There’s a French expression called, “coup de foudre,” that means love at first sight, and it hits you at first whim like a bolt of lightening, the kind of instantaneous punch to the chest that makes one short of breath, and all one can think of is, “I want more.” To me, Highland Park 18 Year is my "coupe de foudre." It moves like Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paginni,” in which its “vivace” stance quickly hits me in the mouth with a giant crescendo of peppercorn spices, causing my eyes to water from its assertive punch. I become humbled by its bold statement—how the oak, heat and spice can propel my jaw to clamp down, but after the flavors subside there's a wonderful resolution on the tongue, where my saliva mimics that of honey syrup as it glosses over each taste bud to combat the heat. Just like Rachmaninoff’s work, each note traverses through a measure with deliverance and certitude in order to hit that denouement. And there, in that moment, everything slows down into a lulling, melodic state, and it begins to temper my heart like a lake resting its body against wet dirt as it brings elation to my brain.
Not to sound so trite, but the movement of Highland Park’s body was “the calm after the storm” and, in many ways, it became a metaphor for my life---that no matter what dreams and goals I had, no matter how crazy of an idea I had— life somehow would end on a sweet note, just like this Highland Park 18 Year. In that instance I knew, then and there, that it wasn’t so much of a desire but more of a necessity that I needed to go to Scotland and that I needed to go alone.
As the months rolled and winter fell into spring my life was thwarted into a numbing dystopia, where social work leached hope from the inner webs of my fingers or as T.S. Eliot puts it, “Let us go then, you and I/When the evening is spread out against the sky/Like a patient etherized upon a table[.]” My heart was heavy and my throat, dry. People around me told me I was too shy, too sensitive, too dumb and naive to travel alone, but I knew that Scotland had all of me before I even pressed my palms into its peat bogs. And so I quit my job and partook in a 19-day adventure to Scotland.
Once I landed, I spent the next ten days scrimping for food, rationing out a sandwich and a curry chicken box two days. I learned quickly that if I chugged a carton of juice, I could feel full for an extra 2 hours. That meant, rather than eating 4 meals a day, I could eat twice a day to save some money. Essentially, I lost 10 lbs in 2 weeks.
As luck would have it, 2 weeks into my trip, I had a rare opportunity to partake in a tour of Highland Park with Brand Ambassador Martin Daraz. He essentially took me under his wing and was basically my father in Scotland. Martin invited me to have dinner with him, and I remember distinctively when my plate arrived the chicken rested underneath a warm blanket of gravy, and the steam from the dish wafted towards my visage. I began to cry as a result of being overwhelmed by his kind gesture as it seemed like an eternity since I’ve seen a full plate of food in front of me. Prior to my trip, I had only met Martin twice in the US (5 minutes at most each meeting) before seeing him in Orkney. And there he was 2 feet away from me, offering me food and fine scotches. I absolutely had nothing to offer to this man and there was no reason for him to help me, but he decided to do so anyway. We talked for over 6 hours during dinner time, and he encouraged me to be in the alcohol industry.
I came back to the US and started working at a chain liquor store, cleaning toilets and stocking alcohol for $9 an hour to get my foot through the alcohol industry. It was hard to walk away from a salary with health benefits, but I had to take baby steps to build some confidence. A year has passed, and I now get to be a liquor specialist at Hi-Time Wine Cellars and am an apprentice at Bar Jackalope that’s located inside Seven Grand. I am surrounded by two amazing groups that I care so deeply but will never say, “I love you,” to their faces.
I hope I don't sound egocentric about sharing my story with you, but whisky is synecdoche—something that’s much bigger than myself. To me, this innocuous, golden liquid represents all the people I’ve crossed paths that have touched me in more ways I can describe. And it has taught me that, no matter what ethnic background and gender one is, it can bring one close to another, whether it be fleeting or perennial. Alcohol is often misconstrued and associated with different forms of debauchery and classicism, but in my case I have been exposed to the best kinds of people: down-to-earth people who want to connect with like-minded folks. And I cannot thank you, Martin
Daraz, enough for teaching me courage, hope and self-love.
--HIGHLAND PARK 18 YEAR: The Scotch That Started It All--
-- Why I Love Whiskey --
My first exposure to whiskey was actually the Connemara 12 Year. It attracted me because of the sensation it gave me—and not in a drunken sense either. I remember when I sampled the Connemara, the smoke traveled up my nostrils and tickled my nasal cavity. That sort of sensation instantly transported me back in time. All of a sudden I am a 2-year-old pressed in my parents’ 1 bedroom apartment and I am nestled in a yellow hoodie, holding a cookie in my hand, while my mother is holding me. I am slightly sick, having mucus run down my lips, and right before my family and I leave our home my mother walks into the kitchen and reaches for a glass bottled filled with emerald-green, eucalyptus oil She untwists the white cap, turns the bottle upside down to let the liquid latch onto to her skin and begins to motion her index finger towards my face. There, she begins to paint this oil on my upper lip and as it seeps into my skin, leaving a prickling sensation, the bright aroma of this liquid travels all the way up to my nasal cavity and awakens my senses.
I hear laughter around me and my father, looking at this image of my mother embracing me, grabs his camera and snaps a photo of my mom and me. This was my first memory of where I was cognizant of my surroundings, and it wasn’t so much of a relationship between parent to child but purely on a humanistic level—-that in that instance, my mother wanted me to feel safe, my mother wanted me to feel healthy and my mother wanted me to experience as much elation as I possibly could. I was so surprised that something like this could allow me to tinker with prolipsis and analypsis. It was such a pleasant surprise. Ever since then I was hooked on smoky single malts.
