Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Scotch Edition

I remember the first time I tried scotch like I were yesterday. I was with some of my nerdy science friends, one of whom worked in a lab where the lounge has an amazing view of the False Creek. So a group of us went there to enjoy the view and drink some scotch. And I thought the scotch was terrible! I did not enjoy the smokey peatiness at all. 

And so, for many years, I thought I just didn’t like scotch. It was only fairly recently that I learned that not all scotch is peated and tried some non-peated scotches, which I quite liked.

So on our recent trip to Scotland, we made sure to go to a few scotch distilleries to learn more about it! We went to two distilleries, both of which are very new:

Clydeside Distillery
Clydeside Distillery
Gift when staying Isle of Raasay Distillery guest house

We actually stayed at the Isle of Raasay distillery, which also has guest accommodations attached to the distillery. And when you stay they, they give you this little sample of their Raasay While We Wait single malt scotch whiskey and two scotch glasses (shown in the photo above).

I’ll write more about both of these distilleries whenever I finally get around to properly blogging about that trip. For this posting, I’m going to focus on things that I learned about scotch!

In no particular order:

  • Like Canadian whisky, Scotch whisky has to be aged for at least 3 years in a barrel1. In addition, it must be:
    • distilled in Scotland
    • aged in Scotland
  • “Single malt” scotch whisky, as the name suggests, must be made from only malted barley (and no other cereals). It must also be made at a single distillery (though it can be made in different batches) and in a pot still.
  • “Single grain” scotch whisky must also be made at a single distillery.
  • “Blended malt” scotch whisky is a whiskey made by blending two or more single malt scotch whiskies and “blended scotch whiskey” is a whiskey made by blending one or more single malt whiskies with one (or more) single grain scotch whiskies.
  • Peated whisky is made by blowing smoke from a peat fire to dry the malt you use to make the whisky.
  • At one point in history, the further you were from England, the less tax you paid, os there are more distilleries in the northern part of Scotland than in the southern part.
  • Whiskies that are made or aged on the islands tend to have a bit of salty taste to them from the salt air.
  • After prohibition ended in the US, they made a law that all bourbon had to be aged in virgin oak barrels (the law was meant to create more jobs for coopers (i.e., barrel makers)). A lot of scotch distilleries will use bourbon barrels to age their scotch, because those barrels were cheap to by (since the bourbon makers couldn’t use them a second time).

These are the different regions of Scotland and the types of scotch you get from each:

Clydeside Distillery

I tend to like the Highland scotches.

In addition to the two aforementioned, distilleries, we tried to go to Torabhaig Distillery, which we happened to drive by well, but they were closed on Sundays. Here’s a photo of my sneaking past the “no entry” sign.

Torabhaig Distillery

When we were in Glasgow, we went to a pub called The Pot Still, where they had over 700 whiskies. The bartender there told Scott that you don’t call a scotch whisky “smooth”, you call it “soft”. But then we heard lots of other Scots referring to whisky as “smooth”, and I’ve seen scotches described as “smooth” on packaging for scotch, so I am doubtful that this is true. Regardless, it was a pretty good pub!

The Pot Still

We also checked out a place called the Scotch Whisky Experience when we were in Edinburgh. We didn’t do any of their tours, but we did check out their large whisky shop!

The Scotch Whisky Experience

While there, Scott bought a bottle of Royal Lochnagar 12 year old single malt:

Royal Lochnagar

And I bought my bottle – Glen Deveron 16 year single malt – at the Duty Free at the airport. Did you know that you can do scotch tastings at the Duty Free at the airport? I told them I wanted a smooth Highland whisky and they brought out several for us to try!

Glen Deveron scotch

We were sad that we were only allowed to bring back one bottle of scotch each!

  1. You can read the whole Scotch Whisky Regulations as http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2009/2890/contents/made if you are so inclined. []

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Road Trip

Scott and I went on a road trip1. He had met my mom and sister when they were here in May and now it was my turn to meet his family. Our two main destinations were Red Deer, where his mom lives, and Kelowna, where his dad lives.

On the way there, we went through Jasper. I’ve never been to Jasper before, but I remember my Aunt Wendy going there when I was little and bringing me back a silver dollar. I’d also heard that it’s absolutely gorgeous there and I was not disappointed!

