…a taste…

Some large part of tasting Scotch is the smell. When a taster raises their glass, what looks like a salute to the nose is an acknowledgment of the work and years that went into that glass, exploring the esters and aldehydes.

In this taste, some Scotches stand alone. Some Scotches do not need a build-up, a starter, a companion. Some Scotches carry their weight on good feet and face the taster full-on with a fierceness that needs no follow-up.

Lagavulin 16 is such a Scotch. It holds up as an oily, thick, deep drink all its own. One can sit down with a two-ounce pour of the Lag, a glass of water, and a good book, and enjoy a fine evening.

The Lag does not need a Balvenie or Laphroaig to warm up the palette.

Some Scotches do better with a companion Scotch. Some stand alone.

In that nose, that taste, that salute, one acknowledges the temper that lets such a drink be itself. There is no better drink. It brings everything to the table and needs nothing else.

 

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…beauty and the beast…

She enters… beauty falling over her shoulders, preceding a wake of emotional destruction, laser blue eyes cutting down advances while opening doors.

Her court awaits – a smile, a drink, a slow blink. Careful precise turns and answers. Questions and deflections. Placements and adjustments. Everything happens – careful and exact and efficient and real.

A troll, a grunt, a lump sits. He garbles and burbles. Outside of this moment, nothing else happens for him. Everything is here. Right now. He mumbles and stutters. She doesn’t stop but carries the troll with her in her own timeline, her own action in the river, the analogy of time and perspective.

She knows what she knows. The troll does not. The balding and fat troll stares, sipping and sitting, an excuse, a loss. He follows her and hopes. His eyes out of his head, in his hand, extended to watch, pathetic.

The world twists. What she deserves is denied. A true soul of peace and love and she is leeched and lurched upon by trolls and ogres.

I had thought I’d do this as a subtle mash-up of emotion and review, a statement and a comparison. I thought I’d turn this into a discussion of Ardbeg’s Corryvreckan and Uigeadail. That was my intent, my goal.

Instead, I find I do not know my own goal. My words flow out of loss and pain and repudiation. I haven’t tried. She deserves more than my pathetic try, my attempt at grunting and pointing and gesturing.

They all do. But especially, she does. She deserves more. Better.

She entered. Her smell. Her smile. She overtook. The troll watched.

…giants…

“If I have seen  a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants…”

Sir Isaac Newton has these words attributed to him. The contentious area of Leibniz conspicuously overlooked, one takes his syntax at face value and continues on to 1815….

Laphroaig…

For the inveterate Scotch lover, it needs no introduction. For the neophyte, however,

…love…

I’m going a bit bold with a post here. 

Am I a direct guy? Eh. Not normally. I’m a watcher, an observer. Normally.

Let’s jump in. I’ve never figured out what love is. Infactuation? Nailed it. Lust? Umm… Yup. 

I’m a bit lost. I’m a bit confused. Life isn’t very obvious to me. And returned affection is a mystery. A compounding enigma of “is she saying that because she has to?” arguing with “maybe she likes me?” 

Eh.

I don’t know and I’m not good at guessing and I’m hesitant to chase. I’ve chased before and it always ended in disaster.

Maybe it’s me. 

Maybe it’s me.

My life feels like a mess and I’m riding a log-ride that is pulling me faster and higher and when I reach the top, I’m suddenly nearly 50 and I’m alone and lost and everything drops out from under me.

There’s a Scotch analogy there. Really. Think about your favorite and read this again.

However, for me, this is about an image. Someone drinking Scotch. A snapshot in my brain I’ll never be able to delete. She tasted the Balvenie and I saw her reaction to it. Her first. Her first taste. And she said it wasn’t bad. 

I used to be good at things… Smooth… Charming… Smiling… Saying the right thing… 

Anymore, I’m a mess. I’m a confused and self-doubting mess. I’m someone that doesn’t match my mental image of myself – if that even makes sense.

I want to be the person I thought I’d be. The skinnier, muscl-ier version of my old self. But that’s not to be. Instead, I’m sitting here, enjoying a cigar, and thinking about the Scotch and cheesecake I had earlier and about the smile and the eyes that enchant and entrance me… That bind me and still me… 

I’m sitting here, a causual effection of my own insecurities and thinking about the perfect Lagavulin 16 and cheesecake I had and how perfect the company was. 

The taste. I saw her taste the Balvenie and I remembered my first taste and for a moment I was someone else existing somewhere else.

I don’t know what to do.

So I sit and enjoy a cigar and think and reflect and wonder and write…

…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