Bonjour Paree !

Normally for my birthday we head up North of the border for a little treat and a shandy or two , This year seeing i now have a passport we decided to take the short hop across the channel and spend a weekend in Paris , taking in the Whisky Live on the Saturday .

We departed Newcastle on the Friday Teatime , this was my first actual time flying out of my local Airport (i’ve lived most of my life at the east end of the runway and seen many comings and goings) , it was a pleasant enough experience even though we actually flew out westward ! Hmmmm…….  

What was surprising was the aircraft , we’d booked Air France and this service is operated by Cityjet , now going off the amount of people sitting in the departure lounge i was very surprised  by the size of the jet (for those who are interested it was a BAE Avro RJ85 ) now looking at it sitting outside and looking at the people inside i remarked to Melanie “I hope it’s a Tardis……”



CityJet Avro RJ85

CityJet Avro RJ85

It was quite spacious inside (the RJ85 not the Tardis….) and we were soon winging our way to Paris , by the time we’d flown over , gone through customs , caught the train to the next terminal , collected our belongings and took the bus from the airport , it was 10pm by the time we got to our hotel.

(Click on Photos to see Full Size)     

Le Hotel

Le Hotel

Le Bedroom

Le Bedroom

The Hotel was just up from the Gare de Lyon and had a beautiful fascia , the room was quite compact but had a huge King size bed and was clean and well decorated . We headed out for a bite too eat and ended up in an Asian restaurant on the next block , well recommended the food was superb and we even managed to pick a good bottle of wine from Serge country !


We ended up back at the Hotel for a drink or two before hitting the sack…..  


So onto Saturday , after having breakfast at the hotel we decide to walk over to the Whisky Live venue taking in some of the sights on the way……. 

Our first view of Notre Dame

Our first view of Notre Dame

We had a fantastic walk through the Jardin Des Plantes…..

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Melanie in the Jardin Des Plantes

Melanie in the Jardin Des Plantes

I would recommend any one going to Paris to go here , the gardens are absolutely beautiful !

We made our way though the streets to our eventual destination , Maison de la Mutualité…..


We arrived a little bit so hit the Cafe opposite for a bit refreshment and got our first shock , we’d been warned Paris was expensive but 9 Euros for 2 cokes ! At least we got the Stereotypical French Barman included…… 

Onto the show , this place was huge , spread over 3 floors (or was it 4 ?) and split in to several rooms it was easy to get confused where you were , we started in the VIP rooms on the 5th floor first seeing we’d paid for them , The Nikka Museum was very good , had a superb Taketsuru 25yo amongst others , the main ‘Bar’ was a bit chocker and we had a few of the indys on offer . Then it was off to the 3rd floor , where they’d split the exhibitors into 3 rooms , Micro-distilleries , World Whiskies and (i think they called it ) Old World (included Scotland , Ireland , USA and Japan ) . In the Old World we bumped into The Glenlivet Guardian himself , Ian Logan , After sampling the 25yo  He gave us a wee sample of the new 50yo , absolutely stunning ! Was my ‘Dram of the day’  , cheers Ian ! After having a natter with Ian we headed into the ‘World Whisky’ room where we bumped into a few familiar faces ,Amanda and Joe from The Whisky Lounge on the Paul John Stand and Erik and his wife Laura on the New Zealand Whisky Stand . Erik gave us a try of a few of the NZ ones as i’d never had them before , the 23 and 25yo were very good , i was impressed with all the range we tried . After a visit to the Paul John and Kavalan stand , we went to say hello to the Boys from Amrut and see the Presentation for the New 10yo ‘Greedy Angels’ , it wasn’t for tasting unfortunately but i’ve had a taste of it since and Amrut fans are in for a treat . 

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The 10yo !!!!

The 10yo !!!!

It was great to finally meet Rick Jagdale (we did get to have a proper talk in Newcastle the following Tueday when Ashok and himself visited) . We left before the end as i’d tried everything i wanted to and we were getting a bit hot and bothered in the venue and we were getting hungry as well . My opinion of my first Whisky Live ? I’m glad i’ve done one , would i do it again ? No ! It was too big for my liking , it was like a rugby scrum in places , some portable air con units wouldn’t have gone amiss and i thought the Security was a bit over the top . So we headed off back to our hotel to freshen up , once again taking in the sites and sounds of the Paris streets .

