Picture This: Coigach Peaking

September 6, 2017 by Keith Savage
Muddling through the Coigach Peninsula, Wester Ross, Scotland

Beyond The Minch’s watery grasp and Loch Broom’s beckoning finger, north of the Summer Isles spilled in the shimmering sea, and west of all man’s thoroughfares, the Coigach peninsula reaches for the sun and stars. Lochs patter upon the intervening glen, tears from a blind god, as the earth throws wide its embrace. Stac Pollaidh, Cùl Mòr, and Cùl Beag bark in the mist ‘yond the wind-blown gorse. This is a chance, an open window, a doorway cracked and illuminated.

How wonderfully intuitive and unexpected, this, that venturing to the sacrosanct corners of our long-neglected but sought-after selves requires physical emplacement…
Read more...

Strathearn Distillery’s Whisky School: Day 3

August 30, 2017 by Keith Savage
Strathearn distillery's mash tun from the mezzanine

It was Wednesday morning, the start of our third day at Strathearn Distillery’s whisky school, and I was sore. Every muscle in my back was locked up and complaining about the dozens of 50lb bags of barley I’d hauled up the steps of the stillhouse yesterday. I ate a sausage roll, drank some coffee, and grinned. Learning a new career is always painful (I’ve learned three in the past seven years). The sun was shining in Comrie as we waited for Tony to pick us up. The Mad Men of Methven planned on delivering a salvo of tastings today and that meant no driving for us.

The whisky and gin would have to wait. Read more...

Strathearn Distillery’s Whisky School: Day 2

August 23, 2017 by Keith Savage
Traveling Savage filling a barrel between two condensers

Delilah was gone. A man came into the office, hoisted her, and carried her off to his truck with a grin on his face. I watched, aghast, as Tony waved him goodbye from the doorway. The truck rumbled over the speed bumps while Delilah sat cold, alone, and forlorn in the pick-up bed, gleaming in the morning February sun. Strathearn didn’t need Delilah anymore, so they sold her.

This is not a tale of human trafficking. I’m referring to Delilah the still, half of a matched pair of small copper stills. The other half, appropriately named Samson, remained in the stillhouse for small-batch gin runs. We’d be doing one of those today. Read more...

Strathearn Distillery’s Whisky School: Day 1

August 16, 2017 by Keith Savage
Tears from copper at Strathearn distillery

Ah, the first day of school. The excitement, the anxiety, the hangover?

Surprisingly, both Jeff and I were fairly chipper as we shuffled out of the apartment on that partly sunny Monday morning and drove toward Strathearn distillery. The Murray was a good friend, though he was half the man he used to be.

The gents at Strathearn were kind to us by providing a late 9:30am start time, and after passing through the town of Crieff and the farms of Perthshire’s bread basket we arrived right on time. The distillery’s HQ… Read more...

Preparing for Strathearn Distillery’s 5-Day Whisky School

August 9, 2017 by Keith Savage
Loch Earn on a February evening

I’ve been to north of 40 distilleries in Scotland and nearly gained a degree in the theory and process behind making single malt Scotch whisky. Perhaps it was inevitable that I would contract an overpowering desire to put that knowledge into practice, to see if I could make whisky like the passionate wonder-workers manning stills across Alba. This past February and March I engineered an opportunity to do just that while working at a distillery for a full week. I had arranged the trip with the Strathearn Distillery guys, who I had met just a few months prior in November, and my good friend Jeff, a purveyor of fine drams who works as a professional brewer here in Madison, Wisconsin. Read more...