Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The WC and the OP

'Twas the Friday before the World Cup final and all were atwitter. Eventual doom had not yet cast it's mournful glower upon the Dutch, who, having just vaulted into the final, were ecstatic, which our background is supposed to illustrate, failing miserably. Okay, maybe not so miserably. Not with a new found friend cast our WB! way.

Nonetheless, folks, the stir then was palpable. If WB!'s scribbler had any excuse these last weeks, it was, "World Cup, man!" Every night. For weeks. It was glorious.

So there we were, all jittery, even if feigning disinterest, and out popped a sampling of the savoury soul of Ol' Pulteney 12, as a munificent a potable creature as ever to have been imbibed on a marvelous earth that can render such bounty upon us. And what a fantastic bottle! Ready made Captain's lamp, just plug 'n play.

So, what with our blasted attempt to convey the party scene midst-stadt, here is what it was supposed to show WB! readers:

A Glen and Song for Rio

At one point, it seemed apropos. But WB!'s sniveling scrivener has displayed such abject Bartlebyism that WB! fans are surely wondering if the luscious sauce has become a distressing impediment to wretched tale-telling.

Far from it! dear readers. Eno' o' excuses, and on with a terribly belated show, which one should explain, is set in Rio on or about the eve of the World Cup Nederlands/Brasil game. History now, of course, but the important thing was the scotch, as it often is 'mongst this slavering crowd.

And a bountiful and hearty Glendronoch 15 was, lugged hither from the savage reaches of Heathrow by one of Whisky Break!'s MI5 moles. Uh, anyway ...

My, gentle readers, this Glen-baby was a yummy one. Even now, one can still savour the deep mouthful, and a robust, slow and lingering burn.

This is, of course, the crucial test, a test which rum and any other simpering wannabes simply cannot pass. Ha ha!

So, there it was: the then toast to Rio, and Brasil, Nederlanders eventual World Cup victim.

Is that mean?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fences and Windows*

Greetings, ribald readers of Whisky Break! blog. It's been sometime, but the occasion of the latest Whisky Break! was finally summoned by a core member, sired of Kentucky pastures, who hath borne a strained schedule of late. Our WB! setting was prescribed by the native, apparently because Kentucky is nothing but an astounding maze of fences. We thought to check other possible countrysides but were assured that, no, this was it.

And so it was that the WB! crowd, amidst all those bloody fences, had our collective Scotch blinkers removed, and were introduced the astonishingly lovely world of Woodford Reserve Bourbon, straight outta Kentucky. Woo hoo!

And what a yummy world it is, folks. With alcoholic fumigation starting things off with a sinus-clearing bang, a gorgeous colouring, the Woodford taste is sweet and delicious, if somewhat missing in mouthful. Though initially lacking any notable sternal heat, Whisky Break! relief set in with a late and low incineration, the bourbon proving itself subtly with a clever and deep lag burn. Touche´ Kentucky!

The palette was full this WB!, not only with the Woodford, but a Bushmills 10 continued to linger in the background to many's annoyance (my, my, we are getting spoiled and snotty), while the always welcome Yamazaki from bygone days was polished off amid a raucous and, dare this driveling scrivener suggest, rowdy festival of the end of that week.

And then onto the next, wherein the hypercloud of space-time, who knows what wonders await.

*With apologies to Naomi Klein.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fond Farewell

A bittersweet moment fell upon the Whisky Break! crowd of late, as a cheerful and cherished colleague, having just graduated, parted professional ways. We wished her the best of moving to new and exciting prospects. She will be missed, of course, but we have insisted upon at least occasional reappearances at Whisky Break! It's world reknown, you know. So, that was the bitter part. For us, at least.

And the sweet part? Well, it was really sweet. As in, shuuuweeeet!

There was no pall upon WB!'ers, as we wed the weakening week to a wiltingly yummy Highland Park 18, a gift to Whisky Break! from a fine and good ally; the kind of yummy that makes one pause, close ones eyes and imagine a realm of fecund possibility.

Yeah. Good stuff.

Egads, gentle readers, m'fears the Whisky Break! risks spoil in the heat of these luscious Highland Park beverages we've enjoyed of late.

Fear spoilage not! as the accompanying Aberlour proved good worth with a growl in throat and a fine, sporty flavour. Once the Highland was a burn of the past, the Aberlour shone her glow and all, once again, was good.

