TIME food and drink

5 Things You Need To Know About Japanese Whisky

Food Japanese Whisky
From left are Hibiki 12-year-old, Yamazaki 18 and 12-year-old Japanese whiskys at the Rickhouse bar in San Francisco, Aug. 6, 2010. Eric Risberg—AP

A single-malt from Japan has been named the best whisky in the world for the first time. Here's why you shouldn't be all that surprised

The whisky world was shocked on Tuesday, when it was announced that the 2015 edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible had named Suntory’s Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 the best whisky in the world — the first time the honor has gone to a whisky from Japan. Even more of a shock, particularly to the Scottish who pride themselves on their whisky, for the first time in the 12 years the Whisky Bible has been published, not a single Scotch made the top five.

But perhaps the surprise is unwarranted. After all, Japanese whisky has been a rising star in the spirits world for some time now. So, in honor of the big win, here are five things you should know about Japanese whisky.

It’s The New Kid on the Block — Japanese whisky has been commercially produced since since the early 1920s, when the Yamazaki distillery was first built near Kyoto. Throughout the 20th century, Japanese whiskies were primarily sold and consumed within Japan, yet they’ve become increasingly popular in Europe and North American in recent years.

Production — Japanese whiskies were first modelled on Scottish whiskies — Suntory’s first master distiller Masataka Taketsuru studied in Scotland and wanted to bring the drink home — so they are produced in much the same way, distilled twice using pot stills. Many distilleries even use malted and sometimes peated barley imported from Scotland.

About That Missing “E” — As Japanese whisky has much in common with Scottish whiskies, rather than the Irish or American varieties, its name follows the Scotch tradition and is spelled without an “e.”

Pop Culture Moment — Japanese whisky makes a prominent appearance in 2003′s Lost in Translation. In the film, Bill Murrary’s character Bob Harris is a washed-up actor who heads to Japan to shill for Suntory whisky. Tag line: “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.”

In real life, it was actually actor Sean Connery who appeared in Suntory commericals in the 1990s.

It’s a Winner – The World Whisky Bible coup isn’t the first time Japanese whisky has been recognized with an international award. In 2001, Nikka’s Yoichi whisky was named the “Best of the Best” in an international tasting by Whisky Magazine. Then, in 2003, Suntory’s 30-year-old Hibiki won the top award at the International Spirits Challenge and Suntory went on to earn awards at the competition for the next 11 years.

TIME Food & Drink

The World’s Best Whisky Has Been Named and Scotland is Displeased

Scotland doesn't even have a whisky in the world's top five

The best whisky in the world is “near indescribable genius.” It scores 97.5 marks out of 100. It is also not Scottish.

That’s according to Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2015, a highly regarded ranking of fine global whisky. Specifically, reports the Telegraph, the top title belongs to Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013, from Japan’s oldest whiskey distillery, Suntory, founded in 1923.

What’s more, for the first time in the 12 years the Whisky Bible has been published, not a single Scottish whisky makes the bible’s top five. If that wasn’t bad enough for Scotland, which along with Ireland is the spiritual home of the drink, the best European whisky in the latest edition is English.

The Whisky Bible describes the winning Yamazaki whisky as “rich and fruity,” with a nose of “exquisite boldness” and finish of “light, teasing spice.” Just 18,000 bottles were made — it is sold out on the bible’s online shop, and it is available in just a few specialist shops in the U.K. for about $160.

American whiskies take second and third prize, including repeat second-place winner William Larue Weller, a Kentucky bourbon.

So what about auld Scotland? A Scottish whisky — the 19-year-old single malt Glenmorangie Ealanta — took the top spot just last year, also getting 97.5 marks.

But the book’s author, Jim Murray, writes that though hundreds of Scottish whiskies were among the more than 1,000 samples he tried from all around the world this year, they fell flat.

“Where were the complex whiskies in the prime of their lives?,” he wonders, calling this year’s rankings a “wake up call” for Scottish brands.

