Friday, 26 October 2012

What is it with whisky reviews? Part 2: Colour Classification

In a previous post I got all carried away with the phenomenon of whisky reviews; and by that I mean the way people dissect the flavour and scent of whisky and separate it into constituent parts – vanilla, cloves, red berries etc. If you didn’t see that post, you can have a shuffty here (it was only last week), or if you can’t be bothered with that, here’s a particularly evocative example from the Caol Ila website

Age introduces a golden colour and complexity to this mellow, amber Caol Ila. It starts smoky-sweet on the nose then drinks smoothly, showing a sweet yet sour character. The long-lived finish evokes a distant, smouldering beach bonfire.
Smoky bonfires, then soapy water and wet wool, with a smouldering beach bonfire in the distance. Hints of mineral oil, then wax. Develops scents of burnt pork sausages.
That one’s not actually that bad; it keeps the flavours listed to a minimum, and instead goes for more of a description, but still; you can see the sort of thing I’m getting at.

When I was writing the post, I was also ensconced in a book that you may have seen me make mention of a good few times already: Ian Buxton’s 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die. I remarked on how his reviews classify the colour of the whisky as well as the scents and flavours. So I thought it would be nice to follow up What is it with whisky reviews? by delving a little deeper into that.

colour charts
I am well aware, as I’m sure you are, that the colour of whisky can vary quite widely (within certain parameters – I mean, it’s never going to be green, is it?). What confuses me is how someone could look at one whisky, and say ‘that’s golden amber’, then look at another one and say, ‘that’s amber gold’.
Sure, the colour of some whiskies differ greatly from others, but it is also true that some are quite similarly coloured. ‘How does he do it?’ I asked myself. “Does he have a Dulux colour chart or what?

And thusly was an idea born. The next time I had a reason to go to B&Q (purchasing a blueberry bush for my sister’s housewarming present), I stopped by the paint aisle and collected all the colour cards that might represent the colour of whisky. These aren’t standard Dulux colours that you can buy in tins, but the ones you can have the staff mix up for you, and there were quite a serious number that might correspond to the colour of whisky. I ended up collecting 17 cards. Some were classed as yellows and some as reds. Oddly, the ones that were classed as gold weren’t anywhere near the colour of whisky. I say oddly because Buxton’s book has a good number of the whiskies classed as some form of gold or other. I stashed the cards in the pouch of my hoody, and took them home where they now sit in my booze cupboard awaiting any occasion I pour a glass of whisky.

I’ve never really found those B&Q colour swatches useful. Just as I find it impossible to taste a drink and say, “this tastes of cloves, fresh mown grass and mussels”, I have an inability to look at a 6.1 x 2.8cm block of colour and apply it mentally to a whole room. In addition to that, I’d contend that the paint looks a different colour on your walls than it does on the sample.

Nevertheless, I thought it would be fun to apply an actual guide to help with classification. If I can also determine what the Dulux classification is for some whiskies that appear in the book; that will be great – of course it will ultimately be pointless, but nevertheless great. And maybe one day I can paint a room the same colour as one of my favourite whiskies, and maybe that will be all relaxing, and when I drink a glass of that whisky, I might feel like I’m swimming in it.

Actually, a few years ago, [I think it was] B&Q [who] ran an advertising campaign, the gist of which was that if you found a colour you wanted, you could take a sample of it, and they would mix up a paint of that colour for you. In one such advert, a woman liked the colour of a man’s hoody, and cut a chunk off of it with a pair of scissors. By that token, how cool would it be to take a bottle of whisky into B&Q, pour a glass, and say, “I want a paint in this colour”?

Now, in case you don’t already know, the recommended practice for appraising colour is to pour a glass, and then gaze at it against a white background. Until I read the 101 whiskies book, I hadn’t realised the point was that you could then try to decide what colour it was. I thought it was just so you could go, “that looks nice”. It always looks nice.

My first experiment was with the Dewar’s 12 Years Old, double aged that I picked up in Ibiza Airport’s Duty Free shop. I saw the other week that you can get 70cl in Sainsburys for the same price that I paid for a litre there. That seems to be how Duty Free works, in the main; 30cl extra free. It’s just a shame that sometimes you don’t want the extra. I’ll be a little more careful in Duty Free next time.

I poured a generous glass, held it up to my kitchen cupboard and cycled through my various colour cards, attempting to see which one matched most closely.

Dewar's 12 yo, golden bark 3
I was initially a little sceptical that I would find any exact match, but I think I did fairly well. I may not be quite on the money, but I think its close enough. Take a look at the picture, and see for yourself. So Dewar’s 12 Years Old, Double Aged is Golden Bark 3. I can’t compare this one to the Dewar’s in the book, because I got the wrong Dewar’s. The one in the book is “Special Reserve”. Oh well.

While I’m on it, I may as well give you a brief first impression of the Double Aged Dewar’s; I was impressed at first. You know that I don’t know how to describe flavours, but my first reaction was, “oh yes, that’s a classy taste”, but then the familiar blended scotch taste took over (must be the grain), and each succeeding sip was an attempt to repeat the experience of the first sip – mostly unsuccessfully. It seems I had become desensitised to it already. If that’s the way it stays, it looks like being a frustrating whisky. Time will tell. And then it will probably tell all over again. Litre frickin’ bottle, I don’t know.
Grant's, sulphur springs 3

I moved on, and was able to try a swatch test with my bottle of Grants’ just before I finished it. It’s a good deal lighter in colour than the Dewar’s, and came out as Sulphur Springs 3, as you can see. At that point I decided I’d try a few more before publishing my findings. Here they are in order of experiment:

Courvoisier VSOP

I couldn’t find a match for this one, but that’s ok as I didn’t get brandy coloured colour swatches. I thought I might find a match though, as in the bottle it looks a lot like whisky. In the glass it actually has a much more red tint than the whiskies I’ve tried so far.

Maker’s Mark

Maker's Mark - no match
No match this time, either. Ian Buxton describes it as amber, but I’m afraid I couldn’t get anything even near to it from Dulux. Interestingly, the St Remy XO brandy that Brenda brought me back from Paris is described on the St Remy website as amber in colour, and Caol Ila is described as amber in the example at the beginning of this post, yet there is a world of difference between these three.

The Black Grouse

This time I had another success, and with another blended scotch. The Black Grouse came out as Earth Glaze 3. It’s always ‘3’ it seems, so far. I don’t know what an earth glaze is – I would have expected that to be more of a brown, but there you go.

