Free software drives the PC industry. Paid-for packages might seem to be the better option in general, but it’s the no-bucks-down applications that make life as an everyday PC user worth living.
Windows owes a big thank you to the dedication and skill of the open source community. They see a problem, find something they want to do, and just go ahead and make it, offering up the software—and the building blocks that put it together—to the world when they’re done. Thanks, folks. You rock, and you make the next generation of software better. Other free apps have been born out of competition between corporate giants, but we’re not complaining when we get a great piece of free software.
The free PC software collected below will make your life better by making your PC more capable. Let’s get you set up to try new things, to create more, to break down format boundaries, to enjoy yourself. Let’s go free: We’ve trawled the web, canvassed our colleagues, and batted away a host of competitors to compile this guide to the absolute best free software for Windows and, in many cases, Linux, too.
About as Photoshop as you can get without actually shelling out a small fortune to use Photoshop itself, Gimp is densely packed with features, and capable of a massive array of photo manipulation and artistic endeavors. It’s also far more refined than it was a few years ago, with the frequent crashes of yesteryear all but gone. Only the slightly janky interface remains to remind you that this is open-source software.
Now 20 years old, Krita is a natural painting toolbox, perfect for everyone from artists to cartoonists, and beyond. It includes art essentials such as stabilized brushes, a pop-up palette, a wrapping texture mode, as well as a full animation interface. There are nine individual brush engines, each customizable and organizable to help you grab the right tool fast. Pick up the paid-for Gemini version on Steam ($9.99) if you’re rocking a convertible tablet and want to support the project.
If you’re after pro-level video editing, Lightworks—legitimately used to cut proper Hollywood movies, such as The Wolf of Wall Street—is an incredible choice for the grand sum of zero bucks. You’re restricted to 720p output on the free tier, but everything else is present and correct, from advanced non-linear editing to a whole host of color grading and effects tools. The learning curve is steep, but there’s a vibrant community ready to help if you need any pointers.
No matter how large your music library is, MusicBee can handle it, with a tiny RAM footprint that makes this handsome skinnable player/manager perfect for even the lowliest laptop. You can tweak your sounds with surround upscaling, ASIO and WASAPI support, and a 15-band equalizer, and even make use of those crusty old WinAmp plugins if you need more. It’ll even properly tag and fully organize that trashpile you call an MP3 collection…
Downloading from YouTube isn’t strictly kosher, but nothing’s permanent on the Internet’s foremost demonetization platform. It pays to be prepared if there’s a video you can’t do without—particularly if your data plan won’t cover streaming your kids’ favorite weird Spiderman/ Elsa escapades when you’re desperate for them to be quiet for two seconds. Freemake’s multithreaded app is super-simple, super-fast, and it can suck down YouTube vids as well as content from Vimeo, Facebook, and beyond.
Active development means that this audio stalwart has recently seen a bunch of new features added, and there are more on the way. Not that it necessarily needed much changing: Despite a rather, let’s say, rugged interface, Audacity’s power for multitrack audio manipulation is unsurpassed in the free bracket, and it’s an immensely stable way to record from a microphone, too. Of course, now that it can natively play MIDI files, you’ll be too busy looping canyon.mid to get any fresh recording done.
VLC is brilliantly honest free software. When its creators were offered tens of millions of dollars to slather the app in ads, they refused—it’s open source, proud about it, and the envy of the media player world, thanks to its solid compatibility with just about every media format. It can even handle streams on several protocols, and it’s fully extendable. That said, everything important is on board from the start—no codec packs required.
Despite the fact that it’s cavorting around an increasingly competitive streaming playground, Spotify is still king of the jungle gym. It has the biggest library, the best interface, and its OGG-format files sound all but flawless, despite its lack of official high-res audio support. Admittedly, the ads can be a little repetitive and heavy handed if you don’t shell out for a paid-for account, but that’s the price of free.
You don’t have a huge amount of choice if you need to create scalable vector graphics on a budget. You could shell out for a subscription to use Adobe Illustrator, or you could download the highly mature and feature-filled Inkscape. There’s not really a happy in-between. Good job, then, that Inkscape is so capable, with support for blurring, gradients, multi-path editing, and exporting in every format you could possibly need.
When you need video in one format but it’s stubbornly in another, you need to transcode. Handbrake supports a massive list of formats on input and output, with profiles included for a host of common devices, and it’s happy to convert frame rates and add effects on the way. Its key feature, though, is batch processing: Drop a collection of videos in, set it off, and it’ll tell you when it’s filled a folder with your freshly converted media.
Frequent sales, a massive indie library, and an early access program that gets you into new games before they’ve been officially released characterize Valve’s store—but it’s the little extras, such as the vibrant community, the Steam game overlay, and the Steam Workshop for mod content, that really make it. Steam has changed what gaming really is on the PC. Keep an eye on the store to find regular free weekends of popular games, which get you unlimited access for a limited time.
Steam’s publisher deals don’t extend to every producer of AAA titles, and if you want in on EA’s library, you need to use Origin. Whatever you might think about the gaming monolith’s practices, Origin is a convenient way to manage your gaming, and get going with multiplayer action. Check the “On the House” section for a regular rotating selection of freebies, which you can add to your library forever, and take advantage of the trials to get time-limited access to hot new games.
If you’re more inclined toward the old-school end of the gaming spectrum, GOG’s selection of rigged-for-modern PC classics and the occasional new release are reasonably priced and almost always worth checking out. Galaxy is its desktop client, which makes finding and installing your favorite DRM-free titles quick and easy; if you’re on board with GOG’s philosophy and truly love old games, you should get on board with Galaxy.
