Monday, December 20, 2010

The Talented Mister Assange (Warning: Adult Content)

So, I've got to talk about Julian Assange and the rape allegations against him.

I've got to get some sarcasm out of the way first. Are you consenting? I'm not going to use protection in this article. You are free to stop at any time, but I'm going to keep going.

I once had a woman tell me that she kind of liked waking up to sex. In other words, she gave me "permission in advance," telling me that if I woke up and felt the urge, and could manage to get something going while she was still asleep, she thought that was hot and thought that she'd love to wake up to... well, you get the idea. This woman enjoyed sex and was not shy about that fact. She once climbed on me and initiated sex while she was still asleep. In other words, she acquaintance-raped me in her sleep. She then woke up, realized what she was doing, and started screaming and grabbed the phone to call the police to report herself. I'm lying. Of course she didn't do that. She woke up, realized what was going on, and rode me like a god-damned circus pony until we both fell back asleep in a sweaty heap. Fuck, that was hot. Excuse me. I'll be in my bunk.

Technical question: if she tells me the night before that she likes this, and I wake up before she does and manage to stick it in her while she's still asleep, and she seems to be getting into it in her sleep, but she's actually having a dream in which the two of us are having sex, and she asked me to use a condom in the dream, but the condom breaks, and she asks me to stop in her dream, but I don't stop in real life, am I guilty of real life dream rape? Or is she guilty of real dream coitus interruptus, which is a crime in Sweden? I'm just asking. They're just questions. In answer to your query, Leon, they're written down for me. It's a test designed to provoke an emotional response. Shall we continue?

Have you seen that wild movie... what's it called, Intromission? It's about multiple levels of reality. Interruptus? Intercession? Well, I'm sure it'll come to me.

What if she doesn't remember her dream the next morning and cooks me a bitchin' breakfast of deep-fried blintzes with applesauce and herring? I'm just trying to clarify things so I know what to expect during the trial.

Like, when she texted her friend and said "guess who I did last night," what she really meant to type was "HELP ME I WAS HORRIBLY ASSAULTED AND I AM A SOBBING WRECK." Or we find out that she texted "guess who got off last night but didn't seem to care that I didn't," she'll be able to bring me up on charges under the very progressive "failure to bring your partner to orgasm first" law.

Yes, I'm being flippant. Rape is an extremely serious subject. That's why I'm being so god-damned flippant at this god-damned circus.

Also, who breaks condoms? Are they using silicon abrasive carbide for lube? Are they buying expired condoms at the dollar store? They can slip off, yes, but break? You know you can blow these things up to the size of a refrigerator, right? You can stretch them down a broom handle to the bristles, and that's a real test the manufacturers do. Someone's doing it wrong, I think, and it isn't me. I mean, there's lube, right? And if it's so rough that you're going to tear the thing, perhaps a little more foreplay is in order? I need less caffeine. Maybe it had something to do with those crayfish at the party. Those claws are sharp.

But seriously. What the hell am I getting at?

There is bad faith all around in this matter. There are agendas all around in this matter. I wasn't in the room and wasn't in the heads of the people involved, but what I'm hearing makes me very unhappy. Let me just throw out a few points.

1. If your consent revolves around your faith in, or the integrity of, a piece of latex, you're not actually taking responsibility for your sexual behavior.

Lots of people would love to live in a utopia where we could all screw each other at will without risk of disease, without risk of pregnancy, and without messy things like jealousy and bad sex. When we're young and our bodies are lithe and sexy and no one has indigestion or a headache, this all seems possible. It's an illusion. You can't eliminate risk entirely. Condoms aren't magical. You should not trust your life to them. That's idiocy. If avoiding pregnancy is really of paramount importance to you, as opposed to maybe something you'd just prefer, well, you know what to do. And sleeping with International Man of Mystery there isn't it.

I'm not saying that anyone who consents to sex with a condom has then consented to sex without a condom, or consented to having the man continue after a condom breaks or slips off, or consented to getting poked in the middle of the night without one after he agreed to use one -- if in fact he did, or if it was really discussed in detail.

But condoms are not magical, and a lot of feminist critics are speaking as if the condom somehow magically enabled her consent and the consent somehow vanished when plan A didn't work out, and suddenly it became rape, and I think that's maybe a little silly.

2. Screwing two groupies who are already friends, and who are likely to compare notes, is not really advised, unless you manage to nail both of them at once.

In other words, jealousy exists. Also, revenge is a powerful motive. That ought to be self-evident.

3. Rape victims don't generally cook their assailants breakfast, throw him a party the next day, invite all their friends, and then host him for a few more days.

Or maybe they do. Who understands kids these days?

4. Decent human beings don't generally take advantage of their momentary fame to bang hot chicks.

Or, to put it another way,

5. You can't spell Assange without first spelling Ass.

He's 39. He ought to be over the wild oats stage. I admire his work, I admire his contributions to the open source community, but let's face it, he's no role model. He's Eurotrash. Usually, we get to admire our heroes for a while before we find out about their Achilles heel. In this case his rise to momentary fame and the rape allegations are emerging, in the overall scheme of things, almost simultaneously.

Which brings us to:

6. Wikileaks should consider investing in a new spokesmodel.

Seriously -- if he considers himself a journalist, he should be aware that most of the great investigative journalists and whistleblowers I admire from years past generally took at least some care not to allow themselves to become the story. I mean, the media always tries to make them the story, but it helps if you don't give anyone obvious blackmailable activities to work with, right?

And, I'm sure the slutty Assange knows this, but his slutty playmates apparently did not:

7. Attempting to rewrite your history by deleting blog entires, or tweets, or whatever, is impossible in the age of Google.

This is almost all I have to say on the matter. I'm not defending Assange per se. What he did or didn't do is almost irrelevant at this point. I suspect it did not rise to the level of what most of us would consider rape, even those of us who consider ourselves to be enlightened and feminist to one degree or another. Unsatisfying sex is not rape. Awkward sex is not rape. Confusion or miscommunication during sex is not rape. Failure to set clear guidelines is not necessarily rape. Failure to follow someone's unclear guidelines is not necessarily rape. It's what we used to consider in my wild oats days an evening to regret, especially since alcohol was involved all around, and not a way to join the media circus and get paid to do interviews. Just because a guy is what used to be called a cad, and sleeps with your best friend, that doesn't mean you were suddenly retroactively raped. When you're playing around at this, acting at 39 the way I might expect more reasonable people to get out of their systems 20 years earlier, you're playing with getting hurt. The stakes may be a lot higher, especially if you've come to believe that you're entitled to be 19 forever. Mixing slutty behavior and regret and entitlement and confidence and anger and jealousy and desire for revenge and dishonesty and hungry lawyers and bad law and bad feminist legal theory is not going to end well for anyone. Except for the media earning money on page views.

Seriously, no one looks good here. His accusers have already shown their willingness to change their stories by deleting evidence. I suspect I will never have confidence that we know what actually happened. The political and financial incentives for his accusers to lie are simply overwhelming. So all we can do is stick to our principles and watch what unfolds -- but keep these points in mind, and watch with a very, very skeptical, even jaundiced, eye.


Cornered, Blessed, and Stressed

So, ummm. Hello. What was I talking about again?

Tomorrow is the darkest day of the year, so as usual I'm spacey, teary, and easily overloaded by just about any stimulus more stimulating than sitting quietly with one child on my lap, practicing guitar, or reading in a corner. Naturally what I get is three of them having a screaming contest, or taking turns slamming doors.

This year has seen the Potts family go through a lot of stressful transitions.

We've moved from Ann Arbor to Saginaw. We bought a huge old house with good fundamentals (a sturdy foundation and roof) but lots of issues. Expensive issues. The initial round of home improvements went far over budget, but it was one of those situations where the damage was not all visible until everything was torn out.

We were blindsided with some emergency issues we had to dump money into, in order to avoid having our homeowner's policy cancelled (and mortgage jeopardized).

I don't have a figure for our December gas and electric bill, but I'm anticipating that it will be upwards of $750. We have most of our windows and one fireplace covered in plastic sheeting but we were really late in getting everything weatherized. We're new to this. Maybe the January bill will be lower. Or maybe it won't. Anyway, it's freezing in here. We have the thermostats set at 56. I'm wearing layers and layers and fingerless gloves to keep my hands warm enough to type as I write this in my home office.

Speaking of home office, transitioning to working at home has been more difficult than I anticipated as well. In some ways it is great. In others it just feeds into my tendency to feel isolated, and the natural tendency towards isolation that comes when an introvert does programming work to begin with. Do it for enough days, and fail to leave the house in the evenings, and soon I become afraid to leave the house, almost paralyzed.

I know what major depression and anxiety and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder feel like; I've been on medications -- several of them, a whole series and litany of them, years of them, with a whole checklist of disturbing side effects -- in the past. Anxiety and depression have been pretty much  my lifelong companions. A psychiatrist I worked with briefly said something that I will always remember: that in his experience, people don't actually suffer from episodes of depression (unless they are actually bipolar, I suppose). Depressives are depressive. It's just better or worse.

I know how it feels when it gets truly debilitating. I know what it's like to spend nearly entire weekends sleeping, and what few hours I spent awake, crying. I'm not there anymore, for which I am grateful. Nor am I hitting the whisky too hard; I want a glass of whisky now and then. Perhaps three nights a week, I'll have one. Perhaps one night a week, I'll have two. It takes the edge off a houseful of screaming kids and a to-do list I will die before finishing. If I start wanting one too badly I decide that I'd better not have one, and so I've managed to avoid actually "needing" a scotch. I've emptied three bottles since I moved up here the last day of May. Only three bottles.

