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Send Doodles with Inkboard App

Transforming the iOS 8 keyboard into a set of pens and markers—when emojis just won't cut it

by Nara Shin in Tech on 20 October 2014

Apps, Drawing, Tech, iOS 8 apps, Drawing Apps, Extensions, Keyboard Apps, Apple, iOS 8, iPhone

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App extensions, Apple's newest feature on iOS 8, have opened up the floodgates for third-party keyboard apps (many of which have been available for some time on Android phones). While the recently launched Inkboard doesn't promise to save milliseconds on typing speed, this new app offers some creative expression for when emojis just won't cut it. By transforming your QWERTY board into an expansive set of pens, markers, crayons and more, Inkboard (from the founders of social drawing app Doodle.ly) lets you draw what you can't put into words. Add a little flair to mundane texting, then share your masterpiece with friends via SMS and social media platforms. Simply copy the final image then paste it into Messages (which will work even for those who don't have the app or iOS 8), or upload the image and post the link—all from within your keyboard.

Once the Doodle.ly team heard Apple's announcement this June at WWDC, about App extensions, they spent the summer developing Inkboard to prepare it for release when iOS 8 launched. They've now created the ability to, "send drawings straight from within the keyboard," as Doodle.ly co-founder Darren Paul tells CH. When text gets a little too cold and distant, warm things up with this unique way to communicate your thoughts.

The Inkboard app is available for free from the App Store for users with iOS 8.

Images by Kevin Serai via Inkboard

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Hotel Domestique in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Enticing cyclists, refined palates and those seeking a view to consider a not-so-typical destination

by Nara Shin in Travel on 20 October 2014

Cycling, George Hincapie, Hotels, Outdoors, South Carolina, Boutique Hotels, Hiking, Tour de France, Blue Ridge

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Traveler's Rest near Greenville, South Carolina might not top the must-visit lists yet, but retired pro cyclist George Hincapie and his brother Richard are set to change this by sharing their best-kept secret (and also the area they call home) with others through their new boutique hotel. Those who visit Hotel Domestique, however, are seeking anything but rest. The active travelers have come to cycle—sometimes, with Hincapie himself—and hike through the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, which also provide the backdrop to their Tuscan villa-like grounds.

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The hotel is named after Hincapie's critical role—the domestique, a "sacrificial lamb" who aids teammates (in Hincapie's case, his friend and team leader Lance Armstrong) to success by setting the pace, creating a draft for them to conserve energy and all around support in races such as the Tour de France. A country inn in its previous life, the 13-room Hotel Domestique—which celebrated its opening last fall—has been given a modern makeover to create the ambience of the "old grand farmhouses" Hincapie admired while living in Girona, Spain for more than a decade during the pro racing seasons.

In fact, when guests walk into Hotel Domestique, there's barely any hint that it's a cycling haven. In the lobby, stone walls and oak beams, well-designed furniture and light fixtures, a courtyard fountain and outdoor swimming pool, along with artwork by artists Matt Baumgardner and Paul Yanko suggest a cozy, contemporary getaway to the countryside. The cycling connection is made clear as you see cyclists slowly pedaling uphill toward the hotel and some Hincapie Sportswear apparel hung to the side of the front desk.

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The pared down room feels more like spending the night at a friend's luxurious estate than a hotel (traditional amenities like extra towels, iron, hairdryer are hidden in the standalone wardrobe). This ambience is heightened with the guest pantries on each floor, offering complimentary espresso from a DeLonghi Magnifica, red or white wine, chilled beverages, healthy snacks and Skratch Labs mixes. A complimentary three-course breakfast each morning provides guests with the stamina for a day of pushing the pedals.

Our room (Colombière) had his-and-her-sinks stocked with Hermès bath products, with a European-style separated toilet and spacious shower, though knowing how activity-focused the hotel is, a bathtub to soak tired muscles would have been a welcome addition.

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Guests who haven't brought their own bikes can be set up with one of the high-end full carbon fiber BMC (road or mountain) bike. The only question for each day then is, "where should I go?" Hincapie has been cycling in the area for many years, and his choice routes, ranging from 8 to 80 miles, have been saved onto touchscreen Garmin bike computers—meaning cyclists could stay a week at the hotel and explore a new area each day. And amateurs need not be intimidated; routes like the River Loop (about 17 miles) offer equally stunning views with less intensity. There's also the Swamp Rabbit Trail, Greenville's historic rail line-turned-bikepath, taking you to the center of the city.

