Being a Masonic Leader

Between two leadership conferences, September was definetly leadership month. Although September has passed us, I want to share with you some of the things that I learned during the month. If you think that this doesn’t pertain to you, or you think the whole concept is kind of lame, and too full of jargon, I want to challenge you to read on before just moving on to a different website. That’s because not only does everyone have the potiental to be a leader, but in one way or another, everyone is one, whether you realize it or not. Being a leader simply involves guiding, directing, or influencing others. That’s it, pretty simple. Leading can not only mean acting as WM of your Lodge, but it can also be encouraging your kids to make good choices. Naturally, this can have a positive or negative connotation, while “leadership” is usually seen positively, “ringleader” is not so much. Usually, this is something that most people do naturally, in one way or another, whether you realize it or not.

 The Nebraska Triennual Masonic Youth Leadership Conference

I spoke at length about what everyone got to do at MYLC this year. If you missed that, you can check it out here. The keynote speaker, Josh Shipp, was beyond awesome. He had a ton of amazing things to say, and I’m afraid the meager notes I took will not allow me to do him justice. He made two points that really stuck with me, that I want to go over briefly.

 Don’t be average. When it comes to things like leadership, this seems fairly self explainatory. However, it can also be the most difficult to actually accomplish. When we deviate from average, either above, or below, people tend to take notice. As I’ve said before, your leadership can be both a positive and a negative thing. If you’re at work and you go above and beyond whats needed, and you encourage others to do so, that’s awesome. The opposite, not so much. Being outside the norm almost always puts you in a position for potential leadership. The more you strive to be above (or below) average, the more likely people around you will notice, and if they like what they see, are likely to follow you. Don’t be afraid to be different or weird, that is an advantage you can use when it comes to influencing others.

Don’t be afraid to be human. Actually, the exact quote from Josh is, “Your imperfections make you human. Your humanity makes you influential.” If you have car trouble and are late to a meeting, or you fumble the powerpoint, you don’t need to draw attention to it. These actions can actually cause people to be more likely to follow your lead, because it makes them realize that you aren’t a person who is in a completely unobtainable position, you are someone who is just like them.

As I said in my MYLC post, if you ever get a chance to hear Josh Shipp talk, do it. The guy is amazing. You can find out more, including free videos at

The Grand Lodge of Nebraska’s First Annual Leadership Conference

During the GL Leadership conference, a man named Hal came and spoke with us about simple things that we can do everyday to become leaders. He told us that he keeps this list in his bedside table, and looks at it every night. All of these pertain to Masonry, but more than that, many of them can also be accomplished at work, or at home.

1. Always prepare for a meeting, whether or not you are leading the meeting.

2. Demonstrate that you listened, and heard what was said. Usually through taking notes and asking questions.

3. Share leadership opportunities with those around you. Let someone else take the stage.

4. Say thank you for those who helped you along the way.

5.Give credit to others for their contribution to your success. If you’re walking along and you see a turtle up on a fencepost, you know that he didn’t get there on his own.

6. Don’t be in a hurry.

7. Two can accomplish more than one.

8. To be appreciated as a helper, set the example.

9. Be a good citizen.

10. Give thanks spiritually.

All seems pretty basic right? That seems to be the trick that the majority of leadership conferences seem to skip over. It really is that simple. If you have ever read, or seen the play All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, by Robert Fulgrum, you may remember the Kindergarten Creed. If not, it’s below. Check out the similarities between the creed and what Hal had to say.

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.


Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life –learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.

Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup- the roots go down and the plant goes up, and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup, they all die. So do we.

And remember the Dick and Jane books, and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all, LOOK.

Being a leader is really about doing all those things that you already do, and some of the things you don’t do, but you know that you should. It doesn’t seem like it really should be that simple, but it really is.

Just Imagine Everyone Naked…

I spent this weekend at the first annual Leadership Conference for the Grand Lodge of Nebraska. I will admit, I had originally thought about discussing the importance of leadership in the Masonic community and our lives, however, I think that will be saved for the future. There was something that was a good deal more pressing to me at that conference. You see, I am not a very good public speaker. I do not currently hold an officer position in Eastern Star, and I found that my skills from Public Speaking 101 my freshman year of college found me severely lacking, and left me feeling quite ill.

What does Public Speaking have to do with Masonry?

