I have just returned home from the funeral of a friend, Jeffrey. Jeffrey was not one of my closest friends; he was more of an associate from my hometown political party – a comrade-in-arms on the local political pitch. But we got to know each other well enough as we volunteered on boards and commissions over time. Jeffrey was too young to leave us behind (I would say late 60’s). I heard he was sick only a few months ago, and now he is gone. Sadly, he was the victim of a brain tumor. Jeff was a good guy. A teacher who became a lawyer and went on to represent the teachers’ union, his life was devoted to evenhanded justice. Evidence of his success in that regard was the fact that many of the attendees at his funeral service were leaders from the opposing political party in town, as well as mates from our own. The temple parking lot was full to capacity and the service was standing room only.
The Rabbi delivered a beautiful eulogy that detailed Jeffrey’s passion for justice. Indeed, his legacy was framed in that light. He fought for legal justice and social justice; tikkun olam – the repair of the world. And he was a beloved husband and father.
As you know from previous posts, I am old enough to hear echoes of mortality rattling in the hollow depths of my skull. Attending a funeral awakens a primal concern within me. I was able to cast those thoughts aside during the service to mourn communally as Jews do. We tend to use the service to celebrate the life of our departed friend or family member, instead of dwelling on the hereafter. Jeff led a good life and left a legacy worthy of mention. Worthy of a theme.
It kinda got me thinking. What legacy would I like to leave behind? Obviously that of a great dad and a contributor in my community, but what else? “How would I like my eulogy to be framed?,” to put it bluntly. Clearly I will be in no position to write my own eulogy. Yet each of us has within our respective capacity the ability to influence our own eulogy, right?
I would be most honored, I think, if my eulogy were to be framed in terms of the happiness I was able to bring to the lives of others. I say that knowing that it is not likely for my wife to see it that way, as I’ve probably pissed her off as much as making her happy (Sorry, Hunny! ). But seriously, one of my favorite pastimes is to try to get people around me to laugh and be happy. I’m a big goof, and I’m not above a little self-deprecating humor if it’ll cheer things up a bit.
My life has not been that of a hotly pursued plan. Instead, I set loose goals of being successful, and then wandered about, very much the happy-go-lucky epicurean, as I pecked out my way thus far. I am very good at planning things and I possess mad organizational skills, but I choose not to apply them to my career goals in such a way as to drive myself mad with stress. I believe in preparing myself generally, and then grabbing opportunities and running with them when such opportunities are presented to me. And that’s pretty much how I became affiliated with Joshua and Jason, as part of this incredible movement to build Jewish Whisky Company and Single Cask Nation.
And it is a movement.
One thing that Joshua, Jason and I share is that we are equally passionate about making people smile by sharing incredible whisky experiences with them. When those guys asked me to join them on this incredible whisky journey, I had no doubt it would become wildly successful. I mean, whoever decided to put water in a plastic bottle and sell it for $2.50 was a genius. But this idea of building an independent bottling company and whisky society had to rank right up there as a no-brainer. We have three guys who love to put whisky smiles on peoples’ faces putting whisky in the hands of folks who love to smile when they imbibe fantastic whisky. A match made in heaven.
They say a man who does something he loves for a living never works a day in his life. They also say that a smile is infectious. I sincerely hope that the love and cheer and spirit we bring to bear in building our whisky community rubs off onto all of you who dig what we’re doing. Hell, maybe that’s why you dig what we’re doing. I also hope that you crack a smile every time you crack open a bottle of JWC hooch. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the monetary aspect of the business drives us, too. But that is secondary.
Making people happy will always come first.
And that’s a legacy I’d love to leave behind.
Tonight I will raise a dram to Jeffrey, and I will smile for the good life he lived.
In the beautiful Thames River Valley in Eastern Connecticut, there are two Indian Reservations: The Mohegan Tribal Nation and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Both have, by compact with the state, built incredible entertainment and gambling meccas in the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods resort casinos, respectively. The reservations are sovereign nations existing within the boundaries of the State of Connecticut. Not unlike this arrangement, The Klaskin property is a two-acre carve-out within the state. But, unlike all the wealth and glitz of the gaming establishments nearby, the distinction reserved for my property is that it is definitely, unapologetically Steelers Country (in the heart of Patriots territory).
Autumn is rapidly approaching. The nights are chilling down to sweatshirt weather. The boys are in training camp. I have four opportunities to shake my head and repeat my standard August mantra to the television, “Don’t worry…it’s only preseason…they’re just experimenting…” To me (and as long as you are not a Browns fan – sorry, had to say it), there is nothing as promising as the return of football season. Apart from the fact that our Daniel Hand Tigers high school team is a perennial powerhouse, I am a total sucker for the pageantry and the raw display of power, skill, intrigue and camaraderie that is the NFL season. Late summer into fall is my favorite time of the year.
Outside of football, fall is all about family, friends and social gatherings. There’s the picnic and BBQ scene surrounding Labor Day Weekend. There’s tailgating or hunkering down with buddies in front of the big-screen to watch games. If you’re Jewish, there are the High Holy Days, with their feasting activities. And of course, it all culminates in the quintessential family holiday of Thanksgiving.
