Quick Reviews – Random 12 Year Old Edition

A quick post to give a rundown on a few of the whiskies that I’ve tried recently while out for dinner with Little Bitty Bits.  All happen to be 12 year olds, largely because I’m poor and the selections at these establishments are rather weak.  Two standards and one less popular.

Glenlivet 12 Year Old

Anyone ever tried this before?  Yeah, I thought so.  Nonetheless, this was my first time.  I had previously tried Glenfiddich 12, which I did not enjoy, and since I automatically lump Glenfiddich and Glenlivet into the same category, my expectations were less than sky high.  In the end, though, I was pleasantly surprised.  On the nose, the big flavor is apple.  Very light and somewhat floral as well.  An enticing nose.  On the palate, the apple comes through with all kinds of baking flavors.  In two tastings, I wrote down: apple, cinnamon, buttery baked good, brown sugar, and buttered toasted nuts.  All flavors that I like.  Relatively short on the finish, but this undoubtedly wins the battle of the popular 12 year old Glens.

Macallan 12 Year Old

Another well known dram that I hadn’t yet tried.  As I mentioned in an earlier comment on this blog, the Macallan 12 reminded me of the Balvenie DoubleWood, which isn’t the highest praise (for my tastes).  On the nose, that sherry hits you.  There is also some kind of Amaretto flavor as well, and then a pretty big blast of heat.  On the palate, it starts very smooth, and then turns up the heat.  A very large flavor.  Some early cherry flavor which evolves into a darker fruit and spice.  A finish that lingers.  I can see why people like this, but it just isn’t my thing.

Cragganmore 12 Year Old

I was excited to see this offered last night at a new restaurant that LBB and I tried.  The bar there had a quite eclectic selection of whiskies – not necessarily extensive, but just a handful of less common bottles.  One was the Cragganmore 12, which was on my “to try” list.  This whisky literally has the lightest nose that I’ve smelled.  Jamming my nose deep into the glass, all I got was a very light “whisky” flavor (if that makes any sense, which it doesn’t).  On the palate, it is light bodied but flavorful.  I get a little wisp of smoke, a fair amount of brine (reminding me a bit of Old Pulteney 12), and something like toasted walnut.  More interesting flavor than I was expecting on the nose.  Not necessarily something that I’ll look to purchase a bottle of, however.


Quick Reviews – Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary Tasting Party

Big news here on the blog.  I created a Twitter account last weekend (@WhiskeyWriter, natch).  I’m basically using it to track all of the great whisk(e)y tweeters out there (“tweeters” is the preferred nomenclature, right?).  And there are a lot.  For my own tweets, I’m going to be retweeting good whiskey reviews, local tasting events, giveaways, etc., and generally interesting tweets and pictures.  And occasionally tweeting back and forth with distilleries and distributors in thinly-veiled attempts at getting them to send me free samples (kidding, of course!).

Anyhow, last Sunday night, while toying around with my new account, I stumbled across a tweet mentioning an upcoming Glenfiddich tasting party in Philly.  After tracking it down a bit, I managed to get myself on the invite list to the tasting, which was held last Tuesday night at the very interesting Mask and Wig Club in Philadelphia.  Aside from that, there were no further details.

So with my buddy Gordon in tow, I headed to the event wondering just what was in store.  The answer in short was that it was 90% party and 10% whisky tasting.  After checking my coat at the door, the good folks from Glenfiddich (or rather, their attractive 25-year-old fembot proxies) ushered me straight to the bar for a cocktail.  I’m pretty sure they read my prior post regarding the value of instantaneous drink delivery at a whisky event.  So far, so good.  The bar area was darkly lit, with a whisky cask in the center of the room, apparently related to Glenfiddich’s new Cask of Dreams offering.

Have I shown up for a seance? Either way, I'm ready to communicate with some spirits.

