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An Impostor Abroad: Stephen visits Glen Scotia

Glen-Scotia-Cask-Sign-featured

Glen-Scotia-StillsGlen Scotia’s fortunes have tracked that of the overall industry for a long time now. For example, it was shut down during the mid-1980’s (when many other distilleries were shuttered or, like Port Ellen, closed forever) and reopened in 1999. In recent years, Glen Scotia has ramped up production from around 100,000 liters of spirit per year to what will soon be 500,000 liters per year. All of this with only two stills and none of the spirit these days going to blends or independent bottlers.

With a fermentation period of around 100 hours, the ramp up has required new washbacks, and they now have nine in total. And for all that production, the distillery has only seven employees. Actually, many distilleries produce more with fewer, but they do so thanks to a fair amount of automation. Not Glen Scotia. It’s a hands-on process at Glen Scotia, and Distillery Manager Iain McAlister has his hands on every aspect of production, including checking on the casks aging in the warehouses on site.

Glen-Scotia-hands-onSpeaking of casks, Glen Scotia ages all of its whisky in first-fill Bourbon casks, but then every expression uses a Sherry finish of some sort or other–usually Oloroso or Pedro Ximenez and usually for around six months. That combination, along with the Campbeltown terroir, yield a character that is briny and meaty.

In recent years, also in line with the tectonic shifts in the whisky industry, Glen Scotia has moved from a 12 year old to a no age statement expression called Double Cask. At the same time, they redesigned their labels and packaging and did so with stunning effect. This is not “Hey! Look at me!” gawdy branding; this is timeless, classy design that looks right at home with the fine tweed goods Glen Scotia sells in its distillery shop.

Glen-Scotia-Shannon-pouringAnd one cannot overstate the importance of the aforementioned Campbeltown terroir nor of the people who grew up and live in it. These both inevitably have an effect on the final product, but when you make the trip to Campbeltown, they add something extra to the experience and help you see why this small area and its three distilleries warrant designation as a unique whisky region. Both Iain McAlister and Shannon Brodie from the distillery shop were very generous with their time and went out of their way to make us feel more than welcome–an experience that I soon found was all too typical of this lovely small town by the sea.

 

Please scroll down for more photos.

 

Glen-Scotia-Distillery-back

Glen-Scotia-Mill-with-Iain-McAlister

Glen-Scotia-Mashtun

Glen-Scotia-Casks

Glen-Scotia-lineup

 

Review - Dalwhinnie Winter's Gold

The Winter's Gold is a new single malt that is being introduced to the popular Dalwhinnie core range.  Dalwhinnie is Scotland's highest whisky distillery and one of the most remote. It stands at 326 metres (1070 feet) above sea level and is also the coldest due to its location in the Cairngorm mountains - the weather station at Dalwhinnie records one of the UK's lowest average annual maximum temperatures of just 10.2°C (50.4°F)*.  This whisky has been designed to reflect this cold environment and is suggested to be served frozen as a result.

The distillery was founded in 1897 by a trio of local businessmen in the central Highlands.  They built Dalwhinnie, which was originally named as Strathspey, at the crossroads of the two major trading routes in Scotland at that time - one running from Inverness to Edinburgh and the other running from Fort William to Aberdeen. The name Dalwhinnie translates as from the Gaelic word Dail-coinneeamh, which means 'meeting place'. The village grew up around the distillery, which attracts 25,000 visitors a year despite its remote location.

Dalwhinnie is currently owned by Daigeo and has an annual production capacity of around two million litres.  Despite this the brand is in the Top 15 for worldwide single malt sales and the 15 years old expression is one of Diageo's Classic Malts, representing the Highlands region in that series.  The Winter's Gold is bottled at 43% ABV and will be available from selected retailers across western Europe from September.  The recommended retail price is £33 a bottle.


"This indulgent whisky really comes into its own when served frozen. The flavours become more intense – and aromas are released as the whisky heats up in your hands." 
Donald Colville, Diageo's Global Brand Ambassador for Malts. 