But most exciting of all, perhaps even more than football, family and friends (Bite your tongue, Seth!), autumn is most definitely Whisky Season! What do we do when attending all of these wonderful gatherings? We bring gifts of food and drink to the table. So the fall brings many opportunities to show off our creativity and skill in selecting fine libations to share with the people we love. Also, October brings significant whisky events like WhiskyFest NY and, of course, our very own Whisky Jewbilee. And then there is this image: there is perhaps no better time to enjoy a special dram with special folks than while sitting together on the sofa, watching the annual Turkey Bowl with your pants unbuttoned, one hand stuffed in your waistband, while the other is swirling and warming a deliciously golden single cask whisky. Hmm, that one may have hit a little too close to home!
For me, different seasons favor different styles of drams. Fall renews my annual love affair with the peated malts. They warm the heart and call the mind to heady times by the campfire or the hearth. The flavors that complement the peat are as manifold and bright as the many colors of the autumn leaves that set the Thames River Valley afire each October. Fall also brings me back to bourbon whiskeys, with their dessert-like qualities and the way they pair so beautifully with cinnamon-and-spiced pumpkin pie, warm pecan pie and the incredible zucchini and pumpkin breads that my mother bakes.
Yes, fall is in the air. A time for football, friends, family and feasts. A time for whisk(e)y.
The esteemed whisky writer, John Hansell, recently took time to explore the downside to single cask bottlings. There was no way we at Single Cask Nation were going to let this go by without a few comments. So, on behalf of all the members of Single Cask Nation, here is what we consider the upside to single cask bottlings.
Here's what I find incredibly cool about single cask whiskies: Assuming you have EITHER an excellent bottling OR an INTERESTING and good bottling, then you are satisfied with the purchase and can enjoy in uninhibited fashion the experience of sharing a crafted spirit with a relative handful of people.
To deconstruct further, consider two aspects to this statement; first, there is the crafted history that you are drinking, which is more pronounced in the case of a single cask than in other styles of whisky; and second, the exclusivity of the experience, which lends a sense of adventure.
As to the history, with single cask you know the precise age of the whisky and the precise provenance of the cask (whereas single malts provide an age statement that names only the youngest spirit in the blend). A History major in college and a history buff, I play a game when I drink single cask whisky. I think of what I was doing at the time period when the whisky was distilled. I think of things that have transpired in world history since the casking of the bottle before me. I picture the workers at the distillery toiling with shovels, bellows, funnels, swinging the spirit spout in the spirit safe to draw the run, rolling the barrel to its place of repose, the dust settling through rays of light onto the cask as it lay in the dunnage or stack warehouse, tapping the head of the valinch to draw tastes over time, the day they call the cask out to draw the sample for us, the bottling process, etc, etc. Maybe I embody the spirit of American individualism in this statement, but it seems the history of an individual cask is so much more rich and storied and evocative than the history even of a fine single malt from a reputable, storied distillery.
Certainly single cask is the best way to assess the influence of the wood on the spirit, and if the wood is 65% of the end product, I think there is something powerful about knowing which wood did what to your dram.
Turning now from the historical significance of single cask to the exclusivity and adventure: Any independent bottler worth its salt should not sully its reputation by releasing substandard bottlings. A consumer can limit his loss by limiting his exposure to a crappy indie bottler to a single purchase. Like Nation member Josh L said, if you get skunked, you walk away from that bottler. Once burnt, twice shy. BUT, assuming you have an established relationship with an independent bottler that you trust (not unlike a relationship with fine jeweler or art dealer), and assuming you are hunkered down with either an exceptional bottling or an exceptionally interesting (but also fairly tasty) bottling, then you can ponder how lucky you are to experience this expression of whisky. You are one of maybe 650 people AT MOST who get to experience this unique expression, in the history of the world. Assuming a bourbon cask at 12 years old or more and you are closer to only 250 shared experiences. Consider that a few folks will start hoarding up bottles of this incredible sauce, and your chances of getting to share in this unique and ephemeral experience grow even slimmer.
What are the odds that I, Seth Klaskin, have the opportunity to share in something this special; this finely crafted; this so elegantly influenced by a specific set of staves in a particular corner of a drafty dunnage warehouse on Islay, that was distilled before my first daughter was born? And who else is sharing this experience with me, both known and unknown? THAT is what I ponder whilst whittling away at a dram of single cask whisky. When viewed from that perspective, there is a sense of dignity to the dram and a simultaneous sense of privilege to the experience. When you get to that point; when you think about the folks who are sharing this experience with you, an overwhelming sensation of time and space enhances the quality of the whisky and makes you feel like a bona fide adventurer. You sought out this experience and you are rewarded by a feeling that must be like summiting a challenging peak. Only a few have attained the opportunity to breath this rarified air; to drink this incredible nectar. That's the history. That's the exclusivity. That's the adventure. That's ONLY single cask whisky.
One final note on this...one of the neatest things about this incredible Single Cask Nation journey is that it limits the field of folks who are sharing the incredible experiences we are bottling. We now have an opportunity to KNOW the community of folks who are privileged enough to taste the beautiful dunnage and barley cream of Single Cask Nation BenRiach 17 Year Old. The sweet and fruity elegance of the SCN Glen Moray 12 Year Old. The unbelievable maturity of an ex-Bourbon matured Kilchoman at only four years old. The supreme rarity of the Arran 12 Year Old, aged 8 years in ex-Bourbon and four more years in ex-Pinot Noir, for G-d's sake! Etc. We can come together in this virtual community and exchange knowing glances about common experiences.
