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The title says it all…

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USAir Sucks The Big One.

Allow me, dear reader, to depart from our normal fare of whisk(e)y news and opinion. This post IS, in some small way, whisk(e)y related – as it is the direct result of my otherwise excellent trip to the Emerald Isle.

USAir is, without a doubt the worst Airline I’ve ever had to endure (And I’ve been on a lot of them).

Philadelphia is, by far, the worst airport on the planet (and that is saying a lot considering I am including in that assessment a fair number of the third world’s airports).

I’ve never NOT had a problem with the unholy combination of USAIR & the Philadelphia Airport – including, but not limited to lost luggage; delayed flights; canceled flights; sitting on the tarmac 3+ hours; rude staff; terrible food; and shoddy facilities. On the several times when I’ve been forced to stay in Philadelphia (courtesy of USAir – usually for “mechanical problems”) it’s always been in a room that was  likely the scene of a recent double homicide – or some such factor making it apparently suitable only for the temporary housing of screwed-over USAir patrons.

Tonight is likely one of those nights.

Although landing 20 minutes earlier than scheduled, due to back-ups at the gate we didn’t get off the plane until past the originally scheduled time.

Flash forward 1 hour and 15 minutes later when the bags finally began to roll off of the conveyor belt.

Quite odd that it took more than an hour to get bags off of a 757 – especially when one considers that no other flight was coming into the international terminal at that time.

Once I finally got my bag, I got through customs with a minimum wait followed by another short wait while I rechecked the bag…by this time it was 6:30 pm approximately 1.5 hours after getting to baggage claim.

Considering my next flight – from Philadelphia to my home base of Richmond – wasn’t due to take off until 8:40, there seemed to be plenty of time.


My first clue that something was amiss came by way of the departure status screen… my connecting flight was curiously absent.

A 6:30 flight to Richmond WAS listed – a flight I could have made (considering the 5:00 arrival – had there been a timely removal of the baggage) – yet one which I missed – due to the monumental incompetence of the baggage handlers.

After inquiring with a series of dim and apparently inept USAIR employees (none of whom had any information on why the flight was not on the board), I was finally sent off to find the “Customer Service” desk – and never before has the term been more oxymoronic.

I was told that the plane had not yet left Detroit due to (you guessed it) “Mechanical Difficulties”. It was due to depart at 8:20.

If the plane actually fails to arrive here, there are no more flights on any airline; I’m not too sure the flight will ever get in from Detroit; and I am sitting here at a gate with the angry passengers from a delayed flight to Boston; venting electronically; and preparing my Luminol & Black Light for the seedy Half Star hotel room I’ll invariably be subjected to by the “Customer Service” team at USAir.

Do yourselves a favor if traveling to the US. Avoid USAir if at all possible – but more importantly, if forced to use USAir, avoid Philadelphia at all costs.

UPDATE: 8:50 The gate agent announced the flight’s immediate boarding following a delayed Boston flight – despite the fact that the USAir web site shows that the plane has only just left Detroit. When I questioned him he said “Well then you know more than I do.”

Update 2: I arrived home just shy of 2 am EST. Considering I was awake before 7 am Irish time; I was up for approximately 24 hours. Oh and the final leg of the flight was a plane with no air conditioning – and a full contingent of tired, cranky & very hot travelers. Despite the extended travel time and boiling temperatures, USAIR still saw fit to charge for beverages.

Ulf Buxrud's Japanese Whisky

Andrew Webb, in the comments of another story, asked about the availability of Ulf Buxrud’s new book.

I have a copy and will review shortly, but here is a message from Ulf on the best place to buy…

The book has been out for a while. Latest public presentation occurred at the Stockholm Whisky Trade Show and Paris Whisky Live.

Sukhinder (Whisky Exchange) is adding the book to his web page for book orders. It took a bit longer than expected. Should be up next week.

For order via Amazon;  go to  NOT I repeat NOT or other local Amazon pages. The price is US dollars 60.


Green Spot On the Move

I’m in Ireland, so why not some Irish Whiskey news?