As I nursed my cocktail and sized up the crowd, a disturbing bass line began shaking the room.  One of the fembots (Glenbots?) informed us that the upstairs area was open.  Like a good lemming, I headed up with the crowd to check it out.  My initial reaction was that I had stumbled upon a wedding reception.  There was a band onstage blasting away at all of the wedding reception classics (“Brick House,” “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “You Shook Me” and the like).  Along the right wall was a bar serving the same cocktails as downstairs (having no issues with mixing Glenfiddich’s 12 year old with sugary juices), and on the left wall were tables featuring the 12 year old, 15 year old, and 18 year old expressions.  This tasting was clearly not going to be part of the slow whisky movement recently championed by Jason Debly.

I can't even hear myself drink.

Again, I was interested in whether there would be any educational tilt to the evening, but for this night, the party was clearly the main event.  The extent of the tasting conversation was when the Glenbots directed you to the bottled flavor accessories as they poured your dram (pears for the 12 year old, honey for the 15 year old, and oak chips for the 18 year old).

In the end, it amounted to drinking some free booze at a wedding reception, which actually isn’t the worst way to spend a Tuesday night.  Plus I hadn’t yet tasted the 15 or the 18.  So here are my quick notes (which may or may not have been affected by the fact that there were waiters serving aromatic foods all around me, and that the band was incredibly loud).

Glenfiddich 12 Year Old

World’s best selling single malt, right?  I hadn’t been thrilled with it the few times I had tried it in the past, but maybe that would change.  The nose was very light (oh, quick praise of the tasting – the single malts were served in Glencairn glasses).  Maybe a little bit of vanilla and pepper?  Not even sure.  Aromas were hard to detect.  On the palate, despite the official description of pear notes, I got almost no fruit.  It was dry, fairly smooth, with a peppery spice.  Not entirely pleasant, and somewhat tightly wound.  After a few minutes in the glass, shaking to the sweet bass lines of KC and the Sunshine Band, the 12 relaxed a bit.  The finish, which was somewhat bitter at first, smoothed out.  Still not my favorite whisky.

Glenfiddich 15 Year Old

On the nose, the suggested honey is indeed the dominant note.  There is also a nice fruitiness, close to the pear on the 12 year’s table.  A very pleasant nose.  On the palate, it is very smooth, light and sweet.  The nose notes come through with honey, or perhaps a little darker sugar like molasses.  Plus the fruit remains, in a pear and banana combination.  There is also a hint of oak and maybe chocolate (not sure, hard to tell while “Celebrate” by Kool and the Gang is blaring).  Spices intensify on the finish.  A nice drink.

Glenfiddich 18 Year Old

Overall, I thought the 18 year old really resembled the 15 year old.  To me, they seemed like close brothers, while they were both just cousins with the 12 year old.  On the nose, it is almost difficult to distinguish between the two, with the 18 also demonstrating a very nice sugary sweetness.  On the palate, this too is super smooth, light and sweet.  I think the distinction is that the 18 year old’s sweetness is more oaky vanilla, and less pear and banana.  I also found a little bit of smoke dancing through to the finish.  Again, this is a whisky that I’ll never turn down (and one that goes down very easily while listening to songs like “Funkytown,” as shown by my haggard state at the end of the evening).

Glenfiddich Cask of Dreams

As a poorly kept secret, at a point later in the night, after the band had finished “Love Shack,” they brought out tastings of the new Cask of Dreams.  This is the US-focused expression where Glenfiddich took oak casks to major US cities and rolled the casks around, having people write their dreams on them.  Then, they brought the casks back to Dufftown (great name for a distillery home base), and finished this whisky in those casks.  At this point in the evening, my tasting notes were getting hazy (as they tend to when I’m trying multiple whiskies), so I don’t recall a lot of the nose, but on the palate, I found this to be a remarkably light, and frankly delicious, dram.  Again, very sweet – likely sweeter than the 15 and the 18 – with vanilla, apple and cinnamon.  Yummy.


Glenfiddich is in every liquor store.  It is in most bars.  It is known as being the best selling single malt in the world.  When I am confronted with these facts, my natural instinct is to avoid it.  I don’t want to be like everyone else.  I root against the Yankees because they’re the Yankees.  I eschew U2, preferring to find new indie bands.  I boycott Applebees, instead frequenting local holes-in-the-wall for dinners out.  But here’s the thing — often times, these huge juggernauts are huge for a reason.  The Yankees are usually a fantastic baseball team.  U2 has a huge catelog of really outstanding music.  Applebees … well, it really is best to avoid Applebees.  The point, though, applies to Glenfiddich.  It is unwise to avoid the brand based solely on their popularity .