I am naturally attracted to scotch is because of getting hooked by the Highland Park 18. I knew when I sampled it that I needed to go to Scotland; it was this magnetic pull that drove me there, even though I knew nothing about the country. I cannot explain it, but I just knew in my heart I had to and needed to go see Scotland. I love scotch because I am also reminded of the people I met in Scotland. People were openly nic e and genuine to me. Scotland has me at Highland Park 18, but Islay has my heart, body and soul! HA! But let me be clear, I love both Highland Park and Laphroaig equally. They are stunning scotches.
Whisky intrigues me because one can approach this from a pedagogical point of view. I quickly fell in love with the subject matter because it is the closest thing to 20th century literature in the sense that there is this constant tension and elasticity between the hard and soft. Whisky is often associated with masculinity, but I feel one must have to tap into one’s childhood enthusiasm, so one can reference to those confectionary notes of creme brulee, toffee, and caramel, etc. I am often reminded of Ezra Pound's prose, "A Retrospect," when he talks about criticism in the context of literature and writing that it “may startle a dull reader into alertness,” and that’s what whisky does. It shocks the brain and forces the imbiber to utilize all of one’s senses, where one must pay attention to the subtle nuance of the drink shifting from one note to the next. It moves in such a way like a short story or a measure of a song, where the crescendo may hit the hard palate, and it can travel all the up to the nasal cavity, but it can quickly recede and pull back into this wonderful denoument, this sort of resolution that rolls around the tongue in an rubato-like”fashion that resists 4-4 time to bring elation to the brain.
I am also fascinated by the concept of "synesthesia" in a literary scale when whisky comes into full view. If it has aromas of caramel are you, then, going to think texturally and flavor-wise that it will “sweeter” and “thicker” than it actually is? To me, whisky is like poetry. When one has it neat, with 2 drops of water or with an ice cube it is as though one is looking at the dram from a hermeutic’s perspective, reader’s response theory, post-colonialism, etc. There are so many ways to analyze the beverage and often times I feel as though I am barely scrapping past the lithosphere of this subject matter.
I hope you will be inspired to explore different styles of whiskeys and, remember, there is no wrong nor right way to drink your dram. Have it as you wish, since you are the sipper--not the other person who is telling you how to consume your beverage.
-- New York Whisky Fest --
24 September 2014 at Marriott Marquis
New York City rests its belly on the forefront of the landscape; it is brave, it is obdurate and it is raw--and that's why the city is so great. There's a density of grit here, where people zig zag their way through the subway as they get to their destination in a quick, efficient manner, but at their same time they are cognizant and respectful of other people's space.
I find, even, the dining and bar experience here in NYC to be absolutely world class and top notch. While some customers may come off demanding, it seems like servers are able to set their ego on the side, bite their tongue and make sure the guests get what they want. They are pleasant, warm and inviting. This form of customer service is very different from where I'm from. Dining in Vietnamese restaurants may come off completely bi-polar to Americans because they don't fall under the maxim of "customers are always right." To be honest, it is the form of service I champion because I find, often times, people can come off demanding and entitled that it almost comes of classicist. It's as if one is trying to say, "Fuck you. I'm rich. Serve me now, F#*$@&!" When you're inside a Vietnamese restaurant there's no such thing as altering your meal, having it cooked at a certain temperature or demanding the cook to bring out the cut of meat because one guy wants to see what the brand of meat it is. It's more of a "get in and get out" pace here and, as a result, it eliminates airs of condescension and entitlement. However, what I find so remarkable in New York's establishments is that they almost have a zen-like attitude; no matter how crazy and hectic the room is, the servers keep their cool and respond to folks with, "My pleasure!" It is a self-effacing attitude that makes me want to bring that level of attitude back to Southern California.
I must say, I was a tad bit shy and nervous going through the booths by myself, but luckily I ran into the founders of Single Cask Nation and the staff Laphroaig. Both Global Ambassador of Laphroaig Simon Brooking and Master Distiller/Distillery Manager John Campbell gave me a warm hug. In fact, Simon took a break and John ended up pulling me behind the table and asked me to help pour Laphroaig to guests. I was kind of tipsy and pretty much sloppy with my pours. Scotches dribbled to the sides of Glencairn glasses and John, noticing that I was giving heavy pours while people were dumping the excess liquid into buckets (BTW, they didn't dump them because the scotches tasted bad...there's just a lot of booze to try that night and everyone had to pace themselves), John said, "Here. Let me show you," and gracefully poured just the right amount of scotch and continued, "That's okay. You were being generous. That's good." What a guy. He didn't make me feel like an incompetent tool! That's why John Campbell is soooo cool! It was fun being his sidekick; I felt like I was the Robin to his Batman, but instead of fighting crime, I was pouring awesome booze to people!!! He also introduced me to people as the "West Coast Brand Ambassador of Laphroaig. I chimed in and said, "Hey! That's not true," and he replied softly, "Well, you practically are. You know the products well." So, that was the hi-kite of my time there!
Unfortunately, I didn't make it to every table at Whisky Fest New York, but I had an incredible time because I was able to meet people in the industry from the East Coast. Also, there were many wonderful whisky bloggers on this side of the states. I hope you'll take the time to attend Whisky Fest as it is well worth the money!
Few Bourbon, Few Rye Whiskey, Few Malt
Founder of Few Spirits, Paul Hletko
At any rate, New York City is rad and so is Whisky Fest New York. I was very fortunate to attend this event thanks to Steph Ridgway of Highland Park. A big thanks to her for making this happen! The benefit in going to this particular location is that you get to meet master distillers and founders of spirits. I had the opportunity to chat with the owner of Few Spirits, Paul Hletko, and sampled his awesome whiskies. I find that Paul's whiskeys have a wonderful underlying note of juicy red fruits in all of his expressions that make his products unique. I also met John Glasser, the founder of Compass Box. It is such a joy to have the opportunity to chat with an expat who, in my humble opinion, has forced people to rethink what whisky is all about. While blended whiskies have been overlooked by single malt purists, Glaser is able to produce exceptional blends that offer a playful complexity that intrigues my palate. He is able to take you on a journey, whether it be light or full-bodied, with his scotches and surprise your palate In addition, the packaging and artwork on his bottles are a masterpiece on their own.