Whether you’re cleansing a new PC of its preinstalled bloatware or trimming down an existing machine to get rid of the stuff you really don’t need, PC decrapifier does the job fast, and it makes it easy. no other package is quite as informed on the awful software that manufacturers so thoughtfully include, and how safe it is to excise it—while you won’t use it often, this is definitely one of those portable apps you’ll want on your USB toolkit stick.
Windows is, among its many other jobs, like a cut-price janitor. Sure, it puts on a good show: It’s packed with tools, and it claims they’ll scrub your OS clean, but it’s lackadaisical. It doesn’t go as far as it could, and it often leaves filth around the edges. For the rest, you need something heavy, such as CCleaner, which can do away with registry artefacts, files left over after uninstalling, and much more.
There are stacks of free VPNs out there, but never underestimate the importance of trust when it comes to something that’s purportedly there to protect your web traffic—you need to know you’re safe, not just funneling your entire bitstream through a criminal server. Cuddly ol’ TunnelBear can be trusted, and it’s completely uncomplicated: It just works. It’s fast, it’s solid, and the 500MB monthly free bandwidth should see you through all your secure transactions.
Whichever way you slice it, however careful you may be, you can’t get away without having antivirus installed. If you’re going free, pick something with low system load, minimal amounts of notification spam, and a decent engine behind it. Bitdefender’s latest update fits the bill—it’s ultra-effective against malware, and extra light on resources, with a simple interface that just gets on with the job. Try Avira instead if you’d like a touch more control.
Admittedly, Malwarebytes’ free tier doesn’t do a huge amount—it’s not a preventative, it won’t steer you away from the seedier corners of the web, and it can’t do anything about zero-day malware threats, unless you pony up some cash. What it does, though, is precisely what you need it to: run it once you think you’ve fallen foul of some terrible malware threat, and it’ll kill that pesky infestation until it’s well and truly dead.
If you’ve never used the same password for multiple sites because you don’t trust your memory, you’re in the minority, and if you came up with that password yourself, chances are it’s insecure in some way. Using Dashlane does away with the fallibility of the human brain. Remember one master password, and you need never even know the complex, nigh-unhackable passwords it automatically generates and types into web forms on your behalf—even Dashlane itself doesn’t know them.
You’re probably already aware that deleting a file doesn’t actually delete it. It’s not until its little corner of drive space is reused that its data actually goes away, and even then there may be some trace of it left behind to be forensically recovered. Eraser ensures that those files you want well and truly removed are fully destroyed, using specially selected patterns of bytes over multiple passes to remove any digital memory of those files ever existing.
Probably the most common cause of malware infestation is inattention—clicking through a seemingly innocent installer, accidentally skipping past the page where it offers to install a brilliant browser toolbar, cursing yourself afterward. Unchecky doubles up: It unchecks those cheeky checkboxes (as you might expect from its name), and also sniffs out untrustworthy installers, warning you when you’re about to accept an offer of questionable value.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve accidentally deleted a file, formatted a drive, or suffered some sort of horrific crash, Recuva can take a good stab at analyzing your drive, and getting your data back in one piece. It’s not infallible, but if you have the time (and your hard drive has enough life left in it) to let it run a deep scan, you’re more than likely to see results. It’ll also do a secure overwrite, if you’re looking to do the opposite.
Selective, automatic, and easy. EaseUS’s solution to backup is probably the most sensible we’ve seen. You can plug in an external drive (or point it at a NAS), and just set and forget—it periodically creates an incremental backup of your selected folders (or those it’s chosen using its smart backup feature), without any more involvement from you. If you want to take a more specific backup, you can, and restoring later on is incredibly easy.
Whatever you might think of Google, its browser—and the open-source chromium browser that it’s built upon—deserves its place at the top of the tree. It makes big demands on your RAM, but this is because it keeps every one of its tabs in its own memory space, meaning a crash in one window won’t kill any of the others. There’s a massive extension library ready to go, so you can browse exactly as you’d want to— although not every extension is worth the bits it’s made of…
Far better than it was before it fell off the top spot, Firefox is now a highly efficient browser that’s kinder on your RAM than Chrome, and—depending on your browser habits—potentially more stable, too. Running modern Firefox is a speedy experience, and if you’re looking for privacy, you can do a lot more by default than Chrome’s incognito mode—the anti-tracking features Mozilla has packed in are perfect for those desperate to leave a light footprint on the web.
You might place Opera in the number three free browser slot; we’re going for Vivaldi, the browser that formed from disillusion with Opera’s practices. It’s a truly modern browser, using the same rendering engine as Chrome, and many of the key features of Opera, while tacking on a host of note-taking, tab-managing, experience-modifying features. There’s a dedicated community driving the Vivaldi project on, and you can even use certain Chrome extensions.
Adobe needn’t have the monopoly on PDF reading. The format is far more widespread than it once was, and there are smaller, faster, and more versatile readers than, er, reader—SumatraPDF being the best among them. It has a deliberately simple UI, because you’re meant to be focused on reading, rather than clicking buttons, and also includes full support for rendering most mainstream ebook and comic book formats, as well as XPS and DjVu files.
One of the cleanest email packages around, working with POP3, SMTP, and every other email delivery tech out there, eM Client’s free version only really restricts the number of accounts you can use—every other feature matches up to its pro tier. This includes PGP integration, so you can securely sign or encrypt your messages, along with advanced contacts management, importing from other email apps, and a chat client that supports most common IM protocols.
Keeping files synched between your many PCs and an online drive is a simple way of staying organized and safe, and it’s not without its options. Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Box, even Mega, they all give you a local folder that automatically mirrors one online. We favor Dropbox for this task, mainly because it feels like the most responsive and sensible way to magically clone your stuff. It’s what Dropbox was built to do—limited storage space be damned.
