Amrit

I guess it was inevitable. Not just that I would get a bottle of Heinz 57 on the appropriate birthday, but that it would be the centennial edition, suitable for basting the pork chop of the century. As a vegetarian, I am mulling recipes for barbecue tofu.

Something about me seems to provoke people to render up lovely things to drink. Last year it was the broadside of the birthday Botani, more recently there was the unexpected largesse of the Glen Dronach, and this Sunday I found myself opening not just the beribboned parcel of steak sauce, but a tin of chai from my favorite teenager, a trio of Chardonnays from my friend whose senior living community has some sort of buyer’s club discount (the theory seems to be, keep them mellow and happy, their Zimmer frames will hold them upright) and…

…Amrit, Amrita, Amrut. Thanks to my furry, clever and resourceful little engineer.

Wikipedia is very sober and refined and describes Amrita as the “nectar of the Goddess,” among its other referents: the gods churned the ocean until the nectar arose, or transcendent meditation evokes a fluid from the highest chakra, conferring immortality. On the other hand, there are some pretty straightforward interpretations of this whole Goddess Nectar thing (warning: adult content).

Whatever, the bottom line, you should pardon me, is that after nearly a century of the Raj, the British figured out about curry and the subcontinental Indians apparently figured out about malt whisky and out of would you bloody believe Bangalore they are exporting these single malts that I needed only to know about to crave.

You will notice the bottle in the picture has been tapped. Honey, a ghost of vanilla and something that is more like a spicy leaf bonfire in autumn than the footstomping peat of an Islay or Island malt; there was something like cloves in there and a fleeting aroma of apple or mango, ripe and fermenting in the skin.

The label reminds us it is from the land of the great Himalayas. Interestingly the Himalayan territory has its own tradition of malt beverages (is there any nation which does not?), called chang, which are more in the beer line, though I have heard — if only I could remember where — of a fiercer distillation being drunk from cups rimmed with chilli powder rather the way a margarita is presented. I spurn the margarita, which I consider the drink of naughty-girl wannabes who can’t hack an honest dram, but I would rather like to try distilled chang with a garnish of chilli. Do you know that Tibetan women can carry a two hundred pound load of cinnamon down the mountain on a head strap? Do you know how outclassed that makes me feel? Is it chang that does it…?

Every year on my birthday I make a point of lifting something I haven’t lifted before. This year, I threw ten more pounds on the sled and blew up seven hundred and fifty pounds for ten, and I coaxed the Engineer and one of his colleagues to spot me on a 115-pound bench press — nothing at all to write home about, but I have always been a little ootsy about straight-bar benches, on account of what it does to my cash flow if a shoulder is off line even for a day or two.

It’s not two hundredweight on a head strap, but that little taster’s snort before going in to lift might have done something. I am going to hoard this bottle, but I’ll be interested to see what I’m lifting when it’s close to gone.

I don’t know what the steak sauce is likely to do for me. Tenderize me, possibly.

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