The 12, 15, 18 and Cask of Dreams retail locally for about $37, $44, $80 and $100 respectively.  Considering the prices, the Glenfiddich 15 is my undisputed winner of the evening.  I place it on roughly even footing with the 18, and a wee step down from the Cask of Dreams.  At $44, I consider it to be a very worthy investment.  The 12, unfortunately, is one that I will continue to take a pass on.

In all, though, a fun evening.  Many thanks to Glenfiddich for having me.

Quick Reviews – Amrut Whiskey Tasting Dinner

This past Tuesday, I went with my friend Greg to The Dandelion in Philadelphia for an Amrut whiskey tasting dinner, and let me tell you, I was psyched.  First, it was a Tuesday and I was staying out past 7 pm.  Second, the dinner was paired with four courses of good, non-diet eats.  Third, it was a chance to try out some completely new whiskey.  And fourth, well, I forget what fourth was, but the weather was great so it was shaping up to be an outstanding evening.

Then I made mistakes.  My number one mistake was forgetting my pen.  In my whiskeying, I’ve taken to keeping a small Moleskine notebook for taking tasting notes.  I was going to scratch out some reviews of the Amruts that I tasted.  Forgetting the pen meant that I had to peck out my thoughts on my iphone.  Not good.  Bad.  A pain in the ass.  On top of that, I was going to snap a bunch of pics to post, but after the first one, I forgot for awhile.  Then, they turned the lights down, and I was unable to get anything worth anything.

I'm quite a photographer.

Nonetheless, good times were had.  Here was the format of the meal:

Quick word on the food: It was decent.  Pretty good even.  If you are familiar with Stephen Starr restaurants, it was classic Starr.  A step above average, and two steps down from spectacular.  As you can tell, The Dandelion aims for traditional British cuisine (fish and chips, shepards pie and the like), and it scores pretty well.  I do wonder, though, if the dishes were chosen with the whiskey in mind.

More importantly for today’s purposes, though, was the whiskey.  First, a comment on the cocktails.  When we walked through the door at the restaurant, we were handed an Old Fashioned made with Amrut single malt.  Now, I’m sure some traditionalists might scoff at the idea of watering down a single malt with some sugary mixers, and I’ve usually enjoyed my Old Fashioneds with bourbon, but boy this hit the spot.  The more important point, though, is this: if you are putting on a whiskey event, BE SURE TO PROVIDE A DRINK TO EACH PARTICIPANT WITHIN FOUR STEPS OF WALKING THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR.  As you can tell by my deft use of allcaps, this is key.  It tells the people to put on their drinking shoes, and it just provides the mindset for the night.  After this key first step, you can put on a pretty mediocre event, and nobody will really care.

On to my quick Amrut tastings (and note that these are quick reviews, meaning they are only tasted once; for my regular reviews, I am sure to try each whiskey on at least two different occasions to account for factors that may affect a certain tasting, including food I’ve eaten, my mood, my wife’s mood, weather conditions, lunar phases, stock market fluctuations, and the latest American Idol results).

Amrut Fusion

Nose – A full, fruity nose.  Banana, maybe?  Mango?  Also, a little hint of smoke and burnt sugar.

Taste – Blackberry, light-medium smoke, spices and a nice caramel-like sweetness.  I noted that it reminded me of Highland Park 12.  Yummy.

Finish – A lingering smoke.

Comment – I obviously enjoyed this.  I was immediately prepared for this to be my favorite of the night, but was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.

Amrut Two Continents

Nose – Significantly lighter than the Fusion.  No smoke.  Honey and an egg/custard background note.

Taste – Pretty simple on the palate.  Light bodied, sweet honey taste.  A little nutty note.  Rather unimpressive.

Finish – A real alcohol heat came through on the finish, along with an unpleasant, rubber balloon flavor.

Comment – While far from a bad whiskey, nothing about this one stood out for me.