Single Cask Nation.
remiss in my blog posting duties lately. We’ve been busy and, frankly, it’s
been a pain waiting (and waiting…) for the BenRiach to finally be delivered to
our members. What a clusternut that was?! As the Stones say, “But it’s allll
righhhhht now, in fact it’s a gas!” (Jumping Jack Flash). The Gold Medal winning
BenRiach 17 is flowing freely and members are beginning to see why the
International Whisky Competition voted this beauty its Numero Uno Cask Strength
Whisky back in April. Members are beginning to come to grips with just how the
barley-forward, sweet fruit balances against the peat and the creamy mouthfeel,
so that the wait was hopefully deemed worthwhile. Now that we’ve worked out the
kinks in our distribution chain, the self-imposed blogging extinction is over.
truly inspired to write tonight, about something incredible, and about
something that will leave a pit in my stomach. I’ll start with the sad news
announcement came as a stark clarion call viewed on the SCN private fb page:
Josh matter-of-factly announced last week that there are fewer than 50 bottles
of Arran 12 year old Pinot Noir double-matured cask remaining. HOLY COW!
Really?! That was the one that started it all; the first cask we ever selected
as a panel; the one that was going to put us on the proverbial map. And it
lived up to its billing in every sense. I am going to miss that cask, not only
for its supreme yield, but also because of the poignant place it will forever
hold in my heart.
feelings about running toward the end of our very first cask are bittersweet.
Surely, if I was paying the least bit of attention, I would have been able to
predict that this fate would repeat with each and every cask we bottle. Such is
the nature of being an independent bottler of SINGLE CASK whiskies. When the
cask runs dry, the memory of its incredible contents will inevitably fade.
Maybe not the memory of the existence of the cask and its yield, but certainly
the precise recall of its profile; the experience of the whisky on the tongue
as it fills all the senses. And, as we have always maintained: Once it’s done,
it’s gone forever.
Jason, Joshua and me, this separation anxiety will be felt most acutely and
repetitively. As Dr. Frankenstein developed a fatherly attachment to his
creation, so, too, will we develop a sense of ownership in the whiskies we select
to bottle for our members. Only our whiskies will not have thumbtacks sticking
out of their necks as makeshift electrodes. And hopefully they will not set
loose upon the countryside, wreaking havoc and causing mayhem across the land,
before they ultimately turn on their creators (okay, so it’s an imperfect
is such sweet sorrow, and I will forever miss my first love (Uhh, I’m talking
about the cask of Arran whisky, folks. What did you think I meant?! C’mon!).
Yet ‘tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. So in
that spirit I am resigned to saying goodbye to the Arran. And then to the
Kilchoman 4 and the BenRiach 17 in its wake. And so on, and so forth through
many amazing casks of whisky. This is the nature of the business we’re in. As
I’ve said before: It’s a tough job, but someone
has to do it! Bitter indeed, but that’s only half of the word
“bittersweet.” The rest is sweet. Very sweet.
I ask you
to raise your glasses of Arran 12 Pinot Cask in tribute to this fine spirit the
next time you drink it; for that bottle may be your last, and she’s one hell of
Now on to
the purely sweet news: Your Nation was featured yesterday in the NY Times!!! We
are skyrocketing in popularity and recognition. Being featured in the Dining
section of the Times was a thrill and an honor. And it couldn’t hurt with
member-building, too! Speaking of…our memberships have been selling well. If
you know anyone who wants to get in the door as a Founding Member before that
initial class closes, they would be well advised to sign up soon!
the link to the giant, half-page feature in the NYTimes:
are progressing beautifully for the Nation. Thanks for joining us.
L’Chaim and Slainte
Back in March, Founding Member Shane Helmick
held an interesting Whisky Tasting as part of his group called Congress of the
Biannual Scotch Club. Shane’s a good
friend and supporter who has come to almost all of our local tastings, though
it takes him about an hour to commute down from his neck of the Connecticut
woods. On this occasion I determined to
reciprocate and I am glad I did.
Actually this is the second Shane Shindig I’ve attended and he always
breaks out some fine hospitality. I’ll definitely be back for more (if he’ll
Shane themed this tasting around the questions
of whether and how the shape of the delivery vessel impacts the nose and palate
experience of a dram. In short: How does the shape of the glass affect the
whisky experience? He started with three
solid whiskies that represented a wide variety of the whisk(e)y realm, for
comparison sake. There was a good blend (Compass Box Great King Street Blend),
a bourbon (Rowan’s Creek) and a big peat (Laphroaig Quarter Cask). Then he created a notes sheet that broke the
glass shapes down by category. There were the Tumblers (essentially
rocks-glass-styled cups), the Wine Glasses (a typical narrow White and a
typical bulbed Red), the Snifters (think Brandy glasses with squat stems), the
Copitas (the small was represented by the typical tasting glass with a 2-inch
stem topped by a white wine-styled vessel, while the medium and large took the
form of tall-tapered red wine goblets without stems), the Glencairns (small,
typical and Canadian), and finally the Flared set (with a small, short-stemmed
Riedel with vertical, test-tube walls giving way to a slight flare at the top,
a spittoon-looking squat thing and an “even flare” which looked very similar to
the Canadian Glencairn, but with less sway to its hips and less flare to its
lips, so to speak). While “Glencairn” is a name brand, it is most commonly
associated with the tulip-shaped glass that bulbs out at the bottom, tapers on
the rise, and flares almost imperceptibly at the rim as the taper gives way to
a straight vertical rise. In this case,
the small glass in the Glencairn category was actually our very own 10cl Single
Cask Nation nosing glass!
