Last week I had the good fortune to attend “The Balvenie Rare Craft Whisky Tasting Experience” hosted by Balvenie brand ambassador Lorne Cousin. Lorne is a charming Scotsman, scotch expert and internationally known bagpipe player. His assignment for Balvenie finds him touring the United States in a wood chassis Morgan convertible visiting local craftsmen and highlighting the Balvenie brand.
Balvenie is a rare breed in today’s spirit marketplace. Every stage of production screams handmade craftsmanship. Much of their barley is grown on site; it is malted by hand using the traditional floor malting method. Their barrels are maintained by on-site coopers, their copper stills are kept up by a master coppersmith in their employ for over 50 years. Each batch of whisky is tasted daily by the Balvenie Malt Master, David Stewart. He alone decides when the whisky is ready to be bottled and sold.
It’s an incredible process that takes well over a decade to complete. That process results in some of the most pleasant and drinkable whisky I’ve every enjoyed.
One of the problems with whisky is that it’s often described as an acquired taste. Most of the more popular brands are dark and thick, with a bite to those first few sips. It’s enough to keep your casual consumer away, for fear of becoming the girly man who coughs after each draw off of his glass. No such fear with a Balvenie. They had a half a dozen scotches out for sample and each sip illustrated what a premium product they sell. In an age of homogenization and brand consistency, Balvenie embraces the subtle differences in its products that hand crafting produces.
Here’s my take on a few of the stand outs.
The accessibility of the Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 year really stood out. It manages to be rich yet smooth at the same time. It sat on my tongue and brought out notes of vanilla and raisin. The sweetness of the malts and the thickness reminded me of honey, the color was light amber, the finish warm and smooth. It’s just the kind of scotch that new comers can sip and enjoy (responsibly, of course).
The Balvenie Single Barrel 15 year old found itself on the other end of the spectrum. Single barrel scotch is transferred directly from the barrel to the bottle, no blending or mixing of other varietals takes place at all. This scotch is full bodied, has a strong peppery first sip but a very smooth and sweet finish. Definitely the biggest pop of the bunch, I could feel the heat of its 47.8% alcohol content as it sat in my mouth. The finish impresses but was surprisingly short. I would have enjoyed another second or two of that warm sweetness. The good thing is, with a single barrel scotch, each run of bottling is different so you can enjoy (responsibly!) your bottle, buy the same brand and get a slightly different drink.
The purpose of the event was to promote the brand’s new 17 Year Doublewood. Truly the belle of the ball in my opinion, too. It’s an infinitely accessible scotch, very drinkable for newcomers to the genre. It’s sweet on the tongue, light yet slightly full-bodied. The malts and honey really come out and the peat flavor is gentle and pleasant. Its finish is smooth and lingers nicely in your mouth and down the pipes.
All in all quite the successful debut for me here at MANjr. Having so many of the Balvenie products out and available for tasting really showcases the premium nature of their product and allows the taster to delve deeper into the subtle nuances of each individual offering.
If you want more info on the Balvenie Rare Craft Roadshow’s scheduled stops you can visit www.balvenie.com/roadshow. You should also check out a documentary they had produced about the 2011 version that featured Andrew Weir, The Morgan and Nicholas Pollacchi.
This past weekend I dominated the Gladiator Run at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Okay, maybe dominate is a strong word. “Completed” is probably a more fitting description. With the help of my teammates, I finished all the obstacles and made it through the course. It’s a 5K run with 15 obstacles created by Dan Clark, aka Nitro, from the original American Gladiators. The course kicked my ass a bit and I was proud that I got through it. But I knew, deep down that my victory was a mild one. The Gladiator Run doesn’t come close to what goes down at Tough Mudder.
The weekend before I did the Gladiator Run, I got to tour the Tough Mudder course in Seattle as part of an adrenaline-packed trip that was sponsored by Degree Men. I knew there was no way I could hang with running that Seattle course, and the challenge of my recent mini-5K just confirmed that. After my little mud run, I got nothing but the deepest respect for the true mudders out there.
