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WhiskyCast Episode 475: April 19, 2014

Whisky has a place in the kitchen as well as the bar, and Bourbon may well be one of the most versatile spirits chefs can experiment with. It adds a special touch to sauces, desserts, and meat as well as cocktails, and Charlotte Observer food editor Kathleen Purvis explores all of them in her new cookbook, "Bourbon". She joins us for this week's WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news, three top Beam executives are planning new careers once Suntory takes control of the company, Asia's whisky boom may be turning into a bubble, Scotch whisky gets new protection against fakes in Australia, and four craft distillers are collaborating on a new Bourbon that hits Chicago this coming week. We'll have tasting notes for Four Kings Bourbon, along with Bulleit and Jim Beam's new single barrel Bourbons.

Happy anniversary, Jimmy Russell

Author - Lew Bryson

 60 years at Wild Turkey

Jimmy Russell: 60 years at Wild Turkey

I was in Kentucky on Tuesday for the grand opening of the new Wild Turkey visitor center. At least, that was the big billing for the day to the press, and Kentucky Governor Beshear was there for the event, as was the head of Campari North America, Jean Jacques Dubau. It was cocktails and toasts all around as we stood in the glass-wrapped structure, high on the bluff over the Kentucky River; the view was tremendous, the whiskey exceptional, and the engagingly open rickhouse-like interior of the center, all raw, unpainted wood and steel supports, was a reflection of the honesty of the product being celebrated. It’s the crowning touch of $100 million worth of expansion and improvements that Campari has made at Wild Turkey, and that kind of investment is noteworthy.

But the real reason I was there, and the real reason people like Fred Noe (Beam), Al Young (Four Roses), Mark Coffman (Alltech’s distiller), Greg Davis (Maker’s Mark), Craig Beam and yes, even Parker Beam (Heaven Hill) were there, was something more momentous. We were celebrating Jimmy Russell’s 60 years with Wild Turkey; a little early, maybe, since he started at Wild Turkey on September 10, 1954…but that just means we’ll get to do it again in five months.

 some real bourbon firepower

Al Young, Mark Coffman, Craig and Parker Beam, Jimmy, Gov. Beshear, Eddie Russell, Fred Noe, and Greg Davis: some real bourbon firepower

If there was any doubt about how important Jimmy has been to the long-term success of Wild Turkey, the billboard over the river at the west end of the Rt. 62 bridge should dismiss it. “Welcome to the house that Jimmy built.” We toured the new distillery, and Jimmy pointed out the reassuring sameness. The still is built just the same — five feet wide, 52 feet high — as the old one (which is on display in the visitor center with the hatches open so visitors can get a rare look inside a column still), the fermenters are bigger and more numerous (there are twenty 30,000 gallon wells) but still open, the barrels are still air-dried white oak burnt to a #4 ”alligator” char, and the yeast is still grown up fresh from the same strain that was being used in 1954.

The house that Jimmy built

The house that Jimmy built; the new distillery.

So what exactly was it that Jimmy did, if everything is the same? That’s the point: he kept it that way. It wasn’t always easy, and it certainly wasn’t always popular when bourbon sales were sinking badly through the 1980s. But Pernod Ricard went with his solidly stated advice, and it has turned out to be right, much like the oft-quoted advice of Dickel’s first distiller, Ralph Dupps: “Don’t change a damn thing.”

Now, there have been some changes at Wild Turkey, and not just building a big new visitor’s center to replace the old 2-bedroom house that used to serve that function! The entry proof is a little bit higher than it used to be; some are going in as high as 57.5%, though most are going in at 55%, where they used to be down around 52.5%. Eddie Russell (he’s been there for 33 years himself, of course) said he had to get the proof up a bit; he wasn’t getting a high enough proof out of the barrel often enough to make the higher proof Rare Breed and Single Barrel bottlings.

That’s another change: up through the early 1980s, the flagship 101 bottling was the only bourbon they made, along with the rye and the liqueur (which is now bottled as American Honey). More bottlings were added, including the 80 proof bourbon…which is now gone. “Jimmy and I didn’t even drink the 80,” Eddie said. It was 4 ½ years old, the new 81 is about 6 ½ years old (Jimmy likes to add a half year, “an extra season,” to every barrel). The 101 is 7 ½ years old, and the Rare Breed is a mingling of whiskeys between 6 and 10 years old.