Our tasting notes 
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is fresh, vibrant and sweet.  The leading aromas are of candied lemon peel, vanilla and fresh green apples.  These are followed by further aromas of golden syrup, fresh cotton, sultanas and hints of earthy ginger and pencil shavings.

On the palate the whisky is again fresh and vibrant with the green apple and candied lemon peel notes to the fore.  As these soften the palate becomes sweeter, smoother and more gentle.  There is an immediate hit of crumbly brown sugar and toffee, which evolves in to a honeycomb/golden syrup-like note and juicy sultanas.  There is also plenty of fresh oak, which is again reminiscent of pencil shavings, a some cinnamon.  These elements are backed up by bittersweet malted barley, earthy ginger root and pinches of baking spice and cocoa powder.

The finish is gentle and warming.  Drying wood spices, especially cinnamon, and the malty cereal characteristics begin to take over once the soft sultana, brown sugar and honey notes start to fade.

What's the verdict?
Dalwhinnie (the Classic Malts 15 years old expression to be precise) was one of the first whiskies to get us interested in whisky.  Because of this and the fact that it is the first permanent new addition to the range for a while, we were intrigued to try it.  Winter's Gold is very nice and easy drinking and a good introduction to Dalwhinnie and single malts.  It also seems a bit of a bargain in these days of increasing whisky prices.

We have not tried it frozen yet, as instructed in the serving suggestion, but we could see how it could work like that - it has sweetness and spiciness, which would stand out when chilled, and would reveal more aromas and flavours as the whisky returned to room temperature.  We must try it ....

* Source - The Met Office Survey 1981-2010. 


WhiskyCast Episode 545: July 25, 2015

The history of Bourbon is filled with enough myths to make a dozen Disney movies, enough crimes for years of True Detective, and enough mysteries to make Sherlock Holmes hang up his deerstalker cap. In part two of our conversation with "Bourbon Empire" author Reid Mitenbuler, we'll look at the crimes, corruption, and prejudice that are part of Bourbon's past, as well as the resurgence of craft distilling and other factors that give Bourbon a bright future. In the news, Brown-Forman has started work on its new Old Forester Distillery on Louisville's Whiskey Row two weeks after a four-alarm fire threatened the $45 million dollar project, Utah's High West has opened its new distillery outside of Park City, and a rock group is lending its name to a new Irish whiskey.

Does It Really Have To Be Oak?

author-lew-brysonFirst thing you need to know: this is not a story about whiskey. At least, not on the surface. It’s about gin. But it’s very much about the kind of innovative thinking small distillers are bringing to the shelf, and that encompasses whiskey. Read on, you’ll see.

I took a vacation with my family (my wife, and our two adult children) recently. We traveled to Iceland (where we visited the Eimverk distillery), then Scotland (where we dropped in at Talisker), then wound up in Ireland. While we were relaxing in Lismore after some long driving days, I took the opportunity to pop over to Cappoquin, on the Blackwater river in County Waterford, and drop in on Peter Mulryan at his new venture, the Blackwater distillery. Peter’s written a few pieces for Whisky Advocate, and made the jump to the production side of the business only recently. Blackwater is producing a rather tasty gin, and has plans for whiskey and poitin (though Peter told me that recent regulatory changes have made innovation in those areas much more difficult; might have to investigate that).

Peter and the juniper barrels

Peter and the juniper barrels

But we were just two friends, having a cup of tea and talking spirits (and beer; later we spontaneously decided to go see the nearby Dungarvin brewery, where he’s been doing some interesting barrel-aged collaborations). I wasn’t taking any notes or pictures; in fact, I’d left my notebook and camera in the car outside. Then he told me about his new barrel-aged gin…and I had to go get my notebook.

Take a look at those four barrels in the picture to the left. They’re about 50 liters each, and they’re full of gin. Barrel-aged gin is not a big deal; small barrels aren’t anything new (and 50 liters isn’t even particularly small). What’s very different is the wood. These barrels are made of juniper wood. If you’re like me, you’ve pictured juniper as a shrub. Turns out that juniper can also be a tree. Peter found the wood in Serbia (which is apparently the hottest place to find oak these days, too), but couldn’t find a cooper who was willing to try making barrels from it; he finally got a guy in Finland who was willing to take a shot at it.

