Aah, Glenmorangie. I’d been warned by those in the know that this would be a highlight of my journey; the first one I was likely to really enjoy. Boy, were they right. This is the first time I’ve caught myself refilling the glass with anticipation, and letting my mind wander off to some ridiculously enthralling fantasies as I drank. A very interesting single malt indeed, but let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

The Glenmorangie distillery

The Glenmorangie distillery was founded in 1843, when William Matheson bought the Morangie farm in Tain and converted its brewery into a distillery, renaming it Glenmorangie.


Photo credit: Ian Garrod

Glenmorangie is a Highland distillery, and boasts the tallest copper stills in all of Scotland. They use water from the Tarlogie Springs, which are the reason the Morangie farm was there in the first place. In order to guarantee the necessary water supply, Glenmorangie bought approximately 600 acres (2.4 km2) of land around the springs during the 1980’s, when the area started to develop and competition became more likely.

Glenmorangie, 2012

Photo credit: Olivier Carles

Since its origins, the distillation process used by Glenmorangie requires a staff of 16, known as The 16 Men of Tain, who learn the craft of distillation via hands-on experience and then personally pass on their knowledge to their successors. They work year-round with the only exception of Christmas and periods of maintenance.

Glemorangie Ten Year Old - The Original

According to their official website, Glenmorangie currently produces 15 different single malt whiskies. That’s pretty impressive and I’m sure there’s a variant in there to suit most anyone’s preferences. Their core product, however, is The Original, a ten year old single malt whisky, matured in ex-bourbon oak casks and which they describe as “soft, mellow and creamy”, as well as “perfect for enjoying at any time”. I’m usually pretty skeptical of claims made in marketing product pages but I have to say, they really nailed this one.

Glenmorangie Ten Year Old - The Original

Knowing how to market and sell a good product is arguably as important as the product itself and here, Glenmorangie excels. Approximately ten years ago, they redesigned all of their products in an attempt to gain international recognition as a luxury brand, albeit still clearly aimed at the mass market. As a result, they now boast some really impressive designs across their product range that start with the elegant curves of the bottles and go all the way to the packaging and presentation. In the case of The Original, the design is garnished with several nice touches, such as the engraving on the cork which reads 1843, the year of the distillery’s foundation.

The Original is a light-colored single malt. I would say it’s between 0.2 (pale staw) and 0.3 (pale gold) on the Whisky Magazine color chart. Now, Glenmorangie uses caramel coloring in their whiskies, albeit “only for standardization”, according to their Head of Distilling and Whisky Creation, Bill Lumsden. Sadly, that means there’s not much we can say about this whisky by its color alone.


The nose

Here’s when things start getting interesting. My first reaction to The Original was of equal parts surprise and incredulity. I was expecting something along the lines of my previous single malt, Glenfiddich 12, where the first nosing is a bit harsh — although by no means unpleasant. Instead, I got a wonderful wave of spicy and oaky scents, with no traces of peat and no burn whatsoever. And that was even before adding a bit of water to open it up even more. As I got more acquainted with it, I slowly started to find hints of vanilla, followed by more oak and perhaps a bit of toffee. It’s certainly one I could spend hours inspecting without ever getting bored.

Glenmorangie Ten Years Old - The Original

There’s one thing though, I’m not quite seeing: both Master of Malt and All Things Whisky describe this one as fruity, but I’m not really finding lemons or peaches anywhere here. Of course, my nosing abilities still have a long way to go, so take this with the customary football-sized grain of salt. As a novice though, I’m quite fond of The Original already, and I’m sure I’ll continue to enjoy it for a very long time.

The palate

Vanilla clearly dominates, but not overwhelmingly so. It’s like a pleasant landscape that sets the tone for the individual flavors to follow. Toffee is more apparent here than in the nose, and melds with the vanilla in a very harmonious way. I almost sense the fruit here, with some notes of peach in the back of my mouth. Or perhaps I’m just conditioning myself. In any case, it’s subtle and well-balanced. Very interesting, indeed.

The Original is smooth, creamy and full-bodied, with almost no bite, particularly compared to the Glenfiddich 12. I could drink this one straight out of the bottle, but adding a splash of water makes it even better.

