I left Brussels a year ago today.
Landing back in Norway that I left 6 months prior after living almost 9 years previously, Bergen was my first stop. I lived there for 6 years after initially leaving the sunny South San Francisco Bay Area so I guess why not land there first after being away. Plus my big brother vinosseur was in town working.
Sure I miss California, still, after having left over 10.5 years ago. I miss the perfect weather, the fresh ingredients, the variety of those ingredients, and the variety of people and cultures from all over, like Brussels. But I don’t miss the traffic, the go go go get ‘em and everything stress-based that comes with it. The forced living and struggle to get ahead only to find yourself still behind everything you’re striving for is also what I happily left behind.
I’ve been gone awhile indeed. And in fact it’s been two years, right now, since I was even back for a visit. But with all of this moving around and shifting such leisure travel sadly takes a back seat.
Oslo. It’s not bad here, well besides this summer that’s quickly fading into Fall, in August. Summer scattered itself here and there, showing up for a day maybe two, but mostly I was constantly reminded of those 9 years I lived in the West of Norway where rain was our predominant seasoning. I was guaranteed by many friends living here for years prior to moving here summer was a sure thing, sun sun sun, bathing suits, swimming, smiles, ice cream, barbecues, and not a trace of Bergen. They lied. Or maybe the earth just warmed to welcome me.
I’m moving right along. Right where I wanna be. Quickly we forget about those miserable days when the sun finally decides to show itself off and dry things up. But I haven’t forgotten those times stuck in Bay Area traffic struggling to get ahead.
And like I tell those surprised and questioning Norwegians, still, after over 10 years here, “I’d rather walk in the rain than be stuck in traffic under the sun.” And that’s no lie.
I’ve been attempting to write an ode to Brussels, a missing Brussels bit for a good number of weeks. Various versions have sprouted, one has been emailed for future online publishing, but one just for me and you here dear reader continues to almost haunt me. Nostalgie radio plays while I write, uprooting further memories of last summer’s and year’s six months well spent exploring a city I had previously not visited prior to moving there in February. Now it’s been almost a year since I left, and I hope when I do visit those wonderful six months I spent are relived, and live up to this ode.
Please let me stop struggling and instead list for you the places I miss. Hopefully this summer or fall you happen to be visiting this dynamic city and just before departure you have time to ask the internet for more information, directions, and you do visit the following.
Eat and drink…
A Boute de Souffre
Au Vieux Bruxelles
Comus & Gasterea
Cantillon Brewery & Brussel’s Museum of the Gueuze
3 Fonteinen Brewery
Quick. Simple. Concise. Let’s move on.
Lately, my whisky glass has been empty, no not emptied. I haven’t been enjoying much whisky lately. In fact, at this time I surprisingly only have one bottle open, a bourbon, usually my summer craving. Just one bottle open rather than at least the normal dozen? I can explain. When I did have those dozen or more open bottles I was living elsewhere, where my whiskies had their own room to be displayed and fondled, and open bottles over on a table in said room to be enjoyed from. I was enjoying whisky almost daily, and weekly at least with a few great whisky friends calling those special Zen-like evenings Monday Night, Whisky Night.
I’ve moved more than a few times since those times less than a few years ago and the whiskies remain tenderly packed in their numbered boxes. I’ve only added a few and drank a few since.
No! I haven’t stopped drinking. I don’t plan on ever doing that because I appreciate the smell, mostly, and taste far too much to limit my senses from doing so. What I have been filling my glasses with are natural wines and lambic/geuze beers. Again, my mood and the season delegate what I eat and drink, as long as it’s humanly/humanely produced by farmers, artisans, or the like, preferably spontaneously fermented, with the least amount of intervention and bla bla bla added, and hopefully unfiltered, I’m usually happy. Oh, and of course it better be good, too!
Not to worry, I’ll of course come back around to whisky when the time comes. In fact I’ve been meaning to open a new bottle of something the past weeks, I’m just not sure what the mood or season calls for.
Nevertheless, my “notes from an empty whisky glass” continue.
This morning I wake to discover a fantastic combination of exploding aromas from last night’s emptied whisky glass: molasses first, pure molasses. Brown sugar slowly sneaks in, leading to malted barley, surprising umami, sea salt, and finally crunchy, crispy toast. And all in that order. I wonder what I’ll find now when I nose it again?
It’s exactly what I’ve promised since the beginning, tasting notes from emptied whisky glasses. But I’ll also fill other glasses with other drinks, which helps expand my horizons, enjoyments and tasting note repertoire. So don’t be surprised if I suddenly say “cherries” and begin to reminisce about lambic infused with sour ones.
This empty whisky glass won’t since those sour notes aren’t present. Instead, sweet, almost ripe summer cherries, which quickly dissolve into malt and vanilla, so typical! What else? Dried, porous pine, other wood. And now back to the malt, warm, like plain hot cereal, with just a sprinkled hint of melting brown sugar on top.
This is bourbon!
A few comments here and @emptywhiskyglas regarding my previous posting “…about, time” seems I might have been misunderstood. No, I’m not signing off from here or other social avenues I enjoy. I’m going nowhere. I’ll continue to discreetly and professionally post my enjoyments surrounding whisky and other drinks of choice.
So you too stick around and read what I have to say; and please feel free to comment if I so inspire you to.
(Thanks to my friend Christopher Ottosen for taking the foto above; be sure to check out his site)!
May already! My how time flies, it always amazes me. Thanks for your patience if you have been, and for returning now to read my excuses and excitements.
