16 February 2008

The All-Rounder

Cricket is a lovely game, originally English, it is now played internationally by most of the former colonies of Victoria's empire. The Australians routinely whip their Mother Country, and the once subjugated Indians, Pakistanis, and Sri Lankans (just to name a few) dole out sporting punishments to their erstwhile masters on a regular basis. The loss of English athletic prestige in both football and cricket (and, God forbid, even rugby), is the source of much hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing by the punditry. Of course, the English can still thrash their Scottish neighbors at most things, but the doughty Caledonians know that sort of chest-thumping pales in comparison to the magnificent accomplishments of their tiny nation. And speaking of magnificent, where would we be here at TPP without that most wonderful of all things from the northland, the Gaelic spirit known as whisky? In cricket, an "all-rounder" is a unique character, a player who both bats and bowls. Imagine a baseball pitcher who is also a middle-of-the-lineup hitter. That sort of thing is commonplace on high school teams, but impossible at the professional level. They still exist, though, at the highest levels in international cricket--even woeful England has recently produced one, the hard-partying Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff. The recently departed Michael Jackson, sublime drinks writer, used this term to describe a unique and interesting whisky called Highland Park. Whiskies are often grouped by extremes: the sweet, sherry-flavored malts, and the pungent, peat-smoked brews. Highland Park manages to be both at the same time. The 12-year old standard bottling has a distinctly smoky nose and finish, with a full round smooth malt sweetness on the tongue. Lovely stuff. The distillery is located in Orkney, making it the northernmost of all Scotland's malts. Alas, we never made it off the mainland in our sojourn to that beautiful country, so I suppose we'll just have to go back and try again. I wonder if the Orcadians are cricket fans.

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