Tuesday, July 31, 2007
For some strange reason, which turned out to be most fortunate, in the summer of 1998 Bruichladdich was reoppened and distilling recommeneced for a few months under the Jura team management. This stock has been invaluable to the distillery as a stepping stone during that closed period.He's correct, and I was wrong. Andrew Jefford writes in Peat Smoke and Spirit (p. 175):
Between 1994 and 2001, Bruichladdich had only ever worked for six weeks in 1998, when Jim Beam Brands brought the distilling team over from Jura. Interestingly, it was not classic, barely peated Bruichladdich (3 ppm) that was distilled then, but between 100,000 and 120,000 litres of a peaty spirit (at about 38 ppm), which was filled into good casks, including some sherry butts.Some cruising on the Bruichladdich website reveals that some of this 1998 peated spirit made its way into Bruichladdich's 3D bottlings, which combine whiskies of three different peat levels and which have been tremendously successful for the distillery. It would be interesting to taste, both because of the peat level and because some of it was aged in sherry butts. I just can't get my head around what sherried peated malt would taste like -- certainly a mixture of savory and sweet.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Edit: Sure enough, as soon as I post this, we get another tropical storm. It looks like Tropical Storm Chantal is unlikely to strengthen into a hurricane or to threaten any landmass except perhaps Iceland.
Gravati cap-toe bals in dark brown deerskin (15441, 500 last). These shoes are unusual in that the seams are both reversed and stitched. Why, I couldn't say. Deerskin is extremely soft, which is reason why it's popular. Unfortunately, it's also prone to scuffs and tearing and stretching, which is why Gravati prefers peccary: peccary has the softness and the look of deer, but it's not fragile. These are probably the best shoe bargain I've ever gotten: $100 new off of eBay. Yes, Brumfield, I realize that every clothing item you've ever purchased put together cost less than $100. In the real world, $100 for these shoes was outstanding.
Wheeler custom cowboy boots with a square toe and walking heel in dark brown elephant. Since I saw a picture of elephant boots made by Dave Little in San Antonio in The Cowboy Boot Book, I have wanted a pair, and these are them. When I picked them up, Dave Wheeler told me that some of his clients thought that elephant was too durable: they wanted new boots, but they couldn't justify the expense until their old boots wore out; and elephant boots don't wear out.
For its present owners, that seven-year silent period makes things difficult. Whisky is not like beer or wine or vodka or white rum; you can't sell any of it for years after it's produced. This means that the present owners (who, being independent, don't exactly have deep pockets) have to finance present production and aging with the stock that they bought with the distillery in 2001, but that seven year silence before they took over makes selling bread-and-butter 10 and 12 year old bottlings difficult. Do the math. The whisky of those ages is gone and cannot be had again until 2011. Stocks of older whisky still remain, but bottles of Scotch over $50 are a hard sell. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the owners have introduced a number of interesting variations to help keep the money flowing. Among them: Octomore, the peatiest whisky in the world, with the 2003 version clocking in at over 129 ppm of phenols (Laphroaig is typically around 45 ppm), and various non-traditional wood treatments like ex-d'Yquem casks. Their efforts have been remarkably successful, making Bruichladdich the darling of the whisky press and a favorite of Scotch geeks, er, enthusiasts.
As for me, I finished my bottle of 10 year old last night. It is a shame. It's fantastic whisky, elegant, creamy, and malty. Bottles of the 10 year old can still be had, but they're around $50 a fifth now. That's a lot of money, even for a profligate spender like me. And I do like to experiment...
(Incidentally, the comment from Armin in the post about Black Bottle is absolutely correct. There are 8 distilleries on Islay. Kilchoman is a microdistillery that recently started up operation near Bruichladdich on the Rhinns, the western portion of the island.)
Edit: See the followup to this post.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
This news is, of course, red meat for the sports press and for sports fans around the country. NBA officiating has long been the subject of widespread criticism. In particular, it has long been an article of faith that the league has forced officials to go easy on superstars and has fiddled with the assignments of referees for playoff games to increase the likelihood that playoff series will be long ones. The news that a referee was apparently corrupt has caused every sports department, sports columnist, and sports blogger searching through the games that that referee officiated for "proof" that he changed the games' outcome. In particular, all of them almost immediately seem to focus on Game 3 of the San Antonio-Phoenix series in this year's Western Conference finals. San Antonio won that game to take a 2-1 lead in the series and went on to win it. During the game and afterwards, Phoenix players, coaches, and fans howled about the officiating. It just so happens that Tim Donaghy was one of the referees. And so now we're treated to bleating from every corner about how the fix was in and Tim Donaghy stole a game for San Antonio that rightfully belonged to Phoenix. Exhibit A of this phenomenon is an ESPN.com column by Bill Simmons:
Before the Donaghy scandal broke, if you told me there was a compromised official working a 2007 playoff game and made me guess the game, I would have selected Game 3 of the Spurs-Suns series. There were some jaw-dropping calls throughout, specifically, the aforementioned Ginobili call and Bowen hacking Nash on a no-call drive that ABC replayed from its basket camera (leading to a technical from D'Antoni). Both times, Mike Breen felt obligated to break the unwritten code that play-by-play announcers -- don't challenge calls and openly questioned what had happened. The whole game was strange. Something seemed off about it.
