Thursday, May 30, 2013

05/18 - 05/19 - Tony Stone Low & Slow Contest, NL

It took my a while to publish this report due to several business trips which followed after the BBQ competition called 'Tony Stone Low'n'Slow competition' ( Thx to the team  'Don Marco's BBQ' ( to give me the chance to take part at this event... also thx to my friend Camillo ( who suggested me as a member for this event...

It was a honor for me to go to an event like this with those two experienced grillers and a perfect working crew in the background... don't hesitate to visit their homepage to check out their awesome BBQ rubs... and I didn't regret it because we'd a fantastic weekend.

On may way to Hoofddorp I took the chance for two stops. First at the abbey of Achelse Kluis in Achel to buy some of their excellent Trappist beer and secondly for a cigar and lunch with Frank at the Tuincafe in Lommel.

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Abbey Achelse Kluis

Abbey Achelse Kluis

In the late afternoon I arrived at the final destination where the others were already waiting... It's raining cats and dogs and we thought that this event wil end up in a big mess with a lot of mud. Luckily we're wrong because over night the rain stopped.

Achel Blond

Achel Bruin

The evening was really funny with some beer and grilled stuff and we went to bed later than planned. Anyhow: we stood up early because we'd to put up the tents, arrange the grills and prepare all the stuff for the big event on Sunday, the KCBS sanctioned BBQ contest!

It's dinner time

Some Chorizos


There were also some "freestyle" categories on Saturday like "Burger & Steak" and "Baked Beans & Potato Salad" but due to the fact that the details just came in last minute, we decided to pass on them... instead of that we grilled some chicken drumsticks, chorizos, picanha, entrecote... also some Bratwurst Burgers... all in all we'd a lot of fun and were well prepared for Sunday. The longtime runners like the brisket and pork shoulder were put into the smoke around 11 pm and Marco volunteered to take care of the fires over night... We'd the chance to get some hours of sleep... Camillo had to go to work on Monday morning, I'd a long ride ahead of me and a business trip to South Africa starting on Monday evening was on the schedule too...

Cutting some onions for the burgers

Looking good

Not only the grills were smoking

Preparing the chicken

The Mad Injector




Chicken drumsticks

Beer Bratwurst Burger

Beer Bratwurst Burger

Making bacon

Entrecote in flames...

Sunday... the day of the big event... we arrived around 7 am at the competition place, welcomed by a fantastic smell of smoke and meat... Marco just cut off a piece of the brisket to prepare the burnt ends and we tried some of the stuff... delicious... tasted like a winning brisket...

The ribs went in the smoke around that time too and Camillo and I started to prepare the boxes with the parsley... unfortunately we'd to dispose two boxes Marco had already done because the was some sand in it... everybody who has done those boxes before knows how much work it is...

Sunday morning

Preparing the boxes

Well done

The pork 

Blues Brothers Part 1

Blues Brothers Part 2

Time was moving quickly and so it was coming close to 12 pm, the time where we'd to turn in the first course: chicken. Camillo did a lot of preparations on the day before on the thighs and additionally we also prepared some breast to have the chance for dark and white meat in the box. The result looked great...

Some glaze

More glaze

First course: chicken

The second course... some Cherry Bomb Ribs... with a nice cherry glazing too... a little bit over the edge but still with enough bite to achieve a good result... to be brought to the judges 30 minutes later...

Cherry sauce

Glazing the ribs

Cutting out the best pieces

Which to take?

The second course: pork ribs

Eat it!

Another 30 minutes of time to prepare the pork... of course we put some pulled pork into the box added with some crusty chunks... unfortunately there was a lot of fat in the meat, especially when getting cold this won't be so good for the taste...

Pulling the pork

Third course: Pulled Pork

The last course... the brisket. It looked and smelled fantastic... my first time I tried some Wagyu beef... wow! What a great taste! The burnt ends tasted like beef candy... Doesn't this box look great?

Wagyu beef brisket... so juicy and tasty

Looking great

Fourth course: beef brisket

After the last course the waiting started but luckily the made the announcement of the winners 1 hour earlier than originally planned... I still had in mind that I've to leave soon due to the long way home...