Founder of Compass Box, John Glaser
Compass Box, A Brilliant Composition Created by John Glaser
Working Behind the Table with John Campbell, Master Distiller
and Distillery Manager of Laphroaig
Founders of Single Cask Nation: Joshua Hatton and Jason Johnstone-Yellin
A Collection of
Laphroaig Poured at Whisky Fest New York:
Laphroaig 10 Year, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Laphroaig Triple Wood and Laphroaig Cask Cairdeas
-- Highland Park St. Magnus --
Why Highland Park St. Magnus and that white handkerchief are significant to me: When I traveled by myself to Scotland I was scared and often times hungry because I didn't have a lot of money, so I would eat a sandwich and TV dinner and ration them out for two days. I ended up losing maybe 10 lbs in a few weeks. I met up with Brand Ambassador Martin Daraz of Highland Park in Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, and I got to eat a full meal and drink amazing scotches that were well worth over my paycheck. I was so happy to see a plate full of food in front of me that I started to cry because that form of gesture was so kind and pure. Martin handed me his handkerchief so I could wipe my nose, and this scotch was given to me later on when I embarked on a distillery tour. He encouraged me to follow my dreams and get into the alcohol industry. Sometimes it's tough to be in the field and I want to quit, but I look at these two things--my bottle now completely empty but filled with hope and the handkerchief covered with eye liner--to remind myself that a stranger helped me out and invested his time in me. I shouldn't quit. Somebody believes in me and maybe I should, too.
You guys don’t want to buy my Playboy magazine? Why not!?!
So last week I spent a good 3 hours trying to hand-sell my Playboy magazine to the majority of my male coworkers at the liquor store. I was astounded by the resounding rejection I received from each dude I accosted. One said, “Why would I flip through a magazine when I can access porn on the internet for free?” Oh ho ho! Pardon me, Sir. What happened to the ritual movements of running your fingers between the pages and letting your index finger slide down the glossy pages, which feels like satin might I add, as your hands get sandwiched between the images while you anticipate for the next turn? (For clarification this is not a direct comment on looking at magazines but more so on the comment of owning books). Two things came to my mind in regard to this young buck’s comment: 1) I felt incredibly old for choosing hard copies of literature over inter web resources. I thoroughly enjoy butchering the pages of my books with a #2 pencil, circling words that pop up frequently and detecting symbolisms, metaphors and possibly obscure references. As technology continues to take over our daily lives, I find myself resisting to the change; I romanticize over the idea of receiving hand-written letters via post office, and I day dream of those putting their cell phones away while dinner commences. Nothing enrages me more than Siri autocorrecting me when I want to use the word, “fuck,” in a text when I’m frustrated. Siri, I’m pissed that THAT guy cut me off without signaling on the freeway. Let me tell my friend that I thought this BMW driver was a total “mother fucker” and not a “mother ducker.” 2) Playboy Magazines are constituted as porn? Whaaah?? I had no clue. For some reason, I thought porn just meant videos of two people doing lots of “chitty, chitty…BANG! BANG!” I was not privy to the idea that photographs fell under this category. Seriously…magazines of naked ladies and humping videos are in the same nomenclature? You gotta be kidding!!! This enumerates just how much I don’t know men. I thought, after working 2 years in the alcohol industry with you dudes, that I would understand you, but I don’t.
I know what you’re thinking….”Why do you own a Playboy Magazine? Oh snaps. Linh Do likes to bone chicks.” Great question and nice hypothesis, dear reader, but I have an excuse for this situation. Well, you see, the bar I work at has been published in this month’s issue of Playboy and is voted as being one of the “Best Bars in the Nation in 2014.” I was so excited about being a part of a great team, and I liked the idea of owning a copy, so one day when I got super old and wrinkly I could tell my nephews that, “Hey! Your ol’ aunt was in Playboy once,” just so I could make them vomit in their mouths.
At any rate, as soon as I found out about the issue, I drove up to Barnes and Nobles on a Friday night to purchase this magazine. I thought it would be a simple task, but I quickly found myself to be rather prudish and shy. There were 4 men in the area and there were 4 different covers of Playboy. This mission was harder than it looked. I began to sweat through my clinical strength deodorant and pace in circles at the bookstore like a dog chasing its tail, debating whether I should buy one or not. Then, finally, I talked myself into it. I said, “Suck it up! Quit being such an egotistical bastard. No one gives a hoot if you buy Playboy, even if this town is conservative.” Once I mustered up the courage, I marched up to the magazines and I was succumbed by my height; the magazines were tucked all the way in the back, top shelf and, as a result, I had to stand on my tippy toes to reach for the magazine. It was as if my body language was telling the four guys near me, “Oh my gah! I desperately want and need this magazine on this hot, summer night! Give it to me, sonofabeeash. I want boobs! I need vagina!” So, I took photos of the covers (they were all sealed up in a plastic wrap) and texted them to my boss. “Is it this one?” I asked. And finally I grabbed the right one and went to the register.