At the time, I assumed the league had given us another "coincidence" where three subpar refs (and calling that crew "subpar" is being kind) were assigned to a Game 3 in which, for the interest of a long series, everyone was better off having the home team prevail ... just like I anticipated another "coincidence" in which one of the best referees would work Game 4 to give Phoenix a fair shake in a game that, statistically, they were more likely to win. After all, it's easier to win Game 4 on the road than Game 3, when the fans are pumped up and the home team is happy to be home. (Which is exactly how it played out. Steve Javie worked Game 4, a guy who Jeff Van Gundy deemed "the best ref in the league" during the Finals. Hmmmm.) Look, this could have been an elaborate series of connected flukes. I'm just telling you that none of it surprised me. Which is part of the problem.
Bill Simmons's schtick is that he's just a regular old sports fanatic who just happens to get paid to write a column, and you can see all of the attributes of the know-it-all know-nothings that make up so much of sports fandom here in this excerpt. He called it, you see. He knew that the fix was in on Game 3 right from the start, just as he knew that there was no way that the league would let the Suns lose Game 4 after the officiating travesty of Game 3. We won't examine all of the other things that he has known but later turn out to be inaccurate: sports fans love to make prognostications, but they never seem to remember the predictions that didn't come true.Anyway, the subtext permeating Simmons's column, and the subtext permeating so much of what has been written about Donaghy and Game 3 is this: but for Donaghy's presence on the officiating crew and his corruption, the Suns would have won the game and might have won the series, thus changing NBA history forever! (Whatever happens in sport is always history, you see.) The problem with this is that we can never known what would have happened, and it's largely pointless to contemplate it. If past were not the past, the future would be different; that's all we can say. If Donaghy had not officiated Game 3, something about Game 3 would have been different. How, we can't say.
David Hackett Fischer calls the error that sports fans make here the fallacy of fictional questions (Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought, pp. 15-21).
There is nothing necessarily fallacious in fictional constructs, as long as they are properly recognized for what they are and are clearly distinguished from empirical problems... Fictional questions can also be heuristically useful to historians, somewhat in the manner of metaphors and analogies, for the ideas and inferences which they help to suggest. But they prove nothing and can never be proved by an empirical method. All historical "evidence" for what might have happened if Booth had missed the mark is necessarily taken from the world in which he hit it. There is no way to escape this fundamental fact.
If foul trouble had not prevented Amare Stoudamire from playing more than 21 minutes in Game 3, undoubtedly the game would have been different; but it's impossible to determine what the difference might have been. Most people presume that this would have closed the margin between the Spurs and the Suns and made it more likely that the Suns would have won, but this is not necessarily the case. Too often, sports fans and sports columnists will pick out a few calls or coaching decisions that they regard as wrong-headed and concluded that their team would have won but for these bad calls or bad decisions. As Fischer writes in reference to real history, this is a fallacy. We can all agree that it if what has been written about Donaghy is true, it is terrible for the NBA and the game of basketball. Just don't begin to argue that Donaghy's corruption proves that the Spurs didn't deserve to win their series against the Suns.
(Oh, and about Cliometrics. Fischer talks about self-styled Cliometricians, who, at the time that Historians' Fallacies was written, were attempting to apply economic theory to fictional questions. I define Cliometrics as the attempted systemization of fictional questions.)
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Alas, it doesn't work that way. Spirits, unlike wine, do not age in the bottle. It's the interplay between the spirit, the wood of the barrel, and the air that gets into the barrel that produces the salutary properties that one associates with well-aged liquor. Alternating warm and cool weather forces spirit into and out of the wood of the barrel, which leaches out the vanilla flavors and amber color from the wood (and also the residual sherry, if the barrels happen to be used sherry butts). The oxygen in the air oxidizes the spirit, helping to take some of the edge off of it. (Note that the limited amount of air in an open liquor bottle can also have an oxidizing effect, although a very limited one when compared to the oxidizing effect of the barrel.) So if you want a 30 year old Scotch, you have to pony up the cash to pay for the 30 year old Scotch. Either that, or find a rich friend you can sponge off of.
(And if I were to spring for a bottle of 30 year old Scotch, it probably would be a Macallan, which is known for its talent with older whiskies.)
And yes, this is still very good whiskey.