Optical media is a progressively more marginal form of storage, but it ain’t dead yet, and the flexibility to do more than Windows’ own built-in burning tools is essential. CDBurnerXP, which shows its lineage in its name, can burn it all—you can even use it to write HD-DVDs if you can find the hardware—and it can create and convert ISO files, too. Perfect for backing up backups.
Franz doesn’t actually offer its own messaging system, but it does serve up just about every other protocol. Configure your Franz account, add the services and usernames you want to use, and they’re replicated on whatever machine you log on to next. Get your Slack, your Hangouts, your Skype, and even WhatsApp all in one place, and stop shunning that one person who won’t move to the network the rest of your friends use.
The great benefit of being the biggest name in your field, as Evernote surely is, is integration. So many other web services tie into it that you often don’t need to make notes directly—just chuck the content you’re interested in over to your Evernote, and it’s there when you want to remember, organize it into notebooks, and otherwise make use of it later on. You can sync the basic free account with two devices.
Efficiency is the name of the game where Ninite is concerned. If you’re putting together a new machine, and you want it packed with free apps, Ninite can supply them—including many of the apps featured here—in one handy installer. Just check the boxes on the site, download your custom executable, and fire it off to get the latest versions of the most popular applications installed with one click. No choices, no options, just clean installs of your favorite stuff.
It’s sort of remarkable that VirtualBox is free, particularly since it’s owned by a company as large as Oracle, but the frequently updated virtual machine environment is essential if you want to cobble together sandboxed Windows installs, trial Linux distros, or do all kinds of shenanigans that it might be useful to roll back or keep separate from the rest of your PC. It’s highly configurable, and you can even set up your own virtual networks.
If you have a problem with your PC—or even if you don’t—it’s useful to find out exactly how it’s operating. HWiNF064 is a diagnostic tool that can serve up everything from a brief overview of your system’s components to a deep dive into the minuscule operations of your PC. You can also use it for real-time monitoring, keeping an eye on the status of problem components, and predicting failure based on its findings.
We find it pretty amazing how many people have the never-ending free trial of WinRAR installed when 7-zip does the job of archiving and unarchiving just as competently, and doesn’t bother with the nag screens. What’s more, the .7z format, which uses AES-256 encryption and a super-high compression ratio, is both smaller and, usually, faster than using .ZIP or .RAR to squash down your files.
Although it’s missing many of the more advanced features of full office suites, those are generally things you shouldn’t be using an office package for anyway. Google docs—and sheets, and slides—rocks a winning combination of solid core features, constant accessibility, integration with online storage, and companion mobile apps, which (awkwardly) offer you the same functionality on your phone. You can import and export in any format you choose—what’s not to like?
One of many successors of original Microsoft Office alternative StarOffice, OpenOffice (passed on to Apache after previous owner, Oracle, abandoned the project) contains a complete suite of software, ranging from the core word processor/spreadsheet/presentations triumvirate to software specifically designed for vector drawing, laying out mathematical formulae, and a database. If you’re not shelling out for Microsoft’s suite, this’ll get the job done.
LibreOffice is, somewhat naturally, just like OpenOffice—while the two packages have followed different development lines since mid-2013, they’re based on the same code, and retain the same naming convention (and, in most cases, a very similar interface) for their central six apps. It’s up to you which free office branch you follow; ignoring the frequent squabbling that split the two (and fellow StarOffice fork NeoOffice), they’re just as capable as one another.
I love tuning in to “Shark Tank” every week for my fill of inspirational founder stories and entertaining investor personalities, but one of my favorite parts is seeing the updates on past deals.
For many of the entrepreneurs, appearing on the show is a pivotal turning point. Unlike a lot of reality television in which the content is staged, it’s not just for the cameras when they shake hands with a Shark. Afterwards, they work together to put their money where their mouth is and create thriving businesses, and there’s no better example of the show’s power than the following companies.
These products have become household names, and they have the sales to prove it. As you’ll see, even though they share the common ground of “Shark Tank” beginnings, there is no formula or recipe for the type of business that does well on the show.
The Scrub Daddy is soft in warm water, firm in cold water, and can be used for the toughest household cleaning situations. This versatile sponge premiered in Season 4 and remains the most successful “Shark Tank” products to date. What originally started as a sponge designed for auto body shops and mechanics led to QVC appearances, a deal with Lori Greiner, and more than $100 million in sales.
For something you probably wear every day, regular socks have a lot of annoying problems, and investor Daymond John agreed. Bombas makes comfortable socks with extra-long staple cotton to keep them breathable, extra cushioning where your feet need them the most, and a blister tab.
The company made $50 million in 2017, which is great news for its community partners as well: for every pair purchased, it donates a pair to a homeless shelter or community organization. Bombas has donated more than 7 million pairs to date.
Robert Herjavec’s $100,000 investment in ugly sweater company Tipsy Elves in 2013 has turned into more than $50 million total sales since. In addition to festive sweaters, it also makes ski gear and costumes that are sure to turn heads and attract some compliments. If you watched the 2018 Winter Olympics, you might’ve caught a glimpse of Jamaica’s bobsled team wearing custom Tipsy Elves warmup suits.
The Squatty Potty, a stool placed under your feet to help you do your business, resonated with Lori Greiner and was an instant hit with viewers, selling $1 million in product within 24 hours of its Season 6 “Shark Tank” debut. Sales of this simple product were expected to hit $30 million in 2017.
Architecture students Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork developed LuminAID after seeing the devastation of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. This solar inflatable product provides a source of light in any situation, including outdoor activities like hiking and camping. All five Sharks were interested in this potentially life-saving light, but the founders ultimately struck a deal with Mark Cuban.
