2013 : Moments

Well, that was 2013.   A quick year in our household, Amélie appears to grow a little more every day and in every imaginable way.   As I write this I’m battling a cold and have conjunctivitis.   So, not on the finest form, and pretty much feeling sorry for myself.    I thought however, that this was an ideal time to stop and look at the moments that shaped our 2013.   These simple moments that follow are in no specific order at all, except really the order in which they came to me as I thought of the past 365 days or so.

One of the great advantages of keeping a photo diary on great websites like Blipfoto mean its easy to look over your year(s) to see what you actually did and when you actually did it. .

  • We decided to visit our favourite little log cabin in Canonbie near Dumfries for the holidays at Hogmanay and New Year 2012.

one

  • We took Amélie to Edinburgh Zoo for her first birthday on the 6th January.
  • My good friends Chris and Jennifer had a little baby girl on January 7th called Simone.

two

  • I managed to get back to boxing training this year for a while.
  • I took my Dad to our first ever experience of a 5 nations International Rugby game, we went to Murrayfield to see Scotland beat Italy.
  • I had two whole weeks with Amélie in February as Joni had decided to work full-time for a month.
  • I was involved in filming a piece for Vito Dance Theatre called Withdrawal.
  • The Catholic Church has a new Pope, Pope Francis I.   Amélie and I watched the election on television live from the Vatican.
  • I was involved in a 5 aside football tournament as a fundraiser for Callum’s Cabin and managed to really damage my left foot in a tackling incident.

three

  • I finally had the opportunity to see Icelandic musicians: Sigur Ros and Ólafur Arnalds
  • Our garage was broken into and two bicycles were stolen, thankfully the police retrieved one and managed to catch one of the people involved.
  • I was lucky enough to have my first photograph placed in an exhibition in gallery.
  • Attended some bicycle maintenance classes as part of the Glasgow Bike Station.
  • Margaret Thatcher died.

four

  • I attended two stag parties: we travelled to Bolton to enjoy a day of hospitality to watch them play Blackpool for my friend Paddy’s and then had a day at Auchentoshan Distillery (2nd visit) and greyhound racing for my brother in law Liams’.  
  • We had a trip to Morecambe for Joni’s Grandmother’s 80th birthday party.
  • I visited Glengoyne distillery (2nd visit) with my good friend Sace and we spent the night in his hut in Carbeth.
  • I had my very first rides on a Brompton folding bike, a  Dahon folding bike and even a Penny Farthing on the Harris Tweed Ride.
  • My Dad retired.

five

  • I was asked to host the Refugee Week end of week showcase.
  • My brother in law Liam was married to Lyndsey.

six

  • My good friend Paddy was married to Nicola.

seven

  • My good friend Findlay’s had a daughter called Lucy.
  • We had our first family cycling / camping trip to the outer Hebrides, to Barra.
  • I toured Arran twice (by bicycle), once with my good friend Alasdair and once on my own.
  • We had plenty of time in the garden, eating outside, playing with Amélie and enjoying whisky by the chiminea.
  • I had a few experiences of up-cycling, I created a pallet bookcase, a pallet mirror, made a gate and also made some fencing around our plants.
  • We enjoyed another Harris Tweed Ride.

eight

  • My good friend and I had a tour of the Glasgow Velodrome.
  • The Clydebank Town Hall has a new exhibition space, so we enjoyed visiting the Jolomo exhibition and the Harry Papadopolis exhibition.

nine

  • I rode 110 miles for the Glasgow to Edinburgh Pedal For Scotland.  (3’350 miles this year)
  • Amélie got her very first passport and we had our first fortnight trip abroad to Kefalos, Kos.  It was Amélie’s first time on an airplane and she had a great time.

ten

There will be many many things I’ve missed.   Until next year!

Advertisements

Single Malt Whisky: 2013 An Annual Review

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 14.19.08

Its that time of year again where we all search for that perfect dram, for ourselves, or indeed for others,  whether its for St Andrews Day, or its for Christmas Day or its for bringing in the New Year at Hogmanay.    It was after being asked from some close friends last year for some whisky buying advice, I decided to place an annual review on this blog to help those in need.     Here is last years. . . . 

