Category Archives: Uncategorized

Take A Bow, Jaxon…

Sometimes you just gotta share a little bit of ‘awesome’.

A couple weeks back a few of my mates and I braved a whole lot of nasty weather in order to go see one of the world’s greatest rock bands, Pearl Jam. 

The show was killer.  Great setlist…great seats…and some hijinks on the part of yours truly that made it a little memorable (some things we’ll just keep secret).  One of the highlights, though, was another opportunity to see just how well this band connects with its fans.  Just before launching into ‘Go’, from possibly-their-best-album Vs., Eddie gave a shout out to a little man from Calgary named Jaxon Smith.  The gents from PJ had seen a youtube clip of Jaxon beating the hell out of his drumkit with his own rendtion of ‘Mind Your Manners’ from the new album. 

View image on Twitter

The crowd, in a great display of solidarity with their little hometown rockstar, went mad with applause.  Awesome stuff.

Check out a clip here of Jaxon playing along to ‘Go’, the tune PJ dedicated to him, and here to see him rocking ‘Mind Your Manners’, the tune that initially brought him to the band’s attention.

…And here, finally, is a clip of the actual dedication itself. 

Way to go, Jaxon.  You’re awesome. 

Eddie, Jeff, Stone, Mike, Matt (and Boom)…you are gentlemen of the highest calibre.  Cheers.  Can’t wait to see you back here.

We’ll raise a glass (of Kool-Aid) to Jaxon!  Slainte!


– CR

– Photo:  Yahoo OMG

Alberta Floods

My city is drowning and a lot of people are hurting right now.  Keep them in your thoughts and, where you can, please offer help.

Nature makes us all small, and the small need to stick together to be big.

Kevan Yaets crawls out the back window of his pick up truck with his cat Momo as flood waters sweep him downstream and submerge the cab in High River, Alberta on June 20, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks. Hundreds of people have been evacuated with volunteers and emergency crews helping to aid stranded residents.

– Curt


Ray Manzarek

Just heard Ray Manzarek from The Doors passed away today.  This is sad, sad news.  I grew up on The Doors.  Though I don’t crank ’em up as often as I used to, they were likely the most influential group in my life.  Many, many a memory.

RIP Ray.  Thanks for all.



Let’s put on a little ‘Soul Kitchen’, ‘Love Street’, ‘Riders On the Storm’, or just…whatever.  Listen to the man play.


– Curt

A Moment Of Reflection For The Victims Of The Boston Marathon Bombings

Wow.  Not sure what to say here, but had to take the opportunity to express how sad I feel about this.

My wife is a runner.  With pride I watched her cross the finish line in San Francisco’s 2011 Nike Women’s Marathon.  Today, watching events unfold in Boston, all I could think of is how special that moment was for her.  And how this day, some cowardly, soulless individuals robbed so many others not only of their opportunity at a great triumph, but in some cases of so very much more.

Those of us not personally touched by this will never fully understand the loss, but we can let it be known that we care.

This is a sad, sad day.  Our thoughts and condolences for victims, friends and family who were affected by this heartbreaking and cowardly act.

– Curt

The Whisky Pilgrimage…Episode 8 – Speyside Selection #2 – Glenfiddich 12

Hello all – it’s been a while!

For those who are keeping score this is the first Whisky Pilgrimage posting in quite some time. Since it has been so long, it is probably easiest to browse through the back-posts and get a refresher on what the Whisky Pilgrimage is all about, the rules of the game, and so on:

Episode 1 – A Long Journey

Episode 2 – Aberlour 10

Episode 3 – Riedel v Rocks

Episode 4 – Try it and you may, I Say

Episode 5 – Macallan 12

Episode 6 – Glendronach 15

Episode 7 – Glenfiddich 15


What the hell happened?

As you can see, when it comes to meeting schedule I’m starting to close in on a “Chinese Democracy” level of credibility. It just isn’t working out the way that I planned.

In January I was concerned that the 1 bottle / month stipulation was going to be too slow. Surprisingly, it turns out to be exactly the opposite of that. I am enjoying the variety and the focused appreciation borne of this Whisky Pilgrimage, but struggle to keep pace with the schedule. It’s not nice feeling that I’m constantly falling behind…not generating the new content quick enough…and so on.

Having spent about a week cut off from civilization without a drop of whisky in site, I came to a few realizations:

  • All Things Whisky is about appreciation of whisky, which has nothing to do with the pace at which I move through the lineup.
  • Slow as I may go, this Pilgrimage is far more enjoyable when I share stories and details about the journey. Most of the positive feedback I’ve received has to do with small observations or side stories. And as you might have guessed, these are the things I most enjoy writing about
  • So, for better or worse, schedule be damned. Onward with enjoying this all day by day without any artificial pressure to keep to a clock. The world has enough of those already, I needn’t add another!