This courtesy of David Havelin of Irish Whiskey Notes

The home of Green Spot whiskey, Mitchell & Son on Kildare Street, is moving to the CHQ retail building in Docklands. The shop has been living on borrowed time since the end of 2005 when it was sold to the owners of the Shelbourne Hotel.

Go to Irish Whiskey Notes for the rest of the story.

In Ireland

Hi Everyone.

In Ireland for the next few days. Today toured Locke’s distillery – the oldest licensed distillery in the world. Tomorrow going to visit Cooley Distillery. Saturday a tour of Guinness and a visit to the “Old Jameson Distillery”.

Maybe I’ll get a chance to see something in Dublin that isn’t alcohol related. Nah.

Malt Whisky Yearbook – '09 edition

The 4th edition of what I have referred to as “an indispensable guide – attractive, well done and packed with information” is just about to be published. If it’s as good as past years (and I have no reason to believe it won’t be) it should be at the top of your Whisky book purchases again.

Whisky enthusiasts all over the world look forward  to the Malt Whisky Yearbook every autumn. It is now time for the fourth edition – Malt Whisky  Yearbook 2009. The Yearbook is again fully revised and packed with new and up-to-date information  on whisky distilleries from all over the world. Once again, distinguished whisky profiles such as Charles MacLean, David Stirk, Gavin Smith, Ian Buxton,  Dominic Roskrow and Walter Schobert contribute with initiated features penned exclusively for the Yearbook.

Malt Whisky Yearbook 2009 lists hundreds of whisky shops, whisky sites and new bottlings. A comprehensive summary of the whisky year that was and all the latest statistics is also included.

A new feature for this year are nearly 200 tasting notes by two well-known whisky profiles, David Stirk and Dominic Roskrow, describing the flavour of single malts from all working distilleries in Scotland and Ireland.

Finally, with more than 500 colour photographs (most of them new since the last edition), Malt
Whisky Yearbook 2009 is as much an essential reference guide as a book to read for pleasure.

Due to be published on October 1, 2008, and should be avaiolable on Amazon once again.
Number of pages; 276
ISBN 978-0-9552607-4-2
Recommended retail price in UK; £12.95

Glen Moray gets sold reports that Glenmorangie Company will be selling its Glen Moray distillery  to French spirits company La Martiniquaise.

La Martiniquaise markets brand name look & sound-alikes such as:

  • Label 5
  • Glen Turner
  • Old Virginia Bourbon
  • Sam Barton Canadian Whisky
  • Gibson’s Gin
  • Poliakov Vodka

Free Books? Yes Indeedy.

I was recently contacted by Hachette books who asked if I’d be interested in giving away five of the  John Rebus books by Ian Rankin.

What’s the Scam? Nothing. I am NOT getting paid to do this, nor is this a paid placement (But I DID get my own set of books), I just like you guys to share in the wealth. I THINK they are trying to promote the books in the New World, so this offer is just open to those living in Canada & America.

What’s the connection to The Scotch Blog? This month, they are publishing EXIT MUSIC, the last book in the Rebus series.

Rankin is a Scottish writer whose main character, Inspector John Rebus is one of the most well-known characters in the UK. He’s also a great drinker on top of being a solver of crimes. Every book has multiple scenes in his favorite bar: The Oxford Bar in Edinburgh. Brits are so mad about him that they have an Inspector Rebus walking tour in Edinburgh, there’s a TV show, etc. He’s a bit less well-known in the U.S.  over here.

SO, in honor of Rebus’ exit and his love of the finer things in life, I wonder if you would be interested in hosting a giveaway of some of Rankin’s books on

What’s the catch? Nothing. Send me your name and address. I’ll pick 5 of you randomly, pass your details onto the publisher, and the books will show up at your door. Each of the 5 winners will receive ALL of the books below.

PLEASE NOTE: I will not give any information about anyone but the winners to the publisher. The “lottery” goes until September 30th, at which point I’ll do the drawing.