Aberlour 10 year old // Speyside

A whisky that I had the pleasure of enjoying twice this year, with two separate bottles.   My wife got me a bottle and my daughter picked one up for me for Father’s Day.   A delicious whisky, the colour alone makes you want to keep sipping it.  I really enjoyed this with cake, mainly my wife’s walnut and courgette cake, it seemed to be just the right mixture of sweetness, mixed with the dark fruity raisin flavours of the whisky.   I will most certainly be buying this again.

Auchentoshan Classic // Lowland

I had the chance to visit my local distillery again this year and had a wonderful tour, this time we tried the full range and I enjoyed each one, however the Classic was possibly my least favourite.   The Three Wood stole it for me, and after having a really good tasting with friends one night, we had the opportunity to try the Valinch before it was released.    That very same night my good friend treated me to the Springwood, again it felt quite young and almost not ready, but a nice light dram all the same.

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 14.19.26

Dalmore Tweed Dram // Highland

A generous gift from my Brother and Sister in law.   I really enjoyed this and the bottle disappeared quite rapidly.   Definitely one to try if you haven’t already and a fantastic bottle too.   The colour is not dissimilar to the Aberlour but the taste was not quite as sweet, so still had the the kick of a full flavoured Highland whisky.

Fettercairn Fior // Highland

Another generous gift from my Brother and Sister in law (man, they’re good to me. . . ).   A delicious whisky, just the right amount of peat for someone who is not (yet) a fan of the darker more mysterious stuff that makes your throat burn and go numb.   Its a full mouthful of everything you’d expect from a highland whisky and then BAM, there is the peat!  Just a wee touch though to remind you that the barley was in fact dried with a peat fire.   Lovely, and a great bottle.

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 14.18.26

Glenkinchie 12 year old // Lowland

A gift from my Mum and Dad, and the bottle we took to have over the New Year into 2013 down in Dumfries and Galloway.   Nice wee dram for a lowland malt with plenty to talk about, flowery and tasty however for me there is nothing too threatening or distinct that makes it stand up against some of the more interesting belters.   A safe bet for someone who hasn’t tried it.

Isle of Jura Superstition //  Island

Similar to the Fettercairn, a little finish of peat in this one.   I’ve actually been really enjoying this little dram with some water, which believe me, it unusual for me.   I think it maybe is just opening up the peat a little and giving more of the nose.   A gift from my brother for my birthday, its November and I still have it…..its done well.

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 14.20.43

Ledaig 9 year old // Island

The peaty little monster that lives in the same distillery as Tobermory,  I really enjoyed this as it was a gift from friends that had asked me to play at their Wedding, which to be honest, was a gift in itself.   It was one of the Glenkeir treasures from The Whisky Shop, and the unusual age made for an interesting dram.   Similar to some of the more peaty Islay beauties, this was a rare treat.   I’d definitely try some of the other years if I get the chance.

Macallan Gold // Highland

My brother picked this up for my Christmas this year, and I loved it.   Its difficult to go wrong with The Macallan, and its actually difficult to go wrong with Highland / Speyside whiskies.   I had just finished this bottle when I read an article mentioning that there is a trend that distillers are following that will do away with ages and instead use descriptors such as; Gold, Amber, Sienna, Ruby.  I however hope this trend doesn’t catch on, I love knowing the age of my whisky.

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 14.18.44

Singleton of Dufftown 12 year old // Speyside

A favourite of my good friend and whisky drinker, Beano.   I’ve had a couple of bottles of this and have just taken the neck out of my latest.   A unique shaped bottle, and a really pleasant little warmer.   Nice and smooth with just enough kick to remind you that you are in fact drinking whisky.    Personally, I normally enjoy a wee bit of peat, but this is a really good little change if you’re searching for something that little bit lighter or something to have before those really really cold nights come along. . . and then you would look for the Ardbeg or Laphroiag.