Once I reached the clerk, I was greeted by an earthy-looking man who's steely eyes were hidden by the reflection of his steal-rimmed glasses. He scanned my magazine and, being typical-awkward-me, I broke down and told the guy in a deep, guttural, throaty tone, “Hey, man…I’m not…I’m not into boobs. I’m, like, buying this for the article.” His eyes squinted into crescent moons and his lips crinkled into a tilted, sea-saw smile. His reaction looked sleazy—like he just sold crack for $1000 in a back alley and got away with it. (Actually, I’m not sure if that’s the look that drug dealers give, but I imagine that’s the face they show to their buyers when they make that mad monies). “It’s oh—kay,” he said. I persisted, “Seriously. My work is published in this magazine! I swear. I’m buying it for the article.” He smiled and laughed.
I came home and went straight to my bedroom and locked my door. This was the moment where my 2 worlds collided. All of a sudden, I felt like a curious, horny 9-year-old boy trying to look at naked breasts for the first time without getting caught by his mom, and I also felt like an old man experiencing a mid-life crisis who longed for skin that felt of cashmere and silk against his palms. “FUCK! I am a grown-ass woman who has to lock my own damn room because I don’t want to be caught by my parents for flipping through a Playboy Magazine? I should not be having this problem! I’m supposed to own a house at this age, where I can go home, unzip my pants, let my jiggly whisky gut hang out, eat a giant bowl of ice cream and LOOK AT PLAYBOY at FREE WILL with no judgment, gaaah dammit! So many emotions I’m feeling!!! I can only imagine my father opening the door and walking into my room and seeing me with all of my Playboy glory: Situation becomes extra awkward. Dad looks pale in the face, “Ah. This why you no married. You like the vagina.” And I try to explain myself, being all flustered, and say, “No, pa. I love deeek. I mean, I like dudes….Uh…I’m reading an article about stuff…” No good scenario came out of this.
When I turned the pages of magazine I was surprised by the amount of vah-jay-jay in the magazine. I have never looked at this magazine before, but I always had the impression that all of these gals would be in lingerie and their hoo-haaas were covered, but it was straight-up lips upon lips. “Oh, here’s me in glasses and holding the letter ‘A’ that’s already conveniently mounted on the wall….” and straight-up vagina in my face. What the hell!?! What is going on here? And once I got to the article that covered the best bars in the nation, it was a blurry shot of my co-worker Pedro, pouring a whiskey into a jigger with 2 sentences about the bar. TWO SENTENCES? 2 …mother…trucking….sentences about Bar Jackalope and I spent $10 on this magazine? That’s like $1.50 per word I just paid for (actually, I don’t know how many words are on that article about Bar Jackalope. I’m afraid I’m too shy to flip through it again), but for comedic effect I wanted to let you know how small the article was.
As these emotions began to spur in my brain like a mini tornado, I had a flashback of my 17-year-old self. There I was, lying on the ground in my English class. It was our last week of school and all of us was watching a film called, Bandits. Cate Blanchett’s character crashes her car and wails in distraught as liquid eyeliner runs down her cheeks. I believe she paces towards the ocean, while Pete Yorn begins to sing in the background, “You were lying awake in the garden/trying to get over your stardom.” He hums, and the plucking of his guitar strings move like the swaying vibrato and bossa nova tempo of Elis Regina’s voice. I imagined that my future self—by the time I was 25— I would have been to 30 countries, studied abroad, become fluent in 4 languages and be engaged to a college sweetheart. None of that happened. I was somewhat despondent, but amused at the same time by the irony of my life. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m just an old chick, who has the cognitive brain of a 9-year-old boy with a hobby of a 50-year-old millionaire…I like fart jokes, I love whisky and I really want to sell my Playboy magazine to someone. It took me almost an hour’s worth of work to earn that magazine, and all I want to do is scrimp and save money so I can back pack to the UK and Europe for 3 months next year before I turn too old and grey. That’s it. That’s all I ask. Buy it.
-- Nobody Wants to Buy My Playboy Magazine --
An Old Post Originally Written in August of 2014
The Cover Page of the Best Bars in America from Playboy's August Edition in 2014
This is a picture of my co-worker Pedro, who is the face of Seven Grand.
Bar Jackalope Team: Rhett, Pedro, Andrew Abrahamson (General Manager and one of the BEST bosses I've ever had), Me, Eric, Philip (though he recently left)
-- Special Friends --
28 January 2015
Last night I stopped by my friends' house and they surprised me with a late Christmas present. I received a whisky book called The World Atlast of Whisky by Dave Broom, who is one of my favorite whisky writers, a pair of Glencairn glasses etched with the name "anorach" and Laphroaig Triple Wood. (By the way, I have a sense of humour of a 12-year-old boy and in the past when customers were standing in front of Laphroaig bottles I would say to them, "If I were a man Laphroaig would give me a triple wood." They would laugh and actually buy Laphroaig Triple Wood and other scotches because humour makes the shopping experience more fun I think!) WOWY WOW WOW! I feel so lucky to have met both Morgan and Danielle because they are incredibly sweet and encouraging.
I remember when I met this couple over a year ago while I was still working at Total Wine and More, and I helped them with scotch selections. Then I moved over to Hi Time Wine Cellars and, by happenstance, I saw them roughly 6 months later into my new job. It was funny because I thought about them that day and then there they were! Boom! Right here inside Hi Time Wine Cellars! Morgan said, "Hey! You're the Asian chick that used to work at Total Wine! I remember because there's only one Asian chick who knows that much about whisky." (P.S. I don't know THAT much about whisky, but I am always trying to learn). It turned out that they moved into a new home a few blocks from Hi Time Wine Cellars, and after a year of shopping there Danielle invited me over to her home to drink whisky. Ever since then, the three of us have been the Three Whiskeyteers!