I know what helps: quiet socializing. Writing. Playing music. Reading. Socializing. Usually it's the thing I feel least like doing. Exercising. Which I also don't feel like doing. But I've gradually learned to make myself do the things I don't want to do. Because it helps.

None of my friends have come to visit us in our new home. Actually, that's not quite true. One did, but then he decided he was angry at me because I didn't get a message that he had called, and told me I was never to speak to him again.

Grace has been going to school to get her Montessori certification. I'm happy and excited about that. It means he's gone every other weekend, but I can do the Mister Mom thing and even enjoy it, at least with Isaac's help. But what I don't enjoy is when the checks go through, especially if she wrote some that she didn't tell me about. I was blindsided this morning by $350 in checks that I had not planned for.

It's the Monday before Christmas and our bank balance is a big negative. I get paid again in a few days. I've dumped every bit of our savings into our checking account but we'll still hit our line of credit for almost the last remaining available balance. Our credit cards are in the freezer. They are both quite small as credit cards go, and we've been paying down modest balances of perhaps $2500 in total. There's a loan against my 401K. We have to finish paying off the no-interest loan on the flooring. And we have a line of credit against our checking account that has crept up to about $3,000.

There's really nothing else. So we're going to be starting 2011 without a net. I'll be suspending all retirement contributions. We don't want to take out a home equity line, not six months after moving, but if we want to get on top of some issues like a refrigerator that is failing, we may have to.

My mother-in-law's furnace broke and she was without heat. Her prescription health care policy was cancelled and she had to start rationing her heart medication while they scrambled to find some other kind of drug coverage. She had another heart attack and wound up in the hospital, and had to come home to a cold apartment. She asked us if we could help her pay for a new furnace. We couldn't. I'm expecting at some point she will also need help for this latest round of medical bills what haven't even been billed yet. They will be astronomical. I think we're already helping pay down, very slowly, some of her bills from a previous hospital visit. I don't think we'll be able to help any more than we are.

My paycheck deduction to my work-provided health care plan is going up, at the same time that they are migrating to a cheaper plan. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan announced that premiums on our old plan are going up 41%. Five years ago, when I started this job, there was no paycheck deduction; it was fully covered by my employer. Now, we will be paying more, our co-pays are going up, and fewer services will be covered. Welcome to health care reform. It sure is great that we got that bill passed. Thank God we don't have a single payer system, like all those other countries where it doesn't work.

Everything is going up, except I haven't had a cost-of-living increase or raise of any kind in five years.

Our food expenses have gone up, and we can't find decent meat that we feel comfortable feeding our children. We have to drive farther and pay more. We've been buying meat from sources we trust on our trips down to Ann Arbor. That's not really sustainable.

The school we decided was acceptable for our oldest son is 16 miles away, so we're driving an extra 64 miles a day. It now costs over $40 to fill the gas tank on the van. Between this and Grace's twice-a-week travel, we're spending at least $400 a month on gas. I could add it all up and figure it out, but I can't bring myself to do it. When we put all the basic budget numbers together, based on what seems to me to be a not-terribly-luxurious lifestyle, it's a little more than I take home.

I took the kids movies twice this fall; that felt like a luxury. Searching out eggs and meat that we feel we can safely eat does not feel like a luxury. We mostly cook at home from raw materials. When we do eat out, which is infrequently these days, it's been the Chinese buffet lunch (four kids plus dad for under $25; the teenager can put away several plates, which at least slows him down).

We've had to put Sam on a gluten-free diet. A lot of are old standby dishes (pasta salads, for example) are now verboten and we are confused a bit about that. On the plus side, the reduction in carbs has been good. I've lost at least fifteen pounds since I moved up here. On the minus side, I've replaced some of the carbs with fats. My cholesterol probably isn't up to any good.

We still have a Netflix subscription, but we never get time to watch our DVDs, so I'll be cancelling that. We could do the streaming thing, but I'm afraid of having a computer anywhere near where the kids can reach it. We don't have cable TV. We bought a small handful of DVDs on sale last month. I finally saw Star Wars Episode 3. Wow, was it ever horrible.

The DVDs feel like a luxury. Being able to give the kids a video to watch doesn't; it feels like a way to have a few minutes of sanity. We don't have cable, or want it, except for Internet, and sprung for high-speed; that's so I can keep my build servers and code checkouts with work without taking days to bring down files. So: not a luxury, but part of the cost of working from home. Which was supposed to save us money.

I have bought one or two books a month that I probably shouldn't have. I'm feeling really, really guilty about those Alastair Reynolds and Iain M. Banks hardcovers I bought a few months ago, and even the Stephen King Dark Tower paperbacks look like a bad idea from my perspective today. Especially since Joshua climbed the bookcases, pulled them down, and half-destroyed them.

We do have two cars. They are seven and fifteen years old. Is that a luxury? Having a second car is part of the cost of working from home; on a given day, I might have to drive to one of the other offices, and can't leave Grace unable to get the kids to and from school.

I have a home studio and a bunch of guitars. I'd consider selling some of them, but most of them I bought at very low prices, choosing somewhat rare instruments which have no real cash value now, in the hopes that they will eventually go for more than I paid for them. The market for used instruments is not good now. I'd wind up taking a big loss on them -- if I was able to sell them at all. It would be heartbreaking to have to sell the ones that I play regularly. I wouldn't be able to get much for them, but they have a lot of value to me. No one has any money. That's what a recession is. That's the biggest reason I was able to get most of them so cheap in the first place.

We're going to have a new baby in April or so. I'll probably have to pay quite a bit more out of pocket than I did for the previous two children. Out of the same take-home.

We had a big pile of cash on hand. We dumped almost all of it into the house. We knew it would be a money pit, and we'd thought we were pretty well-prepared. We weren't quite well-prepared enough. I guess it's a case of not quite believing it until you've experienced it.

I was saving up money to help an online friend come out from Scotland so we could collaborate on some music in person. I think we just blew that money. Maybe I can return some of it to savings and we can still make it happen somehow, but it is looking pretty doubtful.

I was saving up some money to finish putting up acoustic panels and foam in the studio room.

I was saving up some money to get the brakes fixed on the van. They aren't dangerous yet but they need some major work in early 2011.

I'm blessed in many ways; we have food on the table; we have a marvelous place to live. I have a job. I earn a good living. Or what used to be a good living. It's complicated. Inflation and increased expenses have made it barely a middle-class living, now. I don't think there is much of a middle class anymore, is there? The "social contract" that I grew up with has had most of the air let out of it, it seems. Basic things, like being able to send your child on a bus to his or her school.

Our water bill is almost $90 a month, which I think is at least four or five times what we'd be paying per month in Ann Arbor. Most of that isn't measured usage, it's the regular monthly fees.

When we were planning this, we determined that our mortgage payments plus insurance and taxes, which are all rolled together, would be less than our monthly rent in Ann Arbor. That seemed promising. We were even talking about being able to pay extra principal-only payments to get our house paid off faster. Maybe we can get there, but we're not talking about it right now. Not until we can get our burn rate way down.

I have a wonderful wife and four terrific children. We're not buying them any Christmas presents, getting a tree, or decorating the house. I spent $25 on a whole bunch of candles, and we put them in the fireplace we can't afford to buy wood for, or have inspected for safety. They are very pretty.

They burn out really, really fast.

Some friends were going to come over for dinner with their kids, and we made a bunch of fancy dishes from the food in our fridge and freezer. We were going to turn out the lights and watch the candles and let their kids play with our kids. They cancelled on us.

I have 232 friends on Facebook.

So why do I feel like such a lonely failure?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Come Visit the Dungeon

Because I've been writing so many whisky reviews, and the URL "" doesn't exactly inspire anyone to remember it, or associate it with whisky, I'm launching yet another blog:

The Whisky Dungeon

The name is taken from the basement of my new house, where I'm storing all this delightful nectar.

This blog, which will probably continue to be pretty low-volume, will be more focused on random personal observations. I'll leave the existing whisky reviews here, but the text of many of them will probably find its way to the new blog, where it will be revised yet again. Note that I'm using a new scoring system (basically, assigning letter grades!)

Thanks for reading and I hope you will follow the new blog!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Scotch Whisky Review: Bunnahabhain 18

My regular readers, both of them, will recall that I have a soft spot (on my skull) for the whisky of the Bunnahabhain distillery on Islay. It does not seem to be one of the blockbuster big-name distilleries -- most of its output seems to go into blends -- but this distiller's whiskies are among my personal favorites, in part because their distinctiveness seems to lie in their subtlety, rather than boldness.

The Bunnahabhain 12 is an Islay whisky, and very unlike the other Islay whisky that I've tasted -- so different, in fact, that it seems to make quite a dent in the "terroir" theory. Oh, it does have some similarities -- it has a very light peat and smoke, and a light saltiness, and a slight oiliness, but the flavors tend more towards sweet nuts, toffee, and apple. I wrote: "there's a wonderful almond flavor, reminiscent of marzipan, and toasted coconut, and vanilla." With water, the saltiness in the 12 comes forward; I described it as a "Pearson's Salted Nut Roll," a regional candy which, sadly, never seems to be on the shelves here in Michigan. About the finish, I commented that "the sip fades out on a little bit of oak, but the tart apple flavor stays with you. There's just the slightest fresh pepperiness, like Nasturtium, or ground white peppercorns."

