Effective January 14, 2013 my blogs will appear on:
http://www.whiskytastings.com (Go to Our Blog).
Effective January 14, 2013 my blogs will appear on:
http://www.whiskytastings.com (Go to Our Blog).
Christmas is a time when fine Scotches are on the minds of aficionados, both for gifting and receiving. When an authentic Scottish whisky-related antique joins the bottle, an unforgettable gift for a whisky drinker is born.
In 1820s Mauchline, Scotland, innovative snuff box craftsmen began making superior quality items of everyday use, decorated with scenes of local towns and scenery. In a process much like today’s decoupage, the simple pieces, made from a sycamore-like wood called plane, became wildly popular as souvenirs. Soon, images from all over the world adorned the Mauchlineware.
Within 20 years, brothers William and Andrew Smith were the largest Mauchlineware manufacturers and had developed a second product called tartanware. Using the same simple plane wood pieces, the Smiths covered the items with hand-applied colors that replicated Scottish tartans. This very laborious process was replaced in 1840 when the brothers invented an ingenious inking machine that created tartan patterns on thin paper. Items including candle sticks, thimble cases, egg cups and timers, napkin rings, brooches and desk top accessories were all covered with the patterns. Most pieces of tartanware also bore the name of the Scottish tartan somewhere on the piece. Being Scotland, containers to protect whisky glasses during travel, were very popular.
Following Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne, building her summer home in Scotland, and the subsequent popularizing of “all things Scottish”, tartanware became a world-wide sensation. Its production was tragically halted in 1933 when a fire destroyed the bespoke machinery used to create the tartan patterns. Tartanware instantly became a valuable collectible.
Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky is a Scotch that recently earned world-wide headlines. It was blended and bottled by Charles Mackinlay & Sons of Leith and Inverness, Scotland. In 1907, crates of it were shipped to Antarctica by the explorer Ernest Shackleton, for his “Nimrod” expedition, headed for the South Pole. The expedition was thwarted by weather and abandoned. Several wooden crates were discovered a century later, in Shackleton’s frozen hut. Through the diligent work of Richard Paterson, Whyte & Mackay’s Master Blender, a replica of the original 1907 whisky is now available.
Although implausible that the Shackleton expedition carried tartanware whisky glass holders, it is interesting to muse at the possibility.
The selection has been finalized! Five superlative whiskies encompass a tremendous range of colors, aromas, and flavors. This year’s whiskies are:
The Macallan Gran Reserva, 18 years old
The Glenrothes 1975, 31 years old
Ardbeg Galileo, 13 years old
Mortloch, 16 years old
Glenturret 1998, 12 years old – a Gordon & Macphail bottling
Asian hors d’oeuvres, sea bass, shrimp, and filet of beef will be served; we will enjoy the whiskies from the revolutionary new NEAT glass; professional entertainment will add to the ambience.
December 13, 2012 – San Diego, CA
Seats are extremely limited. For more information and to order tickets, please call 714.204.7689.
“Drop by the casita for lunch – I’ll put something together” is what my friend offered. Little did I know what was in store.
The GPS successfully navigated serpentine roads through North San Diego County’s backcountry and delivered me to the massive iron gates of a hidden estate for this first-time visit. As the gates swung open, my friend’s voice came from a hidden speaker: “Drive up the hill and turn left at the totem pole.” I thought of Alice’s comment in Wonderland, about things getting “curiouser and curiouser”. As caretaker on the estate, and keeper of the koi ponds, my friend lives in a Spanish style casita with commanding views of the world. What he put together for lunch was a feast designed to be enjoyed with a variety of paired single malts for a leisurely afternoon “catch up”. Choosing among The Macallan, The Balvenie PortWood, Oban, and Glenlivet was a task, with Oban and Balvenie getting my nod. What a grand way to get ready for single malt Scotch presentations at this weekend’s San Diego Scottish Highland Games in Vista. Slainte!
Malts, mash, beer, and bangers helped celebrate The Queen’s Jubilee in Santa Monica, CA. Ye Olde (don’t you love it?) King’s Head British Pub was electric with Anglophiles for the kickoff of a great weekend for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. At the bar, Pimm’s Gin Cocktails, Bass and Newcastle were most in demand, but many of us were enjoying single malts. Net result: occasional shout-outs of “Long Live the Queen”! Around our table we shared tastes of each other’s leek and potato soup, fish & chips, shepherd’s pie, and bangers & mash. Sticky toffee pudding, jam sponge pudding with strawberry jam, and rhubarb crumble with Birds Custard were all smashing for dessert. Our booth was watched over by Sir Winston himself, and our server explained, with a wink and nod, the photo showing the Queen Mum was not taken in the pub! “Long Live the Queen”, indeed.
A mighty impressive array of single malt Scotch whiskies awaited imbibers at the recently-held Scotfest at the Orange County Fairgrounds, Costa Mesa, CA. Mostly offerings from independent bottlers, the range covered a nice representation of the distilling regions of Scotland. Some of the labels included Arran, Blackadder, Hart Brothers, Chieftains, and Isle of Skye.
I was visiting Scotfest, however, to learn more about the lesser-known aspects of Celtic, Scottish, and Irish culture. The popular piping & drumming, Highland dance, heavy athletics, and clan participation were all there, of course, but I was interested in the more esoteric side of things.