Notre Dame a bit closer this time !

Notre Dame a bit closer this time !

After freshing up we had a bit wander around the area…….

Gare de Lyon Station

Gare de Lyon Station

Le Metro !

Le Metro !

We eventually settled for a Cafe down a side street to have our meal in , then it was back to the Hotel and a nightcap…….

So after a bit of a lie in we set off for a Sunday sightseeing walk through Paris , Starting off at our Hotel heading up the Rue de Lyon to Bastille……



Then we cut across to the Seine to pick up the Riverside walk 2014_09_28_002

It seems to be a very popular walk along the river , not just with the tourists but locals as well , it is a beautiful area .

Melanie on the Seine

Melanie on the Seine


Approaching Île Saint-Louis

We walked up past the Île Saint-Louis and the Île de la Cité 

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City Hall

City Hall

By the time we reached The City Hall we were looking for somewhere to eat and we found a great little place with a fantastic view !

The View......

The View……

Melanie soaking up the atmoshere

Melanie soaking up the atmoshere

The food was absolutely superb , Melanie enjoyed the Taittinger and i had a rather delicious Cappuccino…….


We continued along our way to The Louvre…… 

Pyramide du Louvre

Pyramide du Louvre

Melanie at the Pyramide du Louvre

Melanie at the Pyramide du Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

Then it was a short walk through the Jardin des Tuileries…..


Onto the Place de la Concorde and the Luxor Obelisk……


Before hitting the Avenue des Champs-Élysées , passing the Grand Palais……


And arriving at our final destination , L’Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile !


It had been a glorious day and by the time we caught the Metro back to Gare de Lyon we were exhausted and very hot ! After collecting our cases we caught the Le Cars Air France back to Charles de Gaulle . At first we thought It was a good job we got back to the Airport early as the place seemed in chaos with the Pilots strike , it took us ages to get through the check in but then later on our flight was delayed for nearly two hours so we spent longer than thought in the place ! The only thing was they didn’t announce our delay , i found out via a travel app , we did however get some snack vouchers , eventually we got back home at midnight .

Our conclusions on this trip ? Paris is a beautiful City but it’s very expensive , for us it was worth experiencing once…..    

More Canadian Drams…. The ‘Maple Syrup’ Sessions

Ok , i know lately this blog seems to have been turning into a Canadian Whisky Blog but i’ve been on a bit of a mission to discover this hidden gem of the whisky world . I’ve been greatly aided by ‘Mr Canadian Whisky’ himself , Davin de Kergommeaux author of the acclaimed ‘Canadian Whisky , the Portable Expert’ , I’ve known Davin for a good few years now through the Internet and our mutual love of Islay Malts  and he kindly sent me a few samples to broaden my experience with Canadian Whisky……


Pendletons NAS 40%

The Standard bottling from Pendleton’s , an American bottling of Canadian Whisky .

Quite a dusty nose to start with , then butter and Toffee (Butterscotch?) , eventually there’s vanilla and Cask spices . On the palate there’s a sweet start , lots of rye ,cask spices again , there’s also a slight custard taste , butterscotch and pepper . The finish is medium with pepper and a lingering sweetness .
A very enjoyable dram , a step up from the cheaper whiskies , this one is actually available in this country so a bottle may be purchased……

Century Reserve Lot 15/25 40%

From Highwood Distillers , Alberta , The 15/25 is the youngest/oldest age statement .

Initially a strong hint of Christmas cake on the nose , then the what seems to be a common Butterscotch note , a liberal sprinkling of Cask spices , ending with Confectioners’ Sugar . A very relaxed but complex nose , one of them you could sit and sniff for ages . On the palate there’s a creaminess to start with , then spices and toffee , there’s a nice woodiness to it , The finish has a nice long lingering rye taste to it with oak spices .
One of them wow moments when trying a dram for the first time , a superb dram that you could probably kill quite a bit of a bottle in one sitting !

Alberta Springs 10yo 40%

From Alberta Distillers , a fine 10yo….