It may seem odd at first, but one of the best places to do public speaking is at a Masonic function. Most everyone there has had to get up in front of a crowd and spoken before, so they understand if you are nervous. In addition to this, you will not find a less judgemental crowd as far as your public speaking skill is concerned. Everyone listening is far more interested in what you have to say, than if you say “um” too many times. The best reason that Masonic organizations are beneficial for public speaking skills is because it makes you do it. Like any other acquired skill, public speaking gets easier with practice, and all of the Masonic organizations give you plenty of opportunities to practice. Taking an officer position, or even just your initiation places you in the position where you have no choice but to speak in front of a room full of people if you want things to run smoothly. While it can be absolutely terrifying at first, it does get better with time, not only throughout your speaking part, but also every time that you say it. Many people who became Masons, or involved in Masonic organizations were not excellent public speakers, but Masonry allowed them to become such. If you feel like you might need additional help, speak with your mentor or WM, you may also want to look into Toastmasters, which exists solely for this purpose.

Tips for Public Speaking

There are a ton of resources for how to be a better public speaker out there. However, I feel that the aforementioned Toastmasters has the most concise list.

Know your material This can go a couple of ways in the Masonic community. If you are in an officer position, you need to be sure to have your part memorized to the best of your ability so that the meeting may run as smooth as possible. More on memorization in a bit. If you are presenting a paper or something similar, be sure that the subject is something that you are really interested in, and if possible, know a lot about. Try to write what you are going to say similar to the way that you speak, this will make it easier to remember what you need to say.

Practice, practice, practice! Give your speech or part to your spouse, your kids, your dog, some random guy on the street. Practice with any equipment that you may need to use, such as Powerpoint. Remember to pause and breath. Practice with a timer if you are presenting a paper or topic and have been asked to stay within a certain time frame,

Know the audience This is one of the places where Masonry and its other organizations really have an advantage. If you are presenting to your Lodge, of if you are doing an officer part, you will already know most everyone in the room. I spoke at a state conference, and knew, or at least recognized about half of the room. This makes a big difference!

Know the room Yet another situation where you have an advantage as a Mason. Save for the exact chair layout, almost all Lodge rooms will be set up about the same in your country, and even if not, they will all be exactly the same within your jurisdiction.

Relax. Probably the hardest one to do. It helps if you address the audience, pause, smile, and count to three. Take your nervous energy and try to transform it into enthusiasm, even if you have to fake it.

Visualize yourself giving your speech. especially in a calm, loud, confident voice. Visualize the audience clapping after you are done practicing your speech, it sounds silly, but may help boost your confidence.

Realize that people want you to succeed. This is another place where Masonry really shines as far as public speaking is concerned. If you are giving a presentation, chances are that the topic interests someone besides you. If you are doing a ritual speaking part, your success will help the flow of the entire ritual ceremony.

Don’t apologize for any nervousness or problem. Chances are the audience never noticed it, even if you felt that it was a huge mistake.

Concentrate on the message – not the medium. What you are saying is far more important than how you say it. If you focus your attention away from your nervousness and concentrate on your audience and the message you are conveying to them you will feel more relaxed, and more confident.

Gain experience. Yet another area Masonic organizations excel. Often, people will only have a few opportunities to publicly speak, therefore they are not able to gain the adequate experience needed. Within Masonry however, you are presented with almost constant opportunities to speak, and therefore a lot of practice. Like anything else, the more you speak in front of a group of people, or in ritual, the better you will be at doing it. You may find that it helps to ask a friend who may be in the audience, or in your Lodge meeting, to pay special attention when you speak, and offer you areas you may want to improve on in the future.

Tips for Memorization

Very often, if you are involved in a Masonic organization, you will be required to memorize something at some point. Like public speaking, many different people have many different tips on exactly how to do this.  You can find a detailed ideographic that covers one method here. A brother describes a different method involving two people:

It requires a trainer and a trainee:

  1. Pick a passage, a small bite, that you want to learn. Two short paragraphs or one long one is ideal for a single session.
  2. Trainee reads entire passage out loud 2-3 times, at the proper delivery pace and hands book to trainer.
  3. Trainer repeats (first) phrase (5-6 words max) twice.
  4. Trainer and trainee say phrase together at least twice.
  5. Trainee says phrase alone 4-5 times.
  6. Go back to step 2 with a second phrase.
  7. After each new phrase has been through steps 2-6, the trainee repeats the entire text that they have done in that particular session. They should be able to get through it cleanly, WITHOUT PROMPTS, 2-3 times before moving on.
  8. Once the entire part is learned, repeat it a few times.

During the next session, have the trainee run through the last 2-3 bits that you have worked on together. It helps if you train on consecutive days, for no more than 2-3 hours (which is more than enough time to do two short paragraphs usually).

Generally the method that seems to work overall is to break it up into chunks, memorize those chunks, and then put it together. Also, always be sure to give yourself much more time than you think you might need in order to memorize a piece.

I hoped this helped some of you out there, I know I wish I had read up more before speaking! As always, have a great week!

Dressing the Part

Since I had such a positive response to last week’s post on caring for dress clothes, and due to the amount of requests for such an article, I wanted to do a follow-up, going over the “accessories” of men’s dress clothes.

