Um, That Is Scotch, Right?

Being a regular in a bar has its perks. I’ve never reached Norm-status where people shout my name when I walk in the door but I did win my way into the graces of a bartender downtown to the point that I learned a very valuable lesson.

When I go out to drink I generally go for the best beer that they have on tap. But I’m a big fan of Scotch, too, and it’s generally my drink of choice when I’m hitting the hard stuff.  Once I wandered into my local watering hole and decided that I wanted a Johnny Walker Black.  When I placed my order the bartender solemnly shook his head.

 “You don’t want that,” he said.

I’m used to shooting the shit with this particular tender so I grinned and told him that, yes, indeed, I did.

Still not smiling he told me that I didn’t and he offered me some Chivas. Now, I’ll drink Chivas in a pinch but my choice for mid-level Scotches is Johnny and I’ll be damned if I’m going to drink Chivas when there’s a perfectly good bottle of Johnny right there.

I told him as much.

This was starting to get serious.

Finally, he glanced around the bar to make sure that there was no one in earshot. (It was late on a Sunday afternoon so we were safe.) Then he leaned in and explained very softly why I didn’t want the liquor resting quietly in Johnny’s bottle. It wasn’t Johnny.

He told me that some of the staff at the bar – never him, he’d just heard – like to take a bottle of Scotch up on the roof of the bar after hours and look out over the river while getting plastered. Then before going home they buy a bottle of the cheapest swill that the bar sells, and top off the bottle of Scotch so no one knows any better. Somehow he knew that Johnny had been the blasphemers’ latest victim.

I had a beer. And ever since then I’ve been very cautious when ordering whiskey by the glass. I always get it straight and if I feel like ice I get that on the side. Then I study liquor and make sure that it is what I want. I once even returned a glass when I was sure it was rotgut. Given the waiter’s reaction I’m certain that I was right and that he’d probably been in on it.

The South Koreans have apparently been faced with a similar problem. Their solution is radio frequency identification (RFID) chips which can be used to verified a bottle’s authenticity via a cell phone. This wouldn’t help in the particular case I described above but it would put a stop to fraudulently labeled bottles which I suppose must be a problem there.

I’m really not sure how to solve my problem. A pocket sized spectrometer? I’d have to request a drop from the bottle before actually ordering my drink but it would be worth it. No, I guess that’s not a very practical solution.

Any ideas?

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