In end we got a 5th place for the ribs, a 3rd place for the brisket... and 4th place in the overall ranking! Awesome... thx to all of the team and especially to Camillo and Marco who gave me the chance to be part of the game... I'm sure that we'll be back next year.

The plates for the winners

Harry making his announcements

Yes! Third place!!

The team of Don Marco's BBQ

Our trophys

Also thx to dan who just lives around the corner and who came on Saturday and Sunday... it was nice to meet you again and to share some good cigars with you!

Thx to Jord for the tast midnight snack which was a whole hof that he prepared in his trailer... and congrats for winning the brisket category (Marco helped him to calm down during the night)... BTW: Camillo helped him with the chicken and Jord got a fantastic 3rd place for that! Well done!

An event like this was a totally new experience for me... but a very positive one and I'm sure that wasn't the last BBQ competition where I've been...

See you again at Tony Stone 2014, guys...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Laphroaig Triple Wood

Nose: Peat, dried fruits, oak

Taste: Interaction of oak, Sherry and vanilla with smoke and peat in the background

Aftertaste: Smoky sweetness of Sherry

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Monday, May 20, 2013

05/02 - 05/11 - A trip to Scotland

We planned it for a while and on May 2nd it was about time to make my first trip to Scotland! We took the plane from Munich to Edinburgh where we stayed the first night at a hotel close to the airport to pick up our rental car at the next morning.

The way from Edinburgh took us to Campbeltown... welcomed by "full Scottish weather" with all kinda rain we only made a stop for some fish'n'chips and a battered mars bar (which was not too bad)...

Even though it's too wet to take some pix we enjoyed our ride... I'd to get accustomed to drive on the wrong side of the road but after a while it worked.

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A stop for fish'n'chips

In Campbeltown we stayed for two nights in the Craigard House where we'd a fantastic room with nice view on the seaside and the harbor of Campbeltown...

Craigard House

Craigard House

On Saturday the distillery tour and a tasting at the Cadenhead's shop was on the schedule... Springbank's the first visit to a distillery, so I was curious to get to know more about the whole process... The tour was really great as Springbank's one of those distilleries which's doing the whole process at the distillery... from the malting floor to the bottling of the final product... the bottling itself is done manual, the labels are also applied by hand without any marks on the bottles... great to see all those little details...

View to Campbeltown

Springbank Distillery

Springbank Distillery

After the tasting we walked a few minutes to Cadenhead's where we got a dram to officially end the tour with a 10 yo., knowing that I'll have some stuff in the local tasting room...

There I got the following line-up:
  • Hazelburn 12 yo.
  • Kilkerran 9 yo.
  • Springbank 12 yo., Calvados Wood
  • Longrow Rundlets & Kilderkins, 11 yo.
  • Longrow (without age statement on it)
  • Longrow 9 yo., bottled for the Open Day 2012
Springbank 12 yo. Calvados Wood

Longrow Rundlets & Kilderkins, 11 yo.

After a quick lunch we walked a few minutes to reach the second distillery, Glen Scotia. Normally they don't make guided tours due to this they also have no visitor's center. But I was lucky enough to arange a appointment with Iain McAllister, the distillery manager who arrived exactly in time... He informed me that the tour should be around 15 to 20 minutes but we ended up with more than one hour... thx a lot for that expirience.

Glen Scotia Distillery

Glen Scotia Distillery

Across the street from Glen Scotia you can some of the leftovers of another distillery that has been here many years ago: Benmore. Now just the red entrance door and the typical roof (without pagoda) of the malting floors are left... the buildings're used as a bus garage.

Benmore: one of many lost distilleries in Campbeltown

Benmore: one of many lost distilleries in Campbeltown

Day 4 was another day of traveling and so we hit the road to drive from Campbeltown to Kennacraig where we took the ferry to Islay. It cleared up a little bit and so we made to excurstions before we continued our way to the final destination of the day: the Bowmore House.

MS Finlaggan

First stop: Bunnahabhain. Just two cars around, maybe some guys on shift and doing their usual stuff but unfortunately closed for the public on Sunday. So we walked around a bit, took some shots...

