Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Behold the whisky, hardships & unconditional love in my life...

On April 25th I left for my once in a lifetime trip that would cover 8 countries, many whiskies, adventures and so many new friends. I was due to be back on July 2nd. Unfortunately my father became ill and I made the decision to go home as soon as I could. Whisky will always be whisky but I only have one dad. 

The strange part about all this is that him getting sick was the biggest blessing and gift I could have received. I know that sounds extremely weird right!? But it was. Just about the same time as my dad was getting progressively sick so was my Bernese Mountain Dog Jack, except we had no idea. The symptoms seem to point to a somewhat harmless water born bug that could be cleared up with antibiotics.  

My dad... yah, he pulled through albeit slowly. My dog... not so much. I landed in Canada on Monday June 16th and 5 days later, Jack was gone. Just like that... Life turned upside down, heart broken and massive void created in a matter of seconds. He was my "big" little boy. For the non dog owners, I don't expect you to understand at all. Jack came into my life 6 years ago as a result of my partner's desire to get a Bernese Mountain Dog. I had never even heard of that breed but had had dogs most of my adult life. I truly had no idea what we were in for... ;)  

He arrived and immediately had a profound effect on all of us. He was an old soul from day one. The most expressive and hilarious dog I have ever been fortunate to have in my life. It is as a result of getting Jack that I started writing again. The joy, turbulations, adventures, stories and absolutely everything Jack brought to our lives was fantastic. 

Was.... Man, what a fucking hard word to use/type. Was... past tense. I've only spent 5 days without him in my life and it already feels like a lifetime. Each day does get a bit easier but there are moments like hanging a wool sock on the clothesline and finding a big clump of his hair stuck to it. A chuckle, a good cry. Walking by the freezer in the basement and fully expecting to see him stretched out there, startled awake hair all screwed up because he was snoring and didn't hear me...  another chuckle, another couple of tears and snot bubbles... :)  

Something else I have learned from all of this, another blessing so to speak...  Even though I was away for 50 days AND tried 355 whiskies I am NOT an alcoholic. Yah, another weird and strange blessing, hehehe. I didn't NEED a whisky to cope with Jack's death. As a matter of fact it was the last thing I wanted to put to my lips. A few days later, a hot bath, some good music and a whisky. Nothing since then, just coping, healing and helping the other lovely Berner in my life get through this as he's never known life without Jack. 

Next Monday, the 30th, will be another rough day as we will receive Jack's ashes. The finality of it all will truly set in but one thing is for sure, I'll be raising a very special dram that day to a very special dog. The interesting part of that is finding what dram will be suitable. How does one toast a dog who was stubborn, hilarious, loving, dedicated, a bit of a couch potato (literally), sweet, inspiring, soft and truly a personality like no other. Jack marched to his own drum at his own sweet time at all times from day one... 

I'll figure it out and I know I'll find the perfect dram because through it all he was the perfect dog for our family.

Here's to Jack, my sweet "big" little boy. May my memories of you bring me years of joy & laughter... I will miss you always.  

With so much love...

Your "mom"

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Leg 2 - Bristol, Wales & camouflage fake & bake!

Leaving Scotland was difficult, I felt like I was leaving home and as I took one last look around the lovely city of Edinburgh I had tears in my eyes knowing I had experienced one of the best month's of my life.  The whisky, the sites, the people and the experiences will forever be part of who I am becoming.  I thank you all for that...

Leg 2 begins on a train leaving the core of the city bound for Bristol and a very good friend that I have been waiting almost 2 years to meet.  This person is someone I have admired not only for his witty banter & unwavering friendship across the ocean but because of his tenacity & deep understanding for all things related to life. Those who have had the utmost pleasure to be in his presence, KNOW what I'm talking about.  His writings about whisky are unique, brilliant and sometimes so poignant it reduces me to tears.  Is there ever any fear that the people I meet from the #whiskyfabric will disappoint, sure there is!  Has it happened during this journey... only once.