So, Bunnahabhain also offers a standard 18-year-old, which offers an interesting opportunity to do a straight-up comparison. And of course it raises the question of whether those extra six years in the cask create a whisky that is worth about double the price of the 12 (at about $100, this is a fairly expensive whisky, at least on my price scale; I don't buy $100 bottles on a whim, and have only purchased two or three at this price).

So -- the color is a little darker gold, as one would expect. On the nose: apple again, but cider, not fresh green apple juice. A little pungent alcohol burn is still there on the nose, and a bit of smoke. There's just a bit of that peaty, Listerine note -- more than there is in the 12. There's a distinct smell of Hall's honey-flavored menthol throat lozenges along with a nice vanilla custard, stewed apples, banana, perhaps a little pear, and dried tobacco. This whisky benefits from breathing a little bit -- let the poured dram sit for a few minutes, and warm the glass in your hand to bring out some of the more subtle flavors.

On the tongue this one has a syrupy texture that reminds me of Irish whisky, particularly The Tyrconnell again. It seems to have some velvety substance to it, almost like tannins in wine. It's moderately warming, with a nice heat in the back of the throat. That extra aging has really brought up the vanilla notes, but the characteristic Bunnahabhain nutty notes are still there as well; they seem fainter than in the 12. The finish is actually peaty and smoky, more so than the 12 but still light, so that you feel like you're sharing a drink with a smoker, not having a cigarette yourself. And there's something else going on in the finish -- while the Glenmorangies always seem to remind me, literally, of oranges, and the Ardbeg of lime, this one is definitely lemon -- maybe a hint of lemon oil, or candied lemon peel. It reminds me a bit of the lemon oil I use to clean my guitar fretboards. The tail end is a little bit like dark-roasted coffee grounds, and a bit like burnt toast (it seems like there always have to be at least one slightly unpleasant note, doesn't there?)

So how does this compare to the 12? Well, it's interesting. The flavors are less assertive, and more subtle. The texture I like in the 12 is damped down a bit; it's less oily, but more syrupy. The soft fruit notes are very nice. The spices and nuts are fainter. This whisky is very refined, extremely smooth, and somewhat subtle. It's a dessert drink. After drinking a lot of big, explosive Islays, it's partly a relief, and partly a disappointment -- where did all that complexity go? So your reaction to it may depend, basically, on whether you want your whisky to talk back to you, or whether you want it to quietly do your bidding. The 12 will have a conversation with your taste buds; the 18 will serve them unobtrusively.

So -- my rating. The 18 gets an extra half-point for that marvelous smoothness; I'll call it a 9.0. That's probably making just a bit too much of the relatively subtle difference between the two.

I'm happy to have had the chance to taste this one. I'm thinking of this one as a preview, to get me ready to taste the very special bottle I purchased for my upcoming wedding anniversary next year -- a bottle of Bunnahabhain distilled in 1967, the year I was born. So, honestly, which one do I prefer? I could go either way, depending on my mood on any given evening. They're both very good. If I felt a little short of money, I'd happily stick to the 12 and not feel deprived!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Scotch Whisky Review: Ardbeg Airigh Nam Biest (1990/2008)

"Ari Nam Baysht," or so I'm told.

My bottle, marked 2008, is apparently from the 3rd and final year of bottling of this expression. This contains fairly old whiskies; I was expecting flavors a bit more sedate than those in the Ardbeg Uigeadail. Every time I think that I am starting to understand something about whisky -- like the way in which aging tends to affect the spirit -- I'm proven wrong! Even though this is bottled at a lower ABV than the Uigeadail (46% vs. 54.2%), the flavors are in some ways more pungent and "untamed."

On the nose, it was evident that this is bourbon cask aged, with no sherry influence that I can detect. There is some peat smoke, to be sure, but the aroma is a bit different than the Uigeadail, and I get more yeasty, bready aromas -- a bit like the barley notes in the Arran Malt 10. There are some smoked meats here, particularly bacon; I don't nose the mackerel flavors that I get from the Uigeadail, but could that be -- smoked trout?

There is a lot of lime going on here, and the quinine tonic water notes are even stronger than they are in the Uigeadail. There is some of that juniper.

On the tongue, the dram is warming, the texture is lightly oily, and the finish is quite long The lime and pepper notes are what I'd call "fizzy" -- they practically burn the tongue, not in a hot way, but in a carbonated, acidic way. (Of course I don't mean the whisky is literally carbonated!)

Overall, I am reminded of several extremely specific sets of flavors, and the correspondence is so striking that I found them odd enough to mention.

One of my favorite lunch snacks from Eastern Accents is their bacon and onion bun: it's a slightly sweet, yeast bun wrapping bacon and chopped green onions, and flavored with little else except maybe an egg wash and possibly for black pepper. The Beast reminds me very strongly of this combination -- all the notes are there, including the onion!

I like a good vodka martini, but I don't have the patience, the space, the ice, or the gear to make them the traditional way at home, but as a shortcut I keep a bottle of Ketel One vodka in the freezer, and in the refrigerator a bottle of "Martini Olives" -- pimiento-stuffed olives in vermouth. Toss a couple of these into the very cold vodka, and add a little bit of the vermouth-infused olive juice, and you have a moderately convincing slightly "dirty" martini. Again, the Beast has pretty much all these flavors -- including the pungent green notes of the olive, the saltiness, and a little spice and sweetness from the pimiento.

The third food combination that popped into my head was the classic combination allegedly craved by pregnant women -- "pickles and ice cream" -- the combination of sweet and salty. That describes the Beast pretty well.

Now, the downside: while the flavors are intriguing, there just seem seem to be some things that I dislike: a little too much sour pickle and fizzy lime oil, like lime pickle of the type used to accompany hot and spicy Indian food, but spoiled. Where the Uigeadail finishes with a long draught of wood smoke, that oily bitterness is what sticks around longest here. Grace calls it "all campfire, no marshmallow."

There's probably a specific whisky term for it, but I haven't quite come across it in tasting charts I've seen, or if I've seen it, I haven't recognized it on my tongue. So, sadly, it gets knocked down another full point, to 8.0. It's a shame, because I was so impressed with the Uigeadail. I read some reviews of the "Beast," and they comment on the complex finish. But the one I'm tasting doesn't seem to have a complex finish -- it has a complex nose, and it's complex on the palate, but that bitter note on the finish drowns out the other notes, as that lime oil lasts and lasts. Am I just missing something, or were the 2006 or 2006 "Beast" bottlings a little better?

Just yesterday I received a nice little packet of Ardbeg marketing materials in the mail; I signed up on their web site to join "The Committee." The packet is some of the best swag I've ever gotten -- very tastefully produced, classy, and also laugh-out-loud funny. I'll have to take some photos. I usually don't save things that are basically advertising, but I will definitely save this one! Ardbeg really has figured out to push the buttons of slightly obsessive nerds like me -- they haven't just released, say, a 10, 12, 15, 18, 25, etc. I could probably resist that; I'd just taste one or two of them and feel able to let it rest at that. But they've given each of their bottlings a story and made them intriguing to both collect and compare -- I'm apparently condemned to having to buy and taste their whole line! (Lord help me if I get a hankering to buy the 25-year-old Lord of the Isles...)

If you are interested in tasting the Airigh Nam Biest, you'd better find a bottle soon -- I believe it is out of production. The Corryvreckan, which is bottled at a much higher ABV of 57.1%, is alleged to be its replacement. I'm curious to taste that one, but probably not curious enough to buy it, at least not just yet.

Default Shell in FreeBSD 8.0

So, I've been setting up a FreeBSD machine to function as a firewall/router. So far it has gone very smoothly and very quickly, but there has been one hiccup that drove me up a wall: the shell.

Apparently, if you use the installer to configure a user account with csh, you don't actually get csh. I found this out because I wanted command-line completion. I don't even need anything fancier than that for configuring this box, but I can't live without command-line completion -- it's ingrained in my muscle memory!

If you edit /etc/passwd to set your shell to csh, you don't actually get csh. Your environment will tell you that you are using csh, but it isn't actually csh. Therefore, adding options like "set autolist" to your .cshrc file won't do anything.

To make it work, I had to do "chsh -s /bin/csh," and I magically had command functioning again, without modifying any dot files.

I'm not accustomed to FreeBSD, but apparently this has something to do with the file etc/master.passwd which is used to generate /etc/passwd, so modifying your shell via /etc/passwd doesn't work, even if it appears to change.

Apparently, per some Google searches, I'm not the only one to find this very confusing!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Rescuing a Mac Mini G4

Today's project is getting a Mac Mini G4 working again. The hard drive was apparently going bad, and while I was at it, I dismantled it as thoroughly as I could in order to clean out dust. I even washed out the fan (don't try this at home, or if you do, make sure to use very hot water and let it dry for a week before attempting to power it up).

I've had this thing for at least five years, I think, and I got it used on eBay, so it's not like it hasn't had a good run. Finding 2.5-inch IDE drives can a little tricky these days, but Newegg had a 5400 RPM 2.5" Western Digital Scorpio Blue 160 GiB for $64.99, which seemed reasonable. It's a little noisier than the original 80 GiB Seagate drive was, but I'm hoping it will settle down after a while.

