Archive for November, 2007

Seamus’ Opinionated Guide to buying Whiskies as Gifts…

Posted by on Thursday, 29 November, 2007

Just in time for the holidays! As posted to

Are you close to a Whiskey, Whisky, or Scotch lover? Do you want to get them the perfect bottle as a holiday gift? Do you have no idea how to shop for a bottle of whiskies?

Because of my love for whiskies and my involvement with the 3 Drunken Celts, I am often asked for suggestions as to which bottle would be a good gift for a friend, family member, or boss. To this end I present: “Seamus’ Opinionated Guide to buying Whiskies as Gifts”

When accosted for a recommendation, my initial response is: “Find a bottle of ‘The Balvenie’ which suits your price point and buy it. You won’t go wrong…”

However, I have found that not everyone is as enamoured with the distillery as I am (cough, Raz, cough). So in a vain attempt to help out those recipients who don’t always prefer The Balvenie, I will attempt to provide some basic guidelines to choosing a suitable bottle as a gift. (If you just want Seamus’ top picks for each price point, scroll to the bottom past all the drivel in between…)

Ok, if you are still with me, let’s get to the substance of this article:

First and foremost, figure out what your price point is. There is no use finding the perfect bottle, only to realize it is way out of your range. Price can be used as a general guideline: the more costly, odds are it will be better than the cheaper stuff. But don’t let that get you down; there are some GREAT whiskies on the market which far outshine their lower price points. Just remember, there ARE deals to be had! Find some whiskies in the price range you are comfortable with, and then begin narrowing down from there.

Like price, Age is also a decent guideline where the older is typically better. On general principal a 21 year old whisky will be smoother than a 10 year old whisky. This guideline, however, tends to only stand up within the same distillery. Once you begin comparing differing distilleries and differing ages, the guideline begins to break down with too many exceptions.

When using Age as a guideline, it is also best to add Region in as well. You may well find a great 22yr Single Malt, only to discover it is from a region known for its brine when your recipient prefers peat.

If at all possible, you should try to determine of the recipient has any specific preferences when it comes to his/her whiskies. If so, you have it easy… stick with those preferences. Straying from a preferred distillery/region can be a risky venture as most connoisseurs are quite particular with their drams.

Assuming that the recipient has no particular preferences, you’ll have your work cut out for you. At the least, try to determine if he/she likes the smoky, peaty, briny, or sweeter whiskies. This will help you narrow down to a smaller regional subset and progress from there.

Some general regional characteristics to help you along the way:

Highlands – Arguably the most popular region appealing to the widest range of tastes including peat, brine, and smoke.

Speyside – A very popular and quite prolific region. Sweet, delicately complex; some with a refined smokiness, some with fruity finishes.

Islay (pronounced “Eye-la”) – Gives the Highlands a run at most popular. Challenging, Peat, brine, smoke and sometimes a tinge of salty seaweed

Skye and Orkney – Similar in character to the Islays but tend to be softer on the pallet. The Peat on the Orkneys is from heather which imparts a honey like flavor.

Lowlands – This region no longer boasts the copious number of distilleries as it once did. Soft, smooth and mild. A little of the peat and brine of the Highland malts, but much more subtle.

Campbeltown – This also use to be a prolific region, but is now in rarity. Slightly briny but not as aggressive as the Islay malts.

Irish – Not as popular as Scotch malts but this is a developing malting region its blends are quite popular. Distinguished by the un-malted barley used along with malted barley. Smooth, complex and frequently with some fruity flavor. Once known for peated whiskies, this is rarely done now.

Bourbon – From the Bourbon County, KY area of the US. Sour, sweet and smoky

American – Not from the Bourbon County area. Many are quite new to the market place with varying differences in flavours.

Assuming you have a set price range, you can really start narrowing down your selection set based on Age/Year, region, and the particular palette imparted by each bottling. Of course none of this can take the place of experience (i.e. sampling and knowing how each tastes); but if you knew already, then you wouldn’t need this guide would you?

At this point the internet is your best friend. You can find some great tasting notes on darn near any bottle ever produced! Start your searches on some on-line liquor retailer websites to find the bottles in your price range, and then do a few Google searches to find tasting notes and ratings on each. You should have a short-list selection in no time. From there, either order your choice from one of the sites who will ship to you (even with shipping you can get some wonderful deals on the internet), or take your list to your local purveyor of spirits to fill your order.

