Thursday, March 31, 2011

Phone Call from Mr. Chang

y first shirt is ready for my first fitting! There's still a few weeks left for my final order to arrive, but I look forward to telling you about this experience. It's been amazing thus far.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Time for a change.

s with ties and cuff-links and whatnot, the watch you wear is a direct reflection of your personality and style. So when picking out your watch(es), be picky. There's a LOT of choices out there. You could go with a wind up or a battery, leather strap / fabric strap / metal band, choose from a host of sizes, colors, movements, dials & dial positions, metals, faces, etc. The list is endless.

c1910 Revue Thommen Regulateur Watch
Wearing timepieces on the wrist began coming into popularity around the beginning of the 20th century, when pocket watches were on their way out. During this interim period of fashion, hoards of smaller pocket watches were converted to large wristwatches with makeshift lugs for straps. At this point in time, the technology and innovations were leading toward smaller watches that were more useful when kept at-the-ready.

By today's standards, these watches are still quite large and relatively "thick" ranging from 1.0 to 1.4cm thick. They sure make a statement though. The faces of these watches are either metal or porcelain or enamel, and the styles of the fonts for the numbers can be outstanding.

Exhibition Back
I've been reading about and eying vintage watches for about a year now, and finally jumped in to get the watch above - a c.1910 Regulateur style watch from Revue Thommen.  This is a modern pocket watch conversion - the case for it was probably made last year. The "Regulateur" style was a relatively short-lived trend back in the day where the hour, minute, and second hand rotate around their own axis. It's (very) different and sets it apart from watches that can be found today. The face is black enamel, in excellent condition, and has the brand name REVUE showing with the Gideon Thommen below in script. The wind knob is a bit bigger than most and is in a position that actually makes it easier to wind. To finish it off, an "exhibition back" was installed so that when you take the watch off, you can see the inside of the watch working through a second crystal on the reverse.

c. 1950 Lemania Chronograph
This watch supplements one that was passed down from my grandfather.   Lucky for me, he had very good taste. The maker is Lemania, c.1950, chronograph (stop-watch feature) with a copper face. It is much smaller than the Revue Thommen and has a metal and green shark-skin band. Sadly for me, this watch has had a rougher life and needs to go back in for repairs...again. Which brings me to the point that while these watches are all very cool, they do require costly maintenance from time to time. Springs break, they get slow or fast, and they do not take well to any sort of water at all.  Take care of them - wind them gingerly and make sure they're protected on rainy, wet days.

So shop around for your next watch and choose a style that fits you.  A quality watch doesn't have to cost thousands, but it should definitely suit your personality.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Avvenenza, Magnificenza, Persol

n days past, I was a major fan of Ray-Ban sunglasses. What drew me to them was the look and style (of course) coupled with the fact that they have always used Bausch & Lomb lenses. Since I enjoy photography, I know a think or two about B&L lenses and this solidified my relationship with this outstanding sunglasses manufacturer.

So on my last jaunt to pick up a pair of shades, I was quite surprised to find myself walking out with a pair of Persol sunglasses.  There's something fresh and new with Persol that's also classic & refined.  Stylistically, I think it's a hair more progressive than Ray-Ban.  On top of that, the fit and finish is extraordinary, and the lenses fair favorably with the B&L's I was used to.  (Well, at least the lenses I chose....there are a host of options available.)
Finding it difficult to choose between two styles I liked, I got them both.  They're different enough to have their place at different occasions.  And besides, having a backup pair is a good thing given my track record with sunglasses.  (But I'm going to try extra-hard this time!)  One pair I found in-person, the other is coming from Italy.  For the pair I ordered, I was able to test size and style in the store, but they didn't have the lens/frame combination I was looking for.

Speaking of which, you need to know a few things when shopping for Persol.  All of their glasses have these numbers on them, and knowing what they mean is really helpful.  The pair I bought today was:
2386-S  960/31   54[]18   135

Yikes!  So here's the scoop:  2386-S is the style of the sunglasses....the shape/materials.  This has nothing to do with colors.  960 is the color ID of the stem.  31 is the color ID of the lens.  54 is the lens size, and I think it represents lens width in mm.  Persol tends to make two sizes in every when you like a style but find it too big or too small be sure to ask a salesperson for help.  And hope they're helpful....which they weren't here in NYC.  18 is the width of the "bridge" - the gap between the two lenses.  135 is the stem length.

Persol's glasses are handmade and have been iconic for decades.  This video gives some background on the history of the company (founded in 1920 by a photographer!!) as well as some insight on the design and manufacture of these amazing glasses.  Enjoy!


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Prohibition Era Glory: Rye

f you were to sit down at a speakeasy in New York City in 1924 (like the 21 Club) and look around, you'd see a lot of whiskey being consumed. Not Scotch, not Bourbon, but Rye. It was both consumed straight and mixed in a wide variety of cocktails. And thanks to a new boom in the artisanal beverage industry, it's coming back!  For a good history lesson on Rye, read this article.