Cheers and good futures!

Perhaps some explanation of this week's WB! environment is in order, for surely it must perplex. Indeed, it may not be entirely clear just what is being celebrated -- by at least one obviously enthusiastic member of the the WB! clan.

That is a picture of the all the crap that currently encircles the planet earth, placed there by humans, purposefully and not. Scads of things, useful and not, occupying orbits described by multifarious parameter sets, most of which are LEO. Well, it seems that our esteemed, departing colleague was alerted this atrocious state of affairs by a recent news story.

So, there it is. That's the picture.

Turns out, it's the best background we've ever used: space junk. Go figure.

[Editor's note: one recognizes that the certain enthusiasm represented in the above photo might be verbally expressed as, "Woo hoo! I am outta here!!!" or possibly, "Woe hoe! Ik ben outtahier!!!"]

Bloemen Seizoen

We tried to set this in the Keukenhof, fresh photos of which were ripe for background in the wan days of tulip season. But, alas, the efforts were for naught. We wound up looking like purple vegetable people. So, we scrapped the project, simplexed the shot -- no marauding eee-lectronic flowers allowed! This humble scribbler was rather partial to the purpley-faced na'er-do-wells depicted thusly.

As this particular Whisky Break! was an impromptu follow-on to prior big-wiggy departmental celebrations, WB!ers were subject to a venue shift. Visitors from afar joined in, looking a tad perplexed by the entire affair. Nonetheless, the gallant Scot amongst us sallied forth with the lovely Lagavulin 16.

Bravo! fine Thane.
All was well again.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Happy Birthday, Scotch! (King James version)

On this day, June 1, 1495:
The Scottish government records it has commissioned Friar Jon Cor to make Scotch whisky — the first mention in print
of the marvelous elixir that Whisky Break!ers covet, "aqua vitae," as it was known back in the day when King of Scots James IV ordered up eight "bolls of malt." Really, who would argue with such an appellation? Not we of Whisky Break!

John Abell of Wired further avers.
Exact references of this momentous occasion are somewhat thin, and the underlying peg for a tech news organization even thinner. But I would say, with some authority, that Scotch and its many delightful cousins are, if not constant companions in this line of work, at least central to the media ecosystem of reward and motivation.

No respectable bar can exist without Scotch — as well as at least a couple of single malts to which ‘twould be blasphemous to add so much as an ice cube. That is so my friend, even though some 90 percent of the world’s Scotch is of the blended variety, and of that, predominantly examples that should be relegated to the rail.
A little "whisky" etymology.
“Whisky,” you see, is derived from the Gaelic “uisge beatha” or “usquebaugh,” which means “water (aqua) of life (vitae).” As I sip my single malt this fine eve, I must admit it does indeed feel essential to life — surely as necessary as water at any rate. And as I approach (approach, mind you, and surely have not crossed) that tipping point of glee and indifference, I can understand how “usque” could easily be slurred into “whisky.”
’tis true all forms of Gaelic are rooted in Middle Irish, but the particular Gaelic relevant to this story is in fact from that branch of Celtic spoken in the Highlands of … Scotland!
This has been a Whisky Break! public service announcement.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Perhaps the finest single malt that Whisky Break! has yet sampled in all of our days: Highland Park 15, slipped o'er tongue with such subtle silk and fullness of mouth that several became faint with admiration and gratitude. The full and lemony flavour strikes one first, and then the always-sought sternal burn would make its presence known. Indeed, it did, but also with a subtlety likely lost on those not keenly attuned to the ways and kinds of thoracic warmth the WB! has come to know and crave.

Well, so as fine a scotch as the Highlander turned out to be (having heard the rumour aplenty), it seemed damn appropriate to send a tip 'o the dram to the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, an auspicious event if ever there was one.

And so it goes, folks! A salute to HST with a fine Highland Park. Now, we just have to find some salute excuses to test out all the other Highland Park beauties, of which there are several: the 18, 25, 30, and 40 year old varietals, which form the "core expressions" of the Highland Park.

Readers of this humble outlet will note that the WB! like to salute things a lot, because the symbolic act of salute inevitably spells toast!