Now, it seems that even after I espouse my diatribe above, people still look at me and ask “…well that’s fine and all, but what do YOU recommend?”. I have two answers to that question:

1. If you are asking this question, then you haven’t understood a word I have said. Whiskies are a complicated thing and can be very personal for each drinker. You are best to follow the advice above, lest you buy a bottle which doesn’t meet the recipient’s desires…

2. If you are still going to demand a particular bottle recommendation, and were buying said bottle for MY palette, here you go:


Seamus’ Top Picks by Price Point (2 bottles each category):

$250 and higher: 

The Balvenie 25 year  /  Bowmore 35yr

$120 – $249:     

The Balvenie 21yr Port Wood / Edradour 22yr Port Wood


$100 – $119:     

Midleton Very Rare / Compass Box Hedonism


$75 – $99:       

Compass Box Flaming Heart / GlenRothes 1987


$50 – $74:      

Oban 14yr / GlenRothes 1991 14yr


$30 – $49:       

Sheep Dip / Knappogue Castle 1992


$10 – $29:       

Aberlour 10yr / John, Mark, & Robbo’s The Rich Spicy One


Other picks…

For the Bourbon lover: Bulleit Bourbon is an amazing distillation, which at $15 can’t be beat at all!

For a fun grab-bag type surprise, choose any Bruichladdich bottling (pronounced ‘brook’- ‘law’-‘day’). NONE are the same and will challenge the connoisseur’s palette and expectations. You never know what you’re going to get!

A quick house buying update

Posted by on Wednesday, 28 November, 2007

A quick house buying update

Here we sit in the middle of escrow, literally. We are scheduled to close on Dec. 11th, which looked to be in jeopardy of slipping to a later date as of last Friday.

Sitting at lunch Friday afternoon with John, Mary, and Colleen, I received a call I couldn’t let go to voicemail. Our realtor, Doug, was calling with information from the appraiser that the permits for the 1994 renovations on the house were not completed with a final walkthrough and sign off.

This, of course, sent me off into a whirlwind of worry as I attempted to figure out what our options were at this point. Without going into all the issues, suffice to say that getting the permits signed off would cause us to slip the close date (which would cause the seller’s contingency buy of a new place to slip) and would result in a tax increase based on the additional assessed square footage.

Because of the holiday, we had to wait until Monday to get word from the City Planner if indeed the permits hadn’t been completed, or if the information was just missing from the records available to the appraiser. Well, as Doug was verifying this information, the appraiser called back and indicated that he wouldn’t sign off on the appraisal until the permits were completed, which basically took any choice out of our hands.

So an inspector was scheduled to go out to the house and do the final walk-through inspection, which resulted in a few minor caulking issues which the seller will have taken care of before close. But all said and done, and the permits are now signed off without having slipped the close date. Basically, everything concluded in a best case scenario, which of course was the LAST thing we expected as we … (ok only ME)… as I worried about all of the worst case scenarios and how to deal with each case.

As we stand currently, escrow is once again progressing as expected and we have no fear of any permitting issues down the line if we find ourselves in need of selling at some point.

Assuming that we are still taking possession on December 15th, then we are still on a good timeline to get the necessary work completed prior to our move-in, hopefully around the 2nd or 3rd week in January.

Looks like we’re staying in Oregon for quite a while!

Posted by on Monday, 12 November, 2007

Here’s a quickie for y’all…

I just got off the phone with our Realtor. We had made an offer on a place over the weekend, and he was calling with the counter offer. We have accepted the counter terms and should be opening escrow tomorrow.

Thus far, the details I can provide are as follows:
Built in 1947 in the Dutch Colonial Revival style.
2471 sqft.
3 bed plus a loft and “study”
3 full baths
Remodeled in 1994. full kitchen remodel along with addition of loft area and updated plumbing and electrical. All permitted and done to code.
Original beveled glass in upstairs windows.

Jean’s Flickr account has a few pictures of the place with some brief descriptions:

The MLS listing shows as follows:
(Please note that the asking price and ultimate agreed upon purchase price ARE different.)

There are some small issues with the upstairs floors which need to be shimmed and leveled, so some construction will be done when we take possession. Of course the list will probably grow a bit once the full Home Inspection Report is in, so we will see.

More to come as it unfolds…