…feeling good…

It’s late December. 2016. The night of the Winter Solstice to be specific. The shortest day of 2016. Of course there are 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds in our sidereal day as viewed from some distant star – but we measure our day relative to the sun. So, today was the shortest day and therefore the longest night.

It is good that this is the shortest day of 2016. As each day gets a bit longer, we gain ground to moving to 2017. And that’s good.

2016 can go screw itself with sharp objects in unmentionable places while holding uncomfortable positions. But, I’m being nice.

I’m looking forward to moving past this year, among other things, and starting over. New experiences. New people. New places. New memories.

As I started this post I was listening to “Feeling Good” by Muse. It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life. And it really is. And as each day gets a bit longer I hope to enjoy each new day and new dawn a little more.

To circle this around to Scotch, I haven’t had much Scotch in the last several months. Definitely nothing noteworthy.

What this means is that when I do open my next bottle of peaty smoky heaven, it will be a renewed experience. I get to enjoy a revisit to some of those early experiences while my palate developed. I expect it will be amazing.

How amazing? Pay attention to your breathing. How fast or slow your breaths are and how deep or shallow your breaths are. Take a long deep breath in. Enjoy it. Let it out slowly and completely. Really push it out. Get all the air out. Now hold there. Don’t breath in. Hold it. Hold it. Don’t breath. Don’t. Your body starts to panic – ignore it. Force it to not breath. Clench your fists. Feel the dizziness set in. Don’t breath. Tighten your body against it. Force your way through it… This simulates 2016.

-Now give in. Breath in. New clean air. Fill your deprived lungs. Long slow shallow breaths. Refocus your eyes. Lay your head back. Enjoy the experience. That’s how I imagine Scotch will taste again. Also, this simulates 2017.

What will I have? When I’m ready, I’m going to start with the Balvenie 12yr Doublewood. And a cigar. I’m going to really enjoy that cigar.

It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life. And I’m feeling good.

I’m now listening to “These are the Days” by Van Morrison. These are the days of the endless summer. These are the days, the time is now. There is no past, there’s only future. There’s only here, there’s only now.

I’m drinking an Obsidian Stout and listening to Van Morrison and I don’t have a Scotch and I don’t have a cigar but I’m okay. I’m getting to be okay. I’m feeling good. I’m feeling better. These are the days. It’s a new dawn.

…me time…

Most people who know me would disagree with the following statement:

I am a simple man.

I know, I know- but as with any great narrative there exists a kernel of truth within the pages and pages of lies.

I like music.

I like philosophy.

I like Scotch.

When these three items are combined, I feel a perfect symmetry that immediately calms the ocean of turbulent life that swirls around me, threatening to drown me in a torrent of strife…

Too flowery? How about this:

The three things help me shut IT out…

“IT” is the sound of people bemoaning how ‘busy’ they are despite not actually accomplishing anything of substance.

“IT” is the sound of a general election- the before and after of a thousand yammering voices from different sides projecting their third-rate minds onto whatever social media platform is available.

“IT” is the sound of frustrations at work, complicated relationships, a thousand-and-one daily worries whose triviality is only offset by their persistence.

The irreducible perfection of “me time”: a trio of classics-

Drink: Laphroaig 10, with a few drops of water

Music: Bach Flute Sonatas

Reading: Jacques Derrida, Limited Inc.

I’ll grant that my choices as ‘classics’ may be a bit on the esoteric side, but they work for me. It didn’t take a lot of experimentation, more a moment of clarity- the sudden realization as you’re sitting there that you are content. It’s a magical moment and not to be dismissed lightly.

If you’re reading this, do me a favor: ask yourself how you define ‘me time.’

If you can’t do it, you have some work to do…

…and you’ll thank me later.

 

…classic…

My esteemed colleague has posted about the world’s most perfect pre-dinner drink, so I feel duly bound to contribute as well.

Have you read his post? You should. I don’t want to rehash everything he said.

Seriously. Go read it and I’ll wait here.

Welcome back.

I am in agreement with most of what Chief wrote, but I confess to being a bit more strict in my approach. Specifically, I will use either Plymouth or Hendrick’s, not being a fan of Beefeater…but then again I don’t care for dirty martinis. His point is well-taken, however, and I’d second the recommendation for those of you interested in a dirty martini. incidentally, I agree that olives are the classic garnish and two is certainly correct. When I am making a Hendrick’s martini, I typically change the garnish to either a lemon twist (which is another classic garnish) or a cucumber wheel. For those of you that would question the lemon twist with the cucumber-forward flavor of Hendrick’s I recommend seeking out a sparkling water made by Voss with lemon and cucumber flavor…ridiculously good!

