Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Real Deal

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Moonrise seen from the Sooke Harbour House. Photo: Peter Skillman

Moonrise seen from the Sooke Harbour House.
Photo: Peter Skillman

We were sitting at the Sooke Harbour House overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca of Vancouver Island, British Colombia, sipping a martini made from local ingredients: Sheringham Gin, Tugwell Creek Solstice Metheglin, Bittered Sling Lem Marakesh. I recognized very few of the words.

I’m more of a whisky person, but I’m coming around to gin these days. And this was a bright, nuanced gin martini with both floral and salty marine flavors, just like our surroundings. The garnish of a pickled fir tip was truly something I had never considered possible, much less tasted before.

We learned that Sheringham Gin was distilled just up the road from Sooke, in the community of Shirley. We decided to search for the distillery at the end the next day, after a lazy day of touring the coast by motorcycle, a pistachio and cream-colored dream re-issue of a vintage model. It’s been decades since I sat on the back of motorcycle, but I remember now how much fun it was.

Our ride: the Indian Chief Vintage.

Our ride: the Indian Chief Vintage.

We got a little lost looking for the road to the gin place, not that there are many roads; we were following verbal instructions from the night before rather than a map. We asked a couple of guys chatting roadside if they knew of a local gin distillery. They laughed as if that was a stupid question. Of course they did – this is the kind of place where everybody knows everyone.

Two double-backs later, we’d found our way – a steep-ish gravel road through forest and blackberry bushes heavy with fruit.

The view from Sheringham Distillery, Vancouver Island. All photos: PKR

The view from Sheringham Distillery, Vancouver Island.
Photo: PKR

It’s always a joy to see people create their own slice of paradise. Here is a place that distillers Jason and Alayne MacIsaac have made just the way they want it: A hand-built house, a lush garden overlooking the water, and a craft distillery out the back. The real deal. There was a vintage custom motorcycle out front to complete the picture.

We just showed up with no warning on loud bikes, and we were offered an extremely warm welcome.

Both Jason and Alayne came out to greet us, and Jason took us on a tour of their establishment.

Like the majority of distillers on Vancouver Island (there are almost 40 of them), the MacIsaacs make their own alcohol. Jason says they prefer the taste of locally produced organic white wheat and malted barley, and gives us a sip to prove it. It’s fresh, like a cool breeze.IMG_3007

The gin recipe involves the addition of orris, angelica, coriander and juniper. With dashes of orange, lavender, rose petals and lemon – and a dash of hand-harvested local winged kelp(!).  It might sound crazy, but we could taste every one of those ingredients. Lovely.

A further twist of the screw results in aqvavit, something I haven’t had in almost as long as I’ve been on a motorcycle. After tasting the Sheringham version, I’ll be returning to this drink more often.

Two of the Sheringham products.

Two of the Sheringham products.

When people talk about small craft distilleries, this is what they mean. It’s a lot of work and a massive amount of determination, but look at what it can bring forth. There is a commitment to authenticity, to quality, and to the life that goes with this work on every level.

I’m sorry to say we didn’t have time to visit the nearby Tugwell Creek winery to taste their honey mead – which is what the metheglin in that martini turned out to be.

Sheringham Distillers just started production over the past couple of years. Here’s hoping this is just the start of something beautiful.

Jason MacIsaac in front of the distillery.

Jason MacIsaac in front of the distillery.

 

Dessert Day

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I am not a dessert addict, and while I like cocktails, the sugar in them doesn’t always like me.
But sometimes you need to break the rules.

We were in need of an all-day distraction, so we decided to explore the Ballard district of Seattle, Washington.

Most restaurants provide alcohol beverages in some form or another to accompany the food.

But I’ve never seen so many restaurants in one place that place an emphasis on alcohol in food – specifically, alcohol in desserts.

