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Distillery tour of Scotland (May 2018)

Invention

Gunpowder Proof - The Explosive Origin of the Alcohol Proof System

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Gunpowder Proof - The Explosive Origin of the Alcohol Proof System

Have you ever wondered where the term ‘alcohol proof’ came from or what ‘100 proof’ means or why 100 proof in the UK is different to 100 proof in the US? Well, wonder no more.

The term ‘alcohol proof’ was first coined in 16th century England and refers to a test to demonstrate the potency of an alcoholic spirit. Historical accounts of the test vary and it quite possibly could have been conducted using a number of methods, all with similar base principles. That said, there are many false truths regarding the origin and intent of this test in circulation and it took some investigating to separate myth and legend from credible facts.

Know your alcohol

An alcoholic spirit at its most basic is a solution, a mixture primarily of alcohol (ethanol) and water. Alcohol is more volatile than water and alcohol vapour will ignite if exposed to a naked flame. Water will not, so as you increase the ratio of water to alcohol in a spirit, it will eventually reach a point where the spirit will no longer produce enough flammable vapour to ignite.

So, if you want to test the potency of an alcoholic spirit, why not simply try to set it alight? Good question.

Most people will tell you the alcohol proof test was conducted by mixing a small amount of the spirit to be tested, with a quantity of gunpowder before attempting to set it alight; but why use gunpowder at all?

Keep your powder dry

The term ‘keeping your powder dry’ reputedly originated in an account of Oliver Cromwell during his Irish campaign in the mid-17th century, in which he instructed his troops to ‘put your trust in God; but mind to keep your powder dry’. However, the term was no doubt in common use far earlier by soldiers and sailors employing gunpowder-based weapons from at least the 12th century.

Gunpowder, or black powder, burns quickly when ignited and is a mix of 15% charcoal (fuel for the combustion reaction), 75% potassium nitrate (a source of oxygen for the reaction) and 10% sulphur (which lowers the reaction’s ignition temperature and acts as a fuel). The ingredients of gunpowder must be combined in a way to produce the physical conditions to facilitate combustion i.e. thoroughly mixed and ground together to the required consistency. This is important because if the mixture is disrupted, the gunpowder will not combust as desired or even ignite at all.

Gunpowder is hygroscopic, meaning it tends to absorb water and when damp will not ignite. The reason for this is the main ingredient of gunpowder, potassium nitrate, is soluble in water. Put simply, this means that if exposed to enough water, the potassium nitrate in gunpowder will dissolve, removing it from its delicate arrangement with the carbon and sulphur, making the gunpowder harder or impossible to ignite.

Some commentators claim that high strength spirts were required for naval operations due to their storage in close proximity to the ships gunpowder supplies.

The high alcohol or overproof strength would ensure that if the rum or gin splashed on or mixed with the gunpowder, the powder would still work. This suggestion is complete nonsense.

Gunpowder and ammunition was stored on board ships in the ship’s magazine, much like explosive ordnance still is on today’s warships. Any other hazardous materials are segregated from the magazine to minimise the chance of accidents or catastrophic events. All attempts were made to keep gunpowder dry on a ship, ensuring it was only exposed to the elements immediately prior to use. In fact great care was taken to protect the magazine from enemy fire, vermin and stray sparks or embers. It is ludicrous to suggest that a sailor’s grog had to be kept at high strength just in case it spilt on the gunpowder it was supposedly stored with.

Liquid currency

I have read many accounts of the origin of alcohol proof, complete with some rather tenuous reasons why things occurred. What was the purpose of this test in the first place?
In the British Empire, distilled spirits, often rum, was used as a form of currency where traditional notes and coins were in short supply. If you were a sailor being paid in rum, you would want to know your payment was to a certain standard and not watered down would you not? If that was the case, then I can understand why a test was developed.

Additionally, if this was the initial purpose of the test it may explain why gunpowder was used rather than just setting the spirt alight? Theatrics. It is a far more satisfying conclusion for a sample to burst into flame and smoke with a bang, rather than to burn silently with a barely visible flame. Perhaps quite a show was made of proving the strength of the rum ration? Or perhaps the test was just a means to part young and impressionable powder monkeys from their rum ration, rather than something conducted routinely on the ship?

The alcohol proof test is commonly agreed to have consisted of mixing an alcoholic spirit with gunpowder and then attempting to ignite it.

If the water content of the spirit was too high, the gunpowder would be left too damp to combust, once the alcohol fumes had burnt off. This was not the most scientific of tests since external factors such as temperature, the ratio of gunpowder to liquid or the time waited after soaking before igniting would affect the results. But if the intent of the test was to make a show, science had little to do with it.


At the end of the 17th century, the British Empire regulated distilling, simultaneously encouraging the distillation of alcohol and imposing a tax on it. 


Navy Strength

This relationship between gunpowder and rum probably explains why gunpowder became an intrinsic part of the alcohol proof test, at least within the British Navy. It would also make a convincing story of where the term ‘Navy proof’ comes from when describing a particularly potent alcoholic spirit. Unfortunately, that is also a fallacy. The term ‘Navy proof’ was first used in the early nineties - nineteen nineties - by an astute advertising department for a popular gin brand.

The tax man cometh

At the end of the 17th century, the British Empire regulated distilling, simultaneously encouraging the distillation of alcohol and imposing a tax on it. The tax was introduced as a way of controlling the production and sale of alcohol, curbing over intoxication, drunken behaviour and crime and last but not least, raising government revenue. Alcohol content was of little concern to the tax man at first, with gin being taxed at a lower rate than strong beer, until the introduction of the disastrous Gin Act 1736 and the more successful Gin Act 1751.

Some suggestions have been made that the alcohol proof test was used for tax collection purposes prior to the 17th century.

I could not find any evidence to support such claims. Although it does present a nice setup and believable reason why the test was invented; who doesn’t want to believe it was concocted by the government of the day so that they could tax the working man at a higher rate? Although it is believed the alcohol proof test originated in the 16th century, it is likely the practice became more common after regulated alcohol taxation was introduced and prior to more scientific means to test alcohol content were developed.