Fire and Iceland

What with being ground-wise bound, the Whisky Break! crowd was treated to a fine stash of Glen Garioch "Founder's Reserve," which, of course, indicates a grand and special brew that an otherwise 12 year old declarative statement simply could not pull off. With air travel slammed shut, WB! salutes our own fine Scottish agent who, under special auspices granted Whisky Break! agents by the international community -- otherwise by known as "customs" in less self-congratulatory settings -- managed to delivers the goods. And good they were.

Naturally, the crew had to pay offerings to the gods of thunder and fire, which meant a colourful sojourn to Iceland, where we could enjoy a fine thoracic warming brought on by "the Glen" amidst the land of aurora, fire, and ice. Of course, we salute Iceland for its plucky revenge against glowering economic forces of Europe, and, in part, for the clear and uncomplicated demonstration of just how easily modern society can be unwound by primordial natural forces. Always like that.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Turning Japanese

Indeed, Whisky Break! was treated to a turn of the Suntori distillery, the acclaimed Yamazaki single malt! Ahh, feel the burn! Like a radiative hose of Godzilla's own breath!* Many would cringe and shrivel at the prospect, but not the Whisky Break! dear readers, surely not Whisky Break! We are entrusted to hold forth on all manner of sternum burning, and the burning of sterna.

And burn the 'zaki did, dear readers, a long and hotting smolder. Of course, you know we love that. But what you don't know is that, despite the breadth and length of the follow, the flavour of the Yamazaki was somewhat lacking, as Whisky Break! generally agreed that the Yama was missing the mouthful.

Nonetheless, we all enjoyed the dragon's breath from the land of the Sun and scary monsters borne of man's folly.

Cheers, folks! There's Yamazaki to down, and Godzilla to drown. Unless, of course, he's a good Godzilla. In which case, we'll cheer, Godzilla! or possibly, Yamazaki!

* Verily, gentle readers, this miserable scribbler had to work in the picture somehow. But I think we can agree, it all fits together like a seamless garment: Yamazaki, Japan, Whisky, Whisky Break!, Godzilla.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A WB! Whisky Metric: Sternum burn

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the Ardmore began to take hold.

Some minutes had passed in the sampling of the scrumptious Ardmore Highland malt, when Whisky Breakers, as one, sat back, scanned the scene, and verbally agreed, "yeah, that's got a good burn. Lingering."

This, gentle readers, appears to have become the Whisky Break! metric for whisky tasting satisfaction: sternum burn, and a lingering one at that. Now, we like a good, mouthful of flavour, but the burn is what we seek, what we crave. Verily, the Ardmore doth deliver on that scale. A fine and satisfying brew.

And that's not just Whisky Break! telling you this, gentle readers. See what Dr. Whisky and his crew have to say about it about it:
Wow, big burst of a smoky impact, slightly fishy, more baked sweetness with canned peaches, "mmm... apples." The big impact becomes gentler upon swallowing into shortbread and a bit of vanilla and bubblegum.
Bubblegum and peaches. Hmm, sounds like sophisticated palettes at work there -- and far beyond our ken -- but a tad fey to we here at Whisky Break! where concerns pertain to the sternum, and the burning thereof. That's what we like!


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Unveiled: "oldest single malt whisky in the world"

Oh, dear. How do we get a hold of some of this? That is, without forking over €11000? These questions run deep.
EDINBURGH - A Scottish whisky firm on Thursday unveiled bottles of what it claims is the oldest single malt whisky in the world, having spent the best part of a century inside an oak barrel.

Gordon and MacPhail's Mortlach 70-Year-Old Speyside was sampled at a launch party in Edinburgh Castle, where it was escorted through the doors by pipers and a military escort.

"It matured for 70 years in the cask and that is what makes it the oldest whisky in the world," a spokesperson for Gordon and MacPhail told AFP.

The whisky was filled into its cask on October 15, 1938, by the grandfather of the company's managing directors David and Michael Urquhart.

There will only be 54 full-size bottles priced at 10,000 pounds each ($15,000 U.S., 11,000 euros), with another 162 smaller bottles on sale for 2,000 pounds.

The limited edition malt was matured in a former sherry hogshead cask made from Spanish oak. It has been bottled in a "tear shaped, hand-blown" crystal decanter with a silver stopper.

Whisky taster Charles MacLean described the single malt as "a delicate, fresh, vital, fruity whisky, with unusual attributes of waxiness and smokiness".

