It's been a really good year for the Cereal Alchemist family. As someone whose passion for whiskey (and distilled spirits in general) really only took off a year ago, I have been remarkably blessed in numerous ways from "whiskey people" who deserve recognition for their kindness. If you don't mind the insufferable Oscar podium sound to all of this, these are people who have seen me through the Winter of My Discontent and have been a light of love in my family's life throughout 2013. You may even run into some of them yourself someday.
To Tyler (pretty sure that's his name), the dedicated and knowledgeable employee of Joyal's Liquors in West Warwick, RI, who introduced me to the glory of Hebridean single malts (and of Ardbeg Corryvreckan in particular). I credit this single bottle with the inspiration for my journey of whisky exploration this year, and ultimately the creation of this blog. No small feat. If I meet you again soon, I'm going to pour you a dram of that Ardbeg Alligator you so desperately wanted to get your hands on. Thanks for indulging a geek in his obsession, and for always having a stellar recommendation every time I walked into the store. You made Joyals a focal point of delectation and delight until my family moved to Kansas. Cheers, mate!
To my dear friend Paul, who has served by my side in the cloth of our nation and seen me at my best, my worst, and my funniest. I trust Paul implicitly, and - simply put - I don't know if anyone out there has a finer (or more critical) taste in spirits. I was super fortunate to have him tag along at Whisky Live in NYC this year, and I consider myself blessed that he always offers constructive criticism of this blog (and my own taste in spirits) while always believing in its mission. Slainte, buddy!
To Joshua Hatton, Jason Johnstone-Yellin, and Seth Klaskin of Single Cask Nation, who took my learning and experience of whiskey to the next level. When I first met this group (minus Jason) at Whisky Live they weren't even accepting tasting tokens (shhhh!!), they were just pouring and evangelizing some awesome whisky. I recognized Joshua from his stellar work over at JewMalt and became a member of the Nation right away. I'm not even Jewish, but I couldn't bear to be parted from their whisky so that's all she wrote. Actually, not quite, since I was super privileged to pour with Joshua at Whiskey in the Winter in St. Louis last month. Representing the Nation (after just 11 months of learning everything I could about whisky) was a sublime experience, and I don't mean to brag, but we totally stole the show that night (or rather, the whisky did... especially that Laphroaig 6). What a blast. L'chaim, fellas!
To Michael "Mickey" Heads, distillery manager at Ardbeg, for taking the time to talk with me and spill some trade secrets for at least half an hour after the Master Class ended at Whisky Live. This guy has my dream job, but he's totally down-to-earth and chill. It meant a lot to me to stand next to an industry icon and converse as equals. Slainte, to you and your team at Ardbeg! Can't wait to see what you've got up your sleeves this June.
To David Blackmore, Global Brand Ambassador for Glenmorangie. It's little secret that Glenmorangie is one of my top 3 favorite distilleries of all time. My first highland malt was Glenmorangie's Original (then called their 10 yo), and upon the nosing I was instantly transported back to the woods where I grew up. Glenmorangie sources all their casks from the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri, so I learned a powerful lesson - early on, and by nose alone - about the unique relationship between whiskey and terroir. I recall the blind tasting I goaded David into for the Master Class at Whisky Live (which, hey, turned out OK) and feel blessed that another industry icon deigned to spend some small amount of time entertaining the whims of an uber-enthusiast. Whisky people really are pretty chill most of the time, united by their love of spirit and craft. Thanks for showing me that although whisky is a small world, it's not an exclusive one. Cheers! (even if I am a bit disappointed in the results of the Cask Masters Project; please don't repeat that experiment).
To our dear friends, Bryan and Kathleen, for being the guinea pigs of so many of my hair-brained themed tastings (a couple of which I have blogged about). I don't think they turned out too bad at all. Can't wait to get back into it when we return to Rhode Island. Thanks for the awesome Christmas presents, and cheers to you and yours!
To Josh at Rock Town Distillery in Little Rock, who comped me a pretty awesome (and rare) Christmas gift at the end of the tour for no rhyme or reason other than my professed enthusiasm for their products and love of the season. You folks at Rock Town need to get this man out and talking about your products as a brand ambassador - that tour was tremendously informative and super fun to boot. I'm hoping I'll have a chance to meet up or even pour with you at a show soon (my family is already talking about private tours and bottling parties). You really made the difference. Slainte!
To my extended family and friends who have so far gone unmentioned. You have indulged my fantasies about a future in the whiskey industry (commentary or otherwise), equipped me in my intellectual journey in craft spirits, and have spread the word about this blog and my passion to friends, acquaintances, and perfect strangers. I'm blessed to be surrounded by your love, fellowship, and devotion. L'chaim!
To fellow bloggers, who have contributed greatly to my learning and development while guiding and checking my understanding. JewMalt, Malt Impostor, How to Drink Whisky, and Guid Scotch Drink have been daily must-reads for me. Slainte!
To my darling wife, who has seen my great enthusiasms and grounded them in reality, who has stood by my side as I moved our family halfway across the country (numerous times), and who is currently bearing our unborn son (due this spring!). You allow me to do the things I love every day (certainly not just this blog), and I love you very much.
Finally, I must give thanks to the reason for this season, the God who become flesh and dwelt among us. I write a lot about whisky and distilled spirits in this blog, but none of these things has given me life, and none of them will matter when my days in this world come to an end. Man does not live on such material possessions, but by the very word of God. I pray that God will bless my own words in the days ahead, that he will protect your coming and going forth, and that he would bless and keep you in the coming year . "The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." Psalm 118:14