I got some cool cuts of the Tough Mudder Seattle event, and after grinding away at the Gladiator Run, I wanted to share some highlights from the big boy course:
Arizona -1.5 At St. Louis
Pick: Cardinals -1.5
Atlanta -3 At Washington
Matt Ryan leads the league in passer rating (112.1). He’s thrown for 1,162 yards for 11 TDs and just 2 picks. He’s got weapons everywhere, a serviceable rushing game and a defense that’s holding opponents to 19 points a game. The Skins have a quality offense, but their passing defense ranks last in the league. Whether it’s Tony G, Julio or Roddy making the plays, enough plays will be made for Atlanta to win by three. Especially against the league’s second-worst pass defense.
Pick: Falcons -3
At Pittsburgh -3.5 Philadelphia
The Steelers are whole again. They get their primary RB and two huge defensive playmakers (Harrison and Polamalu) back on the field just in time. Tomlin’s teams are 4-2 ATS after bye weeks. It’s time for the Steelers to step up and grab a big win at home.
Pick: Steelers -3.5
Green Bay -7 At Indianapolis
Greg Jennings is out, but even without their best receiver, the Packers are more than a touchdown better than the Colts. The Colts had an extra week to prepare for the matchup, but they also lost their head coach for the foreseeable future. Even if the team comes out inspired, it likely won’t be enough.
Pick: Packers -7
At NY Giants -9 Cleveland
The Browns kept it close with the Ravens last week, which was a bit surprising. There are things to like about this 0-4 squad, but the matchup is too difficult. The Giants are averaging 29.8 points per game. Cleveland’s averaging 18.2. The spread’s about right.
Pick: Giants -9
At Minnesota -5.5 Tennessee
Hasslebeck gets the nod in the dome and suddenly Chris Johnson can run forward. Time for a Tennessee turnaround? I think not. The Vikings are the surprise leaders of their division, winners of two straight and the safer bet at home.
Pick: Vikings -5.5
At Cincinnati -3.5 Miami
What the what? The Fins have the best run D in football, you say? They’re only allowing how many rushing yards a game? 56.8? Bananas, I tell you. But what about their pass D? Oh, they’re allowing almost three bills a game. 30t hin the league. Damn. Good news for AJ Green (who would be leading the NFL in receiving yards if it wasn’t for that pesky 253-yard Hartline stat line last week). The Fins can move the ball too though. They got a promising QB and Reggie Bush is averaging 5.5 yards a carry. Both teams are hurtin’ at the corner spots, too. This game feels like it could hit the over by halftime. Bengals win the shootout.
Pick: Bengals -3.5
Baltimore -6 At Kansas City
When did the Ravens become an offensive powerhouse? They’re putting up 424 yards and 30 points per game. And they’re well-rested heading into Arrowhead. The Chiefs are going to pound the rock and hope that Matt Cassel can stop throwing picks. Ravens avoid the trap.
Pick: Ravens -6
At Carolina -3 Seattle
Seattle’s letdown loss last week was easy to anticipate, but I like them in this matchup. It’s really a strength-against-strength thing. Carolina gets the checkmark on O and Seattle’s got the D. It’ll be interesting to see how the battle plays out between a strong pass rush and a QB who can gash you with big runs. I think the Seahawks can rattle Cam into a pouty, towel-over-the-head style finish. And then there’s this fun fact: The Panthers have allowed over 300 rushing yards the past two games and they’ll be going up against the NFL’s leading rusher in Marshawn Lynch (473 yards).
Pick: Seattle +3
Chicago -6 At Jacksonville
Cutler looked sharp last week. He was decisive and he kept throwing TDs even after the game was long decided. Jacksonville isn’t going to be able to feed MJD all day and expect huge chunks of yards. The Jags need to make plays with the passing game. Good luck doing that against a defense that leads the league in INTs.
Pick: Bears -6
At New England -6.5 Denver
The Pats made a statement last week, dropping 52 points on the Bills. They seem to have a tough time beating Denver though. I get the feeling this game is going to come down to the wire. Probably a field goal. Pats will likely win and not quite cover.
Pick: Broncos +6.5
At San Francisco -10 Buffalo
If the Bills pair of starting RBs can’t get going against the Niners, then no one can. I know the 49ers are supposed to be super good at defense and covering spreads at home and all that, but I’m not sold on this spread. Seems a bit steep. The Bills can move the ball better than the Jets, but they’re still likely to lose convincingly.
