Life is Good!

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.

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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.

 

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Angeles Crest Highway … Finally!

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. 

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The windshield display helped keep my speed in check.

  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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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Whiskey Barrels Transformed

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.

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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.

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Eight Hours in San Diego

Whiskies and wine were in abundance during eight magical hours in the San Diego area over the weekend. The kick-off was a Saint Patrick’s Day celebration at The Field, on lower Fifth Avenue. We enjoyed traditional Irish soda bread, leek and potato soup, shepherd’s pie, Guinness beef stew, and a Imagecorned beef boxty. Harp, Guinness and Connemara whiskey flowed liberally as we watched the constant parade of green-clad revelers come and go. Thanks to fine weather, we sat outside, where the restaurant’s iconic 1948 Fordson milk truck, assembled in Ireland, attracted admiring glances and comments. 

 Following our long-established tradition for this holiday, our designated driver took us across San Diego Bay to Coronado and the beautiful Hotel del Coronado. The stately Prince of Wales Grille was long ago replaced with the chic 1500, which happens to be the hotel’sImage street address. Single malts still abound and we enjoyed Talisker, Oban, and several expressions of   The Macallan, while watching guests playing on the beach and in the water – in mid-March, no less!

 The day ended by our attending an art exhibition at Planet Rooth Design Haus. Gustaf Anders Rooth is primarily a furniture designer, but escapes the linear constraints of making custom furniture by painting. For whiskey fans, Gustaf’s furniture (he calls it “functional art”) is of major interest – it’s made of recycled, used whiskey and wine barrel staves and galvanized barrel hoops. 

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All in all, a wonderful day of Whisky With a View.

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Nipping Back 300 Years

I’m having a great day, surrounded by stacks and stacks of books about Scotch whisky, making notes, and getting ready to start writing. Did I mention the snifter of Springbank 18, favorite CDs in the background, and making fascinating discoveries from three centuries ago?

 Remember Hieronymus Brunschwig, the German physician, chemist and pharmacologist? Me either. Seems he wrote Little Book of Distillation in 1519, giving instructions on how to distill aqua vitae – Imagethe water of life (whisky). Due to its descriptions and illustrations of distillation equipment, it was considered an authoritative text well into the 16th century.

In 1577, Raphael Hollinshed wrote (with others) Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland. In it he wrote about whisky:

 “It sloweth age, it strengtheneth youth, it helpeth digestion, it cutteth flegme,

it relisheth the harte, it lighteneth the mynd, it quickeneth the spirits,

it cureth the hydropsie, it repelleth gravel … and trulie it is a sovereign

liquor if it be orderlie taken.”

 In 1587, a second volume, confined just to the British Isles, was released. In it, Hollinshed provided material about Scottish Kings Duncan and Macbeth.  Some twenty years later, William Shakespeare would draw on this material for several plays, including Macbeth, King Lear and Cymbeline.

Time for another Springbank.

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A NEAT Oscar Party – Old Hollywood Style

 

 

 

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There’s only a few more hours before the curtain goes up on Hollywood’s Big Night, a few miles down the road from our venue in stately Hancock Park. The doorman at the iconic, 1920s-era El Royale Apartments (once home to Mae West, James Dean and William Frawley, aka Fred Mertz) has buzzed us in and accompanied us to the 10th floor rooftop garden. The view is pure Hollywood, overlooking “The Sign”, Griffith Observatory, Paramount Studios and the Pantages Theater – and, a bit to the east – the panorama of downtown LA.

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This intimate gathering is an artisanal cheese and single malt pairing, and a chance for industry folks to get together (NO Paparazzi, please) before heading to the Red Carpet. For me, it’s a chance to share the new NEAT™ glass with some very savvy imbibers. The glass, which practically eliminates the strong “alcohol smell” and enhances the whisky’s aromas, seems to be an instant hit – Oscar worthy of the award for Best Whisky Glass in a Starring Role. Image

Malts, including Springbank, The Dalmore, Talisker, and a host of other brands, seem to come more alive in the glass as they pair sublimely with the aromas and flavors of the Cave Aged Mellage, Gran Canaria, Caso Bolo Mellange, and washed-rind Aged Brick Cheese, all from Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers Sid Cook and Joe Widmer.  Malts and artisanal cheese – co-stars as magical together as Hepburn and Tracy.