Friday, July 27, 2007
And so it was that it took me a good deal of digging to figure out which conglomerate owns Black Bottle, a blended Scotch whisky that has the unique distinction of including whisky from all seven operational Islay malt distilleries. Black Bottle is a venerable Scotch blend, having begun life in Aberdeen in 1879, the property of the three Graham brothers, who had begun their commercial life as tea blenders and merchants. The blend was a success (remember that the late Victorian period was the golden age of Scotch), and the brothers eventually abandoned tea blending and concentrated on Scotch blending. The company remained in Graham family until 1964, when it was sold to Lohn John, another blender. Over the next two and a half decades, the Black Bottle blend fell upon hard times and became a shadow of its former self. It was sold to Allied Distillers in 1990 and began its revival. Here's where the confusion begins. I presume that Allied Distillers was a division of Allied Brewers, which later became Allied Lloyd. Allied Lloyd merged with Domecq in the mid-'90s to form Allied-Domecq, which in turn was bought by Pernod-Ricard in 2005. At the time of the Pernod-Ricard purchase, some of the former Allied-Domecq brands were sold to Fortune Brands and to Diageo. The Black Bottle blend is now owned by Burn Stewart Distillers, which is a division of CL WorldBrands and it is blended and bottled at the Bunnahabhain distillery on Islay, which Burn Stewart also owns. The question is, how did it get there? So far as I can tell, Bunnahabhain was never owned by Allied, Allied-Domecq, Pernod-Ricard, Fortune Brands, or Diageo, and I have never seen mention of Burn Stewart purchasing any brands during this series of acquisitions that I summarized above. So, unfortunately, I am clueless about this.
Black Bottle has two expressions: the regular bottling and the 10 year old version. Both have the claim to fame of being the only blends that have malts from all seven operating Islay distilleries. The standard bottling is 80 proof, and the 10 year old is 86. I have the 10 year old version. It's a testament to just how much peated Islay whiskies can dominate anything that they are blended with. The nose is smoky and peaty, and I swear that I could smell Laphroaig and Lagavulin. It's lighter on the palate than a malt Islay, though, and there is some grain whisky sweetness, too. A very nice dram, especially if you like peated whisky.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Saint Arnold's stated goal in developing Fancy Lawnmower was to produce a lighter beer appropriate for consumption during Houston's hot, muggy summers (after, for example, mowing the lawn, hence the name). They have succeeded in doing this. The beer is pleasant, thirst-quenching, and very drinkable. I first tried this beer about three years ago, and I eagerly await its release every spring. I don't buy a ton of beer, but I will buy this when I see it. I don't know whether it would qualify as a perfect example of the Kölsch style or if it's the best exemplar commonly available, and I really don't care. I like it, it's reasonably priced, and I will continue to buy it.
It appears that Saint Arnold has a not-insubstantial hit on their hands with Lawnmower since Shiner has aped them in creating a Kölsch of their own.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Edward Green austerity brogues in antique burgundy calf (Beaulieu model, 888 last). The shoes shown above are identical to my own except that they are on the 82 last instead of the 888. The picture is from LeatherSoul in Hawaii, which is my go-to source for everything Edward Green and Alden. Tom Park, who owns Leather Soul, is a good egg.
Gravati five-eyelet blucher ankle boot in dark brown peccary with a combination rubber/leather sole (15950, 640 last).
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Do you like almonds? Or, more relevantly, do you like the flavor of almond extract? If you do, check out Blue Bell's Anniversary Cake ice cream. It's almond ice cream with pieces of white cake and a ribbon of almond cream cheese icing and as such is a veritable almond extract extravaganza. It's fantastic and would be perfect in an Amaretto-spiked milkshake.
Edward Green double monkstrap shoes with a handsewn apron and toe seam in dark tan calfskin (Fulham model, 82 last). I love these shoes.
Gravati ghillie-tie bluchers with twin-needle stitching on the apron and toe in tan suede (13555, 500 last). I notice that I wore these shoes last Monday. I apologize profusely for my lack of variety in footwear. I have let you down, and I promise to do better in the future.
Ardbeg is the first distillery that Jefford discusses. It lies on the south coast of Islay (along with Laphroaig and Lagavulin), and it dates from 1798. By 1880, it was the most productive distillery on Islay, producing 250,000 gallons of whisky a year. Like most malt distilleries, Ardbeg suffered hard times during the Depression and World War II, closing from 1932-1935 and again from 1939-1945. After the war, the distillery passed between a couple of different owners and was on the verge of closing in 1978 when Allied-Domeq bought it. The problem was that Allied-Domeq also owned Laphroaig and consequently had limited use for Ardbeg whisky -- remember that this was during the period before the emergence of single malts, when all malt whisky was destined for use as blendings; the character that Laphroaig and Ardbeg would bring to a blend are largely similar. The result of this was that Allied-Domeq only ran Ardbeg a few days a year to produce what little they needed, and they allowed the distillery to fall into disrepair. They sold it to Glenmorangie in 1997, and Glenmorangie began a comprehensive (and expensive) program of rehabilitation. Two of the most important of these (at least to the character of the whisky) are the rationalization of the wood aging regime and the standardization of fill levels in the stills. Before Glenmorangie bought Ardbeg, new-make whisky went into whatever barrels happened to be on hand; now, it mostly goes into first-fill or second-fill used Bourbon barrels. Because Allied-Domeq only ran Ardbeg a few days a year, they wanted to maximize their yield for those days and consequently overfilled the stills. This reduces copper contact with the spirit, which in turn makes for a heavier whisky. Glenmorangie reduced the fill level and thus lightened the whisky Ardbeg makes.