100 Proof

The alcohol proof test was used to determine if the alcohol contained within the tested spirt was above a certain concentration, rather than to gage the exact strength of the spirit. The numeral 100 in the term ‘100 proof’ appears to be an arbitrary figure used to denote the transition point between being under or overproof and was used for no other reason than as an easy way to communicate a greater or lesser alcoholic strength from the standard.

The scientific method

In the UK, the proof system for testing alcohol content was eventually replaced by measuring specific gravity, with a standard being agreed upon in 1816. By comparing the density of an alcoholic spirit with that of distilled water at the same pressure and temperature, is possible to accurately measure a spirit’s alcohol content. A spirit at 100 proof was measured to be approximately 57.1% alcohol by volume or ABV.

In 1824 the French chemist, Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac proposed a sensible proof scale based on ABV, where pure water was considered ‘0 proof’ and pure alcohol or 100% ABV was considered ‘100 proof’.

That’s not how we do things in America

In 1848 the United States of America introduced its own alcohol proof system where 100 proof was defined as 50% ABV. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps because larger numbers are more attractive to consumers, so marketing something as 80 proof (40% ABV by the US scale) is more desirable than the same product labelled as 40 proof?

So there you have it, the explosive origin of the alcohol proof system.


Did you learn something from this article or do you think I’m wrong? Please let me know in the comments and I will produce more content like it in the future.
- Whisky Dad

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The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask Impressions

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The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask Impressions


What is it?

Distillery: The Macallan
Name: 12 Year Old Double Cask
Make: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Extra Info: The Macallan are very particular about the casks they select to age their whisky in, believing the cask wood to be responsible for imparting two-thirds of the whisky’s final aromas and flavours. Fast growing American Oak, from Ohio and Missouri, is selected for its dense tight grain structure which imparts lighter flavours of vanilla and fresh fruits to the spirit. Slower growing European Oak, from the northwest of Spain, is selected for its porous grain structure, imparting more tannins and richer flavours of dried fruits and spices.

Why did I buy it?

I didn’t. This bottle was a gift after attending the Sydney Toast The Macallan event in June last year. The event celebrated whisky from The Macallan, but in particular the launch of The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask onto the Australian Market. Sietse OffringaThe Macallan Brand Ambassador and now Head of Education at Edrington,  hosted the event on the night; that's his signature on the bottle. The 12 Year Old Double Cask is matured in a combination of European and American Oak ex-Sherry casks.

What did I think of it?

Presentation: Classic Macallan packaging, clean and premium looking.

Appearance: Naturally bright gold in colour and chill filtered for clarity. Bottled at 40% ABV which is the minimum for a whisky.

Aroma: Yeasty, bread dough, sweet vanilla cream and a hint of further sweetness like munching on milk chocolate coated sultanas.

Flavour: Velvety mouthfeel, smooth and light, orange rind but not too bitter, some hot spices prickle the palate towards the finish.

Finish: Medium length, dry, malty aftertaste lasts but spice fades quickly.

Would I buy it again?

Yes, some whisky from The Macallan can be rather expensive, primarily because of their rarity, but the 12 Year Old Double Cask is reasonably priced and commonly available. The Double Cask is lighter than a typical ex-sherry cask matured whisky but I quite enjoyed it.


Disclaimer: I do not claim to have the nose and palate of a Master Sommelier, however, I am working to train my senses to better identify whisky aromas and flavours. Consider all my whisky 'Impressions' to be a work in progress and I hope to come back to each of them in the future to see if I notice anything different. Most importantly, I'm not just throwing around random aromas, flavours and adjectives for the hell of it; I am trying really hard to critically describe each whisky I taste - WhiskyDad.
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Book Review: Whisky by Aeneas MacDonald

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Book Review: Whisky by Aeneas MacDonald

Prominently displayed on the most recent reissue cover of Whisky, by Aeneas MacDonald, sits a quote from renowned whisky expert Dave Broom, which reads:

The finest whisky book ever 

That’s quite a bold statement to make but much like the mysterious Aeneas Macdonald himself, it should be considered in context. Whisky, is an odd book; in fact, the original published in 1930 was one of the first books written on the subject, quite surprising considering whisky has been around for much longer than that. The best feature of this 2016 edition is the addition of commentary and annotations by Ian Buxton. I enjoyed Ian’s analysis and what it brings to MacDonald’s book and am glad I bought an annotated edition rather than an unadulterated version, but let me explain why.

Will The Real Aeneas MacDonald Please Stand Up?

Aeneas MacDonald was a pen name, for George Malcolm Thomson, born in 1899 and founder of the Porpoise Press – original publisher Whisky. MacDonald (used from this point on for simplicity) made a conscious decision to keep his real name out of the pages of his book, part of which was to avoid accusations of hubris for self-publishing his own work; something that has less of a stigma these days.

Whisky, is not the kind of book you would find published on the subject today.

It is light on facts and well-research material but rather, is filled with strong opinions that set the conditions for whisky snobbery for decades to come. I recognised many of MacDonald’s sentiments shared by my own father, passed down to him by his father. For example, broad reaching opinions like the superiority of Highland whisky and inferiority of Lowlands whisky in comparison. MacDonald was no whisky expert, although he was clearly a fan and a staunchly patriotic Scott. In writing his book, Macdonald would have drawn on earlier trade publications, his own opinion seemingly formed primarily from those of his old Edinburgh University professor and a splash of myth and legend.

What makes Whisky stand out from other whisky books is its differences, as explained in the Forward by Ian Buxton:

Too many of today’s whisky books are little more than lists: handsomely produced, well illustrated and comprehensive to a fault but with the soul of a draper’s catalogue. Others might be mistaken for material straight from the distiller’s own well-funded publicity machine, and a third category distributes marks out of a hundred to Glen This, Glen That and Glen The Other with mechanical certainty of a drab provincial accountant. 

Despite its faults, of which there are many, you should be able to appreciate why Broom considers Whisky by Aeneas MacDonald to be such a fine book on the subject.

But What of The Book Itself?

