December 30, 2012

'Tis the season for Indiscretion

Oh Angus! We asked for a SCOTCH with legs.
With all the seasonally appropriate talk of the rich and powerful being brought to their knees due to their 'indiscretions', we thought we'd try to find a way to tie a whisky review to the failings of our 'natural' urges. If you're going to play around, there are a few things you should consider first. Now I realize that 99.9% of cheating doesn't involve any thinking at all, and I appreciate the situational and environmental elements involved in said infidelity: the mood, the lighting, the quality & quantity of libation being consumed. But let's try for a minute to believe that we are actually logical creatures with some level of discipline and ability for planning ahead.

Dark, mysterious, and New World charm.
Glenfiddich 19 yr old Age of Discovery Bourbon Cask Reserve*. Ok that's one bloody long title. Does it deserve such a moniker? Well, the packaging alone is enough to make one tremble before its mighty bosom. Nineteen years, really? Admittedly there's a certain guilt when thinking about the pleasures of an 18 yr old, but for some twisted 15th century/Game of Thrones rationale, a 19 yr old seems old enough to know the score. That one extra year affords her the unmistakeable markings of maturity. An adult in her prime not susceptible to the ridiculous and transparent charms of a fast car, a nice suit, or a reservation at the 'it' spot in town. Those are the trappings of an 18 yr old. That Pretty Penny will fall hard for said lures, for she is still a child.

You still got it Burt.

"Age of Discovery"… yes indeed. The brilliant (and twisted) people at Glenfiddich have not let us down. This is the second AoD release from the distillery. BTW, our first ever review on this blog was for Glenfiddich's Snow Phoenix. A mighty and frigid bird that pecked at our heart with a balanced and complex rhythm. Were we impressed? Uhhh yes. Now Glenfiddich comes back to our half-dead carcass for a second helping of blood thumping, heart wrenching, take-a-chance-and-risk-it-all abandon lust… americano-style.

The Mississippi: You WILL love her, and she WILL tear your little heart out. Because once you've felt her waves, and her curves, and her current; all others will become mere streams and babbling brooks. To say the AoD is balanced is an understatement. She is the Cirque du Soleil of the Whisky world, not the cheaply perfumed and imprecise Moulin Rouge from the slutty underbelly of dramland. There is honey, there is wine, there's even a hint of smoke, and that's just fine. Something extreme about this one. The Tannins & oils of the american oak are deeply penetrating. The Mississippi flows strong against your paddleboat tongue. It IS good.

* Don't look for this at your local pharmacy, it can only be found at the nearest port of entry.

September 14, 2012

Spirit Guides

Lace em' up boys, tonight we'll fight for it.
Managing a Whisky Bar is like managing a hockey team; you won't get good results if the players aren't movers and shakers. And with too many players on the bench, the good ones won't get enough ice time. So picking your roster is pretty darn important, and at the end of the day if a player doesn't perform, you don't pay them, you cut them – that's just business. For a hockey team, 23 players will do, for a whisky bar, I've seen a roster of hundreds, but to what end? To carry any more than 50 whiskies at a time takes the spotlight off of the stars and completely overwhelms the fans.

Enter the rotating roster method. Perform or die. Why should a whisky have it any easier than a pro hockey player? You hire them to do a job, (making people warm and fuzzy inside) and they better dram well deliver. The problem is, some whiskies that don't sell well aren't necessarily 'bad' whiskies. Without naming names and pointing fingers, I can say we have some great whiskies that don't sell well. So what makes that happen? It's not price – I have some inexpensive ones that sit a lot longer than the more expensive ones. For whisky to perform well it comes down to one important factor: the coach standing on the bench (AKA our staff). Whisky patrons want to be steered in the right direction and they look for that from the guys and gals on the other side of the counter. And rightly so. But they're not just whisky coaches, they're your spirit guides to dramland.

DVLB's Dr. Dramstein workin' the Peat
 Now most people that visit us at DVLB have seen the whisky wall and paid their due respects. But not a heck of a lot of people have had a chance to visit our secret whisky lab. (The whereabouts of said lab will remain undisclosed for fear of mass looting and rioting in our fine town), but rest assured we in management are hard at work toiling away, dram after dram, day after day to bring you the best of what seems like an endless golden utopia of malt madness.