So, before I get into the tasting itself, a
word about Shane tastings generally: Shane is an excellent amateur chef who
designs websites for a living (yes, feel free to contact him through the
private SCN fb page if you need a website designed – if his web design is half
as good as his cooking, you’ll be in good hands!). I happen to be a foodie, so
the incredible pairings Shane prepares for the tastings is almost as much a
draw as the whisk(e)y. Everybody brings
a dish to contribute. Mine was the old standard that never fails me: A wheel of
brie covered with sliced almonds, topped with butter pats and heated at 375
degrees until the almonds toast and the brie walls start to bulge, served with
fine crackers and fig spread (Gratuitous free appetizer recipe for those who
were paying attention! Wait, for those who were really, REALLY paying
attention, “gratuitous” and “free” mean the same thing, don’t they? I meant
“Unsolicited free appetizer recipe,” in that case.). And my appetizer was the slouch in the group,
so we were treated to an evening of Epicureans’ Delight, while dressed
unpretentiously (casually, for those of you who are actually unpretentious) and
drinking whisk(e)y. What could be better
Now back to our program, already in progress…
We started with the blended Scotch whisky,
pouring about a ½-oz pour into each vessel.
We passed around each glass and took careful notes on the aromatic
differences experienced from one glass to the next. Then the blended whisky was funneled back
into the bottle, the glasses rinsed well, and the bourbon poured into each
glass for nosing. Then that went back
into the bottle and we rinsed and poured the Laphroaig Quarter Cask for
nosing. We rated the glasses on nosing
characteristics alone, before repeating the process for tasting. Yes, this post
did promise to relate the details of a TASTING event, after all; and not just a
It was immediately apparent from the nosing
session that the vessel does indeed play a potentially huge role in the dram
one experiences. Since olfaction
accounts for most of taste, I must have great taste because I have a huge
nose. I mean, since olfaction accounts
for most of taste, it seemed to follow that the palate of each whisk(e)y would
be influenced, as well, by the shape of the vessel from whence it was consumed. This finding did, in fact, bear out when we
got around to the tasting portion of the event.
Here’s the breakdown of what most people
experienced. Note that there was a degree of respectful dissension among
participants, as many folks experience the nose and palate of a whisk(e)y
slightly differently, but this post will endeavor to report the consensus
findings.: Most folks found the rich, sweet bourbon to do well in the tumblers
but that the bourbon really shined, believe it or not, in the brandy
snifters. As for the blended and peated
Scotch whiskies, there was great consensus that the Glencairn range of glasses
produced the best experience, by far.
The undisputed winner of the night for Scotch whisky was the Glencairn
glass itself, with it’s smaller cousin, the Single Cask Nation 10cl glass
coming in a close second. Interestingly,
the SCN glass also held court with the bourbon, whereas the Glencairn did not
fare quite as well.
From my notes on the bourbon findings, I will
share that the glasses with narrow, untapered vertical walls tended to allow
the heavier, mineralistic characters to rise. This created a mineral and
limestone nose and palate, as one would expect from the high limestone mineral
qualities of the Kentucky water used to produce bourbons. Meanwhile, the more bulbous shape of the
snifters seemed to trap the heaver elements closer to the sauce, allowing more
of the sweet tones to bubble upward. For those who enjoy bourbon specifically
for its sweet character, as I do, the snifter kept the mineral and limestone
qualities evident in the palate, while producing more brown sugar and molasses
on the nose. This balanced the dram experience beautifully, making the snifter
just a divine vessel for delivering a fine bourbon.
So why did the tumbler also deliver the bourbon
fairly well, when its shape differs so greatly from the snifter? Well, the
tumblers all had wide walls and wide mouths. Even though the mineralisic and
limestone qualities were permitted by this design to float upward along with
the sugars, in my opinion, those qualities maintained their mix on the way up
so the vapors maintained a pleasant balance as they tickled the nose. I arrived at that hypothesis after noting
another interesting observation: especially with the bourbon, the closer the
nose was to the sauce, the more balanced the concoction smelled. So if the fumes escaping the vessel are
allowed to escape in the same ratio, such as from a wide vessel with an open
rim, the balance remains more-or-less intact.
Yet there is another reason that I reckon the bourbon producers have
settled on giving away tumblers in their holiday packs with their
bourbons. I think that many casual American
consumers who do not favor straight up whiskies will nevertheless take an
occasional bourbon on the rocks, owing perhaps to its sweet, inoffensive
palate. By its open shape, the tumbler
is the most natural vessel in which to deliver whiskey over rocks, and it
certainly does nothing to diminish the sweet/mineral balance of the
spirit. And, of course, it is the only
glass shape that will respectably allow a splash of Coke or other mixers for
the trepidacious beginners! Therefore, the rocks tumbler has grown to become
the best glass for distilleries to give away when trying to attract folks to
their purty holiday-packs in well-stocked liquor stores frequented by the
As for the Scotch whisky vessels, Glencairn
claims the following on its official box: “In
the long and illustrious history of whisky, there has never been a single
definitive glass that the whisky world could call its own. Now, following in
the tradition of Scottish innovation, the Glencairn Glass has arrived.
