Water of Life in the Tree Lined Avenue

Ilegirl, her husband, and I went out to visit the distillery whose whiskey’s name ignores centuries of less than friendly relationships between England and Scotland. The distillery is in on the decommissioned Naval Air base in Alameda. Their building is an old aircraft hanger, which lends its name to their vodkas: Hanger One.

We went for a tasting, a $10 exploration of assorted spirits and a tour of the distillery. I was interested in trying their single malt whiskey.

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I admit that I thought of Vodka as a flavourless clear alcohol that was either thrown down the throat neat and frozen or used as the base of a cocktail. After sampling their infused vodkas; drinks full of fruit and delicate hints that can be sipped, I stand corrected. These are not vodkas to which a flavour has been added after distillation. Natural ingredients are added to the distillate, left to seep and then distillation is repeated. They describe it as infusing. None of the five vodkas were less than fascinating, but the Mandarin Blossom was heavenly. I want to try that with a splash of Triple Sec and Cranberry Juice for a stunning Cosmopolitan.  They also do a White Tea liqueur, which with the orange flavours tastes like a less sweet version of Cointreau.

The Whiskey was better than I expected, especially given its short eight years of life so far removed from its spiritual home. It is not an Islay peat monster, but has a reasonably complex flavour. After the server saw me splash some water and smell it again, she added an additional whiskey to the tasting; a younger, rougher version. Given the improvement between this five year old and the first one, I hope that if they can keep some back in casks for a decade they might have a whiskey I would be happy to drink. As things stand, it is palatable, but for the price I would buy Scotch. They use a mix of new French Oak casks and Bourbon casks. I did note that the Bourbon ones were from the distillery that I use for my mixing Bourbon.

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The tour was an informative and amusing event. The presenter had an obvious passion for the drink that they made. He said their goal was to make stuff that they could drink and sell the rest. The stills were stunningly beautiful. They use old-fashioned pot-stills and make just 25,000 cases of booze in a year; Smirnoff make 1,500,000 each month. Their bottling machine is old and no longer supported by the manufacturer. They used to rely on the company in the next door facility to make replacement parts. Their neighbour made aquatic models for movies like “Deep Blue” and “Anaconda” in between keeping the bottling line running.

From outside the hanger there is a great view of The Bay Bridge and downtown San Francisco.

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The sampling list was as follows:

Aqua Perfecta Pear Eau de Vie
Aqua Perfecta Framboise Eau de Vie
Hanger One Straight Vodka
Hangar One Buddha’s Hand Citron Vodka
Hangar One Mandarin Blossom Vodka
Hanger One Kaffir Lime Vodka
St George Single Malt Whiskey
Hanger One Chipotle Vodka
Qi White Tea Liqueur
Qi Black Tea Liqueur
Aqua Perfecta Pear Liqueur
Aqua Perfecta Framboise Liqueur

A couple of other points of note, the straight Vodka would not count as such in Europe as it is distilled from grapes which EU regulations would prevent from being called vodka.

The whiskey gets its name from the distillery, which is St George Distillery. The distillery gets its name from its founder, a German called Jorge. Thus we are left with the oddity of a Scottish style Whiskey with an English name made in the US by a German.

Published in: on 31 May, 2009 at 7:16  Comments (2)  

ATM Messages

I attempted to use a Bank of America (BofA) ATM on Friday. The unit was out of service. The screen helpfully suggested other BofA cash machines that were close by, including the distance in miles from my current location. The list was not complete. The ATM that was in the same building, which most people would consider as closer than one several miles away, was not mentioned.

Published in: on 18 May, 2009 at 4:36  Leave a Comment  

For Scotland and St George

I know that most Americans do not understand the differences between Great Britain and England and can use the terms interchangeably. In summary, Great Britain consists of three distinct countries: Wales, Scotland, and England. There are many Scots who wish that their country was not part of Great Britain and many more Scots who dislike England and the English.

I appreciate that there is no reason why this ignorance should be of concern to most Americans. However, if you have a business that makes a Scottish style whiskey, it might be advisable to understand that England is not the same as Scotland. This would avoid  the faux-pas of naming your whiskey after England’s Patron Saint and using his emblem on your label.

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The distillery and tasting rooms are about forty-five minutes away from where I live, so in the name of duty to my readers I shall make the trip down to Alameda are report back.

Published in: on 17 May, 2009 at 9:30  Leave a Comment  

Before the Fall

I watched a DVD of a pilot episode for a new TV show. What made this unusual was that the episode is yet to be shown on TV. DVD releases usually occur months after broadcast, in this case the DVD was released last month and the show is slated to start in 2010.

The show is a Battlestar Galactica prequel called Caprica and is set on the eponymous planet some fifty years before the Cylon attack. The initial episode focuses on the creation of the Cylons. It shows the same interest as its parent show to address difficult issues such as racism, religion, terrorism, and what it means to be a living being. The ninety-minute pilot was a promising start.

Published in: on 14 May, 2009 at 6:03  Leave a Comment  

The Shadow over Baseball

Baseball is game that continues to struggle with the taint of an ongoing drugs scandal. The player who holds the record for most home runs in a career and in a season, Barry Bonds is known to have taken steroids. This knowledge led to a lack of excitement as the player approached the career record for home runs in 2007.

In February of last year, Roger Clemens, former pitcher for the New York Yankees testified to Congress about steroids in the game. He denied that he had taken steroids, contradicting statements from his former trainer.

Before this season began, one of the stars for the New York Yankees, Alex Rodriguez, was outed as having taken steroids in the past. He had failed a test in 2003, before Major League Baseball had a policy to punish players for taking drugs. The results of these tests had been confidential, but Rodriguez’s name was leaked in February of this year; not exactly news at internet speed.

Last week Manny Ramirez, star for the LA Dodgers failed a drugs test and was banned for fifty games. He rolled out the old excuse that it was a prescription from a doctor and he had not known what it contained.

The introduction of random testing was supposed to clean up the sport, but the Ramirez incidence shows that the cheats are still there.

Published in: on 12 May, 2009 at 6:08  Leave a Comment  

Friday Breakfast

Friday is not a day on which I need to eat Breakfast before leaving home. One colleague brings in bagels, fruit, and juice just as I arrive at work. A little later freshly baked donuts are brought in. This has become a tradition and similar arrangements are made on other floors and departments. There is a cubicle on the floor dedicated for the food and in addition to a supply of plates, napkins, and cutlery there is a bagel slicer.

Published in: on 11 May, 2009 at 5:49  Leave a Comment  

No Ties Allowed

Sport in the US seems to abhor the concept of a draw; there has to be a winner in every contest. I can understand that in an elimination situation such as the post-season a definite result is needed, but during a regular season league match I do not understand the rationale. Yesterday, the Oakland As lost to the Seattle Mariners 7-8, in a baseball game that ran to fifteen innings. A regular game is nine innings. The game with the most innings in MLB history had 26 innings and still ended in a tie

Published in: on 4 May, 2009 at 6:37  Leave a Comment  

Staring into the Abyss

The last set of games in the Championship are played on Sunday. The team that I support, Norwich City, are in the bottom three. If they finish the season they will be relegated to League One, which despite the name is the actually the third tier of English football. It is nearly fifty years since Norwich were in such a low position. To avoid relegation Norwich must win their final game of the season and Barnsley must lose. The combination of events does not seem likely. The future looks dark.

Published in: on 1 May, 2009 at 6:22  Leave a Comment