kill da bottle tasting (or something completely random)

Raz – Hmmm, Whisky Sugar cookies are good. I’m starting with the Edradour series we are here to kill and proceeding on to the Edradour 16 for good measure. No tasting notes here sorry but it’s good to see so much good stuff on the table just on the fly.

Meliko – Going through the Edradour series was very interesting; they’re all quite different.  Least fave was the port, most fave was the burgundy, with the chardonnay and sauterne also both relatively pleasant.  The 12 year had the most readable story: sweet and caramel to the nose, initially mellow then gently smoky on the tongue. 

Fergus– The 14 year Balvenie is sweeter than the 12 and is improved when you try a rum before tasting the 14. Trying it with a 72% dark chocolate does not seem to improve the taste and if you try  it with chocolate the whiskey seems to avoid the areas the chocolate cover. The Balvenie 12 signature being better than the 12 double wood has the opposite  effect from the 14 balvenie  the whiskey is improved by the chocolate and the whiskey layers itself onto the chocolate flavor. 

Raz – The flaming heart (Compass Box) is like being bum rushed by a dorm full of exchange student co-ed fetishists. 

Jean  – I concur with Fergus’ opinions on the Rumwood with the chocolate.  The Rumwood on it’s own is complex, but adding water eliminates the complexity and makes it flat.  I really enjoyed the Balvenie Signature with the chocolate – very smooth and buttery. Overheard: ‘Oh, dude – uh, oi’   

G – The Balvenie signature 12 starts without the bite of so many others. It rolls smoothly through the mouth and departs with a gentle kiss; a definite favorite. The add of the dark chocolate broadens the flavor. With this start, sampling the nose of the Edradours was all that I could contribute to that particular effort. A sip of the Dos Maderas (yes, rum) was a great post-food flavor. The additional ‘sweet’ made for a good dessert, so the sip fit very well. And the Welsh Penderyn seems to simply be a glass of water that happened to be in the room when some poor sot opened a Laphroaig.  

Call for Information on Melrose Rare Diamond Whiskey

I was recently contacted by an individual in search of some information about a particular bottle of Whiskey. If anyone has heard of a whiskey named “Melrose Rare, Diamond 12, Blended Whiskey”, please send off a note via the Contact link.

Unfortunately, the person requesting the information had a break-in last year. During the robbery, six bottles which had been his late father’s, were stolen. While we are certain this is no longer made or sold retail, the gent is trying to get an idea of its value.

Some of the details of the bottling can be seen in the two photos below:

Melrose and Company
Successors in Business to Records and Goldsborough
est’d. 1885

Melrose Rare Diamond Twelve
Blended Whiskey
Bottled by Melrose and Company, Aladdin, Fl.

Posted in American | Comments Off on Call for Information on Melrose Rare Diamond Whiskey

Raz’s Whisky Barley Stew

Raz’s Whisky Barley Stew



1 lbs cow meat (1/2″-3/4″ cubed)

1 onion (I used a yellow one, chopped course)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 turnip (1/2″ cubed)

2 good sized red potatoes (1/2″ cubed)

1 Can Beef Broth

1 Can Tomato Paste

1 tsp Pepper

1 tsp Salt

3 1/2 cups Water

1/2 cup whisky (should most likely be a full cup)

1 good splash Olive Oil

1 cup Pearled Barley




Place Olive-Oil, Salt, Pepper and Garlic into a large stock pot and heat up a bit.

Add the Onion and Meat. Brown until onion begins to caramelize (5 min for me)

Deglaze the pot with the whisky, being careful to not expose the liquor to open flame.

Add the water, beef broth, turnip, potato, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer (covered) for 2 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.

Check the moisture level. If the stew has thickened considerably, add water at this point to ensure the barley will cook properly and to get the consistency you prefer in a soup or stew.

Add Pearled Barley and simmer (covered) for an additional 1 ½ to 2 hours, stirring regularly. It’s done when the barley is soft all the way through.

Eat. Enjoy. Blog about it…



Raz’ Notes:

  1. Adding some highland whisky in at the browning section would probably be really good. If you try the whisky addition let me know how it comes out.
  2. This is based on a Scotts recipe I found on the web. I changed a few things, most notably adding the spuds because spuds are good.
  3. Towards the last 15 minutes the broth had become quite thick so I added a half cup of water and stirred it in. The original recipe called for 1 ½ cups of water.


Seamus’ Notes:

  1. I added 1 tsp dried Thyme, 1/2 cup Caol Ila 18yr. Scotch, an additional 1 1/2 cups water
  2. Use the Scotch to deglaze after caramelizing the onions and meat. Add the water/broth/etc. only after deglazing with the whiskey. 1/2 cup of scotch may be too little. Next time I will add a full cup and see how that fares.
  3. A bay leaf should probably be added next time. If this is done, put it in when the initial water is added.
  4. Following the directions, I added 2 1/2 cups of water at the beginning, and then found it necessary to add another cup of water when the barley went in to ensure proper saturation. This is a full 2 cups more than the original recipe.
  5. I added an Islay Scotch (Caol Ila 18yr.), not a highland. After cooking off the iodine nose, the end result was a fairly mild smokiness without any sweetness added by the whisky. Next time round, I think I will try adding a Balvenie to try and capture the sweetness too.
  6. I’d recommend using only potato OR only turnips. Using both increased the amount of food substantially and tended to make the dish a bit more complex. Next time, I think I will remove the potato and use only turnips for a more accurate representation and to simplify the dish.

Pictures of the process…









Jim Murray awards Arbeg with coveted top Whisky title!

As gleaned from the BBC News:
JimMurray, in his 2008 edition of his best-selling Whisky Bible, has awarded the Ardbeg 10 year the coveted top title of “World Whisky of the Year”.

As the BBC News reports:

<Murray> said in his guide: “To me Ardbeg is – and always has been – the most complex malt on earth.”

He added: “I have been visiting the distillery for nearly 30 years – long before anybody had heard of Ardbeg.

“And because I have long regarded this as the finest distillery in the world, I actually try to handicap the sample to iron out any natural bias.”

He said in his guide: “To me Ardbeg is – and always has been – the most complex malt on earth.”

He added: “I have been visiting the distillery for nearly 30 years – long before anybody had heard of Ardbeg.

“And because I have long regarded this as the finest distillery in the world, I actually try to handicap the sample to iron out any natural bias.”

So, here’s to you Ardbeg… may your drams continue to garner such high praise and acclaim from all who taste you!

Posted in Islay, Misc. News | Comments Off on Jim Murray awards Arbeg with coveted top Whisky title!

Oregon whiskies highlighted in Food & Wine Magazine

I knew there was a reason I was drawn to the Pacific North West. In the latest issue of Food & Wine magazine, I ran across an article highlighting “America’s Best New Whiskeys” which, to my surprise, focused entirely on four Portland area distilleries. The full article can be found here: Food & Wine America’s Best New Whiskeys (and don’t forget to check out the side-bar for the contact info for the distilleries: Food & Wine Oregon’s Best Places to Buy Local Spirits )

Unfortunately, only two of the four are at a point where they are selling finished products. The other two are still (get it, STILL, ah, I kill me) working and waiting for their respective whiskies to be completed before putting them on the market. In either case I am dying to go visit the distilleries and hopefully get a taste of their various products. Rest assure when this happens there WILL be articles posted!

Since Clear Creek Distillery looks to be holding an Open House on Thanksgiving Weekend, I think this may be a good time and excuse to get John, Mary and Colleen (who will be visiting that weekend) into the city and enjoying something entirely new: Oregon peated whiskey!