Speaking of lightness, that's not a word one usually associates with peated whiskies. But Ardbeg's operation is geared toward producing light whisky. Relatively small fills of the stills has this effect. So does the presence of purifiers on the lyne arms of the spirit stills, the lamp-glass shape of both the wash and spirit stills, and the relatively narrow spirit cuts. All of this increases contact between the spirit and copper, which allows the copper to react to impurities in the spirit and this filter them out. So Ardbeg is something of an anomaly: a lighter, peaty whisky. When you first nose the 10 year old bottling, it's all peat smoke and bacon. That blows off after a little while to reveal a fresh, malty whisky. It was very enjoyable, more so than I remember it.
(Incidentally, my bottle was a gift from Ben and Sara from a few years ago. This means that its contents were distilled during the Allied-Domeq reign; and you can tell it from the extremely pale color of the whisky, which is a result of them using old barrels that had little color left to impart. It will be interesting to try the newer Glenmorangie-made whisky, which should be coming onto the market within the next year or so. This should be more deeply-colored and wood-influenced, lighter, and more peaty due to some innovations that Glenmorangie has brought to mashing that increase the quantity of phenols that make it from the malt to the wash.)
Monday, July 23, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
More than three quarters of that is the standard Old No. 7 Black Label bottling, and most of the remaining is either Green Label No. 7 or Gentleman Jack, which differs from the rest in that it's charcoal filtered twice instead of once. I'm not a big fan of the standard Black Label bottling. It's young, one-dimensional, and has some off-putting flavors. I've never tried Green Label or Gentleman Jack, but my understanding is that Green Label tastes even younger than Black Label and that the Gentleman Jack, what with the double filtration, is even more one-dimensional. Which brings us to the last of Jack Daniel's bottlings: the Single Barrel. As the name suggests, "honey barrels" are dumped and bottled one at a time to make Single Barrel. The whiskey contained in these barrels has been aged between 6 and 8 years, or between 50% and 100% longer than the standard 4 year old JD Black Label. I'm not sure if Master Distiller Jimmy Bedford knows that a whiskey will become Single Barrel when he puts it into the barrel, but I would imagine at the very least that he, like every other competent distiller, knows which areas of which warehouses are likely to produce the quality and flavor profile he's looking for. It's bottled at 94 proof, too, which means that it has more concentration and more of a kick than the Black Label, which is bottled at 80 proof. The bottle that I bought on Saturday was from barrel 6-3094, rick L-34, and was bottled on August 17, 2006. This is largely just marketing fluff because these are utterly meaningless to me and I'm unlikely ever to find another bottle from the same barrel (each barrel produces approximately 240 750 ml bottles). In any event, though, the whiskey inside is very good. It has the distinctive JD smoky sweetness, but there's more vanilla and caramel on the nose. It's lighter than a comparably-aged Bourbon, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. At $35 a fifth, JD Single Barrel is not a bargain, but it's not a rip-off. And I'm glad to be able to say that the largest American whiskey distiller is capable of making excellent whiskey if they want to.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Kara and her local playground moms sit at a picnic table while the kids play. Around this table they've drawn a circle in the dirt. Why? Well, the circle is the "no tattling zone". Brilliant, isn't it?
It is, for those kids that understand the concept of tattling. Frankly, I find that concept hard to teach. There's a fine line between snitching and coming to an adult for legitimate help. It's a subtle distinction -- too subtle for my kids (and sometimes even me) at this point.
Kara's No Tattling Zone makes sense to me. Tattling is not reporting legitimate problems to parents. Rather, it is a mechanism that children use to involve parents as the nuclear bomb to gain an advantage over other children with whom they are having disagreements. Children need to learn the ability to resolve their own disagreements without running to mommy and daddy, and parents who reward their children's tattling are doing them no favors.There are a number of comments to this post that are very dismaying. Following is a representative sample:
I worry that this "don't bother us" method may teach kids that they are failures if they can't solve their own skirmishes or unhappinesses without external guidance or the guidance of adults.Sometimes, I get the feeling that many modern parents are intent on using their children as yet another form of conspicuous consumption. By this, I mean that they attempt to compete with their peers by conspicuously displaying their concern for their children and the seriousness with which they take parenting. When children get older, this can take the form of the parent inserting himself or herself into the child's academic career, arguing over grades with the child's college professors and dictating what courses the child take in college. When the child is younger, it can take the form of refusing to let the child be a child and figure out things about life and dealing with other people by himself. Like I wrote before, parents like these commenters are doing their children no favors.
I remember the 'no tattling' rules at school being very isolating - it felt very much as if nobody cared how I felt.