IMG_20140415_151622788Which brings us to the new whiskey we got to taste: the Diamond Anniversary, a 91 proof bourbon that’s a mingling of 13 to 16 year old whiskeys. That’s pretty well-aged for Wild Turkey! It was definitely Wild Turkey — hot honey sweetness, a bit smoky, and strongly smooth — but with much more wood character — drying spiciness — than I’ve ever encountered in a Wild Turkey bottling. There’s not a lot of it, and at $125, I believe it’s the most expensive bottling they’ve ever done, but it’s like nothing else you’ve ever had from this distillery.

Did I like it? We tried it at a tasting in the distillery (there’s a small gallery right by the yeast room) along with five other whiskeys, and I not only finished the Diamond, I figured there was nothing to be lost by asking for more. Ask and ye shall receive, it turned out, and I finished that one, too!

It was a pleasure to be there to wish Jimmy the full congratulations he deserves for his long, illustrious run at Wild Turkey. He’s not slowing down, either; Eddie’s feeling the pressure to not retire before Jimmy, and he admits that may be quite a while yet. After all, it’s getting busy. That was one of the biggest changes Jimmy noted from when he started. “We were making around 60 to 70 barrels a day when I came,” he said. “We had four storage buildings, we had about 70,000 barrels in storage. Now we’re making 560 barrels a day, we have 27 warehouses, and we have over half a million barrels in storage right now.” He seems to figure, why stop now?

As Jimmy said, several times during the day, and again during his acceptance of the key to the town of Lawrenceburg and an honorary plaque from the Governor, “It’s been a blessing for me.” He honestly seems to be the luckiest kind of person, someone’s who’s enjoyed their job so much that he’s never worked a day in his life. Happy anniversary, Jimmy.

The post Happy anniversary, Jimmy Russell appeared first on Whisky Advocate.

The Peat Monster

The Peat Monster Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 46% ABV $55 to $65 Website What the Blender Says: For those who love big, rich, smoky-peaty whiskies, this is for you. Peat Monster combines smoky and peaty single malts from the island of Islay and the Isle of Mull with rich, medium-peated Speyside whisky. The result is […]

Our Top 10 - Whisky books & magazines


There has never been a better selection of books on the subject of whisky and whisky drinking.  This is due to the massive increase in popularity of the spirit and the number of people exploring the world of whisky for the first time. But much like buying a bottle of whisky, how do you choose the correct book from the plethora that now adorn the shelves of bookstores and online retailers? Below, we have picked our Top 10 current favourites ....

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Canadian Whisky : The Portable Expert


Canadian whisky is growing in popularity hugely around the world and picking up major awards.   In this book Davin de Kergommeaux, a world authority on Canadian whisky, brings to life the industry and country that he loves.  The Portable Expert tells the story of the whisky industry in Canada and breaks down some of the myths that have built up about it.

The book is split in to five sections covering each of the elements that the whiskies are made from, how they are made, how to taste and get the most out of them, the history of Canadian whisky and profiles of the nine distilleries currently in production in the country.  There are also tasting notes from 100 of the best examples of the genre. If you don't know anything about Canadian whisky, then you certainly will by the end.  We are currently reading it and it is fascinating.

Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 


This is an annual 'must have' release. Whisky writer Jim Murray has built up a worldwide following over the last ten years or so and now racks up sales of around 100,000 copies for each edition, making it the biggest selling whisky book.  Each year, Murray samples around 4,000 whiskies and the book is basically his tasting notes and comments about each one.  He also uses his own points system to score each whisky out of 100.

Murray is highly influential within the whisky industry and consumers take note of what he says and the scores given.  With each edition his 'Whisky of the Year' will see a huge spike in sales and interest to the point that it invariably sells out.  There are other features within the book, such as a round up of what is happening in the industry with Murray's often controversial take on them.  However, the wall to wall tasting notes of a vast array of whiskies could make it a little daunting for a beginner.