Glenmorangie Ten Years Old - The Original

The finish

There’s a discrepancy between Master of Malt and All Things Whisky when it comes to the finish of The Original. Curt, from All Things Whisky, criticizes it for being a tad too short, saying that “it doesn’t linger as long as I would hope for”, while Master of Malt rates it as “quite long”. I’m leaning more towards Curt’s opinion here. The finish seems a bit shorter than that of Glenfiddich 12, and I did notice I was sipping more frequently to maintain the taste — not that that’s a bad thing.

Perfect for

The Original is a sweet, mellow single malt that is best enjoyed while relaxing and pondering the ways of the world. At the end of a hard day, what could be better than pouring yourself a nice glass and kicking back in a comfortable chair listening to some Coltrane?

Why, having two, of course.

Indeed, as good as The Original is when you’re by yourself, when it really shines — as most good things in life — is when you’re in good company. So find yourself a close friend, uncork the bottle and get ready to forget about the rest of the world for a while. Trust me, you’ll be on your third dram before you know it.

Conveniently — and there’s something to be said here for Glenmorangie’s marketing prowess — The Original comes in a set with two nice tumbler glasses decorated with the Glenmorangie logo. It’s a really nice set, a perfect gift for the whisky aficionado.

Glenmorangie Ten Year Old - The Original

Final words

This bottle of Glenmorangie The Original found its way into my liquor cabinet by pure chance. It was left behind — unopened and glasses included — by a friend at another friend’s house, and I happily rescued it a couple months later. By the way, thanks for sponsoring this tasting, Olivia!

Having a well-maintained liquor cabinet has always been an interest of mine, and these days the competition for the two whisky slots in it is fierce. After just a few drams, though, I think The Original has already earned its place, at least until something better replaces it. I’m really looking forward to revisiting it in a few weeks and seeing how my appreciation of it holds up.

Glenmorangie has been the best-selling single malt in Scotland almost every year since 1983. I can’t really think of a higher compliment than that. Apparently, these Scots really know their whisky. If they love Glenmorangie, who am I to argue?

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The storyteller's photography kit →

November 05, 2014 |

Daniel Schaefer has a great article on the differences between the three main classes of lenses: Scene, Subject and Detail. He outlines their strengths and weaknesses, and provides some beautiful examples of each. I particularly like his conclusion:

The beauty of the tools we use as photographers is the range that they offer, and the way that we can take advantage of our equipment working both in and outside of the box. For every example I’ve put above, there will always be artists who use their gear in ways far beyond the traditional, making work that contradicts what has come before it, keeping the artistry of our craft fresh and alive.

In the end, no matter the glass, camera, film or file, photography will always be about the final image.


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Fearless Genius, by Doug Menuez →

November 05, 2014 |

Fascinating book by photographer Doug Menuez:

Doug Menuez was invited by Steve Jobs and other leading innovators of the Digital Revolution to record their stories of struggle, failure, sacrifice and success. From 1985-2000 he photographed the people who created more jobs and wealth than at any time in human history. Now he’s sharing his rare photos and eyewitness stories through the FEARLESS GENIUS project.

The book looks amazing. It’s available on Amazon, but if you’d like to take a peek, Menuez has been sharing excerpts from the book as amazing galleries in Storehouse.

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Jason Snell reviews the Kindle Voyage →

November 05, 2014 |

Sounds like a nice upgrade, with a few caveats:

The Kindle Voyage is a premium reader at a premium price, targeting people who love their Kindles so much that they won’t hesitate to spend $200 for the best Kindle they can buy. It’s a smart decision, I think, and the Voyage is an excellent product.

That all said, I have to admit that of all the Kindle upgrades I’ve done over the years, this one felt the least significant. The screen is better, but the Paperwhite screen was already quite good. It’s good to have buttons again, but the accidental touches I make on the screen adjacent to the buttons somewhat reduce my enthusiasm for that feature. The typography is unchanged and mediocre.

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The Tools & Toys Christmas Catalog →

November 04, 2014 |

Shawn Blanc and the rest of the Tools & Toys team have put together an excellent selection of articles for the Tools & Toys Christmas Catalog. This is holiday shopping at its best:

We at Tools & Toys don’t believe we should buy stuff just for the sake of buying stuff. We believe gift-giving should genuinely benefit the recipient and increase the quality of their life. One way to do this is to give carefully-considered, quality items. We have done our best to make sure everything in our Tools & Toys Gift Guide meets that standard.