So, it looks like I have some tasting work cut out for me in the months ahead. But I’ll jump on that grenade for you all and report back with my findings. I’m a giver like that.

Posted in American, Misc. News | Comments Off on Oregon whiskies highlighted in Food & Wine Magazine

Tasting report: Estrella War XXIII Irish Whiskies Event

Date: February 15th, 2007
Estrella War, Chani/Paul/Fergus camp, someplace in Tir Ysgithr, Kingdom of Atenveldt

This tasting was setup as an East Coast 3DC tasting, hosted by Sean and Random. Since two Irishmen hosted the tasting, it’s natural that we chose Irish Whiskey for the tasting. The tasting consisted of two bottles of each of the following:

Tullamore Dew 12 year old blend
Bushmills 10 Year old single malt
Connemara 12 year single malt peated
Red Breast 12 year pure pot still
Jameson’s 12 year old blend
Michael Collins single malt pot still

Bonus Whiskey’s included;
Jamesons 18 year old blend
Sir Justin du Roc’s home made Whiskey (amazing stuff!)
Bushmills 21 year old single malt
Jameson’s distillery reserve 12 year old blend

The tasting was kicked off by Random with an introduction and notes on the differences between Irish Whiskey’s and other Whiskey’s (with our main focus on the difference between Irish and Scotch Whiskey’s). This included the different distillation processes, blending and rules of what can and cannot be called an Irish Whiskey. In attendance were approximately 30 3DC members, with anther 20 friends of the organization. A good time was had by all 🙂

Positive aspects of the tasting;

  • We had Lady Elaria order communion cups for the tasting. These are very small and ensured a good tasting, versus a drinking!
  • The history and information was well received and the conversations during the tasting certainly stayed focused on the whiskey. I heard many an “ooohh” and “ahh” as different types of Whiskey’s were sampled for the first time.
  • Fergus was on hand to provide 3DC history and answer general questions. Having an old time 3DC at the tasting is a must!
  • Two bottles of each Whiskey were available because each 3DC member brought a bottle or 2 through our communication before the event. This distribution helped ensure we had enough Whiskey without breaking any one’s bank 🙂
  • Simple food was provided. Cheese and crackers, with bottles of water to clear the palate. I was pleasantly surprised that all persons present made a concerted effort to ensure their palate was ready for the next tasting.

Opportunities for the next tasting at an SCA event:

  • A better pavilion to provide more cover and reflect lighting to enhance the experience and give the ability to see and write tasting notes.
  • More table space. With apx 16 bottles on the table, it was to small for food and water as well, or to give room for taking tasting notes.
  • Perhaps clip boards for tasters to write notes on in the future.
  • I am not sure how it has been done at prior tastings but we tried both letting the crowd pour for themselves and one or two individuals pour for everyone. I personally feel that a couple people pouring for the group was faster and kept the group on the same page better.

Perfect your tasting skills with the following easy guide for tasting an Irish:

  1. Pour yourself a nice Irish measure of Irish Whiskey. Warm the whiskey in the glass by cupping it between both hands. Sit back and admire the color.
  2. Nose the glass, embrace the aromas and distinct flavors of this dram.
  3. Taste the whiskey. Roll it around on your tongue, let your palate marvel the delights of the flavors that the whiskey is bringing it.
  4. Ponder and savor the taste. Take the time to contemplate the aromas and flavors
  5. Savor the taste explosion spreading across your palate in the aftertaste of the tasting.


Some notes on the whiskies presented:

Connemara 12 year Old Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey
The newly released Connemara 12 Year Old is already causing a stir among whiskey connoisseurs worldwide after scooping a Gold Medal at the World Spirit Competition in San Francisco in March 2004. Reflecting the region of Connemara, this magnificent 12 Year Old revives the age-old tradition and heritage of drying malted barley over peat fires. To the smooth, balanced malt and peat flavours of Connemara Peated Single Malt is added the lingering wood aftertaste to produce a whiskey of great complexity and sophistication. Truly, Connemara 12 year old has been worth the wait. John Teeling, Chairman of Cooley Distillery said “Our blenders and quality consultants have made us release the Connemara 12 year old. They believe that it is one of the best whiskeys in the world – bar none. It represents the pinnacle, to date, of Cooley distillation and maturing skills. The soft waters of the Cooley Hills, the warm caress of the copper pot stills, the breathing oak barrels from Kentucky, the ancient granite warehouses of Kilbeggan and 12 years in a perfect whiskey climate have combined to deliver this gem. We have very limited quantities, so savor while you can.”

Red Breast
The only aged Pure Pot still whiskey on sale today. Matured for a minimum of 12 years in Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon casks. Redbreast is a very special whiskey within the Irish Distillers fortified as it’s the only 12 year old Pure Pot Still available. It was first launched in 1939 as the brand name given to the pot still whiskey supplied by Jameson to whiskey bonders before bottling at the distillery became the norm in 1968. Stocks of whiskey in bonders’ stores petered out, and thus Redbreast all but disappeared until its re-launch by the distillery in the 1990s as a single pot still whiskey. This pure pot still whiskey is matured for a minimum of 12 years in sherry casks and Bourbon barrels. Like all good pot still whiskeys, it is strongly flavored and assertive, making it a rare treat for the connoisseur of fine old whiskey. As all premium whiskeys can be consumed neat, but for a better tasting the recommendation from our Master Blender is to add a drop of water to dilute the alcohol and so release the intense flavours of this unique Pot Still Whiskey.

Bushmills 10 Single Malt
Embodying all the centuries-old traditions of distilling at Bushmills, this is one of the very few Irish malt whiskeys available. Each drop of Bushmills Malt is carefully distilled three times and is made from 100% malted barley. The single malt Whiskey is matured for at least 10 years in specially selected American bourbon barrels stored in the warehouses adjoining the distillery. It’s here that the whiskey develops its full flavor, well-balanced character and light golden hue.

Tullamore 12-Year-Old Blend
Tullamore Dew 12-year-old is a deluxe blend with “a full, smooth, well-rounded whiskey, combining maltiness and pot still character. Sweet spicy notes overlay rich woody background from the bourbon casks used in maturation”. Its supreme quality has won it several international awards from whiskey connoisseurs in recent years. The 12 year old’s distinctive contemporary and classic packaging sets it apart from competitors.

Michael Collins Single Malt
Named for the legendary Irish hero, Michael Collins Irish Whiskey is the finest ultra-premium Irish whiskey. Affectionately known as “The Big Fellow,” Collins was the spearhead of Ireland‘s struggle for independence and the architect of the Treaty of 1921, from which modern Ireland emerged. He died at the age of 31, but his heroic spirit lives on in Michael Collins Whiskey.
Made at the only independent Irish-owned distillery in Ireland, Michael Collins is available in a blend and a single malt. With an aroma of honey, citrus, and malt notes, the blend has a taste that is clean and honey sweet with a fresh oak finish. Michael Collins Single Malt Irish Whiskey is well-rounded with a clean, malty, sweet citrus taste and wonderfully settled smoky flavor from the peat that lingers on the palate. Michael Collins Irish Whiskey’s the heroic spirit.

Jameson 12 Year Old
Originally bearing the name “1780”, the year the Distillery was founded, this whiskey now features its age statement as its name. Matured for a minimum of 12 years in Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon casks. A full bodied, superbly mellow pot still Irish whiskey.