When building and destroying a whisky collection, one should search for a diverse set of skills from your players. Consider light ones, sweet ones, and some with that quintessential mark of St. Andrew: Peat. Let's look at some new and bright stars in the line up shall we:

Where's the Peat? haha.
Port Charlotte An Turas Mor
Speaking of player performance, I've had an on and off again love affair with Bruichladdich. When first I looked at the Laddie Classic I thought it must have been a printing error. The Tiffany blue bottle screams of desperation in the not-so-sublte art of peacocking. The pale liquid inside didn't offer much more. The Laddie Organic is tolerable, offering up a unique approach to the market by jumping on the 'green' wagon. But it was the Port Charlotte sub-brand of Bruichladdich that finally did justice to a distillery that for many years waved it's proud flag of independence (recently sold out to Rémy Cointreau). Hmmm. To most, Islay = Peat. And Port Charlotte is Bruichladdich's answer to that question: 'where's the peat?'

Found on our flavour map just below the 'Lone Wolf' (Ardbeg) and it's shyer half-beast cousin (Laphroaig) the PC An Turas Mor (Gaelic for 'the great journey') is just one peated single malt in a long line of other PCs that are leading up to the release of a 10 yr old… probably within a year. The concept of releasing several underaged malts to the public so they can experience the maturation process is, well… pretty cool. One thing we can't take away from Bruichladdich is their tenacity to be inventive. Let's hope their new Parisian overlords let them keep playing in that sandbox.

The Balvenie Peated Cask 17 yr old
Innovation isn't shipwrecked on Islay though. Master Distiller of The Balvenie, David Stewart has his own brand of sorcery. From the stunning 14 yr old Caribbean Cask (in our top #5 for sales) to another malted mutation: The 17 yr old Peated Cask. 'So what' you say? Well my darling deerbunnies, as you know, The Balvenie is a Speyside whisky and as such is more known for its focus on honey and vanilla notes. Peat is very atypical for this distillery (see sister: Glenfiddich) here's the low-down: In 2001, he produced some heavily peated Balvenie whisky and put this in to ex-bourbon casks. In late 2009, after eight years of maturation, he decided to transfer this heavily peated whisky to some fresher casks and had planned to experiment and put some other suitable whisky in the old casks. Stewart selected some 17 yr old and transferred it to the casks that had previously held the heavily peated whisky and monitored its maturation progress. The result was then blended with some other 17 years old whisky that had been part matured in new American oak casks. The result is this Balvenie 17 years old Peated Cask. Got all that?

This is the only whisky on our flavour map that has a multi-coloured rating. Starting off with honey notes and easily tricking you into a calm and collected serenity before smacking you upside the head with it's open fist of peated prowess, this dram is unapologetic - The way a Scot should be. Thanks Davey.

June 18, 2012

Don't' F#@! with the Lone Wolf

Ardbeg Brand Ambassadors circa 1983
Did I just cross the line, go against all I've been taught, soil the purity of our spirit? Yes, I broke the law. My head held high and my chin sticking out like a middle finger to the guy who just cut me off on the parkway.

Why the rebellion? No real reason actually. It was a fluke. Born the way all evolutionary moments are born; chance, accident, right place/right time… with a small peppering of laziness. I had just enjoyed a glass of fine ruby port that I happened to win in a draw the other day. The glass being as empty as a glass can be without a proper washing, when the 'Lone Wolf' (Ardbeg 10 yr old) caught my eye from the corner of the cabinet. The kitchen being 10 feet away from said cabinet, a distance much too far for this slothful half-Scot, I made a Darwinian decision to pour a dram into said contaminated vessel.

I think I could go for some Meatloaf actually.
The 'Lone Wolf' is named as such for a reason: he doesn't play well with others in games of taste, he doesn't like to be compared to others, and most of all, he despises other Islay malts. They are weak to him, and he knows they cower in his glorious light. So when embarking on the path to malt madness, and when Ardbeg is your companion, you don't mess around – he'll go straight for your jugular if you don't respect his power. But of course, like most Scots, I shrugged my shoulders at the beast and poured away. The ruby-throated port residue in my glass immediately stained the wolf to a hue of blood and anger. Now, you'd think any contamination at all would devastate a single malt, destroy it's long journey of singleness and singledom. But all I did was wake the beast. He came out with renewed vigour and gnashed his teeth.

How about a nice ham sandwich instead?
A delight! A joyous delight the wolf brought to my mouth. 'On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with red roses?' …sure. Did the ruby port add anything? I'd answer by saying it added resolve. Resolve that you can't tame the wolf. (Ned Stark would grin about now) The port only made our wolf bolder. Stronger. More cantankerous. What's the lesson? That allowing our sacred spirits to mingle may give us a glimpse of what a single malt may have become if allowed into wedlock, but also that a defiant single malt can withstand a wee bit of swill. They are after all, from the land of the thistle, not fairy fluff.

