Tippling Point | If they Don’t Tell You This Story in Scotland, You are Not Drinking Atholl Brose
Does the name Atholl Brose give you any idea about its ingredients? Well, the drink is a mixture of whiskey, oatmeal, honey and sometimes cream. And be warned before we land on Scotland. No visitor to the glens in the country drinks Atholl without getting relished by the story behind it. So let’s take our time.
Before that, let me ask you. Would you throw this drink away if you learn that the first who drank Atholl Brose (in fact, it was for him that the drink was originally made) died horribly within hours? Here's the gruesome story:
Long ago in a place called Atholl in Scotland, there lived a few giants. You figured it right. They were enormous by size and filthy by behaviour.
Among them, one became a terrible blight to the countryside. At nights, he broke into the grain store of poor farmers in the neighbourhood and cause mayhem. He took away cattle whenever he wished to.
Men who tried to resist were killed in large numbers and sometimes, entire villages were wiped out in the fire of his wrath. After a few years, the place where the giant roamed about became a desolate area where only a few young hunters had the occasional courage to enter. One of them was Dougal.
The young man sincerely wanted to put an end to this menace of a giant haunting human beings and cattle at night. So one day, he strode into where the giant was living and hid himself behind a bush to take a look at a ramshackle of a house that belonged to the giant.
But he had absolutely no clue how to face the giant’s towering body. Suddenly, Dougal was struck by an ethereal sight. A woman, stunningly beautiful, came out of the house to fetch water from a nearby brook. She looked normal like any human being, despite the fact that she was the daughter of the giant.
The woman lived a sad life, ever since she lost her mother long ago. Her father, along with all his super-sized friends and relatives, repulsed her with their boorish behaviour and she always dreamt that someday, a human being would come to save her from this hell where she was stuck.
Poor lass. She didn’t know while she was fetching water, the very human being she had dreamt all her life was peeping at her with love-stricken eyes.
Back home, his friends and relatives were worried about the sad state in which they found Dougal. Had the lad fallen for some lass? They asked. He didn’t answer. In fact, Dougal had now more reasons to chart out a plan for facing the enemy.
He knew, to kill the giant in a direct fight was impossible, too tall an order with his puny human-sized body. The monster could crush me to death, the lad thought, while sipping from his dram of whisky.
Whisky! He nearly screamed as an idea crossed his mind. Giant or human, no one can live in this climate part of the world (read Scotland) without this! It was then he remembered that he saw something like a huge stone with its inside carved lying near the giant’s house, while he was savouring the beauty of the woman in the morning.
Dougal carried two small barrels of whisky on the first night to that huge stone. Next night, he carried a big sack of finely ground oatmeal and on the third night he brought another barrel of whisky, plus a huge earthenware pot filled with the finest heather honey.
He now put the ingredients into the hollow of the stone along with water he fetched from the brook and mixed them well until they began to froth.
When the giant came back that evening from his daily rounds he was struck by a strange aroma wafting up from the stone cup. He checked it, took a sip, then another, and finally emptied the whole lot in a single act.
Dougal, hiding behind the bush, had to plug his ears when the giant gave out a jovial belch. The monster now began to dance and took to what he alone considered as singing.
Has the plan backfired, Dougal was confused at this turn of events. He sighed only when the giant finally fell on the ground in a drunken stupor. Dougal came out of his hideout and without a second thought drove his sword through the giant’s ear until it struck his deep-set brain.
The daughter took one look at her murky past, her dead daddy, and looked forward to a bright future, her saviour-lover-husband Dougal. She smiled.
So remember, if they don't tell you this story while sipping it, you are not drinking Atholl Brose. This is the broth Dougal made for the monster, that day and won the heart of his woman.
Slàinte mhath! (Scottish for cheers).
(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)