Sounds more like a "Don't bother mommy zone" to me. I think that (especially in today's society) kids need to feel free to come to adults for help no matter what the situation is.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Scotch is different from Bourbon in many ways, ranging from production methods to marketing and distribution to business practices. The Bourbon business and the Scotch business are both dominated by very large companies now, but the way those large companies operate is significantly different. Scotland has over a hundred operating malt distilleries. Industry consolidation there has largely consisted of multinational spirits companies buying up as many of these distilleries as they possibly can. In contrast, industry consolidation in American whiskey has involved spirits companies buying distilleries and brands and aging whiskey stocks and closing the distilleries. The number of large-scale distilleries producing American whiskey is very small: Jack Daniel's, Jim Beam, Buffalo Trace, and Heaven Hill probably produce well over 50% of the American whiskey on the market; and if you add in Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey, Four Roses, and George Dickel, you likely have over 90%.
The American whiskey and Scotch whisky businesses are both incestuous, but in different ways. American distillers form something of a social club, and they're all more than willing to scratch each other's backs. The master distiller of Heaven Hill is a Beam; and when the Heaven Hill distillery burned in 1996, the Jim Beam Distillery allowed Heaven Hill to distill what they needed on Jim Beam stills. In Scotland, this incestuousness takes the form of each distillery being willing to sell whisky to anybody else, even their competitors. That's why there are many non-distillery bottlings of Scotch and why the various good Scotch blends are so good. There are very few non-distillery bottlings of American whiskey, and what ones there are are likely to become rarer. The modus operandi of American whiskey distillers if they have surplus aging stocks is to come up with a new brand and sell it. There isn't a whole lot of bulk whiskey on the spot market, and it's likely to get rarer in the future. Companies like Kentucky Bourbon Distillers that buy and bottle aging whiskey will find it increasingly difficult to operate successfully.
What does all of this have to do with Van Winkle? Well, it goes to explain the deal that Julian Van Winkle cut with Buffalo Trace in the late '90s whereby Buffalo Trace received the rights to bottle and market Van Winkle whiskeys and Julian Van Winkle received the right to get his pick of Buffalo Trace aging whiskeys for his bottlings. Before this agreement, Van Winkle was an independent bottler (although they did own their own stocks of Stitzel-Weller whiskey). Julian knew that his Stitzel-Weller whiskey was running out and that he would be hard-pressed to ensure that he would able to buy quality whiskey in the future if he remained independent. So he threw in with Buffalo Trace. Given Buffalo Trace's attitude toward distilling and their demonstrated ability to make good whiskey, I have to think that this was a good decision.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Cleverley bespoke three-eyelet plain-toe bluchers in 18th Century Russian Reindeer. The shoes are just beautiful, if I do say so myself. It is mighty stiff, though.
Gravati austerity brogue bal in a red-brown Lama calf (14953, 640 last).
(Incidentally, the Edrington Group also backs JMR Easy Drinking Whisky Company, makers of such bottlings as The Big Spicy One, The Smoky Peaty One, and The Smooth Sweeter One. JMR's stated goal was to demystify and desnobify Scotch and to build up a following for it among younger consumers, most of whom opt for vodka and white rum. I like the idea: despite the renaissance that Scotch has experienced over the past 10 or 15 years, it desperately needs to bring new consumers into the fold if it hopes to avoid the bad times of the '70s and '80s. By all accounts, their whiskies are tasty and well-priced, but they haven't had the success one could hope for. Recently, the brand was withdrawn from the UK market and from certain US cities; and I fear that it will fold up shop completely before too long. That would be a pity. I will have to give a bottle a try before that happens.)
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Gravati three-eyelet wholecut bals in burgundy Lama calf (14391, 683 last). I've been trying to figure out why this three-eyelet wholecut is not as successful as Berluti's iconic club wholecut. Part of it is the fact that I don't wear the Berluti shoe, which means that it's only ever a picture or the equivalent of a piece of sculpture to me; whereas I do wear this Gravati shoe and consequently think of it as an actual piece of footwear. Part of it also is that Lama is so soft that the throat of the shoe does not hold its shape when laced on a foot as well as it would were the shoe made from a stiffer calfskin. But I bet that my shoes are more comfortable than the Berluti model would be.
Gravati saddle bal in mid-brown peccary with a leather/rubber combination sole (15578, 640 last).
Since it won't do to be completely out of Tennessee Whiskey for very long, I will be forced to buy another bottle of either Dickel or Jack Daniels some time soon. This next go around, though, I think that I'll try one of the premium bottlings: either JD Single Barrel or George Dickel Barrel Select. I hear that both are good...