They’re beautiful barrels, too, with a smooth, rounded finish on the stave ends. But it’s the smell that’s most impressive. The little storage room was full of a fresh, richly piney scent. Peter said he had to change the formulation of the gin a bit to get it to work with the juniper wood; “It’s the same twelve botanicals, but in different proportions. The juniper wood is a bully, a steamroller; too long in there, and the gin’s undrinkable.” But with only 60 days in the juniper, the gin was marvelously different from the unaged product; more juniper, but not as bright, a softer juniper, and a creamy finish. Delicious stuff. Peter’s pretty confident he can get multiple uses from each barrel, given the overpowering strength of the effect.

So…not whiskey, as I said, but it got me thinking. Not all barrels used for whiskey were oak; I was just reading old records that described American rye whiskey aged in hickory barrels. Certainly not all barrels for American whiskey were new, charred oak; we know that. Brown-Forman has done some experiments with different woods, there’s an English distiller aging “whisky” in chestnut wood (“whisky” because anything aged in wood other than oak can’t be labeled as “whisky” in the UK).

More to the point, as I’m watching small distillers try new recipes and fiddle with process, I’m seeing something that I suspected would be true. Namely, that most whiskey drinkers, especially the new ones, really don’t care — or understand — about the label terminology required and regulated by the federal standards of identity. “Whiskey” is the key word, and if the small type says “WHISKEY DISTILLED FROM A BOURBON MASH” or “CORN WHISKEY — A BLEND”, well, that’s just not that important to them, probably because there are so many varieties in the standards that are so close. I’d agree with them. I like the idea of small distillers doing straight whiskeys, but I’m very curious to try whiskeys aged in different woods, distilled from significantly different grains and proportions of grains…and I don’t really care what they’re tagged by the standards.

What I do want to see is good descriptions of just what I’m getting either on the label, or easily accessible on a distillery page on the Web. It’s a good story, it’s a good hook, it’s good information. And it’s the kind of thing that makes me go get my notebook.

 

 

The post Does It Really Have To Be Oak? appeared first on Whisky Advocate.

Event Notice: Dewar’s Dinner at New York Prime

Sunday, August 23 at 6pm Hosted by Dewar’s Ambassador, Gabe Cardarella Intro Dewar’s 12 year old Thick Cut Sizzling Bacon Ashton Heritage Belicoso Cigar 2nd Dewar’s 15 year old Caesar Salad 3rd Dewar’s 18 year old NY Strip 16 oz. Creamed Corn, Creamed Spinach Close Dewar’s Signature Butter Cake San Cristobal Revelation Toro Cigar ________________________________________________________________ … Continue reading Event Notice: Dewar’s Dinner at New York Prime →

That's Shallot...


Thank you. It's been Emotional.  
As posts go, this one will certainly go down as one of the most memorable ones that we have ever written on this humble website.  
As many readers know, we began Caskstrength.net back in January 2008. We were fresh faced, wide eyed, particularly thirsty and in possession of a drinks cabinet stocked mainly with ubiquitous Scotch brands. We took it upon ourselves to seek out the most interesting whiskies we could lay our hands on.