I am blown away by their kindness, and I think it happens because whisky does that to people. All of us has the same hobby and it brings us together. When I told them that I was going to Whisky Fest New York they said, "We are coming with you! We are booking our flights and you can crash at our space for free." They just want to see me in my whisky journey and they want to see me succeed. In fact, Danielle was the one who encouraged me to start this blog because she thinks I have a lot to offer to the industry and to the imbibers. I still feel a bit like an awkward turtle, but both Danielle and Morgan are giving me that extra boost of love and support. I'm not even sure why they're so nice to me!!! I just sell them booze, but for some reason they value me! It's pretty mind blowing.
I'm planning to go to Scotland in May for a few months and the both of them will meet me there. I can't wait to partake in distillery tours with them, and I hope that I can help them get special treatment and drink fancy stuff straight from the cask. They are definitely the best thing that happened to me this past year. I am the luckiest person to have supportive friends like this!!!
-- Offerman Wood Shop --
An Adventure with Erik Cardona
I doodled some images of Bar Jackalope and asked both Andrew Abrahamson, the general manager of Seven Grand, and Erik Cardona, the manager of Bar Jackalope, to sign my book. They noticed the headline of a page I designed and decided they wanted to implement that image on a wooden plaque in front of the bar's entrance.
Erik did some research and found theOfferman Shop, which is a wood shop founded by Nick Offerman!!! And if you don't know who Nick Offerman is, he's a studly actor on Parks and Recreation and he plays the character Ron Swanson, a man's man who has an affinity for carving wood and drinking Lagavulin 16 Year. I don't get excited over famous people, but Nick Offerman is one guy I will go "oogly" eyes for because I think he's HOT SHIZZ. The man is funny, he loves scotch, he builds canoes and can "pop and lock." Need I say more? So sexy!!!
On the way to the wood shop my boss said, "Hey! You can't get too excited. We are trying to negotiate price points. If you show that you're way into this we might not get a good deal on this plaque." I began to beam with laughter and said, "I can't shut it off. I'm too esssssited! I love Nick Offerman!!! I'm gonna do some squats and try to pick up random, wooden planks on the ground and say in a sexa-licious voice, 'Er..are you looking for this? kekeke.'"
Once we got to the wood shop, we saw a young-looking stud by the name of Thomas, who was sporting a David Beckham hairdo. He was sitting on a rocker and carving a Gandalf pipe. I was quiet at first because I didn't want to come off like a creeper, so I let both Thomas and Erik talk. There were planks of wood everywhere and I was surprised to see how young the wood makers were. All of them looked like they were in their 20's who could easily be a part of The Decemberists. Hipster-citch, YO! But in a good way! I like industrious people! .
Thomas showed us various woods we could use to make a plaque. He squirted some water onto the pieces to show us how dark the wood actually gets when he completes the project. We narrowed down to three different slabs of wood and are waiting for the cost of each item. I must say, I really like that this company picks up "abandoned" wooden pieces and restores them, turning them into beautiful furniture, etc. I'm super excited that Thomas will be etching the designs! I can't wait!
28 January 2015
Eventually I lost my cool towards the end of the adventure and said, "Err...you think Nick Offerman can make the time to sign my journal?" Thomas replied, "Yeah...he's really busy and barely here. He's always out, shooting a film and it's hard to get him here. Hmmm...I don't even need to stand next to him in a photo. I just want him to hold my book and look bored, while I'm in the background, kneeling behind like I'm some squirrel that's creeping up on Nick Offerman. That's all I want! HEHE
-- Blogging Bidness --
My Organization Game for Building that Site Sucks But At Least I'm Trying
I've been trying to tinker with my blog and I've made some changes, but I can't figure out how to organize all of the older posts and put them into the new, corresponding tabs. I learned that I could make some "sub tabs" for my site. Anyway, I just want to throw it out there that I'm a disappointing Asian; my web skills are weak like watered-down wasabi, I am terrible in mathematics, and my only experience in science is memorizing two chemical compounds--methane and sugar-- because I've the sense of humour of a 12-year-old boy, for I love fart jokes and dessert. I guess my goal in life, really, for the current moment, is to out-dick joke Dr. Bill Lumsden 'cause I can't do anything else.. Meh.
This is the face I make when someone asks me to add or build a website. Lucky for you, I purposefully made this image small, so you won't vomit in your mouth when you see this picture. Your welcome!!!!
4 February 2015
-- Whisky Shenanigans --
Here are some current expressions that aren't hidden behind a glass case or found in auctions! I ran out of figurines for props, so I'm using myself. Here I am in bed with my whiskies. Now I know how Hugh Hefner feels like when he's constantly surrounded by chicks. Instead of having tons of ladies around me, I got my main squeeze Highland Park 18 that's not pictured here (he's too shy to take a photo) and my many siiiiide pieces. I can't help it. I am a whisky polygamist and just can't seem to commit to one. There are too many delicious juices out there. KEKE!
-- How I Got the Nickname "Balls Deep" --
A Silly Tale of Miscommunications
7 February 2015
Well, after working in the alcohol industry for a few years and being surrounded by dudes all day, I figured I had a good grasp on bar-life/man lingo. Well, it turns out I was wrong. During the summer when the World Cup was on I was chatting with someone on Facebook chat about the game. I shall keep him anonymous, but for shitz and giggles let's just call him LeBron Blample.
At any rate, while the French team was playing I asked LeBron, "Are you watching the World Cup?"
He replied, "Yes, a little bit. How's the US team doing?"
I said, "They're doing alright, but I am balls deep for France. I don't know what that means, but I want them to win."
LeBron responded, "Ha! It means 'all in,'" and in my mind I thought to myself, "Yeh! That sounds totally right! I am 100% in support of this team!"