About Ian Rankin & John Rebus

Ian Rankin has been writing about Detective John Rebus since 1985. Here’s your chance to win five Rebus novels, including the final installment in the Rebus series, EXIT MUSIC. For 20 facts about John Rebus, visit:

When a former soldier and recluse murders two 17-year-old students at a posh Edinburgh boarding school, Rebus immediately suspects there is more to the case than meets the eye. Army investigators show up to snoop around the scene of the crime, and links between the killer and a local group of “Goths” (a morbid clique of black-clad teens who listen to heavy metal music) begin to surface. But just as Rebus finds himself in the thick of the murder inquiry, he’s threatened with suspension from the police force: a man who had been menacing his partner and friend, Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke, dies in the same house fire that has left Rebus with horrible, painful burns. Rebus is immediately suspected of foul play. Now Rebus is faced with two harrowing missions: He must get to the root of the boarding school killing even as he tries to clear his own name.

Inspector John Rebus has confronted Edinburgh’s most hardened criminals, its bloodiest crime scenes, and its most dangerous backstreets–but nothing could prepare him for what he finds on Fleshmarket Alley.
In the city’s red-light district, men go to live out their fantasies, and women with no other choice sell their bodies to make a buck. It’s a neighborhood of lost inhibitions, scruples, and dreams. In its seediest clubs, refugees seeking asylum in Scotland are subjected to the whims of the most ruthless characters in the crime world–men Rebus knows all too well.

With his singular knack for making crime captivating, Ian Rankin delivers his most explosive mystery to date, fulfilling the promise millions of readers in the United Kingdom and America have seen throughout his accomplished career.


Like Edinburgh inspector John Rebus, the resurrection men of the title
are treading on thin ice–they’ve all been sent to a short course at
the Scottish Police College because they’ve failed in some way,
generally “an issue with authority.” Rebus has been known to have
issues of that nature before, which only boosts his credibility with
the other cops in attendance, suspected by their bosses of being on the
wrong side of the fence, on the take, or even guilty of murder on
several previous occasions. The dour Inspector’s agenda aims to bring
the higher-ups proof of the so-called Wild Bunch’s nefarious
activities; in the process, his own conduct in the old case he and his
college classmates must rework and revisit comes under scrutiny. A
solid police procedural whose protagonist, the hero of 14 other titles
in this internationally acclaimed serie, continues to grow on readers who are just discovering him.

The leaders of the free world descend on Scotland for an international conference, and every cop in the country is needed for front-line duty…except one. John Rebus’s reputation precedes him, and his bosses don’t want him anywhere near Presidents Bush and Putin, which explains why he’s manning an abandoned police station when a call comes in. During a preconference dinner at Edinburgh Castle, a delegate has fallen to his death. Accident, suicide, or something altogether more sinister? And is it linked to a grisly find close to the site of the gathering? Are the world’s most powerful men at risk from a killer? While the government and secret services attempt to hush the whole thing up, Rebus knows he has only seventy-two hours to find the answers.

It’s late in the fall in Edinburgh and late in the career of Detective Inspector John Rebus. As he is simply trying to tie up some loose ends before his retirement, a new case lands on his desk: a dissident Russian poet has been murdered in what looks like a mugging gone wrong.
Rebus discovers that an elite delegation of Russian businessmen is in town, looking to expand its interests. And as Rebus’s investigation gains ground, someone brutally assaults a local gangster with whom he has a long history.
Has Rebus overstepped his bounds for the last time? Only a few days shy of the end to his long, controversial career, will Rebus even make it that far?

Whisky Fest Fall 2008 Discounts

Those nice people at Malt Advocate are once again offering a discount to readers of The Scotch Blog. (The codes are at the bottom of the story.)

There are 2 fall Whisky Fest events, San Francisco, celebrating its 2nd year and New York celebrating its 11th year.

San Francisco

We look forward to seeing you at the second annual WhiskyFest on Friday, October 10th where you’ll have the opportunity to taste more whiskies and meet more whisky experts in attendance than any other whisky event in the country. It’s a fantastic event for knowledgeable whisky enthusiasts and a priceless experience for those just getting into whisky.

