What's It All About, eh?

Cape Breton evokes deep memories and strong emotions for me as well as a deep appreciation for the beauty of my adopted island. My hopes are that you too might find the photos evocative - maybe a view you've not enjoyed before, or an 'Oh I've been there', or if from away that you may be encouraged to visit this fair isle so that you might come to love and breathe Cape Breton as I do. One word about place names that I use - some are completely local usage while others are from maps of Cape Breton that I've purchased over the years. I frequently post travel and other photos that are of interest to me - and hopefully you.

On the right hand side bar find my take on Single Malt whiskey - from how to best enjoy this noble drink to reviews (in a most non-professional manner) of ones that I have tried and liked - or not. Also musings, mine and others, on life in general.

Photographs are roughly 98%+ my own and copy-righted. For the occasional photo that is borrowed, credit is given where possible - recently I have started posting unusual net photographs that seem unique. Feel free to borrow any of my photos for non-commercial use, otherwise contact me. Starting late in 2013 I have tried to be consistent in identifying my photographs using ©smck on all out of camera photos I personally captured - (I often do minor computer changes such as 'crop' or 'shadow' etc but usually nothing major), and using
©norvellhimself on all photos that I have played around with in case it might not be obvious. Lately I have dropped the ©smck and have watermarked them with the blog name.

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A Meandering Introduction to Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Although this section of my triumvirate blog is entitled Single Malt Scotch Whisky I will  occasionally write on a very good Irish Single Malt Whiskey or blended malts (more on blends later as they can be a little confusing) that have caught my fancy.  My postings are drawn mostly from my own experience and from lots of reading - both on the web and with some lovely published books on the same - and I am always eagerly open to constructive comments or differences of opinion.  You will find that my observations are quite unprofessional as compared to said books and web-sites but I feel they will provide quite a good guide when the arcane and secret language of professional guides leaves you wondering where in the heck they came up with terms like "overtures of burnt sails' or "faint lingering aftertaste of grape skins".

Out of the many many sites and books available I tend to stick with the following two:
Michael Jackson's Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch - (he died in 2008 so the 6th edition that I have is perhaps the last of this series of books) is a lovely book given to me as a birthday present.  I will refer to it  and an extremely comprehensive website http://www.maltmadness.com ( this guy, Johannes van den Heuvel is the most learned Scotch sampler and guide that I have yet to run across) from time to time. So read on and be assured that I am a firm believer in one making up their own mind about what is good or not, after having had some guidance in the general background of what we are interested in.