While some of MacDonald’s book may be grossly outdated or simply incorrect, some of it is still true today and at times even contemporary in attitude, such as his views on distillery transparency. MacDonald shares his views on what separates whisky from other alcoholic drinks such as wine, expressing his disdain for ‘the drinkers-to-get-drunk’ who imbibe whisky not for pleasure but ‘simply in order to obtain a certain physical effect.’ MacDonald laments the status of whisky at the time as merely a potent spirit rather than a complex and prestigious drink to be appreciated by connoisseurs and offers readers this delightful definition:

Whisky is a re-incarnation; it is made by a sublimation of coarse and heavy barely malt; the spirit leaves that earthly body, disappears, and by lovely metempsychosis returns to the world in the form of a liquid exquisitely pure and impersonal. 

MacDonald touches on the history and production of whisky in his early chapters making a few generalisations that are simply untrue today, such as a distinguishing factor of Highland whisky being a ‘smokiness’ from the malt being dried in peat-fired kilns; or simply incorrect such as his confident proclamation that the cask the whisky is matured in imparts no additional qualities to the whisky other than colour. Peated whisky is more commonly attributed to the Islands region of Scotland these days, but there are always exceptions and cask maturation does have a significant effect on the flavour and aroma of whisky.

Of interest to me was the short section on Campbeltown at the time of MacDonald writing in 1930. Campbeltown is my favourite Scotch whisky-producing region, although it only contains three active whisky distilleries today. In 1930 there were 122 distilleries in Scotland (there are around 100 now) of which ten operated in Campbeltown, including my namesake Kinloch Distillery. MacDonald describes Campbeltown whiskies as:

…the double bases of the whisky orchestra. They are potent, full-bodied, pungent whiskies, with a flavour that is not to the liking of everyone. 

At the time of writing his book, Campbeltown whisky was in the midst of crisis with most of the local distilleries closing in the 1920s and ‘30s in a geographically small region once home to 28 whisky producing distilleries.

The final chapter in MacDonald’s relatively short book is titled ‘Judging, Purchase, and Care’ and most of the information contained within maintains its relevance to this day.

Whisky by Aeneas MacDonald is a time capsule in Scotch whisky appreciation. Part poetry, part prejudice and very Scottish. The book’s charm is in the differences that distinguish it from modern books on the subject, but it does benefit from the moderation of Ian Buxton, who brings a layer of facts and informed interpretation to many of MacDonald’s more controversial claims.

Recommended, but approach Whisky by Aeneas MacDonald as more of a delightful curio, rather than a modern whisky reference.



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Whisky Dad #Blogifesto 2018

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Whisky Dad #Blogifesto 2018


I started WhiskyDad.net in October 2016 as a hobby and it has proven to be an enjoyable and rewarding endeavour. I love whisky and I love writing, so creating my own whisky blog has been a great way to combine my two loves. The blog legitimises my whisky drinking and allows me to express my creative side without becoming unmanageable. It has had the added bonus of increasing my knowledge about whisky and introducing me to some wonderful people within the local industry and bloggers who share my interests from all over the world. Now in my second year, the time has come to get serious and take Whisky Dad to the next level.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported me so far and make a declaration for the future, my Blogifesto.

Produce more worthwhile content

Life gets in the way sometimes and I haven’t been able to write as much as I would have liked. I have however stuck with it and I think my momentum in increasing rather than decreasing. There is plenty more to come from Whisky Dad. I promise to maintain or improve the quality of the content I produce but please keep me honest and tell me if I start sounding like a wanker.

Build on my recent rebranding by launching a new custom-designed website

I began blogging using the Blogger platform and while it provided an easy to learn interface to get me started, I quickly became frustrated by its limitations and unhappy with performance on mobile devices. Blogger will never live up to my vision for Whisky Dad so the time is right to leave it behind and free up my energy for writing rather than fighting with formatting for each and every post. Expect to see a new website soon, developed with the help of Molten Studios, the same team who produced my awesome Whisky Dad logo.

Continue to grow my social media network

I never understood social media until I began my blog. My followers have grown steadily and organically since I began blogging and I want to keep it that way. You won’t see me buying followers or likes and I would much prefer a smaller audience that contributes to conversations about whisky rather than thousands of faceless spam-account followers. I want to make finding and following Whisky Dad content easier in the future without ever becoming intrusive or annoying. Help keep me honest.

Improve my photography

I’ve gotten by with my mobile phone camera up until now, but I will be taking my photography to the next level soon with a camera upgrade and spending more time improving my core photography skills. I want my photography to enhance and showcase my written content and contribute to the professional look of the blog.

Scotland 2018

Scotland is going to be more than just a fantastic holiday, it is going to be a treasure trove of blog content and a chance for me to connect in-person with some of the great people I have met online through a mutual love of whisky. My dad has so many stories, so I hope the trip back to the UK will trigger some of those memories and I can record as much as possible. I also hope to meet many new friends and build a new network of contacts outside of Australia.

Make money from writing

I have written for free in the past, but I won’t be doing that anymore. Writers or any content producer must appreciate the value of their work. It takes time and effort to write about anything, not to mention the education and experience that has given me the ability to do so in the first place. My mid-term goal for Whisky Dad is to write a book (or books) about whisky. I don’t expect this to happen overnight and I will have to find original topics worth reading about to avoid writing just another book about whisky. My blog journey has given me a few ideas, but it has also given me an opportunity to write professionally for whisky-related businesses on a smaller scale. Expect to see my words appearing outside of whiskydad.net more frequently soon; I have to pay for my whisky habit somehow.

I hope you choose to follow me on my journey in the new year and you enjoy the content that I produce.

Sláinte.

Shane Kinloch
Whisky Dad
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Longrow Red 13 Year Old Malbec Cask Impressions

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Longrow Red 13 Year Old Malbec Cask Impressions


What is it?

Distillery: Longrow
Name: Red, Malbec Cask Matured, Aged 13 Years
Make: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Extra Info: Malbec (sometimes called Côt and Auxxerois) is a purple grape variety used in making red wine and is grown predominantly in Argentina. Malbec is known for its blackberry, plum and black cherry flavours and a sweet tobacco finish – a perfect match for a peated whisky perhaps?

