酒水年 Bar Review (Tao Yuan)


He woke up feeling accomplished having spent the previous day being productive.  Looking to the sky in anticipation of what the weather would be…far from the ancient tradition understanding seasons, global warming has made forecasting the skies a daily artisan skill.  Dark garments worn loosely as uniformed urban apparel, conceal carry: a pen, notepad, camera, and the mind – from the teacher to silent warrior.


The sun, waking up, washing her face, hands slowly removed, revealing her dimly lit eyes.  Play time until the next shift of illumination arrives, the street lights, lazy and half-heartedly ushering her daily closure when the luster she shed on the earth begins to fade.



Precision fell, dark times moving about the village undetected in search of the watering hole that deceived me the night before…final hours before the New Year.  I passed by what would become a documented memory I carried with me, time traveling into the future.  Once again looking to the night sky and stars for direction, moonlight, a reflection of her beauty, magnetic forces controlling the tides, attracting me to overlooked signs.  Camouflaged butterflies day dreaming at night, mimicking bubbles of shooting stars in sporadic circular motions, seemingly chaotic, sequentially fluttering, indirectly guided by the reflection of her bright light.

Arriving at the destination on accident, he hopped off the white horse; adrenaline pumping, ecstasy, high, euphoria.  With the horse rested, tied to a nearby post, far enough to be out of sight, yet close enough to be visible from the smoking position upstairs.  He readied his gear, checking the cartiges and approached the temple, confident that he had found an untainted natural oasis in a mirage of concrete – a perfect place to meditate before frequency chiming of the midnight hour.

Empty bottles filled with spirits – genies and Djin – from the conjuring monks of a previous time blossomed, draped and dressed the hallway, daisies paralleling sunflowers, luminescent roses paving the way for ascension to the doorway of a new dimension.


There he stood looking back on the minutes, days, weeks and months that lead to the end of this year – a long journey for a short trip, this year was over in a matter of hours and the next would overlap moments later.


End of one experience, the beginning of another, a new creation on a continuum of a temporary existence.  The tranquil environment was slightly different than El.Sin.Say had imagined, but it had all of the raw essentials that were required to manifest the frequency of elevated ether.


Becoming acquainted with the grounds keeper, paying my tithes to ensure its maintenance, and reassuring that I would return – 30 minutes and 3 hours before midnight was all that was needed.



上 Café (Tao Yuan)

Being told that there was a bar in his city he had never seen, El.Sin.Say’s curiosity finally got the best of him.  Cleaning the house while no residents were inside, the hour glass was pitted against the weather, grains of sand transforming into cirrius clouds, raindrops preventing the motorcycle ride.  Premature darkness cast a shadow from the neighboring building into his living room.  Knowing that time was not an ally, showered the grit from a princess work – Cinderella.

P1180044A 10 year-old motorcycle with emphysema started loudly without hesitation, and yet it still smoked, tires screaming out the parking garage.  The knees squeaked on pads like an old man attempting to give the youngsters the business on court, eventually displaying remnants of respect from his glory days.

For 15 minutes, Alzheimer’s had them holding hands, escorted up and down the same street looking for signs that didn’t exist.  Now thirsty and fatigued, seeing two fat men outside of a watering hole, he gazed in, and in amazement, there was fully stocked bar staring back. through the key hole, bringing back memories.

The place – one that he had wanted to bring his wife to years before, but never got around to making the time.  Letting it seep through clasped hands, sand of a broken hour glass, now melded tightly, turning into glass. Sharp memories cutting deep wounds in the palm – braille clear enough to force hands open and release handle bars.

Parked, saddle bag ready, bursting through the doors like a salon, room silenced and music stopped, an outsider, clearly a foreigner that wasn’t from this land, although the spur laden boots glided across the wood floor as if a mystical unicorn awaited him outside.