Black Grouse - Earth Glaze 3
Finally, the testing has proved to be quite fun, so I’ll keep it up for as long as it continues to be so. I’m not sure yet whether that will mean another specific post, or whether I’ll just throw a result into any article where I happen to mention a new whisky. So we’ll see.

Mrs Cake thinks I’m doing this just to facilitate my growing obsession with whisky, but I continue to protest that I’m just being silly, and that it is entirely for fun. Which it is really. Anyway, it’s her fault: she bought me the 101 Whiskies book in the first place.

That's it from me for this week, then. I expect I'll be back next Friday with something else. Have a great weekend, and here's hoping for some fun alcohol fueled adventures to write about in the near future.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Being Daft: What is it with whisky reviews?!

In one of my earliest posts I asked the question: why is alcohol so fascinating? I didn’t really have an answer at the time, nor did I look for one. It was more of a rhetorical question that I used in order to ease my way into the new blog. Because alcohol is fascinating, though it is only a drink and there are lots of other types of drinks in the world that aren’t nearly so interesting. What makes alcohol so special, besides its capacity to alter mood, boost confidence and transform one into a witty raconteur?

Since I asked that eternal question, I’ve read a lot of comments and blogs about different drinks and it occurred to me that my palate is remarkably uncultured in comparison to most other people who write about strong liquor. They seem to be able to taste and smell all kinds of different things within a glass of whisky – a whole host of different flavours and scents in one glass, while I just know whether I like it or not – and sometimes it takes me a whole bottle to decide that. I can tell that all the different whiskies smell and taste distinct from one another, but I lack the ability to separate the flavour of any particular whisky into the constituent parts that experienced reviewers can.

That’s always been the main reason that I don’t write straight reviews of drinks – apart from the fact that reviewing something you drink seems pretty pointless to me. It’s like when you see reviews of things like airports on the internet. Airports! Who gives enough of a shit about airports to actually review them? 

I don’t particularly want to start taking careful note of everything I’m experiencing and I’d much rather focus on anecdotal stories and mindless ruminations about booze than provide a list of flavours.

I don’t even know if a list of flavours is useful to anyone, or whether it just satisfies a person’s need to classify things. It just seems to take a lot of the fun out of it for me, as well as seeming to suggest that you can’t really be enjoying what you’re drinking unless you’re able to describe the experience in minute detail, unless you have the right kind of glass, and you follow the correct routine.  I certainly don’t want to sit there deciding what I can taste in every glass I drink, but maybe as time goes on, that’s what will happen… Maybe I won’t have to decide – maybe it will become obvious…

the glass I used to drink whisky from
Incidentally, the best account I’ve found of why the glass you drink your whisky out of is important can be found here. Not so long ago, I replaced the standard whisky tumbler type thing I was using with a smallish wine glass… and I have to say that there was a definite improvement. I have now become quite picky about the glass when I order a whisky away from home. It makes ordering more complicated, but it also makes the drink more enjoyable – and if you’re paying bar prices, you want to make sure it’s worth it.
the glass I now like to use

The flavour of liquor can be very complex - so complex that enthusiasts separate the experience into stages; generally some combination of nose, palate and finish, and these can all be very different. I enjoy the experience and appreciate the differences, and that’s enough for me. Ian Buxton’s book, 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die also classifies the colour – golden amber, mellow gold, molested apricot etc... Obviously whiskies all differ in colour from each other, but how the hell do you describe that colour? Is he working from a Dulux colour chart?  

I think the tendency to intellectualise though, is a natural human trait. Just liking something isn’t enough. You have to know why you like it, describe it, critically evaluate it, and then look down on people who don’t agree with you. You can see that in all spheres of human creativity; music, food, film, it even starts to proliferate further and further down the scale, elevating everything to the status of art. So, theatre devolves to film, film to TV, literature to comics, pictures of ladies in the nude to pictures of sexy ladies in the nude… doing dirty things… art seemingly to the simple act of doing something merely to provoke a reaction. We need to be able to say ‘this is great, but that is rubbish for these reasons’.

And so it went (probably) for alcoholic beverages like whisky. Way back in the beginning, I suppose whisky was made because people took pleasure in drinking it (getting drunk – though apparently it was first consumed as a medicine), but somewhere along the way a need developed to be able to compare and contrast, and then describe – and presumably to make better ones.  So you have people ascribing a list of flavours to whatever they drink. Sometimes they even agree with each other. The tasting has become more important than the getting drunk – which is actually a good thing; I can have a drink for enjoyment now, instead of for the buzz multiple drinks provide.

It does fascinate me though that those flavours that whisky experts are at pains to relate to us aren’t really there. They don’t put vanilla and cloves in whisky, but the flavours are there (apparently). Frankly, I should know. I’ve eaten cloves and cinnamon and a lot of those things that are used to describe the many flavours of whisky – and I don’t mean in food; I’ve eaten them whole, but I still don’t taste cloves in a glass of whisky. I wonder whether whisky reviewers have tasted them, or whether these terms are merely words that they have learned to apply practically. Or maybe my mind just can’t make the connection between a dry spice and an alcoholic beverage.

And how come a lot of these things are flavours that, in their actual state, are things I don’t like? Honey, butterscotch, citric zest…

One of the reviews I read (concerning Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old Canadian whisky) reported the presence of crème brulee, oak, cedar, spicy pepper, cloves, citric zest, black fruits (?), strawberries and cream, fresh-cut wood, ginger ale, cinnamon, toffee, burnt sugar and molasses, while a review of Jura Superstition claimed to find mint and lightly smoked kippers.

Is this a competition to taste as many things as possible? Now I know for a fact that mint and lightly smoked kippers weren’t used in distilling. Lightly smoked kippers – not a slight taste of smoked kippers, but a taste of lightly smoked kippers! Is that even a good thing to be able to taste in whisky? “I’m a fan of the fishy malts…

These aren’t flavours that you grew up liking, so you have to develop an appreciation. Perhaps, once your subconscious is hooked, and you’ve started to like the flavours, this complexity that some people represent as a combination of so many commonplace (and some not so commonplace) flavours is what is so interesting.

Back when I started this blog I said that people don’t get obsessed with trying all the different colas that are available. Well, perhaps some people do, but I’ve never read a review of a cola that tried to dissect its flavours. Have you? It’s just cola flavour.

Well apparently, it does happen occasionally.