April 14, 2012

Don't be such a Drip

Kopi Luwak pour-overs… hells no
When we first opened our doors in December we weren't sure how the Loo would react to us banishing traditional drip coffee and offering up something that takes a lot more time and a lot more effort to make as an alternative to our espresso. People still come in and ask what the heck a pour-over is; and we lovingly walk through the process so they can see for themselves what makes it so darn special. The fact that so many people haven't heard of this technique tells us that not many coffee shops are offering it in our area. (DVLB may be the only place in town currently offering this brewing method) Hopefully it'll catch on with other shops, but we suspect a big detractor is that it takes several minutes to brew a cup and is heavily reliant on a barista's skill. This is slow, slow, slow. So patience is a prerequisite.

Beware: your vision may be affected by one too many pour-overs
What the hell is this thing anyway? At first glance the pour-over may appear to be a 'mini' drip device, but it's far more involved than making drip coffee and produces a far more delicate brew (when done right). With traditional drip brewing you fill the coffee machine with water, it boils and the water is sprayed onto the coffee grounds. Gravity takes over and pulls the water through the grounds and into a carafe. You can't really mess this up because there's really no interaction in the extraction process. Simple. There's a device on the market called the Clever Coffee Dripper that looks a lot like a pour-over but it's brew method is similar to a french press in that it's a 'full-immersion' process: You put the grinds in, add all the water at once and brew. But don't be fooled, the results are not the same as the more involving pour-over method.

If you really want to expand your coffee tasting experience, the pour-over technique allows more control over the extraction which in turn makes a cleaner, rounder, and fruitier brew. It's multidimensional and works great (with great coffee). The biggest plus: that piercing and acidic bitterness you general get from regular drip coffees… gone. It's so smooth you won't believe you're drinking it straight! No more masking that black goddess with creams and sugars. If you're looking to cut your dairy, this is the way to do it.

uhh, Honey, maybe you should've gone with the black spacy outfit
The secret lies in how you pour the water over the grounds. There are a lot of videos online that will show you how to do it. Some use timers, some use scales, but we prefer to use our hearts *sigh*. First things first though: only grind the beans right before brewing. Nothing in our shop is pre-ground. That's a deadly sin in our world, as once you grind the beans, they'll go stale in about 5 minutes - this is a key step. (This is also one of the reasons we decided against drip coffee. We didn't feel right about serving some sludge that's been sitting on a heating plate for 30 mins.)

Once you've got your grounds in a filter, you'll punch a little divot in the center of the grounds and add a couple of table spoons worth of hot water in that divot. All you're trying to do here is wet the coffee. You aren't trying to extract yet. As the coffee reacts to the water, you'll see the 'bloom'. It's a fantastically geeky sight to watch the coffee rise like yeast. It's important to do this step and not just "dump n' drip". Remember, this is a ceremony, a sacrament, it's borderline cult-like but without the Kool-aid. And yes, it's little bit of a show, but that's ok. As long as we admit to the grandstanding, people will buy a ticket. We all know coffee isn't just a consumable, it's a ritual.

After the bloom, we'll hit the grinds with small bursts of hot water to get the extraction flowing. We never want to submerge the coffee fully in water, we want it to breathe. This allows the gases to escape and thus help reduce the tartness and bitterness that's common in drip and full-immersion coffee. After about 3 minutes you'll have a full cup ready to worship and reflect over. When you're done your first cup, don't be alarmed to find a bit of residue at the bottom. That's perfectly normal (also common with other brew methods like french press).
Recently with the early warm weather, we've been offering an iced pour-over in our mason jar glassware. The subtle and delicate notes work perfectly with a mug full of ice on a hot spring day. We're also rotating our single-origin pour-over coffees all the time. Our most popular is a Guatemalan, but we usually have at least 2 to choose from. This week is our first week offering a sweet little cherry from Burundi called: Kiryama.

If you're used to regular drip coffee waking you up like a punch in the face, you might appreciate the pour-over's kinder shake n' wake. It still packs the same amount of caffeine, but the flavour spectrums are much broader. Does take a little longer? Yes, but all the best things in life are worth waiting for… patience is (as they say) a virtue. Amen.

March 8, 2012

French & Japanese stand their ground in Dramland

Scene 1: Whisky Cat picks the Yoichi 10 yr old
Scene 2: The 'Princess' defiantly picks the Armorik

Scene 3: Whisky Cat walks away in disgust.