Malt Whisky Yearbook


This annual release from Ingvar Ronde is a 'must buy' for any whisky lover, but we think that it is particularly good for beginners.  It helped us greatly when we were starting out, and continues to do so.  The book covers most aspects of the whisky industry - what has happened in the last year, hot topics, stats and figures, good shops and websites - but it also 'gets under the skin' of the industry with interesting interviews with distillery managers, brand ambassadors and other people working with whisky.

However the best part of the book is the distillery section - this is invaluable and gives a historical timeline for each Scottish distillery, as well as a summary of what has happened or is happening there and tasting notes for their entry level whisky.  This section has been expanded greatly to now include many of the new distilleries around the globe.  Oh, and we feature in it ...

Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion


The Malt Whisky Companion series was written by influential whisky writer and commentator Michael Jackson until his death in 2007 from Parkinson's Disease.  This 6th and final edition is different as Jackson had been working on it up until he died and was completed by three of his closest contemporaries - Dominic Roskrow, Gavin D. Smith and William C. Meyers.  The book concentrates on single malts.

In terms of style, it sits somewhere between the Whisky Bible and Malt Whisky Yearbook, featuring basic information about distilleries in Scotland and beyond plus a selection of tasting notes of different expressions from each distillery.  These tasting notes total over 1,000.  It also features some background to whisky including helpful chapters on the origins of whisky, wording used on labels and the effects of age and wood on whisky.  Another excellent choice for a beginner or keen enthusiast.

Raw Spirit - In Search of the Perfect Dram 


This book is a bit different to the others.  Rather than analysing, describing or teaching about whisky it is the story of one man's search for his perfect dram of whisky.  That man is international best selling author Iain Banks, who as a native Scot and whisky lover set out on a journey around the distilleries of Scotland to discover what makes the whisky industry tick and the heritage behind the nation's famous drink.

Raw Spirit is the result and explores the background behind how Banks fell in love with whisky, before moving on to the numerous stories, encounters and great whiskies that he found on his travels around Scotland.  His tour also bring to life the landscape, transport, heritage and history that he discovers along the way.  A very entertaining read that is the perfect book to give you your 'whisky fix' when you are sitting by the pool or on the beach on holiday.

The Science & Commerce of Whisky


Another book with a difference that we have recently discovered.  Most general books about whisky tend to cover how it is made and the ingredients, but this book takes this to a significantly higher level and as a result fills a previously unfilled gap in the market.  The microscopic detail covered is fascinating and should satisfy even the most serious of whisky geeks. 

The book is written by Ian Buxton and Paul S. Hughes.  All aspects of whisky production and maturation are covered to a scientific level and this is complimented by sections on marketing, packaging, consumer trends, brand history and development.  If you need to know anymore than is offered in this book, then you should be working at a distillery ...

Whiskeria 

Whiskeria is a free quarterly magazine produced by The Whisky Shop, the UK's largest whisky retail chain.  There is simply no such quality publication produced by a retailer that we know of.  The magazine brings whisky to the masses, much like the ethos of the chain itself, and has an impressive circulation of 300,000 per edition.  Whiskeria can be found at any of the chain's 22 UK stores and selected other retailers, or be delivered to you door as part of the W Club, a members club for The Whisky Shop customers.

The magazine features a host of well known whisky writers and includes regular sections on new and forthcoming releases (including The Whisky Shop exclusives), customer favourites with tasting notes, distillery/brand profiles and store locations.  There are also facts and figures about the whisky world, plus jargon busting explanations dotted throughout.

Whisky Advocate 


The Whisky Advocate is America's leading specialist whisky magazine and has been in publication for over 20 years.  It is widely regarded by consumers, trade and press as one of the best sources anywhere for whisky information, education, new releases, industry trends, breaking news and tasting notes (this particular section is extensive and generally features at least 80+ reviews in each edition).  Articles are written by a collection of the best whisky writers from around the world.  Whisky Advocate also sponsors WhiskyFest, a combined series of whisky shows that make it the largest such event in the USA.

Whisky Magazine


The Whisky Magazine is a UK based publication produced by Paragraph Publishing.  The magazine has eight editions a year and covers all aspects of whisky and the whisky industry, written by an array of the leading authorities on the subject.  It is widely distributed and is available in bookstores, newsagents and other selected retailers worldwide.  The Whisky Magazine was the first ever publication that we purchased when our interest in whisky was starting, and remains a market leader in the specialist drinks press. Paragraph Publishing are also the organisers of the Whisky Live shows around the globe.

