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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

OK, let's get this Sober Life thing dealt with.

I don't drink because I can't.

That doesn't mean I don't want to.

I have here a bottle of single malt, distilled at The Balvenie distillery in Banffshire, Scotland.

It was drawn from a single cask and hand bottled.

Wait - there's more.

Someone has scrawled on the label: "Bottling date 13.9.00, cask number 10144. In cask date 2.8.74, bottle number 169".

It is in fact one of 250 bottles yielded by a single cask, matured - by my reckoning - for just over 26 years.

That's half my lifetime or thereabouts and from the moment the whisky went into the cask it remained undisturbed to mature at its own pace. Watch my lips, as the barmaid used to mouth.

I like to think it was tested and tasted and given an extra year (its only claim to aged fame on the label is for having celebrated its 25th birthday).

Some Glenfiddick malts are drawn from a special vat called a solera, which sounds Spanish to me and is always, kept half full.

A bit like I used to be, really.

It has not been chilled and filtered, so occasionally you could get a slight haze developing. I think that's true of me, too.

The Balvenie Distillery is the only remaining Scotch whisky distillery that still practises all the traditional crafts of malt whisky making.

It still grows its own barley, still malts in its own traditional floor maltings, still has coopers to tend the casks and still has a coppersmith to tend the stills.

It costs £79.95p a bottle from all the Queen's grocers and it's mine.

And I can't drink it.

To do so would inflame too many old passions. It could spark a revolution in my ordered, uncluttered, tried and tested life.

It could, in shorts, set me back years and on the roller coaster ride to oblivion that becomes hysteria.

Dependency is something you can depend on.

Alcoholism doesn't mean you are always drunk; in fact the reverse is true.

It means you remain forever sober.

And you get to keep the Balvenie.

Don't you see, it becomes a straightforward test of wills between you and the amber nectar.

I've been contemplating how Ibicencans drink from first thing in the morning. It's what I used to call time for a light breakfast wine.

I've drunk the local stuff from a lemonade bottle in a little village overlooking almond blossom as far as you could see.

Somehow, it never seemed a problem over there but you can bring it home with you like foot and mouth.

A drink problem is the only one to tell you that you haven't got it.

So "Cheers!".

Sinclair Newton