A little history of Irish Whiskies…

“Uisce Beatha Eireannach” The Irish have always enjoyed two things: their drink and a good controversy. Irish Whiskey is a subject that incorporates both issues. While the exact origins are lost in the mists of time, it is generally accepted that the ancient Celts including the Scots, Irish, Cornish and Welsh knew how to distill grains at least as far back as 600 AD. Given that they lacked the climate to grow the more fragile grapevines, their use of cereals such as barley and rye, both of which grew well in the northern European climate, was a logical choice. Those Celts viewed their fiery brew as a gift from their gods that literally brought the dead to life and warmed even the coldest spirit. In fact, in Celtic, whisky is called “uisge beatha”-the water of life.

At that time, monasteries were at the centre of life and industry in Ireland. The essential materials – spring water and grain – were to hand, and combined with the necessary manpower, the intelligence and diligence of the monks, the capability to produce a fine drink was complete. These early monks called the spirit they made in this pot still “The Water of Life” (Eau de Vie) – in the Gaelic language “Uisce Beatha” (pronounced “ishka-baahaa”). These words for spirit drinks appear in many cultures, and in Ireland

Though sharing a common Celtic heritage in the art of whiskey making, pronounced differences in taste and style distinguish Irish Whiskeys from their Scottish counterparts. We’ll never know who invented the “water of life” but what is known is that Ireland and Scotland each developed their own interpretations of the art of distilling long before the first Roman ever trod on British soil. Irish whiskey differs from Scotch whisky from its very inception-the malting stage. The barley used for Scotch whisky is dried over open peat fires. The process allows the smoke to penetrate the barley malt and gives Scotch its distinctive smoky flavor.

The malt in Irish whiskey is dried in sealed ovens, keeping only the pure malt flavor. Irish whiskey is then distilled three times (as opposed to twice for Scottish whisky), which further adds to the smoothness of its taste. To be called Irish, the whiskey has to be distilled from native grains in Ireland and stored in wooden casks for a minimum of three years. Distillers avoid using new oak casks because they believe the wood imparts a rough taste to the whiskey. Instead, many distillers select used barrels that once held the contents of another type of liquor, such as bourbon or rum. This practice accounts for subtle differences in whiskies that may originate from the same distillery.

The rise of Irish whiskey occurred during the 16th century. Elizabeth I was said to be very fond of it, although she never took the opportunity to turn a profit on it. In fact it wasn’t until Christmas Day 1661 that a tax was first levied on the brew and by 1815, this tithe had increased to a crippling six shillings per gallon of whiskey. Ironically, this was also the zenith of Irish whiskey making with over 2000 stills believed to be in existence at the time. Many of these, however, produced “Poitien” or poteen as it was known; just as fiery as the Irish spirit itself, but illegal, since no tax was paid to the crown.

There are four distinct styles of whiskey in the world – Irish, Scotch, American and Canadian – each with its own particular characteristics. While all are produced in a broadly similar way, there are substantial differences between different countries’ products including the choice of grains, number of distillations, type of stills used, maturation period and type of oak barrels used.

Irish Whiskey key Features

To be an Irish Whiskey by law, (equally importantly tradition) 4 Criteria must be met.

  1. Distillation must occur in Ireland
  2. Irish Barley and Irish Water must be used
  3. The Whiskey must be triple distilled
  4. The Whiskey must mature for a minimum of 3 years.

While the distinctive character of Irish whiskey comes from the distilling rather than blending, the skill of the blender is still important in creating individual blends. To do this, the blender uses widely varying ratios of pot still whiskey, grain whiskey and malt whiskey, so that blends can range from full bodied to mellow. Variations are also achieved through the use of old and young whiskies and different barrel types for maturation, such as those previously used for sherry or rum.Over the years, triple distillation has become the traditional Irish way of distilling whiskey. It’s during this process that we find the heart of the spirit which carries the most delicate alcohols. Triple distillation therefore produces a light style of whiskey. But light does not necessarily mean bland, Irish Whiskies can be subtle and smooth, yet full of flavor, with spicy, fruity and floral notes.

  1. In most Irish whiskeys, there is an absence of the smoky flavor that is so synonymous with many Scotch whiskies, because the corns of barley used for its production are not dried over a peat fire. The Irish use indirect heat to dry their barley so no smoke enters the production process.
  2. Irish whiskey is triple distilled to ensure exceptional smoothness. Irish whiskey is distilled three times compared with the normal two, to give extra purity and a smoother taste. No other whiskey in the world is distilled more than twice.
  3. Ireland‘s soft, temperate climate allows for a very slow and gentle maturation process, leading to very mellow and flavorsome whiskeys.

Maturation is the “magical” process whereby new spirit is left to age in oak casks for many years to slowly transform into whiskey. Maturation removes the harsher, undesirable alcohols from the spirit. It also adds layers of complexity to the whiskey. Aged whiskey tends to be mellower and have more complex flavors and aromas. But maturation also gradually masks some of the whiskey’s initial flavors and characteristics, such as freshness and lighter fruity or floral notes. Therefore, older doesn’t always mean better, it simply means different.

Whiskey Process
The principal ingredients in Irish Whiskies are malt, i.e. malted barley; unmalted barley and pure water.The malted barley used in Most Irish whiskies is dried in closed kilns to ensure a smooth natural taste. The absence of smoke in the malting process ensures that the clean taste of the malt and barley shine through in the final whiskey.

The paradox of barley is that it doesn’t contain fermentable sugar but only starch. Early distillers discovered that if barley is allowed to sprout under spring-like conditions for a few days and then dried, the amount of alcohol subsequently obtained from brewing and fermentation is vastly greater than normal. Barley which has gone through this “Malting” process is called Malted barley. Malted barley is barley that has been allowed to sprout for a few days and then dried. Precise amounts of malted and unmalted barley are milled and then mixed with hot water in a “mash tun”. The starches in the mash are converted to sugars and the resultant liquid is called ‘wort’.

Mashing is the process by which the grist is added to hot water (63 degrees Celsius) in a large vessel called a Mash Tun. During this process the starches in the barley are converted into fermentable sugars. The mashing process is complete when a hot sweet liquid called wort is drawn from the Mash Tun.

“Wort” is separated from the residual grains and pumped into “wash backs”. The action of the yeast produces fermentation and the sugars in the wort are converted to a low strength alcohol or “wash”.

Distilling creates new whiskey from the wash. The wash is heated in traditional large copper pot stills and Irish Whiskies are obtained only after three separate distillations. Each stage results in a smoother superior quality. Triple distillation is the key to smoothness.

Irish Whiskies are matured in seasoned oak casks crafted by coopers, and remains undisturbed for a minimum of three years, many whiskies for much longer. Please refer to the 3DC website for additional history and more in depth discussion on the distillation process.

Choosing a whiskey is all about finding the best one to suit your taste. There are several types of whiskey common to Ireland: Single Malt, Single Grain, Pure Pot Still and Blended Whiskey. They are all great whiskeys in their own right. Several distilleries make both blends and malts now it is you turn to find the right whiskey for you on every occasion.