My portioning is a bit more strict as well: I use a 6:1 ratio, chill the glass prior to pouring, and…wait for it…

I NEVER SHAKE A MARTINI.

James Bond, in addition to some rather crippling psychiatric issues, has it wrong. From the technical perspective, a shaken “martini” is called a Bradford. To me, gently stirring the two liquids together allows them to meld quite smoothly and will not result in a cloudy mess of splintered ice.

You heard the Chief- GIN is what goes into a martini, not vodka…or peach schnappes…or cherry brandy…or whatever else people think they can put in a shaker and add “tini” to the end of the name. Those drinks are fine for some folks, but leave my classics alone.

No one wants to hear Led Zeppelin adapted for string orchestra and no one want to drink a martini that tastes like a 7-year old’s birthday party.

…martini…

I’m going to get off the Scotch high horse here for a bit and talk about my favorite before dinner drink… a nice smooth mildly dry Martini.

Gin. A Martini is made with Gin. Good Gin. Not crappy Gin. Not Gin-and-Tonic Gin. Smooth, floral, spicy, tasty Gin. With Vermouth and Olives.

Not Vodka. Not cranberry. Not orange slices.

Gin. Vermouth. Olive.

I’m going to get a bit snobby here and even qualify what Gins are allowed (yes, I used allowed, not recommended) for a Martini.

Plymouth. Hendricks. Beefeater.

You can take your Tanqueray Gin and save it for when you have a bunch of sophomores coming over for a frat party or some stupid shit like that. Yuck. (I re-worded that to tone down my negative sentiments toward the harsh tasting awful after-tasting Tanqueray stuff).

Bombay? Yeah, I’ll take some Bombay. I recall many hours over several days spent sipping Bombay Sapphires and Tonics on a lazy river at a hotel in Saipan. I didn’t leave the hotel for three days, ate salmon and lox on bagels for breakfast, and drank my lunch and dinner. In an inner-tube. On a river. Flipping fantastic. The steadiest and longest lasting buzz I’ve ever had. Also, an awful sun burn. But the drinks were amazing. Every time my tube came around the bar-corner, the buy-me-drink-girl had a Bombay and Tonic waiting for me. I drank so many of those slow sipped under the Saipan sun that… well I’m at a loss.

Amazing.

Point is, use Bombay for your Gin and Tonics. Not your Martinis.

My current favorite for a Martini is Hendricks. I like very little Vermouth (I’ve acquired a taste for Gin) and an olive.

I often like a Dirty Martini, where they splash a little of the olive brine in. Fantastic. The best Gin for a Dirty Martini? Beefeater. Cheaper than Hendricks, and you’re not wasting a smoother Gin on a briny Martini.

Are there better Gins out there than Plymouth and Hendricks? Absolutely. Don’t use them in a Martini. Save them for sipping straight. Either neat or with one ice cube.

Examples? I have only one… Monkey 47. The best Gin on the planet. You can quote me. The best.

So, back to the point of this post: I like Martinis. Specifically, I like them made this way…

4oz Beefeater (or Plymouth or Hendricks) Gin

1/2 to 3/4 oz Dry Vermouth (we’re talking the dry French stuff here)

Stirred or shaken with or over ice

Strained into your Martini glass

Garnished with two green olives

You always serve your Martini with two olives. One for you and one for a friend.

A friend once told me that.

Enjoy.

…peat…

167

ppm

Parts Per Million. 167 parts per million. Phenol parts per million.

How much peat/smoke is in my Scotch?

PPM and phenols explained

Peat.

Smoke.

Tar.

Sea.

Hospital.

Peat.

I’m enjoying a pour of Octomore 6.1 Scottish Barley.

Wow.

I’m going to smell and taste this tomorrow and the day after and the day after…

I’ve challenged myself to wrap my complete nose/entry/finish/etc. notes into one word.

One word to describe the peatiest Scotch out there.

Warm.

That’s my word. Warm. That’s how I feel. That’s what I taste. That’s what I smell.

Octomore_06.1_51f2624a59704

 

…wood and leather…

To warn you, this is a fashion post – not a Scotch post.

