Nikka is a Japanese distillery founded in 1934, making it one of the oldest in the country. Like Suntory, they’ve been proving that the Japanese are capable of making some of, if not the greatest whiskeys in the world. From The Barrel comes in a beautiful, humble looking bottle that’s reminiscent of Muji packaging. The matte silver cap and the light grey paper used for the label are sophisticated without looking overly derivative like other whiskey packaging. The content itself is a blend of malt and grain whiskeys that is then re-casked, which allows the flavors to meld together more harmoniously. Despite the soft aesthetic of the packaging, the content is pretty strong (51.4%), and best enjoyed after allowing to sit for a while. Once its initial alcohol has worn off, you are left with floral, fruitiness and peppery spiciness. Oakiness takes a back seat but is still present along with notes of orange and toffee. Despite being bold and solid, there is plenty of depth here as well, and its nuanced notes and sweetness make this one your palette will enjoy exploring. I prefer drinking it neat or on the rocks and after a few sips, it quickly became one of my favorites in the collection. Unfortunately, Nikka From The Barrel is currently unavailable in the US so you may have to order it online or drive up to Canada like I did.
It’s winter, which means you’re probably staying indoors more than any other time of year. It also means that you’re probably listening to more music, which is why I began looking for a truly exceptional bluetooth speaker. I’ve used many but none are more memorable than the B&O Beolit 15. It has thunderous, sculpted bass but maintains a clear, vital sound, making it a treat to listen to. The speaker isn't meant for critical listening but its rich and intense sound profile is likely what most people prefer for everyday listening. It’s also capable of reaching impressively high volumes and projects sound broadly, making it suitable for communal areas like the living room. The picnic basket-like design makes the speaker reasonably portable and its built-in rechargeable battery lasts 24 hours. There’s an effective leather strap for carrying the speaker, which has an attractive, natural color. At the rear of the speaker is a USB port which lets you charge your phone while listening to music. While charging, you can place your phone at the top of the speaker, which is dished and rubberized. I always thought the Beolit 15 looked a bit odd but B&O recently added a “Natural” color scheme which really helps the speaker’s design. Other color schemes have the aluminum grill anodized in a range of colors but the Natural model’s is silver, which harmonizes well with the light grey body. The new color is what got me to finally try it out, and the sound is what made me fall in love.
I’ve been looking for a decently large backpack and stumbled upon the Y-3 Day Backpack. I'm not usually a fan of Y-3's products but was immediately intrigued by the bag's sculpted, capsule-like shape and clean lines. The majority of the bag is made from neoprene, which has satin finish reminiscent of scuba gear. I love the way it looks but durability is probably a concern for those looking for something more rugged - neoprene is a material that ages, not patinas. The backpack has a large main compartment with plenty of internal pockets. There's also a dedicated pocket large enough for a 15" Macbook Pro and a smaller one for an iPad or notebook. My favorite detail is the hidden pocket located beneath a flap of neoprene. It's attractively resolved and the zipper cut-out has an attractive pill-shaped cutout. There's also a bold elastic that wraps around the bag and ties the design together. It doesn't really have any functionality but is attractive enough to justify its existence. Other than a few questionable design decisions (like the leather patch on the top and the straps) though, the Day Backpack is pretty damn spot on, and functional too, thanks to its usable size, plentiful pockets, and comfortable, wide straps.
When the iPad Pro was first revealed, I had absolutely no interest in the device. It wasn't until I played with one in person that I fell in love with the form factor. The large screen completely changes experience of using the device. I use my iPad primarily for browsing the web, watching videos and a few creative apps, and the larger screen makes it so much more comfortable and usable. Though most people are initially shocked by its size, it’s not that unwieldy to use. If you think about it, the screen is almost exactly the same size as a standard magazine, which I think it the ideal size for viewing visual content. The device is super thin as well, making it comfortable enough to read in bed with. Weight does prohibit the iPad Pro from being held single handedly for an extended period of time, so it’s best enjoyed propped up against your leg or with the Smart Cover. Although the word “Pro” seemed a bit ridiculous for an iPad, I’ve actually found myself using it more than my MacBook when I’m at home. I now do a large chunk of my photo editing on Lightroom and even wrote this and my previous blog posts on it (using the on-screen keyboard). This usability comes from its unprecedented level of performance, which shows absolutely no signs of lag or stuttering. It’s not a device for everyone, but if you’re the right person, you’ll love it as much as I do.