Before I begin, I want to reiterate something from my last post: The most important thing you can do to care for your clothing is to check the tag. Again, you can learn about all those funny labels here. Every article of clothing is very different, so what is correct for one suit, will ruin another. Also, be sure and read all of the directions on anything you may put on your dress clothes (stain remover, detergent, etc.) as some products will harm certain fabrics. The most important thing you can do is know your own clothing.

Ties: Bow and otherwise

This seemed to be a popular topic on Reddit; it seems that many young men do not know how to tie their own tie. This makes sense, as our society has evolved, we have drifted away from business suits for every man in the work force, instead, suits are for CEOs and important events. Lodge is an important event, it just happens every week, and clip-ons aren’t fooling anyone. If you’re looking for nice ties, check out the thrift stores, often times you can find nice silk ties for a dollar or less.

There’s a lot of ways to tie a tie. Perhaps the easiest is the four in hand knot, shown here:

In addition to this, other popular knots include the full and half Windsor, the Murrel, the Eldridge, the list goes on and on, and ranges from simple to very complex.

You can learn how to tie each one of these knots here.

Some men prefer bowties. Often, with a tux, the bowtie will be pre-tied, kind of the equivalent of a clip on tie, without any of the slack from your peers. However, these tend to only come in black. Besides, there’s something satisfying about tying your own bow tie. There’s no time to learn like the present.

Love The Art of Manliness by the way! Check them out here.

Learning how to tie a tie can be frustrating, and you will not get it on your first attempt. You may find that some tie knots are easier than others for you. If you ever need to tie someone elses tie, it is much easier to tie it on yourself, then loosen it, and put it on them. Keep at it, and soon it will be second nature, and you will be tying all of your Brother’s ties!

Studs, cufflinks, vents and cummerbunds. Oh my! The parts of a tux

Although much more work than jeans and a t-shirt, suits are relatively simple. There’s the pants, the shirt, tie, and jacket. Sometimes there is a vest, and this is what people are referring to when they say “two piece suit” (no vest) vs. “three piece suit” (with vest, usually the color of the jacket). Tuxes, on the other hand, have many more components. In addition to the usual pants, jacket, shirt and tie, there is always a vest or cummerbund , and actually has its own jewelry, called studs and cufflinks.

When you are buying or renting a tuxedo, you will usually have the option of vest or cummerbund , and this is usually included in the cost of the tux. Both have their pros and cons. Vests are usually easier to wear and show more color, but they can be hot and restrictive. Cummerbunds, on the other hand, are much cooler (temperature wise) and slimming, but they are much harder to get to “look right”. Either way, you will want them to match your tie, preferably of the exact same fabric. As you get more comfortable wearing your tux, you can play around with the different colors and patterns available. Fun fact- the cummerbund’s purpose is to cover up the “working parts” of the tux, that is the top of the pants and the bottom on the shirt where there are no studs, and originated in India for British military dining wear. Most often, you will see Masons wearing vests with their tuxes, but this is up to personal preference.

Studs and cufflinks, aka the “little baggie of goodies that you lose as soon as you take your tux out of the bag”. Studs are there to make your nice tux look nicer. They take the place of buttons, and slide into the hole just above where the button is sewn onto the tux shirt. You then button the shirt normally, using the studs as buttons. If you are wearing a vest and tie, you may not need them, unless you think either of these items might be coming off as the night progresses. Sometimes its better to be safe than sorry, however, and studs help keep you looking like one. (A stud that is!)

You may find, while putting on your tux shirt, that it does not have the buttons to close the cuffs of the shirt, like a normal dress shirt does. This is where cufflinks come in. Instead of the fabric of the sleeve overlapping, the button holes are lined up, and the closed cufflink is pushed through them, and then opened. For the visual learners:

There are a wide variety of Masonic related studs and cufflinks available. You can find some here, and they make great gifts!

Pocket squares- Not for noses!

So, you’re all ready to go to lodge, or your Masonic event, you’ve got on your suit or tuxedo, but, it’s missing…something. Enter the pocket square. Traditionally, a gentleman carried two pocket squares (or hankie, as your grandmother may call them), one for his lady, that helped make his suit pop, and one for himself. Usually these days, only one pocket square is worn, and usually only serves the purpose of making your nice clothes look nicer. Not many men choose to wear them (perhaps even less than the bow tie), so it can really help you stand out. White is traditional, although there are thousands of options here, it could be white or black, match your tie or not…a pocket square has all of the versatility of a tie, and can really help bring your outfit together. You can see some examples of how to wear pocket squares here, and get some ideas for different color combinations here. . Please note, however, that I have seen at Grand Lodge and other Masonic events, vendors selling, and mean wearing fake pocket squares. They look like this:

They are  usually black or OES colors. Please, do not wear this. They tend to look cheap, and are not built for the long haul. Pocket squares are also great things to ask for out of grandmas closet!

