Arran 14 Review

I tried the Aaran 14 because Ralfy liked it. But I didn’t like it as much as he did. His review doesn’t start until around the 5:00 mark.

$63 for a 700ml bottle. (And why is everyone reducing the size of their bottles from 750ml to 700ml these days? What, they don’t think we’ll notice?) It’s 46% alcohol, non-chill filtered, no added colour. All good stuff. Let’s get down to it…

Nose: Lemon-lime perfume with light malt and buttercup. No peat. Taste: Sharp flavours like lilac, lime zest, salt & vinegar chips, green apple. Finish: Still sharp though not harsh, distant oak, ripe banana (didn’t see that coming).

For my palate, this one needs at least a teaspoon of water to open up. And then it needs to sit for another ten minutes or more (it gets cloudy). It might take a while to find the right balance for the Arran 14, that is, how much water to add, how long to wait while it opens up.

My first few drams of it were unremarkable. Then one day I added a fair bit of water (maybe even two teaspoons) and took only the tiniest sips for about twenty minutes. It took a while but developed into a mild, smooth, floral single malt, not peaty, not smoky, not much wood, though warm. No big blasts of anything spectacular. No surprises in the finish, yet pleasing.

I seemed to enjoy it most with a fair splash of water, sipped as slow as possible. Although the Arran 14 is a quality malt, it’s not something I’d go out of my way for. I’ll update this post if I change my mind (it happens).

UPDATE (a few hours later): Ralfy’s most recent review happens to be for the Arran 17 and much of what he describes seems true to my experience with the Arran 14, namely that it opens up significantly with water and time. It requires patience.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say Ralfy is describing the Arran 14, the nose, the taste, the finish — almost exactly what I experienced with the 14. Although I’m not as enamoured with it as he is, I seem to appreciate it for exactly the same reasons.

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Strathisla 12 (Old Bottling) Review

strathisla_12_yearI suppose I should get around to laying down my thoughts and feelings about the rest of the single malt scotches I’ve had opened in my cupboard for the past year. I put the breaks on reviewing scotches too early because a good bottle of single malt when it’s full will often morph into a whole other beast when it’s half full and will develop even further when it’s almost all gone. A good scotch requires patience and time to open up and reveal its secrets, or in some cases lose its charm. In either case, a more accurate appraisal requires the full experience of the bottle, not just the first few drams.

Exhibit A: Strathisla 12 (in the old dark bottle) is one of the most enjoyable single malt scotches I’ve ever tasted. It’s not smoky or peaty. To my palate (and nose), it’s sweet, smooth and boggy, though I’ve heard no one else describe it as boggy. It was such a pleasure, I drank it with a touch of water just about every day after work until half the bottle was gone. That’s when it began to lose its warm smooth punch. Although it was never overly complex, what character it did have was rich, full and deep. It’s unremarkable and sharp now that it’s down to the final third of the bottle. But that first half of the bottle was one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had drinking a single malt.

Strathisla is pleasant and easy to drink and at $48 a bottle, I’d easily choose it over the current bottlings of Lavagulin 16 and similar more prestigious single malts that sell for double the cost. It’s a shame the current bottlings of Strathisla are smaller (700ml instead of 750ml) and with less alcohol (40% instead of 43%). Get the old bottlings if you can. It may be considered a budget single malt, but it puts up a respectable fight against bottles that sell for twice as much. It’s a hidden gem. I wish I’d discovered it years ago.

I expect I’d agree with Ralfy on this one.

THE FINE PRINT. Nose: Old moist rotten wood and lilies (if any of this means anything). Palate: oily in the mouth, then creamy with honey and mature oak, black earth, smooth. Finish: a hint of spice, more warming oak and Speyside sherry smoothness, a simple but distinctly rich and satisfying long finish if you have the patience to wait for it. A splash of water rounds off any rough edges, though neither is it harsh taken neat.

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Playing Settlers of Catan

I began playing — and became immediately addicted — to what some people refer to as Euro games around 2005 when a friend brought over a copy of Settlers of Catan. Catan is the definitive gateway game that single-handedly turned tens of thousands of intelligent adults into board game geeks overnight. Some people can’t get past the silliness of board games because they hear “board game” and think Monopoly, one of the dullest ways to spend a couple of hours ever invented. But a Euro game can be a whole other beast, usually distinguished by the lack of dice as a game mechanic, thus reducing the element of chance. Instead, it’s more dependent on a player’s carefully considered moves throughout the game and therefore involves considerably more strategic thinking. Catan happens to be one of the few Euro games that uses dice, but that element makes it a more balanced game that gives even first-timers a fair chance at winning, which in turns makes it a perfect introduction for the uninitiated. Here’s a short video synopsis and review of Catan so I don’t have to explain how it works:

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An honest Star Trek trailer, Audi, and two Spocks

An honest interpretation of the 2009 Star Trek movie (the reboot with new actors):

And an amusing Audi commercial with the original Spock and the new one:

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Why Are You Afraid of Bees?

The chances of being stung by a bee are very low, but I can imagine that the low hum of any insect can be fearful.

Will My Neighbour’s Honey Bees Sting My Kids? provides good advice about the chances of getting stung and how to avoid it.

I got stung once.  When I was 5 or so I smashed a rock on a bee that was on a clover flower. I picked the rock up and the half-dead bee managed to sting me on my thumb.  It was a good learning lesson, although it didn’t instill any fear of bees –  more respect than anything.

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