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Five Whiskeys Dad Will Love

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Tis the season, and if you're like a lot of gift-buyers out there, Dad is both the easiest and the hardest family member to shop for -- sure, you can always get him golf clubs or bottles of fancy booze, but which ones? I might not know a nine-iron from a putter, but I do know a few things about whiskey. Here are five tasty ideas for boozy gifts this season, with reviews from my whiskey club's excellent website (or you can skip right to our database of thousands of whiskey reviews).

Parker's Heritage 10 Year Wheated Bourbon

Price point: around $85
Region: Kentucky
About: Anything from the Parker's Heritage label -- from the Heaven Hill distillery, in conjunction with Parker Beam, of the nearly-royal Beams -- will be good, but this stuff is especially tasty. At more than 120 proof, the alcohol content is about 25% higher than your average bottle of bourbon, but along with all that undiluted alcohol comes undiluted flavor. A lot of people will cut a whiskey this strong with an ice cube or a thimble-full of spring water; I'm of the sip-it-straight persuasion, but that's just me.
Tasting notes: "Fantastic nose, like french toast in a glass with maple syrup. Pretty hot at ~ 64%, but I like that, brings out the big rich spicy wheat profile with lots of sweetness lingering in the finish."

Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Price point: $45
Region: Island of Islay, Scotland
About: I think this is one of the best scotch values out there. I'm partial to the super-peaty stuff, which anything Laphroaig produces certainly is, but this has a great balance to it, due largely to the amount of contact this ten-year-old whisky has had with oak-wood. In the old days, when there were still a lot of whisky-makers in Scotland who tried to keep their activities secret in order to avoid British taxes, a great deal of whisky was aged in small casks, which were easier to hide and transport subtly. The unexpected advantage of this maturation method was that the ratio of wood-surface-area to whisky was upped significantly, giving the scotch a woodier taste. As far as I know, Laphroaig is the only distiller who matures anything in the old contraband-style quarter cask.
Tasting notes: "I find this to be more accessible and balanced than the Laphroaig 10. Great peat but the wood shows, enjoyable, and should be a staple in most collections." "Smokey, musty nose. Palate is very smokey and mildly sweet, with a whole bunch of peat/earth/that stuff and some medicine. A peat treat and a good buy."

Balvenie Doublewood

Price point: $40
Region: Speyside, Scotland
About: This is an extremely accessible and very tasty dram, one I'd be confident putting in the hands of someone who's never tasted scotch before. If they don't like this, they probably won't like scotch at all. On the other hand, snootier palates and more experienced scotch drinkers might turn their noses up at what some consider a "starter" scotch. But, IMHO, that's just silly.
Tasting notes: "Sweet, sherried flavor, moderate finish, and very enjoyable." "Maple nose, full oaky flavor with good mouth feel, some sugar. Finishes a bit hot, but quite good for the price."
Note: If you can find a bottle of the significantly-more-expensive-but-wonderful Balvenie Rum Cask, BUY IT! It's one of the best rum-cask-aged (or anything-other-than-oak-aged) scotches out there.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac

Price point: $70
Region: Kentucky
About: One of the best ryes money can buy. A giant, high-test (126 proof) bottle of spice and cinnamon and leather and oak. Major yum. You may be tempted to make Sazerac cocktails or other mixed drinks with this but DO NOT waste it by diluting with mixers! One ice cube is permitted. Yes, I am very opinionated.
Tasting notes: "Christmassy-clove-allspice-cinnamon-nutmeg-minty-rich-freight-train-delight. A fascinating rye that just pleases the hell out of me. This is not one for novices, the ABV and massive rich spice mix will probably just put them off. However, the heat isn't near what would be expected from nearly 67% (and I drink it at full strength, yes, although it is great on the rocks as well). This has some nearly magical, mysterious aspects to it... and I don't believe any magical or mysterious mumbo-jumbo, so that's saying a lot! Completely delightful."

Ardmore 30

Price point: $400 and up
Region: Highland, Scotland
About: OK, we're getting really fancy here, but I include it because this pretty much the best thing I've ever tasted. I had it once -- a Laphroaig ambassador whipped a bottle out at a party and started pouring it, and when a man in a kilt tells you to drink scotch, you don't ask questions -- and it absolutely blew me away. It's difficult but not impossible to find.
Tasting notes: Nose has moderate cherry/berry scents, dijon mustard, tinge of smoke, chocolate. Palate -- ooh -- chocolate, toffee, and that mustard/spice/smoke thing. Medium-sweetness. Quite rich without being too much of anything. There's also something in the background that tastes like I'm chewing on carnations. Hey, I really like this! Finish is long, where the smoke emerges more and sticks around longest, with a little black pepper. Gets dryer in a way that's a nice contrast to the palate. Reveals different characteristics on every few sips.

For periodic updates on whiskies I love, Follow me on Twitter.