Pant holders and foot covers

Here’s a hard and fast rule that everyone will agree with. If you’re wearing pants with belt loops, you should be wearing a belt. After that, the jury is kind of out. There’s many discussions about if your belt and shoes should match (e.g. exact color of brown, please do not wear a brown belt with black shoes! However, a combo of say, tan and burgundy may be okay), or if your shoes should match your pants, or if your socks should match your shoes, or something else. This chart will give you an idea as to what is generally acceptable.

Invest in a nice belt, usually $15-20. I know, it sounds like a lot for a belt. However, barring any significant weight change, a nice belt should last you for the rest of your life.

Dress shoes on the other hand…not so much. While they will not wear out as fast as your every day tennis shoes, you will probably want to replace them every few years. I would own at least one pair of brown, and one pair of black, to be safe. If you rent a tuxedo, it should come with its own shoes, and you may want special shoes just to wear just for your tux if you own yours. Thrift stores are an excellent place to find cheap dress shoes.

Ways to cover your noggin

For the most part, it is generally considered poor form to wear a hat indoors, unless of course, one is the Worshipful Master and is conducting Lodge. Unless you are the WM, I would recommend against wearing hats with any ensemble to any Masonic event, as it can be seen as disrespectful. Occasionally, there are events that call for headgear, but otherwise, keep it at home.

If you are the WM, or even the Grand Worshipful Master (or will be shortly) however, I recommend purchasing your own hat. While the traditional top hat is always a classic look, usually the one worn by the WM is owned by the Lodge, and has generations of sweat, or worse, seeped into it. You may want to buy your own top hat, or something else. There is a wide variety of hats out there they come in all shapes and colors. Pick something that suits you, since you will be wearing it every time you open Lodge. A bonus of owning your own hat, is that you have it for the future, in many Lodges people will serve as WM multiple, though not necessarily consecutive years. The other bonus of buying your own, quality hat, is the ability to pass it on to the next generation of Masons, if you so choose.

Name tags and lapel pins

Most often seen at state-wide events, many Masons, officers of their Lodge or otherwise, choose to wear nametags and lapel pins to larger functions, some more than others.  The proper form  is name tag on the right, pin on the left. Any time you have the opportunity, you want to get a magnet back. Name tags and Masonic pins may look awesome, but they can take a toll on your dress clothes. You want to look closely at the fabric, and try to insert the pin into the square that all of the threads make, kind of in between the threads. This will make it so that when you pull the pin out, the threads will help “heal” the hole. Of course, repeated use in the same spot will create a visible hole. Your other option is to put the pin through the threads of your lapel hole. Yeah, you know that weird button-hole without a button on the breast of your suit jacket? That’s what that’s for (Okay, that and flowers.) As always, there is a ton of Masonic pins out there to buy, but its way more fun to buy them at an event you’re attending, instead of online!

If you have any questions about anything, do not hesitate to send me a message here, or email me at .

As always, have a wonderful week!

Caring for Dress Clothes

When my roommate, Tom, first joined the Lodge, I’m pretty sure he did not own any dress clothes, I think perhaps simply because he had never needed them before. Unfortunetly, jeans and a t-shirt will not get you far in Masonry. In fact, many levels of dress are needed with the Lodge- some may require you to wear a suit or tuxedo every meeting, where as others are much more lax. Regardless of your Lodge’s dress code, you will eventually attend some Masonic or other function where you will need to know how to care for dress clothes. And so, Tom, this one is for you.

Not the way you want to be showing up to your first Grand Lodge formal dinner.

Where to get dress clothes

At the store, obviously, right? Well, the issue here is that nice clothes often come with a not so nice price tag. If you are one of the lucky ones out there for whom money is no object, you can probably skip this section. For the rest of us, read on.