Bunnahabhain Distillery

Castle Finlaggan, which's been the home of the Lord of the Isles a few hundred years ago, was the second stop... unfortunately the rain started again when we walked to the tip of the tongue of land but after the last days we got used to those rapid changes from sunshine to rain.

Castle Finlaggan

The last part of this daytrip ended up in Bowmore, at the Bowmore House where Andrew welcomed us and brought us to our room. We took the suite for this stay of 4 nights, a very nice room with the same kinda view we'd at the Craigard House before... but this time we saw the harbor and distillery of Bowmore and at the other side of the Bruichladdich distillery (as long as the weather was good enough).

Our stay at the Bowmore House was really awesome and subject to a separate report.

The suite in the Bowmore House

Day 5 was filled with a tight schedule: 3 distillery tours, 2 of them with a tasting... and before we also planned to see the Kildalton Cross.

We started in Bowmore early after a fantastic full Scottish breakfast which should be a good base for those whiskys which should follow... and in time when we arrived at the Kildalton Cross... guess what... yes: the rain started!

Kildalton Cross

I heard rumors about Ardbeg being overcrowded at any time, so I was very happy to see the parking lot nearly empty when we arrived and luckily the tour was also with a small group.

But... I cheered to soon... after the tasting which took place after the tour we wanted to take a seat in the cafe to have something small to eat... no chance... we're asked to wait in line until we're supposed to get a free seat. A bit strange for me not to inform the people about that when paying for the tour and tasting... but it seems that this company doesn't care too much... the most important point is to fill all capacities at any time.

Ah yes... tasting in this narrow room at the end of the cafe with 3 seats for a few more people... here's the line-up we had:
  • Blasda
  • TEN
  • Alligator
  • Uigeadail
  • Corryveckan
Ardbeg Distillery

Ardbeg Distillery

In the tasting room at Ardbeg

After a small lunch with some of the stuff we'd in the car for situations like this we changed places to Laphroaig... still some time until the tour so I grabbed those flags, received the required infos at the desk, put on some Wellingtons (which're necessary) and took a walk to sign my landmark...

My plot on the land of Laphroaig

The tour itself was fantastic! Much better than Ardbeg... we could also see the peat fire and the barley which's in the smoke... ending up in Warehouse No. 1 where could've a view on some of the casks... what a great smell of all this Laphroaig Angel's share.

Laphroaig Distillery

The flavor tasting took place in the Lounge of the Friends of Laphroaig: three whiskys, three different types of food to go with it:
  • 10 yo. & Rochefort cheese
  • Triple Wood & orange
  • 18 yo. & chocolate glazed coffee beans
Additionally we received also a dram of the PX which's only available in the Duty-free shops... should I mention that you could get more drams at the bar? For free...

In the lounge of the Friends of Laphroaig - flavor tasting

David, who held the tasting

The last distillery of the day was Lagavulin... in this case we got a private tour because Tanja and myself were the only people for the tour at 05.30 pm... so we spend a relaxed time with our tour guide and I'd some drams in the really convenient lounge afterwards... the offered a 12 yo., the Distiller's Edition and the 16 yo.

Lagavulin Distillery

Lagavulin Distillery

A wee dram after the tour at Laphroaig

After a short night and a lot of fun at the Bowmore House with Andrew and some of the Swedish guests we started the next day with sunshine and a short drive to Caol Ila, the most industrial of the distilleries on Islay, producing 6.5 millions litre of alcohol per year. The tour was as short as the ride and after trying the actual range (12 yo., Distiller's Edition and the new Moch) we drove back to Bowmore where we explored the village... of course we also spent a visit to the well known Round Church.

Caol Ila Distillery

Caol Ila Distillery

Round Church in Bowmore

Round Church in Bowmore

In the afternoon I'd one of my personal highlights... the so called "Craftman's Tour" at Bowmore. A private tour, just myself and the tourguide. Timeschedule? It takes as long as it takes... detailed explanations, time to take pictures... ending up in the famous Warehouse No. 1 where I tried the following:
  • New Spirit
  • 1996 straight from a Bourbon Cask
  • 1995 straight from an Oloroso Sherry Cask
Back in the lounge I could try the whole range and I had:
  • 12 yo.
  • 15 yo. Darkest and Mariner
  • 17 yo.
  • 18 yo.
  • Springtide
You've to pay a few pounds more for that kinda tour but it's definitely worth it... thx to Linda for taking me around...