I personally own several of the items in the catalog, and I can totally vouch for their quality. Really, really great stuff. Besides, they will be donating 10% of all affiliate earnings for the next two months to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Operation Christmas Child and App Camp for Girls:

At Tools & Toys we have always donated 10% of our gross income to charity. If you click this link before you do your shopping on Amazon, we’ll be donating 10% of our affiliate earnings for the months of November and December specifically to these three charities.

That’s a really classy move. If you were on the fence about any of those items, think no more.

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The anti-VSCO photographer →

November 03, 2014 |

Great piece by Connor McClure. It’s from back in February but it’s still pretty relevant today, particularly in light of the last entry:

Droppping $50, $90, $120 on the latest and greatest pack of presets won’t make you a better photographer any more than buying dropping an extra grand for an extra f-stop will. If you’re truly in pursuit of the “film look,” for heaven’s sake, shoot film! If you’re truly limited by your post-processing capabilities, improve them!

We, as a creative whole, need to get out of the mindset that we must have the latest and greatest tools to be good at our craft.


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First impressions of the Leica M-A →

November 03, 2014 |

Chris Gampat, The Phoblographer:

The only word that we can use to describe this camera’s build quality is beautiful. Well, that’s a lie. You can also use timeless, ruggedized, expert, fine, and nostalgic. Veteran Leica shooters will feel right at home with this little piece of art in their hands. Photographers that have shot for many years and experimented with various cameras will also be caught smitten.

Of anything that Leica has pushed out of its factories in the past years, this camera’s build quality and design is something that we’d truly state is worth its weight in gold due to it being truly timeless and purely analog.

Sounds like my kind of camera.

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Grandma the poisoner →

November 03, 2014 |

Absolutely terrifying story by John Reed for Vice:

People were always dying around Grandma—her children, her husbands, her boyfriend—so her lifelong state of grief was understandable. To see her sunken in her high and soft bed, enshrouded in the darkness of the attic, and surrounded by the skin-and-spit smell of old age, was to know that mothers don’t get what they deserve. Today, when I think back on it, I don’t wonder whether Grandma got what she deserved as a mother; I wonder whether she got what she deserved as a murderer.

Via Kottke.

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Chasing Retina

October 31, 2014

Today I read Shawn Blanc’s excellent 4,000-word review of the Retina iMac. Shawn is coming from a MacBook Air, so he’s moving from a laptop + external display rig to a desktop-only setup:

And here at my desk, it’s more than just the computer that I have going on. I use a standing desk, a clicky keyboard, and gigabit internet. There are many incentives (comforts, really) that make my home office workstation comfortable, efficient, and preferable. Honestly, I like it here.

And so I decided that I was willing to double down on my home-office setup and that my next main Mac would become a desktop machine if it meant I could get a Retina display.

Welp, that’s exactly what happened. Apple announced the new iMac with its Retina 5K Display, and I ordered one right away.

This is sound logic. If you’re spending most of your time at your desk, the Retina iMac is a no-brainer. Like Shawn, I like to use my computers for as long as I can before replacing them; I definitely recommend getting the best specs you can afford now in order to make your life easier in the future.

Unlike Shawn, however, I use an iMac + MacBook Pro setup and frankly, as much as I love my iMac and as much as I’m lusting after the Retina iMac, I just can’t see myself giving up the MacBook Pro to go desktop-only. The problem is, my iMac is already 6 and a half years old and my MacBook Pro is 4 and a half years old. Yikes. Even though both are still performing admirably for their age, it’s been long enough that upgrading either of them would clearly make a huge difference.

Having a laptop is a necessity for me, because I do most of my work away from my home office. Changing places every now and then helps me stay fresh and motivated, and I vastly prefer it to being chained to my desk at home all the time. I’m actually typing these words on my MacBook Pro while sitting in La Bicicleta Café, a Cycling Café and Workplace that I frequently use as a remote office. As a bicycle nut, this is pretty much the perfect place for me to work at.