  • Thrift stores- Buying clothes at thrift stores takes the most patience, but also gives the highest reward. I have bought $150 dresses for $2 before, but that does not mean that I was lucky enough to just walk in and pull it off the shelf. You best bet is to find out where the thrift stores are near you, and go often, about every 2 weeks or so. Since they get so many donations, what will be on the shelves will change often. Usually you will find khakis and polos here, although many thrift stores will often carry suit jackets. Full suits are harder to come by, while tuxedos are almost unheard of. Don’t forget to look at their ties, belts, and shoes! Watch out for stains, and don’t forget, that if it doesn’t fit you perfectly, if you feel that it’s worth it, you can get it tailored.
  • Garage sales– Similar to thrift stores, you will want to shop early and often. Unfortunately, these usually only go on during the summer. You will of course, have less of a selection at a garage sale, but they can be good locations to pick up shoes, hats, and other accessories such as cufflinks.
  • eBay/Amazon– As you know, these places sell everything. Be sure to have a measuring tape around, or know your measurements, as you will want to be sure to order the correct size.
  • TJMaxx/Kohl’s- These stores carry tend to carry last year’s items that didn’t sell, but lucky for you, nice dress clothes never go out of style. They have large sales often, so be sure and check them out.
  • Suit stores/Tuxedo rental shops- Don’t buy “off the rack”. What you are looking for here are the tailored suits that no one picked up, the rentals that they are retiring, last season’s suits that are on sale, or even an item with a small flaw, that you or a tailor could fix. Sometimes you may have to ask if they have anything like this, so call ahead before heading out.
  • Other people’s closets– No, I don’t mean wandering into people’s houses looking for dress clothes. Ask your family and friends if they have any unwanted dress clothes in the back of their closets. Chances are, they may have similar tastes to you, and you will have a better idea of who may wear a similar size to yourself.

Make your forefathers proud. You know, by dressing nice.

What you will need:

For a fairly active Mason, attending Lodge or other events 3 or 4 times a month, I would recommend (at least):

  • 4 polos
  • 3 pairs of khakis
  • 3 or 4  dress shirts
  • 1 suit, or suit jacket
  • 1 tuxedo
  • 1 pair of dress shoes (black is your best bet)
  • A large variety of ties, belts, bow ties, vests, etc.

You will also need:

  • Hangers- preferably wood, with plastic being the nicer, cheaper alternative. Try to stay away from wire. There are a million types out there, but you will be fine with the basic hanger for a while.
  • An iron – The more you spend, the better it will work, the nicer your clothes will look
  • An ironing board- these come in a variety of shapes and sizes

You may also want:

  • A lint brush
  • Shoe polish/brushes
  • Shoe trees
  • A small sewing kit
  • A Tide pen

Using the iron

Irons come with instruction manuals. I’m sure that everyone throws it away as soon as the box is opened. However, you should get to know your particular iron. The one thing you will need, is water. There should be a small flap near the top of the iron for the water to go into. Many people recommend using distilled water only, however, I have used tap water for years without issue. The better irons will have the temperature settings for specific fibers. If you are unsure what the garment you are ironing is made up of is made out of, check the tag. The tag will also tell you whether or not you should iron the article of clothing. For more on what all those funny symbols mean, head here.

Caring for polos and khakis

Often, if you are not an officer, or your lodge does not have a strict dress code, you can wear khakis and a polo to most Masonic events, perhaps even your Lodge meetings. Taking care of polos is extremely simple. Think of them simply as fancy t-shirts. You can wash them in the washing machine, and hang them when they come out of the dryer. Usually no ironing is needed, but if it is, simply lay the shirt flat, and press, using the heat indicated on the tag.

Khakis are a little bit trickier. While you can wash and dry them according to their care tag, they will still need to be ironed. While I could go step by step on how to iron the pants, I think a video will work a bit better:

Be sure and hang the pants up after ironing if you are not wearing them right away. You will want to fold them in half length wise, and have this fold be what is hanging on the hanger, like so:

Caring for a suit

For the most part, dress shirts, that is, long-sleeved button up shirt that you wear with khakis or a suit, can be washed in the washing machine. As always, check the label on the shirt, as many specialty fabrics such as silk must be hand washed or dry cleaned only. Much like khakis, they will need to be ironed once you take them out of the dryer. Shirts are a bit trickier than pants, so be sure to watch the ironing video below:

The suit itself, on the other hand, that is, the jacket and the matching pants, CANNOT be washed in the washing machine. Please, do not even try. You will ruin it. It will need to be dry cleaned. You don’t need to take it to the cleaners every time that you wear it, in fact, you shouldn’t. Instead, you can care for it in between cleans by going over with it with a lint brush. You can also usually use a tide pen if necessary. If it gets some wrinkles, you can lightly press it, but as always, be sure to check the tag.

Caring for a tuxedo

You lodge may require that all officers or members wear a tuxedo, or you may only wear one for Grand Lodge. However, if you find yourself wearing one more than twice a year, it is probably worth it to buy a tuxedo instead of renting one. If you are unsure where to purchase one, ask the company that you usually rent from. They may sell there, and if not, they can point you in the right direction.

Usually you are able to wash and dry the tuxedo shirt in the washing machine. It is simply just a dress shirt with more fabric. While ironing, you will want to press the front folds away from the button holes, so that they lay flat.

The tuxedo itself will need to be dry cleaned, however, like a suit, there are ways that you can care for it in between cleanings. If you do not wear it more than a few times a year, I recommend that you store it within a garment bag, to help keep the dust and other nasty things off of it.

