review

Dram and Drag: Teeling Small Batch by Will Ringland

Friday I found myself with a few friends at the Malt House on the East Side. If you're not familiar (1) it would behoove you to visit, even on a Friday night when it gets loud. It's the only place I've been in Wisconsin that captures the Irish pub feel. Small, jovial, with warm and inviting bones with a little bit of bar hard edge. The delightful irony that I was drinking whiskey sitting in a reclaimed church pew was not lost.

I am very clearly an Irish whiskey (2) guy. Nearly all of my top whiskeys are Irish or start with an Irish whiskey character - malt and caramel, light body. I was pleased to see something very new on their menu: Teeling Small Batch whiskey. It was new in two sense: new to the menu and new to distribution. Teeling has (sorta) just started.

The family itself has been distilling whiskey around for 230 years only a few years under current naming The Teeling family sold their original distillery to Jameson around the beginning of the 20th century and this incarnation was spun off after Jim Beam bought the second incarnation in 2011.

The interweaving of old world distilling knowledge and modern sensibility is apparent in the Small Batch I drank last night. It is, at its core, a light (3) and malty Irish whiskey. Where it forks from expectation is in the intensity of the malt flavors. Each taste itself is smooth and caramel tinged so that I am left with the over all impression of a wildly malty drink is curious.

The secret, I think, is in the body. Irish whiskies evaporate more quickly on the tongue. This one, because of it, insinuates malt and caramel over your entire mouth thus allowing those flavors to build over time. Further, the spice you get on the middle and end, which is created by finishing in rum barrels (4), is draped in that same sweetness making that less intense sip to sip. But it similarly builds over the entire drink.

Teeling Small Batch is a clever whiskey and I am, for lack of a better word, intrigued to find the rest of their line.

Check out their intro video below.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆




  1. Shame on you. You need to go if you like any of the following:
    1. Whiskey, especially American because if the size of their selection.
    2. Trappist beer.
    3. Freedom

  2. With an "e".

  3. It's that lighter body which makes Irish whiskies so drinkable. They do not weigh on the palette. It is also why Irish whiskies are mediocre mixers.
  4. I've not seen other spirits aged in rum barrels. It is interesting and encapsulates Teeling's old world sensibilities with modern affectation.

Review of the @ArtofManliness Virtue Journal by Will Ringland

I've been using the Art of Manliness Virtue Journal for a little while now and have developed strong feelings over it and its design as I progress in my own virtuous journey.

Let's start with the journal insert

Open Journal Cover close

Aesthetics

The booklet cover is designed to look like an old printed book. It even uses the Baskerville type face which was designed in 1757. Franklin and Baskerville had an on-going correspondence and Franklin quickly adopted use of the Baskerville typeface upon publishing after reading the first book Baskerville printed with it - Virgil's Bucolica, Georgica et Aeneis. You can read a little on their relationship here.

So, that's a nice touch. The text is crisp except for the larger faces shown on the weekly grid pages.

Grid Good this day

(I could be better with resolve....)

There it's distressed to look more weathered. The lines and text for the entry pages are all grey rather than a full black allowing them to guide but not intrude with use.

Build and paper stock

The insert is built like a tank. It is sturdy, dense, and made from a thick paper stock that feels good in the hand. The paper stock being so thick has merits and flaws. It takes fountain pen ink very nicely. I've been using the rOtring Lava fine nib with both Edelstein Inks and Organics Studio. The Edelsteins in particular flow thick but the paper does not feather or smudge in any noticeable fashion.

Problematically, with use, the the paper causes the book to remain open when bent.

Cover open

You can see here the pages I’ve used and the gapping happening. I suspect it's a combination of the perfect binding and the thickness of the stock. It has significant fold memory. I think this will do two things with use over the next 3 months.

  1. Cause the book to grow fat and unwieldy, making it harder to carry with me.
  2. It will age instead of deteriorate with use.

I will absolutely accept the drawbacks of the paper stock for the fountain pen friendliness and plumping for a well-aged insert. It adds to the appeal.