Ron Taylor, an independent wine and spirit judge and educator, tells TIME it’s no surprise that a Japanese whiskey took first place in Murray’s list, since Japanese whiskies regularly win prestigious competitions, even in Scotland.

Still, Taylor also said that rankings often reflect the taster’s personal preferences. Indeed, Taylor describes Japanese single malts as like a Lexus —“beautifully crafted, no vibration, smooth, consistent and always pleasing” — while their Scottish counterparts are more akin to a Maserati.

“The Scottish whiskeys, they’ll knock you around and slap you around the face a little bit,” says Taylor, who is from Scotland, but calls himself “a non partisan” drinker.

He also notes that Suntory, which makes the winning Japanese whiskey, also produces whiskey brands around the world — including, in fact, multiple Scottish whiskies.

[The Telegraph]

Read next: The Best Whiskey Bars in America

TIME 2016 Election

Ron Paul is Spouting Off on Ebola, Secession and Terrorism in Canada

Ron Paul
Former Congressman Ron Paul gestures during a rally for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli in Richmond, Va., Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. Steve Helber—ASSOCIATED PRESS

His punditry is creating problems for his son's likely White House run

In recent months, retired congressman and Libertarian darling Ron Paul has made pronouncements on Ebola, secessionist movements and terrorism in Canada that appear designed to stoke controversy, even as his son Rand tries to stake out less fraught territory in preparation for a likely presidential campaign.

Ron Paul piped up Sunday following a series of attacks on members of the military in Canada that investigators believe are likely tied to jihadist ideology.

“Though horrific, it should not be a complete surprise that Canada found itself hit by blowback last week,” Paul wrote in a column. “That is the danger of intervention in other people’s wars thousands of miles away. Those at the other end of foreign bombs – and their surviving family members or anyone who sympathizes with them – have great incentive to seek revenge. This feeling should not be that difficult to understand.”

Paul’s recent spate of controversial public pronouncements—as a professional provocateur he rarely makes any other kind—are fast becoming a political liability for his son Rand, who is widely expected to mount a campaign for the White House in 2016.

As his soapbox of late, Paul is chiefly using Voices of Liberty, a Ron Paul-centric subscription news and commentary service launched in July, the newest of several overlapping organizations built around Ron Paul’s personal brand—The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, Ron Paul Curriculum and The Foundation for Rational Economics and Education. Voices of Liberty “amplifies the messages of freedom through insightful news coverage, engaging shows and your involvement!,” according to the group’s website. The flurry of activity around the new site has revived an old challenge for the Paul family.

Ron Paul Inc.’s most widely noted declaration of late was the suggestion that the insecticide DDT be used as an Ebola treatment (at present the only known Ebola treatments experimental and DDT is not among them). In fact, Ron Paul never said such a thing—it appears to have been a mistake inserted into a Voices of Liberty press release by a PR rep. In any event, it wouldn’t be the first time statements attributed to Ron Paul, possibly falsely, have become problematic for his son. Rand has already spent more time than he would like distancing himself from his dad’s notoriously shrill and racist newsletters from the 1990s, which the elder has contended were written not by him personally but by a staffer.

In a column Sunday, Paul made the dubious-at-best claim that “the people of Liberia and other countries would be better off if the U.S. government left them alone.” The sentiment is vintage Ron Paul, his austere libertarianism taken to its logical extreme, but hard to reconcile with a society and economy that have come to a screeching halt as Ebola drives people out of public spaces.

It’s not just Paul’s outlandish statements that could be problematic for Rand Paul.

On Ebola the senior Paul has been at odds with Rand, who has devoted considerable airtime to stoking fears over the disease, suggesting it is more contagious and the threat to American society more serious than the government has let on. In contrast, Ron Paul has suggested the exact opposite: that the government is exaggerating Ebola fears, perhaps for nefarious purposes.

In recent weeks the elder Paul has cheered the near-success of the Scottish secessionist movement—and in so doing apparently advocated for secession of states within the U.S.—and lambasted the Obama administration over the new Status of Forces agreement that will keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan well beyond the originally envisioned 2014 pullout date and possibly into 2024.