From a Scotch taster perspective, you have to be familiar with the taste of unusual things to be able to describe what you experience in a Scotch – especially a peat bomb.

Descriptions of Scotch include tar, oil, leather, tar, brine, sea-spray, band-aid, tar, chocolate, seaweed, tar, campfire smoke, and tar.

What does that have to do with fashion? I don’t know.

There is a fashion trend among men to wear a bracelet of round wood beads. I’ve noticed this to the point of finding it annoying. I don’t understand it. Men have gone away from wearing watches and started wearing wood bead bracelets. Why?

First, a man should wear a watch. It should be a watch with a classy look and a leather band. Period. Using your phone for the time is fine if you want to be part of the plugged-in majority addicted to the tweet/post/message of the second. But that’s not what the bead-wearing men are.

We’re talking about dapper looking classy men who dress nice no matter where they go and no matter what they do. And they wear a wood bead bracelet.

Why not a leather bracelet? That seems a little more in line with a style to me. A leather bracelet made to match a wallet or phone cover or belt would go a long way to setting the final touch on a “look.”

A man’s style is put together with a sense of what goes together, much as the tastes in a good bottle of Corryvrekan go together. Things have to match up.

Fundamentally, it would seem that adding that touch of wood in a bracelet would match the rest of the outfit and round out the cotton and leather. However, I find it clashing. I find it too small a touch to fit in with the leather shoes, leather belt, leather wallet, leather portfolio, leather watch band, and leather phone cover.

Why not a leather bracelet? Why the wood beads? I just don’t understand it.

Is it the analogy to the port finish on my 2013 Cairdeas? Is it the one outlying taste that sets it apart to make a statement?

I don’t know. Maybe there’s something to it. I think it looks weird.

 

Handmade Leather Bracelets

…anticipation…

Like Jason, I suffer as well from enforced dry periods.

While I can’t say that I enjoy those times “in the moment,” I nonetheless recognize I have made a commitment that I take very seriously. Additionally, those spells serve to create an anticipation that is not wholly disagreeable- a brief moment when I am allowed to indulge again that gives me pause to think about how much I truly enjoy a good dram.

Often, the first sip is a rediscovery of sorts- a foray out of the comfortable pied-a-terre of the teetotaler into the universe of intense flavors, intriguing history, and master craftsmanship we know as fine whisky. A Lagavulin is a stop-over at a place I think I’ve been before, but then again maybe not; a Balvenie Double Wood reminds me of something I’ve forgotten…perhaps.

However, I have had my share of misadventures.

Such was the case last week.

Having sat down on the couch, I poured a healthy measure of Laphroaig’s bicentennial offering of its 15 year-old expression. Having read Jackson’s glowing review of this particular age, I was understandably giddy with anticipation (yes, I know…but I really was…), smug with the satisfaction of having found a bottle at an out-of-the-way store that I frequent only because they sell Lagavulin for $25 less than everyone else.

The nose offered the first hint of impending confusion.

I don’t put much stock in color, merely appreciating it for its own aesthetics, vaguely wondering if the palate will match what the hue implies. Nose, however, is key- and something was off here…Where was the sting, the reek of iodine and peat, the instant imagery of sea spray flinging itself onto jagged rocks? Where were the smoldering remains of beach bonfire, lovers having taken shelter in the warm bear-hug of ambrosial liquid and each others’ arms?

Where was my Laphroaig?

Truth be told, it was still there- just muted. It took me more than a moment to realize it, but all of Laphroaig’s signature properties are available in this expression. They are simply more slowly paced- the rambunctiousness of youth dispelled by the wisdom of maturity. I would recommend this whisky, but I would offer the following: Caveat emptor- The voice is not as loud, but the message is still intact.

I just needed to calm down long enough to listen.

…sometimes…

My job is technical in nature.

I train candidates applying for a federal license to operate commercial nuclear reactors. I train them to safely operate the nuclear power plant under all conditions. Normal. Abnormal. Emergency. All conditions.

It’s a two year training program that leads to an exam administered by highly trained experts from the Federal Government.

My job has a lot of “extra” stuff that goes with it.

One of those extra responsibilities is that for one week every five, I must stay within 60 minutes of the power plant and I must stay sober. Not a drop. I can’t enjoy a cider on the patio after a long Friday just to decompress and unwind. I can’t enjoy a cream ale after a rough Monday exam. I can’t enjoy a Scotch after a long Tuesday at work while I’m enjoying a fantastic cigar on a gorgeous evening.