101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die


There seems to be lots of 'do this or that before you die' drinks books, but arguably the best is this one by whisky writer Ian Buxton.  It is the follow up to his 101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die from 2012.  That book focused mainly on Scottish whiskies with a few from elsewhere.  Here Buxton casts his eye (and taste buds) over the best examples being produced by the ever growing number of distilleries across the globe.

Now there are a great number of products that challenge the tradition whisky powerhouses of Ireland, Japan, Scotland and the USA. There are still some examples from each of these countries, but the main focus is on up and coming countries such as Australia, England, Finland, India, Sweden and Taiwan amongst others. His proviso is simple - the whiskies must be readily available in specialist or online retailers, and they must be affordable.

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Some people like Top 10s, some don't. They are always subjective and therefore potentially contentious as a result.  Everyone has differing opinions at the end of the day.  Are there any other books or magazines that you feel should be in our Top 10?  Let us know in the comments below - we look forward to hearing about them ...

The Eagle Has (Finally) Landed? Arran 17 Year Old

Here at Caskstrength, we have a distinct soft spot for the Arran distillery. 
Back in 2011, when we decided to embark on our epic journey into the A-Z of Whisk(e)y, we began with A for Arran- a particularly fine 14 year old expression in our opinion, which quickly sold out.  
The Arran itself was deliciously light in character, full of orchard fruit, caramel malt and zest. When looking at the range of Arrans available We wouldn't hesitate to recommend the 10 year old to anyone looking to experience a single malt for the very first time (a steal at around £30) and the 14 year old continues to develop the distinctly fruity softness to another degree. 
In fact, we came to associate Arran with the flavours of summer, despite there being a host of other more robust offerings including a host of sherry and wine finishes available, alongside the lighted peated Machrie Moor and the spicy, slightly spirity Devil's Punch Bowl. 
The distillery's newest offering, a 17 year old, is the oldest expression to date (continuing the countdown to next year's 18 year old, after the official release of a 16 year old last year) and marks another turning point in the its very own spirited journey.  But rather than focus on the full fat, buttery rich sweetness of first fill bourbon to give all those lovely light summery notes, this release is made up from sherry hogsheads.    
So where does it fit into the canon of current releases?
Well, the good(ish) news is that it isn't a million miles from any of the previous ones...


Arran - 17 Year Old -  46% - RRP £65
Nose: Undeniably sweet from the get go, with a clean malty cereal note, tangy orange zest, a hint of golden syrup, some hazelnuts and a little liquorice. It isn't the most complex 17 year old you're likely to encounter and shares a lot of the hallmarks with the distillery's younger expressions.  
Palate: Slightly sharp initially, but with a return of the orange zest, a little spiced sugar syrup, more chopped nuts, fragrant marzipan and green apple. Given time, the orchard fruits we have come to expect develop with soft white peaches and pears coming to the fore. Again, it isn't the boldest palate you'll encounter, but it is certainly in-keeping with the Arran we have grown to love.
Finish: Slightly short, with lingering chopped hazelnuts and a touch of liquorice.  
Overall: Anyone hanging on for Arran's ascent into the realms of deep, dark complexity will be sorely disappointed. But in our opinion, that is unlikely to happen any time soon. The distillery has set its stall out as a characteristically light, easy drinking whisky and, wait for it... they have easily achieved this again with the 17 year old. For the price, you are getting a very dependable and well made whisky (given the cost of the numerous No Age Statement whiskies out there).  It may lack the bold touches other distilleries achieve at this age but with spring definitely joyfully bounding around like a puppy full of penny sweets, whiskies like this most certainly come into their own.  