A 100% Rye with an incredible nose , starts off dusty , then the familiar Butterscotch , followed by spices and a touch of lemon . There’s also a very strong hint of green fruits but the overwhelming note seems to be butterscotch which is ok by me . The palate carries on where the nose leaves off , a toffee sweetness with lots of spices , very smooth and enjoyable , I’m really getting a taste for Canadian Rye , The finish is medium , spicy with pepper , for 40% it is quite chewy as well .
These Canadian Ryes are so good !

WhistlePig 10yo 50%

A very strange Canadian Rye bottled in the US…..

Another 100% Rye Whisk(e)y , an odd one this , when you first stick your nose into this you go ‘Bourbon’ , then the dustiness of a Rye comes through , not as sweet as the other Ryes on the nose (there seems to be a lack of Butterscotch on this one ) but there are plenty of wood spices . Again on the palate there is an initial taste of bourbon and new wood followed by spices and vanilla . the finish is long and Bourbony .
Not my favourite Rye , tastes more like a bourbon and I’m really confused about it , why the ‘e’ in it when it’s Canadian ? Now that I’ve had a think about it , it actually reminds me of Van Winkles 13yo Family Reserve , only not as good .

Crown Royal X.O (Finished in Cognac Casks) 40%

A Crown Royal finished in ex-Cognac casks…..

Straight away you get the fruitiness of the Cognac casks , red apples mixing in with old leather armchairs , a very creamy nose (very similar to the creaminess in Ardbeg….) , then the dustiness of the rye comes through , this has a very complex nose , lots happening , thoroughly enjoyable ! Very smooth across the palate , lots going on again , a bit of dusty rye , butterscotch , spicy , pepper , tarte apples but all wrapped up in a lovely creaminess . A medium finish highlighted with the rye and cognac .
A wonderful dram , a different class to the previously tried Special Reserve , one to think about purchasing in the not too distant future !

Crown Royal Monarch (75th Anniversary Blend) 40%

A Special Crown Royal Blend to Celebrate the launch of their Whisky in 1939….

The most dominant note on the nose is the creaminess , then the oak emerges , then a strong hint of Red Apples (similar to the X.O. ) , eventually the dusty Rye appears . There’s also a slight citrus note and dried fruits (currants and sultanas) . Not as rich and creamy on the palate as the X.O. , seems very dry and has a more pronounced rye note to it . Slightly disappointing after the Complexity of the previous CR . The finish seems a lot shorter as well and very dry and dusty .
A very disappointing dram after the X.O. , almost weak and watery .

Collingwood 21yo 100% Rye 40%

A 21yo , 100% Rye from the Canadian Mist Distillery in Collingwood….

On the nose the first thing that struck me was freshly baked bread or , which seems more likely , unbaked ‘rising’ bread , that lovely warm yeasty smell , the rye seems more relaxed in this even though it’s 100% , quite a bit of oak , on the hole a quite relaxed nose . On the palate it seems very relaxed again , there’s a very slight hint of barley sugar (the old fashioned twisty stick variety ) , a muted spiciness and a little hint of bitterness . It is very smooth across the palate . The finish is medium with something that is puzzling me…… Agh…… Flat American Cream Soda !
I was looking so forward to trying this , Davin recommended it on my visit to Toronto and I couldn’t find it , it’s actually a bit of an anti-climax , from what I remember I wasn’t too impressed with the standard Collingwood .

Highwood 25yo Calgary Stampede Centennial 40%

A 25yo from the Highwood Distillery , Alberta to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede in 2012….

Wow , bags of vanilla on the nose , oak , butterscotch , spices (particularly clove – I’m married to a dental nurse….) and it’s very creamy . Smooth as a babies bum across the palate , sweet rye , vanilla , a beautiful creaminess , butterscotch again , caramel toffee and a very small hint of chocolate . It’s not until the long lingering finish that the oak spices appear .
Boy is this a good dram ! I wouldn’t say no to a bottle of this but I’ve got a feeling it’s long gone or it should be !