Why did I buy it?

I have been chasing a Longrow Red for a long time and snapped up this expression when it became available locally. Longrow Red is a limited release from Longrow and each batch uses casks seasoned with different red wine varieties. For this batch the spirit was aged for 12 years in ex-bourbon barrels before being finished for 15 months in fresh Malbec casks sourced from Stellenbosch in South Africa. This particular batch is limited to 9,000 bottles worldwide and Longrow Red expressions are usually only available in very limited quantities outside of European markets.

What did I think of it?

Presentation: Keeps with the current Longrow white labelling with the use of red helping to denote this as a Longrow Red expression.

Appearance: Dark orange in the glass, amber in the bottle. Naturally coloured and turned cloudy in the glass for me; a product of being non-chill filtered, not a fault. Bottled at 51.3% ABV.

Aroma: Clear tobacco notes with a restrained, not overpowering smokiness. A little fizz in the nostrils, red orchard stone fruits and rasins soaked in alcohol. 

Flavour: A delicious full mouthfeel, sweet fruits at first with building spice as the liquid warms in the mouth. A slight bitterness like coffee beans, balancing the initial sweetness before the prickly spice takes over.

Finish: Long powerful finish, dark chocolate aftertaste, the slightest tingle left on the tongue with a mild warming in the chest and a lasting smoky kiss.

Would I buy it again?

My chances of finding this particular expression again are slim, but I would definitely buy other Longrow Red expressions when available. Use of ex-wine casks is quickly becoming a signature of the Australian whisky industry and Longrow Red is a great example of what the Scots can achieve matching ex-red wine casks with a peaty Campbeltown spirit.



Disclaimer: I do not claim to have the nose and palate of a Master Sommelier, however, I am working to train my senses to better identify whisky aromas and flavours. Consider all my whisky 'Impressions' to be a work in progress and I hope to come back to each of them in the future to see if I notice anything different. Most importantly, I'm not just throwing around random aromas, flavours and adjectives for the hell of it; I am trying really hard to critically describe each whisky I taste - WhiskyDad.
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Whisky Dad (and Dad) Vist Scotland 2018 - Planning Update

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Whisky Dad (and Dad) Vist Scotland 2018 - Planning Update


It has been a little while since I shared my travel plans for the big trip to Scotland next year and I have had a chance to incorporate many of the great suggestions I received last time. So here’s where it's at, as of now.

Flights are booked

My dad and I will fly into Manchester Airport around midday on the 21st of May 2018 and depart Manchester on our way back to Australia on the evening of the 18th of June. We will be hiring a car for the whole trip to get around in.

To Scotland (21st May)

My dad and I will visit my uncle Harry briefly on our way to Scotland but our first overnight stop will be at Mossend, near Glasgow. Leaving bright and early in the morning, we will visit a few sites of significance from my Dad’s childhood and end up at Campbeltown in the afternoon.

Campbeltown Malts Festival (22-25th May)

The first firm dates of our trip are spending 22-25th of May in Campbeltown for the Malts Festival. This will include the Kintyre Gin Open Day at the Beinn an Tuirc Distillery and the Glen Scotia Dinner on day one; Glen Scotia Distillery Open Day and Springbank Dinner on day two; Springbank Distillery Open Day on day three and Kilkerran and Wm Cadenhead’s Open Day and the festival closing dinner at the Campbeltown Town Hall on the final day.

That’s quite a busy few days in Campbeltown and I’m expecting a few issues with jet lag during this period. But my time in Campbeltown doesn’t end there for me since I will be completing the Springbank Whisky School the following week.

Highland Games, Stirling Castle & Loch Lomond (26-27th May)

Most whisky loving tourists will be heading to Fes Isle on Islay from this weekend, but my dad and I will head the other way. The plan is to start early and drive to Blackford for their local Highland Games (where I hope to participate, if I can) before heading back to and overnighting at Drymen near Loch Lomond via Stirling Castle. The following day I will partake in the Glengoyne Distillery 5-hour Master Class while Dad explores Loch Lomond and then we will drop into Loch Lomond Distillery on the way back to Campbeltown.

Springbank Whisky School (28th May – 1st June)

This will be the week I’ve been waiting for. In fact, I would have waited for over two years by this stage. Springbank is both my favourite distillery and the only Scottish distillery to conduct 100% of their whisky production at one site. That makes Springbank the ideal location to undertake an intensive whisky school. Over the five days, students gain hands-on experience in every aspect of whisky making from floor malting to bottling. I cannot wait!

My dad on the other hand, will be taking the car and going to play golf for a few days…It’s his holiday too.

Islay (2-5th June)

No whisky lover’s trip to Scotland is complete without visiting Islay. My dad and I will meet back up again at the conclusion of the Springbank Whisky School and then we will be off to catch the ferry to Islay. The locals will no doubt be recovering from another successful Fes Isle which is a shame to miss, but at least we will be able to find accommodation for the next four days. We plan to take in the big eight, Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain, Kilchoman, Bruichladdich, Bowmore (Craftsman Tour), Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg Distilleries with some island exploration in between. I’m planning a visit to Kildalton Cross and a short island hop to Isle of Jura.

Heading North (5-6th June)

Next, we will be leaving Islay and travelling north to Oban for the night. From Oban we will continue north for a rest at Fiddler's Loch Ness in Drumnadrochit. The next day we will continue further into the Highlands for a short but sweet detour on the way to Speyside.

The Highlands (7-8th June)

Highland distilleries to visit include Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Balblair and Clynelish. Unfortunately, we probably won’t make it any further north this time but will make it a priority to visit the Orkney Isles (and the Isles of Mull and Skye) on my next trip to Scotland whenever that may be.