Flash-forward 5 hours later, I ended up having lunch with my friend Jay at IKEA, and we were eating some Swedish meatballs. I had a mouthful of meatballs, no pun intended, and while I was chewing I noticed that there were two meatballs left on the plate, both nestled next to each other, in which the left ball was rocking out next to the right one in all of its meatball glory, waiting for me to consume it. Then, I realized that LeBron's comment of "all in" meant something completely different from what I anticipated. Oh NOES! Balls deep means Chitty chitty....BANG! BANG! and it has nothing to do with rooting for a team. I thought to myself. Later that night I emailed him and said, I finally figured it out when you said, "All in."
A few weeks later my friend said, "'Balls deep' is such a funny expression. It defines you." So, now I was thinking it had multiple meanings like it was a metaphor for someone who was exuberant-- someone who grabbed life by the balls and manhandled nature. I decided I would take on this new persona; I was someone who would have swagger like George Clooney and be completely confident. I'm gonna be confident and I won't sweat through my clinical strength deodorant! Humph! Fist pump glory.
So days later, I was working at Bar Jackalope one night, and I was greeted by two, upgraded versions of David Beckham (like that could EVEN HAPPEN). Both of these saucy Aussies had a swimmer's body--the triangular shaped with bold shoulders and a thin waist and hair that looked like it had been groomed at a Brazilian blowout salon. Anyhoot, that's besides the point. One guy asked me, "What is your favorite type of whisky?"
I answered with great zeal, "Well, I'm so glad you asked me this question. I am balls deep for single malts bottled at cask strength!" One guy crinkled his face, nodded his head and leaned closer to me. At the time I really didn't understand his social cue because, apparently, I had been living under a rock my whole life! I proceeded to tell the both of them that I liked cask strength whiskies because they were so intense and had lots of wood going on in the mouth. Blah blah blah!
At this time, I was roughly 6 months into my gig, completely shy and I seldom talked to my coworkers. No one really knew me at the bar, except that I would nod as a form of salutation, but I mainly kept my head down. The next day after the Aussie adventure, I received an email from one of my co-workers. He sent out a mass e-mail, inviting people to come over his house for poker night. PERFECT! I thought to myself, "This is a great time for me to use 'balls deep.'" So, I sent a mass e-mail to my coworkers (my boss was apart of this email chain) and said, "Hey! If poker night is happening I am balls deep with my poker chips. Let's do this!"
The next day at work, my manager told me that my statement generated a side-chain of emails that I was not privy to, in which people were saying, "Did you hear what Linh said?" I'm not entirely sure what those boys said, but it's probably a good thing. So, they started to call me "Balls Deep" and "BD" for short. AND, yes, ""BD" isn't an acronym for "blueberry donuts," but it is straight up "Balls Deep."
A few months passed and I ended up running into my friend at a whisky event. I slapped him in the arm and said, "Hey! You owe me an apology. My nick name is Balls Deep and it's all your fault!"
He beamed and said, "No. It's a good thing. Your welcome."
I wish I could say that English was my second language, and I wasn't exposed to any types of expression, but it turns out that "Balls Deep" is a universal sexpression that everyone knew---from Scottish people to Australians...everyone knew, except for me. Yup. That's the story of my life Always at the butt of jokes, but I guess in this case I'm at the tip of this joke. EEK!
-- Scotland Bound --
Raising Monies for Scotland!!!!
I've been working a lot, commuting between two counties and busting my chops 6 days a week. So, lately I've been bored, daydreaming about Scotland and imagining myself there again to keep me going. Here's an old picture of me on Arthur's Seat, which is a hill behind The Royal Mile strip in Edinburgh. I just want to get into Shenanigans (without getting arrested of course!) and reenact scenes from The Lion King , which is a euphemism for me to take booty shots all over Scotland. Oh yeah!
25 February 2015
Look at me! I was so happy in Scotland!!! I need to go back, and I want to go for 2 months. It's a shame that the UK pound has me by the Fallopian tubes. It's so expensive there.
I want to do 1-handed cartwheels in Scotland, while holding a Glencairn glass filled with fancy scotch in my right hand when I go back to Scotland.
A View of Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland
I'm thinking of selling off my unopened bottles to help fund my Scotland trip, but I'll be honest I don't want to let go of my Highland Park 21 Year Signatory. I love Highland Park. If I sell these bottles it can pay for my food and board for a few days in the UK.
-- Universal Whisky Experience --
In Encore, Las Vegas
Laphroaig Global Brand Ambassador Simon Brooking and Me
I had the privilege of attending the Universal Whisky Experience, also known as The Nth, thanks to Mahesh, who is the founder of this group. This is a whisky event that allows you to drink highly allocated products and, personally, it's my favorite whisky tasting event. You can find out more details here.
I was nervous attending the event because I made a Glenmorangie Signet dress that revealed my bare back, and I was afraid of accidentally giving people side boobs! Nobody wants to see chubby boy boobs in action! OOF! So, the night before the actual tasting event, I went to Forever 21 to by myself a shawl/sweater.
Being completely shy and nervous, I went straight to familiar territory. The first person I knew fairly well in the industry was Global Brand Ambassador Simon Brooking of Laphroaig. We chatted for a bit and he pulled out a unicorn scotch that was worth more than 2 of my paychecks combined! WOWY! That's what you get when you attend this awesome event in Las Vegas.