Many thanks to Davin for the samples , you can read more about Canadian whisky at this Website , ‘Canadian Whisky’

4 More Canadian Whiskies…..

I do like voyages of discovery and trying Canadian whisky has certainly been that , this newest batch of Whiskies have all been purchased in the UK through The Whisky Exchange , i have been informed that they source all their Canadian Whisky through the USA so i assume these bottles are American Releases (the Wiser’s certainly says Imported and the Pike Creek is NAS rather than the 10yo found in Canada) .

Wiser’s De Luxe Imported

Rolling in at what seems to be the Standard for Canadian Whisky , 40% abv , this is what i would say is a standard Blend for whisky from this country . Not particularly strong on the nose at first , it takes a while to build up , Vanilla , Butterscotch and Dried fruits (as in the ones that go into Christmas cake) . The palate has the Butterscotch again alongside lots of Oak spices ,  it’s nice and smooth across the tongue . It has a long smooth , toffee Finish . A quite inoffensive whisky , a good session whisky and enjoyable .

Crown Royal Special Reserve

Originally created for the visit of King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth (the parents of Queen Elizabeth II) to Canada in 1939 by Seagrams (now Diageo) , this is the old version of the Special Reserve . It comes in a nice presentation complete with it’s own purple bag . A rather nice nose of butterscotch , oak spices , cloves and rye , definitely a stronger nose than the Wiser’s and a good one to sit and stiff . Again on the palate it seems to have a bit more of a kick than the Wiser’s , very smooth , spices , pepper , toffee , a touch of sweetness (honey) and even a bit of Chocolate . After the palate the finish is quite short but very nice with butterscotch , cloves and spices . A very nice whisky , again another good session dram . 

Pike Creek 


If the previous two are at the bottom end of the Canadian market ( IMHO) then this is the middle to top ! Made by Corby Distillers (a Subsidiary of Pernod Ricard) , as already stated this is the US NAS version and has been finished in Vintage Port casks . I first tried this (well the 10yo version) in Toronto at ‘The Keg’ on the recommendation of Davin (de Kergommeaux ) and really liked it , unfortunately i couldn’t find a bottle of it . A lovely ruby colour , the initial nose is red fruits from the port , then toffee , a touch of rye and a surprising hint of Farmyard (?) . The palate is superb , red fruits , a bag load of Rye , toffee , Oak spices and it’s as smooth as a babies bum ! The finish is long , spicy and again rye . A wonderful Canadian Whisky worth hunting out and I , for one , am glad TWE got some in .

Pendleton’s 1910 12yo Rye


This is a strange beast , 100% Canadian Rye Whisky that is matured in Canada for 12 years then transported to  be bottled in Pendleton , Oregon , USA ! Named after the first ‘Round up’ in that town (in 1910 ) , hence Pendleton is known as the ‘Cowboy Whisky’ . The only Rye whisky i’d previously tried was from America , the legendary Van Winkles 13yo Family Reserve and the 2 things i’d learned was (a) it has a very distinctive smell and taste and (b) i really liked it . The Pendletons is really , really , really nice , probably one of the nicest whisky i’ve had , lots of spices on the nose , Rye (obviously !) , vanilla , butterscotch , quite complex and not having had many Ryes i have trouble identifying stuff but it is great . The palate is fantastic , again very complex , lots of fresh cask tastes , vanilla , oak spices , butterscotch , pepper , all flowing so smoothly across the palate . The finish is amazingly long , pretty much carrying on the palate . How good is this ? I was disappointed when i ordered this as it was the last bottle at TWE , since then they got some more and i snaffled 2 more bottles ! More than Ace , more than highly recommended ! 

Since i got the Pendleton , i found two old sample bottles at the back of the cupboard that i got sent ages ago , one had Alberta Premium Rye in it , the other had Alberta Premium 25yo Rye in it . They were superb , were too busy enjoying them to write notes but i’d get a bottle of either if i had the chance !  

You can find out more about Canadian Whisky at Davin’s Site and i recommend reading his book ‘Canadian Whisky , The Portable Expert’ .

Islay Visits Part XXXVII – Addendum

It’s a week since we returned and i’ve just found some photos on the camera i was going to post , they are of the Cottage we stayed in . This was the first time we stayed in Deirdre and Gibsons place and i have to say it is one of the best we’ve stayed in ! It’s fairly isolated (the nearest place is their B&B on the other side of the access road ) and has astounding views around the isle…..cottage_stitch_2

(click on Photos to see full size) 

It’s very well equipped , has 3 bedrooms (2 are upstairs , 1 twin , 1 double) , the one downstairs is en-suite……


The Bedroom is at the front of the house along with the living room…….  