Speyside (9-13th June)

The next five days will be busy indeed but luckily the amount of ground to cover is short since so many distilleries are in close proximity to each other, mostly along the Spey river. There are some hard choices to make here on where we do and don’t get to visit but my plan includes the following: 

Tomatin, Ballindalloch, Glenfarclas, Cardhu, Tamdhu, Knockando, Aberlour, The Macallan, Speyside Cooperage, Genfiddich, Glenrothes, Forsyths Stills, Glen Grant, Glen Moray, Strathisla, Knockdhu and The GlenDronach for the Connoisseurs' Experience.

Heading South (14th June)

At this stage the trip will coming to an end and I have no doubt Dad and I will be feeling tired. We plan a leisurely scenic drive south through the Cairngorms National Park along A93 from Aboyne to Pitlochry.

Edinburgh (15-16th June)

We hope make it to Edinburgh by the 15th, home to the Scotch Whisky Experience and plan to catch up with The Tasmanian Whisky Academy who will be in the area but more on that later.

Northern England (17th June)

I made a promise to visit Abbie and Chris at Cooper King Distillery in Yorkshire and say G’day to their Tasmanian-sourced copper still, so that will be a stop on the way to Corby. The last stop on our trip is Corby, Northamptonshire, (recently voted the unhappiest place to live in Britain) where my Dad spent part of his youth. We will visit a few places for some final family story moments, then prepare for our departure back home to Australia.

Back Home (18th June)

Out last drive will take us through the fabled Sherwood Forrest to check out Robin Wood Craft and hopfully pick up an authentic handmade wooden quaich on the way to Manchester. Time to return the hire car and for the terribly long plane trip home and trying to pass though Australian Customs without paying an arm and a leg for all the whisky I’ve no doubt bough over the last month. It should be a crackin’ trip.

Still a Work in Progress

So that’s the current plan, but that’s not to say that some things may change between now and then or could quite possible change while we are in Scotland. Some of the trip is locked in, like our time in Campbeltown (which is almost half the trip) but this particular visit revolves around Springbank (my favourite distillery) and the Springbank Whisky School. If I wasn’t attending the school, I would be doing things differently. I acknowledge we won’t get to see everything or visit every place, but it’s impossible to do so. I decided early on, to only visit the Scottish mainland and Islay this time. The last thing I want is for this trip to feel more like work than a holiday.
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Canberra's Local Spirit Tour

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Canberra's Local Spirit Tour

I began 2017 by moving from easily the most distillery dense state in Australia, Tasmania, to easily the most public servant dense, the Australian Capital Territory. Canberra and the ACT in general is highly regarded for wine production with some of Australia’s best wineries are located nearby, but what about distilled spirits? I enlisted the help of local entrepreneur and founder of Local Spirit tours, Ben Osborne to take me and my friends on one of his Luxury Distillery Tours.

We met at Grease Monkey, not a distillery, but a great place to grab a tasty burger on the north side of Canberra. From there, bellies appropriately primed with food, we climbed into Ben’s van and travelled to Plonk, a highly regarded bottle shop at the Fyshwick Fresh Food Market.

Our tour took us here to meet Tim Reardon, owner/operator of The Canberra Distillery who just so happened to be conducting a tasting that day. On offer from The Canberra Distillery included their Classic and Winter Gins, Canberra Fog, Coffee Liquor, Blood Orange Gin, Negroni and Limoncello. The Classic Gin as the name suggests is a classic London Dry style vapour-infused gin with a commonly Australian citrus bias, whereas the Winter Gin is more of a robust local creation with a familiar juniper nose but with strong refreshing notes of basil and a spicy cinnamon finish – perfect for a cold Canberra winter.

Keeping with the cold Canberra theme was the Canberra Fog (notorious to anyone who has tried to catch an early morning flight into or out of Canberra in the winter) which is an aniseed-based liquor made from distilled Murrumbateman Shiraz. If you enjoy the flavour of the Greek classic, Ouzo, you will likely enjoy this creation which tastes like liquid black jellybeans. The Blood Orange Gin tastes as is suggested by the label, drawing on the local provenance of small growers and produces. The Negroni is a pre-mixed cocktail of gin, vermouth and bitters, barrel-aged in heavily charred ex-red wine casks from the local Canberra region. The Coffee Liqueur would be perfect for an Espresso Martini or a boozy coffee, but I found it to be very sweet for my tastes; nothing some extra vodka couldn’t fix. Finally, the Limoncello cleansed the palate with a refreshing, yet still very sweet, lemon infused spirit.

As you can see, the Canberra Distillery produce a large range of spirits and liquors that draw from or directly showcase local ingredients. I am very keen to sample some of the other products Tim has planned for the near future.

Underground Spirits Head Distiller, Ross McQuinn

Next stop was Underground Spirits in Kambah where we were greeted by Head Distiller, Ross McQuinn. Underground Spirits’ point of difference is the use of a patented sub-zero, sub-micron filtration system adapted from technology used to filter impurities from blood. When producing their products, Underground Spirits begin by filtering neutral spirit with common carbon micron filtration followed by their own patented method. When testing their sub-zero, sub-micron filtration system, they confused the Australian National University test equipment by producing a spirit of higher purity than the pure control sample! There is no doubting that Underground Spirits make their products using the purest neutral spirit available.

Underground Spirits produce a traditionally juniper-forward barrel-aged gin using a triple infusion method of maceration, vapour infusion and botanical tinctures. They also produce a range of flavoured vodka including a vanilla, caramel and hazelnut version. Now I’m not a flavoured vodka kind-of-guy, but I actually purchased a bottle of the hazelnut variety which smelt and tasted too good to pass up; I can see it making its way into a variety of boozy deserts. Underground Spirits are currently experimenting with options to produce whisky in the future and I will be following their progress closely.

Baldwin Whiskey Company's Premix Whiskey & Cola and Premium Whiskey

Last distillery visit of the day was to Baldwin Distilling Company in Mitchell, who produce a spirit with a bourbon-style 51% corn mash bill and age it in medium-toasted, heavily-charred virgin American oak barrels. Baldwin have positioned themselves to capitalise on premium whisky (or whiskey with an ‘e’ to reflect their bourbon-style) market, rather than the small batch single malt route that most Australian craft distilleries follow. This puts Baldwin in direct competition to some of the biggest names on the mass produced whisky market and as such they have produced their own premix premium whiskey & cola ustilising their own in-house cola which has approximately one-fifth the sugar as Coca-Cola.

