Category Archives: Personal

A new category for personal posts that aren’t about publishing.

If I Should Fall From Grace with God

I have only begun to pay serious attention to whisky. Were you to go back half a dozen years or so, my worldview of whisky could have been summarised as Laphroaig and some guys whose names all begin with Glen. I wasn’t overly interested in Glen, I’d not been especially impressed by his stuff, and Laphroaig met all of my whisky needs (I thought).

At this point I was drinking a bottle of whisky or so a year, so picking up a lovely bottle of Laphroaig 15 or Quarter Cask meant that I was well sorted when it came time to sit down late of an evening, put my feet up, and relax with a dram. As recently as three years ago my whisky shelf consisted of three or four Laphroaig’s (and I always had a least one bottle of the 10 to hand).

Slowly, though, that changed. I opened up to other whiskies from Islay. Not too many, though. Mostly Ardbeg, which reliably could be depended on to deliver the peaty kick I craved, but one or two others. I think the biggest agent for change was that I found myself travelling more. Suddenly I was in the position where I had Laphroaig and Ardbeg in the house, but I had the chance to buy more. And I did.

Suddenly there was the occasional Speyside or Highland whisky coming home. I’d been suspicious that they would probably be weak and watery, but as I began to try them I opened up to more. There was a memorable Bruichladdich event last year that had me falling for unpeated Islay, then I discovered Campbelltown and Springbank. I’d been given a bottle of the Longrow CV for Christmas and it had sat on the shelf unopened for a year or two. When I did open it I found a revelation: rich, complex, engaging with great mouthfeel and long back palate filled with spice and goodness. That led me to pick up a bottle of the Springbank 10 year old from Gangemi’s and then I fell down a rabbit hole. I began watching whisky review videos, deliberately trying new and different stuff, and then I found Australian whisky, which I’ve come to love.

My whisky shelf is pretty average – probably 20 or so open bottles and close to the same number unopened – but is growing. I have a batch of Springbanks that sit with some treasured Arrans, Bruichladdichs, Balblairs, Limeburners, Larks, and others. What I don’t have at all any more are Laphroaig’s. Not one. I finished my last bottle a year ago, and always assumed that it was inevitable that I’d stock up again on this old favourite. I was just trying new stuff, after all, not giving up on an old friend.

Then I went to Flight Club, a small whisky tasting in Perth, last Friday. We tasted two Laphroaig’s: the 10 year old and a 25 year old. The 25 y/o was spectacular, a gorgeous whisky with all sorts of subtleties and nuances. I loved it, and if it weren’t $625 a bottle I’d drink it all the time. However, as someone pointed out when we discussed it, what I admired most about it were its least Laphroaig-like characteristics. Laphroaig really isn’t usually a very subtle, floral, or delicate whisky, and this one was just that. A tasting of the 10 y/o could only be described as disappointing. It was thin and lacked the richer, oilier mouthfeel I’d enjoyed in earlier Laphroaig’s. It was also a simple whisky, a bit of a bludgeon to the palate.

Yesterday I was at Whisky Live where I was really impressed with fine whiskies from Starward, Benromach and others, and I did take the time to try the new release Laphroaig 15 y/o. This had been one of my favourite whiskies, a reliable source of peaty joy. It was ok. Nothing special. I’d planned to pick up a couple bottles, but I think I’ll pass. The peaked Benromach was nicer and I’m still seeking a replacement for my recently deceased Bruichladdich Laddie 10, and there’s a Springbank tasting tomorrow night that could be dangerous for my wallet.

So, while I’m grateful for all of the happiness Laphroaig brought me over the years, for now at least, I’m passing. There’s too much else out there to spend my time on, and modern Laphroaig just isn’t hitting the sweet spot for me anymore. I’ll check in again in a couple of years, maybe, and I might find things have changed. And hey, it might just be me…

On concerts….

Imagine that you are cold. Imagine that you have been cold for years, that the marrow in your bones has chilled and the very core of your body has almost come to a standstill.  Then imagine that, surrounded by snow and ice, you climb a hilltop and, after years, the sun rises. A flare of light on the horizon, then a haze of retreating shadows before it hits you and you begin to warm. Your blood flows faster, your skin flushes with the heat, and you begin to move, slowly at first, then faster and faster.  The barriers between feeling and thought disappear as you become lost in the balm that the distant sun brings to you on that hillside, as winter falls away and spring begins.