Pick: Niners -10
At New Orleans -3.5 San Diego
The only winless teams in the league are the Saints and the Browns. After Sunday night, the Browns will be in sole possession of that dubious distinction. Brees blows up at home in the dome, and if he’s going to unleash some 0-4 frustration, might as well do it against the team that let him get away.
Pick: Saints -3.5
Houston -8 At NY Jets
The Jets are a mess and the Texans are firing on all cylinders. Sanchez needs a big game to quiet the calls for Tebow. If the Jets somehow show up at home it could do wonders to stop the downward spiral of their season. I think a convincing win by the Texans is more likely. Houston may clinch their division by midseason.
Pick: Texans -8
Last Week: 9-6
Last Season: 140-120-12
I’ve always been more of a Scotch guy, but I know a good whiskey when I see one. Lower-end whiskey choices tend to be too sweet and too syrupy. When you want a stiff drink, you want that drink to have some flavor. You want it to have a bold and memorable taste, something with some depth and complexity. You don’t want that drink to taste like an alcoholic Slurpee.
So when I tried Bulleit Bourbon for the first time, the first thing that stood out to me is the nuance, the I-don’t-have-to-be-too-sugary-to-succeed taste. What I like about good Scotch is the subtleties that are at play in the drink. You get a certain scent, a certain immediate, on-the-tongue flavor and some sort of afterthought finish. It’s a process, and not every drink can deliver each step of the way. Bulleit Bourbon can.
Tom Bulleit founded the Bulleit Distilling Co. in YEAR with the goal of using his great-great-grandfather’s 175-year-old recipe to make fantastic, authentic bourbon. Bulleit Bourbon is aged al east six years in American White Oak barrels that are housed in single-story warehouses. This allows for more control over the maturation process. The consistency is further enhanced by the mingling process, where two to three distillates will be mingled together to achieve a consistent nose and finish. Bulleit Bourbon uses large amounts of rye grain and proprietary yeast that is cultured on-site at the distillery.
The nose is spicy, but the taste and finish are so smooth. The finish lasts for some time too, which is a good thing. Bulleit Bourbon is great to us in cocktails, because it can stand alone of give itself a proper place to stand out when mixed with other elements. I think it’s a pretty good base for old fashioneds. I tend to like my old fashioneds a little less sweet (with a small spoonful of simple syrup of the crushed sugar cube), but I really like how Bulleit plays with the bitters. Add some citrus-type garnish and you’re good to go.
And if you’re a purist, you don’t need any mixers. Just sip on this quality Bourbon and enjoy the long, smooth finish without any interference.
This past weekend Degree Men flew me out to Seattle for a sweet set of events that showcased the motion-activated power of the Degree Men Adrenaline Series. Most deodorant sticks respond to a person’s wetness, but the Degree Men Adrenaline Series is some DEFCON-level deodorant that uses MOTIONsense™ technology to respond to actual activity and body movement. This patented piece of odor-fighting tech starts working more the more you move around. It’s a clinical-grade antiperspirant designed to last for long stretches at a time (up to 48 hours). Even the most extreme adrenaline junkies can’t outstink these sticks.
The Adrenaline Series features a full line of products that cater to specific conditions and preferred man-smells:
- Adventure – A citrusy blast of forest fueled goodness. Musky without going overboard.
- Everest – A cool sensation of wintery clean. Almost mentholated in its briskness.
- Extreme – A minty-citrus combo with an outdoorsy undertone. Fresh side of the great outdoors.
- Sport Defense – Rustic black pepper meets odor-busting chillness. Just the right amount of spicy.
- V12 – Calming herbal blend that mixes subtle scents with a crisp finish. Simple and meditative.
With the full product line at our disposal, the Degree Men’s crew treated us to some awesome displays of man-tensity:
Interview with Bear Grylls
Bear Grylls is the ultimate symbol of staying cool in extreme situations. I sat down with him to chat about the spirit of Tough Mudder, the obstacle that he designed for the course, his favorite spot on planet Earth and you know, that whole what’s-it-like-to-be-known-as-the-guy-who-drinks-his-own-piss thing.