The only downside would be bad weather coinciding with your visit, since Hotel Domestique keeps the focus on the great outdoors and doesn't have indoor activities to keep guests occupied. But the joy comes, as we experienced during a rainstorm, when the sun sets and dinner is served.

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Due to the hotel's relatively remote location (it's about a 30-minute drive from either Greenville or Asheville, NC), dining options are limited to just one—luckily, it's of impressive quality. Adam Cooke heads up the adjacent Restaurant 17 (named after the number of times Hincapie has finished the Tour de France) with a matter-of-factness about cooking local and fresh; it's taken for granted, not lauded as a selling point. The menu is tweaked daily for whatever ingredients come in from the farms in South Carolina. Surprisingly, the area between here and Asheville hosts a large temperate rain forest (not to mention notable local craft breweries like Highland, Westbrook and Thomas Creek), allowing for some unusual additions to the menu.

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The pasta, charcuterie, fresh cheeses and sourdough bread (served with skordalia, a flavorful hummus-like dip) are all made in-house. The must-tries are the lamb heart bruschetta, cooked carefully at a low temperature to tenderness, the sweet potato risotto and the scallops with Asian pear and wild chicken of the woods mushrooms—whose meaty bite could fool most about its true nature.

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Cycling has experienced a boom in the US in recent years, but the sport has been marred by the inevitable use of performance-enhancing drugs by pros, and the very public takedown of Lance Armstrong and other famed cyclists. After Hincapie, too, admitted to doping during part of his career, retiring that same year in 2012, he's put his focus onto family, his sportswear line (manufactured in Medellin, Colombia, where his family is from) and being hands-on with running the hotel. For example, he leads specialized camps with friends like fellow retired pro Christian Vande Velde to help cycling enthusiasts improve skills, but also show off what the Blue Ridge Mountains have to offer. Perhaps this is his way of giving back: developing the love of a sport here in America which still pales in comparison to countries in Europe.

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He's been able to do this on a large scale through Gran Fondo Hincapie, a ride now in its third year that attracts more than 1,500 riders to the Blue Ridge Mountains and experiences his "favorite trail." Hincapie describes to CH, "The ride we do is very difficult. It's only 80 miles, but it's tough. The first 20 miles are pretty rolling, then we do a five-mile climb that's at 9% average—and the top is beautiful, you see the whole valley, it's stunning views up there. Then it's a very steep, technical descent, etc. It's deceivingly hard—if you look at it on paper, for even a pro rider, they'd say, 'Oh, that's not a big deal.' But once you ride it, it's a tough ride. But people love that time of year, the foliage is perfect, and the roads are really quiet."

If you're not an avid cyclist—you've been warned; Hotel Domestique is the place where you'll fall in love. There's nothing in the way of you and your bike but the natural beauty of the mountains, the bluest of Carolina-blue skies and the occasional beep from the Garmin nudging you in the right direction.

To book your next stay, visit Hotel Domestique online; room rates start at $295 per night. On-site registration is still available for this weekend's Gran Fondo Hincapie which takes place 25 October 2014.

Image of George Hincapie courtesy of Hotel Domestique, Gran Fondo Hincapie 2013 images courtesy of Gran Fondo Hincapie, all other images by Nara Shin

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The Macallan Rare Cask Single Malt Scotch

Insight on the brand's superb new release from their Master of Wood

by David Graver in Food + Drink on 20 October 2014

Master of Wood, Scotch, Scotland, Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Single Malts, The Macallan, Whisky

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Imagine trying to run a business where what you make today gets turned into products 12 to more than 60 years from now. How could you possibly forecast volume and preferences? That's exactly what many Scottish whisky companies try to do. The Macallan has always impressed us not only for their exceptional products, but also for the innovation that Master Whisky Maker Bob Dalgarno has brought to the brand since his appointment as Whisky Maker in 1996. During that time he's successfully moved the brand from its traditional core expressions of 12, 15, 17, 18, 25 and 40 year old bottles of The Macallan's finest.