WOLVES OF ODIN was a fascinating display of Viking culture, which predated the Celts and added to the Celtic civilization. Information about weapons, food, symbols of wealth (or lack thereof), crafts, and reenactments were all expertly presented by Bruce Willis, Steve Mata and Disa Sicre.
VILLAGE BLOCKSMITH, Peter Dzulak, was on hand with his building blocks, specifically designed to create castles. Gothic arches and balconies, crenulated towers, dormers and graceful Roman arches allowed dreamers, their parents and grandparents to put form to their imaginations.
SLIGO RAGS refer to themselves as “A Celtic Bluegrass Fusion”. The music of Michael Kelly and David Burns was engaging, entertaining, and fun to watch. I had never heard the duo before, but will start to follow their Southern California performances.
WHEAT WEAVING seems to be enjoying a revival of sorts, with an increasing number of well-qualified artisans furthering the art. Cora Hendershot and Don Redifer displayed beautiful examples of Scottish, Irish, and Eastern European creations. The Belorussian Wedding Crown was incredibly complex, made from rye straw, and took Cora over 80 hours to make. Kirn dollies and other display pieces gave a tangible glimpse into past customs fitting into the modern world.
The STRIKING HAIR DO crowning Jeremy Gatewood led to a discussion of “The Bog Man”, discovered in 2003 in Ireland. Seems the gentleman, who lived between 362 and 175 B.C. was small in stature – about a few inches north of five feet. His well-preserved hair style, according to archaeologists, was an example of trying to look taller and fiercer – maybe emulating the horns of the devil. Thanks, Jeremy, for the insight.
All in all, a great day in Costa Mesa.
“I’d like to take my girlfriend to a whisky tasting for her birthday, before I deploy for Afghanistan” is how the email stream started, more than a month ago. Last night, U.S. Marine Mario Herrera and Megan Schulz finished their personalized whisky tasting just before the magical fireworks display across the freeway at Disneyland illuminated the sky. Through the generosity of Steve, one of the Hotel Ménage managers, Mario and Megan enjoyed an upgraded view suite and a tray of goodies to go with the whiskies. Campari America’s World Class Whiskies provided single malts from various distilling regions of Scotland: Auchentoshan from the Lowlands, Bowmore from Islay, Glen Garioch and Glen Grant from the Highlands. Megan is sure she will win bar bets, challenging people to pronounce “Garioch” correctly (answer: “Geery”). Happy Birthday, Megan, and Safe Journey, Mario.
It was one of those PERFECT afternoons. The plan was just to go to the nursery for tomato plants. Once there, the stunning colors, beautiful displays, warm sun and thoughts of my backyard becoming a private Buchart Gardens worked magic.
After coming to grips with “it’s only money”, I headed home by way of my favorite pub. The dark, cozy environment created a similar atmosphere of stunning colors, beautiful displays, warm flavors and thoughts of my home bar needing more wood paneling.
I’ve lived in California for 42 years and had never driven this “most dangerous road in California” (according to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System) until yesterday. The serpentine, 66-mile route from La Cañada-Flintridge to Route 138, NE of Wrightwood, also known as CA Route 2, is a metaphor of life: the riskier the task, the greater the rewards.
Proverbial pea-soup weather at the start of the drive (900’ elevation) made the anticipation of what beckoned from above more exciting. Driving data projected on the windshield of the Lexus GS Sports Sedan I was test driving created a sense of safety and control by enabling me to keep both eyes on the road. Breaking through the fog at about 4000’ was breathtaking – quite similar to the view from a plane leaving an overcast airport.
The Mount Wilson Observatory and its100-inch telescope was as awe-inspiring as the 10-mile detour off the highway to reach it. Also on this campus of technology atop Mount Wilson were many communications towers, popping out of the ground like slender periscopes.
Newcomb’s Ranch (5340’ elevation) is a modern-day oasis along the route, being the only sit down-restaurant along the entire highway. I’m still a bit puzzled why the bar selection was so extensive, given that the vast majority of customers will shortly be hiking, bicycling, or driving on the road with the ominous moniker. My cola went just fine with an outstanding chili and cornbread lunch.
Sickening evidence of the devastating 2009 Station Fire was on both sides of the highway for many miles leading to Cloudburst Summit (7018’ elevation), and mercifully changed to healthy green trees around Dawson Saddle, the highest point on the route, at 7901’ elevation.
In less than six hours and 200 miles, I had completed one of the most exhilarating drives of my life, and one which I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good road trip.
In the United States, a barrel crafted from American white oak (Quercus alba) and used to age the spirit that will become Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey, sour mash, or any number of craft whiskies can be used only once, as specified by law. After this use, most of the used barrels are sold to distilleries in Scotland and Ireland for maturation of their whiskies. In America, the barrels are generally used between three and eight years. Across the pond, they are used to age the spirit for three to upwards of forty years.
After contributing their distinctive characteristics to the aging spirit – primarily sweet, smoky, spicy and caramelized aromas and flavors – the oak barrels are ready for the next stage of their lives. This reincarnation sometimes takes exotic turns, both in use and geography.
I recently wrote an article about two such turns. In San Diego, a company makes connoisseur-quality furniture – chairs, tables, stools, benches, and designer accessories – from recycled barrel staves. In Glasgow, a company “unbends” the staves and recycles them into bespoke flooring.
You can read the entire article here: http://www.justluxe.com/community/profile-articles.php?p_id=1039&type=article. It’s the article near the top of the list.