We toured the Tough Mudder course in Seattle the day before the race and I got to see the clean version of the course – a 12-mile track with 22 savage obstacles – before it was muddied and bloodied by over 8,000 participants. The following day I watch as these muddied masses pushed themselves through all the brutality, with a lot of teamwork, camaraderie and respect on display.
High Speed Go-Cart Racing
Multiple rounds of intense, spinout-fueled competition on go carts that reach speeds of 50 MPH. The Crave Online guys dominated the final race at PGP Motorsports Park.
Ultimate Seahawks Experience
I got to tour the stadium with a fun-loving historian. Saw the scene of the Golden Tate crime, scoped out the visitor locker room and got some practice time on the field. Former Seahawks kicker Norm Johnson and former Seahawks fullback Mack Strong gave us some tips on how to kick field goals and throw spirals.
Check out NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series drivers Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Trevor Bayne as they take the Valvoline NextGen Undercover Salesman Challenge to see who can get customers to try out NextGen recycled motor oil.
At Baltimore -12 Cleveland
That’s a whole lot of points there, but even with the recent busy playing schedule of the Ravens, it’s hard to not like them to win big here.
Pick: Ravens -12
New England -4 At Buffalo
I hope Fred Jackson gets back this week, but it’s not looking great. Look for the Pats to right the ship either way.
Pick: Patriots -4
At Detroit -5 Minnesota
We all know the Lions can move the ball. They’re first in the league in passing yards and second in the league in total yards. Now they even have a running back who can give them a workhorse-type effort. The defense is a different story, though. I think the Vikings will keep this close and take advantage of a quality running game (AP), a receiver who catches almost everything (Percy) and a guy who’s going to provide a shot in the arm against a weak secondary (Jerome Simpson).
Pick: Vikings +5
At Atlanta -7 Carolina
The Falcons are for real. Home, away, it doesn’t matter. Cam’s gonna be sour-faced after this one, for sure.
Pick: Falcons -7
San Francisco -4 At NY Jets
No Revis – no problem. They got running back Joe McKnight out there! What could go wrong? I hope the legit refs start flagging Santonio for his constant begging for penalty calls. It’s gotten so bad. Niners bounce back.
Pick: 49ers -4
At Kansas City -1 San Diego
Both these teams have had up and down weeks. The Chiefs were goats for two games and heroes in Week 3, when they overcame an 18-point deficit to beat the Saints in New Orleans. The Chargers looked great in Week 2 and extra-flat against the Falcons. This is really a toss up. The Chargers have won seven of their last nine games against the Chiefs, and the Chiefs have won the last two contests. Toss-up city.
Pick: Chargers +1
At Houston -12 Tennessee
Big spread for a reason. Still like the Texans to cover.
Pick: Texans -12
Seattle -2.5 At St. Louis
The euphoria of the fake win has faded. Time for a letdown game in St. Louis.
Pick: Rams +2.5
At Arizona -6.5 Miami
Go cards go! This defense is allowing the second fewest points per game (13.3). Time to believe!
Pick: Cardinals -6.5
At Denver -6.5 Oakland
So Oakland got a win against a good Pittsburgh team, and Denver got outplayed by a better Texans team. I think Peyton can take advantage of this defense and right the ship at home.
Pick: Broncos -6.5
Cincinnati -2.5 At Jacksonville
The Bengals got a big win last week against the Skins. I like them on the road.
Pick: Bengals -2.5
At Green Bay -7.5 New Orleans
It’s hard to see the Saints going 0-4, but it’s even more difficult to not see Green Bay going off after getting jobbed in Seattle. This game should have plenty of points.
Pick: Packers -7.5
At Tampa Bay -3 Washington
Tampa plays tough at home, but I don’t think the
Pick: Redskins +3
At Philadelphia -1.5 NY Giants
I just don’t like this Eagles team. The Giants just have more pop.
Pick: Giants +1.5
At Dallas -3.5 Chicago
Cutler gets flustered and the Cowboys win a tough, physical game at home.
Pick: Cowboys -3.5
Last Week: 6-10
Last Season: 140-120-12
House at the End of the Street, a new horror film starring Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue, Max Thieriot and Gil Bellows, hits theaters today. It looks like one of those perfect date night movies where attractive people find themselves in freaky situations. Jennifer Lawrence has made some pretty enjoyable films (Winter’s Bone, X-Men: First Class, The Hunger Games), so I think her role is going to go beyond the traditional hot girl in distress that you find in most horror movies.
