Sampling peaty malts

Last week I tasted single malt scotch for the first time (Cragganmore from Speyside) and fell in love. So this week, on my birthday, I had saved up my nickels and dimes and was ready to do some tasting at the Duke of Perth, a scotch bar on the North Side.

bottlesI wanted to explore the peaty scotches, and explore them I did.  In order, they were Talisker from Skye, Caol Ila from Isley, and Laphroaig from Isley.  The Talisker was a great one to start off with, having the most distinctive peatiness. The Caol Ila was more subtle, and by the time I got to the Laphroaig, I was struggling to taste the peatiness–it was different in some way, although it’s definitely there. The Laphroaig I saved for last, and when no one was looking, swirled a couple of ice cubes from the water chaser around in the glass to make sure I had gotten every drop.

For the second course, I wanted to just sip something. I asked the bartender about Ardbeg, and he said it would be similar to the Caol Ila.  The Caol Ila would be considered more “peaty” while the Talisker is more “smoky”.

I ended up having Aberlouer, aged in a cask previously used for aging sherry.  I have to say the Aberlouer was perfect in the way that a man you are not in love with is perfect.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with this scotch.  In time, one could possibly get to know it better and spend some enjoyable hours with it. The only problem is, no spark.  What can I say.  Cragganmore was my first love and is still my true love.

cragganmore(Did you know there was a “whiskey architect”, Charles Doig, who rebuilt the Cragganmore distillery?)

Single Malt Scotch with Hats

duke of perthLast night I spent my birthday sampling single malt scotch at a Chicago scotch bar called the Duke of Perth.  Oddly enough, the bar also had both a goat and a hat, odd because the whole scotch thing came out of some comments made by Languagehat.

The goat I’m afraid was dead, (a mountain goat, I was told)  but the head was preserved on the wall wearing an American  sailor hat.  A matching moose deer head over the bar wears a Scottish police hat.

deer with hat

mountain goat

Don’t let me forget to say something about Ardbeg (no, I didn’t taste it).

Looking for Ibn Zaydun

Does anyone know what this poem is?

Here is a partial quotation from a Jordanian named Zaydoun. His namesake was the poet Ibn Zaydun from Spain who was famous for loving a princess. The Ibn Zaydun poem fragment is something like “We used to meet…our meeting” the last word being the Arabic word “deena” (?) (meeting).  Apparently the first two lines of the poem are somewhat famous in Arabic and are studied extensively in Syria.

A cursory review 9f a few google books shows Ibn Zaydun was the great poet that set the standard for judging later poets.  So far I have tracked down the quite short Wikipedia article about Ibn Zaydun, a tantalizing tourism biography, and a few lines of a poem from Syrian (?) blogger MoCo:

God has sent showers upon the abandoned dwelling places of those we loved. He has woven upon them a striped, many colored garment of flowers, and raised among them a flower like a star. How many girls like images trailed their garments among such flowers, when life was fresh and time was at our service… How happy they were, those days that have passed, days of pleasure, when we lived with those who had black, flowing hair and white shoulders… Now say to Destiny whose favors have vanished – favors i have lamented as the nights have passed – how faintly its breeze has touched me in my evening. but for him who walks in the night the stars still shine: greetings to you, Cordoba, with love and longing.

Birthday Malt

Last week I tasted a single malt scotch for the first time– and in spite of not being a scotch drinker, fell in love.  For my birthday I decided to do further explorations of the single malt scotch world.

Googling for single malts in Chicago, I discovered that major cities do have bars dedicated to the single malt scotch, and Chicago is no exception.  The place to go is the Duke of Perth at 2913 N. Clark.  I left home at about 10:30, but the traffic on north bound Lake Shore Drive was so bad I didn’t get there until 11:30, with another half hour driving around the block on those impossible north side one way streets trying to find parking. Finally by midnight the crowds were beginning to thin out and I had secured a place to park less than a block away.

I had really worked up an appetite looking for that parking spot, and realizing it had been four or five hours since my last meal, I thought a snack was in order to lay down a good base for the evening’s exertions.  Unfortunately the kitchen was closed and there was nothing whatsoever to eat–no peanuts, no goldfish crackers, and certainly  not the old Chicago standby,  Tombstone ndividual frozen pizza.

The staff had some sushi behind the bar they were sharing with each other, and I was reminded of all the places in the world you can sit at the bar and order food from the place down the street.  Not here.

But I didn’t come to eat, I came for the scotch, especially wanting to try one of the peaty Islay malts recommeneded by Languagehat.

‘There are several samplers you can order to get a taste of several malts at once and this is what I ordered. For $18 I got three half-ounce samples served in tallish snifter-thingies.  The three peaty malts were Talisker 10 year from Skye (pronounced the way it looks), Caol Ila 18 year from Islay (pronounced cull EE-la), and Laphroig 10 year from Isley (pronounced lə FROIG).

Low battery, to be continued…with the Aberlouer (prounounced aber LAUW er) aged in casks previously used to age sherry.

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Ontario Sortie

You don’t usually think of Ontario as being particularly bilingual (at least I don’t) but the highway signs are posted in both French and English.
onatario construction signonatario signonatario sortieontario bridge sign

Particularly annoying are a series of highway signs nagging about dangers of the highway. In Ontario, these three scourges are drinking, tailgating, and fatigue. The sign appears first in English, then in French. Here are the French signs warning about death from drinking and tailgating:
ontario drinking kills sign
ontario tailgating kills sign

Even the population signs are bilingual–but what has happened to the comma in the population number?
ontario winsor population sign

BTW, if you’re American don’t forget to bring proof of citizenship: birth certificate or passport. The days of driving through Ontario with nothing but your driver’s license are over.

Why the summit?

Why do the trails always lead to the summit? IMG_3955 IMG_3935a
True, you can see some nice views from high up. This is from the western side of Mt. Graylock in western Massachusetts, where the Appalachian Trial passes through the state.
IMG_3919IMG_3920IMG_3922IMG_3921
Trails in this state park are “moderate”, “strenuous” and “aggressive”. Of course, the one I picked had to say “aggressive” at the trailhead once I got there.  “An hour and a half up and one hour down”, said some hikers who were just leaving as I arrived. The trail looked like it was pretty much straight up. Forty minutes into the hike, I decided I wasn’t sure I wanted an “aggressive” trail. I took my pulse by my cell phone clock, wondering if I should continue, then took it again 5 minutes later. Was I in good enough shape for this?

And why the summit? I have been to the summit of what, Mt. Snowden, Harney Peak, ..there must have been others. Did I have a numinous experience? Was I a better person for having been on the summit? Did I really need to do it again? No, it was a letdown, an artificial goal, a non-experience. Like everything else, the fun was in the journey, not the destination. Feeling like one of Kipling’s characters from Kim, searching for enlightenment, I began the descent and immediately started to enjoy myself.

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