It's test time again at the ol' jackashack. Of course our trusty Whisky Cat was on hand for the dramming accompanied by a special guest (colour only) judge: The 'Princess'. Although incapable of articulating her opinions in any sort of rational fashion, I did see a substantially larger amount of drool when the French single malt was cracked open.

Ok kiddies (and cats), on with the lowdown: 

Armorik Breton French Single
Strong fruit, robust and full bloom. Over-ripe pears, graham crackers, toffee… smores??? (I know… my eyes are rolling too)

Starts off light, slightly smoky, fruity, nice finish, some honey mixed with some grassiness

Medium length, smoke comes in subtly and softly.

Wow, first thought is how did the French pull this off. But on closer inspection of the region of Brittany, and discovering the Gaelic roots in that region it’s no wonder this whisky delivers. Get it while you can at DVLB and LCBO because it’s not a stock item. A gentle whisky, not as gentle as a lowland whisky but definitely stands on it’s own. Well done.

Nikka Yoichi 10 yr old
Pronounced: ‘Yo-e-chee’
Meaning: bewitching and seductive (and it is)

Honey, sake, rice

Amazingly balanced is the first thing. Mellow, sweet honey notes carry throughout.

Long, long, and smooth. Smoke comes in late on this one and its trickery makes me smile.

Phenomenal whisky. The Japanese are scaring the hell out of me with this stuff. They aren’t fooling around. If the Scot’s aren’t paying attention, they should be. Makes me think of the American car companies laughing in the 70’s when the Japanese came to town. We all know what happened there. Kilt wearers be warned!

You call this a Bush party? You must be Putin me on. HA!
Caol Ila Distillers Edition 1996
Pronounced: ‘cool-eye-la’ or ‘cull-ee-la
(depending on who you ask)

Nose: (clearly this was the last one to be sampled as I got a little carried away with the descriptive) It’s an Islay, so of course peat is king here. One thing I love about whisky is just how many different degrees of peat you can get. I’ve talked about Laphroaig’s creosote inclinations in previous posts. Caol Ila’s Distillers Edition’s smoke is more of the embers after a bush party. (Scene: You're among the last that made it through the night and find yourself standing around what’s left of the bonfire with nothing to show for from the night before. The only thing keeping you humming along right now are those sweet red hot embers.... they carry you. (Now if you only had some marshmallows left, D'oh!!!) It’s a refined peat; a peat that doesn’t need to be center stage even though everyone in the crowd knows who the star is.


Bush party fires. fall leaves, junk yard dogs… walking down the railway line… Stand by me? Sorry no dead body notes... I think. Almost perfect as far as an Islay whisky goes. Can you taste your childhood adventures; the ones before you met face to face with responsibility? Sip this one and escape to that place again.

Woodsy, peaty, doesn’t overwhelm at all. Nice to see a refined peat.


Got to love the Islays. Got to love Caol Ila.

Hi there, we're the new international exchanges students... uh.
New Whiskey/Whiskies at DVLB this week:
Blanton's Single Barrel Kentucky Straight, Jura 200th Anniversary 21 yr old, Nikka Yoichi 10 yr old, Armorik Breton French Single, & Caol Ila 1996 Distillers Edition.

Next week we'll trip on down south on the Bourbon trail and ask why only Americans and the Irish spell it "Whiskey" (Probably something to do with their Brit hate-on)


February 21, 2012

What women want... Scotch!

All Brick ever wanted was to watch the damn football game.
It's only been 2 months since we opened our little jackashack and we're overjoyed by the reception we've received so far. Everyone's been incredibly complimentary of our digs, our coffees and our whiskies. Thank you, thank you, thank you! It's still early on in the game for us and we're planning some big stuff come springtime so stay tuned for more. We're still learning to fly and figuring out what works and what doesn't.

Liars, the whole lot of 'em
The 'movement'
The biggest surprise by far for DVLB?… our whisky customers. It's made us very happy little deerbunnies to see so many women showing an interest in whisky. A sea change? If so, bring it. The girls are showing the boys how it's done. And it's not the groups of giddy girls out on a Friday all dolled up just looking for a one-night stand with the dram. No, our fine lady-patrons are regulars; and regulars with a discerning appetite otherwise known as malt madness. A power struggle? I doubt it. Women are smarter than that. Whisky is that beautiful elixir that takes a real dedication. Maybe women are just better at commitment. 

