Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Things to do on Pay Day: Bushmills Original and Thornton's Chocolate Liqueur

We have two very different alcoholic products vying for your attention this week as I take you on a lunchtime supermarket visit and spend a bit of my hard-earned cash. Are you ready?

What can I say? It was pay day, and I felt like celebrating. Cue and a quick perusal as to whether the supermarkets near to my work had any offers I could happily throw £10 to £25 away on. I’d budgeted (incorrectly) you see, and found that I’d got more spare cash this month than I’d thought (but actually hadn’t because I’d forgotten to include something in my budget). As Mrs Cake will tell you, I like to get a purchase in at the start of the month, before the money disappears, as it always does. Asda came up trumps on this occasion, so off I went after I’d eaten my lunch.

Bushmills Original (40%)

The only other time I’d ever dabbled in Irish whisky was Green Spot (though of course I’ve tried Jameson’s), and while I’d always intended to broaden my horizons a little, I tended to let the opportunity slip away in favour of something else. Not this time.

While it was on offer, in comparison to what I’ve paid for other products of the same class, at £16, this works out quite expensive. Only the Dewar’s 12, Black Grouse and Co-op’s standard blend have been more expensive in terms of price per centilitre, while Ballantine’s, Grant’s (Sherry Cask and Family Reserve), Whyte & MacKay and Cutty Sark were all cheaper (though that may not always be the case).

It’s a blend of grain (aged 5 years) and Irish single malt, and is a brand (and expression) that I’ve always considered to be entry level for Irish whisky so, given my previous inexperience I figure this is a good place to start a wider exploration.

Let’s start with a look at some comments I found online.

“a very friendly whisky” – I let that comment slip for a while, but now I’m thinking I literally have no idea what this means. Perhaps I’m being too literal.

“goes well with rum and raisin ice cream” – least useful comment ever.

Official review – “slightly petrolly” – I probably don’t mind a bit of petrol.

“I can easily polish a bottle off in an evening.” - Less a comment on quality and more a comment on your drinking habits, I think.

“I have enjoyed this all around the world.” - I am wondering what the reviewer is attempting to communicate with this comment.Is it that they are well travelled, but don’t like trying exotic things?

One reviewer calls it “one of my favourites” yet only scores it 79 out 100. Like whisky much?

And now, my first impressions:

In terms of presentation, you can’t have any complaints. It’s distinctive and authentic looking but it isn’t the most attractive package in the world. “Triple distilled; smooth and mellow” it says on the label, no doubt as a way to help you decide whether you might like it. Smooth is all right. Mellow, is a little uninspiring. I don’t really care how many times it’s been distilled.

It’s fairly yellowy in colour and light and grainy both in the nose and on the palate – quite dry but sweet and a little spicy. You can tell it is quite cheap, but that’s no criticism when it is, and there are no unpleasant notes to speak of.

Over time, it fitted the bill of go-to whiskey quite ably but it really found its destiny one day when I decided to add a shot to a glass of Zubr pils. The combination was perfect, with the slightly disappointing beer receiving a generous kick and righteous dose of the Bushmills sweetness. While I can’t try a host of other whiskies with the Zubr, since it isn’t a beer I’m likely to be buying again, I can enthusiastically recommend the Bushmills as a pils/lager enlivener. Maybe try it for yourself with your uninteresting pils/lager of choice.

Moving on…

Thornton’s Chocolate Liqueur (17% ABV, £10)

Thornton’s, the renowned confectioner now make their own chocolate liqueur – in fact, they have been doing so for a few years now, since it was released to celebrate their 100th anniversary, which must have been in 2011 since 1911 was when their first shop opened in Sheffield – yes, Sheffield [Yooooorkshire! Yoooooorkshire!]. I shouldn’t be biased, but that immediately makes me like it more.

It is presented in a minimalistic but modern style bottle in black and pink. Retailing on their site at £13.99, I picked it up on sale at Asda for £10. I haven’t bought a chocolate liqueur before, but I’ve eyeballed them from time to time, and if memory serves they aren’t generally as modestly priced as this. Well [looking at online retailers], I suppose some are and some aren’t.

This is essentially a mix of chocolate, cream and vodka, and it is intended for drinking over ice, adding to hot chocolate, using in a narrow variety of cocktails or as an alcoholic ice cream sauce.

The first thing I tried was as a sauce on a fruity crumble cake – because that was the kind of dessert I had available at the time. Sadly the effect was that the cake was ruined – stick to double cream next time. Mrs Cake just had it over ice and said it was like Baileys, but more on that shortly.

Next I thought I’d try it in coffee in place of the irish cream I like to add from time to time. I didn’t feel this experiment was all that successful either – not that it was bad, it just wasn’t quite as tasty as when I stick to irish cream.

Then, one Sunday afternoon, it was time to try over ice – and that was much better. The product is a sumptuous chocolatey brown (as you would hope/expect), and much thicker than any irish cream I’ve crossed paths with so far. I would expect many a lady to flush with pleasure at the mere sight of this snuggling in a glass with some ice cubes.

When you get to the palate, it tastes about as good as it looks. The alcohol is evident but not overbearing and overall the chocolate element is… chocolatey – it could of course have elements of creaminess or milkiness to round out (or possibly dilute) its chocolatey appeal, but for me it’s all chocolate. I don’t think you can go wrong with this if you like chocolate and you like booze. Even if you don’t like booze, you’ll probably be willing to give it a second chance after this.

A fairly successful pay day treat, all things considered then. The outlay was modest, the quantity ample and the quality fitting of the outlay – perhaps even slightly better than that. It’s nice to indulge in a little extra curricular booze budget activity from time to time, and should you feel the draw, Bring a Bottle will usually provide a good place to start. In fact, I’m going to take a look now.

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