Scotch neat and shattering the glass ceiling

Scotch Beginnings
A few weeks back, Brad and I attended a Glenlivet Guardians tasting event. The lights dimmed and the Glenlivet brand ambassador shared his “first time tasting scotch” story, a nostalgic tale about his father pouring his first scotch for him after he graduated from college.

The story fit the overall vibe of the event, everything about the room screamed Scotch is for Dudes! – from the dark wood panel stylings and decor to the short-skirted hostesses at the event. Even the aspirational brand kiosks at the entryway included a tricked out male-closet in its “fashion” section (image below).  Don’t get me wrong, the 18-year-old scotch was fabulous and I shared a funny scotch isn’t just for guys moment with the women sitting near us. It didn’t really bother me, bucking the scotch=men theory had become sort of thing with me by this point.

It’s a scotch tie taxonomy.

Bit Of Background
My father is a scotch drinker. When I was growing up, he actually preferred single malt Glenlivet when he had extra cash to throw around. As a police officer in a small city tucked around all the wrongs parts of Detroit with two kids in Catholic school, that wasn’t very often. Usually he drank Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, or because of our proximity to duty-free at the Canadian border, the occasional bottle of Crown Royal. Of course, whenever that happened, my younger brother and I would fight for the lush purple velvet bag, it was the perfect size to tuck away our childhood loot and treasures.

Even though I knew my dad liked scotch, I never really got into when I first started drinking. I’ll admit my drink of choice during my college years was the typical   *yawn* rum and coke or the Kool-aid-esque Midori sour. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered my love for scotch, bourbon and whiskeys of all kinds in a somewhat roundabout way.

Midori-flavored flashbacks

The Bourbon of Bullshit
It was 2004 and I was employee 20-something at a small start-up called Linden Lab, creators of the 3D virtual world Second Life. It was a typical San Francisco start-up office, lots of work, geeky guys with super coding skills, first person shooter gaming escapades and catered “all hand” lunches on Friday afternoon. I was the third full-time female in the office (we had a few women working from home) a set-up I was all too familiar with from my previous experiences in the tech world.

Fast-forward a year or so, we’d moved to a larger office and had grown to about 80 or so people. I noticed that on some days, a group of guys who had a shared love of fine whiskeys of all types would meet up in the kitchen around for a post-work drink. These meet-ups were especially common later in the night, after we’d all stayed late working to fix something that had gone horribly wrong. I was usually the person blogging about what had gone wrong, so I was there too. These were the technical brains of our still primarily-engineering focused company and many connections were made over old fashioned glasses of brown liquor. I realized I wanted in.

The 12, 15 and 18 year old Glenlivet

I wanted to join these men in their inner scotch-tasting circle. I wanted to know their in-jokes and share in their playful naming of the scotches  – the Scotch of Vendor Treachery was a popular bottle, delivered after one of our tech partners had failed most spectacularly. I was always partial to the Bourbon of Bullshit myself, often brought out after we’d had a few and the stories were a-flowin’.

For the next few years, I’d find myself in a circle of engineers, sometimes the only woman, sometimes joined by one or two other fearless female scotch drinkers (some of whom could drink any of the guys under the table… and often did).  One night I suddenly realized I really enjoyed the taste of scotch. I liked the variations between a smooth Caol Ila and a peaty Laphroaig. I got excited when someone bought a cask strength special edition bottle back from an overseas trip. Not only had I wound my way into the conversations I’d been missing, conversations that helped broaden my understanding of our product and the company culture, I’d also discovered a serious love of whiskeys big and small.

June 2005 – Linden Lab toasting the “2nd birthday” of the launch of Second Life in our office kitchen

The Linden Lab Favorites (circa 2005-2007)
We had a lot of favorites over the years and must’ve tried at least 30 or 40 different whiskeys. In 2006 one of our Operations guys even organized a Scotch-tasting event after work to help hone our skills. Here’s a short list of some of the whiskeys we returned to time and time again, all of which hold a special spot in my heart (and liquor cabinet). I call them the Top 5:

  • Laphroaig
  • Caol Ila
  • Macallan
  • Elmer T. Lee (aka “Elmer’s; aka “the Bourbon of Bullshit”)
  • Eagle Rare

We usually drank them neat, although now and then I’d sneak an ice cube in. We never mixed, but I’m still sure that was the beginning of my current obsession with craft cocktails and unique drinks, huddled around the table in the office kitchen, sharing drinks and stories with my coworkers friends.

Thanks to Jeff, Mark and Ian for research reminders for this post and to Philip, because it’s all his fault.


9 thoughts on “Scotch neat and shattering the glass ceiling

  1. Fun to read of the early days at Linden Lab. The fun things I missed by being an at home part timer.

    Your post reminds me of when my then husband gave me a bottle of Southern Comfort for Mother’s Day. One of the best gifts I ever received!

    Toni/Pituca FairChang

    1. Love it 🙂 My brother and I like to find rare scotches to give my dad for birthdays/holiday gifts. Mostly so we can share a drink.

  2. Thanks to the lab, I grew up on Elmer.

    Also happy/sad that I managed to take the only company-wide photo we ever really took. Just wish I was in it!

    Now if I could just get my hands on some George T Stagg…

    1. Ha! I love that photo. There’s one more company-wide photo from the 50,000 users party. I’ll have to dig it out…

  3. Jeska,

    Great post! Quite the enjoyable read (and some insights, perhaps, to the occasionally odd antics of the Linden Ops team, ha ha!). Keep breaking those glass ceilings & walls (and others!).
    Looking forward to enjoyable future memories from Coffee & Power.

  4. Ahhhh, love that 2005 pic. Aside from Sabin, seven of us in that pic are still on staff at LL. Still drinkin’ Laphroaig…and I credit my first dram of Laphroaig to Ginsu when we all used to frequent the Crow Bar. Unfortunately, not many of the new staffers enjoy Scotch like we do, but in time, I’m sure we can educate the newbies 😉

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