San Francisco Marriott (4th and Market)
Time: 6:30 to 10:00pm
General admission: $110
VIP admission: $150
Early entry (5:30) Taste very special VIP-only whiskies, and canvas tote bag

San Francisco Whisky Week

In addition, if you’ve been to Whiisky fest Chicago, you know that Malt advocate is the driving force behind “Whisky week” – a solid week of whisky related events around Chicago. They’ve decided to get the same idea going in San Francisco, and already have a long list of events for you to enjoy. Check out the SF Whisky Fest site to see all the events.

New York

There will be more than 70 exhibiting companies/brands in the Broadway Ballroom at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. That’s an incredible line-up of whiskies for you to try.  The detailed list of what will be poured at each table will be posted later this month. We have a number of new companies exhibiting this year and many of the returning companies will be pouring very special whiskies, especially during the VIP hour from 5:30 to 6:30.

Marriott Marquis Times Square
Time: 6:30 to 10:00pm
General admission: $120
VIP admission: $160
Early entry (5:30) Taste very special VIP-only whiskies, and canvas tote bag

Discount Codes

Malt Advocate was kind enough to offer a $10 discount to the first ten people who order WhiskyFest San Francisco or WhiskyFest New York tickets. Here’s the discount codes that will apply:

  • San Fran regular admission:         sblogsf
  • San Fran VIP admission:               sblogsfvip
  • New York regular admission:        sblogny
  • New York VIP admission:              sblognyvip

Order your tickets online at or by phone at 800-610-MALT. The codes will automatically take off $10 per ticket on orders so going online is the easiest way to order.

Highland Park at 40

Know how when you move you lose somethings and find other? While cleaning up files for the move to the new site,  I noticed that this story had somehow never been published!

Originally meant to be published in April 2008…

Righting a wrong, here it is, 4 months later…

On my recent trip to Scotland I had a chance to visit the Edrington Offices in Perth and get a sneak peak at (and taste of) the latest release from Highland Park: the “new” Highland Park 40 year old.

Unlike 30 plus year old expressions, which are, almost by definition, rarities, Highland Park has the stocks to offer the 40 as a permanent addition to their line.

Best of all this is easily one of the most affordable 40 year old whiskies I’ve ever come across.

Jason Craig, Global Controller of Highland Park said:

“Through foresight, we are blessed with stocks of aged whisky. Many other distilleries would love to be in this enviable position.  Rather than launch a series of limited editions we felt it was important to share our 40 years old with all whisky enthusiasts.  Releasing it as part of the core range makes it much more accessible to buy and enjoy.”

Key artisan design elements of the Highland Park brand are clearly apparent. The liquid is held in a beautiful decanter-styled, glass bottle  – which, while reminiscent of the new bottle style for the rest of the family is clearly meant to stand alone. The bottle features ahandcrafted ‘H’ “amulette” in pewter, as does the box which is solid, oak. The package is completed by the inclusion of a hand-produced leather bound 28 page booklet, filled with details on the 40 years old single malt and the Highland Park distillery. I actually have 2 of these books and they are exceptionally beautiful keepsakes.

The liquid itself is crafted from whisky taken from casks from the late 1960’s. Tasting notes by Max MacFarlane, Whisky Maker.

Colour:      Rich, coppery hues of amber

Bouquet:    Spicy and aromatic with a background of rich dark fruits, nutmeg and darkest chocolate
Palate:       Beautiful balance of sweet toffee notes, dark chocolate, sun dried orange zest and aromatic heather peat smokiness
Finish:       Rich, long, elegant, smoky and surprisingly sweet

I have tried the 40 year old on several occassions and can attest that it really is some excellent stuff. You’ll be surprised, as I was, by the freshness of this 40 year old. Undeniably a Highland Park whisky – with all the trademarks one expects, but taken to an amazing level of smoothness.

No word on Availablity outside of the UK yet but Highland Park 40 years old is available in the UK from May/June and at an RRP of £899.