You are currently browsing the Breaching The Web blog archives for November, 2010.

Whisky Barrel!!

November 30th, 2010

2-litter barrel

I’m very exited about this project.  Yesterday, I wrote about our recent trip to Copper Fox Distillery. While we were there, we picked up a 2-liter barrel kit. The kit comes neatly packaged in a box that holds the barrel, a barrel stand, and 2 bottles of un-aged spirit. You can choose between single malt and rye spirit.  We choose single malt.  We tasted the spirit — it was almost completely tasteless.

The barrel is American White Oak, just like the barrels used in the distillery (and most other whisky distilleries).  It’s charred inside, and has a bung, bung-hole and tap.  It’s really well made.

The instructions are straightforward:  first you fill the barrel with water and check for leaks, then you pour that out and fill it with spirit and wait for 4-7 months. While you are waiting, they recommend that you expose the barrel to heat, cold, and agitation.  This mimics what they do at the distillery when they move the barrels around.

You can also add wood chips to the barrel to (hopefully) improve the flavor of the whisky.  At Copper Fox, they add fruit woods to the full-size barrels while they are aging — the guide of our tour suggested experimenting with other woods — he said he’s used grapefruit, cherry and used wine barrel staves.  I’m very intrigued by the idea of adding wine staves.

We brought our barrel home and filled it with water briefly.  We had a bit a of squabble about whether to soak the barrel in water before adding the spirit.  Since you can lose up to 50% of your spirit in a new barrel due to absorption, I wanted to soak it a bit.  My husband didn’t want to fill the wood full of water — he wanted the spirit to soak the barrel.  I acquiesced.

The labels on the two bottles of crystal-clear spirit are interesting.  They show the grain content, the type of smoke that was used, and the date the spirit was distilled.  They are finished on the bottom with the signatures of the distillery’s founder and spirit master.  I’m very excited to see how our whisky turns out!

My creation

Copper Fox Distillery Trip

November 29th, 2010

A few days ago, we visited Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia — which is in Northern Virginia, near Front Royal. It was about a 2 hour drive from our house (although we did stop briefly at the Dinosaurland gift shop — we’ll definitely be making another trip to visit the whole park).

Copper Fox makes whisky, rye, and distiller’s spirit. We took a tour of the whole operation — it was awesome.

Copper Fox was founded by Rick Wasmund and his wife.  Rick moved to Ireland and apprenticed with a scotch maker. He founded Copper Fox in 2005. It’s a family operation — Rick’s mom is the Master of Malt (get it? MOM), his brother (who lead our tour) moved to Virginia from Florida to work in the distillery, and his sister helps with marketing. The Master of Spirits is a family friend. They occupy a small warehouse (about 80,000 square feet), nestled in amongst several dairies, farmhouses and an antique store.  At the end of our tour, we were wandering around the warehouse a bit, and Rick greeted us personally. We chatted with him about whether he gets a vacation (sometimes), where we are from, and how excited we were to try his whisky. He assured us it’s the very best there is.

The tour is cool. It starts with a description of the Thoroughbred Barley. It was developed at Virginia Tech and is grown in the Northern Neck, making Copper Fox a 100% Virginia product. See the tall battle on the right in this photo? That’s how much barley goes into one bottle of Copper Fox whisky.

Thoroughbred Barley

Thoroughbred Barley

Next we saw the malt room, where one batch of barley was malting and another was soaking, and then the kiln. The kiln was cool — it’s a room with a perforated steel ceiling. The malted barley goes on top of the ceiling, and a fire is started on a woodstove in the room. In Ireland, the barley for scotch is smoked with peat, but here it’s smoked with apple and cherry fruit wood. For me this was the most interesting part of the tour.

Malt Floor

Malt Floor

Woodstove in the Kiln

Woodstove in the Kiln

The tour includes all the rest of the process — cooking the mash, fermenting, distilling, aging and bottling. It’s all done on site by 3 people, plus MOM. We weren’t allowed to take photos in the barrel room, but it was shockingly small. When Rick opened Copper Fox in 2005, he introduced a lot of innovative techniques to age the whisky “faster,” such as adding wood chips to the barrels to increase the types and surface area of the wood that is in contact with the whisky and artificially heating the barrels to increase the hot/cold/hot/etc. cycles. The whisky ages for only 4 months (compared to 3 or more years for scotch). Each bottle is labeled with a batch number. The number goes all the way back to the malting stage. All the barley that is malted together stays together throughout the whole process — all the way to the bottle. To be called a “single malt”, a bottle may only contain whisky from a single distillery. Copper Fox takes that a bit farther.

Copper Fox Still

Copper Fox Still

There’s a small store on-site, where you can smell — but not taste — their products. They sell hats, t-shirts, flasks, barrel kits, and of course booze. We bought a bottle of rye, a bottle of single malt whisky, and a 2 liter barrel kit.

What does the whisky taste like? I’m not good at describing flavors, so I’ll just say that Wasmund’s Single Malt is finished, with nice flavor and a short bite. It’s not very deep or complex, but it’s nice. Copper Fox Rye is really good, with a more complicated flavor and a gorgeous color.

What’s a barrel kit? It’s a small oak barrel, charred on the inside, that you can use to age your own liquor at home. Our kit came with a 2 liter barrel and two 750 ml bottles of single malt spirit, which is clear, unaged “whisky” which has never seen oak. You put the spirit in the barrel and finish your own whisky. I’ll be writing more about that later.

Overall, this was a great trip.  The tour was great, the people were nice, the weather was awesome, and the whisky was good.  I’m already looking forward to our next visit.

Singing Lantern

November 23rd, 2010
Never to lie is to have no lock on your door, ...