Sometimes, I want a Scotch because it feels right.

Sometimes, I want a Scotch because it tastes right.

Sometimes, I want a Scotch because it melds with the mood.

Sometimes, I need a Scotch simply because I need it.

Tonight, I am denied that pleasure because I have to remain fit for duty in the event something happened and I’d have to report to the power plant.

Sometimes, I enjoy a cigar and ponder the gravity of my job.

Sometimes, I don’t care much for my job.


More importantly, sometimes it takes some time away from it to figure out what you really want. Tonight, with the pipe (the cigar needs to dry out a bit – too wet), I want to start with a pour of Balvenie Doublewood. Maybe two. Then I’d switch straight to a point of no return Scotch… Either Correyvrekken or Lagavulin 16. Once you switch to either of those, there is no going to anything else.

That’s what I want to drink tonight.

That’s what I think about, sometimes, when I can’t have it.

…nothing…

I don’t have anything to drink.

My liquor/Scotch/Whisky cabinet is empty. Pretty much.

I look in it and don’t see *much* to drink.

So, what is in my cabinet? What don’t I have that I can drink? What isn’t in there that can quench that taste for a burn, that taste for a smoky rich oily caramely Scotch?

I look in there and it is pretty much empty.


I wasn’t sure, so I took inventory…


1/4 bottle of Talisker Dark Storm (absolutely recommended – fantastic)

15/16 of Laphroaigh  1998 16yr Whisky Exchange Signatory Release 1 of 585 bottles

7/8 Black Bottle (what I’m drinking as I write this)

1/4 bottle of Ardbeg Corryvreckan

1/3 bottle of Talisker Distillers Edition

1/6 bottle of Kilchoman Machir Bay

1/3 bottle UK Ileach Peated Islay Malt

1/4 bottle Smokehead

Two Full unopened bottles of Laphroaigh Portwood Editions

Full bottle of Islay Storm

1/6 bottle of Ardbeg Auriverdes

1/4 bottle of Lagavulin 16 (still one of my favorites)

Full bottle of Laphroaigh Cairdeas 2014

5/8 bottle of Port Charlotte PC7 Sin An Doigh Ileach (One of my top 3 favorites)

Two Full unopened bottles of Ardbeg 200yr Perpetuum (as yet untasted)


So I look in my cabinet at the above, and I don’t see much to drink. Maybe some Black Bottle. I don’t want to finish off any of those other bottles. They establish my base. My minimum. They are what I always want to have around.

In the interim, I need something to drink.

Going to pour another…

…some days…

There is a lot I don’t understand about the world…

I know there is a lot going on in the 300nm to 760nm spectrum of what we see. More than I can often comprehend.

I know there is a lot more going on that we don’t see.

I don’t know how affected we are by the things we don’t see.

However, I know that we are affected.

How?

Some days are just crappy.

There is no explanation. No reason. No cause driving an effect.

At least no cause that we can discern. But we feel the effect.


What our sensitive and complicated eyes process is only a small amount of the energy around us.

That’s what it all is – energy. Everything. Energy. Varying wavelengths of energy radiating and reflecting.

Through some incredible miracle of evolution and development our ability to “sense” a particular range of the energy spectrum by way of processing reflected light into depth, shape, color, contour, etc. we are able to experience a small part of the energy around us visually.

*sigh*

I had a crappy day. Inexplicable. Seemed great starting off. Just turned sour. Energy of some kind crackled around me and I felt it. I fed it. I (unwillingly) channeled it. Nothing about the sourness had anything to do with the visual spectrum. The day (visually) was gorgeous. Everything looked great. To anyone processing reflected and refracted light, today was one of the better days we’ve had this (?) summer.


There was something else going on. Something else outside of the visual spectrum was being processed and put into action.


I’m on my fourth/fifth pour of Balvenie 12yr Doublewood as I wax philosophical.

I’m on another pour after another pour after another.

Relaxation slowly ebbs through me.

I’m looking at my Scotch – my pour of Balvenie in my snooty Glen Cairne glass. I’m truly enjoying the energy dispersing effects of this Scotch. This whisky. This medicine. This refractor of energy.

There are a lot of reasons to drink. Sometimes we just like the taste. Sometimes we get addicted to the effects.

Sometimes we’ve just had a crappy day.

Sometimes it seems the only way to channel the unseen energies through the day.

Scotch.

I’m feeling better.