Grabbing a menu by the throat, integrity threatened, it began to spit words in mixed tongue, regurgitating everything it had accumulated in the establishment, trying to seek his approval.  The bar tender rushed to its assistance, asking him to sit down and relax.  A cold glass of water warranted a hot temper – a warm atmosphere.

Slightly at ease, but not relaxed, he was inclined to canvass the rest of the establishment prior to harnessing his sword and saddle bags.  Windows to the world on almost every wall, well shaded, chandeliers, couches and wall paper, all dressed up as a respectable gentleman, or perhaps a quick talking conman with a sharp tongue.

Impelled, the 12 year Sherry Cask Scotsman, silenced his mouth, warmed his throat and pierced his stomach.   The essence of the concoction impaled his spirit , satisfying the thirsty curiosity and yet created a hunger for the establishment.

Time stood still, but hours had passed.  The duality of understanding that each moment increased the probability of not arriving at the next destination dry, while also ensuring that he would be driving dry, food was taken out before the clock struck 12 and he returned to his previous lowly form.



R&D Lounge Bar



According to the GPS we were there, but I had to circle the block three times just to make sure.  The first time to find the location, the second time to find the location.  The third time to locate parking (still hadn’t found the location before I determined the exact spot of this discrete place, but I had seen a door that had some strange marking on it). I felt as if this were a game of hide-and-go-get-it (this generation may never know the games young boys and girls once played outside).


P1040777I parked the car around the corner in a random basement parking lot and cut through a small pathway just outside and reached the street where the bar should be located.  I saw people smoking on the street, so I knew I was in the vicinity, and I approached the door that was barely visible from the car, intricately designed with the logo of the bar.  A friend of mine questioned how I could spot that from the street – intuition.


Environment / Atmosphere –

We walked into the bar, where we were asked to wait by the door, and place our order – as usual, not having reservations, I thought that they might be trying to seat (stand us) at the door.  There was a large wooden wedge protruding from the wall, where people were congregated at the entrance with their drinks.


Upon entering the venue, the bar is located immediately to the right, and a display case with several big circular transparent glass vases partitions the room into 1/2s (splitting the room, essentially from the middle of the bar forward).  The area of the room which is easily seen has standard size tables that can seat 2-4 people and can also be arranged to seat more if need be.



On the opposite side of the partition there are also chairs that accommodate two to four people, in addition to barstool style high rise seats.  There is a small room on that side of the venue as well (couldn’t figure out what purpose it served).


On the wall opposite the bar is a small pagoda – a traditionally styled roof, wooden beams, which appears to be silently making its presence known, notably the best feature of this establishment (however it appears that due to the fact that it accommodates multiple people, my assumption is that someone must make reservations prior to using it).

We were seated by our server Ann, an attractive young woman with a good ability to speak English.  However, being that the bar was crowded and there must have been some mix up with the seating, were promptly asked to give up our seats for a larger party.  Being that I like to talk shit, I asked Ann, “if I do this favor for you, what will you do for me?” and she took me up on the challenge, offering me and my friend some shots.  Magic words, we promptly moved, (although I didn’t expect this to be true).



My friend (a U.S. citizen that studied in China with me that currently resides in Korea), ordered a standard Gin & Tonic.  I, myself as is customary, went to ask for the signature cocktail from the head bar tender (not knowing what it is or who it is from), and was told that everyone makes the same drinks.  What the fuck is that?  I couldn’t understand this concept, so I had to explain what I meant by it in detail.  I was basically told that the has its own set of drinks and that these are the signature cocktails – but that the bar itself has its own cocktails.

Slightly perplexed, I told Ann that this was the first time I had heard of something like this, and there were so many different sets that I wouldn’t know where to begin, nor could my wallet afford to taste all of the variations.  I asked her to make the selections for me, she brought back the shots – I asked for her “line” and Facebook – instantaneously a new friend.