Baldwin owner/operator Anthony Baldwin and I share the opinion that you should be free to drink your whisky however you damn please without suffering the criticism of whisky snobs. I personally do not drink whisky with sweet mixers, but I quite liked the taste of the Baldwin premixed whisky & cola and I strongly encourage you to give it a try if bourbon & cola premixes are your thing. In my opinion, it tastes infinitely better than Jim Beam & Coke premix and supports a local Australian business rather than a massive multi-national.

I had the opportunity to sample the Baldwin ‘Premium Whiskey’ on its own, which is also sold by the bottle and to be honest it was a little too rough to drink neat. It seemed to have gained little from its time in the cask and I suspect it would benefit from aging longer or even aging in a different location with more atmospheric and temperature variations to force the spirit in and out of the cask wood. To be fair, it is intended to be drunk with a mixer and I would definitely recommend this approach with the current entry-level Baldwin premium whiskey.

Next in the range is the unfortunately named ‘Caramel Whiskey’ which from the name you no doubt assumed is a flavoured whisky. This is not the case as it is made using ‘Caramalt’ malt, rather than having any flavouring added. Caramalt is a variety of malted barley with a slight toffee flavour and the resultant whisky, in Baldwin’s case, is an improvement over their base whiskey. Next in the range is a US 100 Proof (50% ABV) Rye whiskey. This was my favourite Baldwin whiskey and one that I am quite happy to drink neat. Go here, for my detailed thoughts. In addition to their whiskies, Baldwin also produce a variety of US-style Moonshine including, unflavoured, Apple Pie, Honey and Peach.

After leaving Baldwin Distilling Company, we finished the day at the White Rabbit bar in central Canberra where we eventually bid farewell to our host Ben and went on our merry ways with a new knowledge and appreciation of the local Canberra distilling scene. I really should have explored my new local distilling scene sooner, but it’s good to know that people like Ben exist who can guide you around not only the local distilleries but breweries and wineries as well.

If you live locally or are visiting the Canberra region, go to www.localspirit.com.au/ for details of what alcohol-centric tours are available.
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Baldwin Premium Rye Whiskey Impressions

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Baldwin Premium Rye Whiskey Impressions

What is it?

Distillery: Baldwin Distilling Company
Name: Premium Rye Whiskey
Make: Australian Rye Whiskey
Extra Info: Baldwin Distilling Company is based in Mitchell, ACT and produces a range of US bourbon-style 51% corn mashbill 'premium whiskey' and moonshine including a premix whisky & cola using their own in-house cola. Baldwin spirits are produced in a single distilling run using a column still. 


Why did I buy it?

This bottle was given to me as a gift but it was my pick of the Baldwin Distilling Company range. I am quite partial to Rye whisky and while it may taste quite different to malt whisky or bourbon at first it's the differences that make it worth trying to improve your own whisky knowledge and appreciation.

What did I think of it?

Presentation: I personally love the Baldwin Distilling Company logo, it looks fantastic printed directly onto the 700ml short and stubby bottle. The Baldwin Rye is bottled at US 100 Proof or 50% ABV.

Appearance: Naturally amber gold in colour and chill filtered for clarity.

Aroma: Takes a little work to isolate the aromas in the glass but presents notes of fresh green grass, mint, vanilla and just a slight reminder of the harshness I noticed in the high alcohol (90% ABV) newmake spirit from which it began.

Flavour: Light mouthfeel with strong peppery spice popping through flavours of ginger and grapefruit with some sweeter melon flavours developing with the addition of water.

Finish: Long lingering spice on the tongue with a slight drying bitter aftertaste.


Would I buy it again?

Probably not, but there are few whiskies that I would. When there are so many whiskies out there to try, it takes something truly special to make my repeat buy list. Having only been around since 2015, it's safe to say that Baldwin Distilling Company has some room to improve and with time, I have no doubt they will. Right now Anthony Baldwin is tackling the lucrative premium spirits market head-on, which in itself is a point of difference to other Australian craft distilleries. If this approach pays off, Baldwin Distilling Company could become one of the biggest names in Australian distilling.


Disclaimer: I do not claim to have the nose and palate of a Master Sommelier, however, I am working to train my senses to better identify whisky aromas and flavours. Consider all my whisky 'Impressions' to be a work in progress and I hope to come back to each of them in the future to see if I notice anything different. Most importantly, I'm not just throwing around random aromas, flavours and adjectives for the hell of it; I am trying really hard to critically describe each whisky I taste - WhiskyDad.

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Whisky Dad Turns One Year Old

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Whisky Dad Turns One Year Old

Doesn’t time fly? Just two days ago (Oct 6th) marked the one-year anniversary of WhiskyDad.net going live. It really doesn’t seem like that long ago but here are some obligatory first-year facts and figures:

WhiskyDad.net has had 22,028 page visits in its first year;

In that time I have posted a total of 70 blog posts;

The most popular posts were From Loss to Blog, How I Became a Whisky Dad and my Interview with Sullivan’s Cove Distillery Heather Swart with 1,759 and 1,026 views respectively;

63.6% of visitors of my blog do so on a mobile device;

My social media followers include 2,345 on Twitter, 1,095 on Instagram, 430 on Facebook and 133 on Pinterest; and

I’ve recently updated my logo and associated branding and will be working on a new webpage to launch before my trip to Scotland in 2018.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported and followed me over the past year. It has been a truly enjoyable and cathartic experience that I intend to continue into the next year and beyond. I was humbled by the response to my From Loss to Blog article and hope my words continue to help others deal with their own loss and recovery. I always intended Whisky Dad to be more than just a whisky blog and the response to that article proves I have achieved my goal.

I hope my future content convinces you to continue to follow me over the next year and many more new followers choose to join us.

Slàinte!

