An Irish Moondance

Irish-Moondance-Final

Bushmills Irish Whiskey and Van Morrison Moondance
Northern Ireland Mystic Tidings

The distant homeland comes calling in this vinyl pairing made in Irish Heaven. All of the whiskey bottled under the Bushmills whiskey brand is produced at the Bushmills Distillery. A license to distill in the area was granted to Sir Thomas Phillipps in 1608 by King James 1. They are obviously doing something incredibly right to still be around all these hundreds of years later.

I can only imagine the sweet sounds of this Van Morrison album may just as well transcend the ages just as easily. For now I’ll leave you with a traditional Irish toast:

Here’s a toast to the roast that good fellowship lends,
With the sparkle of beer and wine;
May its sentiment always be deeper, my friends,
Than the foam at the top of the stein.

Cheers!

The Other Jack

blunderbuss-final

A Black Label 8 year old George Dickel Whisky
& 2012’s Blunderbuss by Jack White

The lesser known Middle Tennessee sour mash due only to the fact that they don’t spend money on advertising like their sibling Jack, on the other side of the mountain does. This keeps the price of Dickel much more to my liking and the whisky itself is just as good if not better. So while I will give Jack my patronage when I’m out in a bar, when I stock my own everyday whisky at home it’s the 8 year old George that I reach for.

Jack’s camp has been setup in the area for quite a few years now and I’d have to say I like what he’s doing with the place. Since Tennessee is my old stomping grounds, it’s nice to see some radical things coming out of Nashville again. Blunderbuss is a start to finish course in quality vintage sounds. The vinyl has an amazing warmth and sense of definition to it, due to the fact that it was made in the old school approach through pretty much the entire process of the production.

Sit back, sip and enjoy, such quality seems to be getting rarer and harder to find these days. Let’s savor it while we can. Cheers!

Yoshimi and the Yamazaki

The Yamazaki 12 year old Single Malt Whisky
& 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by the Flaming Lips

Do you realize that everyone you know someday will  die?
And instead of saying all of your goodbyes
Let them know you  realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun don’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning ’round

So I’ve had a run on pairings the past few days but today was my birthday and I got this awesome bottle as part of the celebration so what better way to finish out the evening than to do a little work? Right? Well, it is a Monday night birthday, so we decided not to paint the town. Who am I kidding? This isn’t about work, this is all about the things I love, so on with the pairing!

Tonight, I’ve paired another Japanese whisky. This is the second in my sampling of fine whisky from the land of the rising sun. The Yamazaki is a single malt barley based whisky that I must say, even though it’s price is a bit less than the Hibiki I paired a few months back, it has a more buttery, peppered flavor that seems to be resonating with me much more than the Hibiki did. It’s sultry and it’s silky, much as the Hibiki was but with this rich and buttery under current; well it has me wishing I could fairly sample the two side by side. Since I can’t do that, I think if I had to pick between the two 12-year-old versions of these whiskys from memory, I’d probably have to go with the Yamazaki right now. Of course, it is the one that’s sitting in my glass in front of me at the moment, so I think that may be swaying the favor in its direction for sure.

This edition of Yoshimi and the Pink Robots has been issued on a beautiful red colored vinyl and sounds absolutely fantastic. It’s truly yet another one of those vinyls that I can’t imagine not having in my collection. I’m super thrilled every time I pull this album out and place it upon the platter. The Lips have a way of stretching the dynamic range of a composition to the point that you think your system is bound to start distorting and the speakers smoking at any moment. It truly rocks! The synth sounds on this album alone are worth the audiophile experience of playing it through a decent system on vinyl. Not to mention the freaking great songs that are on this release. Always one of my favorites from the Lips, Yoshimi certainly seems to coincide beautifully with the Yamazaki SIngle Malt.

All in all, it’s been a wonderful birthday and I have much to be thankful for. As I head into another year, I’m reminded of all of the experiences, joys and journeys this life has to offer us all. I truly hope you are all savoring it up like a whisky refined and aged for a decade or so to be sipped and enjoyed on a special occasion as each day is.