Through its Give Light, Get Light program, the company gives LuminAID lanterns to charitable partners for disaster relief. Most recently, it donated thousands of lanterns to Syrian refugees and Puerto Rico hurricane relief.
Mobile app Groovebook provides an easy way to print your favorite phone photos on to a custom monthly photo book. For $3.99 a month, Groovebook sends you a 4″x 6″ photo book with perforated pages that you can tear out and share with anyone.
In 2014, just eleven months after the husband-and-wife founders Julie and Brian Whiteman made a deal with Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary, Shutterfly bought the company for $14.5 million.
Hanna and Mark Lim are parents who were inspired by their nine-month-old daughter’s ability to drink from a straw. None of the current sippy cups with straws were effective enough or made from safe materials, so they made their own, the Lollacup. Since partnering with Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec, the company has passed $2 million in sales and expanded into other infant and toddler goods under the brand name Lollaland.
Founder Rick Hopper’s patented magnetic solution to the all-too-common and expensive problem of misplaced eyeglasses was a hit among his friends and family, and ultimately won over Lori Greiner on Season 3 of the show. It’s a subtle replacement for ugly glasses straps and can also be used for IDs or earbuds. The company has made more than $8 million in total sales since appearing on “Shark Tank.”
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Whiskey — like many spirits that rely on an element of craft — is experiencing a full-blown renaissance. As the number of small-batch distillers increases, it seems like whiskey-centric bars are popping up all over the country. This is a good thing for the drinking public. If your local saloon has an extensive whiskey collection, you’ll obviously get to try some truly unique whiskeys (without spending a mortgage payment on a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle).
But not all whiskey bars are created equal. That’s why we asked Michael Neff— a whiskey expert who has created bar programs for such notable spots as Holiday Cocktail Lounge, Ward III, and Rum House in NYC and Three Clubs in Hollywood — to tell us his choices for the most important whiskey bars in America.
It should be noted that Neff’s choices aren’t necessarily the bars that have the biggest whiskey lists or the most expensive selections. They’re also not bars that you would necessarily see on every round up of “best whiskey bars.” That’s because Michael took the time to dig deeper. In some cases mere geography is what makes a bar important. In another, it’s a well-known bar whose whiskey selection is often totally overshadowed by other elements that made it famous.
“Far Bar is a gem. You would think that their location — in the heart of Little Tokyo on the outskirts of Downtown Los Angeles — would mean that they specialize in Japanese and other Pacific Riwhiskeyses, and you would be right. That said, they clearly have a healthy respect for whiskey in general, and their sprawling collection winds throughout the space.”
deadrabbitnyc It takes a lot of work to start the day looking like this picture. Work that begins with the night porters in the kitchen from 3am, before they move on to deep-cleaning all three floors of the building. The barback arrives at 8.30am and starts checking, filling, replenishing everything from the juice bottles (with freshly squeezed juice, of course) to the straw caddies and beer lines. Then at around 10am the bartender checks, fills and replenishes everything else – menus, till rolls, coasters. Eveything.
That takes her up to 11am, when she opens the doors – and welcomes the first customers to another day at the Dead Rabbit. Photo by @buda.photography
Whether or not this Downtown destination is the “Best Bar in the World” is a matter for debate. It is, however, a great joint and much celebrated for its cocktails. Their acclaim often overshadows the part that impresses me the most—their Irish whisky collection is unmatched. They clearly have a love of the spirit, and their international notoriety gives them access to bottles that normal humans can’t hope to taste on this side of the Atlantic.”
Great whiskey, particularly great bourbon, isn’t meant to be fancy. Whiskey has historically been a working-stiff’s drink, and bars like Haymarket are there to remind us of that. It has the eclectic feel of a fan-boy’s fantasy basement bar — coupled with an impressive collection of whiskey that spans the economic spectrum. It’s in Louisville, so bourbon prevails.”
We don’t talk about context enough when we talk about whiskey. The environment in which we drink can have an outsized impact on how we feel about what it is we’re drinking. Case in point. Blue Sky Bar is unusual in that it is a). attached to a Quizno’s franchise and b). located on the second level of Terminal A in the Denver airport. Their whiskey collection, however, rivals that of much fancier joints bragging trendier addresses, and their staff is knowledgeable and informed (if a bit surly with it).
The experience of choice and discovery makes any whiskey bar a joy to experience. Having that experience on a layover makes it that much more memorable.”
“You almost can’t create a bar that would be more perfect for me than Delilah’s. Part punk rock. Part dive. Cheeky and irreverent. And it sports one of the country’s most thorough and well-curated whiskey selections. Mike Miller is one of the great bar creators in the country, and I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather drink whiskey than his fantastic bar.”
“Reserve 101 is a study in picking something you love and doing that to the best of your ability. This unassuming little gem loves whiskey from top to bottom, and their commitment to the spirit is evident in everything they do. The collection of house-selected barrels is impressive, served by bartenders that are knowledgeable and hospitable in equal measures. Texas pride is the clear subplot—whiskey distilled in the Lone Star State is served with extra loving care.”
If you’re detecting a theme in this list, Poison Girl will confirm your suspicion—whiskey bars that masquerade as punky dives hold a special place in my heart. Dark wood, surly regulars, broken pinball machines. A back patio that looks like a sculpture garden created from a pop culture graveyard. None of that distracts from an American whiskey-focused program that rivals almost anything I’ve seen outside of Kentucky.”
“Part of opening a great spirits bar is curating your list with what you have available, and Mercury Bar is a great example of this. Nebraska doesn’t always get every spirit the country has to offer, and bars there can only sell what’s available in their state, which means that even their most thorough whiskey collections can’t match those in larger markets in terms of bottles on offer. The folks at Mercury combat this dearth of availability with passion for what they can get. Education is a focus, and they’ve curated a wonderful spirits list with an impressive selection of whiskey from around the world.”