Shane Kinloch
Whisky Dad




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The Responsible Appreciation of Alcohol

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The Responsible Appreciation of Alcohol

To a teenager approaching the legal drinking age, alcohol has many intriguing mysteries and potential traps. They have no doubt spent years observing friends, family and strangers imbibe, enjoy and abuse alcoholic drinks. They may experience peer pressure or they may already have strong views and arguments for abstaining from alcohol in preparation for those early adolescent social situations, or they may have already tried alcohol either under parental supervision or clandestinely.
It was the beginning of about eight years of regular binge-drinking behaviour, where I often drank to get drunk and spirits (or guns, as we called them, as in ‘Time to switch to guns!’) were purely a means to get drunk quicker. 

Personally, I didn’t drink alcohol until I was 18 years old (the legal drinking age in Australia). I didn’t really go to parties so I avoided the peer pressure situations and I was relatively comfortable with remaining sober. That all changed when I moved out of home and went to University. It was the beginning of about eight years of regular binge-drinking behaviour, where I often drank to get drunk and spirits (or guns, as we called them, as in ‘Time to switch to guns!’) were purely a means to get drunk quicker. If I drank whisky, it was often drowned in a sweet mixer and served with plenty of ice. Sweeter was better because it was easier to slam back fast and far gentler on my underdeveloped palate. I didn’t drink because I enjoyed the taste, I drank because it gave me Dutch Courage and a misplaced assumption it improved everything from my confidence to my dancing skill and most importantly to a late teen/early twenties male, it made me more attractive to the opposite sex.
My Dad would have disowned me if I ever mixed it, so if I drank single malt in those early days it was neat or not at all. 
I was familiar with single malt whisky back then, but it was expensive (very much so over a bar) and although potent, it wasn’t something you could drink quickly so you got drunk slower. My Dad would have disowned me if I ever mixed it, so if I drank single malt in those early days it was neat or not at all. Mostly it was not at all, since it did not align with my goals of getting drunk quickly and impressing an attractive girl with my drunkenness.

My first job was working at a bar (I actually met my future wife there) and although I was still well within my binge-drinking phase, it did give me a greater appreciation of alcohol and its effects. It was mandatory to complete a Responsible Service of Alcohol course before working in a bar which taught you some basic bar skills and explained standard drinks, the effects of alcohol consumption and how to deal with drunken customers.

I look back on those years now and while they were a lot of fun, I spent a lot of time throwing up in someone’s garden, feeling sorry for myself or throwing up on myself in a garden. I made a lot of bad decisions under the influence of alcohol and have many regrets, but I also matured a great deal in a relatively short time. I don’t binge-drink anymore and in fact, I rarely get drunk. Mostly because the effect of a hangover seems a thousand times stronger now that I am older and kids don’t respond well to “Leave Daddy alone, he wants to die in peace!” spoken in a muffled shout from under a pillow.

So what sage advice could my older sober self, impart to my younger drunken self?

For starters, there is nothing wrong with drinking alcohol or not drinking it for that matter. It’s a choice we all have to make and you can change your mind if you want. I knew someone once who would alternate one year on, one year off alcohol – I wouldn’t recommend it though. But, if you decide to drink why not be more of a sophisticated drinker than race to drunkenness and hopefully not spew in the process?

Whisky, good whisky, is an amazing alcoholic beverage. It has layers upon layers of complexity and subtleties that can elude even the most seasoned aficionado. It can be enjoyed a variety of ways, neat, with ice, with a simple mixer or in a more elaborate cocktail and it comes in an almost limitless number of varieties. I often hear “But I don’t like whisky.” as if one whisky defines all others. I can guarantee there is a whisky out there (probably more than one) and a way to drink it that you would absolutely love. For me, it goes beyond the drink. I have enough knowledge of whisky making and its history to appreciate it as fine craft product. So much time goes into making whisky, that it can be a truly transformative experience to sample a drink that has spent more time in a barrel evolving than you have been alive. I can sit with a glass of whisky and nurse it for an hour or more, sampling the aromas far more frequently than taking a sip and experiencing the explosion of warming flavours in my mouth and down my throat.

Often my next drink was ordered, just so I had something to do with my hands or risk looking like a weird drunk-but-not-drinking person beside the bar.
That last point is worth noting for a young drinker. I remember the trepidation surrounding holding an empty glass or no glass at all. Often my next drink was ordered, just so I had something to do with my hands or risk looking like a weird drunk-but-not-drinking person beside the bar. The only time it was safe to not be glass-in-hand was when dancing and my best dance moves didn’t come out until of was at least three sheets to the wind. 

There is nothing stopping a younger drinker from learning to appreciate the subtleties of whisky.

Your friends may smash back dozens of “Scotch and Cokes” in a night, but I bet your modest number of “expensive” top shelf whiskies will both cost less financially and hurt less the next morning. You can hold that whisky glass for an hour at the bar without looking out of place, just avoid getting involved with shouts. Who knows, you standing steady by the bar with a glass of Glenmorangie in your hand may even seem more attractive than your mate soaked in Jim Beam and Coke, barely standing by themselves, propped up by the bar beside you.
The responsible appreciation of alcohol leads to the responsible consumption of alcohol. 
The bottom line is the sooner you see spirits as an experience worth taking your time enjoying rather than a fast track to drunkenness; the sooner you will become a mature and responsible drinker of alcohol. Good whisky is a means to become such a drinker and is a conduit to many enjoyable nights out and a way to become someone people want to be around rather than a known piss-wreck. The responsible appreciation of alcohol leads to the responsible consumption of alcohol. Something we should all strive for and instil in our kids for their own safety and social development.
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WhiskyDad’s Guide to Father’s Day

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WhiskyDad’s Guide to Father’s Day

Father’s Day is almost upon us (In Australia, it’s on the first Sunday in September) and if your father or husband is a WhiskyDad like me, look no further than my Father's Day guide for the WhiskyDad in your life (not just my own wishlist).

Whisky

The most obvious gift could also be the hardest to choose because you want to buy something your dad will like. My suggestion is to raid his whisky cabinet and find out what he drinks. You could either play it safe and buy what he already has or you could buy him something similar that he may not have tried before. The easiest way to do this would be to talk to the proprietor of a specialist whisky bottle shop and tell them what he drinks and ask for a recommendation of something similar. But if that isn’t possible, allow me to give you some loose rules.