Image by flickrohit via Flickr

Ghulam Mohammad Mir, from Kashmir, India has invented a solar-power lantern that has a radio, mobile charger and a light-and-sound siren that responds to a knock in the door to make sure the occupant responds.  His invention was born of pure need:

Ghulam Mohammad Mir of Tangpaw, Saagam of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district too like many others across the valley, had a bitter experience of early nineties when crackdowns and army patrols was a fearsome experience. He was severely beaten up by troopers for not being prompt to respond to the frightening midnight knock. Mir had never been to School but the constant fear of missing a knock and paying for it led him to invent what he proudly calls ‘Singing Lantern’.

He wants to also create a low-cost helicopter that common people can use.  The invention is really interesting in and of itself, but what caught my attention was the name — “Singing Lantern.”  It’s such a poetic name for a device that was created to solve a terrifying problem.

Stupid tea party

November 20th, 2010

I like to keep an eye on tea-related news. I like to know about how the tea auctions are going, and how major weather events effect the tea harvest. I don’t do anything with this information. While drinking my morning cuppa I find it entertaining to read about my future cuppas. Hee.

In any case, it’s become impossible for me to find any of this kind of information any more. The tea party swamps all the searches I’ve devised. Stupid tea party.

Yaz, TSA and Law

November 19th, 2010
None - This image is in the public domain and ...

Image via Wikipedia

This is a health inspired link round-up.

First is a public service announcement for the female portion of my readers:  don’t take Yaz.  Just don’t.  This was my birth control pill of choice for many years, and I now consider myself extremely lucky to have survived it.  I won’t bore you with my personal experience with it.  Instead, read this post at Society for Menstrual Cycle Research summarizing Yaz’s past and future problems.

Next up is Medley’s reaction to the new TSA security background scatter machines.  She takes a persuasive public health perspective and outlines her reaction to the machines politically and personally.

And finally, an interview with Victoria Law, a prison activist focused on the criminalization of women who resist gender violence.  She discusses how concern for gender violence has been marginalized within the women’s movement AND within mainstream society.

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November 17th, 2010

Some confessions for this dreary Wednesday:

  • I watched the wedding of Diana and Prince Charles on TV.
  • I once kept a scrapbook of photos of Princess Di’s hair, which I religiously took with me for reference every time I got my own hair cut.
  • In a fit of grownup tidiness, I threw that scrapbook away many years ago.
  • I really wish I still had it.
  • I watched Diana’s funeral on TV.
  • I have a box in my basement that holds a video of her funeral, and every press clipping I could get my hands on about her death.
  • I teared up this morning when I read that William gave Kate Middleton his mother’s engagement ring.
  • I teared up again later in the day when I read what William said about it:  “My way of making sure my mother didn’t miss out on today.”


November 17th, 2010
We the people Jersey barrier

Image by katxn via Flickr

When I don’t write on this blog, it’s usually because I feel like I have nothing important to say.

Every topic I can think to write about has been written about by other people who are smarter, more clever, funnier or better-informed than I am.

The only topics I am an expert on are my profession (which I try to more-or-less keep out of this blog) and myself.  And when the world is going to hell, as it so clearly is these days, writing about myself and my own concerns seems small-minded and pointless.

Which is why this Echidne post came across my radar at the right time:

It’s not necessary to choose between selfishness and kindness or between being a marauding monster or a doormat. Hillel said it well a very long time ago:

If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?

It is that balance I aim for. It is also that balance I believe we should all aim for. Only introspection will tell you what your own corrections should be. But I see more women bending over backwards to care for others and not for themselves, despite the fact that one cannot keep giving without replenishing that what is to be given. I also see both men and women assume that it is women who should bend over backwards.

So how does one become a fighter under these circumstances? Remember what Hillel said, remember that when you fight for, say, feminism you are not fighting just for yourself or for the uppity rich white women of the United States but for all our daughters, all the young girls you read about in Afghanistan, all the young girls you read about in South Africa, all the women of the world. You are fighting to stop an injustice, an unfairness, and that cannot but make the world a little bit more bearable. To be able to do this you must also take care of yourself because you are both the fighter and the weapon.

(You should read the whole thing — she’s making a larger point about the need to fight for your cause). I sometimes forget that I matter. It’s good to be reminded.

Gatsby Green

November 16th, 2010
Norma Talmadge

Image via Wikipedia

The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books (some others are Frankenstein, Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jone’s Diary, Lillith’s Brood and The Eleventh Commandment).

I’m very curious about the upcoming Gatsby movie — it will be directed by Baz Luhrmann, which makes me a bit worried. His extravagance seems thematically just right and stylistically totally wrong, so it’s a hard call. The news today is that Carey Mulligan will play Daisy, which seems like decent, if not inspired, casting. She will be able to wear the clothes at least.


November 16th, 2010
Depression: food line

Image by ABC Archives via Flickr

Rep. John Larson (D-CT) on the unemployment rate, as quoted by The Hill:  “We had a Roosevelt moment and responded like Hoover.”

Tab dump

November 15th, 2010

A few links of interest I’ve found lately:

Bad Science is about, well, bad science. Ben Goldacre examines what makes bad science (or bad science writing) bad — as both a consumer and producer of science writing, I find it helpful.

Addition Inbox on cigarettes being edited out of historical photos of presidents and a follow-up about other famous people.

The Neurocritic weblog dissects news articles that overly-simplify neuroscience research findings. The author usually makes the research MORE interesting in the process.

Drug Monkey follows drug research news.

Abstracts about gun violence in Africa for a special issue of the Journal of Public Health Policy. The articles are currently available here (for free).