Linking A Scotch To A Fleet Scuttled

(Originally published March 30,2012)

Some posts are from earlier blogs and are gradually being worked into current circulation. This is one of them.

By now, the mention of a particular brand of Scotch has become a recurring theme here on this blog: Scapa. How I came about this spirit, is somewhat illustrative to my intense and incredible capacity to be truly and without doubt, a nerd.

Capsized in New York Harbor
This is what happened to my teenage social life…


The same book that sits in the section of my bookshelf with the rest of the “salvage in case of fire” books was checked out by me for the first time. I have no idea why a 498-page volume of the history of marine salvage ended up being checked out solely and continuously by me for the next two years, but upon leaving, the book was “lost” and I gladly paid the $5 or so for the book that I would tote years later around the world with me for re-reading during lulls in activity: Marine Salvage: The Unforgiving Business of No Cure, No Pay. For the adolescent mind, the book was a treasure trove of tales from the day when ships were cold iron, men were men, and sheep were scared. Heroism, carelessness, blind luck, and non-linear thinking… Treasures salvaged, ships ablaze, comedies of folly and error… it was all there. Edward Ellsberg, who restored the port of Massawa, Eritrea during the beginning of ’42 with a ragtag crew, little support, and reassembled equipment and chronicled it beautifully in Under The Red Sea Sun (another on the shelf)… Joseph Karneke, one of many tasked with the salvage of whatever possible in Pearl Harbor… Most relevant to the title, however, is Ernest Cox.

Ever spiteful, the Germans drowned not only their sorrows, but their ships as well…


Four years after the Germans had scuttled what remained of their once-feared fleet, a man with no knowledge of raising ships from the bottom of any body of water raised his first destroyer from 60 feet of water in a wonderful example of trial and error. Shortly after that, once the process had been refined, Cox began salvaging more and more…including repeated attempts on battleships, balky  battlecruisers, and light cruisers – a total of 172,000 tons… 32 ships in seven years… with no formal training. Just the right drive and attitude unencumbered by straitjacket logic and linear thinking.

The correct Pavlovian response is: “Why, yes! I think I shall have another!”


After discovering a charming review about said mentioned Scotch during a long night trolling online for more pictures of ships that only existed in my mind, I had become interested in how something that, up to that point, was a relative non-contender in drinks of choice. After all, Glenfiddich may be tasteful to some, but to a novice drinker, it tasted like thinly diluted paint thinner and napalm.  Instead, there was a drink out there that one review described thusly:

Because their scotch is matured near the sea they say the scotch “reeks of briny sea air” giving the whisky a “salt tang.” In contrast to most scotches, the malt is unpeated.

Notes of honey… heather…hell, in reading the reviews, I am glancing down at the clock and noting that the Cigar Bar is charging cover and the regulars are considering me a no-show… but there is a snifter out there with my name on it.

Regardless, the price of the bottle was initially a shock ($74 locally), but it was found in a town that I initially resisted reassignment to, but have grown to love… with friends made over one of the strangest and memorable introductions I can personally remember… and all in all, is a damn fine Scotch.


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