-Sean and Random…

Posted in Estrella, Irish | Comments Off on Tasting report: Estrella War XXIII Irish Whiskies Event

Johnnie Walker – Journey of Taste

The clock hit 5pm on Thursday afternoon, and I high-tailed my way out of work. I rushed home, showered, and donned my best suit so I would be appropriately attired for the night’s festivities. Fearing the worst of L.A. traffic, I didn’t have any time to spare, so I sped off armed with a pack of RedBulls at my side. I arrived at Raz’ place by 7pm, which gave us just an hour and a half before we had to be in line for the Johnnie Walker Journey of Taste set to start at 9pm in Hollywood. From Huntington Beach, the drive is a good 54 minutes by the map, which assumes a common freeway speed of 65mph. As you can guess, this left us with only a 30 minute fudge factor if we encountered any accident or other traffic inducing road hazard on the way. As it turns out we made outstanding time. Not one ounce of traffic hindered our progress, which meant we made it to Henson Studios spot on 8pm, giving us an hour before the next tasting began.With that hour downtime, Raz and I chose to make the most of it. Between sitting on a mock stoop and chatting about the future of the 3DC, we nosed our way around the studio grounds opting for a picture or two here and there. We even got the main door bouncer (decked out in a full tuxedo) to snap two pictures of us in from of the Johnnie Walker sign, and another in front of the Chaplin studio sign. Two points of note here: 1. always make friends with security early in the night, this will help later in the night, and 2. always be aware of your surroundings. The former will be discussed later, but the latter is important now. Not being much of a film geek, but enough that I know the value of true Hollywood history, I was thoroughly enjoying just BEING at Jim Henson’s Studios. That alone is worthy of note, but more importantly, is that a bit prior to becoming Henson Studios, the same lot and studio buildings were known as Chaplin Studios. Yes, THAT Chaplin. So not only were Raz and I geeking out over Jim and his Muppet magic, but also over being in the same location where the late great Charles Chaplin worked. (Pictures should be forthcoming once Raz gets the cable he needs to download them off of his camera.)

We queued up after a small handful of other people began arriving. We didn’t need to be FIRST in line, but also didn’t wish to be last either. Turns out this strategy worked well for us, as we were ushered over to deposit our required donation, and then directed towards one of the Walker girls who was ready to check us in. No muss, no fuss, no line either! It was this point in the night were we first saw our friend Dirt (who as you will recall, we met at the WoW expo last March, and who was kind enough to put forth the invite to us and our group). I chatted up Dirt as Raz checked in, and came to find out that we had chosen the best night and time to take part in the tasting. As 3DC luck would have it, Thursday night’s 9pm ‘show’ was to be attended by members of ‘tu Ciudad’ an up and coming Latino magazine for Los Angeles. The best part being that after the tasting, ‘tu Ciudad’ would be hosting an open bar after party where the entire Johnnie Walker line would be flowing freely! I attempted to impart this knowledge on Raz, who was a bit too busy making Leroy laugh behind us to really let it sink in…

Within minutes, the velvet ropes were drawn back and we were handed our token for a drink during the cocktail gathering prior to the tasting. I really have to say this setup was a perfect idea. Each guest was limited to one drink, to ensure their palates wouldn’t be ruined prior to the tasting event, but at the same time, we were given drinks which woke up our palates and got us in the mood to taste. As Raz staked out a table for us, conveniently next to the bar, I got us both a Johnnie Black label neat (as they were only serving Black and Red label at the beginning). Sitting at the bar-height table, we continued our people watching and noted at the diversity of the crowd. There was a good mix of nationalities as well as gender and age. While the average age was probably about 26, there were indeed a few older ones who obviously were experienced tasters. The whole vibe for the night was fairly youthful though, from the music to the types of drinks being poured for the guests. I noted quite a few whisky sours, ginger-ales and whiskies, as well as typical whisky on the rocks. Very few whisky neats were seen, Raz and I being two of them. The mix of people and drinks began to give me a good idea as to what we were in for.

Before we get into the tasting proper, Dirt makes his way over to us with a friend of his whom we “have to meet”. Ian Stewart (or Stuart, not sure of the spelling, sorry lad!) is introduced to us as a gent who will be making a name in the industry. While he doesn’t have a job quite yet, word has it he is poised to be part of a reputable Speyside organization, with promises to let us in on exactly which one upon confirmation of getting the job. After a bit of chatting and learning that his father recently retired from work at the famed Cardhu distillery, we are happy to say that Ian is indeed a true friend of the 3DC! Raz had a chance to bend Ian’s ear a bit more, as we were ushered into the tasting and the two sat next to each other snarking away during the presentation. I would have been annoyed if I hadn’t immediately enjoyed Ian’s company and stories. Plus he seems to “get” whiskies like we do, which is always a good thing in my book! (By the by, he lives up in the Bay Area, so Fergus should get into contact with him for future events…).

Which brings us to the core of the event; The Johnnie Walker Journey of Taste.

We were escorted to our seats (just behind the VIP section, not a bad turn of more 3DC luck!) which were white pleather bench seats with a bench in front to act as our tasting table. Each bench was imprinted to appear like a card with the standard 5 glass tasting layout, though specific for Johnnie Walker’s products of course. As a visual aid, I was able to find a picture of the tasting setup (courtesy of Johnnie Walker’s site: )

From this visual alone you get the feel that the entire night was geared more towards a vibrant, edgier crowd than we are typically part of. All the seats were configured in a square with an open center for the presenter. Behind each of the quadrants were three large projection screens displaying the ‘Striding Man’ logo which Johnnie is known by. (GREAT marketing by the by! The logo is memorable, classy, and easy to reproduce on damned near anything!) Over the course of the tasting, as an introduction to each label, mini promo spots were projected with loud music and minimal narration in quick successive images and moving pictures reminiscent of the MTV style of television/commercials nowadays. Truly, Johnnie is marketing to a younger generation now. The entire atmosphere was a bit too “hip” and trendy for my tastes, but still I was impressed at the balance between trendy and the presentation of a proper tasting.

Steve, the Johnnie Walker Ambassador for our showing, began to walk us through the tasting. Note that the opinions below are my own and –not- necessarily what was presented during the show. The actual tasting and presentation was designed to point out the various odors on the nose and tastes on the palate of the different expressions and teach some of the people new to tasting how to do so (as a typical guided tasting should do)…

First up was the Johnnie Walker Black label… and then continued in order…

• Johnnie Walker Black Label — this is a perfectly drinkable blend of as many as 40 whiskies, each aged at least 12 years. At the heart of Black Label lies the 12 year old Cardhu. I was quite surprised by this expression, as I had it in my mind that ANY JW label was inferior to my beloved single malts. As blends go, this one is quite enjoyable as an everyday dram. Not exceedingly complex or refined, but as good a whisky as any blend I have enjoyed.

• Johnnie Walker Red Label — a bold combination of spicy and smoky malts (the core being Talisker), designed to be mixed. Not a complex drink by any stretch, but rather full of simple and bold flavours which will punch through any mixer of your choice to reveal a distinct whisky drink. Presented with both Pepsi and Ginger-Ale in carafes to mix with; this particular expression seemed to sit well with Raz, while I found it a bit too overstated for my palate at the time. I may need to revisit this whisky to really nail down an opinion on this. Either way, it mixes as well as John, Mark and Robbo’s “The Rich Spicy One” (which for the price point would be my choice over the Red Label).

• Johnnie Walker Green Label (a.k.a. Pure Malt) — a vatted malt whisky that consists of approximately 15 individual single malts, the core malts being Talisker, Cragganmore, Linkwood, and Caol Ila. All malts in this particular blend are aged 15 years or older. Amazingly beautiful nose on this dram. It brings a woodsy heather and cedar along with the greenness of a newly cut lawn. The nose on this is so pleasing that it could be used as a cologne or aftershave. But that’s where this dram ends. The palate is disappointing at best with a heavy iodine taste completely divergent form the woodsy nose. That being said, I’d buy a bottle just to nose, but never drink.

• Johnnie Walker Gold Label — a blend of over 15 single malts which has at its heart the very rare Clynelish malt. Served at freezing temperatures, this whisky is lost to the cold. While interesting to drink as a novelty (really, who drinks whisky like a vodka?) this is actually better warm, but not by much. As it turns out, the cold masks the inferior nose and simplicity of the whisky. A fun drink to try, but this will never become one of my staples.