I walked around and scoped the scene. My second booth was Highland Park. I wished I had the time to chat with Martin Daraz, the Brand Ambassador of Highland Park, but he was bombarded with a lot of people who wanted to chat with him. On a positive note, I had the chance to have a fairly long conversation with him before the event. He's my
industry dad! While sitting and drinking with him earlier in the day, I was reminded of my time with him at Lynnwood Hotel in Orkney Islands 3 years ago. I know I've mentioned this before, but he is such a special person in my life. I seldom get a chance to talk to him, but I value our chat because it is always a reflection about the human spirit---no bullshit, superficial conversations, but valuable time with someone special. All it takes is one person who believes in you, someone to give you a nudge to convert that potential energy into some form of kinetic force. I guess that's why I've been so attached to the following three, brand ambassadors: Martin Daraz (Highland Park), Simon Brooking (Laphroaig) and Johnnie Mundell (Bowmore) because they were the first people to help me through my whisky journey. They said I had something neat to offer to the industry when plenty of times I felt like a socially awkward turtle that smelt of lemons and sweat. I mean, I would greet Monique Huston, who is the WHISKY QUEEN of the WORLD, with a robotic dance move because I was so excited to see her, and afterwards I would say to myself, "Oh, for fuck's sake! Get your shit together! Less dancing and more handshakes!"
At any rate, I got to sample a super rare, expensive Macallan, thanks to Brand Ambassador Kieron Elliott. He's waiting for me to make a Macallan dress! FYI, this man is incredibly funny and charming. I encourage you to see him when he hosts an event. By the way, he jokingly said I hadn't given any love to Macallan because I didn't make a Macallan dress yet, but surely I must! I am always drawn to funny people, so that definitely helps me generate an idea to make a whisky dress. Kieron let me sample a rare Macallan that was worth more than my year's paycheck (I'm sure). Ermagah, so much fancy in my mouth, you guys! Sometimes I wish I could spit an expensive scotch out, package it and sell it, so I can pay off my school loans, but I know that's quite uncouth!
Brand Ambassador Kieron Elliott of Macallan
So Much Fancy in My Mouth!!! Sipping a unicorn Macallan.
While chit chatting with Kieron, West Coast Brand Ambassador Jon Trainer of Glenmorangie approached me and asked me to come to the Glenmorangie table because his team saved me a few special samples of scotches for me. AND he wanted Dr. Bill Lumsden, the Director of Whisky Stocks and Creations of Glenmorangie and Ardbeg, to see my Glenmorangie Signet dress. I went over to the booth with Jon and greeted Dr. Bill, and while Jon poured me a Double Barrel 1977 Ardbeg. I guess there were two different Double Barrel Ardbegs from a previous tasting and Dr. Bill told his team to save me both samples, so I could try them! Boy, was I lucky!!! ^_^
The whole moment seemed like a blur because I was nervous, hoping that Dr. Bill would like my dress because the construction and design of the garment were based on Glenmorangie Signet, the scotch that took him 15 years to create, and the artists who were commissioned by LVMH to design the logo out of wood, stone and metal.
Before taking a photo with Dr. Bill, Global Brand Ambassador of Glenmorangie David Blackmore gave me a heavy pour of Glenmorangie Ealanta. It was quite strange how my first memory of Ealanta, when it was first launched roughly 2 years ago, had the flavor profile of bleu cheese and tannins, but this time around it was definitely impregnated with star fruits, butter and honey. I wonder if it didn't taste the same as a result of it being affected by whatever scotch I had beforehand during each tasting round. That's why I think it's always a good idea to take time with your whisky because it will open up to you slowly over time and give you its many points of view.
Dr. Bill Lumsden (Director of Blah Blah Blah...bloody hell. I keep on forgetting his title because it's a long title. He's the director of whisky stocks and creations, etc. for Glenmorangie and Ardbeg) and Me
-- Glenmorangie Whisky Porn as the Young Kids Would Say --
At any rate, I had a chance to meet two, additional great people of Glenmorangie. First, Christine Guzman, the Associate Brand Manager of Glenmorangie, and Dan Crowell, the Central Region Brand Ambassador as well. I must say, it was such a pleasure to meet Christine because I think it's wonderful and inspirational to meet a woman who is already in the industry, representing a brand. Although I work in the field, in many ways I feel like I'm an outsider looking in; I feel as though I am Switzerland when it comes to whisky because I get to represent and talk about every brand I like openly. Second, I had the opportunity to chat with Dan Crowell, the Central Region Brand Ambassador. He, too, was incredibly nice and personable. That was the beauty of attending The Nth because I got to meet so many awesome people in the industry. So, on a happy note, I got the whole Glenmorangie team to sign my dress and I will paint their signatures over their original signs to make it permanent at some point.
David Perkins, Proprietor of High West Distillery, and Me
Maurice Chevalier IV of Anchor Distilling Co.
I also ran into David Perkins, the Proprietor of High West. I told him that I remembered him from roughly 3 years ago at a tasting he held at Seven Grand Los Angeles, and he said he remembered me! I was very surprised. What makes David so great is that he gives off a very humble aura about himself. I remembered before the tasting at Seven Grand, he kneeled down to meet people at eye-level, shook each person's hand and thanked them for attending his event. I'm very glad that he is doing well with his brand and that he is slowly releasing his own line. He and his team are definitely talented, and his product gets sold a lot at Hi Time Wine Cellars! I also ran into Maurice Chevalier IV of Anchor Distilling Co. I told him I was nervous about taking off the coat and he said, "I'm keeping your shall behind this table until the end of this event. Rock your dress proud!" Maurice is fantastic because he is a big history buff. So, when he does a presentation, there's a whole back story on the brand and the significant war points that may had affected some distilleries, etc. He represents brands like Kavalan, Nikka, Glendronach and a slew of other awesome products, and I am glad that he is very supportive of me being in the industry!
