Thursday
May222014

hey you ... yes you ...

No matter how you feel today, keep going, one foot in front of the other, living in this moment. Not the next. Not the one that's just past. But right now. Times may be tough, and you may be tired, but keep going. We the world, we need you. We need your unique impact on this planet. You were born for a reason. Created to fulfil a purpose no one else can.

Don't let this weigh heavily on you, open your palms stretch out through your fingertips. Look at your thumb print - totally unique in a world of six billion people and counting. Breathe. Know that there is a way to otherside of what's happening with you right now and you can get there. Keep going.

If the road is dark or too hard alone, find people to walk alongside you. What your going through is important and there are people who care about you and want to share in your life.

You are not alone.

You are EXTRAORDINARY.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Wednesday
May212014

life is better when your ...

That's it for now ...

Nic

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Sunday
May112014

To talk or not to talk 

There's a compulsion to talk talk talk everything through with everyone, but are these conversations helping or a hinderance?

Before speaking its worth considering -

Does what I have to say honour the person I'm talking to and myself?

Is what I have to say necessary - is it kind, wise, respectful, useful, true - how would I feel if it was printed as a headline on tomorrow's paper?

Is what I am saying true or gossip?

How will my words remain with the other person when we finish talking?

I'm learning not everything needs to be talked about and it's rather revolutionary. How do you feel about talking, does everything need to be talked through?

Do I trust the person I'm speaking to, what are the boundaries in this conversation for them as for myself?

There is a time to talk and a time to e silent. Finding the balance isn't easy. It might indeed be a lifelong quest but I know I want my conversations to be ones of honour. So I'm working hard to make them so. Of course I don't always get it right but I'm trying to be mindful and aware of the words I speak and their power.

What do you think - does everything need to be talked about?

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Sunday
May112014

Bushmills Distillery - how Bushmills Irish Whiskey is made

There’s something about the idea of drinking whiskey that has always made me smile.  Smooth and nuanced the pale gold liquid swirls in the glass beckoning us to try her.  It’s a drink of reliability, a taste that pulls us in, suggesting calm in swirling smoke, and stormy seas.  I imagine myself with a glass, dog at my feet, sitting by a turf fire, engaged in relaxed conversation and comfortable silences.

When I think of Whiskey I automatically think of the Bushmills Distillery in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.  Nestled into the hillside, this rather magical place holds many a barrel of the amber nectar, on its vast site of some 84 acres with 18 warehouses, each holding casks filled with whiskey stacked six high.  

Whiskey has been distilled on this site since 1608 with the official licence to distil being granted in 1784, making Bushmills the oldest licenced distillery in the world. The pot still also in 1784 became the registered trademark/logo of Bushmills Whiskey – its still in use today on each of the bottles.  The Distillery blends its buildings as well as its whiskey, with a range of old heavy stone, whitewashed and modern structures across the site.

There are 160 staff on this fully working distillery, which gives the guest a real sense of the business of whiskey - the craft, expertise and skill that goes into each bottle of Bushmills. 

With a keen sense of anticipation I join a tour on a dampish Saturday afternoon.  Stepping into the mashhouse, any sense of chill leaves our bodies, as the sweet heady smell of yeast, and the warmth of the house surround us like a comforter.  

It is in the Mashhouse three ingredients come together – unpeated malted barley from Co Kildare in Ireland, distillers yeast and water from St Columbs Mill a tributary of the River Bush – in a vast copper kettle. The mixture is heated with hot air, rather than over a peat fire which gives Bushmills its clean distinct unsmokey taste. The metal floor vibrates under our feet as the three ingredients are slowly stirred together, a giant mechanical arm grinding the grains to a coarse flour also known as a girst by distillers. 

The stir and standing time is about six and a half hours, using 48’000 litres of water the grains and yeast are heated to three different temperatures.  Bushmills Distillery have three to four separate mixings in the Mashhouse each day.

The liquid wash becomes known as wort which is full of sugars essential for the distillation process.  When the yeast is added, it triggers alcoholic fermentation – which basically means the wort sugars turn into alcohol.  The vessels where the fermentation takes place are called washbacks, they are huge metal containers, standing on a metal grill, I look at them sitting about a metre above the surface, wondering how they can hold 48,000 litres until I look down, and these vast tanks seem to stretch on forever.  The alcohol that is formed here is about 7.5%, once the alcohol has formed the distillation process begins.

Our tour walk to the distillation room where the heat makes me think I am in a warm comforting whiskey sauna.  In tall copper pot stills, with fat bottoms and long swan like necks, the whiskey is distilled three times.