That’s what a Springsteen show is like, what a truly great rock show is like. Somewhere between “Is there anybody alive out there?” and “The E Street Band loves you” comes a point where, if you are open to it, you become lost in the music, thought almost disappears and feeling dominates. You move your body because you couldn’t do anything else. You sing along with the anthems because they are your anthems, their stories are your stories. And with the people around you, you rise and transcend the moment of sitting in a concert hall surrounded by strangers on a warm February evening and become one with them and one with the music. And you heal and can face tomorrow with renewed spirit, with renewed energy, with the belief that it will be better because today was better.

Somewhere between “Badlands” and “Tenth Avenue Freezeout” that is the gift of the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth-quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making – Le-gen-dary E – Street – Band!”  I’m grateful for it.

Thursday morning

A mixed day yesterday.  I took the new MacBook Air into the Apple Store to get looked at by a “Genius”. It was experiencing an odd problem, shutting down intermittently when going into sleep mode. I think we may have resolved the problem, so fingers crossed.  I am very happy that I managed to get Time Machine working on my Stora. The Genius did a total reset/reinstall on the laptop, but I was able to neatly restore from the backup, so win there.

As some of you would have noticed, I did the annual “what I did” post yesterday for the Hugos. I admit, as always, to being a little conflicted about this, but it’s done.  Adam Roberts talks about why I might be uncomfortable and John Scalzi provides an alternative view.

I am looking into providing some sort of download for Eclipse Online stories for awards nominators to consider.  It’s unfortunate they’re not online and I’d like to do what I can to make them available.

In other news, I am listening to Etienne Charles, reading J.G. Ballard, and basically trying to get things done. Busy month, as always!

Back to work

If there was any doubt that the year was already moving forward, I head back to the day job tomorrow. Lots and lots of work to do on an important project there, while at the same time getting The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 8 and Reach for Infinity ready to deliver by month’s end.  Both books have very tight turnarounds and, then I have to deliver Fearsome Magic by the end of March. In between there’s some Springsteen madness, and then it’ll be well and truly tax time. So, pretty much the run from now through to Easter will be crazy. After that, Worldcon and London beckons in August. Is the year almost done already?


My family has a tradition of having birthday seasons rather than simple “birthdays”.  I think this might be because we have a failure to commit, rather than because of any intention to brilliantly extend things.

Anyway, it was my birthday on Thursday.  We had intended to go to our favourite restaurant on Wednesday, but instead ill-health intervened. This happens sometimes, so we made up for it by grabbing lunch at the Fat Dragon in Mount Lawley. I’ve always loved the restaurant, but perhaps because of the hangover from being unwell I didn’t especially love it this time. I didn’t really notice, though, because I was surrounded by family which made it special.  We ate and drank and talked and had a good time.

And there were gifts. Terrific gifts. I don’t want to gloat (I do!) but an original Shaun Tan drawing, scotch-related gifts, a voucher for a laptop skin, some caramels – all very nice.  And then at lunch my mum, brother and sister gave me the MacBook Air I’m typing this entry on which blew me away.  I knew I was going to get it, but it’s pretty incredible.

Most of my girls!

Friday was more of a work day, which I needed, but Saturday there was a small party at my mum’s house. Marianne,  Barbara, Stephen and mum put a lot of effort into making it terrific, and Keira, Robin, Nick and Amanda, Alisa, Chris and Mackenzie, and Theresa showed up worth gifts and great company. It could have been bigger (I know mum would have liked it if it was), but it was sort of just right as it was with dear friends making it special. I’m very grateful to everyone for coming, and also want to thank everyone out there who sent good wishes. They were all appreciated.

Old campaigners after nearly 30 years!

We were all up rather late, which meant today has been a bit of a day of rest. Some editing, some cricket to watch (5-0!), and no reading. There may be reading tonight because I want to get the next round of short fiction reviews out.  On those, I hope to do two entries of reviews each week. Have to see how that goes.