Once-upon-a-time we looked like this...Hard to believe really. Here we are in 2015 and we're just perusing the sidebar and a few of our old posts, over 650 of them, reviewing over 1,000 different whiskies and occasionally other spirits. To click back and look at how our tastes have changed in that time is as fascinating for us as it is to witness just how much the whisky business has changed in a little under a decade. 
When we started Caskstrength.net, there was barely a handful of online blogs or webpages dedicated to the spirit. Our influences came from inspirational spaces like Whiskyfun.com and DrWhisky, who began to deliver a voice loudly proclaiming that whisky wasn't just the domain of the over serious, wizened, ageing bore, but an accessible, engaging and, as we have seen in the passing years, spirit that offers something that almost everyone can enjoy in one way or another.  
As Caskstrength.net evolved, it became something much greater than either of us had ever imagined. It has taken us to different continents and allowed us to try some truly mind blowing, once-in-a-lifetime liquids. In short, it has helped to give us a career in spirits.  
But more importantly, it has been the conduit enabling us to forge some incredible friendships with people all over the world, many of them stemming from kind words and support from our readership.
in 2014, Caskstrength.net hit just under 900,000 views, around 70,000 a month, which is a figure that makes this post all the more important.
We now find ourselves in a totally different arena. Today, there are literally 100's of 'whisky blogs' and the landscape of writing about the spirit has changed in our opinion.  To use a crude car analogy for a second, this once gleaming, perky sports car has now hit a very high mileage indeed and is starting to cough a little on cold mornings.  
We could take it for a tune up at the garage, but in our minds, that's not the answer. In essence, we need to trade in Caskstrength.net for something brand new, fresh and with a much better, bigger, more efficient engine, capable of delivering not only the malt mileages we intend to travel, but also encompassing our huge passion for every spirit, which we realised when writing our recent book, Distilled.



So here is it then. Caskstrength.net as you are seeing it now will, after this post, be no more. Gone to the great retirement home in the sky for hard working drinks blogs.



Its replacement is going to be very exciting indeed. Over the coming weeks, we'll be introducing a brand new website: WorldsBestSpirits.com 
It will be an informative curated drinks website, with news and views about everything from Absinthe to Whisky. As always, it will be packed with plenty of the original Caskstrength character, commentary and up to date news on gin, brandy, Tequila, rum, Armagnac, mezcal, vodka and as much else as we can possibly cram in. The notion of simply 'blogging'- and indeed the phrase 'blog' is, in our opinion, something that now feels tired and quite saturated- and we like energy, not tiredness. 
What's more, WorldsBestSpirits.com will grow from simply the two of us penning articles into a dedicated team of international contributors from all over the world -  more on them later.

Writing this blog has been a pleasure. Moving up a gear to curate, choose and deliver to you the World's Best Spirits with the same verve and vigour we have approached Caskstrength.net will be an absolute pleasure. Hopefully we'll end up looking as young again as we did the photo on page one of this journey, minus the obvious wide-eyed naivety.

To celebrate the full stop on this story, we have each chosen to link to a couple of our favourite posts from the last seven-and-a-half years, and to review one final dram with which to toast our goodbye...

Joel's Top Post:  Springbank Rundlets & Kilderkins
Neil's Top Post: The Glenlivet Alpha
And so, in rather timely fashion, we reach the end of our very last post.  
Our last review on Caskstrength...   
We thought long and hard about what would be the whisky to sign of with and there it was, sitting on our desk staring us in the face. It's arrival was remarkably timely in fact...

So for the Last Post, we bring you.... The Last Drop.

This bottling project has now become the stuff of legend:  Thee industry stalwarts, led by James Espey OBE decided that rather than retiring, they would locate and bottle some of the oldest and best whisky - and other spirits- that they could lay their hands on. The concept of The Last Drop was born in 2008 and the previous releases including a blend from 1960,  a 50 year old blend and now, a 48 year old blended whisky have all been released to critical acclaim. The company is now in the hands of a younger generation of the founders, but the ethos remains the same.

This 48 year old blend is limited to 592 bottles and is priced at an RRP of £2600. It even comes with a miniature of the whisky too and a leather bound box. But that doesn't really concern us.

Question is... will it be a truly fitting send off for Caskstrength?  No pressure.