“Daddy-O has been a staple in the West Village for over a decade, and it has quietly evolved into a legitimate whiskey destination. The back bar collection of bottles sprawls upward, with a surprising number of independent bottlings sprinkled throughout the stack seemingly at random. Whiskey features behind the bar, sure, but I’ve been to dinners there where every dish is modified to highlight a whiskey ingredient. A great experience that is past due for more attention.”
“Nestled in the picturesque Hudson Valley, Gardiner Liquid Mercantile is a bit of a dark horse when you’re talking about whiskey bars. It operates under a very specific set of limitations—they can legally only serve spirits that are 100% produced in the state of New York. Aside from its very charming hand-made feel (it occupies the ground floor of a Victorian house), it has two things going for it: New York is starting to produce some very good and unique whiskeys, and the owner of this fine establishment is the great Gable Erenzo, of Hudson Whiskey fame.
“GLM is a great whiskey bar because it was built by a whiskey maker. The staff is incredibly well informed about what they like and what they sell, and if you’re lucky, you might end up sitting next to Gable or one of his cohorts at the bar. Engage one of them in a discussion about whiskey, and you will learn more than a lifetime of tasting mats and marketing material can ever teach you. That possibility alone is enough to make Gardiner Liquid Mercantile one of my favorite whiskey bars not just in the country, but anywhere at all.”
There have been plenty of reasons to drink plenty of whisky in 2017, and I’ve done my best to honor all occasions. For the new year, I’ve resolved to drink more whiskies in my tireless quest to make as many new discoveries as one fan can responsibly and humanly do.
But the memories of the 2017 finds linger, and I’d like to share the best of them with you.
I’ve had the good fortune to sample many whiskies as one of my job duties, so what follows is a list of the standouts I had last year. (I did the same in 2016).
Some of these have graced this blog before, and some haven’t. Like last time, my only two selection criteria for these choices is that I tried them in 2017 (even if they were released before then), and that they were able to be bought by the bottle.
I’ve split this list into two parts. Part one, Accessible Whiskies, are bottles that you can still get hold of either online or in specialist shops, and shouldn’t present a challenge to find and buy. Part two, Tricky Whiskies, are are rare, limited or expensive drams (sometimes all three) that I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy.
And so, in alphabetical order, here they are:
Bruichladdich Octomore 8.3
The Octomore range from Bruichladdich comprises some of the peatiest whiskies in the world, but this particular release may be the record holder, at 309.1 ppm (parts per million) of peat. To compare, a heavily peated whisky like Laphroaig tends to clock in at 50-60 ppm. This whisky was a deeply meaty, monstrous pleasure and I feel privileged to have tried it.
Paul John – Classic Select Cask
Paul John is an Indian whisky distillery that deserves to be considered as seriously as the most well-known scotches, and all its whiskies are excellent. I think this one is the best from its core range, though. It’s crisp, creamy, and nutty. Vanilla and bananas are bursting out, complemented by a citrus zing.
Lost Distillery Company – Jericho Archivist
The LDC uses historical research to unravel the taste of whiskies from now-closed distilleries, and then creates blends that match that reconstructed taste profile. To me, this one is their very best release. It’s what us geeks call a “sherry bomb,” comprised of whiskies aged in Spanish sherry casks that deliver deep rich flavours. Caramel, toffee, plums and prunes all shine through with a little ginger tang.
Rabbit Hole Distillery – Straight bourbon whisky finished in PX casks
I’ve heard of a couple distilleries in the U.S. starting to age their bourbon in sherry casks to give extra fruity flavours. This is the first and only one I’ve had of its kind so far. I find it’s superbly balanced. The sweetness of the bourbon is given a lovely depth by the sherry casks where it’s been aged. I really enjoyed trying to pick out elements of each.
Royal Salute – 21 years old
As I wrote previously about this bottle of blended whisky, whatever you may imagine delicious old whisky to taste like, this ticks the box. The perfect choice of drink while surrounded by leather bound books in an apartment that smells like rich mahogany. Bow before royalty.
Golden Decanters – The Tight Line
An independent bottler that sells a high-end, four-bottle collection consisting of single cask whiskies, Golden Decanters has bottled one of the best bourbon cask whiskies – a Glenlivet – that I’ve ever had. Extremely sugary and full of citrus.
Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength batch 9
Laphroaig 10 is one of the great standard scotch whiskies out there. Its cask strength version is phenomenal. The 9th batch is my favorite of the lot so far, and beats some other amazing and older Laphroaigs I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. A perfect combination of sea breeze and smoked meat. There’s a few specialist stores that still have it available. Make a quick google search and snatch up a bottle before they’re gone for good.
Bunnahabhain Eich Bhanna Lir
As more distilleries are looking to enter the ultra-luxury whisky market, Bunnahabhain has dipped its toe in the water by releasing its oldest-ever whisky, a 46-year-old single cask beauty. It’s thick, creamy and full of orchard fruit. It also avoids the strong oak often present in really old whisky and that can sometimes be a bit overwhelming.
Compass Box has made a name as one of the top artisanal whisky blenders. Its No Name release is a limited edition from this year, and it’s a rare peated release. Compass Box should do these more often because it’s absolutely delicious. Thick yogurt, meat and tar all through.
One of my all-time favorite whiskies. I bought several bottles when it was released in 2012 and a precious half bottle remains. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is an independent bottler that bottles almost exclusively limited edition single casks. It’s had a busy year, opening many new clubhouses (or working with partner bars to serve their special whiskies) around the world. The 66.36 is an Ardmore aged in a sherry cask that is described on the label as “Milano sausage with a tropical fruit kebab.” That’s pretty accurate.