Check the entry for Virgil’s Cola – “With notes of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, the cola smelled as good as it tasted”. Why is it always vanilla and cloves?!? If the flavour (and smell) of cloves is so desirable, why don’t we have a fizzy Cloveade drink? Why don’t we just make everything taste of cloves all the time, and we can all sit back and relax, revelling in the fact that everything tastes as good as it’s going to get, because it tastes of cloves? Who’d have thought cooking spices could make such tasty drinks? Forget your fizzy orange, make mine a fizzy cumin.

In order to put this practice of describing flavours and aromas to the test, I came up with a plan to make a list of a selection of the liquors I had available, and seek reviews of them. I made notes of the various flavours and scents they are supposed to impart, and the aim was to try each one with a copy of the notes on hand. As ever, I figured the method might develop as I went along, but my plan was to place a tick next to any taste or smell that I could detect from any of the reviews.

Unsurprisingly, this experiment was short-lived since the first time I sat down with my notebook and pen, I realised that this was the absolute antithesis of everything Drink it How You Like it stands for. It’s supposed to be fun, not meticulous! It’s supposed to be about enjoying alcohol, not classifying it. What am I turning intoooooo?!!

Did I detect any of these flavours? No, not really. Was I able to detect any single discernible flavour from whatever I was drinking? Again, sadly, no – unless you count whisky as one – does that count?  I could definitely taste whisky. Does that mean I am enjoying this whisky less than anyone else? I don’t think so. Maybe I can’t tell you exactly what you’re going to experience when you drink it, but why should you want that? You’re supposed to experience things for yourself, and take from them whatever you get.

Does it mean I’m not doing the tasting properly? Again, no – I’m not just knocking it back. I swirl it round the glass, stick my nose in there (I actually also like to breathe into the glass, through my nose to stir up the vapour before inhaling until my eyes water slightly – that way you get the taste in your nasal passages and your mouth at the same time), have a little think, take a sip, roll it around, enjoy it (I also like to suck a little air through the whisky on the front of my tongue), swallow, and enjoy it some more. Yes, I look like a twat when I drink whisky. It’s difficult to enjoy whisky with friends because you can’t talk when you’re tasting it. Someone asks you a question, and you have to mime, ‘hang on a minute, I just need to finish tasting this mouthful’, by which time whatever your answer is doesn’t seem relevant anymore. In general conversation with a person, have you ever thought of something that it would be possible to say, but you’re not sure whether to say it because a) it might not be funny or b) it might be misconstrued, and by the time you’ve finished deciding whether to say it or not, you realise that the moment in which you could have said it was very small, and has in fact expired already? You might wonder what would happen if you said it anyway, but you think about that too, and realise that for some reason it wouldn’t make any sense at all anymore. You might find this happening more frequently if you become a bit more considered in your whisky tasting.

You might say, ‘other people’s reviews give me an idea of whether I will like a whisky’. I don’t even think that’s the case. If someone says a whisky is good, I’m likely to give it a try, but you cannot deny that people’s tastes vary so much that what amounts to an unpleasant taste to one person is delicious to another – you see this anywhere that you find a number of reviews of one product from different people. And they say there are no right or wrong answers anyway…

So what’s the point? Is it just a vehicle for someone to feel more knowledgeable than someone else? Or is there actually anything useful about it? I can only tell you what I think, and at the moment I’m not bothered how many flavours people can taste in a whisky and what they are. I’m more interested in trying it for myself, and getting the visceral experience of enjoying a whisky immensely, enjoying every drop to its fullest extent. Reviews can act as a reference point to try and determine what your next purchase should be, and they can be interesting, but I tend to think that lists of flavours is overdoing it.

I guess ultimately, it’s not just a case of snobbery, or wanting to seem knowledgeable, or intellectualising something. Imagine if two people meet who both like whisky. Perhaps they want to talk about whisky. Well, if a language and culture develops around whisky, then they can. Conversation isn’t limited to, “I like this whisky, I don’t like this one.” They can actually go on to discuss the topic in depth, and we’ll assume, for the sake of argument, that this is worthwhile. Sharing experiences usually is worthwhile.

Irrespective of that, my point is when you find a new interest, it can seem like there’s a lot to take in, like there’s an exclusive club that no one wants you to be part of. But there isn’t. It just means there’s a lot to learn, and learning is a big part of the fun. Just don’t think you aren’t allowed to have your own opinions or to disagree. And don’t let it put you off.

I am starting to develop a more sensitive palate. I may have detected a scent of nuts in a glass of Highland Park 12 year old, and the other night I thought maybe I could smell pears in a glass of wine, so I guess it’s just practice – but there’s no pears in there! Or nuts! Let’s just hope I stop short of bombarding you with a list of random flavours.

classy bottle
Thanks for reading another rambling and ill-conceived treatise on the delights of strong alcohol. I might return to this theme once in a while just to humorously highlight the odd flavours people are finding in their booze – maybe I’ll even find some of my own.

Here’s a good one from Spirit Journal’s review of a favourite of mine, Bruichladdich Rocks:

Nose: fruitcake, banana nut bread, sweet malt. 7 minutes later, crispy pork rind, sweet oak, vanilla, red grapes and blackberry jam.

I love how specific some of those things are – crispy pork, and seven minutes later.

So moving forward, let’s not attempt to belittle or look down on this. Let’s celebrate it. Tell me what mad flavours you can find in your strong alcoholic drinks. And don’t make them up! I’m serious. Let’s see how creative and sensitive to flavour you are.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Why so many branded beer glasses? Here's why...

Afternoon! We’re just snuggling up to the weekend again, and you know what that means: it’s time for this week’s post. I’m pushing the boundaries of absurdity again this week, as I unveil a post that I’ve been working on for ages. Finally it’s ready, or at least as ready as it’s ever going to be, and it proves that I’ve been thinking far too much about why there are so many branded beer glasses out there these days.

Thanks for stopping by. If you can be bothered to read the post, that would be lovely, though I do hope you’ll take it in the spirit with which it is intended, and that perhaps you’ll come back next week to see what I’m going on about then. Leave me a message if you want, but most importantly, have a great weekend and enjoy yer booze.

When you go out for a beer these days, you might be noticing that with increasing frequency each beer is coming in its own ‘unique’ glass – one I had in Belgium came in a wooden tankard – now that was special. Run and tell that, Fosters. I don’t have a picture because that was well before I started this blog and before bottles and glasses became my surrogate family, but if you imagine a tankard made out of wood, you’ll get pretty close to what it looked like.