He likes all whisky

By far the easiest dad to buy whisky for since you could buy him just about anything and he would enjoy drinking it. That said, I would look at what he usually drinks and buy something around the same price point.
This WhiskyDad knows what he likes, but what about what he doesn’t know he likes? 
He only drinks Jack Daniel’s

This WhiskyDad knows what he likes, but what about what he doesn’t know he likes? Jack Daniel’s and all its many special and limited editions, is a Tennessee whiskey. What’s a Tennessee whiskey? It’s bourbon, with an extra charcoal filtration step. A great alternative to Jack Daniel’s is another readily available Tennessee whiskey, George Dickel. George Dickel comes in No.8, No.12 and X varieties and my pick would be George Dickel No. 12 as a legitimate (and in my opinion, superior) alternative to Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7.

He’s a Peat Freak

This WhiskyDad loves his whisky smoky. Chances are he will drink anything from Islay but that isn’t the only peated whisky available. Look for any of these, Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain, Bruichladdich, Kilchoman, Bowmore, Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Laphroaig; or outside of Islay, Springbank, Longrow, Kilkerran, Talisker, Ledaig or Highland Park. Failing that, anything with ‘Peat’ in the label like independent bottlers Douglas Laing’s Big Peat or Compass Box’s Peat Monster should be fine.

He only drinks the cheap stuff

There’s nothing wrong with drinking whisky that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, but chances are if it’s cheap, it’s a blended whisky. Not all blended whiskies are equal and some are quite expensive. One of the most famous and popular blended whiskies is Johnnie Walker. Johnnie Walker comes in a number of varieties that get progressively expensive of which Johnnie Walker Black Label and Double Black are a good balance of reasonable price and quality.
This may sound a little controversial, but most Irish whiskey is no different to Scotch whisky. 
He likes Irish Whiskey

This may sound a little controversial, but most Irish whiskey is no different to Scotch whisky. If you look at the ingredients and the way both are made, there really isn’t a lot of difference between Scotch and Irish Whiskey other than the country of origin. There are a few exceptions but if you are going to buy an Irish whiskey, buy a Single Pot Still Irish whiskey like Redbreast, Green Spot, Yellow Spot or Powers. These are quintessentially Irish whiskeys and are quite different from any Scotch whisky.



He likes the burn

Does your dad like a whisky that burns in his chest and warms his insides? Then you should get him a cask strength whisky. Cask strength means the whisky is bottled at or near the ABV% it was straight from the cask. Most whisky is diluted with water before bottling to reduce the ABV% to a standard figure such as 40%, 43% or 46%. My pick for a cask strength whisky would be Aberlour A’bunah.
The older the whisky, the more influence the cask has over the flavour and often colour. 
He likes darker coloured whisky

If you dad drinks whisky that is generally darker and more amber than your average whisky, chances are it is ex-sherry cask (barrel) matured. Most whisky is matured in either ex-bourbon or ex-sherry casks. The older the whisky, the more influence the cask has over the flavour and often the colour. Ex-bourbon cask matured whisky usually has a vanilla dominant flavour whereas ex-sherry cask whisky has a dried fruit or Christmas Cake dominant flavour. Oh, he likes traditional Christmas Cake? Then ex-sherry cask matured whisky is a safe bet such as the excellent BenRiach 12 Year Old Sherry Wood Matured.

Something Australian

There are plenty of very good Australian whiskies on the market. Obviously, these are much easier to obtain from within Australia. Most are quite expensive, around $200 for 500ml, but not all are, such as Starward Wine Cask Edition which can be picked up from Dan Murphy’s for around $80-$90 for a 700ml bottle. Being originally from Tasmania myself, it would be remiss of me not to recommend a Tasmania whisky so how about a Lark Cask Strength from the distillery that started the recent whisky boom across the island state.

Something unexpected

There is nothing quite like surprising a Scotch snob with a great-tasting whisky from an unexpected region of the world. Did you know that India produces some amazing single malt whisky? I guarantee your Scotch-loving dad will enjoy either the Paul John Classic Select Cask or Amrut Fusion if they prefer a peated whisky.

Whisky gifts other than whisky

There are plenty of gift ideas for the whisky-loving dad other than whisky; consider some of these.

Something edible

Fancy yourself a bit of a cook? How about making some whisky fudge, some whisky cured bacon or whisky jerky? You could even ‘borrow’ some of your dad’s whisky to flavour it. Just don’t borrow the really expensive stuff.
The world of specialist whisky glassware can be a load of wank, but not all glasses are equal when it comes to drinking whisky. 
Whisky glasses

The world of specialist whisky glassware can be a load of wank, but not all glasses are equal when it comes to drinking whisky. In my opinion, the pinnacle of shape (performance), weight (comfort) and value (some glasses cost upwards of $50 each) is the Glencairn glass. These can be picked up for as little as $10-$17 each and are a great choice for a whisky-loving dad. There is even a more expensive crystal version of the Glencairn glass if you want something a little fancier.

If your dad drinks his whisky with a mixer, go for a nice crystal tumbler instead.

If you want something a little different, how about a quaich? A quaich is a shallow Scottish two-handed drinking cup. They can be made of metal such as pewter or silver but are traditionally carved from wood.

Artwork and accessories

A map of the whisky distilleries of Scotland by Manuscript Maps is an excellent gift for a WhiskyDad and looks great on any whisky fan’s wall. Factor in extra for postage and framing to get the best out of it.

Angel’s Share Glass make some great whisky themed accessories such as Glencairn shaped cufflinks.



Books

There are stacks of great books on whisky that would make excellent Father’s Day gifts. The World Atlas of Whisky is an excellent and hefty coffee table book whereas Whisk(e)y Distilled is more portable by no less detailed.

Pens

Check out these awesome pens, made from ex-bourbon barrels. They can even be personalised – I would love a couple of these myself. Hint, hint.

Image © bourbonpens.com 

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