"It's the oldest cask of whisky that, in my knowledge, has ever been bottled," he said. "The spirit and the wood have inter-reacted beautifully over this long period of time.

A wan one

Told ya.

Anyway, WB! readers will be advised to learn that, with all the whirlwind, jet-setting to international celebrations over recent weeks, the WB! crowd sat back to relax at home, mostly owing to a dearth of whisky on hand, the apparent governing philosophy now being, have whisky, will travel. The corollary of which would then be, have whisky not, will sit home and sulk.

Fortunately, our Polish crew came to the rescue with an intriguing offer of Polish herbal vodka called Żubrówka, a sharply flavoured liquor also known as Bison grass vodka. Now, this particular alcoholic invention, which uses actual bison grass, was banned in the US by both the FDA and the ATF in 1978, when it was determined by a clueless band of meddling bureaucrats that the "toxic" compound, coumarin, ought not be consumed by Americans. It seems doubtful to Whisky Breakers that coumarin could hardly be more toxic than straight up alcohol, and happily, this blinkered and arbitrary decision all those decades ago has failed to migrate across the pond.

Which means, Bison grass vodka has now been introduced Whisky Break! And we're still not mental!

Though lacking the cherished sternal burn of a smashing single malt, the Żubrówka presented a interesting turn on the tongue. And for the etymologically-inclined, the Polish mix buffalo grass vodka with apple juice and call it tatanka. Now, this is interesting because that also happens to be the exact word for bison in the North American Oglala Lakota language. Note the accompanying image and, please, do not attempt to drink that version of tatanka, which is expected to trigger a gag reflex in some consumers.

Well, with a small sample on tap and running down rapidly, magically, a bottle of the fine Skye-born Talisker 10 went its way to the table, and Whisky Break! moved into to our more familiar domain. The T-10 is long-time WB! fave.

And that was a fine finish to the week that was.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Her Name is Rio ...

After hitting the Chinese New Year with a gusty tiger balm, it was time for Carnival! Woo hoo! Indeed, winter 2010 has proved a marvelous party season. And then Canada won the Olympic gold in hockey! just as it should be. (There will be more on that in future Whisky Break! maunderings, rest assured readers, rest assured.)

So, off it was to Rio for the Whisky Break! crowd, and the continued enjoyment of those dirty, dirty boys, Oban and Laphroig, half-brothers whose tale is not entirely without homology to that of Castor and Pollux -- both borne of mother Scotland, separated by contrastive sires.

But eno' o' th' pedantry! It was dirty kin party time in Rio.

Tiger Balm

Egads, Whisky Break's bumbling scribe has fallen off the reportage radar, and horribly so. But, fear not, gentle readers! Though reports of our international and cosmopolitan adventures have languished, that conspiracy of lassitude has been effectively quashed.

So, with that weakly exculpatory exposition, it now falls upon this WB entry to enrapture readers with our tastings of the Chinese New Year's smokey entries. The Year of the Tiger was rung in with a terrific roar, the roar of sterna ablaze with the liquid heat of raspy-fine single malts.

And pleasing heaters they were, as the heretofore undiscovered Laphroaig 15 finally went its glistering way to WB's many palettes, all of which were glazed with silky reward, and the Oban 14, which suffered a tad for the comparison with its sturdy Islay cousin. As the spoiled folks at Laphroaig tell us, Oban was competing for attentions with "the richer, more mature and succulent elder brother of the robust 10 Year Old." Indeed, we can hardly disagree. So rich and succulent, it left the otherwise fine Oban well in arears.

Nonetheless, with two bottles o' Scotland's finest, the WB! bade New Year Tiger a fond welcome with many a hearty toast, and with enough to spare to be enjoyed once more! We may be single malt gormands, but we do have a sense of relish, relish for more of these fine whiskies. And so it shall be!

We'll leave it to Laphroaig themselves to tell us that the Laph-15 is "esteemed and savoured around the world by a fortunate few." WB! considers itself fortunate, indeed. Get yours today!

Monday, February 8, 2010

A trip to Islay! The Motherlode

A nice article in The Independent travel section this weekend about the Hebredean island of Islay, you know, where they make Laphroiag! And other good stuff, too, but the Laphroaig distillery makes the appearance as the quintessential Islay malt house. Floor malting! Stacks of peat!