• Johnnie Walker Blue Label — at the heart of Blue Label is Royal Lochnagar a malt distilled near Balmoral. Now this is what I call a complex blend of rare malts. This expression has everything a high-end blend should have: a complex palate which tells a story that lasts for a good 30 seconds, a smoothness which whispers refinement and dedication to getting the palate just right, and a viscosity which gives a slightly thick mouthfeel letting you know there is more here than water. As enjoyable as this was, I am still partial to the Midleton Very rare expression as put forth by the Jameson’s Distillery for around the same price point. I will still, however, come back to this dram a few times “just to be sure”.

At the end, Steve invited all guests to hang around and enjoy the after party put on by the good people at ‘tu Ciudad’. Well, who were we not to oblige? Gods forbid we turn down and open bar pouring Blue label! With that, we adjourned back to the cocktail area where the bar tenders were waiting, bottles in hand. After getting our initial pours, Raz and I split from Ian and walked around the place chatting and generally just enjoying ourselves. At one point well into the night, we made our way outside where we happened upon Leroy, the good gent who had taken so kindly to Raz mocking me (in the sardonic way which Raz mocks me) when we were queued up for entrance at the beginning of the night. Come to find out Leroy and Raz share the same middle name, which they bonded over for a brief time. We met Leroy’s lady (whose name escapes me, but her necklace proclaimed “Mercy”) as well as Leroy’s mother, who also seemed to be fully enjoying the drams of the night. By the end of these conversations, I think there may be another 3 people looking for us at the Whiskies of the World expo come this April! (We already know that Ian will be there assisting Steve and Dirt in some fashion.)

As the night was winding down, we found ourselves back inside since it was warmer and less crowded than earlier. We headed back to the bar for one last drink, where we discovered that the earlier announcement that they had run out of Blue was not actually the case. When we got to the bar, the tender happily poured us two last snifters of Blue with a smile on his face, almost as is he had held some back just for us. Now, I wouldn’t delude myself to think that was the case at all, but rather, that’s just how it came off. In either event it was once again good to be 3DC.

By this time, we had commandeered another table around which we held closing court. Ok, again, not really, but given that everyone we had met earlier came by and chatted with us, it kind of felt like it. To top off that feeling was watching security begin moving people out so they could clean up and go home. As they swept by our table, they looked around made eye contact with Raz and myself, nodded at us and said, “You guys are good”, and moved on, leaving us to continue our conversations and finish off our drinks. Once again, the 3DC close out a bash with only the hosts around. Remember, make friends with security at the beginning, it WILL come in handy at the end!

We did hang around a bit longer, mainly to use the restroom and to drink a bit more water (and another red bull) before heading home. Or, I should say, before heading to dinner. I was hungry, and so was Raz, plus we both had Friday off and so we recapped the evening’s events over dinner and breakfast at Norm’s. By this point I was stone cold sober, but Raz was still enjoying the lasting effects of Johnnie Walker Blue, and continued to do so well past the point when I dropped him off at his door I am sure. I made it home by 3:15am, and was dead asleep by 3:30am. A long day to be sure, but well worth the sacrifice of sleep if for nothing else than to pimp the 3DC in style once again!

It seems at every event we attend, we meet some astounding new people and this was no different. We walked away, not only richer from the experience and enjoyment of the tasting, but from the friends we made along the way. Friends, whom I am sure we’ll be seeing again soon… and that, my friends, is the way of the 3DC. It’s not the whiskies, it’s the people you meet because of the common love for life!



As promised, following are a few pictures from the Journey of Taste event:

This is Raz and I prior to queuing up for the beginning of the night. The event was held through the hallway to the right of the image:

Raz and I being geeks over the fact that this is CHAPLIN Studios!

The core portion of the evening was the guided, seated tasting in the square:

I am not fond of this picture by a long stretch, but it is the only one we have of our new friend Ian:

Larger versions of all 4 pictures can be found here: The WaywardCelt Galleries


Johnnie Walker – Journey of Taste – Raz

Well, again we’ve proven that is good to be 3DC. Dirt gave Seamus a ring. (If you don’t know who Dirt is, please read up on our Whiskies of the World trip 2006. Long story short, he’s our local Talisker rep here is SoCal.) Dirt offers us comp tickets to the Johnnie Walker Journey of Taste 2007 event. (We may still be able to get you a seat, it runs through next Friday if you’re in LA but please let Seamus know ASAP.) Seamus and I do some quick negotiating with the wives and decide on Thursday night at the second showing so we can see Dirt and thank him in personally. This, as our luck seem to always have it was a good choice indeed. As it turned out we picked the one VIP special presentation for a local Latino rag. It was “tu Ciudad” if memory serves and it does cause I got really drunk so my memory is of course right on target. This was yet another great night to be a mile marker.We start off by making uncommonly good time on the notoriously congested LA freeways, arriving a full hour ahead of time. We found the place and were directed to the parking lot. We walked around the building back to the front gate only to be told that we still had an hour and that the doorman was surprised that we just wanted to go in and wait around. This was after all Hollywood, a place where very few people seem to slow down and appreciate the ambiance of a place. We’re from behind the Orange curtain and so have different tendencies than true Los Angelinos. I mention ambiance because the venue for this event was Jim Henson Studios in West Hollywood and as if the home of Kermit, Fozzy and Beaker wasn’t enough for me at this roughly hundred year old studio lot, before Henson and another production house owned it, this was once Charlie Chaplin Studios. We don’t have much history here in So Cal that doesn’t involve either Conquistadores or Indians, but movie history we got. I’m not much for Hollywood history personally. I grew up here and have seen enough “famous” people to not really give a crap, but seriously, Kermit and Charlie Chaplin. WOW! That set me back a little bit. We went into the courtyard we were supposed to wait in, flashed a quick grin at the bouncer/doorman and hopped the velvet ropes to get to the restrooms (the one with Kermit on it just in case you were wandering. Miss Piggy is on the one for the Ladies.) and proceeded to snoop around. The doormen were all great guys by the way. Of course it didn’t hurt that Seamus and I had our best black suits on with ties to boot. We really looked respectable I guess that was so because we even got bouncers to snap a couple pictures for us around the place. After this we found some comfortable chairs on a mock stoop and waited for the unwashed masses to show up and show up they did. Drinking abuse can eventually lead to nerve damage, learn more from there nerve control 911 reviews.