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Take barley, for example. No modern distiller could stay in business using the varieties of barley that were common in Scotland in the 19th century. There simply wasn't enough starch in those barleys to convert into alcohol in an efficient manner today. For time immemorial, man has genetically engineered the crops he plants, but the pace of genetic engineering barley (and many other crops, of course) accelerated dramatically in the 20th Century with the advent of academics and industry-funded institutes whose purpose in life was to make barley better -- more weather- and insect-resistant, higher in starch, higher in potential alcohol, and whatnot. The first barley variety to take Scottish agriculture by storm was Golden Promise, which was developed in the 1960s and withing a few years accounted for more than 90% of barley plantings in Scotland. By the mid '80s, though, it had been superceded by other varieties. Currently, the most prevalent barley variety is named Optic, although it will undoubtedly be made obsolete by something better within a few years. Some "tradition-minded" distillers still use older barley varieties, but the likelihood of those varieties being older than Golden Promise is vanishingly small.
Yeast plus starch equals not much. Yeast plus sugar equals alcohol. Grain has lots of starch and little sugar. Converting that starch to sugar is essential for producing something that can be fermented, which can then be distilled. For Scotch, that conversion is accomplished by malting the barley. This means steeping the barley in water to cause it to germinate, which releases enzymes that convert the starch in the barley to sugar. After germination, the process has to be stopped to keep the barley grains from growing into new barley plants. Not only that, but the malted barley has to be dried to prevent it from rotting. This is done by heating the malted barley in a kiln. Traditionally in Scotland, this was done in kilns fired by burning peat. Now, it mostly is done by coal- or gas-fired kilns. It used to be that each distillery would do its own maltings. This is now rare -- most malt today is now bought from one of the huge commercial malters like Port Ellen.
Peat-dried malted barley gives a distinctive smoky aroma and flavor to some Scotches, most famously those from Islay. The peatiness of a whisky is measured by the parts per million of phenols it contains (I have been unable to find out exactly how the ppm of phenols is measured or whether it is measured in the malted barley or in the finished spirit). Ardbeg, generally acknowledged to be the peatiest of the widely-released Scotches, has around 50 ppm of phenols. Laphroaig has 40 ppm, and Caol and Bowmore have around 35. Not all of the phenols come from the barley -- because water on Islay filters through peat bogs there, whisky made from unpeated barley but Islay water will still have 2 ppm of phenols. It is possible to make something much peatier than Ardbeg, and in fact Bruichladdich has -- an experimental bottling that contains 167 ppm of phenols. I also don't know how this is achieved: do they smoke the barley longer, or do they use a higher proportion of peat-smoked barley? And do the peated malts of today use a certain percentage of peated barley and a certain percentage of unpeated barley? Hopefully I will be able to figure this out soon. Stay tuned...
Gravati punch cap high-lace balmoral ankle boots in dark brown calf (10278, 683 last). A person can't have too many high-lace boots, I say. I was considering today whether it would be a good idea to have this pattern made up with a wing cap instead of a straight cap, and I concluded that it was not. A plain toe would work, however.
John Lobb Paris split-toe penny loafer in dark brown pebble grain calf (Campus model, 3198 last).
Monday, July 16, 2007
Edward Green plain-toe side-buckle monkstraps in Edwardian Antique (Stowe model, 808 last). Stowe is Edward Green's answer to John Lobb Paris's sublime Jermyn II, the difference being that Jermyn II is a wholecut where Stowe has separate pieces of leather for the vamp and quarters. In recent years, Edward Green has retired this model in favor of the Oundle, which has less sweep in the strap, because the configuration of the strap and the vamp/quarter seam in the Stowe is not particularly comfortable or particularly durable. My Stowes were a special order from Edward Green's Burlington Arcade store (before they shut down that store and moved to the current one on Jermyn St.).
Gravati split-toe ghillie-tie bluchers in tan suede with a rubber sole (13555, 500 last).
- Zest a dozen good-sized lemons. Don't get any of the pith.
- Immerse the zest in a fifth of 100 proof vodka. Seal in an air-tight container.
- Wait a few weeks.
- Strain the liquor (which should now be bright yellow) off of the zest (which should now be white).
- Add another fifth of vodka.
- Add simple syrup (50-50 mixture of water and sugar) to taste. I think that I added around 2 or 3 cups.
- Let the mixture marry for another few weeks.
- Enjoy, and make fun of those who claim that the liqueur is too strong.