I really like it overall. Even the cream color of the pages, which normally drives me batty. But each detail feels chosen to illicit the aged and weathered field. The journal feels important without feeling pretentious. It will work with you and look nice doing it for good, long time.

The leather cover

Aesthetics

The journal cover is absolutely lovely. The embossing is well detailed and gorgeous. The journal fits well in there, not loose at all so it doesn't shift in use. I think the insert seats well enough that I'm a little worried about getting the darn thing out when I fill it. And, actually, you can see Brett McKay struggling with it in the video linked above.

Grain

It's made from full grain leather which you can tell from the unfinished edges on the cover. If you look closely, you can see the grain and the corium layers which have differing density and texture. You can also see the thorough saturation of the tanning and dying. The color is even over the surface and penetrates through the whole thickness of the leather.

Stitching

The stitching is thick. I'd bet dollars to donuts that it's a single filament polyester thread which is what is used for durable, long last goods where reliability is paramount, like boots. And parachutes.

And it smells just great. You guys, well-made leather goods have a wondrous aroma and if you haven't ever had a well-made, high quality leather good, you really should. (When I bought my Saddleback Leather satchel, I shoved my entire head into it to get as much of the scent as possible.)

Utility

Pen loop

Pen Loop

The pen loop inside has been useless for me. Fountain pens don't fit well, if at all, nor does the leather hold them in place because of their weight. Fountain pen clips are designed to slip into pockets, over pocket fabric, where the tension in the clip in conjunction with the fabric under the whole of the clip hold it in place.

To benefit from this with the supplied pen loop, you have to partially slide the pen in so the ball of the clip rests on the end of the loop. (pictured above) But you only have a little leather under the clip which doesn't rest against the top of the clip meaning it is unstable. Now, you could slip the pen in the pock on the inside flap...

Pen pocket

But it slips out because theres nothing to prevent that in fabric tension or a sewn pocket for the pen.

I suspect none of this is a problem if you use a standard, lightweight ballpoint pen.

Ribbon

The ribbon bookmark is a stiff nylon, I think. It is problematic. It is a little too short and stiff to properly do its duty as a marker. The latter should fix itself over time and may reduce the following problem. Because the ribbon is so stiff and the pages of the book are so thick that they don't close well, the ribbon tends to slide out of place.

Ribbon

The placement of the ribbon exacerbates it. It is sewn directly center on the cover with the long end running to the left, away from the insert. So when you place it, you have increased resistance because of the direction and placement the ribbon is sewn and the pulling.

On their own, the shortness and stiffness, would be minor problems if at all. But add those to the sewing choice and it makes the ribbon hard to use.

Usability Changes

If I were to suggest any differences in a 2.0 version, it would be to add a second ribbon of different color and a band around the midsection.

A band would help keep the cover and pages closed, especially over time as it fattens with use. It would also keep the ribbon seated. The Midori traveler's notebook covers could be a good model rather than, say, the moleskin, as the dimensions of the franklin journal would look funny with the latter.

The second ribbon would allow marking the weekly grid and the current day page. Considering that the intended use is to fill out both the daily notes and each weekly box in the virtue grid. I find myself opening the book, moving the marker to the weekly page, filling out the daily page, flipping back to the weekly grid, then re-marking the daily page. It's not the greatest (nor terrible to do) but could be better.

And I'd add a pen pocket instead of the loop, something sewn shut, you could slide a pen into. You'd have to be clever in implementation because you wouldn't want to mar the cover's exterior with a second line of stitching.

Even if you just dutch the pen loop and make the pocket about 80% the height of the cover, you could use that. The pen clip would have the full length of the leather to seat itself on. It would be functional for heavier fountain pens while still allowing for regular ballpoints to sit.

Overall

The product is fantastic and I have really enjoyed using it despite some quibbles because of how I use it. The only non-specific flaw is the ribbon and the pen loop issue is probably less likely to happen, but of moderate impact. I fully intend to continue purchasing the inserts on my own moral journey. And I'm really looking forward to what it looks like in a year.

I am most excited about the @artofmanliness Virtue journal.