Mac Mini systems are basically laptops, as far as the components they are built with and the way they are assembled, but they are a little more rugged than laptops, because they aren't usually banged around quite so much and don't have parts like screen hinges that are prone to breakage. They are put together with some of that same yellow Kapton (Polyimide) tape as laptops, so in order to reassemble the original correctly I ordered some. You can get it on Amazon from Techni-Tool -- search for "Kapton Tape." Check your desired width. Black electrical tape probably would have worked, but it is really gummy and the adhesive melts under heat, and collects a lot of dust.

Mac Mini cases are a little fiddly to disassemble and reassemble; you're supposed to use a putty knife with the edges sanded down slightly, but if you're not that concerned about scratching or gouging a bit, and I'm not at this point, given the age of this computer, you can use a flat-bladed screwdriver. I found very effective instructions here.

They are a little fiddly to work on, but despite this I really, really like Mac Mini systems. They aren't the fastest available, but they are extremely quiet. Quiet is very important to me, especially since I use computers for recording. They are also low-power; Apple calls the most recent version "the world's most energy efficient desktop computer." I don't know if that's literally true when compared to some of these very low-end tiny form-factor PCs, but at under 14 watts idle it's certainly plausible.

Anyway, I ran into one hiccup, which was that the original G4 Mac Mini install disc would not instal MacOS X on the new drive. Running Disk Utility from the install disc and formatting the disk would not help; no matter what I did, the installer said it could not install MacOS X on the selected volume.

Fortunately, it turns out that this is just a bug. It had nothing to do with the type of boot record or partition map; that version of Disk Utility doesn't let you choose GUID anyway. I just had to reboot and let the installer take another look at the driver.

The version of MacOS X that gets installed by the original install disk is 10.3.7. There are then a ton of software updates to install -- then a reboot -- then another ton of software updates to install.

Apparently my Leopard install DVD is no longer readable either on this system's drive, or on my Mac Pro's drive. I can't see any visible damage. We've had a severe problem with white humidifier dust in this apartment -- during the winter, we have to run humidifiers constantly. The particulates from these wound up clogging up basically every optical drive in the house, including our DVD player. That I was able to take apart and clean out, but I'm not too keen on having to also replace the DVD drive in the Mac Mini and Mac Pro; they have both scarcely been used. Sigh!

After that I will attempt to bring it up to Leopard, and then after _that_ I need to see if I can get some files (not the whole system, just documents) off of the time machine backup. If that works I will have a separate little box I can use specifically for scanning, which was the goal all along -- before I started having hard drive problems. I'm just grateful that I don't need to buy a whole new machine -- at least not today. I just bought a ThinkPad and built a Xeon-based server for my home office and I'm a little tapped out at this point!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Scotch Whisky Review: Ardbeg Uigeadail

"Oog-a-dal." It is named for the Loch that is one of the sources of the Ardbeg Distillery's water. I've packed up most of my whisky and put it into our climate-controlled storage unit in an attempt to make some room in the apartment while we pack to move. The only ones I left out were a couple of sample-sized bottles from Glenmorangie, and the dreaded McClelland's Islay, which I left out in an attempt to convince myself to finish it before I can taste anything else. That effort isn't really working, and so today I just had to pick up something else. Stadium Market just happened to have the whole Ardbeg line in stock!

This one is a little tricky to review. Jim Murray named it World Whisky of the Year. Here's a video clip showing Murray with Rachel Barrie of Ardbeg. After an introduction like that, how can I be objective? Or honestly subjective about my own impression?

Well, I'll try. Interestingly, if I had tried this whisky a year ago, I probably would not have been quite ready to appreciate it. I needed to experience whiskies from the various distilling regions of Scotland, as well as several distilleries from Islay. I'm glad I had the opportunity this past Monday night to taste the standard Ardbeg 10, which I found very good. This allows me to put the "oogie" in perspective.

The "benchmark" Islay whisky for many folks is the Laphroaig 10. Laphroaig is highly peated, and provides a big blast of peat, with its phenolic and smoky flavors. If that is all it offered, though, the whisky would not be very good. But it also offers a very flavorful set of sweet, fruity, and malty flavors. These coexist in a way that is hard to describe, but lovely to drink. Laphroaig's notes describe the finish as coming in "alternating waves," and that's accurate -- the peaty flavors and sweet flavors literally take turns on your palate. The Laphroaig that I bought a bottle of is the Quarter Cask, which is cask strength, with a great deal of development of cask flavors.

The Ardbeg 10 is also peated, although the overall smoke and peat is not quite as pungent as the Laphroaig 10. I did not get to give it a long and full tasting in its own right, but it is warming and wonderful, with sweet and dry rich fruit notes, especially dates and prunes; the Ardbeg 10 is definitely on my short list to purchase in the near future.

The Uigeadail is, like the Talisker and Lagavulin Distiller's Editions, finished in sherry casks. After tasting those two bottlings, and comparing them to the Talisker 10 and Lagavulin 16, I would expect the Oogie to have undergone similar changes -- for the sherry to add a layer of complexity and winey notes, and for some of the more pungent notes to be damped down. But what do my eyes, nose, and tongue say?

The Oogie looks like an extra-aged expression -- the color is red-gold and extremely pretty. It forms legs very slowly, but they are well-defined. At 54.2%, this is a very high-alcohol whisky; exercise caution appropriately (I am tasting a smaller-than-normal serving).

On the nose, there is some of that phenolic Listerine aroma, smoke, and some vanilla sweetness. It is not as malty-smelling as the Laphroaig -- I'm not reminded of a sandwich cookie. There are sherry notes but they seem somehow less sweet and more dry. Overall, the effect of the sherry is fairly subtle. There is a seashore saltiness -- I'm reminded of saltine crackers, actually. There is citrus -- in the case of the oogie, it isn't orange, but lime.

One of the hallmarks of a good whisky is that the flavor evolves as you drink it, holding your interest. The oogie has a nose alone that evolves as I continue to sniff it. None of the notes on the nose are overwhelming. They blend and shift, and with the high ABV, the smell quickly begins to permeate the room.

On the tongue, the whisky is extremely warming -- hot all the way down to the belly. The texture is enormously silky and smooth, almost like unset gelatin. It is not as sweet as one might expect with the sherry cask aging -- I'm reminded of quinine in tonic water -- it somehow makes me think of a gin and tonic. That must be some aromatic compound in there that is reminiscent of juniper.

The finish is very long and there are some meaty notes -- Michael Jackson is very accurate when he says it is "like standing downwind of the barbecue while steaks are char-grilled on the beach." But there is more to it than that -- I'm also strongly reminded of a combination of fishy and salty flavors, such as the tins of smoked kippers, packed in oil, that Grace and I sometimes put on crackers. The fish notes are there, as well as the cracked pepper and fruity olive oil. It's quite an unusual and extremely flavorful note to end on.

There are just so many notes here -- a little licorice, a little pepper, a little butter. There are hints of some things a little less savory, like sweaty armpit, lighter fluid, pine solvent, charcoal, and a used ashtray. One writer noted that it is a bit like licking someone's sweaty skin, and I think that's accurate; the flavors are a bit erotic, actually. There are some spices, particularly caraway seeds. The smokiness is not a simple thing, but hides all kinds of complexity -- burning sea grass, driftwood, and pine needles. That extremely smooth texture, and light but not cloying sweetness, ensure that you will come back for another sip.

It might be a near-criminal act to water this, but let's give it just a bit and see what happens. On the nose, the citrus aromas come down a bit, and it's more prominently tobacco smoke and iodine. On the tongue, it's a little sweeter and more conventional, although it doesn't seem to lose any complexity -- all those sea flavors are still there on the finish. I get a new, definite note of hot, candied ginger. The finish does become slightly less pleasant, though -- we're left with a little more of the pine solvent flavors at the end. So -- it is more intense straight, and you should taste it that way. But if it is too hot going down, don't feel too bad about watering it just a touch. 54.2% -- almost 110 proof -- is a lot of alcohol, even more than the Knob Creek bourbon which is at 100 proof, and notably stronger than most vodkas, gins, bourbons, and whiskies, which tend to be diluted to a standard 80 proof or 40% alcohol.

So -- subjectively -- how do I like this one?

I really, really enjoy that complexity. It evolves sip by sip, and that's fascinating. In fact, if you taste it again tomorrow, or at a slightly different temperature, or having eaten a different meal first, you will probably discover something new. It's so complex that I feel like I have only really just begun to tease out flavors.

I like the maritime notes. I'm a big fan of mackerel, smoked salmon, and barbecue. But where did the sweeter notes from sherry aging go? It's a little hard to say. And where are the spices and the nuts that I love in other whiskies? Where are the floral notes? Where is the butterscotch and malt?

The answer is that they are not present in this style, or present in limited quantities. (That's not a bad thing; they would clash with the basic Islay flavors). This is probably the ultimate, or near-ultimate, Islay whisky, insofar as it embodies the terroir of Islay. (The Supernova may take this a little farther, but I haven't tasted it yet).

It is certainly one of the best whiskies I've ever tasted. But is it my absolute favorite? Actually, at the moment I prefer the Laphroaig Quarter Cask just slightly. I prefer Bunnahabhain by a nose. I'm still exploring the Lagavulin and Talisker Distiller's Editions, which also have very complex flavors to explore.

I give the Oogie a 9.5, for its phenomenal complexity and wonderfully evolving maritime flavors -- this is the highest rating I've yet given out. If you like Islay whiskies, you simply must try this one. (If you aren't already an Islay fan, this is not a good one to start with; try Bunnahabhain 12 or Caol Ila 12). But despite the fact that I really appreciate that complexity, it is not quite my personal favorite. But then again, I've only been tasting Islay whiskies for a few months, and my tastes are still evolving. There is so much more out there to taste. Check back in a year!