Some starter points for the lads and lassies

1. Try real hard (don't be a try-hard) not to make a funny face when you feel the 'burn'. Embrace it, make it your friend and sail away to that happy place with it. Also, it doesn't have to burn… just sip'er slow.
2. It's not jagermeister. Sip it. Slow. Relax. Put the iPhone down & contemplate the fact that it took 10+ yrs for this fine spirit to reach your lips and bestow upon you this new found joy.
3. Ask questions. The world of Whisky is vast, we'll hold your hand through this. Slow and steady
4. Water awakens whisky's flavours. Drinking it neat is not a prerequisite.

I'm sorry, we're all out of ice. You'll have to drink it neat like a man.
Women of Whisky
The whiskey dame
Marketing blog Extra

February 12, 2012

Please sir, can I have some more

Whisky n' Gruel. Yum.
We just picked up 2 new single malts this week and they've inspired us to write a bit about single malt / dessert pairings. Seeing as we've also brought in some amazing crème brûlées over the last few weeks and we're working feverishly on our first whisky tasting which may or may not include a chocolate/truffle pairing, I figured this sort of combination deserved some coverage. (BTW the pecan tarts we carry are made with bourbon... but that's our little secret ok!)

This bars' not big enough for the both of us
Auchentoshan Three Wood
This is the second review we've done for the Auchentoshan distillery... 'FOUR!' he yelled across the dew drenched fields of Dalmuir. One has to wonder if the name is an inside reference for golf enthusiasts... (The 'three wood' being that trusty ol' club in your bag – your 'go-to' as you roll up and down the lowland links.)

If you've had the Auchentoshan 12 yr old you know it's light and crisp with slight grassy notes. The Three Wood is nothing like the 12 yr old. It'll drive 300 yards easy without breaking a sweat. And that's just the nose. Although not labeled with an age, this single malt is a 12 year old, matured for 10 in bourbon casks then finished for one year in Oloroso Sherry casks and then another year in Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks. The colour is deep, the nose has a staying power, and the palate... well the palate is oh so sweet. Not what you would expect from a lowland right? There's a definite cherry note, maybe cooked cherries? This is a whisky I'd pair with a cream filled chocolate over a dark bittersweet. Overall, it's always nice to see a range from the same distillery. It really showcases what great maltmasters can do in the wonderful world of whisky!

Highland Park 18 yr old
When you're a poor dram-addict like me but decide to drop this kind of cash on a scotch, you have to almost forget about the price tag if you want to get any enjoyment from it at all. If you put the cost on the front burner, then that's all you'll think about when you sip n' slip away to the land of whisky-valhalla. The 12 year old Highland Park is extraordinary for the price and is always onsite at DVLB. It's the first single malt I experienced that gave me that "aha moment". The 12's older brother is like most older brothers; a little wiser, a little stronger, and not so desperate to prove himself to anyone anymore. Refined, yes. Not as peaty as the 12, much richer in tone and a longer finish. Cheers to older brothers.

Sexy beast!... I mean god.
As an aside, there are some interesting and creative things Highland Park is doing these days. They've recently launched a special Valhalla Collection with the first release being called "Thor". A 16 year old cask strength. One must wonder if it tastes as good as it looks, because damn, that packaging is sexy.

Honourable mention for crème brûlée pairing: Dalmore 12 yr old, Balvenie Caribbean Cask, Aberlour 18 yr old.

February 6, 2012

BufCafé Red Bourbon

This week we've brought in a sweet and rounded little number: Bufcafé Red Bourbon from the Bufundu region, Nyamagabe in Rwanda.

Well-rounded, Candied Orange, Plum, Vanilla

Red Bourbon

Washed and Dried on raised African beds

1600-1900 M

2000 Small shareholders

A little more info from our roaster Detour Coffee:
This 100% red bourbon coffee is grown at altitudes of up to 1900 metres in the south of Rwanda. BufCafé is owned and managed by Epiphanie Mukashyaka, a dynamic businesswoman and a source of inspiration to countless other female entrepreneurs in Rwanda’s coffee sector and beyond.

Epiphanie was widowed during the 1994 genocide - which claimed over 800,000 lives in just 3 months - but chose not to leave her family’s small coffee farm. Instead she set about rebuilding and developing her business, and with it the local community. She started Buf Café in 2003, with a loan from the Rwandan Development Bank and the assistance of the USAID-financed PEARL project.

This transformational programme was aimed at switching the focus in the Rwandan coffee sector from an historic emphasis on quantity to one of quality - and so opening up Rwanda to the far higher-earning specialty coffee market. The programme and its successor, SPREAD, have been invaluable in helping Rwanda’s small-scale coffee farmers to rebuild their production in the wake of the devastating 1994 genocide and the 1990s world coffee crash.