  Years ago when I was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Bushy Park in England (Eisenhower's old WWII headquarters in fact) I had only once ever drank alcohol of any kind. But some six months into my tour I slid into the 'going to the pub' group in our little outfit and started spending many a night in The Forrester's Arms in Twickenham and there for some unknown reason opted for Scotch Whisky as the standby drink of choice.  Some nights it was really appealing, and other nights I thought I was taking some medicinal beverage that tasted awful.  I knew nothing about brands, stills, blends, single malts, grain whiskeys, malt whiskeys and didn't much care, for the purpose of the drinking was to cure my overwhelming shy backwardness with society in general and the girls in particular.  As many a boy-into- man before me has found it might have made my questings easier in one sense but mainly if my mind was fogged then the lassies found me boring and callow.  Eventually I became accustomed to holding my drink, some of life's mysteries were banished and my bonding experiences moved along much better.  After my tour of duty was finished I returned to my home, rented an apartment and sent for my English fiance and settled down to the business of being a provider and a father.  And except for holidays when I would occasionally tipple a bit much at parties and such, I was pretty much of a straight arrow and basically didn't drink at all but when I did it was Scotch.  Many years have passed and I still enjoyed scotch from time to time and gradually - like my early romancing - I became more accomplished at finding an enjoyable bottle.  As I write this I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about some dozen or so different brands but know that I am far from a true connoisseur of the whiskey world - and in point of fact I run into few who are.  Most equate cost with quality which occasionally works but often fails completely.
     However I really feel good about sharing some of my experiences both with the new-comer to the field and with those of you that might be with or beyond me in familiarity with the Water-of-Life ('Uisge Beathe', being Gaelic for 'water of life', and from which the English anglicized the first part as 'whiskey'  - for a succinct history of whiskey go to http://www.whisky.com/history ) yet would like a different take on an old favorite or some information on a brand they've never tried.
   All books and websites reflect the taste proclivities of the writer - just as here on this site -  presenting the information.  But in general there seems to be a  consensus of opinion on whether a particular drink is great, or good, or average or rarely poor.  Different folk will rate one a 95 while another might say it is a 90 maybe even an 85 but there is no doubt that it is good to great.  So compare your take on a drink with whatever guide you are following and see how your opinions compare.  Even if you disagree completely you can still use their tasting as a guide e.g. they say great - you say average, they say average - you think great.  Then in that event that you are looking for a new bottle see what your guide has to say.   Perhaps in this case they say average - well heck you probably will think it's great.
   The next posting will outline some of the basic terms and such with regard to the language, the ingredients, and other things of that ilk.  But I would like to finish up this 'Meandering Intro..' with a few comments on the 'how-to' do the drinking itself.  (and remember this is a general guideline only - what you choose to do is your own affair).  
     A good Scotch is best sipped 'neat', i.e. with no ice as the room temperature brings out the flavour to its fullest, and with no liquid added.  If you like a mixed drink with ginger ale or such that's fine with me - I've done it and liked it - but don't waste money on a high priced bottle of Single Malt or on a well known blend.  White Horse blended Scotch Whisky is quite inexpensive, decently smooth, has a distinctive scotch flavor and will do well for a mixed drink.  Occasionally there will be a single malt to which adding a few drops of water miraculously enriches the flavour.  Usually the literature will advise you on this - but as always try it yourself - both ways - perfectly neat, then neat with a few drops of cool water and see what you think.
    A good rounded goblet - like a small brandy sniffer say - is the best way to sip your complex single malt - and they all are, even the least of them.  You will see the stemless wine glass that I use in the photos on the individual bottles that I review.  Never use a standard whiskey (with an e) shot glass - they were designed to help you toss back at a swallow some uninteresting grain whiskey.  With the rounded goblet, the fumes will be concentrated enabling one to inhale the aroma at its fullest - in everything smell is the overwhelming carrier of taste to our brain and Scotch is no exception.  
      Take your time, smell the aroma, sip a small amount and let it roll across your tongue, and enjoy that small explosive feeling as your taste buds are literally assaulted with a complexity of flavour and burning feeling that sends the signal to your mind that this is real whisky.  Wait awhile, talk with a friend or if alone think about the whisky.  Then again another sip - this time it is a bit friendlier, a bit tastier. and yes you can tell that there is a slight oily bodiedness or there is a bit of brine there.  Some five to fifteen minutes is no long time at all for a finger or two of  a good Scotch.  When you are acclimated to the complexities of the single malt you will find that even the best of the smooth blends seem dull and uninspiring - good, sure, but somehow the word bland will come to mind - then you are, newcomer or not, a connoisseur of the single malt Scotch Whisky world.   
    My Postings on Single Malt  As a final word in these meanderings I have to tell you that my production of pages on individual single malts will be slow - I don't drink a great deal and Single Malts are fairly dear in  price - so I go for a new taste sensation about once a month.  I do have some bottles on hand and will be able to crank out a few a little quicker now that this blogging thing is not as new to me.  If you like the photos of Cape Breton I have quite a few so I easily get one or two posted a day.  But the discourse on a good (or maybe not so good) single malt takes some time - to drink it several times at least, to think about it - to read about it and try and determine if I think the author of what ever I read is in agreement with me, or nutsy as hell with an off the wall "faint overtones of oyster shell".  At least  with me you will get my opinion as I see it as a lover of the malt.


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