Amrut Intermediate Sherry Cask Aged

Nose – The sherry definitely hits you in the nose.  Also floral/passion fruit, and some of that same egg/custard smell from the Two Continents.  A delicious nose.  I wrote “wonderful” for it.

Taste – My notes had become significantly less descriptive by this point, as it had gotten **ahem** rather late.  I only wrote “my favorite sherried whiskey.”  However, I do recall this having a great creaminess, and hitting on my favorite aspects of dark fruit, vanilla-ish sweetness and clove/cinnamon-type spices.  I’m not always a huge fan of sherried whiskies, but this one was delicious.

Finish – Spice, spice, spice.

Comment – Probably the first sherried whiskey that I’d really seek out.  This was very nice.

In all, three pretty nice drinks.  A couple of other quick notes.  First, while a tasting dinner is nice, I think it really makes accurate tasting difficult.  I find food and its aromas really affect whiskey flavors.  Second, I was interested in the role that the Amrut ambassador played.  He spoke very briefly about Amrut in general before beginning the actual dinner, and then after the three main tastings, he worked the room answering questions.  For me, I think I would have preferred that he walk us through the tastings.  I would have enjoyed that extra educational aspect.  Others, I’m sure, probably preferred to eat their grub and drink their booze.  So I can understand the hosts not wanting to overdo the presentations.

In the end, a fun night with good drink, food and company.  Something that I wished was offered more often in the Philly area.  I’ll be searching for more just like it in the future.


Last week, on Saint Patrick’s Day, Little Bitty Bits (the wife) got me a gift: a nice bottle of Jameson 12.  Longtime readers of this blog (i.e., those who have read it for a month) might remember that I am a big fan of Jameson 12.  It was the bottle that convinced me that, after years of beer drinking, I can learn to love whiskey.  I had just kicked my bottle of Redbreast 12, so I eagerly put the gift bottle out for future enjoyment.

Now LBB, like me, is a proponant of a certain school of gift-giving which believes in gifts that give joy not just to the recipient, but to the giver as well.  In other words, she wanted some of the booze that she just bought.  So she opened the bottle that day.

Fast forward to yesterday.  It’s Friday night and I feel alright, and the party’s about to be here on the west side.  So I reach to pull the cork on the Jameson 12 and — hold on a second, there’s no cork.  It is a screw top.  I could swear that the last bottle was corked.  Hmmm … my mind starts turning … nah, couldn’t be … I’m just being paranoid … I hold the bottle up and study the label a bit.  I’m no expert on Jameson labels, but I’m not seeing anything indicating that this is the 12 year.  It seems to read as just the regular Jameson.  I go straight to the Google machine, and my suspicions are confirmed – the bottle in my hands is not Jameson 12, but the standard Jameson!

What is wrong with this picture?

Now, normally I would have marched straight back to the liquor store (insomuch as you can march in a car), shown them the discrepency and demanded satisfaction.  However, this is a bit complicated because LBB had opened the bottle and had two drinks from it.  What is to stop any customer from coming into their store with an open bottle of Jameson claiming to have purchased the wrong thing?

What do you say, whiskey world?  Has anything like this happened to you?  This is from a store that I’ve often frequented, and knowing the workers there a bit, I’d be surprised if this was something done by the store.  That said, LBB and I did stop by there last night and I took a peek into the only other Jameson 12 package there, and it did indeed contain the proper whiskey.

The basic takeaway is that this is a loss of about $20.  We paid $44 for a $24 bottle.  What would/could you do about it?

Whiskey Review – Bushmills Black Bush and Redbreast 12

As it is (late on) St. Patrick’s day, I decided that I’d follow the lead of every whiskey blogger and put up a review of an Irish Whiskey.  Then I figured that, as a new blogger, I should differentiate myself.  So I am really going to shock you.  I’m going to review … two Irish Whiskeys.  I’ll give you a minute to compose yourselves.

My two Irish right now (in keeping with my 4 Scotch/2 Irish/2 Bourbon format) are both what you’d call “premium” Irish whiskeys.  Or “luxury” Irish whiskeys.  I’m making those terms up, of course, but the point being that they are each a step above the baseline Irish juice that you’ll find in most bars.  Bushmills Black Bush is a step up from the distillery’s iconic white label, and  Redbreast 12 is a step up from … well, nothing, because Redbreast don’t mess around with no ordinary whiskey.