The Last Drop -  48 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky -  48.6% - 592 Bottles
Nose: A hugely complex nose, the likes of which we've only recently found in a few old Armagnacs   and very old grain whiskies: Meaty, waxy foundations, lead into rich vanilla sponge cake, clean linen, raspberry jam, with polished wood surfaces and Manuka honey rounding out the top notes. It would be sad to lose such a complexity with water, but a small drop releases some more tannic notes, sweeter vanilla and creamy toffee.
Palate: Broad shouldered and oaky, with a backbone stave of tannic Orange Pekoe tea, leading into chopped Brazil nuts, hints of the sponge cake again and very old grain: that unusual bittersweet toasted note that tends to emerge with this type of aged blend. It certainly isn't a polite, unconfident blend: it's powerful and uncompromising on the palate, with some dark oaky notes, just tempered with enough sweetness to bring the whole thing together perfectly.  
Finish: Extremely warming, but with no overtones of spirit: just pure, rich dryness, the kind of tongue coating unctuousness that 'serious' whiskies bring. Put simply, this is as serious as Jeremy Paxman grilling a hopelessly out-of-their-depth, incompetent Cabinet Minister on Newsnight.
Overall: A remarkable whisky, that not only highlights the intricacies of blending at this age, but also the concept of longevity. Sometimes, new (old) whiskies pop up with a huge fanfare but are quickly revealed as being jaded, one-dimensional and just that little bit over-egged. One wonders the reasons why they weren't bottled sooner, but we'll put this down to simple economics. Here, we have a superb integration of old grain and malt. But alongside its experience, it brings a refreshing vibrancy to the party too.  
It's a whisky that we could probably all learn a lot from.  
And with that, there's nothing more for us to say than simply, adios, slante and see you all when the next phase in our plans is fully online. Thanks for making Caskstrength such a successful and fun place to work from and we very much hope you'll stick with us at WorldsBestSpirits.com


  So, charge your glasses and raise a toast: The Blog Is Dead! Long Live WorldsBestSpirits!
Neil & Joel - April 1st, 2015 x

Keep Following Us OnTwitter @WorldOfSpirits

Jim Murray, 2015 Whisky Bible and Why Scotch Whisky Sucks



There is always a good deal of chatter when Jim Murray releases his awards list ahead of the release of a new edition of his bible, surely the sometimes controversial choices he makes are no promotional accident...
Some of the best whiskies I was fortunate enough to taste in 2014 were from Japan, and I would agree that the Yamazaki Sherry Cask is a stunning whisky from one of the world’s greatest malt whisky-producing countries, but the Daily Mail’s (expected) sensational headline and Mr. Murray’s statements strike me as remarkably unfounded. That Scotch whisky has something to be “humiliated” about, that a perceived lack of innovation has hindered Scotch producers is near nonsense.
Scotch whisky is celebrated and esteemed as much for its diversity of flavour as for its adherence to traditional craftsmanship over its lengthy history but recent years have seen these traditions used in new ways, with innovation from barley to barrel to bottle across the industry, albeit within parameters. Interestingly, many of these innovations have been in turn praised and criticised by Mr. Murray over the past two decades, from 1994s praise of finishing to his 2008 critique of the practice.
Japanese whisky was founded on the traditions of Scotch whisky making over 90 years ago, and it could possibly be argued that Japan adheres even more to the traditional methods (wooden washbacks, direct firing stills, etc) than the average malt distillery in Scotland so I do question Murray’s implied praise of generalised Japanese “innovation” over just making really good whisky that he liked.
Since the mid-1980s, when the world saw its first Single Malt from Japan, Japanese whiskies have attracted acclaim. Since 2008, Japanese blends and malts have won major titles, most notably from the World Whisky Awards. This is not to say that Scotch has stoppedwinning these awards or top acclaim from writers, including Murray. Although Scotch has, until now, won his highest accolade in all but one edition of his bible, Murray has awarded more American whiskies in recent years than Japanese. It is no news that America and Japan make excellent whiskies. Not a great headline, though, and tough to sell newspapers or magazines with a headline like that, "Whiskies Being Made to High Standard Outside Scotland"
The assumption from Murray’s statements is that Japanese whisky has an edge on Scotch because of a stronger vision or wilder innovation; innovations like the highball campaign? No Age Statements? Local barley or local oak? There are precedents in Scotch in every case. So in what way is Japanese whisky’s success due to innovations that Scotch lacks? Zero. It is due to releasing top quality malt whiskies. To infer that this precludes the ongoing (and much longer-running) success of Scotch whisky is balderdash, but a great reminder that Jim Murray’s latest book is about to be released!
Finally, in case it has not been mentioned, Jim has a new book coming out next week. 