Barton Brands is not a big name in the Bourbon business. It owns a number of brands (Ten High, Tom Moore, etc.), but the only one before the advent of Ridgemont Reserve that had any degree of prestige was Very Old Barton. This has quite a good reputation, but it is distributed only very spottily outside of Kentucky. Most other distilleries, if they wanted to create a new brand of premium Bourbon, would have selected the "honey" barrels of their main brand because doing so would reduce the amount of time between the decision to launch the brand and the brand's actual lauch. Not Barton. Barton decided to create Ridgemont Reserve from the ground up, developing a new mashbill for it significantly different from the one used for Very Old Barton. Not only that, but they decided to change the mashbill not by doing anything traditional like substituting wheat for rye or increasing the rye content. They decided to jack up the percentage of malted barley used. Typically, the malt percentage in Bourbon and rye mashbills is very low, and the malt is only used for the enzymes it contains that convert the starch in the other, unmalted grains into sugars so that the yeast will have something to ferment. Barton is the only Bourbon distillery that uses it as a flavoring grain. I can't honestly claim to be able to taste the malt in Ridgemont Reserve, but I can say that Ridgemont Reserve is different from other Bourbons that I have tried.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
The bottle of JW Dant that I bought was Bottled in Bond. The back label says that it was distilled and bottled at DSP-KY-31. The interesting thing about this is that DSP-KY-31 is the old Heaven Hill Distillery, which burned in October, 1996 and has not been rebuilt. The bottom of the bottle has the digits "06," which suggests that it was bottled in 2006. This means that the whiskey in the bottle is either 10 years old, or Heaven Hill is using old labels. After tasting the whiskey, I think that the latter explanation is more likely. The nose is all char and wood, developing into vanilla with some time in the glass. The palate is grainy and hot. This does not taste like an old whiskey, and I would be absolutely shocked if it was actually distilled in 1996. It's not spectacular, but it is a decent enough whiskey for $15 a fifth.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Shortly after I got these shoes, I was wearing them while working on a Saturday afternoon. I had a carton of greasy hot and sour soup on my desk, which I promptly knocked off and spilled all over my new shoes. I was scared to death that I had just ruined my brand new shoes, but they cleaned up just fine with some white vinegar and water. You can't tell today that any greasy pseudo-Chinese soup ever spilled all over them, a testament to just how resilient the waterproof suede Gravati uses is.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Bought a bottle of this a few days ago. Do you know what's in the mashbill? The heat and spice make me think it must have a high proportion of rye.According to what I have read online, Buffalo Trace Distillery has four different mashbills: the rye whiskey mashbill used to make Sazerac Rye; the wheat mashbill used to make wheated Bourbons like WL Weller; the low rye mashbill used to make Bourbons such as Old Charter, Eagle Rare, and Buffalo Trace; and the high rye mashbill used to make Bourbons such as Ancient Age, Elmer T. Lee, and Blantons. See here, although I have seen and cannot now find something more comprehensive before. I don't know the exact proportions of each mashbill, but I have read (from Chuck Cowdery, author of Bourbon Straight: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey and a noted authority about Bourbon, Rye, and other straight American whiskeys) that Old Charter's mashbill (ie, the Buffalo Trace low rye mashbill, which is also used for Buffalo Trace Bourbon) is more than 80% corn.
At any rate, I don't much care for it compared to Knob Creek, but at $15 I certainly wasn't ripped off.
I will not address whether Ben's preference for Knob Creek over Buffalo Trace proves that he is a philistine.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
In January 2005, someone using the name "Rahodeb" went online to a Yahoo stock-market forum and posted this opinion: No company would want to buy Wild Oats Markets Inc., a natural-foods grocer, at its price then of about $8 a share.
"Would Whole Foods buy OATS?" Rahodeb asked, using Wild Oats' stock symbol. "Almost surely not at current prices. What would they gain? OATS locations are too small." Rahodeb speculated that Wild Oats eventually would be sold after sliding into bankruptcy or when its stock fell below $5. A month later, Rahodeb wrote that Wild Oats management "clearly doesn't know what it is doing .... OATS has no value and no future."
This is so bizarre that I can't think of anything better to say about it than Harvey Pitt, former chairman of the SEC, did in a quote in this article:
For an executive to use a pseudonym to praise his company and stock "isn't per se unlawful, but it's dicey," said Harvey Pitt, a former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman. Told of the Mackey posts, Mr. Pitt said, "It's clear that he is trying to influence people's views and the stock price, and if anything is inaccurate or selectively disclosed he would indeed be violating the law." He added that "at a minimum, it's bizarre and ill-advised, even if it isn't illegal."
Gravati plain-toe side-elastics in burgundy (055) Radica calf (16624, 683 last). Have I mentioned recently how useful side-elastic shoes are?
Ferragamo wing-tip bluchers in cognac calf. These shoes are about five years ago, and I would be surprised if I've worn them in the last three. They epitomize both what is good and what is not good about Ferragamo. On the good side of the equation is the sleek round toe, the color of the calfskin, and the unusual sunburst medallion design. On the bad side is that, attractive though the last may be, it doesn't have good fit characteristics: it's too long, it's too full in the forefoot, and the heels are too wide. At least for me. In addition, they're not made as well as they should be for shoes that were as expensive as these were. Of course, once the shoes are in one's closet, it doesn't matter what one paid for them. It only matters whether one gets good use out of them. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten very good use out of them.