Many would say this blog is a fluff piece that has nothing to do with nothing but I suppose it’s all in how you look at the leisures of life. Are they fluff or are they inspiration? Are they necessary or are they distraction? For me personally, the pleasures such as wine, spirits, vinyl records, art, music and love are the things that inspire daily and remind us all of what we are here for. Believe me people, it isn’t politics and self-imposed borders that matter.

Matters of the heart get us through the day. It’s not bank accounts, jobs or family lineage that define us; it’s about how we choose to live our lives day by day and how we choose to treat each other. This is what defines us. It is what becomes us and it is what we reflect into the rest of the world about who we are, what we want and where we come from.

To me, it’s all just the stuff of life, which I truly hope we all have a chance to taste and enjoy, each and every day of our lives. The time is now because… do you realize…?

Until next time my friends! Cheers!

Silky Metal Kimono

12 Year Old Hibiki Japanese Blended Whisky and a Japanese Import Edition of the Scorpions Tokyo Tapes

Delicious rays of whiskey gold from the eastern shores of Japan. While not the first locale that comes to mind when you think of great whiskey but let me just say; it truly should be. The legendary Hibiki represents true harmony. The enigma of perfection, the paragon of the art of whisky and the art of Japan’s artisans.

Hibiki, meaning resonance in Japanese, speaks to the soul and emotions of the most discerning whisky lover. Hibiki resonates from nature, and all the subtleties found from the twenty-four seasons of the old Japanese lunar calendar. Numerous types of pure single malt whiskies ageing in various types of casks, including Mizunara, a very rare Japanese oak, all combine to create a full orchestra of flavors and aromas.

I sampled the Hibiki neat, straight up to truly savor the craftsmanship that went into this blended art. I put on “Tokyo Tapes” as I usually do starting with side B of this 4 sided live behemoth of soulful classic metal. A song like “We’ll Burn the Sky” just kicks things off in the Scorpions spirit for me. I usually go back to side one before switching to the second vinyl. The only downside toi the Tokyo Tapes in my opinion is the rocibilly cover songs they threw into the live set. I mean I get the nostalgia but it’s the Scorpions man not Carl Perkins!

Uli Jon Roth’s early work in my opinion is probably best represented by this particular recording. I’m not as much a fan of the neo-classical, Yngwie like stylings he perfected after this era. I’m much more of a fan of this Hendrix esq bluesy era and I’ve got to admit, he’s one of the only guitarists that when I listen to his playing, I feel as though I can truly visualize exactly what he’s playing. Almost as if, I’ve played the parts myself. There’s not many guitarists that I relate to on this level. Essentially, this era of his playing is so much like what I aspire to do with the guitar and so similar to my own style that I can actually picture in my mind what and how he’s playing it. It’s a bit bizarre.

Anyway, enough of my Uli Jon Roth guitar visualizing. Back to the whiskey!

On the trivia side of things, any fan of the movie “Lost in Translation” may recognize the Hibiki as the whisky Bill Murray was hawking in the movie. As one of my favorite movies this only makes this whiskey that much hipper.

Upon taking my first sip of the 12-year-old Hibiki the first thing that came to mind was “Silk”. It’s truly a silky smooth vibe as this creation hits your palette and slides down the back of your throat. Then the kaleidoscope finish of flavors kick in. The woody hint of the barrels that reveal themselves slowly with a long finish that lasts for two or three minutes with clean and sweet notes predominant before a cool spiciness reminiscent of white pepper emerges towards the finish.

I actually own the original USA pressing of “Tokyo Tapes” but that copy is in such bad shape that I had to reinvest in another copy. I found this Japanese import gem using musicstack.com which is a great services for searching independent resellers of used vinyl and CD’s to find that special edition you might be looking for. I’ve ordered numerous times from various dealers and have had nothing but great experiences each time. This Japanese pressing of Tokyo Tapes is remastered and features a much cooler cover image, that of an embossed silver scorpion perched upon a rose. Way slicker than the American pressing that I grew up with. In terms of audio quality I have to lean towards the original pressing before the remaster. As with many reissue remasters, this one sounds a bit flatter and was probably digitized before it went back to the wax. So while this edition is truly a great looking package; I may need a third copy and just get a better conditioned US pressing to replace my old thrashed copy.

