Peat Smoke and Spirit: A Portrait of Islay and Its Whiskies

By Andrew Jefford

Before sitting down to write this review, I poured myself a glass of Bruichladdich single malt scotch. (The Links Torrey Pines edition, to be precise.) I bought the bottle earlier in the day, inspired largely by what Andrew Jefford wrote in Peat Smoke and Spirit. The scotch is good. So is the book.

A large portion of Peat Smoke and Spirit is, as the title would lead you to believe, about the distilleries of the Scottish island of Islay, and the whiskies they produce. That alone would be enough for me, and Jefford certainly describes the liquor beautifully. But the book encompasses so much more than that--more or less everything about Islay that you could want to know, from the history and geography and people to the flora and fauna and even the geology of the island. Having now read all about it, I have to say: I can't think of any place with a comparably inhospitable climate that I am so keen to visit. Jefford's love of the place is quite apparent from the way he writes about it--the prose is rich and inviting, never dull for a moment--and it really made me want to experience it for myself.

I think just about anyone with an interest in scotch or Scotland will enjoy this book. Just be aware that reading it may make you thirsty.

Started: 10/27/2008 | Finished: 12/8/2008

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Sweet Dreams

One of my favorite things that Jason does comes at the end of the day. I have been putting Jason to bed for the past month or so, and we have a little routine all worked out. I change his diaper and put him into his pajamas, then zip him into his sleep sack. Then I rock him in the rocking chair while I give him a bottle, and I feed and rock him until he falls asleep.

It doesn't always go smoothly, since Jason has become easily distractable as he's gotten older and can actually focus on the things around him. Often times, he's more interested in staring at lights or his toys or me than in eating. But he does eventually settle into it and take the bottle, and he usually falls asleep with it in his mouth.

And that's where my favorite thing happens. Just before he falls asleep, just after his eyes have finally drooped shut, Jason gets this huge, blissful smile on his face. It's easy to miss since it only lasts about a second, plus he still has the bottle in his mouth. But it's got to be the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

I think it's not going to be too terribly long before I stop seeing that look, because he'll be putting himself to sleep. It's kind of a mixed blessing--I'm really happy and excited to see how he grows and develops, but, still, it's kind of sad to know that these times are so short. In this case especially so, since the smile is so fleeting and the room is so dark that it's more or less impossible to capture it on film.

Still, for every thing that Jason leaves behind, there's something new to appreciate about him. In the past few weeks he has found his voice, and he's constantly "talking" now. It's absolutely adorable--I'll post video as soon as we can get some.