Bowmore Distillery

First dram of the Craftman's Tour

On the malting floor

In the stillhouse

The spirit safe

My tourguide Linda

After returning back to the house Andrew told me that I could've the chance to meet Duffy... Duffy's the guy who owned the Lochside Hotel and the bar (where you can get some really nice stuff) and it was a great pleasure to meet him, have a dram with him and talk about this and that...

That's a serious dram

View to the harbor


Our final full day on Islay... I just had Bruichladdich on my schedule (it was planned to meet Jim but unfortunately he wasn't there) but I also got the chance to be booked in on a tour at Kilchoman in the afternoon.

The Bruichladdich tour was another great tour which's done by Kate... we'd the chance to try some "beer" directly from the wash back and ended up in the warehouse for a nice tasting experience:
  • 23 yo. straight from a Bourbon cask
  • 8 yo. Port Charlotte which's been finished in a Grenache cask
  • 10 yo. Octomore which's been finished in a Chateau Iquem cask (80 ppm and not as sweet as the Comus which made this one much better imho)

All of those three were very good even though I liked the Octomore most. Thx to Raymond for this tasting... but believe me, Raymond: the Octomore is peaty, but it's not as intensive as you said... I know.. that's a part of the marketing you guys have to do... but don't overact... ;-)

Bruichladdich distillery

Tourguide Kate

Directly from the washback

In the stillhouse

The "Ugly Betty"

Spirit safe


Warehouse tasting

Warehouse tasting

Finally... the last distillery on Islay to visit... Kilchoman. A very small distillery, everything's so close together... two small stills... Luckily some of the guys who registered for the tour didn't show up and so we walked around with just 8 people which made it much easier...

We also tried some of their new spirit and had the 100 % Islay and the Machir Bay later in the tasting room.

Kilchoman distillery

Klichoman distillery

New spirit

The sun's going down over Bowmore

On Thursday we left Islay from Port Ellen but not without spending a quick visit to the "leftovers" of the famous Port Ellen distillery. The buildings are still there and the warehouses still contain some nice casks which'll be bottled in the future...

Port Ellen

The ferry to Kennacraig

Port Ellen

The ferry brought us back to Kennacraig where we took the ride to Oban. Luckily we also left the rain behind us and arrived at our destination where we'd some sunshine while we walked to the town centre... and the Oban distillery.

The distillery is located in the middle of the town (but was in the middle of nowhere when it was build) and due to this they don't have any chance to increase their capacities... no chance to expand in any direction.

The tour was ok but the scheduled tasting's a bad joke. They wrote about a dram of the 14 yo. and a sample directly from the cask. The 14 yo. was good and a regular dram... BUT: do you guys really consider a few drops which have been put into the glass with a pipet as a dram?!? Avarice is a big understatement in this case... I said it directly when we'd been asked about the taste... but how can I say something about the taste with app. 2 ml of liquid?

High Cliff Oban

Harbor of Oban

Oban distillery

Oban distillery and McCraig's Tower

Spirit safe at Oban

The last full day of our trip started sunny and so I took the chance and went up to McCraig's Tower which gives you a nice view over Oban... very nice especially with the sunshine...

A drive through a nice landscape along the Loch Lomond brought us close to Edinburgh where we stayed the last night... we relaxed at the hotel, had some last drams and went to bed early because we'd to stand up around 3 am to get ready and catch our flight back to Munich.

McCraig's Tower

McCraig's Tower

View over Oban

Balgeddie House

Balgeddie House

Last dram in Scotland

It was a great trip... our first to Scotland but definitely not the last...

Stay tuned for a new sequence of blog reports which are called "A visit to..."; they'll contain some more details to some distilleries (Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Glen Scotia, Kilchoman, Laphroaig, Oban, Port Ellen and Springbank) where I made a tour (and tasting)...