Where do we go from here?

Despite my laissez-faire attitude towards the schedule we still have a journey to take, and we can’t get there without at least a bit of a plan. One step in front of the other. What I would like to do is continue on with three bottle cycles as planned, keeping in the $150 range for the cycle. Rather than arbitrarily cutting off at the 1 yr mark though, I’d like to add to the queue over time based upon my own personal interests and recommendations from readers. We currently have the following…

  • Sherry
    • Aberlour 10: $32 (warm, inviting whisky – best value of the bunch)
    • Macallan 12: $55 (bold, rich, and demanding)
    • Glendronach 15: $72 (warm, sweet, rich – best of the cycle, and worth saving for)
  • Speyside
    • Glenfiddich 15: $48 (a complex, interesting whisky – good value)
  • Blends
  • Peated


In no particular order, I would like to add Irish and Bourbon to the above list. I’ve never properly been able to get my head wrapped around Irish whisky, and this is exactly the sort of boundary smashing I had set out to accomplish on the Pilgrimage. I am a bit more familiar with Bourbon and will try and plan this cycle to hit right around summertime so that I can enjoy the odd mint julep outside on the deck on those hot summer days.

Any other recommendations or ideas you may have will go on a waiting list, which I’ll revisit from time to time.


And finally, what of Speyside?

Ah, Speyside. I am now on the 3rd and final bottle and have still yet to make up my mind on this region. Complex and subtle whisky requires equally complex and subtle thinking, and I am just not there yet. I will continue to try as I would like to put these thoughts to paper and get some conversation running that might help me to guide me out of the fog.

In the meantime, let’s get you all caught up. My Speyside selection #2 was none other than the ubiquitous Glenfiddich 12.

Glenfiddich 12 is undoubtedly one of the most recognized single malt scotch bottlings in the world and despite my reasonably broad level of exposure, I knew very little about it.

Personal confession: aside from the odd drink on an airplane, the only other notable occasion in which I had consumed Glenfiddich 12 was as the primary ingredient in a shooter called “The Douche Bag”. This charming drink consists of 1 oz of Glenfiddich 12 followed by a 1 oz chaser of pickle juice.


It’s every bit as nasty as it sounds. Having sampled roughly a 1/2 dozen in one terrifying sitting, I consider myself somewhat of an authority on the matter. Do the right thing and leave the Douche Bags, to well…the douche bags. No more need be said.

Obviously my Glenfiddich 12 education was lacking, and at $32 per bottle this was easily corrected.

I should admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the old ‘fiddich 12. It is a straight-arrow whisky with some nice light floral tones. This type of whisky is particularly nice before dinner on a hot summer afternoon – it is fresh, clear, and not too overpowering. I enjoyed several drams of it in this way and was never disappointed with the experience.

On the downside, you really have to dig in and concentrate to pick up on the complexities, and that job is made more difficult due to the addition of water to bring this down to 40%. Some whisky can handle a bit more water – Macallan 12 in my opinion gets a lot out of a low ABV – but in some cases, the water just cuts the legs right out from underneath a dram.  I fear that water is getting the best of this one. If anybody has spent some time with a higher ABV Glenfiddich, I’d be interested in hearing about that.

Glenfiddich 12 is a very friendly introduction to scotch and I can understand its popularity as a first time purchase, a general bottle for the liquor cabinet, etc. However, if you’re picking this one up for yourself, there are much better options even at this price point (Aberlour 10?) and if you’re willing to spot the extra $15 or so, the Glenfiddich 15 is a far superior drink.

Next up will be the revealing of my 3rd Speyside whisky. Other topics to be addressed soon are the long-promised whisky cooking adventure, and my thoughts on Speyside on the whole.

In the meantime I’ll keep moving forward with this journey. If there’s anything that I’ve learned in the past 8 months, slow-footed and haphazard as it may be…this is certainly a journey worth taking.

Thanks for reading along.

The Whisky Pilgrimage…Episode 7 – Speyside Selection #1 – Glenfiddich 15

Hi again.

After three months spent exploring a whisky profile that I know well it’s time to move into unfamiliar territory.

If you’re new to the Pilgrimage and don’t know what I’m talking about, or it has just been a while and you need a quick recap, here are the rules of the game.

Every month I pick up a new bottle of whisky. To give the Pilgrimage some structure and set up some good comparisons the year is divided into 4 “seasons”. For each season I have budgeted roughly $150.