This trend for branded glasses has progressed to the point where you sometimes receive an apology with your beer if you don’t get it in the right one – as if it’s a status symbol, and you’re supposed to care. Let me tell you now; I don’t.

pretty generic
Don’t look at me like that. I’m not ordering the beer for the glass it comes in. Maybe if the glass was interesting enough I might – like the wooden tankard - but most of these glasses aren’t that distinct, and the ones that are are way too feminine, so any self-respecting heterosexual male would be reluctant to drink out of them. We’re not fighting a battle for metrosexuality here. It’s only beer, and I don’t believe branded glasses have much (if anything) to do with flavour; it’s really all about marketing and brand visibility, though it has to pretend that it’s not.

 “You drink with your eyes first,” says Guinness Brewmaster, Feargal Murray in this article. No-o-o-o… you only drink with your eyes first if you’re an idiot, and someone’s told you you’ll get drunk quicker if you pour vodka directly into your eyeball.
San Miguel

Becks Vier
‘You drink with your eyes first’ is just a platitude, and too often people hear a platitude and think that just because someone’s said it, and it sounds clever, that it’s the truth. Another one that Guinness espouses is, “good things come to those who wait”. What is it with Guinness?

Just to clarify on the first point, you look at the pint with your eyes first. You might then make a subconscious assumption as to how good it’s going to taste, but it’s only going to taste how it tastes, and that assumption is only based on the fact that you already like beer.

So does Leffe need to be served in that ridiculous (and feminine) pseudo-wine glass (pictured below)? The first time I received a Leffe in that, I had to drink it quickly in order to go back and get a pint that came in something more manly – instead of something that made it look like something more manly might come in me…

feminine Leffe glass
I’ve heard that the glass plays a part in making sure the [precious] liquid makes contact with the correct part of your tongue for tasting it – but that is assuming that different tastes (salty, sour, bitter, sweet and umami) map to different areas of the tongue, and according to Wikipedia, fount of all knowledge, they don’t; taste qualities are found on all areas of the tongue with some regions being more sensitive than others. Isn’t that whole idea a little patronising? Why can we not be trusted to shift the liquid to the ‘right’ parts of our tongues of our own volition?

If we need different shaped glasses to ensure we enjoy our beer properly, how come cutlery isn’t even more complicated than it already is? Why don’t we have a fork for making sure the chicken gets to the right part of our tongue? Then another fork for the cabbage, one for the potatoes and a straw for the gravy? Presumably someone realised the washing up would take five times as long.

While I’m on the subject, has anyone invented a fork that penne won’t fall off of? And what about the Chinese? They aren’t even bothered, are they? Their cutlery isn’t even anywhere near as complicated as ours; it’s just two sticks!

Nevertheless the different types of cutlery are devised for practical reasons – to make it easier to consume items, not to make sure you taste them properly.

Different shaped glasses can alter the experiencing of a drink to some extent, it can make the act of drinking more or less comfortable, the act of holding a drink more or less awkward, it can make your drink look more or less attractive (subjectively), or you could argue it has a psychological effect on how much you enjoy the drink, but for my money it tastes the same when it’s in your mouth - which is the important thing. Isn’t it? Or are all those things important? Psychology could potentially be quite important, but you could say that about anything. The important factor in a steak is the quality of the meat, and whether it’s cooked to your preference, not what plate it is served on. You could serve it on a naked lady and stick a sparkler in it (the steak, not the lady… unless you prefer it the other way around…), but would that make it taste any better?

There is a restaurant where you dine in complete darkness – the point being that you don’t make any preconceptions about what you are eating, or about the people you are dining with. That sounds like it would be an experience, but it doesn’t make the food at that restaurant any better than the food at any other restaurant. It just means you’ve been stimulated intellectually while you were there, and that you’ve enjoyed the food, free from preconceptions based on what it looks like. Presumably presentation isn’t an important consideration in the kitchen there.

It could all be brown slop, and you wouldn’t know (but what would be wrong with that? Gravy is brown slop and that’s lovely. And chocolate ice cream). If all restaurants served their food in complete darkness though, it wouldn’t be special. Similarly, if every beer has its own glass, that loses its appeal also, and you’re not even intellectually stimulating drinkers by serving their drinks in fancy glasses.

A bit of internet research turned up quite a bit of division and a good deal of unqualified opinion – it is the internet, after all, and everything I write is unqualified opinion anyway – that’s what the internet’s for; writing a bunch of crap, and then thinking that perhaps someone else in the world gives a shit, or is even going to read this far. [Are you still there?]

So I found some sites that said, “the glass makes no difference to the flavour of beer”, and nothing more. Thanks for that. However, here at Drink It How You Like It, I like to point you in the direction of genuinely useful sites (and there are a surprising amount of useful booze related ones), so you might like to pay a visit to this one. It has a lot to say about the benefits of using different types of glasses, and what beers suit each type. It maintains that the shape of the glass is far more than just marketing, and says that beer novices hold that view. I’d hardly call myself a beer novice, but I might seem like one to a beer snob

To be fair, the defence of variations in glassware smacks a bit of unquestioning enthusiasm for all things beer-related. There’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm, but you should be aware that not all things that are associated with beer need to be celebrated.

Now, a large part of Beer Advocate’s argument is that it makes the beer look nice. It does go on though to argue that scientifically the glass has an effect on head retention and that this is important because the head holds a number of volatiles - which is desirable because there’s all flavours and stuff in there. Nowhere does it imply that the glass ensures the beer comes into contact with the correct part of your tongue for tasting it – I’ve checked.

I’m prepared to accept that stuff about head retention and volatiles, though. For a while I’d been working on an investigation into the way a ‘perfect pint of Guinness’ is achieved by way of the two part pour. While everyone else seems to positively celebrate the two-part pour, I don’t like it because I get annoyed with having to stand at the bar for longer than is strictly necessary to get a pint – the liquid itself tastes the same either way. I’ll admit that a correctly poured pint of Guinness looks nice, but that’s not what I’m thinking when I order it. I’m ordering it for the taste, and then I’m disappointed that I forgot it took 119.53 seconds to pour it, and I wish I’d ordered something else. All beer looks nice anyway.

The thing is, the more research I did into the two part pour, the more I came to understand it. I still don’t like it, but the two part pour is at least a little bit about getting the balance of flavours right, as well as being about looking good. The head tastes different to the body of the pint, so you don’t want too much of one and not enough of the other. Therefore the two part pour helps facilitate the pouring of the pint in the correct proportions. It just happens that in marketing, it is beneficial to turn a negative into a positive.

