Ask McArdle: Who buys a $26,000 bottle of Scotch?

Summery hats, stolen scotch and the art of asking politely.

 
Illustration by Peter Arkle

Illustration by Peter Arkle

Who walks into a store and buys a $26,000 bottle of Scotch—or are they just there for display?

A fine question, but one recently overshadowed by a similar query: Who walks into a store and steals a $26,000 bottle of Scotch? As you’ve likely heard, a gentleman recently walked into a Toronto liquor store and removed a 50-year-old bottle of Glenfiddich from a locked case. Only 50 bottles exist of the vintage, described by the distiller as “very sweet, with zesty orange marmalade and vanilla toffee” and by myself as “probably delicious.” Given its pedigree, one might wonder at the wisdom of leaving it on display. Has anyone ever strolled into the store and impulsively purchased a bottle of whisky that costs as much as a Mazda? Yes, says Heather MacGregor, spokeswoman for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. The “ultra-premium” booze is available in the store because “there is a market for it. The LCBO serves a wide variety of customers, including connoisseurs and collectors.” According to MacGregor, interest gets particularly intense around the holidays, when shoppers look to spoil loved ones—or themselves (Dear Mrs. McArdle: Yes, please).

It is noteworthy that this Scotch scofflaw struck amidst a flurry of unfortunate whisky events. In February, the night shift at a Chivas Bros. bottling plant accidently flushed 18,000 litres of booze into the sewer; they had meant to drain wastewater from the equipment but disposed of $750,000 in Scotch instead. The following month, the former caretaker of a mansion near Pittsburgh was charged with theft after he drank $102,400 worth of Old Farm pure rye whiskey his employer had hidden in the walls and stairwell. The caretaker denied the charge, claiming the whiskey merely “evaporated.” This defence seems plausible. The whisky in my glass often disappears into thin air.

What kind of summer hat can a man wear to the office?

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Consult your driver’s license. Should your name appear as “Don Draper,” “Frank Sinatra,” or “Capt. Merrill Stubing,” by all means, don your jauntiest cap. But if you are not one of these fortunate gentlemen who look more correct in a hat than without, then pause for a moment. Understand that—after the kilt and bolo tie—the hat is the single trickiest piece of clothing for men to wear properly. Even the smallest miscalculation in style, shade or fit and you’ll resemble a cut-rate Yosemite Sam or, worse, a full-rate Ashton Kutcher. However, there are scenarios—such as a long, sunshine-filled walk to the office or a lunchtime meeting on a patio—where a hat is required. For those, I consulted Ethan Song, co-founder of Frank and Oak, a newfangled online purveyor of menswear, for tips on dashing haberdashery. “In the summer, hats should feel light and aimed at protecting from the sun,” he tells me. “A simple chambray fedora in navy is both understated and chic.” (Chambray is a cotton cloth once used for needlework. Its lightness of weight makes it an excellent summer fabric). There are some—like the rogues at Esquire magazine—who claim the fedora is no longer fashionable. I would not hang my chambray cap on that.

How do you get a loud talker to turn down the volume?

While I could counsel all manner of crafty strategies, complicated schemes and Seinfeldian manoeuvres, none of that is necessary. The answer is simple: ask him politely. He is most likely unaware of his own amplitude.

Number of men fined $5 for their role in New York City’s Straw Hat Riots of 1922, in which the practice of stomping on straw hats worn after Sept. 22 got out of hand: Seven

Need advice? Want to settle a debate? Go ahead, ask McArdle anything: Askmcardle@canadianbusiness.com

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