IMG_3171[1]The first drink she brought back was a slight miss, although, i must admit for its style, it was rather good, however, for my pallet, I didn’t particularly care for it, but you know me, I drunk it anyways.  I told her that it was a slight miss for me and why, the next two drinks that came were right on point.  Having noticed that my friend kept ordering the same Gin & Tonic, she asked if he wanted to try their infused version.  Being that he is the straight up type of person, of course he questioned it, but gave it the green light.


We met another group of foreigners while were there, they were a work team from the U.S. that had been assigned to work in Taiwan for about 10 days, thus they were visiting, similar to my friend.  It seems that the nature of this bar is a pit-stop before hitting a final or next destination for the night. But, being that my friend and I hadn’t seen each other in several years, we opted to remain there the rest of the night.  This isn’t necessarily the type of place one should go to meet look for new women, however it is possible to talk to new people if you’re bold enough to approach them.  I would definitely recommend this place for friends that wish to meet up over a drink or even a place where couples can go for a date in a laid back environment.

King Block Dean (El.Sin.Say)

Safe Bubbles & Malt


Located in Hong Kong, this bar can easily be overlooked from a Taxi’s window, however, if one happens to be walking up the street, the entrance is extremely noticeable.  The large iconic “bank vault” style lock, signals that one has arrived at the safe.


The exterior décor is extremely suitable for this location, given the fact that its interior houses hundred of thousands of dollars worth of liquid gold (literally).  The expressions at this establishment range from simple Japanese and Scottish aged statements (discontinued 10 years) on up to the extremely rare and well sought expressions that are typically only found at auctions (closed distilleries).

Although it is a very small location, it has made excellent use of the space available, minimalistic Asian style bar, with presentation and technology at its core.  The evenings that I went, the atmosphere is extremely dimly lit.  As one enters, immediately in front of the door is the bar that gives way to high ceilings, with the mixologist’s ingredients being attained by modality of a ladder (similar to how books are archived in a library or bookstore).

At the bar, there iPads available that maintain an inventory of every drink in this establishment.  Although I have experienced this at several restaurants with their wine menus, i must admit that this is the first time encountering this at a bar.  One could potentially spend at least 30 minutes or an hour entertained by the depth of the offerings, with the staff being able to expand and compliment any further explanations that maybe required.


To the left of the entrance, encased in series of sliding glass doors are the “safes” or the vaults that contains over 600 expressions of extremely whisky.   Being the main showcase and attraction for this bar, the bottles produce an ancient attraction more so paralleling a museum than a bar, with the well-educated staff being its curators.


In comparison to Taiwan, the prices here are extremely expensive (but this strain could also easily be attributed to my humble income), however on this island, set afloat by hedging and futures, one might find the “offering vs price” perfectly acceptable.


King Block Dean 


Backyard Jr. (Backyard XinYi)


My second encounter: I had been here before briefly by myself at the conclusion of watching My Little Pony (out with the family), so I wasn’t able to spend a long time in this location.  However, this time, it was the destination of a friend of mine which I had the honor of driving around for the night – founder of Whisky Live Manila – Johnssen.

The name, inherited as a sequel to the time honored bar Backyard, that was established by one of Taiwan’s (and the region’s) top drink expert – Steven Lin.  Knowing that I would take interest, she “allowed” me to go upstairs briefly to check it out, I stayed there a mere 30 – 35 minutes, therefore this review might not be giving it complete justice.



We arrived just before the mall was set to close and he was perplexed at the idea that the  bar would stay open later than the mall.  Coming up the escalator to the third floor (my first time, the mall was closed, but I was able to take the elevator up), we easily found the location of the bar at the end of the mall, and I was slightly impressed that it could manage to consume this much space, (not because of the amount of space, but rather, because I know that the opposite end of the mall is occupied by Cartier, Prada, Rolex and stores of this nature – therefore the rent must be expensive to sustain).


Approaching this establishment from the outside, there is a large panorama window with a deep tint, that spans the entrance side of the wall with a series of Mortlarch pot stills located on the interior.  The tint on the window, combined with the lights in the interior of the mall, provide a perfect discrete nature for the occupants inside.


