nice finish, what is it”
“ah, a little something some friends and I are working with. Quite a smooth mouth isn’t it- it has a sherry cask finish and a bit of grain whisky”
“whats grain whisky?” he replied with a quizzical look on his face.
Bingo! I had him worked out. This was no Jim Murray- this was your average blowhard who likes to impress his friends around the dinner table about his extensive collection of single malts, when actually, he does not know the first thing about the drink.
I reached into my bag and retrieved the bottle of Grants Cask edition #2 (sherry cask) and handed it to him.
He might not know much about whisky, but it was clear from his expression that he was not impressed by the trick I just played on him.
“sometimes its best not to judge a whisky by its label and just enjoy it for what it is”.
He returned to his chair and I began to introduce myself to the room.
Towards the end of the 90 minutes, with most of the guests relaxed and cheerful, with glass in hand and firing the usual questions across the room at me, I knew at least they had a good time and appreciated the range of whisky and the conversation. I cleared up, filled my car with my glassware and props and went to find the owner for payment who turned out to be the Russian from the beginning of the night.
“right, Scotsman, follow me”
We wandered down two long corridors, which seemed incredibly long for a small venue, into a small office, sparsely furnished with just s side table, chair and a sofa, which was currently being occupied by three more gents, one on his telephone, speaking Russian.
The owner turned to me once we were inside and said.
“I am not paying you” with a direct look at me. “it was ‘sheet’ just like I thought it would be”
Now, at this point, my brain, which was tired from the travel and the session, had a second to catch up with what he was saying, then another second to decide how to respond. But that dint quite give it enough time to think about the situation, the other men and the fact I was now so far away from the part I couldnt even here the music, in a small office, on an airfield, at midnight, miles from anyone.
So my response was perhaps a little rash!
“I beg your pardon, I don’t quite understand, please pay me sir and I will be on my way”
Now, if you think that the above was actually the response I gave, think again. Those of you who know me, have already worked out that despite the bulk of the man in front of me, his aides by his side and the location I am not the type of personality to fade into the background in situations such as these. Coupled with the fact that after running bars in Glasgow, you soon get a sense of the trouble punter you can handle and those you simply cant. I was not about to walk out empty-handed, nor was I about to let someone think they could do business with this Scotsman like this.
After a slow breath, I mustered up my Scottish courage, moved my right leg back a little to keep balanced and responded in the manner of a man who has just been placed in some considerable danger. Not printable here, but safe to say, “vocal”.
It worked though, after an exchange of heated words, some physical intervention and even a moment of calm a large enough proportion of my fee was agreed and we went our separate ways.
He went back to the party, and I made my way back across an even darker car park covered in even more ice, found the car, got in and drove down the long driveway to the main road.
I don’t think I exhaled until I saw the white lines of civilisation!
Still think I have the best job in the world?