Over the last few months I also had some little nights out where I’ve been in good company to enjoy a wee dram or two, mainly from some of my favourite Glasgow pubs.  (The Lismore, Dram, The Scotia Bar and the Ben Nevis).

In no order, I’ve enjoyed my first taste of Deanston, I had a nice glass of what the late Mr Iain Banks calls ‘The Perfect Dram’, Glenfiddich 21 Year Old (I think, thanks Beano).   I also have been lucky enough to finally enjoy the wonderful oily and strong nectar of Kilchoman in their 2013 Machir Bay Release, and was blown away by both the Ardbeg Corryvreckan and the Isle of Arran 10 Year Old.

Dedicated to Mr Iain Banks. . .

Sláinte!

Harris Tweed Ride, Glasgow 2013

Since last years’ excellent outing through the best food and drink establishments in the city, I was extremely excited about this year.    It came as a surprise that the organisers had announced the locations of the host restaurants and pubs beforehand as it almost added something to the mystique of the event that we in fact never knew last year.

Once we got started and met up at the Blythswood Hotel to have some coffee and cakes before setting off downhill towards the Merchant City to have Hendricks gin, and Stornoway black pudding at Cafe Gandolfi.    We passed on then over to West Brewery for some fabulous beer in the sunshine.    After this light refreshment we made our merry way to the Riverside museum for what seemed like a pointless exercise as no one seemed to know why we were there?

Pushing on (no against the clock it would seem) we entered the westend to visit the Crabshakk (for Oysters) and The Finnieston (for a beautiful Ardbeg / pineapple cocktail).    And, then we headed over to Brewdog for more craft beer and then further west to Siempre Cafe for oatcakes with mackerel.   By this point, personally I had already made my mind up that the previous year was better, more organised and a little bit more fun.   We seemed to be rushing around a little to much and the group was more split than the previous year.    Although we did have more stops and some more interesting ones; The Tall Ship, and then The Hillhead Bookclub, when we arrived at both these establishments there were no more drinks served, they had run out. . . poor planning, or just not enough poured?

Last stop was the Big Slope where we had a great bite to eat with generous portions and set off to the Blythswood for the finale and raffle.   All in all a great day, but as mentioned earlier, I feel most of the day was planned around a somewhat pointless spot at the STV building and then to make the Hillhead Bookclub for a gentleman ‘rapper’ who actually wasn’t very good.   However its more important that we look at the fun we had, the money raised for the charity and lastly the awareness of Harris Tweed.   Tally Ho!

Single Malt Whisky: 2012 An Annual Review

I’ve been asked for advice on Whisky (Single Malt) from a few close friends this year, particularly as the festive season is upon us and people are looking for something to help them through the winter blues and take their weary minds from the cold, dark evenings, especially in Scotland. Consequently, I’ve decided to write this annual review on some of the best drams that I have tasted this year and had my hands on.   They are deliberately simple choices, by this I mean they are easy (with the exception of the Ardbeg Supernova) to get your hands on, most supermarkets or distilleries have them.

Ardbeg

Ardbeg Supernova // Islay

This was a Christmas gift from my fabulous, beautiful wife.   After trying this extremely peaty dram at the distillery itself, I had to have a bottle. Firstly, Supernova is a very strong whisky (60%) and its not for the faint of heart, its feels oily as it hits your tongue and finds its way past your taste buds to explode in your throat with an intense heat.    As your nose enters the glass for the first time you can actually feel the inside of your nose and head begin to open up to invite the pale, almost clear nectar into your unsuspecting mouth.  A wonderful dram for those who want a little something to impress guests or to have all to yourself on those special nights.

Auchentoshan Three Wood  // Lowland

We stay around five miles from the distillery and I have yet to own a bottle of Auchentoshan.  Its a shame really, as its a lovely whisky and only recently we had a tour of the place.   We sampled this Three Wood and I had the taste of a cask strength dram that the guide himself had just bottled.   Auchentoshan is a light whisky, a great starter for someone who hasn’t had the opportunity to experiment with the full range.   The Three Wood has not only been triple distilled, it has also spent some time in Bourboun, Sherry & PX casks.   A nice sweet, caramel and buttery taste that can be enjoyed anytime.