This place conceals over 2,000 various expressions of spirits from around the world, that could be adds to the atmosphere, but could also be slightly overwhelming for a novice.


The staff is extremely knowledgeable and professional, conducting themselves and customers with the most respect, speaking both Chinese and English.  This place is definitely, tailored to a specific crowd; those adults aspiring to taste various styles of whisky, those that gathered to enjoy a slightly luxurious social spot, or those merely stepping out for a date with the underling theme hinting towards upscale exclusivity.

Stepping inside, there is a wall of alcohol enclosed in gated cabinets to the left. and the bar is located directly opposite = of the entrance, spanning 3/4 the length of the room.  Behind the bar there is a large window, concealed by hundreds (if not thousands) of bottles of alcohol.  In front of the wood grained bar, there are the standard bar stools (where customers are able to sit and be educated about the bar’s offerings).

Just past the entrance, immediately to the right, there is a series of leather couches and tables, extremely suitable for long captivating conversations with an atmosphere that ushers in comfort, making it very easy for hours to go unnoticed.  In the middle of the room there is a support beam that is decorated with photographs and a wooden art installation.


Although the ceiling is decorated with anywhere from 50 – 100 hanging light bulbs, these used to give the effect of the room being lit by stars in the nighttime sky, as opposed to illuminating the room like a photography shoot.  On the wall which is all the way to the right, there is a large flat screen television, with aptly placed mural underneath.


To be honest, if you are entertained by the television while at this location, I fear that you selected the wrong place to solicit.  I don’t imagine that they would actually show sports or any television series on the TV – although, if one were willing to pay the money, I am certain that this entire might be rented out for a specific occasion, and the TV could then potentially be used as a screen for a slide show or something of that nature.

Over all, the environment has a nice earthy feel, the combination of wood, and glass accented by the dim lights, with a private outdoors balcony, helps create a distinct atmosphere that has stands alone with its own personality in this domestic market.

An additional offering in this bar includes the private Mortlach tasting room camouflaged behind a functional curtain, large enough to fit 10 – 15 people easily, but yet secluded enough to feel like someone has escaped to a den in a newly renovated antique estate, complete with a replicated fireplace, worn, leather couches, matching arm chairs and a table centered in the room.


Johnssen, finding it curious that the place would be bustling for a Tuesday, late night, decided that we should proceed to our next destination (for this bar was merely a pit-stop in the first of a series that we would attempt to enjoy that evening).  Great conversation, solidifying a newly established friendship.  Taipei -> Manila connection


King Block Dean (El-Sin-Say)





Kavalan Distillery – From Ancestry to Descendant



Their immediate ancestry is rooted in ground that is composed of varied soil content; the concrete granite of Los Angeles, nestled in the alluvial plains of California and the developing nature of volcanic schist which erects Taiwan.  Limestone bedrock that was once used to make the Giza pyramids glisten in the desert sun – the foundation for commonality extracted from the motherland.

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Concluding two years of academia in the mainland, this inebriated nomadic warrior’s spirit began to reemerge – the Djin – pure essence.  Magnetic north moved, drawn south, echoing the footsteps illustrated by a mystical nymph.  Luminously stimulating my physical organs while radiantly arousing my mental capacities, blinding light, stumbling upon Formosa – the Beautiful Island, a remote destination refrained from foreign eyes.

An expedition with the bare essentials that rapidly turned into a semi-permanent relocation.  Yilan; paralleling Toby, stripped of its tribal name and land to be labeled new – Kavalan.  Ravished by the outside world, limbs broken, weak and dangling in the wind, conjuring all of its strength to remain attached to the trunk that is rooted in the soil of its heritage- remnants of being whole and uncorrupted, the  identity of its former self.

Skepticism pegged to mutual understanding.  Adoption fixed exchanged between patience and intention.  Eventually paralleling the creator – mitosis, cell replication, becoming timeless creating new generations, DNA variations and mutations – a new race of aboriginals.  Queens understand their birthrights and attachment to the land, the earth and its entirety.