And it’s clear that in coming months, he’ll keep sounding off on other subjects.

Read next: Obama Rebukes State Ebola Quarantine Rules

TIME Books

Alan Cumming’s Boyhood Was No Cabaret

Alan Cumming attends the HRC Marriage for Equality USA celebration at the Calvin Klein Boutique on April 17, 2013 in New York City.
Alan Cumming attends the HRC Marriage for Equality USA celebration at the Calvin Klein Boutique on April 17, 2013 in New York City. Andrew H. Walker—Getty Images

The actor's funny, heartbreaking new memoir recalls his struggles with an abusive father and his journey from the Scottish Highlands to Broadway

When Alan Cumming arrives for brunch at a café not far from his apartment in Manhattan’s East Village, he’s wearing a blue baseball cap with a big white yes on the front. It’s been almost two weeks since Scotland voted no to separating from the United Kingdom, but Cumming, a Scot who campaigned heavily for the yes side from New York, hasn’t quite gotten over the loss. He heard the results in his dressing room after a performance of Cabaret, a revival of the 1966 musical that brought him a Tony for his electrifying performance as the androgynous Emcee when it returned to Broadway in 1998. “I just cried,” he says. “I felt like it was the difference between choosing imagination and hope and positivity or being cowed and doffing your cap and letting the establishment tell you what to do.”

Scotland still defines the effervescent 49-year-old Cumming in a way that nothing else does. He grew up there on a vast estate called Panmure where his father was the head forester. The men who worked the 21 sq. mi. (54 sq km) of woodland addressed the authoritarian elder Cumming as “the maister.” Alan and his brother Tom might as well have called him that too. Doing grueling chores under his unforgiving eye, they were always fearful of paternal rages that often ended with a beating. Cumming once wound up with a vicious haircut administered with sheep shears that left the 12-year-old bleeding and half bald.

How Cumming finally freed himself from the grip of that painful past is the subject of his new memoir, Not My Father’s Son. “I wrote the book partly to say that this kind of abuse is not normal,” he explains. “Abusers make you feel like it’s acceptable. And for the world who knows me one way, now they’ll know me in a different way, and I’m glad, because it’s all a part of me.”

It’s hard to fathom how the terrorized little boy grew up to be the slender, joyful man who can’t stop cackling as he shows off photos of the pink neon sign saying “Club Cumming” that he had made for his dressing room at Cabaret. Reading the book, you understand how he got so enmeshed in the Scottish campaign. Self-determination and liberation–of himself and others–from old conventions, gender restrictions or just boredom have been Cumming’s quest since he left home at 17 to study at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

He began writing his memoir after his father’s death in 2010 while working his day job as the Emmy-nominated co-star of CBS’s The Good Wife, now in its sixth season. On that show, Cumming plays Eli Gold, the tightly wound, manipulative political adviser to Chris Noth’s Governor Peter Florrick and his wife, played by Julianna Margulies. His book takes us from his primary school in the Scottish Highlands to London, where he played Hamlet in a cast that included his then wife Hilary Lyon as Ophelia in 1993. His father came back into his life a few years later when a British tabloid wrongly reported that Cumming had been sexually abused in childhood. (Harking back to his father’s beatings, Cumming had told another publication that he had been “abused,” a quote the tabloid misinterpreted.)

Cumming weaves into this story his 2010 turn on the British version of the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? which researches the family histories of celebrities. The program’s producers focused on Cumming’s maternal grandfather Thomas Darling, a much decorated World War II vet who died mysteriously in Malaysia. The effort to unearth the truth about his death sparks a crazy journey that sends Cumming around the world, from the former battlefields of France to a graveyard in Asia. It turns out that his grandfather died in a fatal game of Russian roulette. To complicate things, Cumming’s father hears of the family research and announces that Alan is not his son but the product of an extramarital affair of Alan’s mother’s. DNA tests eventually prove the father’s claim is false, but the episode leads Alan and his brother to confront their dad about his lifetime of cruelties toward them–after which, they never see him again.