Jasper, AB

Jasper, AB

Jasper, AB=Jasper, AB

To make it even better, we had free entry thanks to the Parks Canada free-entry-to-all-national-parks-in-celebration-of-Canada-150 pass. While in Jasper we enjoyed:

  • the Miette Hot Springs, where there had both hot springs pools and cold pools, the latter of which gave me flashbacks to the torture of the physiotherapy cold tub
  • the Columbia icefieldJasper, AB
    Jasper, AB
  • Tangle Creek
    Jasper, AB
  • Various wildlife, although not as much as I expected to see and no bears, which I wanted to see, but only from a distance and from inside the car. Because I don’t have a death wish. Bears are scary!
  • Goats in Jasper, AB
    Jasper, AB

After Jasper we were off to Red Deer to visit Scott’s mom and spend some time on the family farm. At the farm I:

  • rode a horse named Cookie Monster and got bitten but eleventy billion mosquitoes.

    The Cookie Monster - I got to ride him!

    Cookie Monster!

  • met a lot of dogs. Every time I turned around, there was another dog! There was Rosie and Dudley and Puddles and Dakota and Flydog and Archie.

    Rosie

    Rosie

    Dudley

    Dudley

  • met Sylvester the cat, who is heard a lot about from Scott and who looks just like Sylvester from Bugs Bunny. He’s a farm cat through and through – I watched him eat a mouse2 – but he’s also a snuggly little guy who will curl up with you at bed time. He’d been in a bit of a scrap with another farm cat at a few days earlier and had a big gash just above one eye, so I was worried about him, but he’s all better now after some antibiotic ointment that Scott’s mom got from the vet. And I’m just realizing I didn’t get any photos of Sylvester. #fail
  • met three little kittens who recently arrived at the farm: Milkshake, Stripey Cat, and the Orange One. They were pretty freaking adorable!

    Milkshake the kitten at the farm

    Milkshake

    Stripey Cat the kitten at the farm

    Stripey Cat

    Orange kitten at the Farm

    The Orange One

  • met 2 other cats, but only from a distance because, while adorable, they were, let’s say very protective of their territory: Halo, and the aptly named Killer.
  • saw a bunch of cows. It is a cattle farm, after all. Most of the cows were out at pasture, but there were two calves that didn’t have moms to be out at pasture with – one was orphaned and the other was rejected by its mom – so they were hanging out in a pen with a dairy cow who was brought in to feed them. Sort of like a wet nurse for cows. The dairy cow had a tongue that was about 2 ft long and tried to eat my arm.

I really think my niece and nephew would like the farm. And my dad would have liked it too!

While in Alberta, we also made a trip to Eau Claire Distillery ((Here’s my usual disclaimer: no one paid me to talk about any of the business I talk about in this posting. I kind of wish they did, because most of the business I talk about in this posting make booze!)), the first craft distillery in Alberta, which opened in 2004. Scott had been there back when they first open for a fundraising event and wanted to show it to me. They make primarily barley-based booze, although they do have one vodka made from prickly pear cactus. They also hand harvest all the barley, which seems like a particularly crazy way to get your barley.

Eau Claire Distillery, Turner Valley, AB

Drinks at Eau Claire Distillery, Turner Valley, AB

Scott had a Moscow mule and I had (if I recall correctly) an apricot whiskey sour.

Then we went into Calgary, which you may recall is my least favourite place that I’ve ever been. In Calgary, police cars are all Ford F-150s and everyone drives Lamborghinis. True story.

This is how they do police cars in Calgary

Row of expensive cars - apparently this was a show & shine in Calgary

We did go to Prince’s Island Park and it was nice and we ate at the Palomino Smokehouse and it was good. So I may have to revise my stance from “I hate everything about Calgary” to “I hate everything about Calgary except Prince’s Island Park and Palomino Smokehouse”.