Combining the knowledge and expertise of some of the whisky world’s leading
innovators, the Glencairn Glass’s roots lie in the traditional nosing and tasting
glasses used by master blenders and connoisseurs around the world. The unique and stylish shape has been crafted
with eminent care to enhance the enjoyment of single malts and aged blends. The
tapering mouth allows an ease of drinking not associated with traditional
nosing glasses, while capturing that all-important bouquet. The wide bowl
allows the fullest appreciation of the whisky’s colour and the solid base is
designed to be easy on the hand. The
time and effort put into all this development was rewarded in 2006 when the
Glencairn Glass won The Queen’s Award for Innovation.”
We agree, with slight exception: While the
solid base may be “easy on the hand,” it also insulates the spirit from the
warmth of the palm. In selecting the SCN Member Glass, we honored the
tulip-shaped bowl-and-taper of the Glencairn Glass, but we eschewed the
base. In our opinion, the warming of a
dram in the palm of the hand can often catalyze reactions in the malt that
brings a dram along to its optimal character.
Thus, our SCN Member Glass does without the base. But fear not! Joshua and I met up with the
Glencairn Crystal Studio rep, Andrew Davidson, while at the World Whiskies
Conference in NYC earlier this month. I would not be surprised to find SCN
Glencairn Glasses in our SCN Store soon.
So, if you prefer the base, be on the lookout for branded Glencairns to
show off your affinity for Single Cask Nation while impressing your friends
with our incredible expressions of single cask whisky!
After we consumed and compared the selected
whiskies in the range of glasses, I sprang a surprise on the attendees. I brought along a couple bottles of SCN
whisky and cracked them for sampling. As
always, folks were blown away. In all, it
was another great whisky night for the ages.
This post needs to end at some point, so I
leave you with these thoughts: Brother Shane throws an excellent, creative,
educational and delicious whisky tasting and I will return whenever I can to
events of his Congress of the Biannual Scotch Club. Cheers, mate!
But we can all throw together a fun whisky night for friends. It is easy
and it allows us to spread the good word and convert more folks into whisky
drinkers. Knowledgeable ones. Future members of the Nation.
Okay, folks, I apologize. I have
been derelict in my posting duties.
Though, in my defense, things have been busy. Crazy busy.
Crazy GOOD busy. Let me share a
sampling of what has stayed my blog posts.
Last month I attended a tasting that
Nation Founding Member Shane Helmick hosted. The creative theme Shane selected
was to experiment with how different shaped glasses impact the experience of a
dram. This topic could form the basis of an entire separate blog post, so I
will cover Shane’s cool tasting event in a future post.
Also since I last posted, your
fearless leaders have been hard at work on the whisky front. As you have seen by now, we paneled and selected
the next round of three casks that are special enough to serve up to our
members. The lucky winners are, in no
particular order, a spicy little butter-bomb of a Speysider in a Glen Moray 12
year old expression; a dessert-sweet Dalmore 12 year old that is all stewed
raisins and quite approachable; and a delicious, taut 6 year old Laphroaig that
retains some distinctive Laphroaig characteristics fans will recognize, while
also boasting a supple, clean peat that hangs sweet like Pez on the tongue
(simply divine!). Our first three whisky
expressions have garnered critical acclaim from members and industry insiders,
alike. Having earned our place on the map, Joshua, Jason and I feel this next
set of three equally special expressions will confirm our place on the map.
Click on the Bottlings tab above to get more details about the whiskies that
are next in line to rock your world.
In addition to sacrificing greatly
to sample and select new whiskies (I know, you are crying for us. Shhh. It’s
okay, we will somehow survive the grueling tasting sessions!), we have been
knee-deep in business and logistics.
During another company trip to Scotland in late February – early March,
we solidified some important industry alliances and forged some new connections
that will prove invaluable in the future.
We are finding that it is actually easier to make inroads with new
partners and distilleries now because our young but hard-earned reputation is
preceding us and opening doors. Jewish
Whisky Company’s reception in the small whisky world has been astoundingly
positive! So, yeah, business is good.
As for logistics, we are just now
overcoming our first bump in the road.
As many of you know, we have experienced some difficulties in bringing
our golden BenRiach 17 Peated Malt bottling to you, our members. The very good
news is that this snafu is behind us and we will be delivering the BenRiach
within a couple weeks, once it makes the trip from the importer to the
Also, we three chaps have been quite
busy with member recruitment. Jason has made several trips to the Pacific
Northwest and California, where he blazes a trail of new members wherever he
goes. A couple weekends ago he poured at
the World of Whisky event in San Francisco.
Meanwhile Josh and I peddled our fine wares at WhiskyLive NY at Chelsea
Piers and attended the World Whiskies Conference put on, in part, by Whisky
Magazine (a conference for industry members that coincides with the magazine’s
WhiskyLive event). I have to say these
festivals have been treating Single Cask Nation EXTREMELY well. I don’t want to brag, but we are greeted like
rock stars! People of discriminating taste (like yourselves) flock to our
table, taking pictures and asking for pours of the whisky that they’ve heard
chatter about all the way across the venue.
We even have industry folks leaving their booths to come sample our
whiskies, and they wind up sending festival attendees over to our table! It’s insane!