Cumming leaves off a few years after his 2007 marriage to Grant Shaffer, an illustrator. (His first marriage ended in the mid-1990s, and soon after, he declared himself bisexual.) Now happy, settled and extraordinarily busy, Cumming suspects that not really getting to be a child when he was young might be what keeps him so preternaturally youthful now. (Holding his own in a Cabaret kick line of 22-year-olds is no easy trick.) A friend, British theater director John Tiffany, jokes that there must be a Dorian Gray–style portrait of Cumming in an attic somewhere. He just doesn’t age. “J.M. Barrie could have written him,” says Tiffany. “Alan’s got an incredibly impish, Peter Pan sense of humor. In fact, he’s a gorgeous combination of Peter Pan, Captain Hook and Mrs. Darling.” (Let it be noted that Cumming’s mother’s name is Mary Darling.)

The ongoing tension in his nature between dark and light, so evident in the book, is part of what gives Cumming’s work such breadth. It allowed Tiffany to cast him at various times as both Macbeth and Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy. Cumming can slip from playing a movie Smurf to the übersexual host of Cabaret’s Kit Kat Club and then host Masterpiece Mystery on PBS without dropping a sequin. He combines a Calvinist work ethic with an eternal party-boy vibe. And the party is almost always on. Not only do legions of friends show up nightly at Club Cumming after the show, but he even has a kind of Camp Cumming–a second home in upstate New York where the landscape reminds him of Scotland. He often invites the entire cast of whatever show he’s in for weekends.

Cumming’s brother also thinks that in his offstage and offscreen life, his famous sibling may be re-creating a childhood he didn’t have. As evidence, you could point to the big trampoline that Cumming installed at the house. When guests ask about it, he’ll insist they try it. “‘It’s really great,’ I tell them. They say, ‘No, no, that’s not for me.’ People are so afraid of being judged. But as the weekend goes on, you look, and there they are, bouncing away. I love seeing that. It makes my heart swell.”

TIME Scotland

Scotland Faces Challenge of Putting Referendum Behind It

Pro-independence supporters' Scottish flag seen in front pro-union activists in Glasgow's George Square, in Scotland, on Sept. 17, 2014, on the eve of Scotland's independence referendum.
Pro-independence supporters' Scottish flag seen in front of pro-union activists in Glasgow's George Square, in Scotland, on Sept. 17, 2014, on the eve of Scotland's independence referendum. Leon Neal—AFP/Getty Images

As a service of reconciliation is held in Edinburgh, community leaders and politicians urge for unity in Scotland after a divisive vote

Scotland’s decisive answer to one of the biggest questions in its history — the question of independence — has raised another, less easily addressed one: How does a divided nation move forward?

Since the country voted against splitting from the United Kingdom 55% to 45% on Sept. 18, politicians, community leaders and even Queen Elizabeth II have urged for reconciliation, fearing that the explosive issue might cause a lingering divide in Scotland.

While there were reports of clashes and nasty incidents between the two camps in the lead up to the vote, the fallout from the referendum campaigns had the potential to be much worse. With so much passion and political fire on either side, there’s no easy way for the two sides to reconcile opposing beliefs on what’s best for Scotland.

“I think there will be significant damage from this referendum,” says James Stirling, a 23-year-old trainee wealth management specialist in Edinburgh and a pro-union supporter. He says that the referendum debate split the country in two and “the [campaigning] passion is not going away. It was like fueling a fire.”

That fire has burned out of control at least once since the vote count. Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland and one of only two councils where pro-independence votes were in the majority, saw a pro-union rally turn violent on Friday. Reports and photos on social media depicted swathes of anti-independence supporters in George Square, a pro-independent Yes campaign hotspot before the referendum,draped in Union Jack flags and singing “Rule Britannia,” before fights and vandalism were reported. Six people were later arrested.

