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100 Proof Black Dirt Apple Jack

A potent small-batch brandy made in upstate New York from local apples

by David Graver in Food + Drink on 29 August 2014

Alcohol, Apple Jack, Apples, Black Dirt, Brandy, Spirits, Food + Drink

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Anyone who's been to Normandy, France or has a solid interest in spirits knows the wonders of Calvados, the high-proof apple brandy that really packs a punch. However, apple brandy happens to be an American tradition, as well. It's known as Apple Jack and, while the ABV is still high, the finish is definitely sweeter. Black Dirt Distilling—named for the Black Dirt region where the distillery is located, which was a hot bed of Apple Jack production prior to Prohibition—produces a small-batch Apple Jack. It's handcrafted on location in upstate NY and made with the state's apples. Though potent and powerful with the first sip, when that initial strong brandy impact recedes, the tongue is left with the richest fresh apple taste—and it lasts long into the next sip and beyond.

Black Dirt's Apple Jack is aged for at least four years, though most of their batches have been aged at least six—always in American Oak casks. Before that, the apples are pressed and fermented and are then distilled in a Christian Carl copper pot still imported from Germany. For further evidence of quality, Master Distiller Jason Grizzanti actually went to Cornell as a fruit science major before founding the craft distillery. With Apple Jack, he's developed a modern take on something historic that's a little bit sweet and very strong, but balanced all around.

Purchase Black Dirt Apple Jack online from Caskers for $43.

Images by Cool Hunting

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Fair Enough at Venice Architecture Biennale

The Russian Federation looks back on history and offers an imaginary commercial event for the exhibition

by Paolo Ferrarini in Design on 29 August 2014

Architecture, Design, Exhibitions, History, Propaganda, Venice Biennale

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For the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale (on now through 23 November), the exhibition's curator Rem Koolhaas selected the arguably ambiguous theme of “Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014” as a guide for all participating nations. As one would expect, such a wide and insidious topic has been interpreted in many different ways, influenced by local spirit and each nation's unique societal, political and artistic evolution—not to mention history of architecture.

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One of the most original interpretations was created by the Russian Federation team, a group consisting of Commissioner Semyon Mikhailovsky and curators from Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design. The historic Russian Pavilion at Giardini has been transformed into "Fair Enough," an imaginary commercial event meant to promote Russian ideas and ideals. Dazzling lights, a kitschy atmosphere, tacky graphics and no shortage of enthusiastic statements and pandering propaganda make up the self-aware approach. The cohesive aesthetic is so well reproduced and in such a general setting that at times it's difficult to understand the line between fact and fiction.

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As in every good architecture project, the starting point is very clear: begin with an analysis of today’s problems related to life in dense urban areas. For example, one of the biggest issues in developing countries is displacement, since in recent years 144 million people in 125 countries were forced out of their homes due to disasters. What, specifically, about the future of architectural practices can better this? Other questions abound. Are architects too dependent on computers and robots? When considering entertainment, consumerism and the youth, how do we approach storing our "stuff," since so many own far too much already?

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It’s easy to say that we can solve contemporary problems so long as we don’t forget the past, but the Russian curators have made this statement paradoxically strong and clear with the slogan of “Russia’s past, our present." In this way, at "Fair Enough" there is a way out for every obstacle, and it can be found in the long (and controversial) history of Russian Architecture.

Speaking to the point of storage, the Russian Federation answers with the already existing Dacha, the traditional cottages used as second homes that became popular during the Soviet era. In response to an attack or a disaster, there's Ark-Stroy; a super-strong housing system designed for the USSR’s Ministry of Atomic Energy and built in the Tulskaya neighborhood of Moscow. Such "solutions" allow the viewer to rethink stigmas and genuinely reconsider the recycling of "old" ideas.

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As the exhibition continues, it showcases more interesting examples of decoration from the monumental Moscow subway, educational methods for children, influences of Russian architecture abroad and the stunning works by Suprematist artist and designer El Lissitzky, just to name a few. In each section it's possible to find promotional materials like leaflets, brochures and catalogues, all of course designed perfectly in sync with the expo-like environment.

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Also worth noting is the work coordinated by Maria Kosareva, as she’s been able to recreate different graphic styles according to the content and the historic period of reference. Thankfully, for all design enthusiasts in attendance, she even included Russia's curious, historic graphic nightmares: arrows, yellow letters with shadows, dreadful fonts and overly saturated pictures of smiling people. Regardless of portion of the exhibition visited, Russia's contribution is one not to miss.

Second image courtesy of The Charnel House, all others courtesy of Venice Architecture Biennale

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Cycloc's Endo Wall Mount Bicycle Hanger

A clever, two-piece system for storing your bike inside

by Graham Hiemstra in Design on 29 August 2014

Bicycle Storage Systems, Bicycles, Design, Interiors, London, Storage

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In recent months, we've seen a few clever solutions to bicycle storage—from the sculptural copper Stasis to CLUG's 3D printed clip, though neither are readily accessible at the moment. Cycloc's Endo is, however. The two part system hooks the front wheel and supports the rear as both lie flat against the wall in an appealing vertical position. And, when not in use, the device lays flat against the wall, drawing minimal attention from your room's more considered decor—that is, unless you purchase one of the seven colors other than white or black. Made of a durable polypropylene, Endo works with conventional locks and is capable of supporting bikes up to 15 kilograms in weight, and up to 20 kilograms with the assistance of the floor as a third contact point.

Since 2006, London design studio Cycloc has offered numerous clever, colorful designs to solve various interior storage solutions, among other things. Visit their site for a closer look at the Eurobike award-winning Endo vertical storage unit, where it sells for £40.

Images courtesy of Cycloc

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