So Elisabeth Shue and her daughter (Jennifer Lawrence) move in next door to a house where a young girl killed both her parents and left behind a troubled brother who Lawrence takes an interest in. Things get freakier from there. Here’s the trailer:
To get the word out on the release of House at the End of the Street, we’re giving away a free HULU Plus subscription to one lucky reader. That’s a $96 value, folks. To enter, just send us an email below. We’ll pick a winner next Friday, 9/28.
To learn more about the film, follow the hashtag #HATES or check out the official YouTube channel for more clips.
At Carolina -2.5 NY Giants
The Panthers got back to running the ball last week and they did it well with a two headed attack. Jonathan Stewart will be a game time decision. If he doesn’t play, I think that hurts the Panthers big time. DeAngelo Williams bounced back from a poor Week 1 showing, but there’s no replacing the one-two punch they got going. Ahmad Bradshaw has been ruled out for the Giants and Andre Brown is expected to see the bulk of the backfield carries for New York. Hakeem Nicks has been ruled out. Victor Cruz is going to need to have a big game with Domenik Hixon and Nicks both out. I see this being a high scoring affair, and if the Giants are close at the end, it’s hard to not like Eli and the G-Men. Manning can spread the love and make guys like Ramses Barden and Rueben Randle look like studs for a week.
Pick: Giants +2.5
At Chicago -7.5 St. Louis
Will Jay Cutler bounce back after a super ugly game? I think he’ll find a groove, but the Rams secondary isn’t going to get lit up, that’s for sure. I think Chicago will probably win, but I’ll take the points under the assumption that the Rams will keep this close.
Pick: Rams +7.5
At Dallas -8 Tampa Bay
The mental toughness of this Dallas team was questioned once again after they laid an egg in Seattle last week. It’s hard to know what to make of this team, but I see them rebounding at home against the Bucs.
Pick: Cowboys -8
San Francisco -6.5 At Minnesota
The 49ers are clicking on all cylinders. The run game is working. Crabtree and VD are looking dominant. The defense is rock solid and field goals that hit the crossbar bounce right in. If the Niners can shut down offenses like Green Bay and Detroit, they can handle the Vikings in the dome. I feel like San Francisco will dial up at least one redzone play to try and get Randy Moss a touchdown in his old stomping grounds. It’s the right play to keep the part-time player happy.
Pick: 49ers -6.5
Detroit -3.5 At Tennessee
The Titans haven’t scored a first half touchdown yet this season. Chris Johnson has 21 yards on 19 attempts. Yikes. The Lions just move the ball better. Sure they didn’t run all over the 49ers, but who does? I think the Lions shaky secondary is going to give up a couple of big, confidence-boosting plays to Jake Locker and the Titans wide receivers, but the Lions can keep pace, counter with more offensive production and get a win on the road.
Pick: Lions -3.5
At Washington -3 Cincinnati
I hope Garcon plays. He was limited in practice, but I just like watching that Griffin to Garcon connection. The Bengals offense woke up last week. That’ll happen when you play the Browns. Washington lost two key defensive players for the year, Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker. Those guys won’t be easy to replace. It’s only been two games, but the Skins have averaged 34 through two weeks, which tops the league. After blowing a great chance to force overtime last week, I like Washington to come out hungry and ready to roll.
Pick: Redskins -3
NY Jets -2.5 At Miami
Darelle Revis is back, which sucks for Miami. The Dolphins are coming off a huge offensive explosion against the Raiders. Reggie Bush was a monster and Ryan Tannehill looked much improved in his second NFL start. I picked Miami as dogs last week, and I’m tempted to do it again. But with Revis back in the fold and Miami’s secondary lacking any sort of talent, I think I have to go with the Jets here.
Pick: Jets -2.5
At New Orleans -9 Kansas City
I keep picking the Saints and they keep not winning. It’s frustrating. This team is better than that. Okay, maybe the defense isn’t, but I’m tired of seeing this offense camped out in three-and-out land. Get it together, guys. You’re up against the Chiefs. A team that’s been outscored 75-41 in the first two games of the year. If the Saints can’t cover here, they might as well pack it in.