At the rear is the main bathroom and kitchen and utility room………


kitchenThe kitchen has everything you need and has a great space to eat in , like i said earlier it’s a well equipped place ! To my favourite bit of the cottage , the sun porch…….

sunporchI sat in here every evening and watched the Isle go by , a great place for a dram and contemplation ! The views are stunning across the Rhinns . It was the ideal size for us two , plenty of room to move around , i think it would be a bit cramped if all the beds were occupied (there isn’t much room in the eaves) , 4 might be about it for a maximum number . Would we go back ? Definitely !!! They have their own site at Lyrabus Croft Cottage with full contact details .

 I’ve also now uploaded my photos onto Flickr , till next time !!! 


Islay Visits Part XXXVII – The Final Part !

Friday 1st August 2014 

Our final full day on Islay , Boo ! We decided on lunch at Ardbeg so after a bit of a lie in headed off to the Old Kiln , on the way we spotted a rather fine cruise ship moored in Kilnaughton Bay…….

(Click on photos to see full size)


2014_08_01_01The Sea Cloud 2 2014_08_01_02The Rowers Practicing

There was a bit of practicing going on for the Islay Rowing Regatta . Once in we ordered the Fillets of Seabass in a white wine creamy sauce  . After picking up a bottle of Auriverdes and having a chat to Janey we had a stop off at Laphroaig to look at the shop , Melanie bought me a rather nice Polo Shirt and i bought a bottle of the 25yo !

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This will be put aside next to the Bunnahabhain 25yo and Ardbeg Lord of the Isles for 5 years time when we will celebrate our Silver Wedding on Islay . There was just time to pop into The Celtic House Coffee Shop for one last Coffee and Cakes , i must say this has been a great addition to Bowmore , the Coffee is great and the homemade cakes are Sooooo good ! Don’t know what the hell we are going to do next week when it gets to 3pm…… apart from suffer withdrawal symptoms !!!! It was back to the cottage for one last night and doing the worst bit of the holiday , packing up ! The days good weather actually gave us the best Sunset of the holiday…… and loads of Midges!  

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Saturday 2nd August 2014

 Due to being slightly slow and booking the ferry later than normal we couldn’t get our normal 9.45am one so it was the 3.30pm , giving us another chance to eat at Ardbeg . We stopped at the recently re-opened now community owned petrol station in Port Ellen to do our bit to help and got a bit of a surprise when out bounded Jackie to fill our car up ! She was doing her bit for it and in the process had a good view of the Port Ellen Rowing Regatta going on in front of her . It was a shame it started to rain as Islay was been very sporty and as well as the regatta it was also the Islay Ardbeg half Marathon .

So after a full lunch at Beg ( Seafood chowder ,  Supreme of Chicken Lydia with Vegs) , a stop off to see Mark and Helga at Islay studios , we finally departed Islay from Port Askaig on the Afternoon ferry .


The Spoils….. Purchases , Gifts (Thank You !) and Samples !

Another little adventure over , we will return ! Hogmanay 2014/15    

Islay Visits Part XXXVII – Food(and other stuff….)

Thursday 31st July 2014

We had a lovely Wedding Anniversary yesterday , apart from have a wonderful meal at The Bridgend Hotel we didn’t do a great deal , the meal consisted of (i know some of you like our food reports….. ) Islay Langoustine with freshly made Linguine with a Langoustine Bisque for Melanies starter , i went with an Islay Crab with ginger , avocado , confit tomato  with a Filo and Sesame Crisp . We both went for the same meal , Islay ribeye steak with bearnaise sauce , wilted spinach ,mushroom and handcut chips . And as if that wasn’t enough i was a pig and had a pudding of Chocolate Fondant , Whisky Poached pear and Clotted cream ice cream , All very ably served by the lovely Hannah ! Suitably stuffed we went home to lie down in a darkened room……  

(Click on photos to see full size)


Melanies Photo of the Crab starter

So back to Thursday…. We went off for a drive , Melanie wanted to look at Persabus Pottery so we headed that way . Seeing we were that end of the Isle , we went down to Caol Ila , where , after trying the Stitchells Reserve and Feis Ile 2014 i was easily swayed into buying a brace of each……. Seeing it was so nice we had a wander around Caol Ila , bumping into Lilys adorable little cat , the views around there are wonderful .