Enough blathering, let’s get to it, starting with the lower-priced Black Bush:

Nose – An interesting nose, not dominated by one note.  I get some lemon custard, some mineral scent, and a little bit of floral.  Also getting a fair amount of alcohol burn.  Not the most pleasant.

Taste – One trap that I think I tend to fall into a bit as a rookie whiskey blogger is that I tend to  look for the scents on the nose as flavors on the palate.  Here, that was rather easy to avoid.  I get a little bit of bitter chocolate, something like hand soap, and a lot of heat at the end.

Finish – Mostly warm/alocol-based heat.  Ends quickly.

Comment – Tasting the Black Bush is a many-seconds-long experience.  Here is what my tongue thinks as it goes through that experience (yes, my tongue has its own brain): “Hmmm… here comes a liquid.  Booze, yes!  It has that ‘here comes some whiskey’ start.  A nice oily mouthfeel.  And … wait, where did it go?  Where’s all the flavor?”  In other words, it is just muted on the palate.  Almost like drinking a slightly whiskey-flavored candlewax.  The heat at the end is unpleasant.

I’ve heard so many good comments about Black Bush that I almost wonder if I got a bad bottle, or if my bottle came from a bad batch.  I’m willing to try again, but this just didn’t float my boat.

Score – C.  A disappointment, especially considering the slightly elevated price tag.  I enjoy most Irish whiskeys I try, but this just didn’t have enough flavor, and alcohol played too prominently in the taste.  One thing I’ll note – the longer the bottle was open, the more I enjoyed it.  I’ve heard (not really experienced this) that whiskeys often lose some character due to age after opening.  This one actually seemed to gain.

Other, better reviews:

Official review from Bushmills


Jason’s Scotch Whisky Reviews


Sorry for the St. Patty’s downer.  Let’s see if that Redbreast 12 (non-cask strength) can improve upon things.

Nose – Floral.  Little Bitty Bits (my wife’s new name, now that she’s blogging) describes it as “female-friendly.”  Lots of apple.  Lots of oak and vanilla.  More and more apple.  Sharp sting of heat.

Taste – Man, there’s all kinds of things going on here.  Vanilla.  Apple and brown sugar.  Licorice. Spicy, creamy, and not to sound like a hypocrite considering my comments in the above review, but the bite of alcohol in this, while strong, mixes in with the spice perfectly.  Everything plays together so well.  It is like a group of notes being hit at once to make a chord.

Finish – A warm, slightly sour note that seems to sit like a little ball of heat in your throat.  Rather long lasting.

Comment – I obviously prefer this to the Black Bush.  The interesting contrast in the two, in my opinion, is the effect of the alcohol burn on the palate.  In the Black Bush, it just shows up unannounced and takes over.  In the Redbreast, it slots itself in amongst the other flavors, mixing well with the considerable spice and apple-y sweetness.

ScoreA-. Here’s how my drinking usually progresses on a given night.  I start out by targeting one bottle that I want to be sure to be my first, unblemished taste of the night.  Maybe it is new, or maybe I haven’t tasted it in awhile, maybe I’m reviewing it next – for whatever reason, that one goes first.  Then, after that first glass, I decide what will be my “rest of the night” drink (whether that be one more glass for a regular night, or 3 or even 4 more if things are getting a little bit inappropriate).  Well, every time I look for my “rest of the night” drink, my eyes instinctively turn to this Redbreast.  For the sake of variety, it isn’t always my choice, but it is always near the top of my list.

Other, better reviews:

(No official website?)

Pork ‘n Whisk(e)y



Whisky Review – The Balvenie Doublewood

As noted in my introduction to my whiskey journey, I started down this path in a rather haphazard fashion.  I tried a few whiskies based on a good review here or there, or perhaps because I seemed to recall a good review that, in retrospect, I haven’t been able to since track down.  So when I decided to start this blog (and approach my introduction to whiskey in a somewhat logical fashion), I decided that I’d start at the beginning.  I set out to determine the best “beginner’s” Scotch.  After considering a number of different options, the one single malt that I found was most often recommended was The Balvenie’s DoubleWood.