What is the drawback with Guinness? It takes two minutes to pour a good one. Don’t dwell on that, celebrate it  - change ‘it takes two minutes to pour a good one’ into  something frighteningly specific like ‘it takes 119.53 seconds to pour the perfect pint of Guinness’ - because you can measure the time it takes to pour a pint in hundredths of seconds (have you ever seen a bar tender measure the time he spends pouring your pint? I haven’t. And I’m sure I’ve never had one that took exactly 119.53 seconds). Call it an art form, make it a selling point, celebrate it.

In lager the head is just froth at the top (and for my money, not pleasant to drink, though it is better to have some head than a flat looking pint with none at all), but you can drink the head of a Guinness like you can the rest of it.

The glass is also fairly important in pouring Guinness, since the harp marks where the first pour should end, and the shape (it is said) facilitates the ‘Guinness surge’, which is the rush of bubbles you see running down the glass, though from my research I don’t recall the chemical reaction that causes the surge being important in terms of flavour, it just looks cool. In fact, I had a can of John Smiths Extra Smooth the other night, in a pretty standard pint glass, and there were bubbles surging in that, regardless.

Conceivably, if it does take 119.53 seconds to pour a perfect pint of Guinness, why don’t they install a mechanism in the pumps that does the first pour for a specific amount of time, and then does the second pour for the exact right amount of time also, so that, in combination, it comes to 119.53 seconds?  Then you wouldn’t need a harp on the glass, there would be less scope for human error, and you would always be able to get a pint that was poured in the exact correct amount of time. Why? Presumably because it’s not that important.

Yes, you could say I’m being ridiculous, but no more ridiculous than the suggestion that a pint can be poured in 119.53 seconds.

Apart from your specialist Belgian beers, a lot of the beers you get coming in their own glasses are lagers like Carling and Fosters. Stella Artois comes in all kinds of glasses, and in fact there have been more than one type of Stella Artois branded glass (a selection is pictured here), so I don’t think you can tell me the glass has that much of an effect on that particular beverage, because if it did, there would only be one type of branded glass per drink – unless there are scientists at Stella Artois who keep finding better and better shaped glasses. I don’t think they put quite that much thought into it, do you?

If you’re that into beer that you want it in a specific glass… you probably shouldn’t be drinking Stella. Or Fosters. The breweries want you to think that they are trying to enhance your enjoyment of their product, when all they’re really doing is coming up with marketing gimmicks.

Yeah, I know, I’m being a bit cynical here. It a lot of cases it’s probably just a case of someone getting excited and saying, “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if our beer had its own glass?” It doesn’t mean we have to get all precious about it, though.

One of the points Beer Advocate makes is that in some cases, the glass is designed before the beer. Isn’t that getting things the wrong way round? That’s not even putting the cart before the horse, it’s putting the cart inside the apples. If the shape of the glass is so important, you should be tailoring it to your beer, not designing a cool glass and then trying to make a beer to go in it… Make the best beer, not the best beer that goes in the glass you’ve designed.

If you manufacture a beer though, and you want to mess about with this branded glass stuff, make sure you do something special. This is quite a good example. This (right) is a glass of Jeremiah Weed ginger ale that I bought Brenda a few months ago on a weekend away. And that's me in the background. It’s a jar with a handle. See? I like seeing things like that. Be creative. Make it special. Did that make it taste any better? No, but if you knew it was supposed to come in that glass and it didn’t, you might be disappointed.

Is there a conclusion to be drawn from all of this? Well; yes. If you accept that different types of glass suit different types of beer, then you can conclude that there only needs to be as many types of glass as there are types of beer (so you know, one type for stout, one for premium lager, one for wheat beer, etc…). Anything else is marketing. A pub need only keep the right kind of glasses, not a glass for every beer.

There’s a pub I’ve mentioned before, The New Oxford in Salford, where they do actually give you the right glass for every beer they serve. Now, I do appreciate the attention to detail that that requires. They have a shit-ton of obscure Belgian beers and real ales, and they pluck the right glass off the shelf with a degree of professional pride that is a pleasure to behold. It’s the fact though, that all these individual glasses have been produced that means they have to do it. It makes the experience more authentically Belgian, and it wouldn’t be the same if they just served the beers in generic beer glasses. No one would know though, if the individual glasses didn’t exist, so… when you get right down to it, does it enhance the experience of drinking beer, or does it needlessly complicate it?

I suppose this is where we are now, brought by decades of free market capitalism. We’re stuck with it. To remove all the different glasses would be to move towards a state of communist uniformism. We’d all be driving identical grey cars, wearing identical grey suits, and have more or less identical grey lives before you knew it. And we’d only need one type of beer. Ok, so most of us do have identical grey lives, but at least our cars come in different colours, suits in different fabrics, and there are tons of types of beer. In a world where the economy is founded on perpetual growth, but supported by finite resources, these are the kinds of things that are needed to keep people in work and the wheels of society turning.

So shall we just keep all the different glasses? Yeah, go on then.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Booze Tourism part 4: Ibiza, and... part 3 of the Wedding Trilogy; The Honeymoon

Hello! And thanks for coming back for another instalment of Booze Tourism, and part three of my wedding trilogy. This time I’ll be focusing on observations and experiences from my recent honeymoon in Ibiza. This episode will be something of a departure in that this is the first time I’ve actually been a booze tourist since this blog began – all previous instalments were based on trips that occurred before I began writing the blog, and were therefore entirely constructed from memory – like back in March when I wrote the first booze tourism article about Venice

When I embarked on that trip (and the others), I had no idea that I would later be writing a blog that would draw upon it. This time then, I was actively looking for things to write about, and trying to form ideas of what I might say as I went along. As a result, you might find that I have a lot more to say.

To prevent this from becoming a long, rambling, eye-stinging jumble of text that no one has the time or inclination to read, I’m actually going to split it into sections, so it’s easier for you to find the bits you might be interested in. I’ll try to fit anecdotes and detail around that basic structure, and we’ll see how it goes. So before we get to the really interesting things, let’s start with the essential...

Spanish Lager, or Cerveza

San Miguel
I think I can safely say I’ve never tried a Spanish lager that I didn’t like – from the first time I ever tried San Miguel, to the Estrella cans that random people sell you on the streets of Barcelona... There don’t really seem to be that many types, but they’re all good. At various points during the holiday I bought 6 to 8 cans of each (as well as the odd giant bottle of San Miguel (I love those things).