It is this tripled distillation process which makes Bushmills smooth and subtle, and distinguishes it from other whiskeys which are usually only distilled twice.  Here the whiskey is clear like water, because it is all down to the barrel to create the colour and draw out the character of the whiskey.

Using American Bourbon barrels, Sherry casks and even Maderia or Port casks, the distilled alcohol is barrelled and left to rest for a minimum of three years.  At this point the blending of the whiskey begins.  Here the whiskey is left to sleep in different types of barrels to create the specific blends of Bushmills Whiskey. On a cold day the grain of the wood tightens and on a warm day it relaxes, the wood acts as a lung allowing the whiskey to breathe.  A certain amount of whiskey is lost through this breathing process and it becomes known as the angel breath.

Bushmills make a range of whiskeys – there are seven altogether in the Bushmills Whiskey family - two blends, Bushmills original the youngest whiskey and Black Bush, here grain alcohol is added to the whiskey to create the blend, and a range of single malts 10, 12 (only available to purchase at the distillery), 16 and 21 which are aged and blended in casks for their respective number of years. 

After the whiskey has been aged in the barrels for the relevant number of years it moves for bottling, a noisy room, where the whiskey is decanted, labelled, sealed and checked before making its way across the world, to a bar near to you.

Bushmills make a range of whiskeys there are two blends – Bushmills original the youngest whiskey and Black Bush, here grain alcohol is added to the whiskey to create the blend, and a range of single malts, which are aged in casks.  For example the 21-year-old whiskey is aged for 19 years in either bourbon or sherry casks, then finished in port.  They also have a Bushmills Honey, were the whiskey has been blended with pure Irish Honey.

Now for tasting the whiskeys – at the end of the tour each of us are offered a dram or whatever Bushmills whiskey we would like to try or there is the opportunity to have a private tasting of all the whiskey’s. But how did the Bushmills taste, I can hear you ask?

The Bushmills style is fruity throughout all the family of whiskeys.  Bushmills Original is soft and rounded, with vanilla and grain on the nose, and honey on the palate with a fairly fiery finish as the alcohol takes over.

Back home, I pour a glass and ease back into my chair, fire crackling by my toes, and sigh, contentedly.

I will be sharing my experiences of the private tutored tasting in another feature here on Salt and Sparkle, as well as a piece on how to drink whiskey and a whiskey based cocktail & food recipe – so watch out for those coming over the next couple of weeks. 

How do you like to drink your Bushmills?

That’s it for now …

 

Nics

 

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

 

 

Salt and Sparkle were guests of the Bushmills Distillery

 

Wednesday
May072014

The season's first Watermelon and a recipe for Watermelon Salad

Watermelon - how I love you.  Oh how I love you. 

Some health facts about watermelon - There are only 30 calories to every 100grams of Watermelon - and it contains vitamins such as A, C, E, D, niacin, thiamine, B6, B12, acid Pantothenic.  It's rich in antioxidants. 

It seems like no time at all has passed since I was buying Watermelon's last Spring Summer, and not they are back on the shelves, the rich green hull, hiding the delight of ruby red flesh.

Watermelon's sweetness sits brilliantly in this salad, as it is intensified by the saltiness of the cheese. Savoury, and refreshing all at once, this salad when you make it once will quickly become one of your table's summer staples.

The great thing about this recipe is you can mix it up - depending on how you feel - the herbs can be muddled or subsituted, you can use black or green olives, olive oil or no oilve oil - remember this salad is to be refreshing, not heavy and nor greasy - and you can add a scatter of finely sliced onion if you wish.

Watermelon Feta Salad

Ingredients

 

  • 1/2 Watermelon - cut into rough chunks
  • 1 block of feta cut or crumbled into pieces
  • Bunch of mint finely chopped - you can subsitute basil, parsley or coriander - or mix them up
  • Green Olives quartered
  • 1 cucumber roughly chopped
  • Juice of one lime
  • Drizzle of herby olive oil optional
  • Black Pepper

 

Method

 

  1. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl, toss gently with the lime juice and freshly ground pepper
  2. Drizzle with Olive Oil - serve.  This salad is brilliant as a late night dinner, on a platter at a lunch party or served with grilled or BBQ'd meats

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

 

 

Monday
May052014

You are ...

Repeat after me. Go on say it like you believe it.

It is the truth.

You is Kind
You is Smart
You is Important

Sit with those facts for moment. Dare to believe the truth about yourself.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Sunday
May042014

What to start doing this week ...

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable