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How I accidentally drank a $10,000 bottle of scotch

Hear me out.

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Brilliant Minds Initiative Dinner Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images

There was once a 17-year-old boy who wanted to impress his high school crush. Instead, he drank a $10,000 bottle of her dad’s scotch and accidentally ruined her birthday.

Let me explain.

On New Year’s Eve in 2001, I was preparing to attend my first “adult party” (code for a small gathering in an empty house with no parents). I’d never been more excited about anything, and even better, my crush — we’ll call her “Annie” — was the host.

Annie and I had been friends for years, but things had become decidedly more flirty that fall and I thought I was in love. She walked up to me one day at school before the break and said, “James, I’m having a few people over for New Year’s, and I’d love if you were there.”

I somehow managed to say yes before melting into a puddle of goo.

I got a haircut, some new clothes. Even a new Axe body spray scent, so I’d smell special. It was that kind of an occasion, and it warranted a new version of me.

On the train ride to Annie’s house, I ran over my mental checklist: Be sociable, but not too sociable. Spark conversation, but don’t talk too much. Be myself, but better. Above all, I was determined to make sure Annie knew I made an effort. Because she was worth it.

When she opened her front door, she surprised me with a massive hug — once again, puddle of goo — and took me by the hand. As she led me into her living room, I was captivated by the window view of Sydney’s south coast before a friend broke my train of thought.

“We’re drinking, James! What are you having?”

I paused for what felt like an hour, running through a catalog of things I could say before settling on the most adult-sounding liquor I could. “Scotch,” I said, “if you have some.” The impressed reaction told me I made the right choice. “My dad has some in his liquor cabinet; I’ll grab the key,” Annie said. I picked the classiest looking bottle that said “single malt” on it, knowing that’s what my dad always drank.

We laughed, we danced, we celebrated with me sipping my classy scotch as Annie and our friends downed Smirnoff Ices and boozy milkshakes made with butterscotch schnapps. Bizarrely enough, I was able to hold my liquor, one of the rare benefits of having a fake ID since age 15 — but that’s another story for another day.

Annie gave me a peck on the cheek to ring in the New Year, and after a late-night game of pool, we all passed out at her house. On the table sat a half-empty bottle of scotch. My mission was complete.

Annie gave me a long hug at the door the next morning. She was going to London with her family for the rest of the break, but said we’d talk when school started back.

On the first day back, I wanted Annie to see me precisely as I was that night, Axe body spray and all. My confidence soared when I saw her walking toward me that morning, even more so when she grabbed my by the collar. I was so convinced she was going to kiss me I didn’t notice how furious she looked.


I responded meekly, reminding her of the bottle of scotch in the liquor cabinet. It turns out this wasn’t just any bottle of scotch. It was the bottle of scotch. A bottle of 1969 Glenlivet Annie’s dad got as a retirement gift before Christmas that just happens to be one of the rarest scotches in the world.

He had planned to drink one glass a year for the rest of his life. And a 17-year-old idiot downed half the bottle in one night.

I found out Annie didn’t go to London. She also didn’t get the car promised to her for her birthday. “I never want to see you again,” she said, finally releasing me and walking away. It was the most potent gut shot I’d ever experienced, and the pain was so real it made me want to double over.

In the end, her word was good. We didn’t talk for years, and it wasn’t until the early 2010s that I dared to reach out. Life was great. Annie was married with two kids and was extremely happy. I followed up with a joke about the scotch — a message that hung for an uncomfortably long time before I got an answer.

“That shit’s not funny. Dad reminds me of it every damn New Year’s.”