Peat pilgrimage

Mortendreier, CC BY-SA 3.0

Woolly cows and clothiers aside, Islay lived up to its reputation for gloriously smoky whisky. Our team made it to four distilleries in as many days, though there was plenty more to see, smell, and sip.

We took the plunge at east-side Caol Ila, beneath the looming Paps of Jura. Given the bulk of their stock ships to Johnnie Walker, tasting their single malts was a rare treat; we treasured their balanced 2018 Distillery Exclusive.

West-side Kilchoman was a last-minute but highly touted addition to our itinerary, and we were lucky for the tip. Among the smallest and youngest Islay distilleries, their commitment to barley-to-bottle on-site production made for a powerfully immersive visit. We fell hard for their 9-Year Single Cask Release.

Bruichladdich, our neighbor in central Port Charlotte, offered tastes both of their Laddie and Octomore whisky lines, and of their popular Botanist gin. The facility was among the most handsome, from lacquered hoppers to awe-inspiring casks.

Sporting a 25-year royal warrant, south-side Laphroaig was predictably the peatiest we tasted, but also one of the most informative and entertaining tours — including a chance to touch the cold-smoking earth in action. Never wash this hand again…



Navidad Borinqueña

Carribean Christmas with the Soells in Puerto Rico.

Beyond historic San Juan, the quiet northwest coast around Isabela made for a cozy yule —

— including visits from friendly locals.

We spent a refreshing Christmas Eve among the double waterfalls at Gozalandia in San Sebastián.

But the record-setting telescope at Arecibo was our real highlight —

— along with a peek in the rum barrels at Casa Bacardí.

Many thanks to AJ, Kelda, and all our Puerto Rican hosts who made our family excursion into such a joyful holiday.

Sleepless Helsinki

Afternoon shadows and illuminated nights in the Finnish capital.

Our Baltic trek was well worthwhile to catch the King’s Singers on their Golden Anniversary tour, held in magnificent Musiikkitalo concert hall.

Finnish flavor was an equal delight, including tasty bites at Lappi, BellevueKannas, and Hotel Helka, rum at Navy Jerry’s, and most of all the tour/tasting/tapas at Tislaamo Distillery.

Nähdään, Helsinki — till next time.

Savoring Jämtland

July weekend on Åreskutan, 4650′ high in the Swedish ‘Alps.’

We stayed for the views, but came for the food—thanks to guest Jenny and a wait-list opening at Fäviken, Magnus Nilsson’s Michelin-starred treasure in nearby Järpen.

Accommodations at Tott Hotell Åre were an equally pleasant surprise. Would love to see this magic mount in its winter glory…