As soon as you pick up the Apple pencil, you immediately know that you’re in for a treat. The Pencil has just the right heft making it feel premium yet comfortable. It’s completely smooth in design so is weighted to prevent it from rolling excessively. The tips are replaceable and have a modest amount of resistance against the glass screen. Where the Pencil really becomes amazing is in its accuracy and sensitivity. It has nearly zero perceptible latency, and operates faster and more smoothly than any other digital pen I’ve tried. The tip is also very linear in its pressure sensitivity, making it predictable when doing things like inking. The Apple Pencil is also able to detect tilt, which feels completely natural in practice. I’ve handed the Pencil to friends with no interest in technology and they’ve all been able to draw effortlessly, and enjoyed it massively - a testament to how much it feels like the real thing. Charging is done cleverly as well - the Pencil can be directly plugged into a Lightning port or charged using the female/female Lightning cable adapter. Many have made fun of Apple for making a stylus but once you use the Pencil, you’ll come to realize that Apple has made the first one that’s actually a good experience.
ystudio is a design studio in Taiwan that has been making brass and copper stationary items with an heirloom quality. Their latest series is the “Brassing” collection, which emphasizes this beauty of aging by featuring a painted surface that can slowly accumulate wear over time. The way paint patinas over brass is something familiar to Leica fans - brassing has always been a big part of Leica culture, and symbolizes a well-lived camera. Some Leica owners have been known to wear their cameras' paint artificially, but this is frowned upon because of it's dishonesty. The ystudio pen actually comes with some sandpaper in the box, incase you wanted to expedite/control the patina process. I think the personalization story is fun but I’m a bit torn on whether I think this is a good idea or not. The packaging is made with care as well and feels like a premium thing. The Brassing Ballpoint Pen is a great pen with a nice heft and smooth travel but if it were me, I'd use time, not sandpaper to create patina.
Lanyap is a new brand in London that produces simple, everyday goods, and currently focused primarily on knitwear. Their products are knit from fine cashmere and completely hand-framed on an 80 year old manual knitting machine in Scotland. The love of craft, tradition and quality materials is respectable, and is well illustrated by the Blanket Scarf, which feels substantial and soft. The color I was sent is called “Ghost Grey” which is a timeless neutral light grey that should fit into any wardrobe. While I think the Blanket Scarf is a great object, I have a hard time giving it a high rating because if its hefty price tag. Nearly $300 for a scarf is really quite hard to swallow, especially for such a simple design. Don’t get me wrong, I love mundane products, but only in the appropriate context. I think at this price, the scarf just ends up feeling a little bit too boring and is in need of a little something, maybe a beautifully designed tag or detail.
Elago is a Korean company that produces affordable tech accessories with a reasonably good taste in design. The mouse pad is made of genuine leather and has a simple, straightforward design. The leather is smooth, stiff and looks synthetic but this makes it a smooth surface for the mouse to glide on. Elago's take on the mouse pad is unique in that there's magnetic patch located at the upper right corner. It's designed to grab hold of a Lightning cable or even paper clips. The bottom of the pad is covered with a suede-like material that keeps it from sliding when used. The major problem I have with it is that it isn't perfectly flat and has the corners have tendency to lift. This can be addressed by bending the pad but is still annoying when you consider that the only job of a mouse pad it to provide a smooth, flat surface.
When you look at photos of the Elago S6 Genuine Leather Wallet Case, it really does seem like a decent case. I like the clean, decoration free design and the dark grey color is attractive as well. When you first take the case out of its packaging, it makes a good first impression as well and feels reasonably well made. The leather doesn't feel premium though, (actually it feels synthetic despite being genuine) but there's a solidity to it that makes it seem durable. Unfortunately, after just a week or two of use, you'll come to realize that the case has major quality issues. The key problem is with the edge paint, which began cracking and peeling after just a week for me. The suede interior ages alarmingly quickly as well and makes me think it'll look tattered rather quickly. Elago is often accused of having poorly made products so I really wanted to be proved wrong. I know that they focus on affordability (S6 Genuine Leather Wallet Case is actually one of their most expensive products) but this level of build quality is rather unacceptable. It's a company that is capable of pretty good design, I just wish they'd invest more in quality.
I don’t know what it is about these sneakers but once you've seen them you simply have to have them. I remember first seeing them at Barneys and wanting a pair until I got scared away by the hefty price tag. I finally caved in a few weeks ago though and bought a pair in the color I’ve always wanted (light grey). These sneakers have really become a modern classic, probably because of their refreshingly understated aesthetic. The minimal, almost mundane design is only broken by a set of golden numbers stamped on the sides of the shoes. They reference the model number, size, and color of the shoes. It’s a small detail but it completes the shoe, and make them really memorable. It’s branding at its best. The Original Achilles are made in Italy and the build quality is excellent, although that should be expected with its price. There are many variants but my shoes are made from super soft grey leather, which is attractive but will likely be harder to keep free of scratches. It does make them very comfortable to wear, and I found them to require no break-in time; my feet felt completely at home from day one. My only major complaint is that the laces aren't that great, and tend to bunch up and lose their shape over time. I've been wearing them everyday and I still can't figure out why I wanted these shoes so badly. It’s complex I suppose, like a girl you’ve always wanted to get with. I’m just happy I have her now.
Mediocre. An average product.
Good. Meets its promises.
Great. Worth praise.
Exceptional. Highly recommended.
Some of these products have been sent by their respective manufacturers.
As always, I do not accept payments and no posts are sponsored by manufactures.