After the first 20 or so people got in line we slinked up to the queue. Another couple hundred people ended up in that line before they let us all in. We waited our turn at the Walker Girls who each had a nifty little wireless computer, driver’s license scanning, survey giving, cigarette trey looking box hung at their wastes from a leather belt from their necks. At other clubs in Hollywood there’d be a little more strapping on an outfit like that, but that is another story for another time. Our favorite bouncer, whose name I never got much to my disgrace, flags us over to another area so we could pay the mandatory $5 charity donation and then were directed to one of the Walker Girls at the front of the Walker Girl line who was waiting, seemingly specifically, for us to finish with the donation part. This, as it turned out kind of forced us to be put in front of nearly (see below) everyone else who’d lined up ahead of us and making us first in line to get in. See; it pays to be nice to the bouncers, more on that later. We made some whiskey small talk with the Walker Girl checking us in and she confidently told us that “they show us how to drink whisky when we get inside”. (I momentarily didn’t have any words at that one.) At around this point in the evening we see Dirt and flag him over to exchange pleasantries which we do briefly. He shortly sees a, “long on leg – short on skirt”, young lady who seems to know him and so he dumped us like a hot potato and buzzed back further into the masses to see her. Good man Dirt and I won’t tell your wife a thing… OK I need to say that Dirt did nothing unseemly with the Leggy Dame and she left well before we did and Dirt left at the same time we did, so he’s in the clear. I don’t know if Dirt’s wife is the jealous type but I’m not taking any chances here. We like Dirt, he seems to like us and I aim to keep it that way. (As a side note; he did take the Leggy Dame and her entourage right out of line and directly into the bar leaving us back with the unwashed masses waiting in line. I should note that we did get treated very well, but I guess not as good as some. Of course as I pointed out to Seamus at the time, neither of us would have looked nearly half as good as she did in that little dress.) While signing in and making fun of Seamus for being Seamus and Dirt for being Dirt, I caught the approving chuckle of a man named Leroy just behind us in line. There will be more on Leroy later as well. From the people in line, it was fairly apparent that we were not exactly the target audience for the event as a whole. To their credit there was a great mix of people and most seemed rather relaxed. In short a younger and perhaps less sophisticated (read: not so whisky snobbish) crowd than Seamus and I would normally provide. That being said there were a few, grey hairs, in the audience with which we seemed to have shared a few similar reactions with when it came to all the little things going on that most in attendance seemed oblivious of. Things like nearly everyone drinking whisky on the rocks and other misdemeanor drinking infractions. Dirt if you read this, and I hope you do, we gotta talk man. I’m all for “to each his own” and “all is well if you are enjoying your whiskey”, but Dirt you can’t really be one of those “on the rocks” heathens are you? The rat pack died out a long time ago and with it should have died the whisky on the rocks craze, but that might just me being Seamusily judgmental.

The velvet rope was then taken down and we were let loose on the hors d’oeuvres and open cocktail bar with, Black and Red Labels in the well that served as the introduction to the event. We walked right up to the last table on the left right next to the bar set out the virtual flag on it claiming that bit of land in the name of the 3DC and Seamus sauntered on up and ordered our drinks as the less fortunate masses formed the queue behind him. He and I both had our first Johnnie Walker Scotch, in this case the Black Label. Yes, neither of us had actually every had any Johnnie Walker Scotch… ever… of any kind. I’m not sure how this happened. I’ve had well over 130 different whiskies at this point and I’m sure Seamus isn’t much below that number if not even and few above it. Well there it is. The finger foods on the food tables were healthy and tasty, but the ones carried about by the Walker Girls were to die for. I never saw the same gourmet tidbit go by twice and was impress by each one I had. We met up again with Dirt who seemed to have misplaced the leggy dame and he introduced us to a Scot named Ian, whose father is retired from the industry and they’re from Cardhu. (Another side note; Ian went to school with Robbo of JM&R. Small world isn’t it.) Ian is looking at leaving his Engineering job and getting into the Scotch industry like his old man. That’s pretty sweet if you ask me. He wouldn’t fess up to what company he was looking at, but he said he’d let us know if he gets the job. I hope he does, he is a deserving fellow and I’m glad to have met him.

We were then called into the grand room. The opening into the main part of the sound stage (cause it was a sound stage) was back by the door where we came in so we had to shuffle in behind the rest, which was another good thing. See, with the exception of the VIPs from tu Ciudad, every one was filled in “Forced Public School Bussing” style at the far end of the room back towards the door. We were put 2 rows back of the VIPs right in the center of the row. I should set the stage a little bit here. The room was large; I’d say at least 100’ X 100’ and at least 2 stories high. All the walls were curtained out black up to the last 10’ or so. The seating layout was square with 4 banks of around 6 widening rows like little ziggurats pointing together, with 4 isles each from a different corner to the center of the room. The benches we sat on were off white (leather / pleather?) with a lower table built into the back of each so the person sitting behind you had a knee high table with their drams on it. There was a card with five tumbler sized dots on it, splayed artistically off at a rising arc. The first dot had on it a tumbler with Black Label in it, the second was Red Label, the Third empty dot was for Gold Label, the forth had Green Label and the last dot for Blue Label was empty. Yes I said Blue Label. I told you this was a special night to choose. Apparently they don’t normally give out the Blue Label at these things but we are just lucky that way. Also on the wee table was ginger ail, some Pepsi, some ice and some iced water. (This wasn’t going to be like any tasting I’d been to yet.) In the center of the room was the square open area our Walker Ambassador gave his presentation from. A kind of theater in the round but more square. On the walls of the room were 12 large projection screens in banks of 3 well above our heads. They projected video on these as the show went on in between the individual tastings to introduce each label.

Ian sat with us and he and I snipped and snickered during the video presentations and had our own slightly modified tasting from the one that was going on all around us. (Sorry we left you out of all that Seamus but someone had to pay attention to the actual presentation and you were way over there on the right and the Scot was on my left. Plus you got to make fun of me for missing the Jim Murray reference as well.) I could not have wished for better seats.

I’m not going to bore you with all the details of the tasting itself. (And I was drunk so you know I actually remember the details.) Heck it’s a touring show so if you want to go, just sign up on their web site and you’ll likely get invited when they come around. I’ll just go over my impression of the spirits.

1. Black Label; Probably the best of the lot dollar for dollar. Reminded me of a Speyside, but then again, JW uses allot of Cardhu Whiskey so that is no surprise. More smokey than the others with some brine in the finish. Good medium length story. A good everyday drinker. Ian’s dad’s favorite as well with a splash of water and who am I to argue with a pedigree like Ian or his Dad has.

2. Red Label; Now they want you to mix this and to be sure as it was designed to do so it is a really good in that role. I found it good in its own right. Very strong but with good apricoty finish, just like I like. Probably the highest viscosity of the five on offer. On a cold night like we had I’d almost choose it over the Black given the option.

3. Gold. This they committed what to me is a travesty. They served it ice cold. Vodka in the freezer ice cold! This killed the nose and the taste and so really didn’t make much of an impression on me. I ordered some up later and let it warm up to room temp. It nosed pretty good, but was not a particularly memorable dram otherwise with a real short story to tell and thin. (All of which can be hidden by freezing it.)

4. Green Label; now this little dram had a nose on it. Wow, so much fun to smell. G-R-E-E-N! Not just a label color in this case. Kind of smells like cut grass, the legal kind. Rub a little on your hands and it’d be superior to any aftershave out there. That being said, it drinks pretty poorly. Chemical and or iodine on the tongue. I didn’t enjoy the drinking of it, but hey, if you ever order some when I’m around, I’d love to get a good whiff off of yours and maybe steal a drop for behind my ear.

5. Blue Label; By far the best overall of the night and at the price point it should be. A true Speyside nose with pleasant honey and fruit notes. Drinks smooth as silk if a bit thin for a cold night such as it was. Mind you after the 5 drams I’d already had I’m not entirely too sure on the above for accuracy, but I did like this dram. Seamus thought for the $140.00 price point it didn’t compare well to the Middleton Very Rare, but I’m not too sure about that for me. I was really quite impressed with this one and come Summer I may just need a wee dram of it, just to firm up my opinion of it you see? I was also nice that this particular dram was served in a snifter rather than in tumblers as was used on the other four drams. Tumblers = Bad. Don’t forget it.