To keep up with more whisky posts and news, follow me on Twitter at @schriebergfr
When I met Patrick Marran, it was a cold December night in New York City. My girlfriend and I had just given up on trying to break through the crowd at Rockefeller Center to see the big tree and we were in desperate need of a drink. We made our way down 49th Street to escape the masses, rounded the corner of 10th Avenue, and there it was, our saving grace, a whiskey bar.
Whiskey can be a little intimidating, especially when you don’t know terms like “single-barrel” and …
We were immediately drawn to its low-key lighting and relaxed atmosphere, so we walked in, took off our coats, and Patrick, the bartender, immediately greeted us with a hearty “Welcome to On the Rocks.” The bar itself isn’t a big place, but it’s overflowing with every kind of whiskey you could ever want served neat, up, on the rocks, or even in specialty cocktails. And their goal at On the Rocks is simple: they want you to try whiskeys you’ve never tasted before. Marran will ask you what you’ve had and what you’ve liked, then try to show you a better version of your affordable go-tos. After sampling a few glasses of Japanese whiskeys and American ryes I’d never heard of, I was sold, so I asked Patrick if he’d help me offer some useful recommendations to other whiskey fans out there who are looking to upgrade.
What most people don’t understand about their bourbon preferences is the ingredient percentage. Marran explains that Maker’s falls under the category of “wheated bourbon,” which means that after the required 51% corn, wheat makes up a majority of the other grains used during the distillation process. It makes wheated bourbons a very smooth, accessible drink. That’s why W. L. Weller Antique (Old Weller Antique) from Buffalo Trace Distillery is the perfect upgrade for Maker’s fans, and it’s a great stepping stone toward the mythical Pappy Van Winkle. It’s not too expensive either. You can find bottles for around $30.
The Japanese have been crafting award-winning whiskey for decades, forcing die-hard Scotch drinkers to take notice. Marran says that the Yamazaki almost always wins the blind tastings he does at the bar if someone asks for a Scotch whiskey flight. I’ve had a couple bottles of the Yamazaki 12 myself and can attest to its superior quality. Grab a bottle for around $100.
I used to get in debates almost every time I drank whiskey on whether or not it was appropriate to…
Marran describes Single Pot Still whiskey as a bridge between blended Irish whiskey and Scotch whiskey, and Green Spot from Mitchell & Son is an affordable way to dip one’s toes into the quality improvement over regular blended whiskeys. Marran says:
So many people stroll into a bar and dismiss the Irish whiskey as somehow inferior. That’s about as wrong as snow in July. This is my hands-down favorite option to break someone’s misconceptions.
If you want to go up in price from there, Midleton’s Redbreast isn’t a bad option either. You can find bottles of Green Spot for around $70.
A lot of people enjoy Bulleit bourbon and regard it as one of the best, but Marran suggests Michter’s US 1 Bourbon is a little more balanced in its taste. It’ll cost you a few more bucks, but Marran says it’s ideal for bourbon fans who know that a high-corn ratio in the mash bill is their “problem with whiskey.” And if you’re interested in a whiskey education, he recommends their Rye and American varieties to give you a good example of how different whiskeys taste. You can usually find bottles between $50 and $60.
If you’re always on the lookout for a “super smooth whiskey,” Marran suggests you stay away from bourbons and go for some American single malts. Both Sons of Liberty Uprising and Stranahan’s Yellow Label will have you covered for younger, full-bodied whiskeys that always go down smooth. You can find a bottle of Sons of Liberty Uprising for around $50 a bottle (hard to find in the West), and you can find Stranahan’s Yellow Label for about $65 a bottle.
According to Marran, Laphroaig Scotch seems to be the go-to for most novice peaty (type of smokiness) drinkers, but there are a dozen other Islay distilleries that deserve your attention. Bruichladdich Octomore is a higher-end smokey whiskey that comes in a few styles and showcases the artistic way the distillers make the flavors pop. Marran recommends you have it neat or with a few drops of water (even an entire ice cube is too much for the peat). You can find a bottle of Bruichladdich Octomore for around $60 to $80.
This blended Scotch is easy to spot thanks to its robin’s egg blue box and label. Marran describes it as a blended whiskey that’s “designed” to taste like a single malt, so it’s the perfect whiskey to help ease your transition to a single malt palate. It has a full body, but it’s smooth on the tongue and easy going down. Plus, the recipe has some interesting history behind it. It’s based on the Scotch Sir Ernest brought with him during his 1907 expedition to Antarctica. You can find it for about $40 a bottle.
If you’re a rye kind of guy (or gal), Marran says the jump from a basic well rye to a three-year rye is going to knock your socks off. New York Distilling Company’s Ragtime Rye is part of a new whiskey movement in New York City where nine different distilleries are rolling out ryes that are 75% rye compared to the required 51%. This is your chance to upgrade to a “real rye,” as Marran puts it. You can find bottles for around $45.
If you’ve never really explored it before, drinking whisky can be intimidating. Deciding what…
According to Marran, people like Bulleit Rye because it’s an affordable, mellow rye that eases them into the world of decent whiskey after their college whiskey shooting days. If you’re ready to upgrade to something that’s just as mellow, but with more rye and a better bite, WhistlePig’s Farmstock is the way to go. There are notes of vanilla and toasted honey, and runs for about $90 a bottle.
If you’ve already tasted the greatness that is the Yamazaki, Amrut should be your new best friend. Marran says it’s something all whiskey enthusiasts should try:
Whether you’re in it to show you know more about whiskey, or you merely want to continue building your exotic Single Malt collection, this single malt from India is a must-have in order to see why so many companies are taking the barley approach from Scotland and giving it a whirl.
