Saturday, November 12, 2005

Taste travels: Scotch

Last night I hosted a small party centered around Scotch. We shared our bottles with each other and conducted a somewhat formal Scotch tasting. Below are the remains of our evening and some notes from the tasting.

Single Malt Scotch Whiskeys
Dalwhinnie 15 year (Speyside)
  • Color: Pale yellow
  • Nose: A hint of floral and.. plastic? I think Ian called it leafy. Very little smell beyond alcohol.
  • Taste: A burnt sugar/caramel flavor and a kind of shape in the mouth. Fairly gentle for scotch.

Bruichladdich 15 year (Islay)
  • Color: Pale Amber
  • Nose: A hint of vanilla, and suggests a round shape.
  • Taste: Lightly peaty, leaves a taste like the faint bitterness after a flavorful cheese, something creamy in the flavor too. Given the amount left, this one seemed to do well in the tasting.

Clynelish 14 year (North Highland)
  • Color: Pale gold
  • Nose: Light odors, strong alcohol.
  • Taste: I recall it as good - but not as complex as the others. Read up a bit on this - whiskey from Clynelish is a major factor in the Johnny Walker Gold blend. (Thanks Ian!)

Highland Park 12 year (Orkney)
  • Color: Young Sauternes
  • Nose:Sweet, earthy and peaty. Floral and dry.
  • Taste: This one won the taste test - and is the only bottle we finished (Thanks Miao!) Honey, floral, smokey/peaty and a bit of salt(?). The finish was really nice - lingering bit of heather, smoke and floral.

Talkisker 10 year (Skye)
  • Color: Deep amber
  • Nose:Smokey - peaty, perhaps peppery.
  • Taste:Very peaty and big, a touch harsh on the finish - overall very nice and big.

Macallan 18 year (Speyside)
  • Color: Red/amber
  • Nose: Amazing! (Thanks Jeff!) Wonderful smell of sherry, smokey/peaty, maybe oak or wood.
  • Taste: Good balance of the sherry and peat flavors. Long finish - but somehow it disappointed in the finish - felt rough. A surprising let-down for something that smelled so promising.

Blended Scotch Whiskeys
Some refuse to even consider Scotch blends. But it's possible to blend several distillations and come up with something quite good and consistent. While I found both the blends less complex than some of the Single Malts, they were still quite good.
Chivas Regal 12 year (Highland Blend)
  • Color: Mid-amber
  • Nose:Smells like my first memories of Scotch.
  • Taste: A sharp attack, but quite pleasant overall - I only sampled it briefly. (Thanks Prtihvi!)

Johnnie Walker Black 12 year
  • Color: id-amber
  • Nose: Light smells, mostly alcohol.
  • Taste: I didn't have any at the tasting.

Links a good reference for all the varieties of single malts. Discusses color, nose, taste, as well as different releases and histories. Good descriptions of how to taste scotch - from color and odor charts to the type of glasses to use.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

NYC West Village Halloween Parade

This Monday, Jess, Colin, and I joined the NYC Halloween parade. We spent the day gathering costume elements for three Twin Peaks related costumes. Colin created himself as Agent Cooper. Jess sought the right log for her version of the Log Lady. I evaluated plastic sheeting and makeup for my Laura Palmer, the murder victim around whom the story centered.

Most costumes were elaborate, creative, and humorous. Unlike most kids costumes sold, many of the costumes with current media and art reference were handmade - like the fantastic group of Katamari, and a number of Christo Gates.

The parade mixed both floats and individual participants like us. The floats ranged from musical to obscure, but certainly gave their members greater visibility. Volume of members and uniformity also broguht notice - like the amusing set of Elliot and ET's aboard their BMX bikes.

There were also a number of costumes that reflected the diversity of New York - like this couple in what I believe are traditional Korean hanbok.
I had a great time and would love to walk this again next year - perhaps with a larger group.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Milwaukee Art Museum

The museum itself is a movable sculpture with wings that open and close during the day.

The Burke Brise Soleil is a movable, wing-like structure that claims to be a sun screen to control the temperature in the glass reception hall. The wings open daily at 10 am and close when the museum closes, as well as closing and opening at Noon each day. The fins range in length from 26 to 105 feet, and the total wingspan is 217 feet. It is controlled by an impressive array of pulleys and supports. Each fin is moved individually so the motion of the wings feels natural, if quite slow. The museum closes the wings if wind speeds exceed 23 miles per hour and during electrical, snow and ice storms.

The Burke Brise Soleil was deigned by architect Santiago Calatrava (Spanish, b. 1951) for the Milwaukee Art Museum Quadracci Pavilion in 2001.

The sculptural form of the museum extends beyond the sail to the horizontal line of the building blending into the horizon line of the lake, the boat-like shapes and materials, and the almost skeletal interior structures.

The galleries are gently positioned so that the spaces flow into each other but still create traditional right-angled spaces. The collection we saw was fairly eclectic - modern works through Egyptian and Byzantine works. I liked a number of pieces.

Robert Morris (American, b. 1931), Untitled, 1970. The sense of weight in this giant piece of industrial felt, and its reflection on the floor created a physical knowledge in my hands. I imagined the weight of long hair, lifted and drawn back. I could feel the motion in the felt, even though it was suspended in time for my observation.

In the same gallery of modern work, I found this illuminated piece. The piece is simple - a round glass or plastic disk, slightly curved, split horizontally by an opaque metallic strip, with four lights focused on it. The glass reflects most of the light and casts four shadows on the wall behind. I neglected to note the name of the artist though. (If you know it -- please send me a comment.) The illusion the work creates is fantastic - the opaque disk mostly disappears and the shadows become the shape of the work.

The sense of suspension in space and time in Edge of England (1999, by Cornelia Parker (English, b. 1956)), an array of chalk, wire, and wire mesh, appealed to me as well. It felt like a quarry explosion caught in mid-burst. I sought patterns within the shapes and edges of the rocks.

Like the process art at Dia:Beacon the museum also had a work of unlimited edition papers stacked in the center of the floor which viewers were invited to take. 1 copy of Untitled (Veterans Day Sale), 1989 by Felix Gonzalez-Torres (American, b. Cuba, 1957-1996), has now entered my personal collection of two of this type of work. The user does become a part of the work and the hesitated to take the work does push the boundaries of normal action within a museum.

A great deal of humor emerged from a tiny figure being pressed into the floor by a yellow chair. A projector gave him a mobile face and his words seemed to come from his lips. He made small statements of personal axioms.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

This weekend my cousin Brett was married in Milwaukee. I flew there for a quick weekend visit that felt like a small family reunion. The sense of renewal in downtown struck me - many empty stores alongside new chain and boutique stores and city works projects. It's a lovely small city - but I wonder what will be its sustaining economy as manufacturing continues to decline.