  • Winter (Jan-Mar): Sherry
    • Aberlour 10: $32
    • Macallan 12: $55
    • Glendronach 15: $72
  • Spring (Apr-Jun): Speyside
  • Summer (Jul-Sep): Blends
  • Winter (Oct-Dec): Peated

My hope was that by building in some rules and limitations I’d be creating an environment that fosters appreciation for even the most humble drams. So far I’d say it has been a success. If you need convincing read the earlier posts…and heck, play along at home! I’d be interested to hear if anybody is giving some of the selections a try, or if any of the Pilgrimage concepts have inspired you to think about things from a slightly different angle.

Moving onward. Speyside.


Why Speyside? 

Speyside is a prolific whisky producing region, home to some of the best recognized distillers in the world. Glenfiddich, Glenlivit, Glen Glen Glen…it’s a Scottish take on the Bubba Gump riff. I’d be willing to bet that in the vast majority of cases the 1st single malt a person tries is from Speyside. It’s perfectly nice accessible whisky…and I just can’t get my head wrapped around it.

In my personal experience the bold flavours delivered via special cask maturation (sherry, wine barrel, etc) and peating take a little while to get used to. After an initial breaking-in period, these bold face-blasting styles become sought-after favourites. By comparison the subtle bourbon-cask numbers come across as uninspired and frankly…a little dull.

I’ve dabbled in Speyside but have become discouraged and scrambled back to my safe zone every time. Picking out the notes and understanding what’s in the glass require time and patience…neither of which I have in abundance.

Or rather….had.

Because for the next 3 months, like it or not I’m committed to staying in Speyside. Time to challenge my existing ways of thinking and learn some new tricks. Are these truly dull whiskies, or will I learn to appreciate the subtle charms of Speyside?

Speyside Selection #1 – Glenfiddich 15

If you review the Sherry selections, you’ll note my appreciation for the mellowing and additional development that come from aging. So when shopping for my first selection Glenfiddich 15 caught my eye for a number of reasons:

  • The distinctive “buck” tins – Glenfiddich is a very well recognized brand, and when I looked at this, I realized that I knew very little about the whisky
  • 15 years – same age as the Glendronach that I really enjoyed from the prior month
  • This isn’t sherry-cask pricing anymore – I picked this one up for $47.99 – $25 less than the Glendronach 15. Good deal!

The Glenfiddich 15 is produced using the Solera vatting technique. More information on this method can be found on this site or Lance’s excellent writings on In this case a variety of Glenfiddich casks are used in the Solera vat. My poor research is evident in the fact that some sherry casks find there way in, something I would have known had I read the back of the bottle more carefully than I did the price tag. I acknowledge it’s a bit of a cheat on my part, but I don’t think they’ve gone too heavy on the sherry and as such I don’t think it is overpowering the baseline “essence” of Glenfiddich.

First impressions? It’s very nice stuff! It doesn’t have the same “oomph” as the sherry finished whiskies but makes up for that with some really nice flavours in a light, fragrant delivery.


Yet to come…

  • I’m definitely looking forward to giving Glenfiddich 15 a shot vs. the Glendronach 15 to see how they stack up against one another
  • Earlier in the pilgrimage I attempted an Aberlour 10 marinated steak. Yikes…I’m just about ready to post up a whisky-based food experience that did turn out well.
  • I have an embarrassing retraction to make. A few posts back I boldly stated that I would start producing proper tasting notes. Well, I am what I am…and as much as I thought that tasting notes would be the “right thing to do”, it just feels forced and wrong. In retrospect, I must admit that I got a little too wound up on the “try something new” ethic of the pilgrimage and as a result, lost sight of my ultimate goal here: having fun. My heart just isn’t in it and I don’t think that any of you need to suffer through the tasting note equivalent of “it was a dark and stormy night…”.


Thanks again for reading – all comments and feedback appreciated!