Buf Café now owns two coffee washing stations, as well as its own coffee trees, and buys coffee cherries from as many as 7000 surrounding smallholder farmers. Some of these farmers are also employed to work at Buf‘s washing stations, where they are paid a premium above the average local wage. The idea is that well paid workers are more likely to care about their jobs and so take pride in the quality of Buf’s coffee. And this appears to work - quality control at Buf is impressively high and it has had several winning lots in the Cup of Excellence.

The coffee is hand-picked and hand-sorted, then fully-washed and dried in the sun on traditional raised African beds.

The majority of the small farmers in the area have an average of only 300 coffee trees and use some of their land to cultivate other crops for subsistence. Most of their income from the sale of coffee is used to take their children to school, pay for medical care and for investment in livestock such as a cow for milk for use in the home and for sale locally.

February 1, 2012

Grean Meanie

Not all LCBOs are created equal
Most times when I walk past the institutionalized, neutral-toned, and calming facade of the LCBO I feel a slight chill as our bureaucratically-laced overlords dictate what we can and can't drink. They've done a bang up job of keeping us in the dark ages with clean lighting, wood-warmed vintage sections and staff donning ties. If you've ever shopped for wine or whisky south of the border or in Europe in one of their super-boozemarts, you know this pain I speak of.

But it ain't all bad. If you do your homework and scour the city you can find some great selections. My favourite LCBO in K-W for whisky is at Ottawa & Home Watson (721 Ottawa Street South) in the Alpine Centre. I've spoken with the manager Greg there, and he has a good understanding of whisky and seems to be proactive in his stock selections. Greg also recommends a drive to another great LCBO in Guelph that has an impressive selection located on Stone Rd West across from the Stone Rd. Mall (615 Scottsdale Drive).

Well anyway, as I was restocking some of our more popular whiskies like Jura Superstition, I happened across a little green gem from the Isle of Mull: Tobermory 10 yr old. For some reason the island whiskies seem to have grabbed the hearts of K-dub so I said 'what the hell, let's give Toby a shot in the big leagues.'

Sitting off the west coast of Scotland, north of Jura, sits Scotland's fourth largest Island. Tobermory (formerly Ledaig) is a neat 'little' guy. Bottled in a 700ml format like our Bruichladdich Organic, this Island single malt hits on the central sweet spot on our flavour map. The Tobermory single malt is distilled from unpeated malted barley and matured in oak casks for ten years. A peated whisky is also made in Tobermory, named Ledaig for the original distillery name.

Don't be afraid to add a little water to this one. It'll cloud over due to it's un-chill filtered production but will soften the spicy notes. The nose is soft and will mislead as to it's true nature. I get a kick out of a scotch that plays tricks on you. There are only a few of these sneaky devils out there. You'll find this 'green meanie' just south of the smoky meridian and heavier on the rich notes than on the light notes.

Overall, another happy addition to the DVLB line-up kids!

January 29, 2012

Dear Mr. Carnegie...

'she's only filled my cup three times'
Warning: This may seem to be more of an opinionated bitch session than an informative blog post, but seeing as I'm the master & commander of this silly and somewhat ridiculous berth I guess I can call it as I see it (until I'm voted out by the shareholders which seems to be trending high these days)

A little back story shall we: employees at establishments that serve alcohol earn a lower base wage than the standard minimum wage. This is fact and law. Whether you knew that or not is beside the point though. It's not your duty to know the ins and outs of industry specific compensation structures. How much a person earns in our 'biz' is made greatly in part by their own efforts in the service they provide. This is actually an incredibly fair arrangement and makes for a great motivator. It makes the server give better service, it makes the business a better place to be, and most importantly, it makes the customer have a better experience. Everyone wins. (Yeah for everyone!)

Do we all know where this is going... yes of course we do. This is (as was previously mentioned) a bitch session. But a bitch session by itself is as flat and dry as a dessert in Seattle. *sniff* Enter Karma.

if a tree falls in a forest and crushes a beaver's spine...
Karma is the all powerful trans-denominational force that supersedes all things. If there's one thing that can unify all faith and platform, all creatures large and small, it surely must be this. That little old lady you held the door open for at the mall the other day... that was a damn good move because when you're speeding to work on monday because you weren't exactly 'pumped' to get out of bed to be at that task force meeting at 8:45 in boardroom C, and the Cop that sits and waits for people in your situation happens to have his radar gun fail due to a dead battery... uh, yeah... that's karma.

What needs to be understood here is that when a person jacks up a $200 bill, or even a $30 bill at their fav watering hole and leaves a $3 tip, they aren't throwing the server under the bus... no, no, they're just pissing them off and begging them to make note of this person's jersey number for the rest of the staff. What they're doing in fact, is throwing themselves under the bus.