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King Block Dean (El.Sin.Say)

1st and 2nd Kavalan Distillery Tour with my young Queens


Sparkling Wine – Loire Valley (Cremant)

Please click the link below for Loire Valley sparkling wine readings…




Sparkling Wine – Detail Readings

Please click the links below for comprehensive writings of each section pertaining to sparkling wine…

Each one to teach one

sparkling wine


sparkling wine.pdf2sparkling


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Sparkling Wine – France – Cremant

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WSET Level 4 – Unit 5 Sparkling Study Notes

Click the link for Unit 5 Sparkling Wine study notes




[葡萄酒小皮]WSET4 Unit5 Sparkling



WSET Level 3 Short Answer Practice Exams

Click the link before for a PDF file for the short answer practice exams WSET 3 Wine & Spirits (for your reference only, answers maybe incorrect).




WSET 3 Short Answers

WSET Level 3 Multiple Choice Practice Exams

Click the link before for a PDF file for the multiple choice practice exam WSET 3 Wine & Spirits (my original answers were highlighted and thus do not show up on the scanned files – these are merely for your reference only, answers maybe incorrect).





WSET 3 Multiple choice    







WSET Level 2 Spirits – Study Sheets

Click the link before for a PDF file for the multiple choice practice exam WSET 2 Spirits (for your reference only, answers maybe incorrect).



WSET 2 Spirits



Indulge Bistro Bar Review – Taipei


A collusion that began with two lab rats at work so silent, nearby ears heard squeaks mistaken for the wheels on office chairs.  We met under the cloak of darkness, checking another one off the list, similar to shopping for ingredients for meal preparation, however, we focused on the crumbs from the table.  I am the low man, learning to climb the ladder, checking off  various bars step by step, plotting to become the big cheese.  Agreeing upon the next escapade, we decided to meet at a common location that neither of us had previously solicited – Indulge Bistro.

He located the crack in society, peeked in and waited while I circled the neighborhood, and scavenged for parking – cat and mouse – patrol cars and eye.  Fortunately I was able to find a spot at the end of the street, just before the corner.  As is customary, located the closest 7/11 (which happened to be right around that corner) to get drinks from prior to going in the bar.

Usually purchasing a 350ml bottle for the price of a single cocktail allows me to feel good, while simultaneously hinders my urge to get caught in the excessive spending trap while going out. The convenience stores usually provide inconspicuous shelter and a relatively quiet place for conversation (in the instance that cats at the bar are slightly aggressive).  Scampering across the wire, having placed the call, he came outside and we walked up the residential street, where the neatly hidden bar seemed out of place.

Turning the corner and sitting outside of the 7/11, we noted that several luxury cars were pulling up across the street, stopping then pulling off again – pit crew style.  We talked over an entire 700ml bottle then returned to the Bistro.  Now feeling good, entering the ether state that puts me in tune with the universe, while blocking out the physical state of today, we scurried downstairs, gutter rats finding comfort in the warmth of the steam that is emitted from sewer grates, I naturally overlooked the upstairs environment for my place in this world – the dark lair.

Downstairs was sparsely populated and yet the tables and seating arrangement gave way to the perception of density.  True varmints, we found the darkest corner in the room with the most space, dimly lit with a single candle and proceeded to escort ourselves to the couch making it the happiest place on earth.


There was a fully stocked bar downstairs, and to our amazement, no one tending to its contents, we were questioned, and the response was repeated once again as if this were the second loop at an amusement park – “The signature cocktail from the head bartender or owner.”  Disappointed that he wasn’t present, I settled, and so did he.

Having fun, time flying roller coaster style, now vacant, the noise we produced echoed and attracted pounding footsteps from above.  The lights came on, and the crew began straightening up, with a whisk of a broom directed at us, we vacated the premises, fully satisfied with the scraps of enjoyment we were able to scrounge from this place.