Cruzcampo on the beach
I have to say though, despite having been a devotee to beer for many years, I probably couldn’t really tell one from the other if put to the test. But that’s all fine. They’re strong, they taste good, stick em in your fridge and bring one out to chug down when it gets hot – which it invariably does.

I drank one or two beers in the various bars and restaurants we visited, but it seemed a shame to pay bar prices when we had a terrace back at our accommodation, and a fridge to keep our beers cold.

You can see from my various pictures that I most frequently bought multiple 330ml cans. That’s pretty normal in Spain. One of the supermarkets we visited (in Cala Vadella) actually had some 440ml cans (the type we’re more used to in the UK), but in that heat, 330ml is fine. You don’t need to be stuck drinking a large can when your beer is rapidly warming in the Spanish heat – even when you try to keep it in the shade. Sure, my friends and I used to laugh at the characters in Aussie soap Neighbours for drinking those tiny beers (what’s the matter with them? Lightweights!) but it makes sense, and if you want more, just open another one. It’s at least cold, because it’s been waiting for you in the fridge.

Cruzcampo, San Miguel, Mahou and Estrella were all represented at some point during the 7 days. The only other Spanish beer I can think of just now is Alhambra, but I didn’t see that anywhere. I think that’s more visible in the South of Spain, being that it’s named after the famous building in Granada.

One of the best things about Spain is the availability of booze. Pretty much any store that sells food also sells booze, so you can nip into a bakery, pick up a croissant, and also get a giant bottle of San Miguel… which you can then drink as you walk through the streets, or on the beach, or anywhere. No one cares and there is no stigma, unlike here in the UK.

There was one beach we visited, Cala Salada, where a couple of people had set up their own businesses selling mojitos. They carried all the various paraphernalia in rucksacks, then sat under a parasol mixing the drinks. We didn’t have one, but they looked nice, and it was a nice idea. It was just a shame that you had to drive to the beach, so drinking strong cocktails wasn’t an option for me (much as I would have liked to). As a business venture, it probably wouldn’t win funding on Dragon’s Den, but you’ve got to appreciate the effort.

I suppose the choice of beer in Spain is limited compared to the UK, and that might get tiresome if you actually lived there, but for a visit it’s sufficient.

Aguardiente de Orujo

Booze cavern
If you read my preview to this post, “Looking forward to theDuty Free”, you will recall that aguardiente de orujo was one of my main targets for this trip. Being a fan of Italian grappa, and hearing that this was the Spanish equivalent, I determined I needed to find some. It didn’t take long. On our second (or maybe third) day in Cala Vadella we walked across the beach and up to the local supermarket where, tucked away in the back was an awesome booze cavern.

Before I go any further, one thing you need to know about Spain (besides the fact you can buy booze nearly anywhere) is that they have fantastic booze shops that put our UK ‘specialist’ stores like Carringtons to shame. Even this tiny supermarket had a better variety and selection of booze than most booze shops back home. Somewhat surprisingly, wine was kept to a minimum and intriguing spirits and liqueurs were all over the place. A lot of them were dusty, adding even greater mystique to their appeal.

I knew what I was after, so I bypassed the scotch and the rest of the whiskies, the brandies and the rums – even the grappas, of which there were a few - and stepped into uncharted territory where I didn’t know what the bottles contained. And there I found what I was looking for – two distinct bottles marked aguardiente de orujo.

They were both in unusual bottles that looked like they might have been of more than a passing interest to Indiana Jones – as if they contain the soul of Jesus Christ and the breast milk of the Virgin Mary.
The Virgin Mary's breast milk?

The first, in a grey rectangular shaped bottle, had a price sticker on the top that said 12 euros, while the second was in a more bulbous brown bottle that was for me more intriguing. This one didn’t have any price on it, so I asked the young checkout girl. She didn’t know, so she asked the older lady who was behind the cheese counter.

“Three ninety”, she said (in Spanish).

“Three ninety”, said the girl (in English).

“Three ninety?” said I, also in English. It took me some time to absorb this.


Three ninety?”


“Three… ninety?”


I didn’t know what to do with this information, and I already knew what the answer to my next question would be, but I felt like I needed more information.

“…do you know if it’s any good? ‘Cos this other one’s like, 12 euros...”


That was the answer I was expecting.

It appears it was 3.90. I was already prepared for having to make the tough choice between the two bottles, but this actually made things more complicated. I was initially more drawn to the brown bottle, and wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to be astronomically expensive. This was a different prospect altogether – it was microscopically inexpensive. What was I supposed to draw from that?!? How good could 70cl of strong alcohol be (42% ABV, another attractive detail) if it only costs 3 euros and 90 cents?

I remembered that at home we have a few phrases that might provide some guidance; you get what you pay for; you buy cheap, you buy twice and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. But wouldn’t it be stupid to pay 12 euros for a bottle when I could get one for under 4?

What a quandary. I didn’t go expecting to buy more than one bottle of aguardiente, so I wanted to make sure I got one I’d enjoy. How are you supposed to make these decisions? Well, it went like this: 3.90 is so cheap that if I didn’t like it, I could just throw it away and buy a different bottle. I suppose I could have bought both, but I exercised a bit of restraint for one, and opted for the cheap one: RuaVieja. I can’t remember what the other one was called.

As you can imagine, I couldn’t wait to try it later that evening. When later came, I twisted the cap and poured it into one of the glasses we’d borrowed from our apartment’s bar. It was a clear liquid. It looked like grappa, it smelled like grappa… it tasted like grappa. Fantastic, I love it. And did I mention it was only 3.90? Mrs Cake and I regaled each other with stories of the purchase for the next few days, and now I’m telling you. 3.90!

When we arrived in our second destination, Santa Eulalia in the east of Ibiza’s southern coast, I found a few more excellent booze shops, and made sure to look up RuaVieja to see whether 3.90 was the correct price, or whether I’d gotten a bargain. I found it normally sold for 12 euros, so that was excellent. To be honest, this stuff is so good that it would be a bargain at twice that – especially when you consider how expensive grappa can be in the UK.

Also available were a couple of other varieties, one a cream version and the other a liqueur version with respective alcohol contents of around 24% and 17%.