What to do in case of emergency

Unfortunately, things do not always go the way that we want them do, even with clothing. I recommend that you get a tide pen that you keep on you at all Masonic events, especially those that serve dinner. The other thing I can recommend to you is to get a small sewing kit, so that you can sew back on buttons and repair small holes.

Of course, you may not have the time, or be comfortable with doing this. If this is the case, I recommend that you find a good tailor in your area. Small wear and tears are usually inexpensive to fix. Having a good tailor is also recommended for altering clothing, which is nice to have in case of weight gain or loss. It is also great to buy a suit “off the rack”, and have it tailored to you, which is much cheaper than buying a tailored suit.

Unfortunately, sometimes we get distracted while ironing, or may not get to a stain as quickly as we would like to. More often than not, the best case is to donate the clothes. Usually things like this cannot be repaired, or if they can, the clothing may not look “right” again. Lucky for you, you know where to get new ones inexpensively!

This last video is for Tom:

An Introduction to Scotch

At least around here, there tends to be one popular drink among Masons- single malt scotch. In fact, not only does our local Scottish Rite put on a scotch tasting every so often (with one next week!), but during major events like Grand Lodge, everyone brings out their bottles, and it becomes almost a traveling scotch club, with everyone trying new varieties and enjoying the fellowship that goes along with sharing a similar hobby. I will be the first to admit that I was not a fan of the stuff the first few times I tried it, but now it’s almost my exclusive drink, and with good reason.

What exactly is scotch?

Scotch, or scotch whisky, or single malt scotch,is very simply, a whisky made in Scotland in a very specific manner (actually, by specific laws!) It is almost easier to say what single malt scotch is not. It is not made in America, like Maker’s Mark, or Jack Daniels, nor is it made in Canada, like Crown Royal, it isn’t even made in Ireland, like Jameson. Perhaps the easiest way to tell where it is made is by the bottle- if it says whisky, it is made in Scotland, anywhere else is whiskey, usually even marked “Irish whiskey”, for Jameson, for example.

In addition to this, there are five categories of scotch whisky itself:

  • Single malt- a scotch made by one distillery, made only with malted barley mash, the topic of this post
  • Single grain- a scotch made by one distillery, made with a grain other than barley, like corn or rye
  • Blended scotch – a blend of one or more single malt and one or more single grain
  • Blended malt- a blend of single malts, that were all made at different distilleries
  • Blended grain- a blend of single grains, that were all made at different distilleries.

It can be a little confusing and overwhelming at first, but for the purpose of this post, we will only be discussing single malt scotch whisky, which means it was made with 100% malted barley mash, by a single distillery, in Scotland.

There’s different types of scotch?

So, when I first started drinking scotch, I was thinking about it more like vodka. Yes, some vodkas are a better quality than others, and therefore taste a bit better, but they are essentially all the same vodka.  This is not true at all with scotch. Think about scotch more like wine.  Not only do you have the option between red and white, but also merlot, cabernet, chardonnay, riesling and many more. Scotch is much more like wine, because where the distillery is located in the country, tends to dictate its flavor. So, just like you know that you may love syrahs and hate pinot noirs, the same tends to be true about scotch. If you enjoy a scotch from one location, you will probably enjoy another from a different distillery. The nice thing about scotch is that there are only 6 (traditionally 5) regions that scotches come from, instead of the numerous types of wine.

Starting at the bottom and working our way up, the regions of scotch are:

  • Lowland– These are considered the most light bodied scotches, because they are (usually) triple distilled. There are only 4 distilleries open in the lowlands currently, Ailsa Bay, Glenkinchie, Auchentoshan, and Bladnoch.
  • Cambelton- The scotch from this region is peaty (scotch talk for smokey), and tends to have a hint of salt. Cambelton was once the scotch capital, with over 30 distilleries. Now, only three remain: Glen Scotia, Glengyle, and Springbank
  • Islay- Pronounced “eye-luh”, scotches from this region tend to be the strongest and the smokiest. This is usually accredited to the high winds and seas. Distilleries in this region include  Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Bowmore, and  Ardbeg.
  • Highland- The region loved in my house the most, Highland scotches tend to have underlying tastes of peat and smoke, and are usually considered to be very full-bodied. The region is further divided, into Northern ( full and rich), Southern (light, dry and fruity), Eastern (full, dry and very fruity), and Western (full, with lots of peat and smoke). Some distilleries in this region include Oban, Glenmorangie and Dalmore
  • Speyside- Now considered the center for whisky, Speyside scotches have some of the most complex flavors, usually very sweet. The distilleries will often use water right from the river Spey, that cuts through the region. Some distilleries include Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, and The Macallan
  • Island-Although technically considered part of the Highland region, distilleries in the Island are starting to make a name for themselves. There is no hard and fast rule, although they do tend to be fairly mild, usually somewhere in between a Highland and an Islay, with a focus on the peaty flavor. Distilleries in this region include Highland Park and Talisker

This stuff tastes like gasoline, is there a better way to drink it?