Music Review: BT: These Hopeful Machines

People write reviews for many reasons. Sometimes they've got a bone to pick; sometimes they want to share a particular discovery. The best criticism, in my opinion, usually stems from a desire to share something the critic has discovered, and the best critical reviews often are interesting to read because provide some insight into the work discussed, the genre, and the mind of the critic too.

So, with that in mind, I can't claim that I'll succeed at this game, but I'd like to point you at BT's newest album of electronic music, _These Hopeful Machines_, and tell you why I think it's fantastic.

Back in 2000 I was an amateur DJ, and co-hosted some great parties at which a lot of guests made us very happy by dancing and celebrating some great music and a great time. Things kind of crashed after the tech bubble collapse and I think there has been a bit of a hangover in dance and electronica that has lasted for the better part of a decade. That isn't to say that nothing great has been recorded, and no one is dancing, but that's how it has felt to me.

BT's newest represents to me the culmination of many strands of influence, many of which date back to 2000 and before. The styles of many other electronica producers are evident. One that keeps coming back to me is Aphex Twin, aka Richard James, particularly sounds of the "Come to Daddy" and "Windowlicker" era. I also hear Squarepusher and Autechre all over the place in the polyrhythmic, glitchy, bursty electro sounds BT uses. In BT's hands, though, they are not aggressive and scary, but upbeat, nostalgic and soothing. The synthesizer swells and gorgeously layered vocals remind me of another highly regarded producer, William Orbit.

One of the difficulties with electronic music has been its tendency to be ghettoized into sub-genres and sub-sub-genres: house, hard house, electro, downtempo, and ambient. These styles have partisan fans and followers, but with the exception of some crossover artists, not much airplay and not much audience outside of clubbing fans. This album changes that. This is the one that blends and mixes the genres -- showing an impressive array of influence -- and brings it all home with a large and tasty dose of slightly vacuous but hugely enjoyable bubblegum pop. It even gets a little dark and occasionally moving and touching -- like the artier bits of Madonna's _Ray of Light_ (produced by William Orbit). Several of the tracks will very likely get pop radio airplay, although like most people my age, I left commercial radio behind in disgust at least fifteen years ago, so I doubt that I'll hear them.

BT seems to produce music primarily out of his home studio, and he's famed for his in-depth and inventive approach to editing (his "stutter edit" and his use of granular synthesis). These techniques feature prominently in this album, but as a listener I don't feel abused by them. Because BT is not just good at this kind of editing, but he's also incredible at EQ and mixing. The attention to detail evident on every part on every track is astounding. If there's a vocal glitch or mouth sound, or a little buzz on an acoustic guitar, you can bet that BT wanted it that way and compressed and EQ'ed and reverb'ed it just to bring out the precisely desired effect. He's an absolute lunatic and a control freak, but I mean that in the best possible way. As an amateur producer myself, I can hear the degree of effort that went into it, and it is nothing less than astonishing.

If I tell you that this album is not truly innovative, would you think that I mean something negative by that? I don't. It's the culmination of influence, and crosses and remixes genres joyously. It doesn't break new ground, but it doesn't need to. It's a beautiful thing. I haven't heard anything this good in a long, long time.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kilchoman is Still Not the Newest Distillery!

The Abhainn Dearg site says "It has been nearly one hundred and seventy years since the last legal bottle of whisky was produced in the Outer Hebrides." Wow! I think they distilled their first spirit in 2009, and because it is so new, none of it can legally be called "whisky" yet. They are apparently selling some of this "new make," briefly aged in sherry casks, as "The Spirit of Lewis," but it is not available outside Europe or the U.K. yet.

Arran is Not the Newest!

I was wrong -- apparently Kilchoman is a newer distillery than Isle of Arran Distillery, having started distilling Islay whisky in 2005!

Apparently they've already released some 3-year-old. It appears I may have missed the possibility of getting my hands on a bottle of their very first release; apparently it was not sold in the U.S. A bottle of their second release in Fall of 2009 is available on eBay, but at $150, I'm probably going to have to let that one go by. There does seem to be a Spring 2010 3rd release -- but is anyone importing it? The distillery itself does not list an American distributor. The Whisky Vault wants 48.95 pounds sterling to deliver a bottle to the US -- that's more than the whisky itself, which is 48 pounds!

There is apparently also some "new spirt" available -- although that may be more a novelty or collector's item than something to sip and enjoy.

Why didn't anyone tell me? It's the first new distillery on Islay in 125 years. I am eagerly awaiting a taste!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Stadium Market Spring 2010 Scotch Tasting

Tonight Grace and I, along with my former College of Wooster classmate Ken, who is also the podcaster known as the Wandering Knight, attended the Stadium Market Spring 2010 Scotch Tasting, hosted at Bab's Underground Lounge. For $20 each we got a buffet of appetizers, including shrimp, sushi, miniature croissant sandwiches, stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs, cheeses, a platter of fruit, and other dainties -- and a huge variety of beverages to taste!

There was a structured slideshow and tasting, led by a Master of Whisky from Diageo (I finally heard this pronounced: I think it's "Dee-AH-zhee-oh"). Diageo is the company that now apparently owns a wide variety of distilleries, which now fall under the "Classic Malt" designation. We got to taste peated and unpeated barley, and examine chunks of peat and barrel wood. We got to rub and smell (but not taste) some very bready, malty, yeasty "new make spirit," or un-aged whisky, at 126 proof.

The whiskies that were part of the guided tasting were the Glenkinchie 12, Dalwhinnie 15, Singleton of Glendullan 12, Oban 14, Lagavulin 16, and Crown Royal Black. (One of these things is not like the other, but they are all owned by the same company now.) I had tasted several of these -- the Singleton is a great bargain and I own a bottle. The Lagavulin 16 is an iconic Islay whisky.

The Glenkinchie is a young and dry whisky, hot and peppery with a little malt, citrus, and vanilla, and no peat. It is pretty good stuff, but a little too sweet and hot for my taste. Ken noted that this one mellows out considerably with a little water.

I've had Dalwhinnie before, but not for many years -- the floral notes are very nice, but again, it is not my preferred style.

The Oban, which I had never tasted, was very good, with a cluster of fresh stone fruit notes. Grace enjoyed the Oban as well. (We've recently been debating what constitutes masculine and feminine whisky -- that is, which ones apparently appeal more to the different genders and why. We haven't gotten it all figured out yet, but the Oban 14 is a little on the feminine side).

The Crown Royal Black was interesting enough to get a paragraph to itself. It is aged in charred barrels, and the result was very unusual -- an extremely sweet nose, with a very notable aroma of black licorice, and some fruits I've never tasted in a whisky before, particularly rasberry. It was sweet and extremely smooth. It was too sweet for my taste, but that maturation regimen seems interesting and I'd be curious to see what else could be done with it.

In addition to the drinks that were part of the guided tasting, Stadium Market had a number of others on hand: The Macallan 12, Fine Oak 10, and Fine Oak 15; The Glenlivet 12, Nadurra 16, and 18; Laphroaig 10; Ardbeg 10; Highland Park 12, 15, and 18; and a rum called Ron Zacapa. There were a few others available. I decided that after having tasted so many already, I could not do justice to fairly comparing the nuances of the different bottlings The Glenlivet and The Macallan, so I skipped those and focused on tasting just a few more. I'd love to give them a try sometime -- it would be especially nice if those distilleries had sample-size gift sets available, like the Glenmorangie collection and The Balvenie collection.

We already own a bottle of Highland Park 18, which I have previously reviewed. The 12 and 15 were very interesting in that context. Grace and I both agreed that we prefer the 15, just as I prefer the 15-year-old Glenfiddich. The 15 is very nice -- a little more buttery and bready than the 18, with light smoke and peat, and some distinct dried fruit flavors (prunes, raisins, figs). The 18 has these same flavors, for the most part, but by comparison they seem a bit muted and indistinct. The 12 was a little hotter and more sugary, with light honey notes, and while good, just couldn't quite compare. So, when we finish up the 18, we will probably buy a bottle of Highland Park 15. It was a good illustration of the way in which age and price don't necessarily produce a result you will automatically prefer.

I also took my first taste of Ardbeg (the 10), and found it to be very good stuff -- not quite as pungent as Laphroaig, but very well-balanced, with very appealing sweet flavors offset by the smoke. It answered the question I had in the back of my mind about Ardbeg, which was "is it different enough than Laphroaig to justify buying a separate bottle?" The answer is that if you are an Islay fan, yes, it definitely is. Although the Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Laphroaig, and Ardbeg all seem to me to cluster fairly tightly together, while the Bunnahabhain is more notably different in character. The Bunnahabhain is still my favorite Islay, perhaps largely for sentimental reasons. I'm not sure which of that "cluster" of Islay distilleries I prefer, although the Ardbeg 10 is now a serious competitor. I will have to taste it again, and write it up more formally, very soon!

I decided that in order to avoid exceeding my alcohol limit, I would skip the Bulleit bourbon, although I was tempted by the wonderfully rich color. I also skipped the Bushmills 10, a peated Irish whisky, although I was also curious about that. I did taste the Ron Zacapa rum, which I found to be unlike any rum I've ever tasted -- wonderfully smooth and sweet, with buttery caramel flavors. It would be a crime to use it as a mixer. I have a friend who I think might enjoy it, so I'll have to recommend it to him. I think for now I'll stick primarily to scotch, though. If I start sampling bourbons, rums, tequilas, where would it end? (Bankruptcy, possibly, and maybe rehab...)

