Organising a piss up in a brewery is harder than you think. And far, far more dangerous. I mean, we’d all heard about it, everyone knew. The whole town. But it was Spencer who got wind of it first. Driving his forklift, loading the whisky on the vans when one of the master distillers was walking past with a television crew.
Fighting the urge to drop his trousers and moon the lot of them, Spencer did what any of us would have done in that situation. He drove the forklift around in circles in the vain hope that he’d be on telly later. Didn’t work of course, apparently the sound guy started bitching and they all went inside.
“But not before I heard what they were up to,” Spencer tapped the side of his now-empty glass.
Geoff nodded and poured him another. “This better be good, Spencer.”
Spencer sipped and grinned.
“So they’ve finally defrosted them,” he said with some finality.
“There’s a good chance I’m going to punch you, I hope you realise,” said Geoff.
And so Spencer laid it all out. The whisky. Shackleton’s whisky had been buried in ice at the South Pole or thereabouts for the best part of a century after being left behind by an expedition. Shackleton’s expedition.
“Some chancers came along, dug it out and defrosted it. They’ve got three bottles of the stuff at the brewery. And tonight, my friends, we’re going to go in there and drink the fucking stuff.”
I shook my head. Geoff shook his head. There was no way either of us was going to let this happen.
“You’ve got to ease it open.” Spencer had lost the ability to control the volume of his voice three drinks ago.
It was around the same time my resolve had waned.
“Shhh,” said Geoff. Louder than Spencer.
Geoff’s eyes widened as he stared at the steam from his breath. He raised an eyebrow. I swear he was two drinks away from saying ‘hic’ at the end of each sentence.
Of course I was a great deal soberer. Oh yes.
Many times more the soberest I was.
There was a clang as the door burst open and a clinking of bottles as Spencer fell inside. It had seemed reasonable at the time that we’d need more booze. Especially if we were only going to have a taste. So Spencer had stopped off and got each of us a bottle of the cheapest blended whisky known to man. Proper tramp fuel. The kind that just had a white label with WHISKY printed on it in big red capital letters.
Spencer raised an index finger and placed it over his pursed lips then pointed it at us.
“Just a taste, remember,” I said, closing the door behind us.
Getting in the room that held the stuff wasn’t difficult. Wasn’t even locked. We just walked in and there, against the wall on the far side of the room were three bottles held in place by three miniature scaffolds. In the top of each bottle was a long syringe needle that connected to a tube that in turn connected to a syringe. All put together to delicately draw the whisky out of the bottles and into…
“Glasses?” I said.
“Eh?” said Geoff, staring at me and trying to process the meaning of the word.
“We haven’t got any glasses. We can’t drink hundred year old hooch out of a mug can we?”
“Hang on,” said Spencer and handed us the bags he had been carrying. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
And off he lurched. Out of the door and out of sight, the sound of him staggering into things getting further away until I couldn’t hear it any more. Geoff and I stood in silence, swaying slightly.
The silence didn’t last long. Out in the warehouse there was a noise. The noise of a forklift starting up. Then the noise of Spencer’s manic laughter. Then the engine struggling, whining as Spencer pushed it forward. And then the thud as, for reasons that still remain unclear to this day, the forklift hit a wall.
There’s a point of drunkenness when the very fabric of space and time distort. The beer taxi. It’s when great swathes of time pass and you find yourself safe at home with no recollection of the journey.
This was pretty much the opposite of that. In the movies they call it ‘bullet time’ – a similar distortion of reality as the beer taxi. But in reverse. Oh yeah, it looks all cool in The Matrix but try that shit after you’ve had a skin-full and it just makes you want to puke.
So Geoff and me went into bullet-time. The thin partition wall bounced forward and knocked the three little scaffolds, toppling them into a horizontal position. We dived toward the bottles but Geoff’s legs weren’t ready and he toppled, bursting his nose open on a stool as he crashed towards the floor. My eyes jumped back to the bottles, their stoppers popping out and hundred year old whisky flowing floor-ward.
I did what anyone would have done in that situation. I grabbed a mug and tried to catch some.
Spencer hobbled sheepishly back into the room, rubbing his neck as bullet-time stopped and drunk-time resumed. He looked at Geoff, now sitting, clutching his nose. He looked at the three empty bottles sat on the bench. And he looked at me, gently sipping from a chipped mug with the name ‘Beryl’ painted on the side.
“What’s it like?” said Geoff.
I nodded, smiled, took another slug, then offered it to Geoff.
“I’ve got some coke in this bag if you like,” said Spencer.
And so, between sips, we came up with a plan.
One by one we righted the scaffolds and one by one, like three drunken chemistry professors we transferred the contents of the three bottles of the cheapest blended whisky known to man. The proper tramp fuel. We filled the hundred-year-old bottles with two-year-old shit and we put everything back the way we thought it had been.
“Those master distillers will be in for a treat in the morning,” Spencer said as he locked the door behind us, the empties clinking in his carrier bag.
And then we caught the beer taxi home.