August 2017

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...

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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...

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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...

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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.┬áThis 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...

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For the moon to be reflected in a pool of water, every ripple needs to be stilled.

Summer is fleeting as a Scottish shadow. Somehow it’s August and I’ve been home for a month from our trip to Spain and Norway. Time has a way of condensing and accelerating as one gets older, and it’s not subtle. The days of my adolescence seem wide as a stretched accordion while the present year’s days could be pressed into an envelope box.

The brain is an incredibly versatile device that, strangely, functions beyond our conscious control, and it handles routine by essentially choosing not to bother remembering the rote, non-novel moments of daily existence.

That’s one point for traveling. Read more...

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