Thanks to the Stadium Market and Bab's Underground Lounge crew for putting on such a great event. I look forward to the next one!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Two Special Malts: Arran Malt 10 and Lagavulin Distiller's Edition (1993/2009)

I'm not going to formally review these tonight or give them numbers, but I wanted to type up a few notes on a couple of special bottles I picked up today. We are closing on a house tomorrow. I will probably shortly have to put a moratorium on any new whisky purchases, or at least drastically curtail them. I'm going to have to put my dollars towards things like a new furnace. Fortunately, though, I go through these bottles very slowly, and so the bottles already on hand could probably last me upwards of a year!

The Lagavulin 16 was the whisky that inspired me to start writing reviews. My original review's permalink is here. I was pretty new to Islay whisky, and my palate was fascinated, but also a little bit overwhelmed, by the amazing "peat bomb" that is the Lagavulin 16 -- it is even smokier and richer than the Laphroaig Quarter Cask, and so occupies a position by itself on the Classic Malts flavor map.

Because I enjoyed the Talisker Distiller's Edition so much, I was very eager to taste the Lagavulin version. I did not pour myself a full dram, but just a few sips to taste and nose. The buzz is that it is 16-year-old Lagavulin, given a little extra aging in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks (sadly, I don't know very much about sherry, but I do know that the types of sherry vary a great deal: I've had Amontillado as a very nice dessert wine; we use Marsala, another fortified wine, for making Spanish Torta crusts; and I used a Manzanilla in my French Onion Soup, but it tastes pretty nasty by itself. According to Wikipedia, Pedro Ximenez is a dark and "intensely sweet" dessert wine).

The color of the finished whisky is quite dark, and it has a very waxy cling to the glass, leaving a sort of ridge, with hardly any noticeable legs.

Unlike some other sherry-finished malts, this one does not remind me of maple or honey; it is not extremely sweet. The notes are more of dried fruits, such as raisins and apricots and even papaya, fig newton cookies, and blood oranges. It also has perhaps the faintest hint of sulfur. The flavor is very rich, and has a bit of mellowing biscuit maltiness that is very pleasant.

It seems to me that a lot of those big, beautiful Lagavulin medicinal and seashore notes have been muted more than I would have expected, so at least initially I am just a bit disappointed. I'd be a little frightened of the prospect of a cask-strength standard Lagavulin 16, but maybe a cast-strength version of this one would be more exciting in the mouth?

I'll do a fuller review in the near future, but for the moment I will just say that the complexity and richness here is amazing, and I am especially impressed by the finish; five minutes after finishing my last sip, I'm still tasting kumquat peels, a dry lingering driftwood smoke, tamarind, and peppered beef jerky. In fact, my impression of this whisky keeps going up as I experience the finish, and sniff the empty glass!

And now for something completely different -- ever since reading about Arran Malt in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible, I've been looking forward to tasting something from the young upstart, the Isle of Arran Distillery. Stadium Market had only one bottle from this distillery, stashed up on their top shelf, and the box was very dusty, which tells me that this one is not selling like hotcakes.

Arran Malt 10 is entirely unpeated, and as a result on the nose it immediately reminds me of an Irish whisky, such as the Knappogue Castle. This one is very different, and so my nose is initially a little confounded, and I find myself thinking "wow, that smells good, and vaguely familiar -- but what is it?" So far I've got: nilla wafers, toasted coconut, lemon peel, honey, cinnamon-topped sweet bread pudding and something like creamy peanut butter fudge. (Really? yes, really!)

In the glass the Arran Malt 10 is a beautiful, rich gold, and has short legs. On the tongue the flavor startled me -- remember that peanut butter fudge? It's hot and lemony in the back of the throat, but on the front of the tongue there's a whole complex set of raw or lightly cooked barley flavors -- like steel-cut oats, couscous, buckwheat (kasha), and cracked bulghur wheat. (These seem to be what produces that nutty nose). These barley flavors are not unique, but in most other distiller's bottlings they seem to be very faint, and they lean more towards malted, baked flavors: sweet shortbread or wholemeal digestives. This difference may have something to do with the distiller using a wide "cut" -- that is, using more of the original distillate, and the lack of chill filtering. At 46% ABV it is a fairly hot whisky, and my wife Grace finds it a little bit unpleasantly raw in the throat, but yet those barley flavors are so smooth. It wouldn't be a crime to cut this one with a little water.

This is very good stuff. The Isle of Arran Distillery is producing a number of special finishes, but the 10 is proof that you don't need a long aging and fancy woods to get very fine flavor out of barley and water!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stadium Market Scotch Tasting FYI

(Click for a larger image)

Grace and I will be there -- and plan to get a cab home! Stadium Market is my scotch whisky pusher. I'm itching to pick up a bottle of the new Lagavulin Distiller's Edition, and maybe an Arran, and maybe a Balvenie Portwood 21... but these all cost money, some of them quite a bit of it, and I go through these bottles so slowly that I'm going to need to have a tasting party of my own to clear out some room first!
Just a reminder that our *Spring Scotch Tasting* will take place ONE WEEK FROM TONIGHT (Monday, April 26) at *Bab's Underground Lounge *from *7-9pm*.

Over a dozen scotches from 4 different regions

4 special bottles from Diageo including a NEW CROWN ROYAL

A seminar hosted by a Master of Whisky

Appetizers from our kitchen

Discussions with Brand Managers, our staff, and each other

Tickets are on sale at Stadium Market for $20.

Bab's is located on 213 S. Ashley, across from the Home and Garden Center downtown. There are parking lots in blocks adjacent to it.

Any questions, comments, or concerns do not hesitate to contact us. And please, if you know anybody who might be interested, do not hesitate to forward this email.

See you soon!

Stadium Market
1423 E. Stadium Blvd.
Ann Arbor, Mi, 48104

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The WikiLeaks Video

The eagerness of the Apache helicopter crew to open fire is clear, and disturbing. But the contention that the journalists were with a group of non-combatant civilians may be incorrect. Take a look at this animated GIF:


Is that a camera? It doesn't look like a camera to me. I suppose it could be a tripod, but I think there is reasonable suspcion that it may be an RPG launcher. WikiLeaks has claimed on their resources page that a a camera was mistaken for an RPG launcher, and they've got a photo of said camera:

But even with a long lens, it doesn't look nearly as long as the the 3-foot to 4-foot thing in the picture.

I got this from a comment in this thread on

Note the characteristic diamond-shaped head that seems like a pretty close match to an RPG: RPG (Wikipedia Entry)

I'd also expect a tripod to swing a little differently, with most of the weight in the head, not the legs.

Here's another image:

It looks a lot like one of these (again, from WikiLeaks), doesn't it?

Notice the position of the strap, and thus the way it would swing if you were walking around with it hanging from your hand.

These seem to be from the original video at right around 3 minutes 40 seconds.

Here's a full-frame still (click to magnify).

Do you see an RPG, or not?

Here is a series of photos arguing that there was an RPG, and that the American convoy on the scene was at risk from it.

Here is an argument that it wasn't an RPG.

What do you think? It's a bit of a Rorschach test, isn't it?

Reports from the aftermath seem to claim that at least one RPG was found at the scene. But they do not seem to be from an independent source, and given the military's history of withholding information, and allegations of planting weapons at scenes like this, I'd like to see independent verification.

If the group was carrying at least one loaded RPG launcher, then we still have a tragedy, but the scenario looks a little different. An RPG is not a defensive weapon. A man carrying one wouldn't be a bodyguard to a journalist; he'd likely be an insurgent. The judgment of the journalists in choosing to "embed" with armed insurgents may legitimately be questioned. Ground troops in the area reported coming under RPG fire, and while the Apache helicopter was much too far away to be at risk from an RPG launcher, it was on the scene to support the ground troops.

I have not seen any evidence that I feel can justify the later shooting of the van, however.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Scotch Whisky Review: Highland Park 18

Highland Park is an icon among distilleries and frequently wins awards. They cut their own peat, and apparently mix in heather, which might account for the honey notes. Where Bunnahabhain holds a special place in my heart for its particular style of oily, nutty, mildly peaty flavors, Highland Park's bottlings are my wife's personal favorites.

In the glass this dram is quite dark and reddish, an attractive jewel-like amber color. The texture is oily.

On the nose, there are some peaty phenols, a damped-down Listerine flavor, blended with muted vanilla and toffee, but not overwhelming caramel, and a very light toasted bread -- it isn't very malty. The chocolate in this one is a light milk chocolate. There's a complex set of floral notes that I'm not sure I can fully unpack: rose, lavender, carnation? Warm the glass and there are some intriguing fruits: pear, banana, raisin. Nutty notes: almond. There's a light honey, or maybe golden syrup? Spices: nutmeg, cinnamon.

On the tongue, the immediate impressions are creamy sweetness and a full-bodied smokiness. The fruits and nuts and flowers maintain a wonderful balance. The whisky is warm, but extremely smooth. The mouth feel reminds me of the wonderful smoothness of The Tyrconnell. This finish is long and the sweetness and smoke remain wonderfully matched, with neither predominating.