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This New Whiskey Glass is truly neat!

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An exciting new whiskey glass is making its debut this week. The NEAT™ glass takes the experience of nosing spirits to new levels of discovery and appreciation. Lots of science has gone into its design, with the result being a separation of the “bad” (ethanol) from the “good” (the liquid itself) aromas of whiskey.

 The new glass will be featured this weekend during the whisky events onboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, during their annual Scottish Festival. For more information, please visit http://www.whiskytastings.com and click on What’s New.

 I had the privilege of writing the following article about the glass. Hope you enjoy it.

  

New Whiskey Glass a Combination of Aesthetics and Science

By Ray Pearson

Whiskey drinkers, rejoice! Forget traditional shapes of glasses that direct all the whiskey’s aromas to the nose; here’s a scientifically-designed glass that lets “the alcohol smell” escape, and emphasizes only the pleasant aromas.

 The making and enjoyment of whiskey is actually more about its aroma than its taste. In Scotland, at least one Master Blender’s nose is insured by Lloyds of London for north of one million dollars (no word on similar coverage for the palate).

 Aroma is paramount when it comes to personal enjoyment, too, and the shape of the glass you’re drinking from makes a big difference. Most glasses are wide at the bottom and narrower at the top, to allow the aromas to rise and meet the nose. In glass science, this type of design is called “convergent rim.” Copitas, spirit nosing glasses, snifters, or any of the many other designs currently on the market, do the minimum to create upward movement of the spirit, and almost nothing to enhance all the nuances of the whiskey’s character. In fact, in most cases, they collect and focus significant alcohol directly to the nose, interfering with the wonderful aromas of the liquid. 

 A new glass design, meticulously researched in the USA at Arsilica, Inc., approaches the nosing and drinking experience from a scientific standpoint. Called NEAT ™, the pot-still shape relies on Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology. Business partners George Manska and Christine Crnek, executives at Arsilica  discovered that not all aromas should be collected at the nose. The prime example is ethanol, the “alcohol smell” in whiskey.  Ethanol is disagreeable, numbs and kills the olfactory neurons and obscures the desirable and pleasant aromas which occur naturally in fermented and distilled beverages.  Manska explains, “The widely flared lip and its proximity to the surface of the liquid allows the ethanol to escape before nosing, and positions the nose directly over the concentrated vapors.” Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, back up this claim and prove the ethanol is dissipated, allowing only flavorful esters and aromas to remain.

 Test marketing the NEAT™ glass at whiskey events around the country has evoked comments like “I can finally smell the earthy herbs my husband talks about”, “It’s so comfortable to hold”, and “This glass reminds me of the beautiful copper stills at the distillery we visited”.

 Glass has developed over the millennia since it first appeared in Mesopotamia over 5000 years ago, as the material from which to drink liquids. For centuries, glass’s economy, neutrality to taste and aroma, and its ability to conform to beautiful designs have been taken for granted. The NEAT™ glass combines artisanal craft with scientific aroma technology to take spirits appreciation to new sensory heights. Forrest Cokely, Certified Spirits Specialist with Hi Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, California says, “This [the NEAT™ glass] is definitely an advancement in the appreciation of whiskey, and other fine spirits. It’s a new way to enjoy, examine and understand your whiskey.”

 NEAT™ glasses are hand-made, mouth blown in the USA in 100% lead-free Crystalyn ™ crystal. Function and design patents are peCurrently, the NEAT™ glass is sold on-line at www.theneatglass.com (enter Special Offer Code 50743 on the order form to receive a special introductory Internet price). For more information about this article, contact Ray Pearson through www.whiskytastings.com or 714.204.7689.

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