After the presentation, the next not typical event occurred. Thanks to ‘tu Ciudad’ we were treated to the open bar again, this time with all five labels on the shelf. We of course went right back to the blue. Shortly after this they ran out of the Blue label so next trip I ordered Red Label in a cocktail. I asked the bar tender if they were getting any tips and he said, not really, so I gave him a couple fins. Seamus went back to the Black Label and we went out for some fresh air. Which brings me back to Leroy, he is a great guy and so is his Lady. We met up with them also getting out of the press of people inside. As it turned out while talking to his Lady it was revealed that Leroy and I share the same middle name. Well he’s never liked it and neither have I but I’ve pretty much gotten over it. See his mum named him after a famous actor and my brothers gave me the name so I’d get my ass kicked at school. His mom is also a very nice Lady and felt somehow that I’d vindicated her in her choice of middle name for her son so I, very very drunk at this point, was good with that. I stinks that I forgot her name as she was really grand to talk to. We made sure they knew about the World of Whiskies event in April and we hope they can make it. I’d love to see them again as Leroy and his mom both love a good dram and I love people like that. Well that and they laugh at my jokes and that’s all I really need from friends to feel good about myself. After that Seamus and I were dry again and so we headed back into the bar. By some miracle, the bar tender I’d tipped just a few minutes ago found some more Blue Label and cracked the bottle for us. (Note: Always tip the bar tender especially when the booze is free.) We settled into a table back by the door and watched the girls dance, (especially the facially expressive cute one Fergus should have been there to meet.) Ian found us again at this point and he was a tanked as I was, no small feat, and was trying to tell us stories about his father that we couldn’t really make heads or tails of, not because he had a Scots accent, but because he had a whisky accent at the point and I don’t think his own dad would have recognized the stories. Dirt found us just as the bouncers were herding everyone out because the party was over. They came up to us and started to move Ian out and before Dirt could say a word we looked up at our favorite doorman and said “Was’ up!” He smiled passed our table and pushed everyone else out of the room. It was just us, the DJ and the Walker Girls tearing the table cloths off the tables and cleaning up. We looked around and decided we should really go. Just like the 3DC to close a private party even after the hosts had been kicked out. It’s always good to be 3DC. Being a bit thirsty still before we left I let myself back behind the deserted bar for a couple bottles of water and came back over to the table. (You know in hind site, there were still a couple bottles of blue in a box back there, but I was too drunk to think of it at the time. Damn this drunken memory of mine!) This was when I realize exactly how entirely snorked I still was and how glad I was that Seamus had pretty much stopped drinking some time back so he could drive us home. He seemed no end of amused by me being more drunk that he was, as apparently that is not typical. I’m not sure whether to debate that one with him or not. I’ll let you guys decide. We stumbled out passed the giant Kermit the Frog statue hung on one of the buildings to Seamus’ waiting car and wound our way home through the nearly deserted LA freeways early Friday morning.

A good night we wanted and a good night we had.

Thanks Dirt and thanks Seamus,


Posted in Blends, Misc. Events | Comments Off on Johnnie Walker – Journey of Taste – Raz

6 days to Portland and back, 2 new Whiskies!

Be warned, the following post is long. It encompasses all 6 days worth of our trip to Oregon as part holiday and part scouting trip for relocation areas. Keep in mind the grammatical “tense” of my writing below will change dramatically and without warning as I wrote some of it on my laptop at the end of the days… then came back to it today to clean up a bit since I was very tired when originally writing.Day 1: 4am comes way too early. At 5am sharp and we were on the road. With just a few stops for gas (averaging around 35-40 mpg) by noon we had made it to just south of Weeds, Ca. about 45 minutes south of Redding, Ca.

This picture was taken while heading up into the hills through Shasta Lake:

By 4pm, we were crossing the Oregon Ca. border. At 6pm, we had stopped for the night in Roseburg, Oregon. We were no where near as tired as we expected to be (I could have easily made it all the way to Portland), we hit a brew pub called McMenamin’s for dinner and drinks… Get this; they not only brew beer, and ferment wine, but distill a whiskey (and rum, and gin) as well! It is called McMenamin’s “Hogshead” Whiskey from the Edgefield distillery. From the menu: “this rich, amber-hued whiskey is slightly smoky, with hints of vanilla. Hogshead is distilled from 100% malted barley & named after the oak barrels in which it is aged. $6.59 per glass.” So of course I had to order it! My take on it: very light nose of mild smoke and a hint of sweet vanilla. Palate has an immediate burn which fades out into vanilla again with short but fun story, then a smokey finish so light it stands as just a reminder of the charred barrel. Viscosity is light. Say 2-3 Boldness is the same 2-3 Story is a 3. Fairly short, but worthwhile. I give it a solid “B” rating.

The people we have met thus far (hotel reception, wait staff at the pub) were all amazingly nice. As it turns out one of our servers is a transplant from Brea who recognized the distinct bank card I use since she used to belong to the same credit union.

By the end of dinner, we adjourned back to our room, caught an episode of Lost and passed out. Seems we were indeed a bit tired from the 13 hour drive. We had decided to not try to get to Portland on the first night (tonight) as we wanted to take our time driving in to allow us to wander off the beaten path if the fancy struck. So we opted to bed down about 150 miles outside the city and wander in during the light of the next day….

My initial impression of the state thus far is one of wonder at its beauty. We have driven through only rural areas to this point, and have been surrounded by lushness of evergreens and other native foliage. Everything here is so wonderfully green! Still some yellow areas of dry grass in the southern part bordering California, but that just adds contrast to make the green even brighter.

Into Oregon; not exactly indicative of the beauty, but much greener than California!

I can’t wait to make the journey into the city tomorrow… if today is any indication, we will fall in love with a city that has lured us in before we even got there.

Day 2: Day 2 started out well enough. We checked out of our hotel in Roseburg, grabbed the complimentary continental breakfast, and got back on the road by 9am. I got a fair enough’s night sleep but not quite enough to really get me going in the morning, so this 170 mile drive was almost as rough as the previous days 800 miles.

Portland is only 105 miles away now!

We got into Portland at noon straight up, as we didn’t find any place between Roseburg and the city which was worthy of stopping at. Salem was on the radar until we actually passed through… really it is just another blue collar town just like all the rest, or so it seemed from the freeway. We wouldn’t know any differently since we didn’t stop to see.

Luckily our hotel allowed us for an early checkin, so we didn’t have to find ways to waste time. Once checked in we headed straight out for lunch at Henry’s tavern (the old Henry Weinhard’s brew pub). After a nice satiating lunch, and some orange wheat beers, we took the long way back to the hotel on foot just to see the sights and to visit Powell’s Books, a must do for any visitor to the area.

Back in the hotel, I took a bit of a nap, after which we decided that we would cut our stay here in the hotel short. You see, we realized what I had already known for a bit: we are not city people. I know this isn’t a shock to anyone who knows me, but the real breakthrough was with Jean. She realized as well that she just doesn’t want to live in the city either. The IDEA of a city loft is cool, but the realities of city living just aren’t our gig. That and the hotel was exactly what we were expecting. But that’s fine, you win some you lose some… so we decided that we’ll take Friday and look around the parts of the greater Portland area which we had scouted as potential living sites, and then head out to Astoria on Saturday for a bit of actual vacation. From there the itinerary is a bit open, to say the least… we’re not sure where or when we’ll end up, but it should be a fun adventure to fly by the seat of our pants so far away from home…

Once we got that all set with the hotel (cutting the reservations short, etc), we headed out for dinner at Kells:

Kells is a nice Irish bar that boasts an extensive whiskies list. I have to say the wall of whiskies is impressive to see, but the list left me a bit wishful. I only found about 5 I hadn’t had previously.

Following is a quick tasting note on the one I ordered: Tamnavulin Stillman’s Dram 25 year. $21.25 per dram at Kells in Portland.