15 March 2015
Master Blender Richard Paterson of Jura and Dalmore
Dr. Bill told me to visit Richard Paterson, who is the Master Blender for Jura and Dalmore, because Richard said he signed a really cool dress once. Apparently, Dr. Bill said, "You haven't seen Linh's dress yet." Once I got to the Dalmore booth, it was as though Richard had been waiting for me. He knew who I was the minute I walked up to him because the Signet logo was blaring on my chess. I must say, Richard is unbelievably hilarious. He's one of those guys who is naturally funny. I think if I spent an hour chatting with him I would've gotten a solid 6 pack for abs from laughing so much. He has a fiery, intense aura about him that makes him absolutely charming and engaging. Richard told me to drive pass Glenmorangie and go straight to Dalmore when I visit Scotland. HAHA! He then grabbed a silver pen and told me to turn over. Then, he signed my bare back and leaned low to sign my Glenmorangie dress. This guy is so rad! It was as if he was saying, "I'm Richard Paterson. Piss off! I'm awesome." I can't emphasize how funny he is. I hope to meet him again for great laughs.
I must say that my trip to The Nth was incredible, and I hope that you'll get a chance to attend the event next year. I must say that I need to work on introducing myself to more folks in the industry as a find myself getting nervous and latching to the few people I've already met in the field. I may not know a lot of people in the whisky industry, but the one's who I've latched on are incredible people. I look forward to getting myself more outspoken and social. I hope that I don't come off "snooty" or "too cool" when I find myself tucking away in a corner of a corridor, while people are mingling. I'm working each day to become more comfortable with myself in public, and so far it's been a fun journey. I am very thankful for the people who've I met, regardless if they are in the industry or not, since they have taken the time to encourage me to continue in my whisky journey path.
-- Whisky Blurbs --
A Journal About Feelings and Whisky?
I'm not sure if this is news worthy, but someone who works as an editor and owns a publishing company wants to help me publish a whisky book. That is awesome. Actually, I was very excited to hear that news because he's been encouraging me to retain my own voice and point of view about whisky. I don't think I have enough material to jump start a whisky book, but it's really nice to know that someone believes in my writing and me! I know I'm not for everyone, and my writing isn't sophisticated When I like a whisky I say it gives me a giant lady boner. Yes, it's quite inappropriate, but I just don't want to take myself too seriously in the industry and be up tight. It's not who I am. I mean, yeast expels alcohol at the end of the day. Do we really need to be hoity toity about this subject matter? Maybe some people can be stern about it, but I prefer keeping things light-hearted. To be clear, I don't make that sort of boner-infused comment to everyone, and I pick my clients accordingly. In defense that sort of humour keeps people engaged and people tend to be more open to certain products and brands when jokes are involved. I can understand that whisky companies don't want to be associated with weener jokes, but my customers who know me well enough understand that this is purely my point of view. I'm not saying anything new or ground breaking here, but passion is key. Sometimes I get regular customers who say, "I don't want to drink what I normally consume. I want to drink what you're drinking because I want to experience whisky through your eyes." That is the biggest compliment I can get---to encourage people to get them out of their comfort zone and try new things and ultimately becoming die hard fans to certain brands. We'll see if this book project happens! Hehe...
Oh, yes, here's the publishing company that wants to help me out! www.TuxedoEbooks.com
25 March 2015
-- Bar Jackalope Sign --
from the Offerman Woodshop: Part II
Well, it turns out that etching the word, "Bar Jackalope," and logo would cost a lot of money. To put it in whisky terms, I could use that dough to buy eleven bottles of Lagavulin 16 Year. In addition, I think the wood itself was $200. So, rather than using one of Offerman's woodsmen to complete the artwork, my bosses decided to ask me to take over the design because my labour cost would be much more cost-effective.
2 April 2015
I'm attempting to make a sign for Bar Jackalope and have never worked with this tool before. If it all works out well, I can add, "pretty good with wood," on my resume. My boss bought this piece at Nick Offerman's wood shop. And if you don't know who he is "google" him(😍 hubba bubba). Afterwards, you'll get the inside joke that I'm cheating on Lagavulin with Bruichladdich Islay Barely in this photo. By the way,. if he ever walks into the bar while I work I'm gonna lose my mind and turn into ultra-creeper Linh mode.
"Hi, Nick Offerman! My last name is Do and it's spelled like the verb, 'do,'....like 'do it,' I mean like the Nike logo, "Just do it,"--- not like the Chitty Chitty....Bang! Bang! kind of 'do it.' And my last name rhymes with 'bro.' Err yeh!" Actually maybe it's not a good idea to meet him.
This took roughly 2.5 hours to burn the wood. It was really really fascinating to burn the wood with the Versa-Tool. I've never worked with it before, so I just went in blind. I know it's a bit of a risk to improvise rather than practicing on another block of wood, but I figured I could fix any mistakes I made. The most efficient way to handle the tool is to treat it as though it's a piping tube filled with cream and one is ready to outline a gingerbread cookie. I also noticed that when I burned the wood perpendicular to the growth rings, it was much harder to burn it, and the texture would get rough. It felt like driving over multiple speed bumps with my hand. The aroma of the wood would smell differently, ranging from bubble gum found in Hello Kitty stores to beach fire smoke. Even parts of the wood would start to caramelize. It made me wonder if there's different amounts of vanillin throughout the tree. When the wood would bubble up like burnt sugar, the wood burned faster. Some parts of the wood, where there were no growth rings, were completely bone-dry. As a result, it took longer to burn that section. I began to wonder if that's what casks and staves are like when whisky is exposed to them. It probably is incredibly hard to control the flavors of a spirit due to the unpredictable nature of the oak, in addition to yeast, grains, water, etc. I imagine blending whisky is like being a saucier; you just have to alter the recipe because each season yields a different characteristic to the produce. Maybe carrots are much sweeter this time around in comparison to last year, so a saucier has to put less sugar in a broth this time. Then again, these are my assumptions. I would like to investigate and see what the following people think: blenders, master distillers, writers, etc. It would be really good to learn from these professionals.