La Bicicleta Cycling Café & Workplace

An additional consideration is that in order to fund the upgrade I must first sell part of my current setup, which means at least one of the two computers I own has to go. If going desktop-only is not an option, then what is the right way for me to go Retina? Because let’s face it, I won’t be buying a non-retina Mac ever again. I’d much rather wait until I can afford to upgrade properly, even if it takes another year.

With that in mind, I can see four distinct upgrade paths:

  • Sell both computers and get both a Retina iMac and a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro.

  • Sell my MacBook Pro and get a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro first, then next year sell the iMac and get a second-gen Retina iMac.

  • Sell both computers and get a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro with an external Thunderbolt Display or a non-Apple 4K display.

  • Do nothing and stay with my current setup for another year.

The first option would be the ideal, of course. Unfortunately, I’m not swimming in cash just yet so I can’t really afford it.

Realistically, the most sensible upgrade path would be the second one. Being the one I use the most, I think I’d rather have Retina on my laptop first, and thanks to the SSD upgrade, I could live with my aging iMac for a while longer. Then, at some point in the future, I would finally upgrade my desktop and get the Retina iMac, with the added benefit of possibly getting a second-generation model. This would ensure Apple has had enough time to iron out any kinks or bugs that may affect the first-gen Retina iMac. There don’t appear to be any significant ones for now, but we’re still in the early days, so you never know.

A more aggressive upgrade path, however, would be to sell both computers and just get the top-of-the-line 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro plus an external display. Effectively, this would be the opposite of what Shawn just did. If Apple could make an external 5K Retina Display, I would do this without hesitation. Unfortunately, since that’s not the case — and won’t be for a while — I remain undecided. I currently use my iMac as a media hub for my Apple TV, and if I were to switch to a laptop-only setup, having all my external hard drives permanently connected to the display via Thunderbolt would be a great feature. That way, there would only be one cable to unplug every time I wanted to switch from desktop to laptop mode. Using a non-Apple display would eliminate this very convenient feature, which sucks.

What I’ll probably end up doing, however, is the final option. I would love to get a Retina Mac, but if I’m being completely honest with myself, now is not exactly a good time to upgrade. It’s easy enough to justify the expense because the benefits are many — and profound — but at the end of the day, the truth is both my current Macs are still perfectly capable of fulfilling my needs, and there are several other, more important things I need to figure out in my life first.

The point I’m trying to make is that there’s not a universally-agreed-upon best way to go Retina on the Mac. It all depends on your particular situation and preferences and, as cool and impressive as the Retina iMac is, it’s perfectly OK to realize that it may not be the best choice for your needs. These machines are amazing, but they’re also pretty expensive; you should probably take the time to carefully evaluate your options before deciding which one is best for you, even if that means doing nothing at all — which, ironically, is the most difficult thing to do.

It’s not purely about the money, mind you. Even if you can easily afford to upgrade, does it really make sense? Is it a reasonable purchase or just a spur-of-the-moment bout of desire? Will you get the most of what the new thing has to offer or will those features be largely wasted on you? Ultimately, is it for you? These are meaningful questions.

I honestly believe being responsible consumers is important. There’s just too much senseless buying going on around us all the time; at some point we have to start taking responsibility as individuals, and start making sensible choices in our lives. Every decision has a hidden cost. Sometimes that affects us — the same dollar can’t be spent twice — and sometimes it affects others. This shouldn’t be simply shrugged off without consideration. Upgrading just for the sake of fancy is often tempting, just not particularly smart or advisable.

That said, I also believe in investing in quality items and tools, and in their potential to enrich our lives. If you genuinely need a Retina iMac, by all means go for it, get the very best model you can afford and use it thoroughly and responsibly for as long as you can. It will surely prove to be one of the smartest buying decisions of your life.

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The Stradivarius Affair →

October 31, 2014 |

Buzz Bissinger, Vanity Fair:

It isn’t every day that a street criminal—a high-school dropout with two felony convictions—is accused of stealing a centuries-old violin worth as much as $6 million. But nothing about the heist of the Lipinski Stradivarius, which galvanized the music world last winter, was normal, or even logical.

Not all heists are planned by charming, sophisticated criminal masterminds.

Via Coudal Partners.

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