Balvenie Doublewood // Speyside

Another Christmas gift, this time from my Mum and Dad.   I opened this on the evening my daughter Amélie Sofia was born.  One of the whiskies I will always have a soft spot for, its layered with honey and soft fruits, almost flawless in its taste.   Another wonderful starter whisky (that has spent time in both an oak whisky cask and a sherry cask) that will get people interested ‘the sport’.    It should also be said that this whisky arrives is one of the most beautiful bottles, a nice shaped body with a delicate neck that allows the honey coloured spirit to gently slip into the glass.  If you don’t enjoy this dram, Its unlikely you will ever enjoy whisky.

Bowmore

Bowmore Small Batch Release // Islay

A Birthday gift from my older brother.   The very first bottle of Bowmore I have ever had the pleasure to get to know, I’ve tried it and sampled a few at the distillery but its a different matter when there is a bottle in your kitchen cupboard.   I liked this whisky, it was peaty & smoky without being over the top and probably a good bottle to get someone that finds the Laphroaig’s and the Ardbeg’s a little bit to much like eating fiery compost.   If you have the chance to try this, you should treat yourself.

Bruichladdich

Bruichladdich Rocks // Islay

A huge disappointment.   I had bought the sister bottle of this, called Waves when I was in Islay and it was a beautifully rich, peaty whisky that had mouthfuls of flavour and a nice heat and sweetness that I expected from this distillery.   But, to be honest I thought Rocks was a wee bit weak and didn’t really have much to offer, it seemed a little flat.   I hope to find another bottle of Bruichladdich in the near future that will set me back on course because I have a love for the distillery and everything it stands for.   Perhaps someone will treat me?

Glenfarclas 21 year old // Highland

A gift from a great friend of mine.  Beautiful and mellow, pretty much the perfect example of a Highland malt in my opinion.   I normally recommend Glenmorangie, Glenlivet or even The Macallan when I’m asked about Highland whiskies, but if you are willing to spend nearly £100 on a good bottle, this is your man.   It slipped down gently, vanilla and light fruit with some sweet toffee flavours.   Nothing to flowery or heathery here.  A belter.

Glen Scotia 12 year old // Campbeltown

Yet another gift, this time from my sister in law.   I don’t have that much knowledge on this region, its a new area of expanding distilleries and close enough for my next cycling tour.   I remember this being a lovely sweet tasting whisky with some smoke and peat if i’m correct.   It could easily be mistaken for an Islay whisky if you had a blind tasting, I suppose its only 2 hours away by ferry.   The bottle disappeared quite quickly which normally means its a good thing.   This is not a whisky that you find in many outlets or supermarkets so if you come across it, treat yourself.

Laphroaig

Laphroaig Quarter Cask // Islay

Fantastic.   One of my all time favourites and extremely difficult to beat.  My first taste of this sweet, peaty and smoky nectar was round a fire with my wife in Islay.   We were about 2 miles from Bowmore camping at the side of the road and enjoying each other’s company (and the company of some ticks).    It was the perfect whisky, gently whirling the tails of the spirit around in the glencairn glass you could see the strength of the spirit.   If you want to buy the serious whisky enthusiast a bottle, buy them this.

Old Pultney 12 year old // Highland

A gift from friends after I played at their wedding.   Beautifully light and easy to drink from the headland of Scotland, Wick.   I had some more of this great whisky on the recent Harris Tweed Ride in Glasgow and throughly enjoyed it, its a daytime malt in my opinion, a wee bit like Auchentoshan and Glenmorangie.   There is a lightness and gentleness that the peaty monsters don’t have.

Talisker 10 year old // Skye

I won a bottle of this on the Harris Tweed Ride, it was also wrapped in a Harris Tweed sheath.   A great dram that is full of the sea,  it tastes wild and rugged as you would expect, nothing sweet and gently about it.   A full belt around the taste buds, similar in many ways to a lighter Ardbeg but without so much smoke.   The only distiller on Skye, so try it.

Slainté