Friday, February 12, 2016

Guest post - Savoring every day...

I'm not on hiatus I swear... just busy. I guess this is what happens when you transition from a blogger musing about your personal journey through whisky to being paid and published, hehehe...  Not to mention, it's whisky presenting season and I've got 'gigs' lined up right up until the end of May?! I'm not complaining or bragging - Just letting you know that I do have pieces 1/2 to 3/4 written, I simply haven't taken the time to get them finished. 

It's the goal for March & April before I leave for my annual trip to Scotland. Yes... headed to Scotland again. It's become a yearly tradition than I simply can't seem to stop but again, I'm not complaining or bragging I assure you ;)

My friend Rick likes to write. Many times out of the blue he will send me an email with a piece he's written. Some are not exactly what I think my readers would enjoy but others are simply put - Lassie approved!  This is one of those cases.

I am a sap for romantic stories (yes, be shocked...) I have watched the Notebook about 20 times, usually alone with at least one box of tissues. Deep down, I will always believe that love between two people is intimate, special and under the right circumstances forever...  So, when I read this piece that Rick wrote I was transported somewhere where Felicia & James may be...  and, as I often say -> Sometimes it's not so much about the whisky but everything else that envelopes it.  

Rick Culver: "This started out as a post about age statements, but it isn't. It became about 'old things'. I like old things. You can easily find me wandering around antique shops. If I lived in an area that had independent liquor shops I would be one of those people spending time looking for old dusties. I mean really, who doesn't love old things? They stir feelings in us and create emotions that slowly bubble their way to the surface, sometimes diving down again for further thought or contemplation before rising within us again. Ever watch someone pour a Guinness ;)

There is nostalga pulling out an old bottle of whisky, preferably with an age statement, to share with friends. I often stop to ponder what was going on in the world when it was distilled or bottled and I'll ask what people were doing that year. So back to browsing antique shops. There is one I love going to and I popped in not long ago to look at the new acquisitions from an estate sale. 

This... caught my eye:

It was a mini Glenfiddich whisky bottle. I am not sure what year but that didn't matter because it's what was inside that raised my eyebrow. I didn't make a big deal out of it nor did I take it out of the bottle at the shop. There is no use driving up the price of the prospective purchase by announcing to the owner that the bottle contained a map of Black Beard's treasure on Oak Island. I offered him two dollars for a labeless mini whisky bottle and went to run the rest of my errands. Much later, once I was home, I opened the bottle and found the following:

It seems fitting as we near Valentine Day to raise a glass of something special to toast Felicia & James and the deep feelings they seemed to share for each other. Left to the imagination, we can only guess why she decided to put this heartfelt message in a bottle. Perhaps she tucked it into a spot where she knew he would find it while she was away. We will never know. What I do know is that old bottles will never trump old relationships. 

So it really doesn't matter if you are pulling out an old bottle with an age statement or not to toast your loved one with. Whether you are celebrating many decades together or just at the very beginning of a long and lasting relationship; here's wishing you a happy Valentine and hoping that like Felicia & James, it's still as passionate as a flaming heart.

I know... How could I not use Compass Box as a great example? Flaming Heart, 15th anniversary edition. John Glaser does NAS whiskies extremely well. Those looking for the spiciness from a new French oak hybrid cask containing a blend of Clynelish, Dailuaine & Teaninich combined with the lovely sweet and smoky backdrop of Caol Ilay get, IMO, a satisfying and rewarding dram!

Perfect dram for Valentine, or toasting peope like Felicia & James."

Agreed Rick... Compass Box whiskies are often fantastic examples of how No Age Statement (NAS) whiskies can be made. Quality that stand the test of time just like a note written long ago and stuffed into a small bottle.

I also raise a dram to people who make their relationships work. It's not easy, if anything truly loving someone can be extremely difficult. My only caveat: Don't wait until a marketed day, once a year, to let them know how much you care. Tell them and celebrate surviving together as a couple... every day.
Cupid awakens Psyche - Louvre visit 2007

Cheers to all and a special thanks to Rick for sharing this wonderful discovery.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

More on Feis Ile... Guest opinion - the infamous Steffen Bräuner

OMG He cracks me up!!!
So in continuation with my Feis Ile review and stories it's time to share another point of view from someone who has been to Islay 5 times but this was his very first Feis Ile festival. If you don't know Steffen Bräuner, by golly please get to know him. He's probably one of the funniest if not smartest bloggers I've ever met. Here is the blog he wrote about his trip to Feis Ile for 2015:

 I also asked Steffen to answer my 10 question survey that I had sent out to a few people who attended as I felt it was important to get as many opinions (from first timers like myself and Steffen to hardcore fans) Here is what he thought:

1. Do you think every whisky geek should attend Feis Ile at least once?

"Feis Ile
 is one the major whisky festivals in the world. If you were to make a survey I would guess most enthusiasts will have this in their top 3. I think this already answered the question! I wouldn't go every year because I like to visit many different whisky festivals. Of course, I can't do them all every year but I come back now and again."