I truly can’t wait to try more of the Hibiki, this being the youngest aged whiskey they make, I can only imagine what the older vintages might reveal. Someday. Oh yes, someday soon my new Japanese friend Hibiki. we will meet again!

Single Barrel Emotion & Commotion

 Jeff Beck Emotion & Commotion paired with a 10 yr old Eagle Rare Single Barrel

I’m going to start this pairing off talking about the bourbon; this has to be one of the best deals out there for a single barrel bourbon right now. The Eagle Rare is easily on par with bottles thrice it’s price. At $22 for a whiskey this refined, it’s truly hard to beat. Excellent when served neat to get the full body and flavors of this amber, honey, topaz libation or when served over ice to cool yourself down, the bourbon still remains assertive and expressive even when chilling over rocks.

The Eagle Rare was recommended to me by my friend at the local Beverage World and I’ve already been back to pick up another bottle. So with this pairing the beverage came first, then Jeff Beck found its place first and foremost just based upon the artwork alone. These two elegant works of art when combined make for a truly wonderful merging of auditory pleasure and flavor, as the eagle leaps from the front cover of the album into this bottle of Kentucky gold.

Jeff Beck’s album Emotion and Commotion has got to be one of his greatest masterpieces to date. It’s an album of immense maturity and restraint and showcases a talent that knows talent and knows how to assemble together the most world class musicians on the planet to produce a truly glorious album achievement.

The first name that has to come up here, rather surprisingly, is Jeff Buckley. Beck performs two songs that Mr. Buckley also recorded during his unfortunately short career on Emotion and Commotion (Corpus Christi Carol & Lilac Wine), and in true Jeff Beck fashion, he makes these masterpieces his own. I’m a huge Jeff Buckley fan as well, so to hear a master guitarist like Jeff Beck paying homage to one of the most talented and yet short lived performers to emerge in the 1990’s is a real treat.

I was living in Memphis at the time Jeff Buckley drowned where the Wolf river meets the mighty Mississippi river and it was truly a devastating occurrence. I visited the site where Jeff was last seen diving under on numerous occasions when I lived in Memphis and it always served as a reminder for me to our mortality and how one mistake, just one bad call could end it all.

In the liner notes of the album Beck says, “When I heard Jeff Buckley’s album, the simplicity and the beauty of the way he sounded amazed me.” This is not only what pulled me into Jeff Buckley’s music, but  it’s also what has kept me enamored with Jeff Beck’s music for decades.

Jeff Beck has always been a master of less is more and it’s one of the things that still floors me to this day about his playing. Beck is the master of the slightest nuance and a true example of a player who’s tone and vibe is more about the touch that is in his hands, than it is about what kind of equipment he plugs into.

Other highlights abound on this album such as the vocal work of Joss Stone bringing a youthful, yet wise beyond her years, amount of soul and vibe to the songs “I Put a Spell on You” and “There’s No Other Me”, the rhythm section on the later of those tracks featuring Tal Wilkenfeld and Vinnie Colauta, lays down one of the most masterful fusion grooves I’ve ever heard. Perfection.

This album has got to be one of the most perfectly produced, engineered and mastered recordings, start to finish that I’ve ever heard. Ever. Nominated for five grammy awards it’s safe to say that there are others that probably shared my opinion. It’s not an easy feat to listen to a recording of an orchestra and a rock band, as an audio engineer and not hear the recording mechanics of how the album was put together. Most of the time with a recording, once you’re ears are trained, you can hear technically how many albums are recorded but with this recording all you hear are the natural sounds of the instruments. This is not an easy feat to achieve when trying to put all of those instruments inside of two speakers and it’s ultimatley what every audio engineer is striving to achieve. This album delivers just that, it is an album that manages to not sound produced at all but instead sounds like a natural representation of the performances that were captured, as if you are in the studio with Jeff, the band and the orchestra. Steve Lipson and Trevor Horn both deserved Grammy’s for this feat.

The last track I’d like to mention is “Nessun Dorma”, the 2011 Grammy winner for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. The song features Jeff Beck accompanied by the orchestral arrangement of Pete Murray. It is truly one of the most majestic pieces of modern music you will ever hear. Listening to it and sipping on a chilled single barrel bourbon from Eagle Rare… well, it’s just a little bit of heaven here on Earth indeed.

Cheers!