Really, there is one quibble we here at Whiskey Break might have with the article, at least its title, anyway. "Simple" pleasures? Maybe the rest of the island, but, nay, there is nothing "simple" about Laphroaig!
The Scottish isle of simple pleasures

An afternoon sparking with salty sunlight and in Port Ellen, a trim, white Hebrid-ean village hugging a sandy bay, a Jack Russell is barking excitedly at something – or someone – beneath the shifting waters of the harbour. I follow the terrier's gaze and there, just below the surface, is a set of eyes, saucer-like and dark, peering straight at me.

To see a seal on Islay, one of the jigsaw-piece isles cast off from the raggedy coastline of western Scotland, is not unusual. In fact, at Loch an t-Sailein (Seal Bay) you are almost guaranteed to find grey seals doing their onshore stretches. But to be close enough to shake a flipper is a fresh experience. And I don't need to be Doctor Dolittle to see what it wants. "If only I had a fish," I remark to a local on the quayside. (On Islay, the habit of talking to strangers is soon acquired.)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

2010 First Light: Bunnahabhain 12

Well, folks, a first gathering of Whiskey Breakers in this new-ish year finally launched after holiday travels and the attendant resettling phase. In celebration of a WB! member's vault up the professional ladder, the Wise man divested interest in a bottle of a Whiskey Break! favourite; the nectarean Bunnahabhain 12.

As the distillery's own "tasting notes" inform us,
The nose offers a fresh and aromatic experience with a subtle whiff of smoke floating through the air. The taste starts with a light fruit and nut appeal that leads to a spectacular malty sweetness, finishing into a beautifully rich full-bodied, lingering experience.
Yes! That seems to have hit the sweet spot. Or, at the very least, it's a description we here at Whiskey Break! would be hard pressed to refute. Indeed, we fully concur.

Whiskey Breakers took note of the latest news on Pluto and decided to check out reports that the now former planet is getting redder, some 20% redder. "Seasonal changes," we are told. Or Pluto's reaction to it's 2006 demotion finally making it's way earthward, an expression of clear anger at humanity's fickle nature?

Not to fear Pluto! Note the colour of the enraged surface of Pluto and the glorious Bunny-12. This is not a coincidence. Whisky Break! stands in solidarity!

News Flash! Major Antarctic Find: Shackleton's Whisky Stash Unearthed

Exciting news, people. Exciting news.

It's just like when they find a Van Gogh in an attic somewhere, only better. Because it's Whisky!
Five crates of Scotch whisky and two of brandy have been recovered by a team restoring an Antarctic hut used more than 100 years ago by famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton.

Ice cracked some of the bottles that had been left there in 1909, but the restorers said Friday they are confident the five crates contain intact bottles ''given liquid can be heard when the crates are moved.''

New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust team leader Al Fastier said the team thought there were two crates and were amazed to find five.

Current distillery owner, drinks group Whyte & Mackay, launched the bid to recover the Scotch whisky for samples to test and decide whether to relaunch the defunct spirit made by distiller McKinlay and Co.
The question now becomes: how does the WB tribe get our trembling hands upon some of this Mackinlay’s “Rare and Old”?

More ...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Modern Marvels: Laphroaig

Here's a little educational blurb to tide over readers of our humble Whiskey Break! outlet, while holidays and trips hither and yon come to a wane. See the making of one of WB!'s back stop standards of nectarean gold, Laphroiag, as Modern Marvels takes a tour of the distillery.

Indeed, we here at Whiskey Break! do agree that Scotch is a modern marvel.

Cheers, folks! And into the New Year.

Monday, January 11, 2010

2009: Let it snow ...

The Dam has donned the marvelous winter wear we like to call snow. And marvelous it has been, with canal skating looming on a not so imaginary horizon, while local Whiskey Break carousing the more appreciated for a frosty chill in the air, something the golden nectar is well suited to battling.

This quick update has been supported by the delivery of the WB's holiday merry-making documentation, the aforementioned suspect producing the goods. Which meant that it thence fell upon this outlet's whinging amanuensis to punch up the picture from the WB's last Whiskey Break! of the year and one which saw our humbling tribe performing all manner of pagan ritual, i.e. attaching sparkling inorganic matter onto a "platform" of organic matter.

Happy New Year! from Whiskey Break!