If you are lucky, you have a community of scotch drinkers in your area, probably at your lodge or shrine. If not, you may want to try going to  bar and ordering a scotch, chances are they will only have one or two for you to choose from, unless it is a specialty bar. Usually, scotch is ordered in drams, with one dram equaling to about 2 ounces. Unless you have been a rye drinker for years, I can almost guarantee that you will not care for scotch the first (few) times you give it a try. The first time I did, I thought it smelled and tasted like kerosene, and as the smell burned my nose hairs, I wondered who in their right mind would be willing to drink this stuff. I’ve been drinking scotch for about a year now, and even still, there are times when I am not in the mood to drink it down. However, much like wine, there is a preferred method of drinking a scotch.

  • I cannot say this enough, SCOTCH IS A SIPPING DRINK. Not only because it allows you to appreciated the flavor more, but because bottles of the stuff can easily break the $100 mark. It’s not something you take shots of and not something you make mixed drinks with (that’s what  whiskey tends to be for).
  • There is a special kind of glass for scotch, you can get them here, although there is nothing wrong with drinking it out of a tumbler, preferably glass.
  • While adding ice is generally considered poor form, chilled or not is really up to you. They do make special rocks called whisky stones that keep your drink cold without adding water, you can get those here.
  • Some people do add water to their scotch, since it will help cut the burn, and allows you to taste flavors that may of been masked by it. Add slowly, however, and taste your scotch before adding more.
  • As far as actually drinking it is concerned, first, you will want to nose, or smell it. Don’t stick your nose in the glass, you shouldn’t feel any burn in your nose. A swirl or two will help release more of the scent. Then, take a tiny sip, just enough to cover your tongue. In order to get the real flavor, you will want to hold it in your mouth for a bit, about 10 seconds or so. You might think that your tongue is shriveling up and dying, but after a few seconds, the burn will dissipate, and you will actually get the flavor of the scotch. Moving your tongue around, you will be able to detect different flavors. After you swallow, you will be able to detect the finish on your tongue and gums. Remember- even the most expensive scotch will burn your tongue if you just sip and swallow it, without actually tasting it.

Okay, I’m willing to try it, but how do I decide which one?

Buying scotch is again, a bit like buying wine. Scotches have different years, and distilleries will usually produce specific years, with the occasional unusual year that tends to be a special edition. The years refer to the number of years they spent in the barrel. Unlike wine, however, scotch does not age in the bottle, so a 12 year scotch will always be a 12 year scotch in the bottle, opened or not. Scotches are usually referred to by their year, followed by their distillery, for example, the 14 year Oban is a favorite at our house. Usually the younger the scotch, the cheaper the price, but they tend to carry the  harsher  burn, and the more subtle the flavors.

There tends to be two scotches that are recommended most often for the beginner scotch drinker:

The 10 year old Glenmorangie, from the Highland region. This was my first scotch as well. It tends to be fairly inexpensive as far as scotch goes, at around $35 a bottle. That may sound like a lot, but remember that one bottle will last you for weeks, perhaps longer, depending on how often you drink.The flavor is fairly fruity, mostly citrus and peach, with hints of vanilla and honeysuckle. It is beautiful in it’s complexity within it’s simplicity.

The second most recommended scotch for a beginner is the 12 year Glenlivet. It is a Speyside scotch, and while it does not have the complex flavor of the Glenmorangie,  it does have a very easy to drink taste of oak and vanilla. It is actually the most popular single malt sold in the United States. The price is comparable to the Glenmorangie, at around $30 a bottle.

Remember that the first bottle that you buy is not as important as trying new scotches and improving and expanding your palate. Each bottle will give you a better idea of flavors that you enjoy, as well as those that you do not care for.

What does all of this have to do with Masonry?

On the surface, not much. Remember, however, that a major component of Masonry is brotherhood. Similar hobbies, intrests, likes and dislikes help foster and nurture the brotherhood within a lodge or even jurisdiction. If your lodge or area has a scotch club, go to a meeting and check it out. If you do not, start one with like minded brothers. Many activities can be brought about from scotch drinking, from just trying drinks from each others collections, hosting scotch tastings, or even visiting Scotland to go on a tour of your favorite distilleries. It will help bring you and your brothers closer, which makes for a stronger lodge. Don’t forget to invite the ladies! Just because scotch is often labeled as “the gentleman’s drink” doesn’t mean women don’t like it as well. While a scotch tasting does not make for a great family activity, it does make for a nice evening out with your lady.