It was the kind of scene that many had hoped to avoid. The Church of Scotland planned a special service of reconciliation on Sunday at Edinburgh’s St. Giles’ Cathedral, led by Reverend John Chalmers, to address any wounds in the community. The service was also an opportunity to bring politicians on either side of the referendum debate together, Chalmers told TIME a few days before the service. He also noted that for those who had championed independence, the referendum loss was so pronounced, it was “almost a bereavement.” He hoped that the service would be a way to highlight that those on the other side of the issue could be a source of support in post-referendum Scotland.

Yet, though the service was attended by estimated 1,000 people, including many senior politicians, both First Minister Alex Salmond and his likely successor Nicola Sturgeon, the two most high-profile politicians behind the independence campaign, were no-shows.

Salmond himself has struggled to overcome his grievances. Having publicly accepted the results of the referendum, the fervent nationalist leader claimed Sunday that political leaders in Westminster had misled the people of Scotland with empty last-minute promises to give the country more powers. “It’s the people who were persuaded to vote No who were misled, who were gulled, who were tricked effectively,” he said. “They are the ones who are really angry.”

Rev. Chalmers, speaking before the service, said that those Scots still feeling angry or hurt must focus on the heritage and history that unites them. “The people of Scotland are on two sides of the same coin,” he says. But in order to move forward, he said that Scots must get on the same side and “get back to being Scotland.”

One canny entrepreneur believes he’s found one way for Scotland to do that. After spending months watching the debate unfold amongst his family and on social media, Edinburgh resident Stuart Ebdy, 32, realized that “no matter what happened in the referendum, half our country would be happy and the other half would be sad.” So he decided to make a Referendum Reconciliation Ale, an IPA specially made at a craft brewery in Scotland, that could be shared by Yes and No voters. He ordered 100 kegs, had special labels printed and began selling them online. “There’s only about a handful left,” he says, noting that many orders had been placed after the results were announced.

It doesn’t pay, however, to underestimate the Scottish ability to put aside grievances and simply “get on with it,” as Darren Crocker, a 28-year-old support worker in Edinburgh, puts it. “On paper it’s a divided nation,” he says. “But in real terms we’re fine.”

 

TIME Scotland

Scotland’s First Minister Says Voters Who Backed Union Were ‘Misled’

Scotland Decides - The Result Of the Scottish Referendum On Independence Is Announced
First Minister Alex Salmond delivers a speech to supporters at Our Dynamic Earth on Sept. 19, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Matt Cardy—Getty Images

Alex Salmond says "no" voters were wooed by empty promises from British Prime Minister David Cameron

First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond says that those who voted “no” to an independent Scotland during last week’s referendum were “gulled,” “misled” and “tricked effectively” by last-minute promises from the United Kingdom.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and leaders of other political parties had agreed before the referendum to grant Scotland greater ability to act on its own to set tax, welfare and budget policies, London’s The Telegraph reports.

But Cameron said after the referendum that those changes would only happen “in tandem” with the exclusion of Scottish politicians from votes on matters that concern only England.

He also expressed hesitance about granting Scotland new powers without doing the same for Wales, Northern Ireland and England. “We have heard the voice of Scotland and now the millions of voices of England must be heard,” Cameron said on Friday.

Salmond accused Westminster leaders of “cavilling and reneging on commitments,” speaking to the BBC on Sunday. “They seem to be totally shameless in these matters,” he said.

“The Yes campaign aren’t surprised by this development. It’s the people who were persuaded to vote No who were misled, who were gulled, who were tricked effectively. They are the ones who are really angry.”

[Telegraph]

TIME Scotland

Russia Says Scottish Referendum Could Have Been Rigged

Scottish Independence Referendum 2014
Dejected Yes supporters in Glasgow, Scotland, on Sept. 19, 2014. Robert Perry—EPA

They should know

Scotland’s historic election on independence did not meet international standards for constitutional referendums, the head of a Russian voting rights organization has said, with procedures that left the result subject to rigging and vote-tampering.