Cragganmore is another distillery that was part of the Great Scotch Explosion of the second half of the 19th Century, having been founded in 1869 by John Smith. Mr. Smith is known largely because of the strange design that he arrived at for Cragganmore's spirit stills (Scotch is typically distilled twice, once in a larger wash still and a second time in a smaller spirit still). He made them small and narrow, with a flat top and a lyne arm exiting the still at a right angle to the neck. His goal in making his stills this way was to produce a relatively light and aromatic spirit, and he succeeded. Cragganmore claims on its neckband that it is "an elegant sophisticated Speyside with the most complex aroma of any malt... astonishingly fragrant with sweetish notes and a smokey maltiness on the finish," and Diageo, on its Classic Malts website, quotes spirits author Michael Jackson as saying that Cragganmore is "[t]he most fragrant of whiskies." It's not all marketing hype. I don't know about it being "the most fragrant of whiskies," but it has a powerful honeyed nose with hints of thyme. The palate is very malty, with some grassiness on the finish. This is one of my favorite Scotches: fragrant, appetizing, and drinkable.
The fact that the weather forecast calls for the day to be sunny with a low chance of rain is not a necessary and sufficient condition to label the weather for the day as "perfect". When, for example, the predicted high temperature is 98 degrees and the humidity is high enough for the dew point to be in the mid-70s, the vast majority of the American population would consider the weather as being far from perfect, even if there isn't a cloud in the sky and the chance of thunderstorms is 10%.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Edward Green bespoke bals in dark brown calf. The dominant feature of these shoes is that the U-throat, the diamond-cap, and the counter are all done with the pie crust-style hand-sewing that typifies the Edward Green Dover. Edward Green's bespoke program is now defunct since their lastmaker, Tony Gaziano, left to found Gaziano & Girling with Dean Girling, who is one of the best bespoke makers around. Tony designed these shoes based on an idea of mine, Tony made the last for them, and Dean made them. After they want out on their own, Tony asked permission to photograph them with G&G trees for display on the G&G website; and I readily agreed. He liked the design well enough that a rendition of it called the Gable is included in his RTW line.
I'm really proud of this design. It all started with a Sutor Mantellassi shoe that I saw a picture of. The shoe was a wholecut with twin-needle stitching forming a standard cap-toe design. I thought that it would look good with a wing-cap and a U throat, and I asked if Gravati could do it. They said that they could not. I asked Ron Rider if Martegani could do it. He said yes, and a few months later I got my hot little hands on the finished shoes. I liked the result so much that I decided to get a bespoke rendition of it. One of Tony's design signatures is the diamond tip, so I decided to replace the wing-cap with a diamond-cap. I also thought that the Dover-style pie crust-style would be more elegant. I think the results are spectacular. But I'm hardly objective.
John Lobb Paris Venetian loafers in dark brown calf (Chester model, 6000 last).
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Gravati cap-toe bal in mid-brown Lama calf (16592 , 500 last). I really need to get this shoe in dark brown Lama, too. The informality of the grained calfskin contrasts nicely with the formality of the shoe style.
Gravati plain-toe monkstrap in dark brown peccary (16371 , 640 last).
Monday, July 9, 2007
[point] with all five fingers to the [car door handle], right hand followed by left. Then, [they] gracefully [open] the boor with both hands, in the same way Japanese samurais in the 14th century would have opened a sliding screen door.Sound a little odd? Well, consider how Lexus salesman serve potential clients coffee or tea:
When serving coffee or tea, employees must kneel on the floor with both feet together and both knees on the ground. The coffee cup must never make a noise when placed on the table.Can you imagine the awkwardness if someone did this for an American client? The point is not to hold the Japanese up to ridicule. After all, I'm sure that we have more than a few etiquette norms that would mystify and amuse the Japanese. The point is that despite the similarities in our economic systems and material accouterments, we're still very different from one another.
In honor of a day that promised to have a lower chance of rain than any day in the past two weeks, I broke out the good shoes again: Cleverley size-elastic shoes with hand-sewn one-piece apron in burgundy calf. Have I mentioned recently how perfect side-elastic shoes are? Perhaps I should get a wholecut with a floating medallion next...
Continuing with the I'm-so-glad-that-it's-not-raining-today theme, I decided on my Gravati cap-toe bals with reversed seams and a stitching detail on the toe cap and throat that imitates brogueing in tobacco suede (16492, 655 last). Suede is traditionally a material for the fall and winter, but I pretty much ignore that convention.
Since that time, the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas, which makes Shiner, seems to have decided that their future lies in going the way of craft brewers, or, at least, making it seem that way. Packaging has gotten slicker. Prices have risen. Where previously there were really only two varieties offered (Shiner Bock and Shiner Blonde), those are now joined by a Kolsch, a Hefeweizen, a Dunkelweizen, and a Light. And, in honor of the five years leading up to the Spoetzl Brewery's 100th anniversary in 2009, there have been a series of special-edition beers, a different one each year. This year's is called Shiner 98 and claims to be something called a "Bavarian-style lager". I don't know exactly what that is, but I can tell you that the beer is malty with a goodly kick of hops. It's not heavy, and it's not sweet, despite the maltiness. I enjoyed it, although I can't say that it was worth the $7.49 a six pack I paid for it. I could get any of the Saint Andrew's lineup for less, and I think that Saint Andrew's makes better beer.