Whisky writers have a tendency to gush about this whisky, and can't disagree with them. It's extremely fine stuff! And yet, I can't help but feel that the flavors and aromas are all just slightly damped-down -- perhaps the aging has taken a little too much off the "edge" of this whisky? Or perhaps it just covers too many bases? Therefore, I rate it a 9, not 9.5. After exploring a lot of Islay bottlings, and some younger beverages, I seem to have developed a tasted for slightly rougher, odder stuff. So while I would certainly never pass it up, my quest to find the ultimate malt for my own personal tastes continues.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Scotch Whisky Review: Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban

The Quinta Ruban is an "expression" of Glenmorangie, given a little extra aging in casks that formerly held ruby port.

In the glass, the color is a little ruddy, a little tawny -- a bit darker red and brown than the standard Glenmorangie 12. The legs are short and it has a slightly waxy appearance.

The nose suggests immediately that this is an after-dinner drink: the usual Glenmorangie vanilla sandwich cookie and candied orange peel aromas are supplemented by a very rich blast of port wine smells, redolent of dark chocolate and peppermint, and a little bit of smooth tobacco smoke to cut the sweetness. There are a few other notes: cinnamon, candied fruits, and dark rum. A reviewer notes "maraschino cherries" and I think that flavor description is definitely applicable.

On the tongue, the texture is tannic and dry. There's an immediate hit of something tart, like green apple, and as the fruits roll through and the malt and chocolate notes linger the, subtle smokiness hangs on, so that the long finish is bittersweet chocolate and dark, almost bitter, burnt toast, yielding a net effect something like having just sucked up the last strawful of a hot fudge malt milkshake and following up the milkshake with a cigarette. (Yes, if you hadn't guessed, I'd advocate drinking this as a dessert drink, although I don't find that sweetness to be overly cloying). That slight oily/waxy quality also lingers, and is not entirely pleasant, but it isn't a deal-breaker by any means.

Overall, this whisky gets extra points for the very well-balanced blend of bourbon oak and ruby port oak flavors. The flavors seem slightly muted, and it pales a little bit in comparison to The Balvenie PortWood 21, but those dark chocolate and malt flavors together are really delicious, and at $40-$50 it costs a fraction of what the PortWood 21 costs. It would be a good introduction to the "extra matured" expressions; if you have the Original (12 year), the Quinta Ruban (Port), the Nectar D'or (Sauternes), and the La Santa (Sherry), even in sample size, you've pretty much got the material for a nice little tasting party all centered around one distillery.

I give this one an 8.0. Maybe at some point I'll get to taste the 18 and 25!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Scotch Whisky Review: Talisker Distiller's Edition 1998

This one has been kicking around the kitchen for a month or so -- I've tasted it a couple of times, but didn't get around to reviewing it. It's about time!

The Distiller's Edition is finished in an Amoroso Sherry cask. I previously reviewed a standard 10-year-old Talisker here. That Talisker I didn't review very highly -- I gave it only a 7.5. Let's see how it compares to this special (and considerably more expensive) Distiller's Edition. This one was distilled in 1998, and bottled in 2009, making it (roughly) an 11-year-old whisky.

In the glass this is a rich orange-straw in color, with a bit of that oily cling and short legs. The nose is big, robust, and complex: dried orange peel, potpourri, wood smoke, that Talisker iodine, a lot of vanilla-inflected oak, and some dried fruit notes, like dates.

In the mouth the texture is soft and very lush -- not oily but velvety, reminding me a bit of a red wine with soft tannins. The heat is thrilling but not overhwelming. On the tongue this whisky is spicy, with pepper, cloves, and nutmeg, and is, intriguingly, both dry and quite sweet simultaneously. The extra sweetness seems to have come from the sherry, and is reminiscent of maple or brown sugar. There are some wonderful rich cocoa notes, hazelnuts, and a hint of spearmint. The nutty elements remind me just a bit of Bunnahabhain, one of my favorites. The smoke and peat remain in the background, deepening the flavor, while the sweeter flavors are up front. It's a very appealing and rich combination. This is seriously good stuff!

With water, the cocoa comes forward a bit, and the sherry notes become slightly more prominent, reminding me of apricot jam on toasted bread. That fantastic tannic texture is still present. Personally I like it better neat; it's not meant to be drunk quickly. But if you find the heat and sweetness too strong, try it with a little water.

This is 9.0 material -- highly recommended. And it's "more-ish" -- this bottle will not last us long!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Scotch Whisky Review: McClelland's Single Malt Islay

Tonight's dram is another of the McClelland's lineup of budget-priced malts -- this time, the Islay version. This leaves only the Lowland version to taste.

In the glass, this is a dark orange-gold, and clearly young -- the legs are short and brisk, but it lacks that oily, waxy texture.

On the nose, there is a goodly blast of peat smoke -- very medicinal, like Listerine, and just a little bit of sweet vanilla and malt, with a little iodine and salt -- it is hard to detect much else. The McClelland's site says "citrus," and I guess I can conjure a little orange peel.

In the mouth it is more promising. There's an initial caramel, maple (that is, Sherry-like) sweetness, with a little vanilla and honey. It's drying, but not exceedingly hot, with a lingering phenolic finish. The finish doesn't have the complexity and the "waves" of sweetness and peat that Laphroaig or Lagavulin has. It is pleasant, but doesn't really tantalize the tongue. It makes me crave a Caol Ila 12. There is something just slightly off-putting in the finish -- an undertone of bitterness, maybe, like a 90% dark chocolate -- that does not harmonize, and is not enjoyable. A reviewer I found called it "astringent," "green," and "raw." Another called it "grappa," and although I like grappa, a scotch whisky should not be reminiscent of a pungent liquor made of grape skins. My wife made similar comments -- that it tastes too much like moonshine.

With a little water, it sweetens slightly -- the smoke flavors become a little bit more subtle, and the vanilla (from oak aging) becomes more predominant. I'd say it is a little better wet, although not dramatically so.

It appears I may have mistakenly thought that the McClelland's Speyside was a 5-year old Bowmore. It seems that this one may be the Bowmore. The word is that the 8-year-old Bowmore "Legend" is better. Maybe I'll get the chance to compare them at some point.

Overall, where the Speyside was intriguing and complex, this one is too basic to really qualify as excellent. A few more years in the cask would probably make a world of difference. I rate this one only a 6, which is the lowest rating I've given out so far. As my wife says "there are things I like about it, but the things I like the most about scotch whisky aren't in it."

We're both unenthusiastic about finishing our glasses. This is the first whisky where I've actually poured the last of my glass into the sink, and so I can't really recommend it, even at the budget price point. Grace is going to try to figure out if it will work to soak some kind of cake. It's also the first single malt scotch I'd be willing to mix into a cocktail (McClelland's provides a recipe for a drink they call an Islay Smokestack that sounds tasty). I'd review that but we are missing some of the ingredients. Perhaps another time!

UPDATE: having tasted this a couple more times, I'm removing my rating altogether and just putting it in the category of "Avoid." Although the initial nose and flavor is still pleasant, that bitter, metallic after-taste follows you around, like chewing on foil, and it actually upsets my stomach. It almost seems similar to Pine Mouth. I'd almost believe that this was contaminated with something, but a more likely explanation is just that too much of the "tail" from the still was used and it contains some of the nasty compounds known as Fusel Alcohols.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Beating the High Price of Scotch Whisky, Part 2: Bargain Bottlings

In a previous post I talked about using sample sets to give yourself an opportunity to taste a variety of whiskies, and train your palate, without having to lay out a huge amount of cash.

But let's say you want to buy a few bottles to keep on hand. Bottles don't have to be hugely expensive to be quite good! I'd like to be able to buy a bottle of The Balvenie PortWood 21, but they go for about $150. I'll do it at some point, but meanwhile, you could buy bottles of all of these for less than that one bottle:

1. Glenfiddich 15 is a very round, well-balanced, and enticing, "more-ish" dram that should appeal to both novices and more advanced tasters who just want something that isn't a peat or spice bomb. Its primary notes are butterscotch and citrus, and it has a great mouth feel and long, appealing finish.

2. McLelland's Single Malt Speyside is a great malt as well, with a number of fruity, creamy notes, like banana and dried fruit, on top of mint, menthol, dark chocolate, and pine -- very light and elegant, more like an Irish whiskey than a Scotch whisky in some ways! (You might try the McLelland's Highland while you're at it, although I rated the Speyside slightly higher).

3. The Tyrconnell, which is an Irish whisky, can be had at nice low price as well. This one is really intriguing, with flavors of shortbread, lime, green apple, and American cheese. It has an amazingly pleasing mouth feel as well.

4. The Singleton of Glendullan goes here for about $36, and it's a well-balanced dram with a lot going on, so I'll include it -- you'll find nice notes of orange, honey, vanilla, sandalwood, and dried fruits.

5. Finally, I enjoyed the Glenfiddich 12 quite a bit, although I did not find it quite as appealing as the 15. It's got butter pecan ice cream going on, and baked apples, as well as interesting floral notes that remind me of baclava made with rosewater.

Scotch Whisky Review: Glenfiddich 15

I've been meaning to finish this one for some time -- I have only half the sample-sized bottle of Glenfiddich 15 left, so I'd better review it before it is gone!

If you have been reading my reviews, you know that I enjoyed the flavor of the Glenfiddich 12 quite a bit, while I found the 18 to be disappointing. I had hoped that I might find the 15 to be just right. Let's see how it fits between the two.

In the glass, the color is very pretty -- a somewhat unusual orange-gold, with a hint of dried clover green. It clings well, with luxurious legs.

