I’ll post a full review later of the mighty Laphroaig 18 that I enjoyed this weekend (amazing), but for now here is proof that aside from being the Scottish Laird of one square foot in Glencoe, I enjoy a lifetime lease on one square foot of Islay.
How bad will it get? That was the question yesterday for Annapolitans.
As it happens, 6-8 inches before I even started shoveling.
It’s started snowing again and we’ve already got an additional inch on the ground. Lovely.
I heard of High West Campfire incidentally, via the Americana, in Seattle. It’s a blended whiskey (bourbon, rye, and scotch) from Park City, Utah. Priced just above $50, it took me a few visits to liquor stores in my area to find it.
I was actually working on another story about Rye and it’s place in American culture when I saw that Americana was offering this blend of bourbon, rye, and scotch. High West likens the blend to the peaty, earthy flavors that experienced drinkers will associate with Islay scotch whisky.
Honestly, my recent experience with rye whiskey has brought those flavors into focus, so I was well prepared for High West Campfire. The downside being that drinkers unfamiliar with rye will taste the bourbon and scotch more than anything else. That’s not an unattractive combination, but those flavors are very defined in High West Campfire. Even when mellowed with a splash of water or rocks, the flavors of this whiskey were more like a tricolor flag than a deep, richly colored banner.
Now, I admit I am not usually a fan of blended whiskeys, but I am warming to them as I recognize where the real value is. High West Campfire is, frankly, not a value whiskey. It’s priced like a highland scotch and I am fine with that given the craft that goes into it. My only real complaint about High West Campfire is that the Islay doesn’t come through enough, and the bourbon a little too much. I’m not a fan of sweet bourbons, so that is probably a surprise to no one. Still, I’d highly recommend High West Campfire to anyone with who enjoys both.
Enjoy High West Campfire in front of a fire, or an episode of Deadwood. Either way, it’s a solid whiskey that takes the edge off with a style all its own.
It all started when the famous actor, Erik Harrison, showed me this…
I decided to give myself a project: learn about scotch. I’d been a vodka man for nearly 20 years, but scotch is a libation I didn’t know much about. And Frankly, scotch is an upgrade from the party crew of call vodka, rum, and tequila. So I began reading and tasting, and then tasting some more. I tasted a dozen scotches, mostly single malts. Names of faraway distilleries invited me, each scotch having its own personality. The collegial Macallan. The unassuming Oban. The mighty Laphroaig!
But then it happened. I was standing in a liquor store in Fenwick Island, Delaware and I saw it. As soon as the name appeared to me, I could hear Brian Cox’s voice. The cognac of whiskies. Like a depth charge. Pow. Lagavulin. As a relative novice in the world of single malts, I did not nearly grasp Lagavulin’s complexity at first sip. It was a rolling river of mystery, a waterfall of complexity. I wasn’t discouraged, just excited. But this scotch wasn’t ready to reveal itself. I put the bottle away for the night after one glass neat. Second glass: rocks. I went easy on myself and tried to unlock this scotch by force. It was a ride in an old luxury car. Made for elegance. There was subtlety and depth. The door was unlocked, just not open. On the third night, I cracked the code. I struggled to stop at two glasses. An amazing discovery!
Now you’ve probably noticed that I really haven’t told you what Lagavulin tastes like. I prefer to simply describe my experience. I have found tasting notes often make no sense to me. Maybe because I don’t know what iodine tastes like. In any case, the point is this: take the time to taste scotch. Drink it slowly. Ignore the sanctimonious who say neat is the only way to enjoy scotch. The flavors are yours to unlock and they will be different for you than they were for me. Either way (neat, rocks, or with a splash of water), Lagavulin doesn’t disappoint.
It’s been a difficult last two weeks dealing with the loss of Seth and Nicole. The flurry of thoughts and feelings is like a swarm of gnats until reality sets in, and then it only diminishes because you realize that you have no control over the thing.
Seth was, of course, Seth Vidal. Famous for creating YUM (which means nothing to you unless you work in Linux or Free Software). To me, he was an inspiration, a tiny bit mentor, and a guy to share a story with on a hot day while you waited for Locopops in Chapel Hill to open. Seth was one of the kindest people I knew and he was just as ready to point out (with kindness) where you were wrong. Seth was a good smart guy and honest.
Nicole Weeks was a woman who I had just gotten to know. In fact, I’d been chasing her for two months and she’d finally agreed to let me take her out when she passed suddenly. She was a beautiful woman, of course, but easy to talk to and very smart. PhD smart. I didn’t get enough time with her, but I’m glad for what I did get.
I am finally starting to feel the firmament of acceptance. It’s the gladness of having known them and a warmth that helps dissipate the halting difficulty of an emotional sentence about her dark hair, or the work he did.
When we lose someone suddenly, we’re left with a blank spot where there is a fondness and untainted memory. The warm gusts of hope and the bright light of a new day shine on my face unwelcome at first. I’m not ready to let grief go, and I’m struggling to come out of this in one piece. Losing two people I care about within a week is the kind of thing that makes you angry at God. For sure, the big guy and I are not on good terms right now. But the sun of recovery warms my shoulders like an old friend. Maybe that’s Him looking after me. Or Seth. Or Nicole. The difference between yesterday and today is that today I am looking for that sun.