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A program he's been working on recently is a range that sits between the Macallan's 18 and 40 year old products which are harder to find these days with a huge increase in global demand and a limited supply of aging whisky that was placed in barrels that many years ago. To satisfy global demand Dalgarno has developed several new expressions of The Macallan, most notably the 1824 series, a range of color-based products that start around $50 for The Macallan Gold and hit north of $4,500 for 2013's introduction of M, one of our 2013 fall favorites.

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It's important to remember that The Macallan makes only one spirit, and that same spirit is aged in a variety of casks made of American and Spanish oak that have previously aged American whiskies and Spanish sherry. The latter is The Macallan's claim to whisky fame—they have more Spanish sherry casks—the whisky world's most coveted—than any other maker. Each cask variety brings its own flavor, color and character to the whisky, and that's what allows Dalgarno to create the range of products now available. Some have age statements (which are always the year of the youngest Scotch added) and others do not. The many expressions in The Macallan's 1824 Series focus on color. Natural color, that is; something that The Macallan is known for. The quality of their casks creates a range of caramel to ruby colored liquids that other whisky houses can only match by adding coloring.

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The latest release of the 1824 series includes Rare Cask, which is just launching and is currently available only in the USA. Sitting north of the 18 year old (which retails for around $275 here), Rare Cask debuts at a suggested retail price around $300. Defined by the liquid's rich red color, the sherry oak casks (many are first fill, meaning that it is the first time that scotch has been placed in them to age) that house it are selected for the rich and tasty hue they bring to it. It is indeed rare, only a limited number of bottles will make their way to retailers, but it is expected to be an ongoing addition to the line and not a limited release. Each cask that goes in to every expression is hand selected by Dalgarno. Rare Cask is a naturally vibrant liquid that noses of raisin and dried fruit, sherry spice and rich vanilla.

For a fuller understanding of how deeply wood impacts The Macallan and its specific influence on Rare Cask, we spoke with Master of Wood Stuart MacPherson. MacPherson oversees The Macallan's very unique wood program. It starts with forests it owns in Spain, where oak trees averaging around 150 years old are felled and brought to a cooperage it owns to be made into casks. While MacPherson also looks after all other wood that he turns into casks and the American whisky and bourbon casks that are also part of The Macallan's wood program, the Spanish sherry oaks are the most important. So much so that after growing the trees and turning them into casks, they provide them to a duo of Spain's best sherry makers for free. They in turn use them to age their products for around 18 months. Once the sherry has been removed and bottled the casks are sent up to Scotland, where they visit another of the company's cooperages and are brought back into tip-top condition. From there the casks make their way up to the distillery where they are filled with new make spirit. From there the casks journey a few hundred feet into one of the brand's many aging barns, where they'll sit for anywhere from 12 to more than 60 years before being mixed with other casks (most of the time) and turned into one of their expressions.

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"Sherry seasoned casks are at the very heart of The Macallan and this defining factor has contributed to the fame of the brand today," he shares with CH. "Each expression has its own profile and character taken from the type of wood and time of maturation to allow us to create our 100% naturally colored products." As for this deep coloration, it implies sherry cask aging and acts as an indicator on the flavor profile of the spirit within.

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The Macallan notes that up to 60% of its whisky's' flavors and aromas hail from the barrels they're aged in. MacPherson continues, "Our robust wood policy and close relationships with our Spanish cooperages ensure that our casks are constructed to a specific design which in turn provides the colors, aromas and distinctive flavors we require in our range of products." It's a role that MacPherson, who used to run one of the cooperages, takes enormous pride in.

But even with so much attention and awareness two casks side by side composed of the same wood and restored in the same manner age whisky in different ways. It's the course of nature that often leads to the unexpected. This diversity as well as their range of oak wood are actually beneficial to the process. "Obviously the different oaks that we use and the different attributes they give to the spirit are more beneficial to the team of whisky makers, as it gives them a greater range of flexibility to create our range," MacPherson adds. "Through our sampling process they can identify which casks are performing better than others and utilize them to their full potential." Rare Cask is a single malt composite of those select sherry casks and the result is easy to sip, complex on the palate and slowly lingers until the last sherry note.

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You can purchase The Macallan Rare Cask online, or in stores across the US. Prices vary slightly by market.

We're helping The Macallan launch Rare Cask, so stay tuned for some special sponsored features celebrating other rare makers and a Rare edition of our celebrated Gift Guide.

Additional reporting and contributions from Evan Orensten, images by Josh Rubin

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