2. What do you think is the best option for accommodations during the festival and why?

"I feel the best option is to get a cottage. Go with a group. Bring some whisky. Invite some people over. Drink some whisky. It's quite nice if you have a private dramming place for the evenings if nothing much else is going on." 
3. What was the best distillery day for you and why? 

"This is a tough question to answer. The distillery days are more less similar. I managed to get around Caol Ila, Laphroaig, Bruichladdich, Ardbeg and Lagavulin. All distillery days and distilleries will have some special events, but they just sell out too fast. It would help if events capacity matched the interest.  

Laphroaig stood out for me. It had an ongoing set of mini tastings, around 5 different ones I think, if not more. All were three drams for a tenner, with different themes. These tasting went on all day and you couldn't book them in advance. But there was plenty. This was a great idea in my opinion. Laphroiag also offered the best whiskies for me and I really enjoyed all their anniversary bottlings: Cairdeas 2015, the new 15yo and the new 21yo.

Caol Ila and Lagavulin had similar events, on a much smaller scale though, where you could taste 2 or 3 casks samples in a blind tasting quiz. Also a very good idea."

4. What distillery day did you not enjoy and wouldn't recommend? 

"I didn't like Bruichladdich day at all. All events were basically sold out before they even hit the internet, and the possibilities to taste some interesting whiskies at the event were quite limited. For gods sake, take the whisky out of the events and make something fun available on the day itself as well. The few whiskies you could try were not my favourites, and for me personally I go to whisky festivals to try whiskies."
5. What did you appreciate and enjoy the most about visiting Islay?

"All the nice people I met and all the good whisky they brought along."
Our whisky hike up to the American Monument - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (I didn't forget Peter this time!!)

6. What about a visit to the youngest distillery - Kilchoman, would you recommend it? 

"I did not visit Kilchoman because… I have some issues with Kilchoman, and this trip didn't help, it just got worse. Anything they bottle not from ex-bourbon is terribly terribly sulphured for my palate (but not for most others), so this is a distillery I just can't get along with. A few odd things happened for me with this distillery as well when I was on Islay, some of them my own fault, but it all builds up to the fact that I will never be a big fan, to say it mildly."

7. What surprised you the most about this festival?

"The thing that surprised me the most about Feis Ile and/or Islay was the generosity of other festival guests, and the amazing whiskies they brought. A big part of the quality of this festival is created by the people attending."

8. What is the most valuable piece of advice you can give to someone about Feis Ile? 

"Start planning well ahead, probably 2-3 years in advance if you can because you need accommodations, which can be hard to find. I would also make sure to go with a group, as you have to spend 9-10 days on Islay if you want to experience the whole festival. That's a long time, and not much happens on Islay, which might suit some better than others. All the other times I have been to Islay was outside the festival and just 3-4 days every time, but the festival visit was my favourite."

9. Budget...?

"I don't usually do budgets but I guess the trip was cheaper than most other whisky trips I do. We didn't spend a lot of money on restaurants and bars, which, for me, has a huge impact on lowering the price of a holiday. Home cooking and private dramming can make a holiday cheap."

10. If someone said they only had one day to spend on Islay during Feis Ile  what would you recommend?
"Driving around to as many distilleries as possible to get some bottles, because… One day is way too short for Islay!! Both inside or outside of the festival dates. I would try to hit as many distilleries to get whisky. Not necessarily the festival bottling as there are a lot of other good offers. Bunnahabhain just introduced a very good 'bottle your own facility" with three casks, which in my opinion were some of the better offers. In fact these bottle your own Bunnahabhains were better than their festival bottlings. 
I would also make sure to get around the distillery day that just happens to be on the day you are there, just so you can experience the festival mood and if possible try to find in a Lagavulin Warehouse Tour. It's available outside of the festival timeline as well. I love it so much I've done it several times."

Well there it is, one of the most well travelled whisky people I know and love. It's funny how sometimes opinions can be so opposite. From my perspective I disliked Laphroaig day, loved Bruichladdich day and thought the Kilchoman day was superb!?  We agreed on a lot of the other stuff though like the kindness and generosity of other whisky enthusiasts from around the world. In the end, Steffen and I think the same which is sometimes if you simply take the focus OFF whisky, some pretty amazing things happen that usually involve fantastic whiskies...  Go figure!? All I can add to what Steffen thinks is that for me, Steffen, Bryan and yes Peter (I always seem to forget that poor guy) MADE my Feis Ile quite a special and amazing visit. I highly suggest you go with a group of people you like and bring out the best in whisky and friendships!

Here's to the lovely people we meet during the festivals we attend and may those friendships continue to grow over the years! I personally cannot wait to Spirit of Speyside where I will get to see many of the same people I hung out with at Feis!
May your whisky adventure be as full and wonderful as mine! I have a few more Feis Ile reviews to post. Up next was my day on Jura which was one of the most unforgettable days on my Scotland trip and a review from Ansgar and Thomas Speller, whisky writers/bloggers from the Netherlands. 

Huzzah my fine whisky fiends!!!