So what's on the nose? Right off the bat, there is a potent butterscotch aroma, taking me back to hard candies at my grandmother's house. There are some nice toasted nut aromas, particularly candied pecans. There's a definite toasted coconut note, and marzipan. It's got some peaty phenols in the background, too, that definite Listerine antiseptic note, and some pine forest. Perhaps a little dark chocolate and marshmallow, like a pinwheel mashmallow cookie? Give this one some time to warm and evolve -- there's a lot going on in the nose!

On the tongue, it is quite syrupy; the dry sweetness and butterscotch notes are very pronounced. It is hot and drying, like a brandy, but gently so. There's a little salt and smoke; there's a little bit of lemon, but it's in the background, like lemon oil. There's a bit of cinammon. The finish is quite long, with evidence of all kinds of nuts; I taste those pecans, but also hazelnuts and Brazil nuts. The up front butterscotch is quite different and quite distinctive. The lack of fruit and floral aromas is also distinctive -- I wouldn't use either "honey" or "heather" to describe this whisky. Maybe "treacle," but not maple.

I'm told that the 15-year-old is matured using an unusual scheme in which whisky from 3 different types of casks are used: ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and new oak. The blend is then aged in a vat made of pine! I'm surprised that I can't taste the sherry much -- I've found whiskies aged in ex-sherry casks to be quite distinctive, sometimes losing some of the other whisky characteristics as they absorb that sweetish, maple sherry note. I usually equate young oak with vanilla, as in a young Glenmorangie, but in this whisky the vanilla is very light. There is a little of that oaky dryness though, and this scheme explains that pine forest note that is always there.

Overall, this is a wonderfully complex balance of flavors. It's sweet, but never cloying; dry, but not burning; peaty, but not overwhelming. The long, buttery, lemony finish is very enjoyable. It would make an excellent dessert drink. I rate it a 9.0 and will probably buy myself a bottle to share with friends.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Scotch Whisky Review: McClelland's Single Malt Highland

My subject for today's review is another in the McLelland's series of low-priced bottlings (here in Michigan, it goes for under $25 a bottle).

These bottles don't indicate a distillery and don't have an age statement, but as soon as I nosed this one I realized that it had a familiar aroma. After a sip, I'd almost bet cash money that it is a very young Glenmorangie. Speculation is rampant online; some have suggested that it may be a 5-year-old Glen Garioch. Since I've never tasted a Glen Garioch, I can't comment, but I'll keep an eye out for a bottle in order to compare the two.

It's got a whiff of peat smoke on the initial nose, an attractive light amber color and a very round and slightly oily mouth feel. On the tongue, there's that nice sweet cookie note, some fresh apple (a crisp, sweet, soft champagne-like Braeburn, Gala, or Pink Lady), some banana, and an unusual, hot, spicy cinnamon flavor that reminds me of cinnamon toast. That note is a little odd but still quite delicious. I'm curious where it came from!

There are some nice nuts in the background, particularly hazelnut. This whisky is hasn't developed a lot of the more complex oxidized flavors that sometimes show up in older whiskies, like dried fruits, leather, tobacco, or dates. It doesn't seem to have been aged in anything else other than the usual bourbon cask.

The finish is long and satisfying and this whisky is "more-ish" -- I just finished a small taste and I'm going to refill my glass.

Because it is relatively light, I don't recommend watering this one. A little water actually brings down the fruit notes, makes it taste much hotter on the tongue, and brings that cinnamon flavor forward so much that it is like drinking an atomic fireball candy; it isn't very enjoyable that way.

It doesn't have the weight and complexity of some of the heavy-duty bottlings, but this is a tremendous bargain, and would make a very good introduction to scotch whisky in general for a newcomer. I'd give it an 8.5, but that intense cinnamon when watered is overpowering, so I'll knock it down half a point to 8.0.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Scotch Whisky Review: The Balvenie DoubleWood 12

The Balvenie PortWood 21 is one of my absolute favorite scotch whiskies, so I had high hopes for this much less expensive bottling. Unfortunately it did not live up to them; it's certainly not bad, but it just doesn't have a lot of virtues. I noted some cigar magazines and blogs that reviewed it favorably and pointed out that it would go very well with certain cigars. I don't doubt that, but on its own it just isn't exciting.

This whisky is aged in the usual ex-bourbon cask. I couldn't find details on The Balvenie site, but some reviews I came across claim that it spends ten years in the ex-bourbon cask and then another two years in a Oloroso sherry casks. In the glass, it has a slightly dark maple syrup or burnt orange hue. It clings well, with short legs.

To evaluate the nose, I tried for some minutes to snort up anything really complex or subtle, but there wasn't a lot there. There is some oak, possibly a hint of cedar chest, the usual malt and vanilla, a little bit of tobacco smoke, and maybe a very faint lemon peel or fresh fruit note; I was reminded just a little bit, oddly, of blueberries.

In the mouth, there is a big wave of sherry flavors; it is reminiscent of maple, and of tawny port. It's quite sweet, with a long, warm, drying finish. I prefer this one with a little water; it takes down some of the sweetness. But on the whole, this one just isn't impressive enough to really savor. I'm sure I could find a really blockbuster tawny port for the same price that would be much more complex and flavorful. So, this one only gets a 7.0, not because it has any particular vices, but because it lacks virtues.

Skimming some online reviews, I seem to be out of the mainstream in my rating of this one; other reviewers mention "walnuts" and "honeysuckle" which I could be convinced of, various flowers and spices (which I can't find at all). It's enough to make me wonder if we're really tasting the same whisky!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Scotch Whisky Review: McCelland's Single Malt Speyside

So, tonight I'm tasting a single malt scotch that differs considerably from most of the single malts I've recently tasted. McClelland's apparently bottles a range of single malts representing regions: Lowland, Islay, Highland, and Speyside. It is also unusual in that it has no age statement, and goes here in Michigan for under $25 a bottle. That makes it a phenomenal deal in a field of beverages where the more famous bottlings usually go for more than twice that.

When I first took a taste of this, I could have sworn I was drinking an Irish whisky -- it's that different. The color in the glass is a pale, grassy gold, but with a slightly darker tinge, almost reddish. It makes me wonder if it was aged in a sherry cask. It clings to the glass like an Irish whisky, with a texture that is oily, thick, and almost resinous.

On the nose, there is a nice nice vanilla and maltiness, with a little bit of the oat flavor that I think Jim Murray calls "grist," but toasted, not raw as in some of the Irish whiskies. I detect some very light peat smoke. It has those "creamy" Irish notes: banana, and a dried fruit note: raisins, figs, and possibly dried cherry. Again, I suspect a possible sherry influence, but it would be brief.

In the mouth, there is a glutinous feel, a light burn in the back of the throat, and a custard-like creaminess that is very satisfying. Add a little water to this malt, which I recommend, and some of the drier flavors come forward. There is definitely a pronounced peppermint note, and also a medicinal menthol note; that might be part of what I'm imagining is a hint of peat. It's almost like a menthol cigarette without the tobacco. That makes it sound unpleasant, but the mint and menthol are actually quite enjoyable, like a mint julep or the mint leaves in a Mojito cocktail.

McClelland's web page suggests that the nose has "mint, menthol and freshly cut pine. Traces of fine dark chocolate and a lingering sweet malt aroma." I think that's fair. Pine? Maybe... but that makes me think of Pine-Sol cleaner, not this mild and refreshing whisky. The chocolate note is faint, not like it is in the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, but present. They describe the palate as having "nougat" -- sure, that's malty and sweet and nutty -- and "brazil and hazelnut." My palate is not quite trained enough to have picked those out of thin air, but yes, those oily tree nut notes really are there, both of them. They also call it "floral," which is also accurate -- maybe just a touch of carnation or rose, but not lavender?

If I've made it sound like this whisky has big robust flavors, I'm doing it a disservice -- the flavors and aromas are actually rather mild and delicate, and reward careful sipping.

I'm going to call this one 8.5. That places it neck and neck with the Tyrconnell, beating Knappogue Castle at 8.0. I'd say it is actually slightly more refined than the Tyrconnell, which has that unusual cheesy umami note, but I'm not giving out quarter-points. It is free of unpleasant notes and has quite a few intriguing flavors. This light and sweet style is not for everyone, but if you like Irish whisky, or you prefer the lighter Scotch whiskies, I'm guessing you'll enjoy this one quite a bit. I will be keeping an eye out for McClelland's other offerings.

Update: I've seen a lot of speculation online about the actual source of this whisky. Could it possibly be an 8-year-old Macallan? I'd have to do a direct comparison. Clearly, more research is called for!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Whisky as Old as I Am

So, I have this very special bottle of scotch whisky -- a Bunnahabhain 36-year-old, distilled in 1967. That's the year I was born.

Technically, whisky is only considered as old as the time it spent aging in casks, not after it was bottled. So the whisky does not really continue to age. I wish the same could be said of people!

I got this from an online seller in Florida, through a family friend who shipped it to me. The plan is to taste it at my tenth wedding anniversary in 2011. I don't know whether this will be an excellent Bunna, or over-aged. I've read tasting notes on some bottlings from around the same time and they are mixed. Whisky can spend too long in the cask; the alcohol content starts to go down, and some of the flavors may become faded. This was, I think, aged in a sherry cask, and I'm not a huge fan of what sherry casks do for some of the Glenmorangie whiskies, but... we shall see!

Old Bunnahabhain is apparently not quite as expensive as old Highland Park. For my wife, I'm looking for a bottle of Highland Park from her birth year, which is 1973.