Single Cask Nation®

Legacy

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.

Cheers!

Autumn - A Time For Whisk(e)y

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 Upside to Single Cask Bottlings

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.

Single Cask Nation.

Written by Seth Klaskin — August 01, 2013

Bittersweet Success

I’ve been 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.

I am 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 first.

The 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.

My 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.

For 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 analogy…).

Parting 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 a dram.

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!

Here’s the link to the giant, half-page feature in the NYTimes:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/05/dining/whiskey-producers-court-their-jewish-market.html

Things are progressing beautifully for the Nation. Thanks for joining us.

L’Chaim and Slainte

What's In A Glass?

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 have me!).

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 than that?!

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 Whisky Smelling.

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 masses.

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.

L’chaim!

Whirlwind

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 distributor.

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.

L’chaim,

Seth

Halfway To A Right Angle

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.

45.

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):

                    Ticking away, the moments that make up a dull day.

                    Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way.

                    Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town

                    waiting for someone or something to show you the way.


                    Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain.

                    You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today.

                    And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.

                    No one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun.


                    And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking,

                    racing around to come up behind you again.

                    The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older;

                    shorter of breath and one day closer to death.


                    Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time.

                    Plans that either come to naught, or half a page of scribbled lines.

                    Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.

                    The time is gone, the song is over; thought I’d something more to say…


                    Home, home again. I like to be here when I can.

                    And when I come home hobbled and tired,

                    it’s good to warm my bones beside the fire.


                    Far away across the field, the tolling of the iron bell

                    calls the faithful to their knees

                    to 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 that?

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.

Too Close and Too Sad

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, Connecticut.  Geographically, 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 involving guns.

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).

Written by Seth Klaskin — December 21, 2012

Dayenu

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 soldiers;                                                                                   Dayenu.

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 whiskies;                                                                                      Dayenu.

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 industry;                                                                                   Dayenu.

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 incredible journey.

L’Chaim and Slainte!

Aftermath

Folks in 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 or disruption.

At the 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 sentiment.

An 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.

Some of 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.

Regardless 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.

So, 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.

Joshua, 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.

L’chaim and Slainte.

Shalom : Welcome

The Jewish Whisky Company is faithfully dedicated to independently bottling the world's finest and rarest single cask whiskies for the diverse members of Single Cask Nation.

L'chaim & Slainte!
Joshua, Jason, and Seth

email: info@singlecasknation.com
phone: 1.203.689.5163
toll free: 1.866.883.7528