Pick: Saints -9
Buffalo -3 At Cleveland
This game has missed tackles written all over it. These two teams could combine for over 500 rushing yards. Edge goes to the Bills.
Pick: Browns +3
At Indianapolis -3 Jacksonville
I like this Luck guy. If he gets Austin Collie back, he should be able to put together another strong performance at home.
Pick: Colts -3
Philadelphia -3.5 At Arizona
I want to see if this Cardinals defense can keep it going against a team that averaged a league-best 471 yards of offense in the first two games of the season. I think it’s worth noting that the Cardinals have only allowed two touchdowns in two games. If the Cards can stonewall the Eagles and build on last week’s upset, they’ll have to be taken seriously.
Pick: Cardinals +3.5
At San Diego -3 Atlanta
Can we get a Ryan Mathews sighting already? It’s Week 3 gaddamnit, it’s time for that guy to get on the field. Teams can run on the Falcons, and if Mathews sees the field, he should be a big upgrade over the RB committee that the Chargers have been working with. I think the Falcons have enough firepower to outscore the Chargers, though. Tony G’s been making plays. Roddy White’s still a beast. Even with a quiet day from Julio Jones, the Falcons can put up points. I like them on the road.
Pick: Falcons +3
Houston -2 At Denver
Manning is mortal after all. The Texans running game isn’t. Denver seems to hate covering tight ends as well. Good news for Owen Daniels owners.
Pick: Texans -2
Pittsburgh -4 At Oakland
No Polamalu or James Harrison for the Steelers. Both standout defenders were out against the Jets and the defense still looked great. The Steelers running game has completely disappeared. The Redman-Dwyer project has run its course. Mendenhall is practicing, but will he play before Week 5? With key starters missing, the Steelers still have a strong enough defense and passing game to win on the road in Oakland. The Raiders always seem to win games like this, but I’m sticking with Pittsburgh.
Pick: Steelers -4
At Baltimore -3 New England
The Pats bounce back in a tough road game.
Pick: Pats +3
Green Bay -3 At Seattle
Seattle crushed the Cowboys, but getting past the Packers won’t be as easy.
Pick: Packers -3
Last Week: 10-5-1
Last Season: 140-120-12
This past Sunday, the first episode of a six-part documentary series called Being: Liverpool aired on Fox. The series is structured much like Hard Knocks, the NFL films/HBO product that gives a behind the scenes look at NFL franchise preparing for an upcoming season. For people who enjoy watching English Premier League soccer, this is must-see TV. But even if you’re not a hardcore soccer fan, there’s plenty to like about this program.
The Liverpool Football Club is one of the most storied clubs in Europe. Founded in 1892, the club has won 18 League titles, seven FA Cups and eight League cups. The club has also won more European titles than any other team in England, with five European Cups, three UEFA Cups and three UEFA Super Cups. So yea, the team is kind of a big deal.
Being: Liverpool gives fans a behind-the-scenes look at the personalities that make up this club. New manager Brendan Rodgers, who shows a strong, borderline philosophical passion for the game is profiled heavily in the first episode, as is the Red Sox-connected crew that owns the team, the Fenway Sports Group.
Unlike Hard Knocks, which follows a very linear view of a team’s progress, Being: Liverpool jumps around quite a bit chronologically. The home- life view of players and their families is always fun to see. Watching Steven Gerrard with his fam and Luis Suarez hanging out outside the pitch with teammates Lucas Levia and Sebastian Coates (playing Monopoly of all things) was interesting, but the first episode didn’t really delve too deep into the individual players.
The first episode didn’t dive in too deep on topics like the exit of former manager Kenny Dalglish. It’s talked about a lot, but in broad strokes and without any actual interview footage of Dalglish himself. Manager Brendan Rodgers is the star of the show. His interviews come across as forthright and interesting. He also has a huge picture of himself hanging on the wall at his home. You gotta love that.
It doesn’t hurt that the whole thing is narrated by Clive Owen. That guy could read a phone book and make it sound interesting.
Even though the first episode was a bit surface-scratching, I’m hopeful that things will pick up a bit. My DVR is definitely set to record the whole series.