Food for the Masses

Welcome to the new page! What a crazy couple of weeks this has been! Unfortunately, I was not able to resolve the security issue, so I decided it was time to go ahead and buy the domain name. Everything is still here, just in a slightly different package. T is on his way home from DeMolay Round Up, and I am finally starting to feel better after my concussion (the gym bit me), so, I figured, what better way to celebrate than with food?

I would like to share with you guys some of my favorite recipes, all of which are easily made en masse, for a lodge dinner, and all of which are tastier than the Masonic tradition of beef, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Everything should be easy to follow, T will do everything exactly as written, so that’s how my cookbook reads. Invest in a crockpot, even if you don’t cook for the lodge. They are not expensive, and worth every penny If you have any questions, or if you have any recipes you would like to add, please comment here, or email me at .

Warning: None of the following recipes are remotely healthy. (Okay, maybe the chili)

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Do not double the recipe. You will eat it all. (As you can see, it is easily doubled)


2-3 10 oz canned chicken breast (yes. canned chicken exists, its by the tuna)

1 packages cream cheese

1/2-1 cup buffalo sauce- depending on how hot you like it

1/2 cup blue cheese salad dressing, or 1/2  cup ranch

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, or 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Bag of tortilla chips


1. Throw everything into the crockpot.

2. Turn on high, stirring often until warm and melted, about 45 minutes.

3. Serve, directly out of crockpot, on warm, with chips.

Party Potatoes


These are so tasty, I will make a pan at home with full intentions of having left overs…and they never seem to last through the night.


1 1/4 cups milk

2 cups water

3 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

3 ounces sour cream (this is an awkward amount I know, but anymore would be wrong. It ends up being 1/4+1/8 of a cup)

8 ounces cream cheese (one package)

3 cups instant potato flakes


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease a 9×13 pan

2. Add milk, water, butter, and salt to large pot on the stove, and bring to a boil.

3.  Stir in garlic powder, sour cream, cream cheese, and potato flakes. Stir well, about 3 minutes, until it looks like mashed potatoes.

4. Pour into pan, and bake 45-60 minutes, until the top is browned. Well worth the wait! Could easily be adapted to add bacon. 🙂

Chocolate Chili

I make this in my 5qt crockpot, which barely holds all of this chili! Great to make ahead and take to lodge.


2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Medium sweet onions chopped

4 cloves of garlic minced

2 pounds ground beef

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon oregano

2 Tablespoons chili powder

2 Tablespoons cumin

1 1/2 Tablespoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon salt

1   6oz can tomato paste

1  14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes

1  14.5 oz can beef broth


1. Add oil and onions to a pan on the stove, cook until onions are clear, about 7 minutes, add to crockpot

2. Put garlic in pan until fragrant, about 30 seconds, add to crockpot

3. Brown beef in pan, add meat and juices to crockpot

4. Add all spices (including cocoa powder), to pan, heat for about 20 seconds. Add tomato paste, cook for 1 minute, mixing well. Add can of beef broth. Combine well, then add to crockpot.

5. Add can of tomatoes to crockpot. Stir everything really well.

6. Cook on low for 6 hours, or on high for 3. Serve to the masses.

Oreo Balls

Only buy Oreo brand Oreos for this recipe. Nothing else seems to taste as good.


1 package of Oreos

1  8 oz package of cream cheese, softened

Cocoa powder, powdered sugar, sprinkles


If you have a food processor:

1. Dump oreos  into the food processor, pulse into crumbs. Add cream cheese, turn on high, until it forms a doughy ball, remove and put in bowl.

If you do not have a food processor:

1. Put Oreos into a Ziploc bag. Crush well with rolling-pin, hammer, your hands, anything that you think will work. Crush as finely as you can. Think breadcrumbs. Add to bowl, and add cream cheese, mix with hand mixer. I have heard you can also use a blender, but I have not tried this method.


2. Place bowl in refrigerator, for about an hour, or freezer for about 30 minutes.

3. Pull out bowl,scoop out 1-2 tablespoons of the dough at a time, placing them on waxed paper, parchment paper, foil…anything really, on a cookie sheet. Return cookie sheet to freezer or fridge for about 30 minutes.

4. Roll the scoops into pretty balls, they should be about 1 inch a piece. Roll each ball into cocoa powder, powdered sugar, sprinkles, etc. Many recipes call for dipping the balls, I think that this is much easier, and usually ends up much tastier! You can easily experiment with different Oreo flavors. Keep chilled until serving.

I hope you try these out at lodge, let me know what you think! What are some of your favorite recipes to make for lodge dinners?