Being that I was on holiday, I was able to dip into the RuaVieja nearly every evening, sitting on various terraces, sometimes accompanied by a cheap (but nice) cigar that took about 50 minutes to smoke. It was during one of these sessions that I happened to see the lady in the hotel room next to ours completely naked, so that was nice. Let this be a lesson to you: net curtains are not sufficient for preserving your modesty at night when you turn the light on.
Living the dream

There was one major drawback with the RuaVieja; it had one of those screw caps that never reaches an acceptable level of tightness. You could tighten slightly, and then it would just push through to become loose again. I wasn’t intending to drink the whole bottle on holiday, so it presented a problem as to how I was going to get my booty home without leaking its contents all over my bag.

We decided we would just buy some tape, and began the quest of trying to find some. In the UK you can buy tape nearly anywhere, and if you don’t know where to buy something, there’s always the pound shop.

It’s not like that in Spain. They have those tat (I mean ‘gift’) shops everywhere, and they look like our pound shops, but while they do occasionally branch out from stocking tat – such as plastic gorillas you squeeze to make boobies pop out - to carrying a few practical items, tape isn’t one of them. Similarly, supermarkets limit their wares exclusively to food and beverage items.

On the last day it was starting to get desperate, when I saw a shop called Bricolaje, and a conversation I once had with one of our Spanish student lodgers came to mind. I had been telling him about how I was going to be doing ‘DIY’ that weekend, and he didn’t understand what it was. After explaining, I asked what DIY would be called in Spain, and after thinking about it for a while, he decided it was probably ‘bricolaje’. So that bit of knowledge proved useful and I was able to procure some tape and make sure my RuaVieja made it back to Manchester. For good measure I also put it in a ziplock bag. There was a tiny bit of leakage within there, but nothing significant.

I haven’t had occasion to try it again since my return, but I’m looking forward to doing a comparison test with Tesco’s Grappa JuliaSuperiore

One final thing; here’s an interesting site with a little more info. It doesn’t look the most professional, but there are some interesting things on there.


 “Sun, sea, sex and sangria” is a phrase you might have heard before – maybe you saw it on a t-shirt in the 80s. It’s a piece of alliteration that is commonly used to flippantly describe Spanish holidays. Well, we all know what the first three are, but what is sangria?

Sun, sea...
It’s a drink. Yes, we knew that, but can I be more specific? The answer to that question is: only a little. See, I’d never had sangria before. A bit of checking on Wikipedia reveals that it’s a wine-based punch, popular in Spain, Portugal and Argentina. I kind of knew that without really knowing it, but that’s as far as Wikipedia goes. It seems the recipe is variable.

It’s not something I’d normally think about drinking but… I do write a booze blog, and I was on holiday in Spain. Mrs Cake and I saw another guest at our apartment complex in Cala Vadella carrying a jug back from the bar to the pool area and we thought, we should do that. and sangria
So we did. Unfortunately, the barmaid had nearly finished making it by the time it occurred to me that it might be useful to take note of what she was putting in it. She definitely put some vermouth in there (Martini Rosso, I think), but other than that and the various chopped fruits, I didn’t see. There were at least 4 spirits, and I think she may have topped it up with cranberry juice, or something like that. If it was wine, it was wine out of a carton rather than a bottle. There were also chunks of orange, lemon, apple and kiwi which we enjoyed eating after the drink was gone.

Nevertheless, it was delicious. I was particularly hot that day, and I could have dispatched that whole jug in an instant. Mrs Cake suggested I nip back to the apartment and pick up a beer instead, to ensure I left some for her.

Hierbas Ibicencas and Absinthe

A few years ago Mrs Cake went to Ibiza with some of her friends. She brought a whole bunch of presents back for me, and one was a bottle of Hierbas Ibicencas. What’s that? This might provide the kind of information you’d like to know 

If you can’t be bothered to read all that, it’s an interesting Ibizan alcoholic drink, made from herbs such as rosemary and thyme, and it tastes very aniseedy. The most interesting thing about it is that (as you can see from the various pictures) there are all twigs in the bottle. I’m still fairly new to this booze blogging lark, but I haven’t seen that anywhere else yet.

It took me quite a while to polish off that first bottle, but I used to down a small glass while I was cooking from time to time. I think it’s intended more as an after dinner type thing – a digestif, which just sounds like trying to make a legitimate excuse for having a drink to me. Look, do you want a drink? Yes. Then have one. You don’t need to say, I’ve finished me dinner, I’d better have a digestif… I don’t know: them Europeans.

So, I did decide that should I go to Ibiza, and providing it wasn’t too expensive, I would get another bottle of Hierbas Ibicencas. It turns out it’s not too expensive, but to be fair, it’s difficult to find any booze in Ibiza that’s too expensive – unless you go in the clubs. It’s all I could do to make sure I didn’t buy everything.

The first place I saw Hierbas Ibicencas was in the small shop in our apartment complex. A 20cl bottle was 4.90. Now, I’m not a massive fan of aniseed, so I figured a 20cl bottle would suit me just fine, and I like those hip flask shaped bottles you can get.

Mrs Cake said I’d probably be able to get it a lot cheaper, so I figured it would be best to wait until we got to the town of Santa Eulalia before ultimately deciding on a purchase. Oddly, all the bottles in the town were more expensive. Only by another euro or so, but you know, once you’ve seen something for one price, you don’t want to pay more. So it wasn’t until we had a day in Ibiza Town that I got around to buying.

It was a shop by the marina where they actually had four types you could try. Mrs Cake asked the proprietor if we could, and he asked which one we wanted to try. I thought that was a bit tight – I wanted to try them all and then decide which one I wanted to buy. He indicated that two of the four on offer were the best – one had an alcohol content of around 25%, and the other 35%. Well, you know me – when given a choice, the strongest wins. I tried them both anyway. The first (lower alcohol) was sweet and tasted just like the bottle that Mrs Cake had bought me all that time ago. The second was much more to my taste; more savoury, less sticky, more like a spirit. This was something I could drink for relaxation in an evening, if I fancied a change from the usual whisky or grappa. I made my purchase. I think it was 4.30.

One thing I didn’t realise before I started booze shopping was that they also make absinthe in Ibiza. It has a similar aniseedy taste to Hierbas Ibicencas, so I suppose that makes sense. As soon as I saw I could get a small bottle of that for a similar price, I figured it would be rude not to, really.

The first time I ever bought a bottle of absinthe, it cost me over £40… which means it is still the second most expensive bottle I ever bought. It was back in 2000, when (it seemed) people in the UK were first starting to hear about it – a psychedelic alcoholic drink that would make you hallucinate and had caused Van Gogh to sever his ear. How could I resist that? I’ve got two ears…

Another explanation for the Van Gogh thing is that his flatmate, Paul Gauguin put glue on the phone, and then went out and called it. I have no idea if that one’s true. It seems unlikely, since the glue would have to remain sticky for however long it took to get to the phone, and then stick instantly and permanently once Van Gogh put it to his ear.