So back to the train...  It didn't take long for the scenery to change.  We travelled down the coast along the waves crashing on the sandy beaches.  I became really homesick and found myself longing for the shores of NB, the boats I sail on and my friends.  I missed Heather & Vicki, my two closest "girl" friends.  I craved the smell of the salty air.  Then the scenery changed again.  It became green, lush and miles of farmland and crops appeared.  The familiar stone constructions turned into red brick. The Scottish accents slowly disappeared & the next thing I knew we had arrived in Bristol. I walked to the library and wrote a few emails, a blog and made a few photocopies.  I handed the young lady a 5 pound note and she stared at it like it was monopoly money.  "What is this?" I answered 5 dollars.  She brought the money over to a co-worker, they stared at me all the while conversing.  She came back. "We don't take this money here" she stated matter of factly.  Apparently I was much further from Scotland than I thought?  Off to a pizza joint to wait for Dave A I went, albeit a bit more confused at that point. 

The anticipation grew and as soon as he walked through the door and gave me a great big bear hug, I knew "all was well". It was like seeing a brother I had been missing.  It was hard to contain the joy I felt. For people who don't get it, I can't explain it to you. Even though some of these friendship started as "virtual" they have become something more. 
The next 4 days were spent relaxing with drams, a bit of sight seeing and getting to know him & his lovely wife better.  We ate, we laughed and we shared. On the last day in Bristol the "Pants Posse" was formed.  Jo, Tom, Adrian, Kat, Dave, Dave & I congregated at the "Alcock" for a morning dram, some discussions & photo ops... Hilarity ensued almost from the get go as we all set out in two vehicles to visit Penderyn distillery in Wales. I must admit, the tour (IMO) was not worth the journey. It was one of the worst ones I've ever experienced. Why? Because they are under construction at the moment and the tour consisted of: 10 minutes in a room reading panels including a video, followed by a "tour" of the tasting area. The lovely young lady did her best I assure you, but the information was very scripted (almost identical to the website info) and we could only see some of the actual distillery from behind a windowed glass area. The whisky we tasted, albeit very nice was simply the core range. 

The distillery had been contacted ahead of time of our visit however when we arrived the staff didn't know & went upstairs to confirm with management on site that day. Did I "expect" special treatment, by no means, but with the likes of Dave W, Kat P, Adrian B, Dave A, myself and two fairly new people that belong to a whisky club, I guess I had hoped for a bit more "geekiness". Just a few minutes from someones time to maybe show us the new stills coming in or anything else that might have wet our appetites & provided that extra little touch for whisky enthusiasts as ourselves. Driving 4 hours for a 45 minute tour of the tasting area seemed like such a let down, and again I am speaking for myself on this matter.  The way I look at it, of the 7 people that went on this trip, our total followers combined on social media is almost 10,000 people so the general consensus from most of us was that Penderyn missed an opportunity to really promote itself as a unique Welsh experience.

So, moving on... the tour may have been meh but what happened over the rest of the course of the day, well that is where the exciting & at times hilarious part of the day took place. I won't go into any details other than: "Eating sandwiches outside the Tesco doors & fake orange tans" will be something I will giggle about for the rest of my life.  
Back to Dave A's to say our goodbyes with a firm promise that I'll be back in 2015 with Graham in tow.  Off to the next #whiskyfabricRoadtrip destination:  A week spent at Whisky Discovery Headquarters with Dave W & Kat P...  Ohhhhh, the stories I'm about to tell!!!!

In closing I want to say the following: Some of the best part of my journey is not about the whiskies, it's about the people and the experiences we are creating along the way. I am extremely fortunate & blessed to have met so many wonderful people to date. To the 6 other people who were the Pants Posse that day, thank you for enriching my life and allowing me, albeit briefly, to be a part of yours.  I am forever grateful for your kindness & friendships.