I began working for the Vinmonopolet Wednesday morning the 16th of November last year and I’m truly enjoying it like nothing else! I’m based at the Vika shop here in Oslo, one of two in Norway out of 269 total shops spread throughout the country that has a “Spesialbutikk.” (Google translate that link)! I’m truly enjoying working in such a dynamic setting with a huge selection of world class products, customers, and with colleagues that constantly learn, teach and are equally passionate about what they’re doing. That should help explain excuse number one: why I haven’t posted “notes from an empty whisky glass” in these past months. As an employee I must remain “neutral, in the sense that no favouritism is shown between brands, producers, countries or suppliers.” Thus you’ll no longer find me tweeting @emptywhiskyglas about “booze specifics.” Sure it’s not easy to stifle my passion and not share what I’m enjoying with you, but come visit me at the shop, the arena I’m allowed to passionately share my favorites which is exactly what I continue to be appreciated for.
In these past six months I’ve found myself telling fellow colleagues and friends numerous times how relieved and happy I am to be free from the restaurant business I’ve loved and hated working in for over 20 years. To one colleague I even found myself blurting while stocking shelves one day, “The Vinmonopolet saved my life!” “In vino veritas.”
I’ve felt warmly welcomed into a large family of experts. Being able to use all of my past employment experiences and public speaking education, I continue to learn and grow which is exactly what I expect of myself not only in my free time but at work, too.
And it’s hard to call it work even when this lifetime night owl wakes up early to run around a booze mecca assisting mostly baffled customers regarding a selection of 12,000 available products. Crazy I know! 12,000 different alcoholic possibilities offered to a population of a mere 5,000,000. But I’m happily doing just that. And will continue to do so as I see myself growing (old) with this company.
Six months past? How about the 10 years that have flown by in Norway, celebrating so a few months back! Imagine that, May now, my how time does fly.
Just to clear my name of guilt and misunderstanding, I’ve decided to once again inform you of the origins of said name, Emptywhiskyglass. It all started way back in the Fall of 2003 after I discovered my deep passion for whisky. I always left the empty glass by the side of the kitchen sink either cause it was just too late, or I was lazy. Or maybe because the kitchen was only slightly partitioned from the bedroom and I didn’t want to wake her up. Nevertheless there the glass stayed. Until whenever I got up, and the first thing I did was reach for that empty whisky glass for a sniff. The alcohol evaporated and what was left were “tasting notes from an empty whisky glass.” Sometimes different, sometimes similar, always interesting whatever I found. Now it seems these aromas have developed into observations, experiences, and tasting notes as seen or smelled through an empty whisky, beer, wine, sake or whatever glass. You’ll realize this if you follow me on Twitter @emptywhiskyglas. Hopefully that better explains I’m not looking for answers at the bottom of a bottle or a glass, but instead just another way of enjoying and learning about the whisky or whatever is in the glass. Experiences. Observations. Tasting notes from an empty whisky glass.
I was happily surprised the other night while working a shift at Dr. Jekyll’s when I spotted the Spirit of Unity bottling on the shelf. This ultra special and limited bottling was done in financial and brotherly support of the Japanese catastrophe’s in March, and the earthquake in New Zealand the previous month. The seven independent distilleries that donated a cask each, and all others involved with creating this whisky of just 2,000 bottles were sold exclusively by Royal Mile Whiskies and Loch Fyne Whiskies on this side of the world, while a few other shops in Japan and New Zealand sold out the rest.
Here’s what I found in that empty whisky glass…
Green skinned fruits, malt, slight smokey hint and bonfire, young whisky, peated malt all topped up with something nicely toasty.
Last night I really enjoyed my first whisky “twasting.” That’s Twitter + tasting = twasting for those unfamiliar with the term or concept. I even ran out of the tail end of a dual beer tasting hosted by James from Brew Dog and Evan from Ægir! I hated to but samples from Amrut Indian Single Malt Whisky (thanks again Ashok) awaited me. These twastings are happening more and more frequently, and if you’re participating or following, you’ll enjoy the flood of informative twasting notes on the same whiskies being tasted from various individuals spread out far and wide. It was a fantastic evening well organized and hosted by The Scots Dreamer Colin Campbell @TheScotsdreamer, with of course @Amrutsinglemalt providing, and others participating or following, and in no particular order, find and follow @galg @AWG_whisky @blrbwmn @ScotchNoob @GJR71 @OliverKlimek @exmosis @theWhiskyReview @maltjerry @DavindeK (apologies, and please comment below if I accidentally missed mentioning you). Spaced throughout this big world made small via social media, we all enjoyed focusing on five different whiskies from the Amrut Distillery. Search Twitter for #amrut5 to find our twasting experience.
And as for today, as promised, here are my twasting “notes from an empty whisky glass” in the order we tasted…
@emptywhiskyglas: Amrut Single Malt 46% is raisin and malt.
@emptywhiskyglas: Amrut Intermediate Sherry Matured 57.1% prune, other dark slightly dried fruits
@emptywhiskyglas: Mystery Amrut wow nutty sweet brittle, some honey, popcorn even!
@emptywhiskyglas: Amrut Fusion 50% oh that perfect peat smoke from last night lingers, classic…
……and raisins too, intertwined with perfect peat, along with vanilla custard, fruit juice.
@emptywhiskyglas: Amrut Peated 46% medicinal peat prominent, some nut brittle in this one too.
Finally, if you have been following me @emptywhiskyglas you’ll be aware of my move from Brussels last month back up to Norway, and just this past Wednesday finally settling nicely into the beautiful, so far sunny, capital city of Oslo. This move back reunites me with my whiskies, so check back for more empty whisky tasting notes, plus whatever other glasses I’ll nose. Thanks for reading and following!