I had to order a bottle from an advert in Viz magazine, and have it delivered to a friend’s house (I was still living with my parents at the time).

I lived in Rotherham, and my friend in Newcastle, so it was a couple of hours of train journey before I could get my mitts on it. That meant I’d had at least four (possibly six) cans of beer before I got to his house, and it wasn’t many more minutes after that that we were having a joint.

I found out then that these aren’t ideal starting conditions for drinking absinthe. Absinthe is typically around 70% ABV, and we would have been drinking fairly quickly. I soon fell asleep - sitting, with my head on my knees.

That wasn’t the end of the evening though. If a university education taught me anything, it was how to prolong and survive a session. A brief powernap later, and I was compus mentus enough to rejoin the party. Later that night I got lost on the way to the toilet – and not for the last time, but there were definitely no ear-severing incidents. Being drunk in other people’s houses is confusing.

If you check this Wikipedia article, you can see that there’s quite a complicated procedure for drinking absinthe. The booklet that came with the bottle described some variation of the Bohemian Method, saying you should pour a little absinthe over a teaspoon of sugar then set it alight. You would then watch it burn until the sugar caramelises. We had a lot of trouble with that. For one thing, what’s the point in having extra strong alcohol if you’re going to burn some of the alcohol off? Secondly, how do you know when the sugar has caramelised? I still don’t know the answer to that one (or the first one for that matter).

Knowing that the longer we allowed the vapour to burn, the less alcohol would remain on the teaspoon, we soon decided that the sugar had probably caramelised. The next step then, is to tip the contents of the spoon into a glass of absinthe and stir it around. This obviously caused the absinthe in the glass to catch fire, and there were no instructions as to what we should do with this – blow it out? Leave it? Drink it?

I can see now, from the Wikipedia article that you’re supposed to pour a shot of water into the glass to extinguish the flames. That definitely didn’t form part of the instructions we were following. We ended up doing a combination of the first two ideas, before doing the third. None of the sugar had dissolved, which perhaps is the purpose of this whole rigmarole, so we ended up pouring burning sugar granules down our throats.

It’s not entirely pleasant, but I have repeated this ritual a few times since. You can’t really drink absinthe straight because it burns your gullet like crazy. It immediately gives you the alcoholic equivalent of bread chest. The Bohemian method also gets you smashed real quick, because if you do follow those instructions, you feel instantly changed, and ready to party.

I’ll be trying the “French Method” shortly, so keep a look out for my post on that.

Duty Free

If you remember from my preview, I was really looking forward to hitting the duty free. It was something of a disappointment though, when we finally got to it. The booze shops in Ibiza generally are so good and the booze so cheap that duty free really isn’t all that special. Nevertheless, despite being tempted on numerous occasions throughout the holiday (one of my targets, Cutty Sark was selling at 11 euros) I told myself that once I’d gotten the aguardiente de orujo for drinking during the holiday, and bottles of hierbas ibicencas and absinthe for taking home, I would save my booze budget for the duty free.

As I say, it was a little disappointing. I’d been hoping to pick up some special scotch, but there wasn’t all that much in that respect (there was a disproportionate amount of brandy, and I wasn’t in the market for that). They did have a Highland Park, but it wasn’t the 21 years old at 47.5% ABV that I had been hoping to find, instead it was a bottle marked “1998” that had been “bottled exclusively for international travel” and the alcohol content was only 40%. I was still tempted, and at 53 euros it was still within my budget, but the alcohol content put me off, and I didn’t even bother to find out what the 1998 meant – was that when it was bottled? Or was that when it began aging?

When we arrived back in Manchester, and passed through that last duty free shop that you get to before entering arrivals, there was a Highland Park marked “2001”. So further investigation will be necessary for future occasions.

The wrong Dewar's
There was no Cutty Sark, but they did have my other target, Dewar’s 12 Year Old. I hadn’t realised it was a blend, but apparently they age the whisky for a year after it has been blended also, and it was recommended in my whisky book, 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die. I think that’s the first time I’ve seen an aged blend.

Having checked my book again last night, I’m not actually sure it’s the same one, though. The one in the book has a black label, and says “Special Reserve”. Mine has a blue label, and says, “Double Aged”. Yeah, it looks like I didn’t even get the right one. Goddammit!

It was 35 euros, which has converted to £28 (for a litre), so I’ve got a lot of booze budget left for the future, and I believe this will be the most expensive blended scotch I’ve bought so far, though that only equates to £19.60 for 70cl, which is actually only a little bit more expensive than the Black Grouse.

 The only issue now is that it will be quite a while before I can buy anything else because I’ve got a lot of unfinished bottles and now four unopened ones (my brother-in-law brought a bottle of Maker’s Mark over from Canada with him), so I need to make a bit of headway and at least finish one of my brandies and one of my blended scotches first. There are certainly many adventures to come.

You can find a review of the Dewar’s (the one that I actually bought) here. Perhaps I ought to have read that before I travelled, as it looks like I might have another uninspiring blend to get rid of… a litre of it this time. I probably should have gone for a single malt, but there wasn’t that much to choose from. Well, you never know; I might still like it – Scotchnoob has based his review on a miniature, and I could name many times that I haven’t started to appreciate a whisky until I’m halfway down the bottle, so we’ll see.


Shall we have a conclusion, then? We may as well. The main thing I’d like you to take away from all this is that Spain is an excellent place to go if you’re a booze tourist. The shops are filled with tons of fascinating bottles of various things, and most of them are very reasonably priced. You can drink virtually anywhere, and they produce a lot of their own varieties so there’s plenty you can bring back to impress your friends with. If your friends aren’t impressed, you can gaze at them lovingly, and enjoy a nice drink on your own.

I certainly made sure I sampled a few things this time round, and there’s plenty left over for future visits. I didn’t think about it at the time, but it might be worthwhile seeing if there’s a hierbas ibicencas producer that you can visit. How likely it is I’m ever going to return to Ibiza again is hard to say at this point, but we had such a lovely time that I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.

I hope this has been of some help to you, and if not, at least a little bit interesting. Look out for future Booze Tourism posts, and the follow up on that bottle of absinthe. I’ll see you soon.