Proper etiquette asks that you show respect to all, regardless of caste.... but if you weren't raised with etiquette then all you have left is your conscience right? Deep down inside, in all of us, regardless of education or cultural experience, we have a base sub-conscience that tells us 'right' from 'wrong' It's an instinctual survival skill that generations before you developed so that you could be here.

Your mom didn't sing that damn song so you could
go off and steal all that music off the inter-web
The good people will always be good. This is why I still like people. They are very fortunate that goodness comes so naturally to them and jealous of them, we all should be. When someone wrongs them, they may for a split second want to respond in turn, but they're wiser than that. Good people. But they are also smart people because they know that there are other forces at work that will correct the balance.

The 'not-so-good people' are just in need of a little re-alignment. Thus we have karma. So let us give thanks to karma for working her ass off and making things right in the world. We all make mistakes, some consciously, some without thinking at all. But either way, karma will gently, or perhaps not so gently remind us to get our act together and strive to be more like the good people. See: How to Win Friends and Influence People

January 18, 2012

Pour-over the Black Gold and get out of the Cold

Siberia on a hot summer day!
 I was raised on the same coffee you were. It was from the grocery store, it was cheap, and it pretty much had one purpose: to wake-you-up & punch-you-in-the-face. Any thought or hope of flavour, or dare I say; character, was solemnly devoid. This was how it was and you didn't ask questions. I'm talkin' communist Russia-style shades of grey with a few highlights of more grey.

Then I had my first pour-over. Not a Ronald Regan/cowboy kinda battery-acid, more of a Jimmy Carter "the Cuban-loving skinny-guy still trying to make a difference brew."

Light, delicate, and understated. Coffee? Coffee is suppose to be a black tar-sludge with a prize under the rim isn't it? Remember: everything in it's right place.

As part of my continuing "coffee canadiana" rehabilitation, when I find a joe that tingles my taste buds, I breath in, I blink slowly, and smile deeply. I reach down between my legs and ease the seat back... no no, not Panama... El Salvador! Just a couple of rogue states away but close. Last week I was in love with our popular Guatemalan pour-over, this week, I'm dancing in Siberia. Stay with me...

El Salvador IS Siberia. Have I been reading one too many Tom Robbins books. Perhaps, but one thing he does well is connect the unconnectable.

Enter Detour Coffee Roasters, stage left:
Finca Siberia (the roast in question) has been farmed since 1870, when Fabio Morán and Etifanio Silva decided to settle on this hostile territory, sowing coffee trees on one of the highest cultivable areas of the Apaneca-Ilamatepec Mountain Range. They named their 28 hectares of land ‘Siberia’, inspired by its unpredictable weather conditions and remote location.

Siberia lies at around 1450m, where its 28 hectares of coffee trees are sheltered from the sun and strong winds by numerous native trees. It's planted out with a mix of bourbon and pacamara varietal trees. The lot we have for pour-overs takes on notes of brown sugar, tangerine and honeysuckle. Yum.

Is this blog done yet?
More on the Silvas... ok: The Silvas are committed to protecting their local environment and have accumulated a vast collection of earthworms, which they use to produce completely organic fertilizer from the leftover coffee pulp. Their coffee is hand picked, sun-dried and hand selected to guarantee quality, a process which provides work for some 24 local families.

My advice: give the pour-over a go. It's a great way to experience the subtleness of coffee. Black is the way to go for this. The bitterness you imagine only exists in the Siberia in your head.

January 15, 2012

Auchentoshan 12 yr old vs Laphroaig Quarter Cask: It's all about time and place.

The Pinnacle of Breakfast Culture
I can't think of two more polar opposites to write about than these two at the moment. As it's getting close to 11am on a Sunday morning and I gaze upon a bottle of the Auchentoshan (while stealing glances from a visibly perturbed wife). Clearly she doesn't understand the passion behind this incredibly important assignment. The inspiration... it's been said that whisky from the Lowlands is the perfect breakfast dram. Good enough for this jackalope, let's experiment shall we:

Those are Stills (not paper boats!)
Auchentoshan 12 yr old
To counter the DTs, many have fallen easily to the caesar or the mimoso in the AM as their prescription. But if you're looking to step up your game, a Lowland might just be the quarterback you're looking for. Auchentoshan 12 yr old is one such star player from just outside of Glasgow to consider. Falling in the 'light and delicate' quadrant of our flavour map, this dram is very accessible and refined. Possibly because it's been triple distilled, possibly because the malts used are unpeated. Look for nuttiness and green leafiness. Not sure how well it pairs with bacon & eggs, so look to a less traditional breakfast meal with this one. Perhaps some re-heated prime-rib from last night's dinner at The Keg & some crusty rye bread? (Yes, we all know you went there again last night, shame on you.) Either way, your friends, your family and your wife (or husband) will all judge you for this reckless decision.