The Glenlivet Alpha Review

Introduction

GlenlivetAlphaBig thanks to the folks at Deep Focus, a social media agency working with The Glenlivet, for sending me a free sample of the new Glenlivet Alpha expression that has only 3350 bottles shipping worldwide (not sure how many are coming to the U.S.). Especially since I’ve been flying under the whisky radar this past year (I’ll post more on that later). I haven’t checked out all of the marketing details, but apparently there is going to be a big “reveal” for Alpha in a few days, so I thought I’d go ahead and post some thoughts on the whisky while it is still something of a mystery (the box only states that it is a Single Malt bottled at 50% abv). The U.S. retail price is $120.

Tasting Notes

On the nose, my first impression is of cinnamon apples. Then vanilla custard, and finally some fresh wood shavings. Then back to the fruit, of the apples and pears variety. Looking online now at other reviews, I see people talking about lots of tropical fruits. Personally, that’s not the way I respond to this. It doesn’t strike me as tropical in the same way as something like Glenmorangie 18 year. But of course, this is all subjective.

On the palette, it starts out mouth-watering and juicy, sweet, then very slightly prickly on the tongue. There is a point where it becomes slightly nutty, and just as I start to expect a slight walnut bitterness, it pulls back. Very nice. It’s smooth as silk…almost buttery going down. It then becomes drying on the finish, before my mouth waters up again. A very enjoyable, if not particularly long, experience.

Impression

The Glenlivet Alpha is an extremely drinkable expression that would be great for sharing with all levels of whisky drinkers. It strikes me as a Special Edition release of their Nadurra expression. The overall flavor profile (especially on the nose) is quite similar. However, the Alpha has an extra silky smoothness to it relative to Nadurra, in the same way the 17 year finished Balvenie expressions relate to the 15 year single barrel. Though, I don’t detect anything resembling the typical “finishing” casks of sherry or wine in Alpha.

So what is it?

If this is a game, and we’re supposed to guess what the heck is in this black Alpha bottle, I’d have to guess a combination of first-fill and second-fill American White Oak bourbon barrels were used to mature the spirit. There is no sign of coloring or chill filtration (like Nadurra). Age? That’s a hard one. Is the extra buttery smoothness in the mouth over the Nadurra due to age, or is it related to the type of casks used? Not sure. I could believe a number of scenarios: 1) It’s a year or two older than the 16 year Nadurra. 2) They use a combination of refill casks and smaller quarter casks to give the impression of extra maturity, while keeping the oak in check, or 3) this is just the result of very carefully selected casks by the master distiller.

Value

Did I really enjoy this whisky? Yes. Am I going to seek out a bottle? No. Do I think you’re an idiot if you do? No.

I really like this whisky, but for me, the 16 year Nadurra (at $50/bottle locally) is close enough in profile to keep me satisfied. On the other hand, I have no immediate issues with the price of Alpha. They are saying that it was “carefully crafted” by the master distiller, and it is a limited release of 3,350 bottles. It’s not going to be for everybody, but then, the limited run kind of takes care of that. :-)

I’ve seen much higher prices asked for “carefully selected” expressions…how about the Diageo Manager’s Choice a few years ago? Talk about crazy pricing. These things work themselves out, though. A bunch of those Manager’s Choice bottles can still be had at 40% discounts online. So far, The Glenlivet Alpha is selling out quickly. The UK allocation disappeared immediately. If, upon commencing with their “reveal” on Facebook later this week, people are outraged by what they hear, then I’d expect that feedback to influence future releases.

If they keep their main line whiskies priced reasonably, and of high quality, what’s the harm in experimenting with various boutique releases aimed at smaller segments of the market? I look forward to learning more about the story behind The Glenlivet Alpha.

Cheers,
Jeff

Ch-Ch-Changes – Update Your RSS Feed!