Kiss Café with a misleadingly coffee-oriented sign. All photos: PKR

Kiss Café with a misleadingly coffee-oriented sign.
All photos: PKR

Over the course of the day, while shopping for things we didn’t need, we had Tennessee bourbon ice cream.

We were lured into the Kiss Café by the sign out front that promised Whisky Ice Cream.

Creamy whisky ice cream and a wall of patrons' individual glasses for the Ballard Drinking Team.

Creamy whisky ice cream and a wall of patrons’ individual glasses for the Ballard Drinking Team.

To be fair, we had soup and salad before our run on desserts started, just to lay a solid foundation.

It’s not like we were being irresponsible.

Then we moseyed over to Hot Cakes and had S’mores with smoky whisky infused chocolate and caramel.

A S'more like I've never tried - still marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker, but not like the ones we used to make at camp.

A S’more like I’ve never tried – still marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker, but not like the ones we used to make at camp.

Sure, we viewed other sights. The Ballard Locks, shipping locks located in the Lake Washington shipping canal that move boats and ships from one large body of water to another.

The Chittenden Locks, an artificial salmon ladder that allows salmon to traverse the same route.

It was a glorious sunny day for walking and talking.

The Pie Bar menu.

The Pie Bar menu.

Our real goal all day, however, had been the Pie Bar, which didn’t open until mid-afternoon. It’s a bar that serves mainly pies and pie-inspired cocktails.

We had pies, and pie-inspired cocktails.

It was worth the wait.

Pie Bar treats.

Pie Bar treats.

 

Scrapping Rigs

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There’s something mesmerizing about scrap yards. Especially the big ones.

All those big objects, the sum of an equation involving perceived requirement, raw materials, engineering and time. So much time.

Time at the front end of process, in extracting the materials for production, time in the production itself, time in the use of those objects, and then, perhaps longest of all, the time they spend idle, after their usefulness has ended.

Some are re-purposed, broken down into the materials that can be used elsewhere.

Many are just left as monuments to outdated necessity.

Vehicle graveyard, post WWII. Source: LIFE/G503

Trailer graveyard, post WWII.
Source: LIFE/G503

In the case of offshore oil rigs, the necessity has a strong correlation to the price of oil. And as that has been falling steadily since 2014, from a previous ‘psychologically important’ USD 100 to the current USD 30, the oil rig graveyards have been growing at the highest rate in 20 years.

Added to this is the glut of old rigs long past their prime, many of which are idled, or ‘cold-stacked.’ A cold-stacked rig costs millions of dollars to maintain, and there’s a current glut of new generation rigs waiting for oil prices to rise and buyers to return.

The Cromarty Firth, north of Inverness, is currently packed with more unused rigs than it has been at any point in the last decade Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3410415/The-oil-rig-graveyard-dozen-thousand-tonne-structures-parked-unused-Scottish-firth-market-swamped-cheap-crude-demand-drilling-drops.html#ixzz4GrmKAQVN Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

The Cromarty Firth, north of Inverness, is currently packed with more unused rigs than it has been at any point in the last decade.
Source: DailyMail

These days, getting a decommissioned oil rig to its final destination is more of a challenge than it used to be.

Of course, what we used to do with them was simply drop them somewhere on the ocean floor where they were out of the way of shipping lines. Relatively easy, relatively cheap.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Controlled sinking of an oil rig. Source: desdemonadespair

Controlled sinking of an oil rig.
Source: desdemonadespair

Since 1998, oil rigs – at least the topside, at least in the northern Atlantic region – must be dismantled, towed, scrubbed of hazardous waste, and scrapped. Bases must be reduced to a level that makes them safe for navigation and shipping, the wells completely capped.

Built for the ages, scrapped after a decade or two. Or maybe three. Hundreds of oil rigs all over the world currently await scrapping instead of sinking.

We humans are pretty good at building things to last, even if we don’t need them forever. Cars. Oil rigs. Oil habits.

We aren’t very good at getting rid of them quite so thoroughly.