Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Mediocre-hol (or uninteresting alcoholic drinks)

My recent post on low cost Cognac Martell VS got me thinking about all the various bottles I get through that really leave very little impression – the ones that, when I look over my notes or the various things I’ve written over the course of time, had left me struggling even to pad out a paragraph or two. With the Martell I somehow managed to turn a dearth of thoughts and impressions into a post that could be said to have had a point but, it wouldn’t be fair to you (or to me), if I had to keep doing that. But the mediocre spirits deserve a mention too, don’t they? Of course they do (even if it’s just to let you know there are better ways to spend your money), so this week, let’s look back over the last 12 months or so and give a cursory nod to some of the bottles that were neither good nor particularly bad, the ones that the term meh was invented for, and that may have escaped a mention elsewhere. Perhaps we can make it an annual thing – like the annual Spirits of the Year post that I started last year and will continue shortly...

Let’s split it into categories.


Stolichnaya Gold – 40% ABV, 70cl for £21.65

I had high hopes for this, given my admiration for the other two unflavoured Stolis (blue (which was a winner of one of the coveted Spirits of the Year awards last year) and red), but an immediate comparison with the remains of my red led to crushing disappointment. Why would anyone knowing what I know now, deliberately stump up that extra £5-10 for an inferior product such as this? Everything that is enjoyable about the flavour of its siblings is absent – replaced with the pharmaceutical taste you get if you accidentally chomp on a pill. It just makes me feel sad. I mean, it probably is still better than a bunch of other vodkas – it does contain 40 ABVs at least, which gives it the advantage over supermarket fare but… come on. Who thought this was a good idea?


Tesco London Dry Gin37.5% ABV, 70cl for £12

Very sweet, but uninteresting. I’m yawning just thinking about writing anything about this one. Go on, let’s have a look at what we’ve got:

Non-descript bottle: check.

Obscenely low ABV: check.

I just don’t see the point in it.

Tanqueray – 43.1% ABV, £15 for 70 cl

This one was bought for Mrs Cake’s Christmas present as a means of supporting her predilection for g&t. £15 in Somerfield it was, that’s quite a bargain. It’s a good strength (that’s almost interesting enough to warrant it’s own post), though on the airline we flew with to Canada, they had a 47.3% variety (that would have been more interesting).

In terms of presentation, you’ve got a slightly off green bottle with a red faux-wax seal and utilitarian white label. It would probably make a good, sturdy bludgeon.

And that’s where I run out of things to say. How hard is it to write about gin? I suppose I’ll look up some gin blogs in a bit and find out. Nevertheless, Tanqueray is good enough to drink on it’s own, though obviously no one does. It’s probably even a waste to put it with tonic. But is it interesting enough for me to get a whole post out of it? No.


Tesco West Indian Dark Rum- 37.5% ABV, £12.50 for 70cl

Eee… I got nothing. Blah, blah, blah, whatever. I remember buying this one for taking on a camping trip. I knew I was going to be drinking out of plastic cups, so I didn’t want to get anything that would make me regret that. Yes, it’s suitable for drinking out of a plastic cup in a camper van in a field behind a Derbyshire pub. From there it became acceptable hip flask fare. Mrs Cake polished it all off as a matter of fact at the Sounds From the Other City festival when I bought her a cider she didn’t like.

Mixer fodder.

The Kraken – 40% ABV, £19.50 for 70 cl

Tesco actually sent me a voucher for this one, which I coupled with one of those £3 off a £40 shop vouchers to make a monstrous saving of £6.50. Yes!

Sadly, I’m just not into it. Mrs Cake seems to be very fond of it though. She came in one night telling me she’d been to a bar called Turtle Bay where they do rum platters and that she’d had one called The Kraken that she loved.

We’ve got a bottle of that, I said. You can have it if you like.

I was disappointed on first impression. It is essentially too sweet for my personal taste and the spicyness is just the wrong side of pleasant. I don’t know if this is representative of spiced rum in general, but it isn’t currently something I get the point of. The information on the bottle suggests it is blended with caramel also, so not exactly a rum for the spirit aficionado.

In spite of that, I’m pleased to be able to say I’ve turned Mrs Cake into a hard liquor drinker. When she goes out with friends these days, she always insists on not having a mixer. Her friends think she’s wild. I say what’s the point in drinking hard liquor if you can’t taste it? Apart from getting hammered.