Nose… Light caramel. A faint hint of oak. Palate… Caramel first then a nice mellow char (slight burnt taste) overall sweetness. Viscosity… 7-8 thick! Boldness… 6-7 Story… good solid 5. Not too short but not long either.

Personal taste… B+. I could drink this for a good long while. A nice initial sting flows into an easy to drink dram. Despite its viscosity, not chewy at all.

After Kells, we took the long way back to the hotel again to see a bit of the city. Once at the hotel we made our way to the top floor to hang out on the roof top garden patio area. We took in the view for a while, then headed back down to catch CSI before going to bed.

Day 3: We arose at about 8:30am and were out the door by 9. After another Hotel breakfast, we headed out to do our reconnaissance mission to see the areas around Portland.

We started with Gresham to the east of Portland. The city itself was nice, but the drive in was through some minorly depressed areas in all sorts of states of disrepair. Not exactly what we were looking for… so we pressed on.

Next up was Tualatin. A nice area which we began to see a trend in the homes… it seems that in most areas everything looks like the stereotypical middle American neighborhood with one added benefit: trees, and lots of them.

Beaverton and Hillsboro kind of meld together in look and feel. These two cities are true suburbs and show it. They are fairly self sustaining, with light industrial, commercial, and residential zones, with a population to support it all. We could see ourselves living in these two areas very easily.

Last on the list was Forest Grove, which is more of a rural area than a suburb. We loved the feel, but probably couldn’t handle the upkeep which the lots would require… we’ll see about this one. (As the days passed after our visit, the more Forest Grove is really looking appealing to us.)

While in Forest Grove, we found a nice winery and stopped in for a taste, which is how the afternoon began.

We ended up at 4 different wineries which all seem to specialize in Pinot Noirs, which isn’t too surprising for the area. They were all full of character in their own rights, but nothing special enough to warrant write ups here. Though we did buy 6 bottles…

While traveling through the different towns in the morning and then between wineries in the afternoon, Jean and I had a great chance to really discuss what we wanted, needed, and what fit us in terms of living arrangements. It was a great chance to really think and discuss what the right place for us really is.

After the last winery, we opted to take a slight detour through Lake Oswego to gawk and gander at the million dollar plus homes around the lake. Wow, what a DRIVE! These places would rival Newport Beach’s homes on the cliffs and in balboa. GORGEOUS.

From there we headed out to catch dinner at the local, ubiquitous, McMenamin’s. It is here we got our second detour… you see I asked where I could pick up a bottle of the whiskey distilled specifically for them by the Edgefield distillery (as a founding member of the 3DrunkenCelts I am obligated to do so). Turns out you have to go to the distillery to buy the bottles. So we got a brochure, entered the address into our GPS and got back on the road. Turns out it was only another 25-30 miles away, so it was an easy drive after the 100 miles we had already put on earlier, and the 1000 from the days prior.

We arrived at the Edgefield and found it to be entirely more than expected. The water tower at the Edgefield:

It was a hotel, and veritable campus of buildings housing the winery, brewery, distillery, restaurant, bar, pub, and other odds and ends which escape me. We got the bottle from the distillery bar, and then headed back to the front to take a look around the grounds and get a feel for the place. With European style rooms (no private toilets) I don’t think well be spending a night there anytime soon, though I may be wrong about that… perhaps I’ll save that judgment until tomorrow.

From the Edgefield, we headed back to the hotel for our last nights stay. So I sit here now, watching Dirty Jobs, drinking a nice gewürztraminer we picked up this afternoon, and logging the events of the day. Tomorrow is out to Astoria, then who knows what, our plans are REALLY open after that 🙂

All in all today was going to be the deal breaker for us if there was one. If we didn’t fall in love with the area today, we had no idea what we would do. Luckily, the more we find out about Portland, and the more we see of it, the more we love it and are SURE this is indeed the place for us. The people are amazing and the scenery is beautiful!

We KNOW that not only will we fit in around here, but many of our friends would as well if we can convince any of them to come up and live here…

Day 4: This morning started just fine… same as all the other days with a continental breakfast provided by the hotel.

From there we drove out to Astoria. The drive along the Columbia was gorgeous. We stopped in Astoria for lunch and then headed across the Astoria Bridge to Washington and back, for the simple reason that I just love bridges and this one was staring me down, demanding I drive on her.

We had left the day open in case we found stuff to keep us interested, but alas, Astoria is just a small port town. So we headed on south to Tillamook, Newport, and then on to Coos Bay.

Tillamook was a bit disappointing in that it was a bit more commercial than we had expected. The cheese factory parking lot was PACKED, so we decided to drive on and bypass the tasting/gift shop experience. It was far from the boutique type shop we had hoped for. This was pure American commercialism; which I can’t deny too much, but it still seemed a bit odd for the area.

We were, however lucky enough to find two separate lighthouses to stop at along the way. The first being the lighthouse used in the move “The Ring”:

And the second being a still in service lighthouse at the mouth of the Umpqua River:

The drive down the Oregon coast is the best part of today’s 400 miles as we were disappointed by Coos bay as well. What we expected to be a quaint little town like Astoria, was really just a depressed little shit-hole of a bay town with little to offer in terms of decent restaurants or accommodations.

So we pressed on to Roseburg for dinner and a night’s hotel stay just like the first night in Oregon. Not exactly to plan, but then again, it is better than Coos bay.

So here I sit, with a belly full of IPA and McMenamin’s American Dip sandwich, drinking another 22 oz. IPA I got “to go”. Tomorrow is our start down south, with a hopeful stop over in San Francisco to meet up with some friends. Then it is on to Santa Maria to hang with George and Kathy for a night before our return home… Stay tuned.

Day 5: Overall, this was just a boring day of driving and recapping what we had seen. Unfortunately and were both at a wedding in Sonoma the night before and wouldn’t be back in the city until well after we had already passed through/by. We were bummed we missed them, but such is life, especially since we hadn’t planned prior to the night before since we didn’t know when or if we would even be passing by the city.

This diverted the plan once more and we actually ended up at George and Kathy’s a night early, which turned out to be a good thing since it allowed us to take all of Monday and do some wine tasting in Paso Robles which we hadn’t done since at least 6 years prior.

Since I didn’t write up this at the end of the day and rather am attempting to recall from memory, I’ll cut this short and just say that we had a wonderful time visiting with Kathy and George. We very rarely get to spend time with just the two of them, and even more rarely do we spend much time with only Kathy, so it was nice to be able to take her to dinner Monday night while George was in a meeting.

While it was my intent to head home n the evening on Monday, the wine tasting had taken a toll on Jean and she didn’t feel like driving (read this as riding passenger in the car while I drove) and so we imposed on George and Kathy for one more night.

Day 6: We were up and out by 8:30 am, back on the road, this time headed straight home with no more detours. By this point, I was both ready to get home and sleep in my own bed, but at the same time I felt like I could drive for another week and just continue on discovering new places and people and food and drink!

Luckily we arrived home before I could commit to a hard left turn and keep on going. Home by Noon, and unpacked by 1pm, we took a nice nap at 3pm and ordered pizza for dinner so we could just sit on the couch and do nothing. That was very nice after a week of always doing something or planning something for the next hour/day…

The grand total mileage for the trip is 2,733.7 miles. With 900 miles up and back to Portland, that still left us with an additional 900 miles drive around the greater Portland area and Oregon Coastline. I think I’ll be riding my motorcycle for the next few weeks exclusively, just to get out of the car! The GPS doesn’t lie… unless you are looking at the max speed, in which case it does.

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