If you are looking for some notes on The Balvenie’s history, or the coordinates of the crystal-clear stream from which its water is taken, you are at the wrong blog.  I’m just here to review the juice.  However, before I go on, I note that my label appears to be a degree or two askew, with the right side of the front lable being a millimeter or two higher than the left.  That doesn’t appear to be intentional, so perhaps my bottle is a quirky keeper.

Is it crooked?

According to the Balvenie’s label, which I will note is one of the classiest in the Scotch world, this 12 year old benefits from a mellow vanilla spiciness due to its time in oak casks, while imparting fruit and honey from sherry casks.  I’ll be the judge of that.

Nose – From my brand spanking new Glencairn glass I’m getting … some sherry, almost a raspberry flavor.  I also get some wood.  Not vanilla or toast, but like a plain old wood floor.  Also, I really pick up on something unpleasant.  Almost like an apricot soda.  Tart.

Taste – To me, the nose really follows through into the mouth.  Big sherry, again the wood flavor, almost nutty.  Cinnamon.  Medium to full body, no smoke.  And then there is a tart taste toward the end that almost seems a tiny bit carbonated.  Pretty smooth, and the sherry dominates.

Finish – This sticks with you for a fair bit, with the wood floor really resonating as it goes on.  Drying.

I find that this is one dram that benefits from a small splash of water.  Notes with water:

Nose – Seems sweeter on the nose.  I’m getting real honey now.  Again, though, that tingly tartness.

Taste – Smoother than before.  Getting a lot more vanilla.  Sherry remains, as does that bit of cinnamon.

Finish – Finish is shortened a bit by the water.

Comment – This is one whiskey where I believe a few drops of water makes a big difference.  Much smoother, with the big sherry/cinnamon flavor a bit more balanced with the added sweetness of the vanilla and honey aspect.  Not my favorite to date – I’m trending toward at least a few hints of smoke along with a more prominent sweetness – but it wouldn’t send me running from the Scotch Whisky world if this were truly my first taste.  The bottle sure won’t go to waste.

ScoreB.  On the whole, I enjoyed the DoubleWood.  I don’t know if I’m that wild about the sherry, and there is a certain tart aspect in the background that just disagrees with me, but it certainly ranks among the “tasty drink” category.  I don’t know that I’d seek it out for another purchase, although it is rather economical.  (Also, a note on the standard 1 to 100 whisky score scale.  I think it is dumb.  Really?  You can determine that the drink was an 86 rather than an 87?  Really?  I don’t buy it.  I don’t know that I’d be able to tell the difference between an 86 and an 89.  Plus, as far as I can tell, the lowest possible score is around 73, and the highest possible is about 96.  Why don’t you just have the lowest be 1 and the highest be 24?  Same thing, right?  Anyhow, I digress.  Broader, letter grades seem to more approachable to me.)

Other, better reviews:

Official review by The Balvenie

The Casks

Vice Lounge Online

The Whisky Wire

Guid Scotch Drink


Opening Lines

WW note – This is the first of what will be a series of posts where I share some creative writing.  This evening, armed with a writing prompt, I sat down and banged out the below.  I spent about 28 minutes writing, and about nine editing.  Feel free to call me a hack in the comments.  I’m already calling myself that in my head.  If the writing is not of interest to you, scroll down to a few whiskey-related notes to follow.

The prompt – Take the opening line of a favorite book, substitute new words for all of the key words in that line (in a sort of Mad Libs style), and use that for the first line of your story.

My opening line comes from my very favorite book: American Pastoral by Philip Roth.  It reads:

The Swede.  During the war years, when I was still a grade school boy, this was a magical name in our Newark neighborhood…

The Turk.  During the Clinton years, when I was still a free man, this was a magical name in our South Jersey neighborhood.  He owned a “coffee shop” on Merchant Street.  Perhaps the world’s least successful coffee shop, at least in part due to the fact that it was one of the world’s least inviting coffee shops.  The place smelled more of cigarettes and other smokes than of coffees and muffins.  In fact, if a customer ordered a coffee, it would set into motion a production of theatrical proportions, resulting a mere ten minutes later in a steaming hot cup of Sanka and an exhausted Turk.  You better not ask for sugar.