Amrut’s whiskeys are a bit younger than others, but they’ve got full flavor and have been winning awards. You’ll probably have to order it online (prices can range from $60 to $100 a bottle), but it’s a tasty international whiskey that you can definitely show off to your friends.
Every Excel user has their own favorite tip. So we decided to bring some method, data, and science to bear in this hotly debated topic.
We consulted the research of 30 of the world’s leading Excel experts, our own internal Excel experts, grouped up and consolidated the emerging features, and applied a scoring methodology and index to produce a definitive ordered list of the 100 most useful Excel features, hacks, tips and tricks.
These are the top 10 Excel tips as determined by our ranking.
Skills are ranked by usefulness and given a score out of 100. Each skill also has a difficulty rating (out of 5) based on the complexity and sophistication of the feature. Finally, we provide the average time in minutes it takes the average learner to go from no knowledge to proficient.
The videos and gifs inserted in this list were created by Business Insider.
Learn in 180 mins
Making sense of our data-rich, noisy world is hard but vital. Used well, Conditional Formatting brings out the patterns of the universe, as captured by your spreadsheet. That’s why Excel experts and Excel users alike vote this the #1 most important feature. This can be sophisticated. But even the simplest colour changes can be hugely beneficial. Suppose you have volumes sold by sales staff each month. Just three clicks can reveal the top 10% performing salespeople and tee up an important business conversation.
Learn in 240 mins
At 4 hours to get to proficiency, you may be put off learning PivotTables but don’t be. Use them to sort, count, total or average data stored in one large spreadsheet and display them in a new table, cut however you want. That’s the key thing here. If you want to look only at sales figures for certain countries, product lines or marketing channels, it’s trivial. Warning: make sure your data is clean first!
Learn in 10 mins
Grabbing (ie Copying) some data from one cell and pasting it into another cell is one of the most common activities in Excel. But there’s a lot you might copy (formatting, value, formula, comments, etc) and sometimes you won’t want to copy all of it. The most common example of this is where you want to lose the formatting – the place this data is going is your own spreadsheet with your own styling.
Learn in 10 mins
Probably one of the most frequently carried out activities in spreadsheeting. Ctrl Shift + is the shortcut, but actually it takes longer, so Right Click is what we recommend. And if you want to add more than one, select as many rows or columns as you’d like to add and then Right Click and add.
Learn in 15 mins
Indispensable! The dollar in front of the letter fixes the column, the dollar sign in front of number fixes the row F4 toggles through the four possible combinations.
Learn in 120 mins
Everyone has problems printing from Excel. But just imagine if what you printed were always just what you intended to print. It IS actually possible. There are a few components to this though: print preview, fit to one page, adjusting margins, print selection, printing headers, portrait vs landscape and spreadsheet design. Invest the time to get comfortable with it. You’ll be carrying out this task many, many times in your working life.
Learn in 5 mins
The beauty of Excel is its easy scalability. Get the formula right once and Excel will churn out the right calculation a million times. The + cross hair is handy. Double clicking it will take it all the way down if you have continuous data. Sometimes a copy and paste (either regular paste or paste formulas) will be faster for you.
Learn in 30 mins
Excel developed a mind of its own in 2013. Say you have two columns of names and you need to construct email addresses from them all. Just do it for the first row and Excel will work out what you mean and do it for the rest. Pre-2013 this was possible but relied on a combination of functions (FIND, LEFT, &, etc). This is much faster and WILL impress people.
Learn in 45 mins
This is one of the most powerful combinations of Excel functions. You can use it to look up a value in a big table of data and return a corresponding value in that table. Let’s say your company has 10,000 employees and there’s a spreadsheet with all of them in it with lots of information about them like salary, start date, line manager etc. But you have a team of 20 and you’re only really interested in them. INDEX-MATCH will look up the value of your team members (these need to be unique like email or employee number) in that table and return the desired information for your team. This is worth getting your head around this as it is more flexible and therefore more powerful than VLOOKUPs.
Learn in 60 mins
Explore data in a table quickly. Filtering effectively hides data that is not of interest. Usually there’s a value e.g. ‘Blue cars’ that you’re looking for and Filters will bring up those and hide the rest. But in more modern versions of Excel, you can now also filter on number values (e.g. is greater than, top 10%, etc), and cell color. Filtering becomes more powerful when you need to filter more than one column in combination e.g. both colors and vehicles to find your blue car.
Microsoft Excel has an array of useful features for creating powerful spreadsheets with charts and tables. But, when you want to take your spreadsheet to the next level, beyond fancy text or themes, you may need the help of an add-in.
For an easy way to add color to your spreadsheet data, the Excel Colorizer add-in works great. To make your data simpler to read, just pick the colors and pattern and let the add-in do the rest of the work.
You can choose a type from uniform, horizontal, vertical, or matrix and pick your four colors. Then, adjust the interpolation to smooth or linear and the color space to RGB or HSV. You can also pick the pattern from interlaced or waves. So, select your data, make it look amazing, and hit Colorize! to finish.
For displaying an organizational chart, HierView is the add-in for you. Your data should include a row identifier with the information included across the columns. Then, configure your data with filtering, automatic refreshing, column names, and data per node.
Once your chart is complete, you can zoom in or out, move in all four directions, or fit the chart to the plotted area. You can also move the entire chart or resize it if needed. Adjust the settings or get help at any time with the convenient buttons at the top of the chart.
If adding a map to your spreadsheet is useful, the Bing Maps add-in makes it simple. Your data can include addresses, cities, states, zip codes, or countries as well as longitude and latitude. Just open the add-in, select your data cells, and click the Location button on the map.