The Whisky Pilgrimage…Episode 6 – Sherry Matured Selection #3 – Glendronach 15

Hi everyone,

Once again, an entire calendar month has drifted by and I’ve struggled to get this written and out the door. There were a number of circumstances that came into play – illness, computer crash, career change – and while I am a good soldier and carried on with the drams I simply did not get around to this. All is well though and I aim to get a little more snappy with the posts.
Let’s begin with Selection #3
March was the final month for sherry finished whiskies, and I wanted to build upward in age over the course of the 3 months. Keeping in mind that I have roughly $150 for 3 bottles, here’s where I was at near the end of February:
  • Aberlour 10: $33
  • Macallan 12: $55
  • Which leaves about $62 for Selection number 3
As per the last post, I decided that it would not be too much of a cheat to spend a little extra on sherry finished whisky, as I’m bound to be able to make it up down the road. Knowing this, I went out and purchased a bottle of the Glendronach 15 for $72.
Glendronach was an easy decision. I am a fan of the 12 and if I wasn’t going out of my way to try whiskies I am not as familiar with, I would have purchased it instead of the Macallan 12. I was gifted a bottle of a 24 year old single cask (Willow Park Wine & Spirits – may be long gone for all I know) and that is without doubt one of the very finest bottles to sit on my shelf. Curt has given the 15 good reviews so I thought that this would be a good fit for me given the reasonable price at age and my affinity for this distillery.
15 years, aged in Oloroso Sherry Casks, and bottled at 46%…it ticks all of the right boxes. Glendronach 15 has proven to be an excellent choice. This is a very rich, sweet, weighty dram. The nose on it is excellent. At 15 years, you start to lose some of the sharp edge that you get off of a younger nose. I suppose this is one of the benefits of maturity. The flavours are more developed than the younger whiskies, and the finish is very smooth. I’m very pleased with the purchase.
How did the sherry finished whiskies stack up against one another?
  • Aberlour 10 v. Macallan 12: throughout the past few months, I’ve done some side-by-side tastings. These two whiskies are very different from one another. Macallan has that intense purity of spirit characteristic…when stacked against something cozy like Aberlour, I don’t find that I appreciate the razor sharp definition of the Macallan. I was really surprised by this. It’s a bit of a Betty Cooper / Veronica Lodge scenario. Just like Veronica, on paper the Macallan makes a lot of sense. In practice, it is just a little too sharp on the edges for my tastes. On the other hand, the Aberlour may not be all that glamorous…but like Betty it’s got a lot of soul, and it doesn’t have any significant designs on your pocketbook.
  • Aberlour 10 v. Macallan 12 v. Glendronach 15: Having tried all three of these side by side on several occasions, hands down the Glendronach 15 is the best of the bunch. It should not come as a surprise given the additional maturation (50% longer than the Aberlour!), but what caught be by surprise most about this was just how much of a gap I put between these whiskies. The Glendronach is simply superior to the other two. The Aberlour still put in a decent enough showing, but the 3-way battle royale did nothing to help Macallan 12’s case.
  • Final conclusion: Of the three whiskies selected, the Glendronach 15 is the best and I would suggest that it’s actually a pretty decent value for the dollar. Aberlour 10 is a great bargain and I am sure that I will continue to pick it up. Macallan 12 was my least favourite, and in my opinion, it’s pretty difficult to justify the price tag on this one as compared to what you get for about $15 more for the Glendronach 15. Macallan does have its merits and is by no means bad, it’s just not to my taste. If you haven’t tried it, I would really recommend giving it a shot at a tasting or at a pub before committing to a purchase that may not be the best value for your dollar.
Overall, how is the pilgrimage working out?
  • I am learning a lot: By regularly re-visiting the same whiskies – or family of whiskies – I’ve learned quite a bit about each bottle that comes through. In the past, I’ve either blasted through the bottle before learning much or have kept a miserly clutch on a few wee drops and in doing so lose track of my opinions,  instead of just enjoying what I have and moving on. This approach forces me to try and try again, so I feel like I’m getting the very most out of what I buy
  • Comparisons Matter: When it comes down to it, if you enjoy whisky, you can enjoy just about ANY whisky. It is only when you have a couple of options you can bounce between (be it in the same sitting, or the next day, etc) that you really start to be able to pick out the unique elements of the dram that you’re drinking. It takes unique skills, experience, and focus to be able to study a whisky standalone…going forward I plan to make a point of having some variety on hand so that I can get the most out of my drams.
  • The budget is pretty reasonable: I have not been perfect in terms of measuring & a strict week-by-week schedule, yet I am in no danger of running out of whisky. From these 3 bottles I have a slight heel of Aberlour 10 remaining (which I should really just put to bed…keeping for experimentation though), about 1/4 of the Macallan 12 left, and about 1/2 of the Glendronach 15. The cupboard is starting to get a little cluttered, particularly with the addition of Speyside/Highland Selection #1 (more on this next week). I think that knowing that something new is coming each month is helping me to keep a sensible pace. I’m enjoying having a plan & sticking to it, and as I’ve hoped, putting these parameters into place has helped to appreciate what I have.
So, that is it for Sherry Finished Whisky – onward to Speyside, a whisky producing region that for whatever reason I have neglected in the past. I’ve picked up Selection #1, and look forward to sharing in the very near future (honest!)