My mother, of course, warned me.  He was “trouble.”  The place was “bad news.”  I should stay away because I had my “future to think about.”  Ah, yes.  My future.  Surely, I was going to play first for the Phillies.  Or perhaps be a Senator.  Both, maybe?  What else could be expected of a high school junior with a 2.2 GPA who could probably impress the nation’s preeminent food scientists with his knowledge and insights regarding the comparative merits of the orange dust from Cheetos versus the orange dust from Doritos.  I was going places.

Despite my certain glorious future, and the pleading protestations of my mother, I was thrilled by the Turk.  Certainly, I hadn’t dared set foot in the shop, though I had biked by often, trying to peer through the grime-stained windows.  But the Turk got around.  He was at the pool, talking to girls just a year or two older than me.  Tanned.  Pot-bellied.  Hair to his shoulders, apparently not washed in days.  Disgusting, right?  Not to me.  To me, he floated.  He entered and people watched.  He floated over to the pretty girls and people watched.  Stoners followed him as if he was leaving a trail of Twinkie breadcrumbs.  People watched.  He left the pool, and the prettiest girl left exactly five minutes later.  People watched.  And grinned.

My father, of course, was the reason I finally opened the door to the coffee shop.  “Help Joey with his hoagie sales,” he said.  “See if the owner of that coffee shop on Merchant wants to buy any.  I think they sell food there, and Joey really could use more sales.”  Forget the fact that, three years earlier, I hadn’t sold a single hoagie.  And that Dad could have asked himself.  He knew who the Turk was, and didn’t dare set foot in the shop.  While dad wasn’t looking, Joey gave me the finger.  I told him to fuck himself slowly.  Dad told me to watch my fucking mouth.

I asked Stu if he’d go with me.  He initially said he would, but slowed his bike a block down Merchant Street.  “Dude, I have to tell you …” he said.  I waited, eyebrow raised.  “Uh, I just  think that … well, my mom…” Stu’s voice just faded off.  He looked at me, silently asking me to understand.

I was going to call him a pussy, but I wasn’t really focused on him by that point.  My mission had started, and I couldn’t turn back.  Armed with the baseball team hoagie sale flier, along with the insane curiosity to find out what happened in the back of the coffee house, I wasn’t going to let Stu sidetrack me.  I looked at Stu, blank faced, until he felt uncomfortable.  He looked away.  I turned and pedaled on, slowing to a stop at the tree in front of the shop.  The day was bright.  Sunlight gleamed off the parked cars, even the dirtiest ones.  I locked my bike to the tree, slowly.  As I deliberately threaded the lock through my tire spokes, I caught a glimpse of the dim room inside.  The Turk was behind the counter, baseball cap on backwards and what looked like a dishrag over his shoulder.  His arms were crossed and he was holding court.

I took one stride toward the building, drew a deep breath, and pulled the swinging door wide.  Four pairs of eyes were immediately on me.  None were welcoming.  The last wisps of my breath wreaked of what I would soon learn was a mix of pot smoke and formaldehyde.

When the door slammed shut against the frame, Detective Lytham pulled his notebook from the passenger seat and began scribbling.  Mine was a new face to him, one that he would come to memorize in the following months.


A couple of quick whiskey notes:

  • My first review will be coming up next.  It is of a whisky that is generally regarded (by the Internets) as one of the best “introductory” whiskies.  The Balvenie Doublewood.
  • If you are in the Philly area, you may be interesting in an upcoming dinner.  An Amrut brand ambassador will be pouring tastings of his range at the Dandelion in Philadelphia.  Tuesday, March 20.  $70.  I will be there.  Click here for details.
  • Ridiculous, I know, but I had never had Johnnie Walker Black until this week.  And I must say that I loved it.  I could have a glass every night.  I liked it so much that I added a bottle to my already-saturated whiskey collection.  It is “cabinet” bottle, meaning that it will stay hidden in the cabinet until I finish one of my current Scotch bottles.  So I’ll have to wait a bit before I try it.

Hope everyone had a great weekend.  Cheers!