People love our whisky and they also dig what we’re doing and what we’re
all about. Members join right on the
spot. Industry folks have accepted us and treat us with love and respect. And
perhaps the best part of all is when our members in attendance come over to say
hi and share a wee dramski with us!
Finally, our bottle presales have
been killing it for the new bottlings!
Thanks for your orders…keep them coming! Thanks also for being such an
important part of Single Cask Nation. Oh, and if you have not yet signed up for
the private, members-only SCN fb page, what are you waiting for? Join the community!
Things are moving along incredibly
well, thanks in no small part to all of YOU, our cherished SCN Members. Thanks, lasses and lads.
Although this blog post will run sometime
later, I write this post on my birthday, February 24, 2013.
February 24, ’68. The day I was born. That’s 1968, not 1868, wiseguys.
Halfway to a right angle, I figure. At 45°, I am halfway between upright and flatlined.
At 45°, the pinheads working in the dark recesses of the insurance
companies (I think they are technically dubbed “actuaries”) have determined
that my life is more than half over. A crushing thought, really. I have reached the age range when many folks
go nuts; either trading in spouses for younger models, buying flashy sports
cars, abandoning or finding religion, or taking on any number of silly,
self-destructive behaviors in the name of clinging desperately to their youth
(Botox comes to mind).
To be honest, I’ve been struggling with
mortality issues for a couple years, now.
Looking backwards provides no help. Although some memories are quite
distant and arrive through grainy, rust-toned filters in my mind, there are
some ancient memories that spring to mind with clarity. I can focus with ferocious acuity on happy
memories, remembering the tastes, the aromas, the sounds that filled the room,
and the feelings I felt. Those happy
memories serve to haunt when I consider how close they feel from so far away,
and how this portends a relative dearth of days to come.
Pink Floyd, a rock band that has tracked the
arc of my life thus far, captured my 45° emotion superbly in its chillingly beautiful and famous song, Time
(set to a cacophony of clanging grandfather clocks ushering in a long prologue
just pounding with ominous, brooding bass tones):
away, the moments that make up a dull day.
and waste the hours in an off-hand way.
around on a piece of ground in your home town
for someone or something to show you the way.
of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain.
are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today.
then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun.
you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking,
around to come up behind you again.
sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older;
of breath and one day closer to death.
year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time.
that either come to naught, or half a page of scribbled lines.
on in quiet desperation is the English way.
time is gone, the song is over; thought I’d something more to say…
home again. I like to be here when I can.
when I come home hobbled and tired,
good to warm my bones beside the fire.
away across the field, the tolling of the iron bell
the faithful to their knees
hear the softly spoken magic spell…
It is amazing how my response to this song has evolved
as I have aged. It morphed from a cool
tune about other people when heard by my young ears, into the moribund
harbinger of my fate when I listen now. In fact, it practically knocked me off
my feet when I heard this song recently and for the first time, Time was
about me. Suddenly the words and the
music took on new meaning, spurring an anxious restlessness to…do…something…I don’t know what (There is a
word in Yiddish that captures the emotion. Shpilchas
is the feeling of crawling out of your skin, wanting or needing to do
something, but not knowing what it is that you want or need to do.).
But then, the dram is also half full, right? I can sit here, transfixed
by the fear of an impending mortality that in all probability is far enough
off, or I can take stock of where I am and what I have left to contribute. Ironically, those smart fellers in the back
rooms of the insurance companies (I think they are technically dubbed
“actuaries” – f/k/a “pinheads”) have calculated that the longer you live, the
longer your lifespan is likely to be.
Those who make it to 65 are statistically likely to live beyond the
typical mortality age. See? There’s a
milestone to shoot for!
So, to take stock: I am truly blessed. I
married well and have a beautiful family that drives me crazy but I love ‘em! I
survived all the childhood illnesses and diseases and about 1,000 close calls
with stupid behaviors that could have gotten me killed or worse. Yet, I also
took opportunities to do some incredible, memorable things that were formative
to my development. I made it through 19 years of (formal) education, and I have
a really neat day job where I get to make important decisions and have a real
impact on shaping policy. I am involved and active in my town, where I also get
to shape policy. By all measures, I have
summited Abe Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. And, now on top, I have a
terrific outlet for the “Actualization” step at the pinnacle of the Heirarchy: helping
to build a whisky business. I have the ability to leave a legacy in my
children, in my work, and in one of my passions. What could be better than all
At 45 my body doesn’t quite do what my mind
thinks it can anymore. It’s harder to
focus while reading, it’s harder to lose weight, and I’m growing a bit
grey. But my constant back pain is a
tribute to my youth, spent well and lived fully. My grey hairs are a tribute to my family and
all of the delicious entanglements, spats and loving moments that remind me I’m
very much alive. My waning eyesight is, well, just crappy vision, I’m afraid,
but that’s okay, too. I’m halfway to a
right angle, and that all right (and alright) by me. As I sit and warm my bones
beside the fire on this birthday, halfway between standing tall and pushing
daisies, I will take a celebratory dram of SCN whisky and ruminate about the
possibilities. I am potential kinetic energy and there is much to accomplish.
L’chaim & Slainte.
I love whisky from a
purely aesthetic perspective, among other perspectives. There is a part of me
that just savors the nose and palate of fine whiskies. I marvel at the unbelievable range of
scotch whiskies; at the shades of sweet flavors in bourbons; at the subtleties
of Irish whiskies; at the experimental nature of some drams; at the textures
that can be pulled from some casks; and on and on.