(No Swallows were harmed in the taking of these photos….)

2014_07_31_01Lilys House 2014_07_31_02Caol Ila Distillery
2014_07_31_03Up The Sound 2014_07_31_04Lilys Cat
2014_07_31_05The Harbour 2014_07_31_06Boom !
2014_07_31_07Jura Ferry 2014_07_31_08Finlaggan Arriving
2014_07_31_09Getting Closer 2014_07_31_10Steady !


A content Melanie !


We then went off to Port Askaig where we sat outside the Hotel with a drink and again admired the view ! Then it started to rain so we headed back to the Cottage via The Celtic House Coffee Shop taking in the Mulindry Road on the way to get ready for tonights main event , our Annual Meal with Ella and Mary at The Bridgend Hotel ! (Sometimes when something is so good…..) Mary picked us up on the way through and we met up with Ella at the Hotel . We made things easy for the waitress tonight , we split into two camps , Melanie and myself went for the same starters / mains , Mary and Ella went for the same starters / mains ! We went for the Crab starter from last night and had the main of Islay Estate Roe Deer fillet , Cabbage and Sage, Cauliflower Puree and mash and a game Jus , Ella and Mary went for the Feta and tomato salad for starters and for their main they went for the Simply Salmon fillet with New Pots and a medley of vegetables . Tonight it wasn’t just me who was a piggy , every one went for a Pudding ! Ella and myself had the Strawberries , homemade meringue  and ice cream . Melanie and Mary went for the Pain Perdu  , caramalised oranges and a orange and white chocolate sorbet with a white chocolate sauce (we can’t think of it’s name….) .

We had a great night with our Islay friends , great food , great craic and as always a good laugh !

Islay Visits Part XXXVII – Figures !

Wednesday 30th July 2014 

It’s funny how figures (i.e. of the number variety) play an important part in your life and when you start thinking of them all sorts of things pop into your head . For instance when i opened the two Ardbeg 1978’s i thought back to 1978 , the year the two of us left School , 36 years ago this very summer ! It’s also 36 years ago that we both started work in the very same summer…..

Talking of summers it was 30 years ago this summer i had my very first holiday in Scotland , camping with my old mate Dave Embleton who also introduced me to the delights of Single Malts on that trip (my first Malt was a 10yo Macallan) . Wow 30 years of drinking Single Malt Scotch Whisky and according to some i still don’t have a clue about it……

This year has been very special so far ,this year we done our first Whisky Festival on the ‘other’ side of the table , serving up Amrut to the good people of Newcastle standing in for Mr Amrut himself Ashok. We must have done something right as he’s asked us to do another 3 ! We took our first trip together outside of the UK (my first flight ) to Toronto , where we done our first Whisky Masterclass on the ‘other’ side of the table at the Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala, This one mustn’t have went so well as no one’s asked us to do another one…… LOL!!!! (only kidding Johanna , Melanie keeps telling me how good i was !) 

  Todays date is the most important figure , the 30th of July , it was on this day i got married to the most important Woman in my life , Melanie , Twenty years ago ! Where has the time gone ? For 15 of those twenty years we have been coming to this beautiful isle , this is our 37th visit (hence the part XXXVII of the title for those of you of a slow disposition…..) , 10 years ago we spent our 10th anniversary on the Isle ( at the Old School , Ardbeg ) , Ardbeg even had a special bottle on sale on that visit , the 1990 for Japan at £60 (not for our 10th anniversary i hasten to add…..)  .

So what are we doing today ? We’ll probably making a lot of people sick with our lovey dovey ness LOL ! We’ll definitely be going out for a meal at our favourite eatery tonight and i dare say a fair bit of Alcohol will be consumed along the way……

To My Gorgeous Wife , Happy Twentieth Wedding Anniversary Darling !

There are many more to come !!!!