The Bing Maps tool is ideal for displaying numeric data related to locations. So, if you work in sales, you can show new markets to cover or if you work for a company with multiple locations, you can present those facilities to clients clearly.
When a heat map is what you really need, the Geographic Heat Map add-in is terrific. From the same developer as the Radial Bar Chart add-in, you have similar settings. Select your data, choose a U.S. or world map, pick your column headings, and add a title.
You can reselect the data set if you add more columns or rows and if you change a value already in the set, you will see the heat map update automatically. For a fast glance at data related to countries, states, or regions, you can pop this heat map into your spreadsheet easily.
For adding photos and other images to your spreadsheets, Pickit Free Images is the perfect tool. Once you access the add-in, you have a few options for finding the image you need. You can do a keyword search, browse through collections, or pick a category from a huge selection.
Click a spot to put it in your spreadsheet, select the image you want, and hit the Insert button. You can move, resize, or crop images as needed. And, if you create a free Pickit account, you can mark favorites to reuse and follow fellow users or categories to stay up-to-date on new uploads.
Maybe your company has videos on YouTube or tutorials on Vimeo that would be beneficial to your workbook. With the Web Video Player add-in, you can pop a video from either of these sources right into your spreadsheet.
Open the add-in and then either enter the URL of the video or click to visit YouTube or Vimeo to obtain the link. Hit the Set Video button and you are done. Then, when you open the spreadsheet, the video is there and ready for you to click the Play button.
For a one-time $5 fee, you can set your videos to play automatically or start and end at specific spots in the clip. This option is included within the add-in.
With the angry glare of the public eye squarely focused on Equifax after announcing a massive breach and blamed it on a computer server flaw other companies had fixed months before, the company is waiving fees on credit freezes. Which is good news because it’s the only thing that’s going to save your bacon.
The company had previously offered victims a free year of credit report monitoring — but customers and advocates were quick to point out that this wouldn’t actually stop anyone’s identity from getting exploited from the data heist affecting nearly 143 million Americans. Hackers would still be able to open up new credit cards and go on spending sprees, apply for other loans or mortgages, and leave you holding the bag for the debt or the bad name.
Those who enjoy success, financial or otherwise, have a different perspective to the rest of us. They do not tolerate people who do not support their success, people who are not on their team. They take the long term view, often forgoing short term benefits, like holidays, for long term achievements, the result of hard work. They never stop learning and are not afraid to ask for help and are willing to make mistakes and take responsibility for them.
They could come from any background but these qualities make them successful over time.
1. They Are Driven
They obsessively pursue their goals achievement by achievement, iteration by iteration until they are in no doubt that their goal has been achieved. They do not have time to watch TV and all the simulations it hypnotizes people with. They are driving energy into their financial success.
2. They Sacrifice Present Comfort for Future Success
Often wealthy people started with low income and made space in their finances for some investment, whether in their education, financial instruments, property or some other asset that will add value over time. To make that space they often forgo the attractions of the latest fancy car or restaurant dinner.
3. They Are Self Confident
Self Confidence means never playing the victim, recognizing, instead, that attributing negative emotions to the actions of others disempowers them. Victims blame others for their circumstances and so they place all their power with others. Successful people realise that their power lies within them and that they must act to make changes. People who experience business success will always have to be tough in taking criticism and rejection, and you have to be self confident to do that.
4. They Limit Debt
Debt is a thorny issue. It is hard in the modern business environment to avoid debt, but expensive, unproductive debt is a millstone around the neck. Credit cards, over droughts, car loans, house loans, all these are profoundly unproductive and expensive. The value of what is bought with the money often depreciates, sometimes immediately after you’ve bought it, and the interest is expensive. Financially successful people will only borrow money to invest in assets that will yield a return in the future and in this way the cost of credit will pay for itself.
5. They Take Responsibility for Their Circumstances
Business success is dependent upon accepting that there will be bumps in the road, obstacles in the stream and difficult people in their lives. Financially successful people know that to blame others for the circumstances they find themselves in, especially bad circumstances, is self defeating, placing the power to effect change on others. Even if circumstances are difficult, there are always options. Taking responsibility opens them up to those options.
6. Long Term Perspective
The long term is the future, where we all end up. Planning for the long term future will help you make stable investment and business decisions. We have all heard of lottery winners whose wealth evaporates before them with nothing to show for it afterwards. This is the result of spending for the short term. Money invested with the long term in mind will generate wealth over time.
7. They Give Value
The essence of what people want from their wealth is value. Those who give value can expect to receive wealth in return for that value. Those who consistently give value can consistently expect to receive money in return, whether it is a business making a product or a craftsman plying his or her trade or an employee doing the best job possible.
8. They Know Education Is An Investment
Education can take the form of an expensive course or simply reading a book, listening to an audio book in the car on the way to work or asking for advice from a trusted source. Either way knowledge is the product and knowledge allows you to learn from others so that you can take the shortcuts and not make as many mistakes as if you did not have the knowledge. It’s simple really.
9. They Are Goal Oriented
There are those who, in their jobs, are only willing to do just enough to avoid being fired and they spend their lives veering from one dead end job to another. Financially successful people are goal oriented and pursue that goal with all the energy they can muster, and if that means working extra hours or travelling or getting advice from a mentor then they will do that to achieve the goal.
10. They Are Passionate
Their drive to achieve success is fueled by passion, the excitement, fulfillment and intensity of self actualization. The passionate pursue success not merely for themselves but for the service of all.
Financially successful people are driven to succeed by their passionate desire to provide service to the world. They do this by offering value, going the extra mile where it is never crowded. They take the long term view, avoiding debt and they constantly update their knowledge with education.