There is so much to think
about while enjoying the unique characteristics of a particular whisky. And yet, sometimes the act of enjoying
a dram allows your mind to wander off the highway of life to examine the
thoughts ambling about on the side streets and tertiary routes of your
brain. And that, too, is part of
what makes the whisky experience so neat for me. Dram time is a time to relax. Reflect. And to Remember.
This week an unspeakable
tragedy occurred very close to home.
Joshua and I live in neighboring towns in Connecticut. This past Friday we received news of
the horrific mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown,
Newtown is barely past a half hour away from our cloistered part of the
shoreline. Josh was raised in a
town less than 15 miles from Newtown, a community that has just attained
notoriety among the pantheon of bullet-riddled towns where innocents have
fallen victim to our most awful American cultural flaw: senseless mass murders
This latest tragedy was
not only geographically close to home for me. A father of three daughters, the youngest only seven years
old, herself, I was sickened to think of the loss of so many six and seven
year-old children at the unfeeling hands of this deranged shooter. Moreover, as a school board member in
my community, I marvel at the courage yet mourn the tragic loss of such brave
school leaders who made the ultimate sacrifice in a vain effort to save the 20
young lambs in their care (then again, how many lives they may have saved by
stalling the gunman will never be known).
As a board member and father, I can only empathize with the challenges
faced by that community, while secretly thanking G-D that it was not my
district that was hit; not my kids whose lives were imperiled.
While dramming away the
stress of this tragedy over the weekend past, I reflected meditatively on it. I was sitting on my couch by the hearth,
a special malt in one hand and my seven-year-old daughter clinging to my other
arm as we watched a family movie. We
had just finished lighting the menorahs and opening the presents for the seventh
night of Chanukah. My littlest one
had heard about the shooting and had many questions, which then also led to her
being extra-clingy for a few days.
But the act of soothing her while we took in a movie served in return to
soothe me. In this symbiotic state
I can’t even recall half of the silly movie we watched. I just basked in how lucky I was to
have my daughter with me, looking to me for protection.
Although I dutifully
assuaged her concerns by pointing out that these things are extremely rare;
that it would be extremely unlikely to happen to her or her sisters; that all
the grown-ups are looking out for all the schoolchildren very caringly, I knew
all along that I can’t make that promise.
I can’t protect my daughters from a similar fate, G-D forbid. The sun rises. I go to work. My kids go to
school. I come home and they are
there. The sun goes down. Predictably it goes, day after day. But
what if it didn’t happen that way one day?
Then on Sunday, December
16, as I watched our President read the names of the innocent children in a
melancholy voice during the memorial service, my mind went to the lives that
these fallen angels will not get to lead.
They will not reach their First Communions or Bar Mitzvahs. They will never graduate from High
School, or experience prom or college, or have children of their own. They will never know the purely
aesthetic experience of savoring a fine whisky; a simple act
that I take for granted. These thoughts
are thoroughly morose. It occurs to me that mass shootings spark a communal tinge
of survivor’s guilt that echoes all across the world, just like after a
terrorist attack or a natural disaster, and reminds us all of our ephemeral,
fragile existences on this tiny planet in the vast universe.
On the other hand, these
young souls will never know hatred.
They will never feel the awkward angst of adolescence or the pressure of
not having enough money to make all their bills. Although we would all prefer life for the deceased children,
we can take solace in the fact that these beautiful, perfect children all knew
how to smile, how to laugh, and how to love unconditionally. That they got to smile, to laugh and to
love will have to be consolation enough.
The Jewish way to mourn is
to gather as a community and recite a prayer. The prayer to honor the deceased is called The Mourner’s
Kaddish. This prayer is
interesting in that it does not mention death or loss even once. Instead, it glorifies and sanctifies
the Lord. I pray we all avoid
these bracing heartbreaks in the future. I pray for an end to such random acts
of senseless violence. Until then,
and in the spirit of the Kaddish, I thank G-D for the respite that whisky
provides. Like manna from heaven,
whisky holds the power to sustain and soothe us during times that raise
countless questions and provide no answers.
L’chaim (to life).
The Passover Seder includes a song
called Dayenu [pronounced die AY nu]. Dayenu is both a word and a
sentence. It translates to “It
would have been enough for us.” The
song travels through a litany of short verses that each chronicle one event in
the story of the exodus of the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. After each verse there is a chorus of
“Dayenu,” emphasizing that even that event alone would have been enough to make
our ancestors happy. Nevertheless, in every case G-D went on to assist the
Hebrews in many additional ways even after securing their redemption from
slavery. Although shortened, this
is the basic gist of the song Dayenu:
Had the Lord delivered us from
slavery in Egypt and not parted the Red Sea; Dayenu.
Had the Lord parted the Red Sea so
we could pass through in safety and
not swallowed up the Egyptian
Had the Lord vanquished the Egyptian
soldiers and not provided manna
to eat in the desert; Dayenu.
Had the Lord provided manna to eat
and not given the Torah to the
Children of Israel; Dayenu.
Etc. (You get the idea.)
It is hard to describe how well our
big debut weekend went in New York City at the end of October. As you will recall, we were scheduled
to pour our own whiskies for the first time at WhiskyFest NYC. Because WhiskyFest was held on Shabbat
and many observant Jewish whisky enthusiasts could not attend, we scrambled
to put together an alternate Whisky Week event for those folks who could not
attend WhiskyFest. Thus was born
our Whisky Jewbilee event, which took place on the Thursday night before
WhiskyFest. Between these two
events, we had our work cut out for us.