The Collingwood 21 Year Old Rye Canadian Whisky (100 ml bootlegger's hip flask--or hipster's boot flask)

Tasting notes:
      The Collingwood 21-year old Rye Canadian Whisky nose opens like a varnished hen begging for a cocktail. Like varmints who vanish falling into a giant downy, grassy duvet on a waterbed stuffed with rose and tulip leaves, engulfed and degaussed. [John: Bill, "degaussing" means "demagnetizing."] And that's what I meant, John. Figure it out. Anyways, lots of flowers, almost too many to identify, like walking into a Beverly Hills flower shop, kind of a giant magnitude vector that can't be multiplied by a scalar, if you know what I mean. [Stephen: No, Bill, we don't.]
     On the mouth, it's like tundra: no wood, which while not odd for tundra, is odd for a 21 year old dram. There's a little tar, like crackerjack candy made with rendered clove cigarettes instead of caramel. And, if instead of pop-corn, it was pop-alfalfa. And, if instead of candy, it was the fluid used to cryogenically store the heads of Ted Williams and his son.
     The finish is the world's best fruitcake, a lively vivacious precocious 21 year-old held back by helicopter parents. It's a gentle burn, like a Canadian tourist thinking of a way to insult a Park Slope scruff-chinned artisanal shoelace-maker. Penuche fudge—a favorite—and Marge Simpson spilling a bottle of Tabasco® in Mel's Diner, and no one is sure if it was an accident or intentional.
  

Rating:--On the scale of pormanteaus-constructed-on-the-spot--
The Collingwood 21-year old Rye Canadian Whisky is Joan Collins having a cameo in "Deadwood"--A Collingwood! [John: That'd be a Collinswood, not a Collingwood.] Fine! Then cross Joan Collins with a calling card and Woody from Toy Story—and don't you dare tell me that that would be a Collingwoody, even if that's what this delightful dram yields at the Viagara Falls.    
    
    

   
      
    

   
                                                                      --Bill
    
    
     
      
      
     
  
--Our thanks to Andrea Duvall, Elizabeth Bingham, and Brown-Forman for the sample.

Mandatory Reading

Scotch Whisky: Its Past and Present, David Daiches (1969)
Much that was around in 1969 still feels contemporary today: the music can be heard everywhere, everyday; the fashion has come, gone and come again; the ideals, ever resilient, continue to be subjected to relentless pressures but have never been defeated in over four decades. The whisky world, however, was a very different place.
In 1969 there were 14 grain distilleries and 108 malt distilleries. Were I to boast of a lovely Ben Nevis or Lochside I had last night, you would have been right to ask, “malt or grain?” Port Ellen, Rosebank, and Hillside were all in production. Only a handful of malt whiskies could be found outside of Scotland. Thirty Speyside malts used the suffix –Glenlivet when their spirit was bottled, including Balvenie-Glenlivet. Scotch whisky, mostly blended but also malt, was just beginning a decade of unprecedented growth before a dramatic crash. Today, well… perhaps little has changed (call me in ten years!) David Daiches was born in Sunderland but grew up in Edinburgh where his family moved when he was young. He studied at the University of Edinburgh and then Oxford. He published his first work examing “place and meaning” in poetry before WWII broke out at which point he began producing pamphlets and writing speeches for the British Embassy in Washington, DC. He continued to publish prolifically and taught at ten universities in the UK, US and Canada (shout out to McMaster!), founded the English department at the University of Sussex, and chaired the judges of the Booker prize. Apparently, he somehow found time to fish.  His 29th published book, and first on the topic, Scotch Whisky: Its Past and Present does not read like a technical study of the whisky industry nor a critique or evaluation of its histories, errors and victories. He even introduces it with the disclaimer, “This book does not claim to be a complete and authoritative account of all aspects of Scotch whisky.” And while Daiches’ can be observed wearing his academic hat as objective researcher throughout, ­Scotch Whisky is a love-letter to whisky: facts delivered without judgement or cynicism, undue favour or anti-industrial bias that thoroughly soaks and weighs down so many contemporary works on the subject. This illuminates a final major difference between 1969 and today. Today writing has been democratised in such a way that one needn’t be a white (Jewish) male from the academy to publish 160 pages on whisky. Travel journalists can do it. Bartenders can do it. Bloggers can do it. You can do it. I can do it. But what would we make? And would it come close to capturing the sheer magnitude of its subject with any lasting value? Daiches’ work remains profoundly relevant. It is still an insightful and invaluable resource in the documented social and cultural histories of Scotch whisky. And if 2,796 Whiskies to Try Before You Die is in it’s 11th impression in 40 years then I will happily stick my slipper in my slurper.Originally posted HERE

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.