A very, very generous friend sent me six different Ryes for my birthday, and I'm excited to share this experience with you.  The selection includes Black Maple Hill, Sazerac, Rittenhouse 21YO, Old Potrero, Templeton, and WhistlePig 10YO.  The colors of the whiskey range from a pale amber to dark bronze.  My friend has very good taste and I'm quite certain none of them will disappoint.  So I've put some Foxtrot on the phonograph, poured six small glasses, got out a bag of plain pita chips, and I'm ready to taste.  I haven't read an iota about any of these - so I'll do that as I taste and report back.

Tasted from left to right...

First up, is Black Maple Hill.  This is by far the darkest of the lot and quite intriguing.  Nose has coffee and spice and molasses.  Down the hatch.  Wow, that's smooth!  It has almost a rum essence to it.  Really long finish - the flavor is going on an on.  The finish is even more representative of a rum.  Oh, and I love rum so clearly I'm enjoying this quite a bit.

Next we have the Sazerac which, according to the bottle, was designed for the Sazerac cocktail.....which I've never had.  The nose on this is quite different - light, woody, maybe a hint of orange peel.  It reminds me of another smell as well, but I can't put my finger on it.  Tea tree oil?  Something like that.  Ooooh, that's good.  The orange peel really comes through on the palette, almost like someone added orange bitters.  Smoother than Black Maple Hill, which surprised me.  This is really good, and I can see why someone might want to use it as a base for cocktails.  Finish is quite a bit shorter than Black Maple Hill.

Third in line - Rittenhouse 21 year old.  Color is in-between Black Maple Hill and Sazerac.  The nose is (again) really different than the other two; this is very spicy with a strong smell of teak wood.  A hint of turpentine, but not displeasing.  Ok, this is smooth but strong!  I just checked the bottle and indeed it's 100 proof.  Sazerac was 90 proof and Black Maple Hill was the average at 95 proof.  Once the alcohol dissipates some, this has a wonderful spicy, woody flavor and long finish.  Wow, it's powerful though!

Now we're onto Old Potrero.  This has a harsher, more acidic nose than the others.  Same "teaky" smell, but closer to turpentine than the last but with a hint of pine as well.  Wow, and quite powerful as well.  This is only 90 proof (just checked) but one would think it was 100.  Absolutely no hint of sweetness like the others above; this is very "dry" an acidic.  It is so distinct that I think I could pick it out of a large lineup of rye...assuming I could stand.

Next up is Templeton Rye which (according to the bottle) is a prohibition-era style.  This has a sweeter nose with a lot of grass and (surprisingly) rye.  For real.  Also smells a little of salt & peat.  And oh so smooooth, much more than any of the others I've tried thus far.  This is 80 proof, while it actually feels like 60 proof.  If it is modeled after prohibition-era rye, I'm surprised.  It's very refined and nuanced, and I would have thought that illegal spirits would have resembled moonshine more than this.  Quite lovely.

Lastly is WhistlePig.  Nose of sawdust.  So distinct is that smell to me that I cannot smell anything just plain smells like freshly cut planks, complete with that slight "burn" from the fast-moving saw blade.  Oh my, and it's an "arm thumper" - like when someone winces and pounds the arm of their chair.  Palette of, well, fire.  Got up and checked, and indeed this is 100 proof.  This has a lot in common with Old Potrero except that is has some hint of sweetness in the backbone, though not much. A long finish that has morphed from burn to turpentine and then into something quite pleasing, including toffee and spice.  You just gotta wait for it a little.

Well, that was quite some journey...thank you SG!  But before I wrap this up, I figure that I should add in the Redemption rye that I have had on hand.  It is doubtful I'll have a go at all these in a sitting again, so might as well go "whole hog" as they say.  Got a fresh glass from the kitchen (though out of cordial glasses) and had a taste.  Very strong nose of alcohol and pine.  It smells like it's going to be way dry like the Old Portrero, but I've had this before and I know it will not be like that at all.  On the palette, quite a bit sweeter and smoother than the nose offered.  Warm and teak-like, with some sweetness on the finish.  Closest to Templeton but not quite as smooth.

In summary, these were all very, very different ryes, and it shows off quite well how different rye can be, even within it's own genre.  There is something for everyone out there, so give it a try!  And my preference, based on this tasting, is as follows:  1)  Black Maple Hill      2) Sazerac      3) Rittenhouse 21YO    4) Templeton      5) WhistlePig  6) Redemptiom    7) Old Potrero    The true test of my taste however, will be seeing the order in which each bottle is emptied.  There can be no truer test of one's taste.

And that's it for the rye tasting!  What an incredible experience, thank you again SG!!