Tag Archives: Just a Thought

Just a Thought… Back to the Blog!

I haven’t been very active on my blog for a while. My main excuse has been that I have been struggling through my third year of graduate studies, while trying to wrap up another school year (Working as a vice principal pays the whisky bills!), not to mention everything else that goes into being a husband and father to three young kids. A secondary reason, although probably connected to my studies, is that I haven’t felt a whole lot like writing for leisure for a while now… When I have had a moment for a dram, I’ve just wanted to enjoy it without having to put it into words. 

Well, my masters program is finally finished and, after a good few days of letting my brain recover, I feel ready to again put pen to paper, or thumbs to iPad! And I kind have had a moment of clarity about our favourite spirit. At the risk of sounding like I might have a problem with relying on alcohol, I can’t help but think how a nice scotch sometimes made 2-hour online lectures a bit more tolerable… Or how a spicy rye occasionally seemed to keep me awake and alert while powering through late night sessions of research-writing… Or how, when I just couldn’t possibly work any more, I could take a personal moment to sit and contemplate a big, bold bourbon or, even better, get together with a buddy and just enjoy some human interaction over a decent dram…

I’m proud of my accomplishment and my wife and kids deserve a ton of credit because it was a true family effort over the past few years, with everyone making sacrifices and having to help pick up the slack where they could, but maybe I whisk(e)y should get some credit too!


Just a Thought… The Norlan Whisky Glass

This past Christmas (I know, I know… And I have no good excuses for my delay to post), my ever-thoughtful sister gifted a beautiful pair of glasses to me.  I can only imagine how her search for my gift actually went but, to hear her tell the story, it involved wonder about what to get a “whisky nerd” who apparently has everything already, while also feeling a little unsure about an outright display of support for my dramming habit by giving me an actual bottle of booze, not to mention completely ignorant toward how to choose a bottle I was sure enjoy… I don’t think you need to know my sister personally to pick up on all of the not-so-subtle jabs she was taking at me.

Nevertheless, I was quite thrilled to open my gift and see a carton of two Norlan glasses. I have been interested in this technology since reading about it on other blogs but my satisfaction with traditional Glencairns as well as the unavailability of Norlan glasses in stores (online orders only, I believe) had so-far kept me from getting my own.


For my comparison, I sampled some nice Classic Laddie in both the new Norlan and my usual Glencairn. Here’s what I thought:

Glencairn Nose

Honey and floral heather… Graphite… Vanilla. The Glencairn also delivers a clear malty-cereal character as well as some citrusy goodness on the nose. 

Norlan Nose

Noticeably less pronounced nose compared to the Glencairn. Honey and floral heather… Graphite… Vanilla… Those aromas are all still there, I just had to work a bit harder to find them. The malty character is pretty much absent but there is now a distinct herbal quality in its place – minty, eucalyptus. 

Glencairn Palate 

Oak, rose water, vanilla, subtle baking spices and a mineral slate-like quality.  The Glencairn delivers my sip directly to the tip of the tongue, which helps to highlight the sweet honey and bourbony elements of the whisky. The finish is medium, maybe medium-long, with pencil shavings, caramel and a nutty sensation. 

Norlan Palate

Very similar. Oak, rose water, vanilla, subtle baking spices and a mineral slate-like quality are all in the mix once again. The Norlan glass seems to bring a sip of whisky a bit further back on the palate, which makes for a slightly more bitter and peppery profile. The finish is again medium with flavours of oak and minerals, sweet caramel and nuts. 


The Norlan Glass is a beautiful piece of glassware. I like how it feels in my hand and, if I’m drinking with friends who mix their drinks in tumblers, maybe I won’t feel quite as pretentious with the Norlan as with a Glencairn.  Maybe, but probably not… I have no qualms about matching my glass to whatever I’m drinking, so I may just stick with my trust Glencairn or, perhaps, my Canadian Glencairn. 

I should probably do more side-by-side comparisons, in the name of science of course, but I’m not yet sure that I can say the Norlan glass is better or worse, in terms of an overall drinking experience. The nose is decidedly subdued, compared to a Glencairn, and there seems to also be a slightly different taste experience, due to how the whiskey is delivered to the tongue. However, some aromas and flavours did also seem to be enhanced by the Norlan, so maybe it’s a trade-off in the end. I, for one, love to nose my whisky so I find the subdued nosing experience of the Norlan to be a strike against it. That said, however, I’m sure my new Norlan glasses will see plenty of use, especially when I can show them off when a buddy drops by come over for a dram. 

Just a Thought… Celebrate Robbie Burns

… In Camrose, Alberta!  

I know that the few people who may stumble upon this post can’t or won’t actually be able to do this, especially with January 25 right around the corner and, since it falls on a Monday, festivities are happening tonight. Nevertheless, it’s possible that it might be worth the trip!   

“Whisky and freedom gang thegither” – Robbie Burns
Last night, I attended an event in support of the local chapter of a national charity that helps children from low-income families participate in sports and athletic programs. (www.kidsportcanada.ca/alberta/camrose/) Well, it just so happens that this event was held at the same location as tonics Robbie Burns celebration. And, it just so happens that I know the manager of this establishment quite well. So, I was less surprised than pleased when she presented me with a copy of the pamphlet/menu that will be in use tonight, along with an early invitation to enjoy a couple of the fine drams that will be available! (Unfortunately, I will be on the road coaching tonight – her son plays on my hockey team – so I won’t be able to attend.šŸ™)

Look at this whisky menu… And look at the prices! In a small city that doesn’t have any great whisky bars, this is a drammer’s dream and I appreciate the efforts taken to educate about scotch whisky to make some fantastic malts extremely affordable to sample! (Yeah, those prices are $CDN!)   
  I know there may be some errors in this, but I still think it’s a nice touch for landlocked Albertans wanting to learn more about scotch… No haggis… But some good eats will be available, too!  

Let me tell you, it was difficult to choose what to sample – my friend has done a great job of selecting a number of excellent whiskies. I was tempted to simply request that a bottle of the Glenfarclas 25 be left at my table… But I decided to just go for a couple of drams I had not yet tried, settling on the Balblair 1989 vintage and the Caol Ila 12 year old. (I know, I know, I should have had that one by now!) I asked for the Balblair first, to avoid having my palate dominated by the Islay malt. 

Obviously, I wasn’t able to do my usual review tasting regimen but a few quick notes on these whiskies:

Balblair ’89 (3rd Release)

I was quite taken by the intense floral character of this whisky, which was in abundance in both the nose and the palate. There is plenty of juicy fruit on the nose, along with some delicious toffee and vanilla – very bourbony!  On the palate, the 46% abv delivers those juicy fruits but turns them jammy and quite a bit darker, with oak and baking spices. It is a rich tasting dram with a long, smooth finish of honey, citrus pith and a nice fruity, floral rye-like character.  Absolutely delicious!

Caol Ila 12

I love Islay! And this dram delivers the typical Islay elements I look for – smoke, maltiness and salty, seeweedy brine – and balances them beautifully. On the nose, the smoke is assertive but not sharp, as it is nicely rounded out by malted cereals and a unique citrusy aroma that reminds me of a spicy Thai basil. The salty character of this whisky leaves impressions of smoked meat but I couldn’t decide if it was more like ham or lox… Interesting though! There is plenty of body to this 43% abv dram and the flavours are sweet and malty with some tar, juicy fruits, restrained peat and smoke. The finish was a lovely assault of salty sweetness, like a smack of Granny Smith apples and kettle corn. Terrific whisky to end the evening with!