Jose Cuervo Tradicional – 38%, 50cl for £19.99

Tired of the lack of tequila options available in my local supermarket, I was thrilled to find that Tesco had started stocking a 100% agave variety of Jose Cuervo – Jose Cuervo Tradicional. It’s £19.99 for 50cl and bottled at 38% (mine was at least – the internet suggested it’s 40% but I don’t know how that can be). It’s a reposado rather than a blanco so in spite of the disappointing ABV, I consider it to be pretty good value.

The bottle is tall and clear with a classy label and a cork stopper. Impressive. Each bottle also has a number printed at the bottom of the label that tells you how many years after 1795 it was produced. Not really sure of the point in that, but it’s a feature.

So with friends coming over I decided to allow myself to dip into my booze budget for this one. We managed to polish off 4/5 of it in the one evening, which isn’t unusual for tequila. If there’s one spirit you buy solely for caning, then tequila is it. A lot of people might balk at paying £20 for a tequila such as this, as you’re essentially paying more for less, but when you take that step up to 100% agave, you don’t go back because it’s totally worth it.

In terms of actual quality, the agave flavours are somewhat mild, which is disappointing, but if you’re not as into tequila for sipping, as I am, this might be a positive. We did try it with lime and salt also and we all agreed that the lime wasn’t even necessary.

A word that seemed to come up a lot on online reviews was “earthy”, which I’m afraid I don’t really get on board with. I’d say it’s quite clean and fresh and I’d definitely buy it again – though obviously that’s unlikely since I’ll be keen to try something else – but as a go-to; do.

I’ll just finish with a word from a Master of Malt customer review:

“NEVER gives me a hangover.”

I don’t know why this is considered a sign of a good spirit… is it? In my opinion, only idiots judge alcohol on whether they have a hangover the next day because really, if you had a hangover it wasn’t what you drank, but how much of it.

Irish Cream

Country Mist – 14.5%, £5.19 for 70cl

A cheapo Irish Cream brand that I picked up from Morrison’s. Even cheaper in fact than the king of budget Irish Creams, Ballycastle Premium. It is presented in a standard bottle for this genre – squat and dark – and features a generic and uninteresting picture of a field – presumably to represent Ireland. Nowhere on the bottle does it state “produced exclusively for Morrison’s” or anything like that.

So Irish Cream brands have sorted themselves neatly into a few different types of late – sublime (Baileys, Ballycastle Premium), pleasant (Ballycastle), weird (Carolan’s) and wrong (Irish Country Cream). Country Mist is another one for the “pleasant” category. It is too cheap and thin to impress, not luxurious enough to delight, but in spite of its light body, the flavours are pleasant – no, they don’t jump out at you, but I have to give it credit for avoiding anything errant. Also in its favour is that it isn’t a conspicuous off-cream colour. It works in coffee, it works on ice. It isn’t up to the standard of either of the Aldi brands, but it is good enough.


Rosso Vermouth- 14.7%, £5.50 for 1 litre

Typically low rent bottle with a Spartan label.

Not sure why I prefer vermouth over wine because it’s clearly not as complex or fine as a nice wine, but it is more pleasant to drink. Perhaps it’s because it’s uncomplicated that I like it – it’s like alcoholic fruit juice – stick some ice in it and it’s refreshingly intoxicating.

As far as this one is concerned, I really like the colour – having gone for a Rosso variety this time, despite being tempted by an extra dry, I have to say I like the slightly brown tinge which, to a whisky drinker like me, suggests a degree of ageing in oak barrels. I have absolutely no idea what the real cause is, but in this aspect at least it meets with my approval.

Martini Rosato- 15%, £9 for I litre

First of all, hats of to Tesco for honouring an unapplied historical discount on this one. Your accounts may be unreliable, but your customer service has so far been decent in my experience.

Martini Rosato is described as a modern age, aromatic spiced vermouth, blended from red and white wines and featuring Madagascan cloves and Sri-Lankan cinnamon quills among the botanicals it is infused with.

I have to say, I was a little disappointed, and I’m going to class it as fairly standard.

I’ll leave that here for now, then. I know it doesn’t seem like all that much but, to be fair, a number of other uninteresting spirits will appear in posts I’m planning for the new year, so I don’t want to spoil the surprise as far as any of those are concerned. You can expect another roundup this time next year, in which some of those will feature. More importantly, you can find out what the recipients of my prestigious Spirits of the Year 2014 were next week. Until then, enjoy your Christmas. I hope you get plenty of chance to be day drunk  and that you receive plenty of interesting bottles as gifts. Me too. 

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