It was sink or swim. And we
swam like Michael Phelps!
In the joyous trope of the song
Dayenu, here is a brief report on our “debut weekend.”
Had we planned the Whisky Jewbilee
in four weeks and had it not succeeded; Dayenu.
Had the Whisky Jewbilee been an
unqualified success with tremendous
participation and had it not also
been a success with the presenters; Dayenu.
Had we met great success with both
participants and presenters and not
received accolades for our whiskies; Dayenu.
Had we received overwhelming
response to our whiskies and not signed
new members of Single Cask Nation; Dayenu.
Had we signed new members and not
continued our success at WhiskyFest; Dayenu.
Had we merely poured our whiskies at
WhiskyFest and not received rave
reviews for our table and our
Had our table and our whiskies
received rave reviews and our BenRiach 17
not been identified commonly as THE
darling of WhiskyFest NYC 2012; Dayenu.
Had our presence and our whiskies
generated buzz throughout the venue
among the patrons and not also wowed
all the industry folks; Dayenu.
Had our whiskies wowed the industry
leaders in attendance and not also
garnered critical acclaim; Dayenu.
Had we garnered critical acclaim and
not also cemented previous, and
forged new, relationships in the
Had we forged important new industry
relationships and not also signed
new members of Single Cask Nation; Dayenu.
Had we done all this and not
received coverage in many local, regional
and national publications; Dayenu.
It is with great humility and a
grateful sense of pride that we look back on an incredible Whisky Week in New
York City. Fortune smiles on the prepared, and we were nothing if not prepared.
We fully anticipated that our whiskies would garner positive reviews. But we received many comments from the
industry’s most respected noses and palates, distillers, importers and
distributors to the effect that our products were of superior, stand-out
quality. Our table at both Whisky
Jewbilee and WhiskyFest was absolutely mobbed. Friends, fans, members and industry folks all relayed
observations to us about how people were talking about our table all the way
across the venue, telling other folks that they “Just HAVE to try Single Cask
Nation’s [this or that, but usually referring to the BenRiach 17].”
It was also quite encouraging to
feel so at home among – and welcomed by – the industry folks. Everyone was
eager to hear about Jewish Whisky Company and Single Cask Nation, if they
hadn’t already. Our whiskies
turned some new heads; although the industry folks who already had dealings
with us were not surprised at all to find our whiskies to be so well selected.
In all, just three days in October
formed the potential to catapult Single Cask Nation to great heights. Merely participating in WhiskyFest
would have been enough. Dayenu.
Yet we accomplished much more than that.
And there’s much more where that came from.
Thanks for joining us on this
L’Chaim and Slainte!
the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States have had a couple tough weeks. First came “Superstorm” Sandy and then,
too soon on its heals, another Nor’Easter buffeted the coastal states. Many of the members of Single Cask
Nation reside in affected areas.
Our hearts and best wishes go out to all of our members and their
families during this difficult time.
We hope that all our members withstood the storms without major damage
very least, many of us suffered inconvenience while we witnessed too many of
our fellow Americans becoming displaced and losing their homes, businesses and
even lives to these natural disasters.
New York lost at least 19 lives related to Sandy and Connecticut lost 6,
while at last count, I believe New Jersey lost over 40. We, at the Jewish Whisky Company,
extend our deepest sympathies and most heartfelt condolences to those who lost
life and property to the storms.
We know our fellow members of Single Cask Nation join us in this
interesting thing happened through the ordeal. I noted that many SCN members who maintain Facebook
friendships reached out to each other throughout and after the storms (whenever
their power and internet connectivity would permit). It is said that misery seeks company and it was wonderful to
see our members pulling together and accessing each other for information,
support, and even just basic comfort.
the communications were strained, with folks sharing harrowing examples of how people
they know have been impacted. Other
communications were light, such as sharing notes on whiskies poured and drams
consumed to get folks through the mire.
of the nature of the communication, it is gratifying to see that members of the
Nation are coming together in a meaningful way. These difficult times make it clear that it is more than
just love of whisky that binds us.
There is true fellowship developing among our members. Although one conscious
goal of ours in founding Single Cask Nation was to do just that – to spark a fellowship and a new way for
folks to connect and interact in a virtual community – it is amazing to witness
how quickly this bond is taking shape.
although the recent natural disasters have been quite harrowing and
disconcerting, their aftermath reveals a silver lining to the huge spiral
cloud. We have emerged a stronger
community, both in the macro sense as affected Americans, and in the micro sense,
as fellows and friends in our fledgling Nation.
Jason and I are proud of what we sparked when we founded Single Cask
Nation. We are proud of the good
folks who have joined us to date, and we look forward to adding many
enthusiastic members in the future.
There are some who will look to the Nation only for their peripheral
ability to access quality whisky.
Others will dive in headlong and look to the Nation as a significant way
to socialize and make new friends all around the country and, ultimately, the
world. Whatever your preference in
this regard, we welcome you with open arms and with empathetic hearts. Let’s hope we do not witness another
natural disaster like Sandy any time soon. But if we do, you can count on your friends at Single Cask
Nation to help you ride out the storm.