Igor Borisov, chairman of the Public Institute of Suffrage in Moscow (also translated as the Russian Public Institute of Electoral Law), said the voting took place according to United Kingdom voting rules, which differ from the international community’s accepted procedures for such votes, Russian news agency Ria Novosti reports.

The unusual criticism comes just months after the international community rejected the results of a referendum in Crimea. The White House said the March ballot had been “administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law.”

Borisov said the chief concern in Scotland was the counting of the votes, which he alleges was not secure and was open to potential voter fraud and rigging. Borisov noted that the vote-counting room was the size of an “aircraft hangar,” which opened up the democratic process to tampering.

“Even if you want to, it’s impossible to tell what’s happening,” he said. “It’s also unclear where the boxes with ballot papers come from.”

[Ria Novosti]

TIME Scotland

Donald Trump: Wind Energy Support Hurt Scottish Independence Movement

The billionaire thinks Alex Salmond’s support of wind energy may have hurt his referendum efforts

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

By Ben Geier

There’s been a lot of talk today about why exactly the people of Scotland voted to stay in the United Kingdom instead of becoming an independent country: Was it patriotism? Concerns about national security? Or an unclear vision for the future monetary policy of an independent Scotland?

Donald Trump thinks he knows the real reason: wind turbines.

Trump told Fortune that recently resigned Scottish First Minister and leader of the independence campaign Alex Salmond is a huge supporter of wind energy, something Trump says contributed to the deterioration of his relationship with the politician, whom he said he knows “very well.”

“Had he not littered Scotland with these horrible wind turbines, which have raised everybody’s taxes … I think he would have done much better,” Trump told Fortune. “There’s tremendous anger [in Scotland] over this subject.”

Trump, of course, has been fighting wind farms in Scotland for years. Earlier this year he decided not to build a second golf course in the country after he lost a legal challenge to block the building of new turbines (he decided to build a course in Ireland instead.)

There has been some talk in recent days that, had the independence campaign been successful, Salmond and the Scottish National Party would have had to put their ambitious wind energy plans on hold.

For the rest of the story, please go to Fortune.com.

TIME Scotland

Why Scotland Wanted to Break Up With England

The two countries fought for centuries before being united as part of the U.K.

It turns out that Scotland will be staying in the United Kingdom, but why did Scotland want to break away in the first place? Partially, it had to do with Scotland’s long-standing rivalry with England.

Before the neighboring countries were joined together by the Acts of Union in 1707, their history was marked by a slew of battles. Although the wars ended, their rivalry continued into to the modern era. Even with a “No” vote against independence winning, Scotland’s general distaste for the English is unlikely to fade.

TIME States

A Quarter of Americans Want to Secede From the U.S.

Pins in a United States map show where students have come from to take classes at Oaksterdam University, the nation's first marijuana trade school, on Sept. 23, 2010 in Oakland.
Pins in a United States map show where students have come from to take classes at Oaksterdam University, the nation's first marijuana trade school, on Sept. 23, 2010 in Oakland. Tony Avelar—The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

Which is extremely unlikely

The Scottish referendum on secession from the United Kingdom may have failed to pass, but it succeeded in stirring secessionist sentiment in that country and beyond—specifically, in the United States.

Nearly a quarter of Americans, 23.9%, said they strongly supported or tended to support the idea of their state leaving the United States and forming its own country, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken between August 23 and September 16 released Friday.

Support for secession was weakest in the northeast and strongest in the southwest. It cut across party lines, though Republicans (29.7%) are somewhat more keen on the idea than Democrats (21%). A majority, 53.3%, said they strongly opposed or tended to oppose the idea.

Even in states with the with the highest level of support for seceding from the Union, the possibility that it could actually be done is extremely farfetched. In modern American history even attempts at simply seceding from a state have proven impossible—seceding from the country entirely is a different matter altogether. No state since the Civil War has come anywhere close enough to force the courts to issue a final word on the legality of secession, but any such argument would, at the very least, face a very steep climb.

[Reuters]

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