Mmmmm, delicious creosote
Laphroaig Quarter Cask
If you can actually remember the last time you sat in front of a camp fire all night, passed out, then woke up the next morning with your clothes permanently infused with the smell of smoke, then you would understand where Laphroaig Quarter Cask is coming from. This is by far the one single malt we carry that I would never give to a first timer. It's intense beyond intense and would turn you back to rye & gingers faster than a 3 bean burrito on a cruise. When I see reviews of this smokebomb noting a 'slightly peaty' nose I can't help but wonder if they're playing a joke on us.

The Quarter Cask comes out of the bottle defiant and punching hard. Creosote soaked railway ties come out as the dominant taste, followed by diesel, then rubber... it oozes with deep south blues; still interested? It can overwhelm the novice quite easily, but for the seasoned whiskyhead this is a welcome test of your peat tolerance. After the initial shock, you might find some subtle and fruitier notes, but you really have to look for them. BTW 'Quarter Cask' simply refers to a smaller barrel being used during maturation. The idea is that more whisky comes in contact with the aged wood (60% more in fact) of this smaller barrel, thus producing a more powerful result. And it does.
Much like our 'Lone Wolf' (Ardbeg), the Quarter Cask isn't an everyday whisky, and definitely not a breakfast dose. Save this one for the weekend folks. It's Scotland's Southern Harmony Musical Companion.

January 10, 2012

Hello, is there anybody out there...?

 Hello world of bloggers... this is our first post and we're excited to finally get our little selves on the blog scene to share our world view of all things Espresso Whisky and Bread. The holy trinity of 'the good life'

First up we'll talk scotch... I find a lot of whisky reviews both in book form and blog form tend to over-analyze the dram for our liking, but that being said, I do enjoy them... we're just simple whisky sippin' jackalopes though, so we'll keep our comments lighthearted and easy on the ol' noggin. A few tasting notes is all you need to peak an interest. At the end of the day, we all have different palettes and we'll all experience these whiskies in our own way. One thing we do try to do at DVLB is to plot each whisky on our flavour map. When you visit our digs, we'll make sure you get a gander at the flavour map to help you on your journey down the whisky trail. With that said... here we go a-bloggin'... up first are the 3 newest additions to the DVLB line-up:

Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix:
Recently we scoured all of K-W and picked up the last 3 bottles of Snow Phoenix available at the provincial pharmacy. I was actually surprised to see that only 3 were left in the region. I thought we'd have more time to get to know this scotch before making a big commitment, but the sales speak for themselves. Since this is our first ever blog review, we'll rely on the help of some other whiskyheads for the background story on this special whisky: "In January 2010, thanks to an especially snow-filled winter, some of Glenfiddich’s warehouse roofs reached their snow load-bearing limits and decided to collapse without considering the feelings of those sensitive spirit-filled casks within. These casks, some ex-bourbon, some ex-Oloroso, sat shivering in the snow, exposed to sub-zero temps while crews worked furiously to get all involved into a warmer setting. Malt Master Brian Kinsman decided to create a special edition commemorating the event, vatting a selection of whiskies ranging from 12 to 30 years old, bottling it non-chill filtered at a slightly higher proof, and giving it its myth-inspired name."

DVLB's First Impressions:
Strong honey note off the start. Sweet, light, tiny bit of smoke, well balanced and complex. Almost in the center. Slightly richer than light. Slightly delicate over smoke. Aside from the obvious marketing ploy, and sexy packaging, this is actually a damn good dram. Because it's never being released again, it makes this scotch extra special. Once it's gone, it's gone.

Jura Superstition:

Smoky rich, very spicy, not sure what spice but there's orange peel in there somewhere. Peaty, not light not delicate. Very unique, can't say what it is though... It's a mystery. Heavy like a heavy scotch ale and not an everyday scotch. It's a stand alone.

Aberlour 18 yr old:
Incredibly smooth, no burn at all. Delicate and rich, not a lot of smoke. This is a scotch that sets the bar high. When you first have a go at it, you almost can't believe it's a single-malt. Makes you wonder (and dream) about how smooth 30 & 50 yr old scotches are... hmm.