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science
4 Expert Tips on How to Get the Most Out of August's Total Solar Eclipse
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Richard Bouhet // Getty

As you might have heard, there’s a total solar eclipse crossing the U.S. on August 21. It’s the first total solar eclipse in the country since 1979, and the first coast-to-coast event since June 8, 1918, when eclipse coverage pushed World War I off the front page of national newspapers. Americans are just as excited today: Thousands are hitting the road to stake out prime spots for watching the last cross-country total solar eclipse until 2045. We’ve asked experts for tips on getting the most out of this celestial spectacle.

1. DON’T FRY YOUR EYES—OR BREAK THE BANK

To see the partial phases of the eclipse, you will need eclipse glasses because—surprise!—staring directly at the sun for even a minute or two will permanently damage your retinas. Make sure the glasses you buy meet the ISO 12312-2 safety standards. As eclipse frenzy nears its peak, shady retailers are selling knock-off glasses that will not adequately protect your eyes. The American Astronomical Society keeps a list of reputable vendors, but as a rule, if you can see anything other than the sun through your glasses, they might be bogus. There’s no need to splurge, however: You can order safe paper specs in bulk for as little as 90 cents each. In a pinch, you and your friends can take turns watching the partial phases through a shared pair of glasses. As eclipse chaser and author Kate Russo points out, “you only need to view occasionally—no need to sit and stare with them on the whole time.”

2. DON’T DIY YOUR EYE PROTECTION

There are plenty of urban legends about “alternative” ways to protect your eyes while watching a solar eclipse: smoked glass, CDs, several pairs of sunglasses stacked on top of each other. None works. If you’re feeling crafty, or don’t have a pair of safe eclipse glasses, you can use a pinhole projector to indirectly watch the eclipse. NASA produced a how-to video to walk you through it.

3. GET TO THE PATH OF TOTALITY

Bryan Brewer, who published a guidebook for solar eclipses, tells Mental Floss the difference between seeing a partial solar eclipse and a total solar eclipse is “like the difference between standing right outside the arena and being inside watching the game.”

During totality, observers can take off their glasses and look up at the blocked-out sun—and around at their eerily twilit surroundings. Kate Russo’s advice: Don’t just stare at the sun. “You need to make sure you look above you, and around you as well so you can notice the changes that are happening,” she says. For a brief moment, stars will appear next to the sun and animals will begin their nighttime routines. Once you’ve taken in the scenery, you can use a telescope or a pair of binoculars to get a close look at the tendrils of flame that make up the sun’s corona.

Only a 70-mile-wide band of the country stretching from Oregon to South Carolina will experience the total eclipse. Rooms in the path of totality are reportedly going for as much as $1000 a night, and news outlets across the country have raised the specter of traffic armageddon. But if you can find a ride and a room, you'll be in good shape for witnessing the spectacle.

4. PRESERVE YOUR NIGHT VISION

Your eyes need half an hour to fully adjust to darkness, but the total eclipse will last less than three minutes. If you’ve just been staring at the sun through the partial phases of the eclipse, your view of the corona during totality will be obscured by lousy night vision and annoying green afterimages. Eclipse chaser James McClean—who has trekked from Svalbard to Java to watch the moon blot out the sun—made this rookie mistake during one of his early eclipse sightings in Egypt in 2006. After watching the partial phases, with stray beams of sunlight reflecting into his eyes from the glittering sand and sea, McClean was snowblind throughout the totality.

Now he swears by a new method: blindfolding himself throughout the first phases of the eclipse to maximize his experience of the totality. He says he doesn’t mind “skipping the previews if it means getting a better view of the film.” Afterward, he pops on some eye protection to see the partial phases of the eclipse as the moon pulls away from the sun. If you do blindfold yourself, just remember to set an alarm for the time when the total eclipse begins so you don’t miss its cross-country journey. You'll have to wait 28 years for your next chance.

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HBO
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Pop Culture
IKEA Publishes Instructions for Turning Rugs Into Game of Thrones Capes
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HBO

Game of Thrones is one of the most expensive TV shows ever produced, but even the crew of the hit HBO series isn’t above using an humble IKEA hack behind the scenes. According to Mashable, the fur capes won by Jon Snow and other members of the Night’s Watch on the show are actually sheepskin rugs sold by the home goods chain.

The story behind the iconic garment was first revealed by head costume designer Michele Clapton at a presentation at Los Angeles’s Getty Museum in 2016. “[It’s] a bit of a trick,” she said at Designing the Middle Ages: The Costumes of GoT. “We take anything we can.”

Not one to dissuade customers from modifying its products, IKEA recently released a cape-making guide in the style of its visual furniture assembly instructions. To start you’ll need one of their Skold rugs, which can be bought online for $79. Using a pair of scissors cut a slit in the material and make a hole where your head will go. Slip it on and you’ll look ready for your Game of Thrones debut.

The costume team makes a few more changes to the rugs used on screen, like shaving them, adding leather straps, and waxing and “frosting” the fur to give it a weather-worn effect. Modern elements are used to make a variety of the medieval props used in Game of Thrones. The swords, for example, are made from aircraft aluminum, not steel. For more production design insights, check out these behind-the-scenes secrets of Game of Thrones weapons artists.

[h/t Mashable]

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