After a few days of Red Deer, which included some family dinners with Scott’s mom and her boyfriend, and meeting Scott’s grandma3 we hit the road again, this time traveling through Banff on our way to visit Scott’s dad in Kelowna. We made a stop in Revelstoke to visit Monashee Spirits Distilling. Monashee opened about 4 months ago and makes some of the best craft booze around! Josh gave us a tour of where all the magic happens and we got to sample his wares. Incidentally, I have a bottle of Big Mountain Creamer and, since all of Monashee’s products are certified organic and don’t have preservatives, and the Big Mountain Creamer has, understandably, cream in it, this bottle has an expiry date – anyone who wants to come help me drink it should let me know!

While in Revelstoke, we also decided to try out the Pipe Mountain Coaster, a single person roller coaster down the mountain! It was a bit pricy, but pretty freaking fun!Scott on the Pipe Coaster in Revelstoke, BC

Then it was off the Okanagan! While there we checked out, in no particular order:

Old Order Distillery

    • The People’s Crafthouse Soda Company – these guys make fantastic craft sodas: root beer, cream soda, tonic, ginger ale, elderflower, and they even have one called “seasonal fruit” that is made with whatever fruit happens to be in season. When we were there it was strawberry-cherry (the end of the strawberry season and the start of cherry season) and they said that the next week it would be just cherries, then later it would be blueberry, blackberry, peaches, etc. I just looked at their website and they currently have pear-ginger! We did a tasting of their sodas and then talked to them for nearly an hour about how they started their business and about their experience on the Dragon’s Den. They were super nice people and if you ever happen to be in Penticton, I highly recommend you check them out!
    • Bad Tattoo Brewing
    • The Vibrant Vine winery – I was there last year, as the half marathon I ran in Kelowna started in their vineyard (and then I went back later to actually check out the winery) and I really wanted to show it to Scott. All of their packaging and the art in the winery is 3D and while you might think that gimmicky labels may signify poor quality wine, but you’d be wrong. Their wine is outstanding!
    • House of Rose – At the Canada Day festivities at the Kelowna waterfront, we’d gotten coupons for the “Fab 5” wineries – a group of wineries, including The Vibrant Vine, who co-market to try to get people to visit these wineries that are all in the same area (though they are quick to tell you that it’s just a marketing arrangement – they are all independent wineries). So we decided to check out some of the others, which we hadn’t heard of before. One of them was the House of Rose and while the grounds were pretty (I kind of felt like I was at House Tyrell with the rose theme), sadly their wines just weren’t very good.

The House of Rose Winery, Kelowna, BC

  • Camelot Vineyards – Like House of Rose, Camelot sticks to its theme, with coats of armour and a sword stuck in a stone decorating the place, but I didn’t like their wines. After this, we decided to cut our losses on the “Fab 5” wineries, electing not to go to the remaining two.
    Camelot Winery, KelownaCamelot Winery, Kelowna
  • Summerhill Pyramid Winery – This winery has a pyramid that they apparently store their wine in for some reason. Their sparkling wine is quite nice.
    Scott and I at Summerhill Pyramid WIneryPlus they have what looks like a weirwood tree.Summerhill Pyramid WInery
  • Grizzli Winery – I discovered Grizzli Winery last year when I was in Kelowna – just saw it as we were driving by and went in on a whim and I really, really like their wines. So Scott and I went there so that he could check it out and also so I could see what was new since I was there last year, shortly after they opened. They had white wines this time (which they didn’t last year) and I liked them a lot!

When we weren’t tasting all the beverages, we spent some time walking the boardwalk in Kelowna and having family breakfasts and dinners with Scott’s dad and his girlfriend. And then before we knew it, our vacation was over! Will definitely have to go back – feels like we just scratched the surface of all the things we could do!

 

  1. Like a month ago, but I’m only getting around to blogging about it now. Because there are too many exciting things going on this summer and I haven’t had time to sit down and write! []
  2. I realized that I’d never seen a cat eat a mouse before! We saw that Sylvester was sitting in the grass so we went over to see him and saw that he had a half eaten mouse corpse in front of him and one of the mouse legs, which he was slowly devouring, in his mouth. After eating the leg he started pulling the guts out to eat! []
  3. Who reminded me a lot of my Granny Snow. Incidentally, Scott’s grandma told her hair stylist that she approved of me (one of the times we went to visit her she was in the salon) and then Scott learned that women always tell their hair stylist everything! []