Things are changing here at Whisky Party! We’re about to roll out a new design and switch to a new blog platform.

This is all happening on Monday February 20th!

If you’d like to continue reading Whisky Party in your RSS reader, you’ll have to update to the feed URL in your feed reader:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/whiskyparty/ETPs

For a sneak peak at the new sight, you can check out our staging version here.

Studio A

The Ca Scotch Couple firmly believe in living below their means. They shop at consignment stores, sock away the max for retirement, and adhere to a strict 25% debt to equity ratio. Consequently, the CA Scotch Couple's move to paradise in 2004 couldn't have come at a worse time. It was at the height of the real estate boom; the only houses even remotely within the CA Scotch Couple's price range were shacks, and even those shacks had multiple bidders.
So, it is no surprise that the beloved Little Beach House was one such shack: a circa 1913, 700 square foot single wall construction edifice with outdated wiring, inadequate plumbing, precipitously sloping floors, and a hole in its roof. The CA Scotch Couple spent many (many many many) years making the Little Beach House habitable. Unfortunately, no matter what they did, there was no escaping the reality that even with its new wiring, plumbing, and roof, the Little Beach House was a shack.
So, when the real estate bust hit San Diego hard, the CA Scotch Couple decided to see if they could trade their shack for something a little more spacious. They took a financial bath on the Little Beach House, and set out on their house hunting adventures with three goals for the new home: it needed to have lost at least as much value as the Little Beach House had, it needed to be more spacious than the Little Beach House; and it couldn't be a project.
One of the first properties the CA Scotch Couple viewed was a lovely old mixed use loft conversion in a slightly dodgy area. This 1933 grand dame had started its life as an old fashioned car dealership/garage and had then become an artist's studio and residence. It had magnificent arching barrel ceilings, open architecture, exposed terra cotta masonry, and concrete floors. It also wasn't up to earthquake code, had a leaking roof, had been stripped of plumbing, appliances and countertops, and, worst of all, had birds nesting in it. It was a whopping 2700 square feet, but man, oh man, it was project. CA Scotch Chick dubbed it "the Bird Sanctuary," and the CA Scotch Couple swiftly walked the other way.
But the CA Scotch Couple kept their miserly eyes on the Bird Sanctuary, and within a few months, market forces had driven it down to the price that the CA Scotch Couple had paid for the Little Beach House in 2004. Project or not, the CA Scotch Couple simply couldn't resist. It was a remarkable space, and it was worth the pain to make it beautiful again. They made an offer.
For seven months, long before the accident and throughout the CA Scotch Couple's recovery, they fought their way through the tortuous short sale and then foreclosure process. They managed to buy the Bird Sanctuary from the bank on the final day of 2009, immediately moved in, and endured endless months of living under plastic sheets with construction chaos ringing around them.
On the day they finally closed on the Bird Sanctuary, CA Scotch Gent sat CA Scotch Chick down and asked for two favors. First, could they please, please, please, set a goal of having the renovations done by the end of summer? No more projects stretching for years. Secondly, could they please, please, please, stop calling it the Bird Sanctuary?
They set a goal of August 31st as the drop dead date for finishing the renovation, and they scheduled a party to make sure they met that goal. Then they cast around for a more suitable name — finally deciding on "Studio A" in honor of the sign over its door.
It was a long hard nine months, complicated by the CA Scotch Couple's recovery from their injuries and those all encompassing work schedules. However, on August 31st, a mere three hours before their party, the CA Scotch Couple finally removed the last of the plastic, pushed the furniture into place, and claimed Studio A as their own.
It was well worth the effort. Studio A is now up to code; the birds have been evicted; it has been scrubbed from top to bottom; and it is now equipped with new bathrooms, appliances, countertops, skylights, and roof. Gentle light filters into its spacious and gracious interior giving the CA Scotch Couple the impression that they are stepping into a magnificent cavern whenever they return at the end of the day — the perfect refuge for a pair of recluses. It has been an extremely long tough year, but the CA Scotch Couple are finally home.