Saturday, June 9, 2018


Here’s one more addition to the Locks and Libations series, a little light hearted fare I thought I would just “toss” in.  Why not.  By the way, I hope you catch it when I toss it, since it will either break your foot or make a hole in the floor should you fail.  Compared to other puzzle locks, like the DanLock I presented earlier in the series, which might be described as scoring a “10” on a ten-point scale, this one (in the immortal words of Nigel Tufnel) goes to eleven.

T11 by Rainer Popp

Rainer Popp is a German craftsman who has turned his passion for restoring and collecting vintage antique locks into his own brand of modern day puzzle locks.  Because of his skill and creativity, many believe that he is the greatest puzzle lock maker living today.  He hand turns and mills every piece he designs himself from solid brass and stainless steel.  His limited edition locks, which he names simply in a numbered sequence, starting from his first trick lock, “T1”, have become highly sought after collectors items.  He may truly have outdone himself with his latest offering, the T11, which has been hailed as the greatest trick lock ever created.  I’m no authority, but I can vouch that it is ridiculously difficult to open.

A key component

Even if you are not impressed with complex mechanisms in general, or difficulty of a puzzle to solve, it’s hard not to admire the T11 for sheer aesthetic beauty alone.  The lock is large, at 140mm high, and heavy, weighing in at 2 kilos. It is fashioned like a medieval fortress with solid fortifications and studs all over.  Rainer relates that the middle rivet of the shackle was originally intended to be stainless steel as well, but a mistake from the manufacturer was a happy accident which looks quite nice.  As you explore and discover, you are reminded more of a concentric castle from the middle ages, a castle within a castle if you will.  And the key to the castle is also a thing of beauty, large and stylish with a clever T11 logo imprinted on the tip.  Which is somewhat ironic, as there is no obvious keyhole.  You are given one hint along with the lock, which is to use this key in the keyhole.  Hmmmm ... "Speak, friend, and enter."  As if.

Rainer's inspiration for the T11 is from Yale's Magic Lock, a famous lock mechanism invented around 1850 by Linus Yale, Jr., one of the pioneers of modern day mechanical locks.  You can see this impressive piece of lock history for yourself via a link at the end, but be warned it will reveal a few critical hints about the T11.  It’s hard to explore this lock, being too heavy to hold in your hand for very long.  You explore it little by little, noting a few unexpected things, and suspecting a few more.  You may even find the first move, although you may not realize it, as nothing much really occurs as a result.  But that may be as far as you get, unable to enact even the next step.  I know a few seasoned lock pickers who never made it past this point on their own.  And there are thirteen steps to go, if you’re perfect, and don’t count a few more side steps also required.  I know I’m being cryptic but it’s the best I can do.  You won’t find any hints here.  The most I will say is that many of the steps required are quite fitting for a trick lock, as they are reminiscent of picking a lock, requiring perfectly precise positioning and timing.  How do I know?  Thankfully Rainer includes an instruction manual.  There are so many unexpected movements and amazing developments in this puzzle, and even a leap of faith which is rewarded with true panic.  Rainer has not spared an ounce of creativity and psychology here.  The T11 is truly one louder than the rest.

World's Collide by Trevor Corlett

In keeping with the Locks and Libations theme I am presenting another “unlocked cocktail” to pair with this masterpiece of security.  It’s also a fitting end for “Negroni Week”, the international charity event which ran from June 4-10 this year.  You may recall the Unlocked Negroni I created for April Fool’s Day to pair with Kathleen Malcomson’s Unlocked Drawer.  It’s quite challenging to create a good non-alcoholic Negroni substitute, since the original drink calls for equal parts of three distinct spirits and has no juices, syrups or tonics.  

A complex play of flavors reminiscent of a Negroni cocktail

An unusual approach which works is to use high quality coffee, which brings acidity and balanced bitterness to the drink.  Madcap Coffee Company from Grand Rapids Michigan has done an impressive job with this creation, their “Worlds Collide” coffee negroni.  The name is a nod to the mashup of the coffee and spirits industries, as well as the international combination of flavors found in the drink.  I think the name perfectly reflects the remarkable achievement of Rainer Popp’s T11 as well.  The drink incorporates Madcap’s Double Third Coast espresso with a homemade orange - pink peppercorn syrup and berry shrub.  Like the original Negroni and the T11, this drink is an acquired taste, a challenge to the palate and senses, and while you may not solve its nuances immediately, you can enjoy it for the beauty of its construction and appearance alone.  Here’s to unlocking life’s greatest challenges.  Cheers!

Popp in sometime to unlock this pair

World’s Collide by Trevor Corlett

½ oz orange-peppercorn syrup
2 oz espresso (Third Coast)
1 oz sparkling water
¼ oz berry shrub
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Add syrup and coffee to an ice filled glass and stir to chill.  Strain into a fresh glass, top with sparkling water, shrub and bitters and stir.  Garnish with the key to a great challenge.

For more about Rainer Popp:

To see Yale's Magic Lock, the inspiration for the T11 (provided courtesy of Rainer Popp):

For prior unlocked cocktails:

No comments:

Post a Comment