Thursday, 24 January 2013

You can even taste whisky on the internet...

Good evening everybody. It’s a rare Thursday post for me this week, since tomorrow I’m hoping to be heading to a secluded cottage in North Wales straight after work (weather permitting), so there won’t be time for any of this blogging nonsense – just time to pick up a bag and grab a few bottles of hooch to keep the missus and I warm.

Shall we get on with it then? This week’s post is a collection of a few random and some specific thoughts in relation to the Manchester Whisky Club’s recent online twitter tasting. Here we go.

Prior to the first physical meeting of the newly formed Manchester Whisky Club (due later this month), we first had a Thursday night Twitter tasting. Thursday is the new Friday, and indeed a great time to drink whisky - hey! It's Thursday tonight! Excuse me... [squeeeeak, pop, pour, sniff, sip, aaaaah!] 

Club founder Andy had already provided each member with two mystery drams that had arrived in the post, all mummified in bubblewrap and sellotape, and finally, after about 2 months of them sitting there in my booze cupboard, it was time to take them out and put them in glasses. Exciting times.

This would actually be my first ever whisky tasting of any kind – other than those that have just been me, in my house, tasting whiskies, occasionally with one or two friends there – and an excellent chance to get some kind of impression of what the club and its members would be like – not to mention finally finding out what this whole Twitter jobbie was all about.

You may remember in my earlier Manchester WhiskyClub post that I was wondering if there would be any female members. Well, there are. I have to admit to being a little surprised – pleasantly, I might add. No, I’m not looking for any [happily married, thanks for asking, and there’s only room for one whisky drinker in my house], but it’s a relief that this pursuit isn’t going to be one of those things that only men do – like golf. You see women playing golf, but you can’t help thinking; why are they playing golf? Not that they shouldn’t – in spite of what some of my friends might say. No, it’s just a bit weird.

There weren’t too many members joining us for the tasting (I’m not going to check, but I think it was 6-9), but I’m going to say it was a successful first event. I’m sure everyone had a lot of fun, and I think Andy has got to be optimistic about how this whole thing is going to pan out. It was a nice group of people, and I’m sure everyone enjoyed it.

What happened then, was that we all gathered around our computers with our tasting glasses, logged into Twitter just before 7pm, and waited for it to begin. I poured both of my samples into glasses at the same time, just to let those aromas develop a little.

I got my Dulux colour cards out ahead of time, and tried to see if I could find a match for each sample. Sample 1 was very pale, and mapped very tidily to ‘Desert Island 4’, while sample 2, easily the darker of the two, turned out to be one of the few shades Dulux haven’t mastered yet. There are no photos to show you of that, but if it doesn’t make sense, check this earlier post for a bit of context.

After a brief welcome then, we got started on the nosing of sample 1. Being hopeless at nosing, I wasn’t able to identify any smells in particular, but everyone else had a damn good go, and I found it quite educational, just seeing what they had to say.

I think I moved on to the actual tasting way ahead of everyone else, but whaddayagonna do? I was ready. There was something very familiar about it that I couldn’t quite place. It was soft, oily and mouthcoating – very classy, but perhaps one that I might not have appreciated fully in the past. Light and summery, I believe was the consensus among the other members.

All my impressions soon made sense when its identity was revealed; Speyside’s anCnoc 12 year old. I had had it before; I remember Mrs Cake buying me a bottle one Saturday when I was in a foul mood. I think we’d had a disagreement, and she was trying to cheer me up. It’s not related, of course, but it was the same day she bought her dad a bottle of Ledaig 10 year old. She took it to Canada for him, where he had one taste and decided he didn’t like it, before sending it back with her for me. I thought it was delicious.

I couldn’t recall being so fond of the anCnoc on previous occasions, but it was well over a year ago, and it’s only just over a year ago that I stopped putting ice in my whisky. This is definitely one to get again some time.

We spent half an hour on the first dram. I was finished well in advance, and couldn’t wait to get started on number 2. On nosing it struck me as being quite complex, but I couldn’t detect anything in particular. While the others participants showed me up with mentions of vanilla, caramel and spice, I got into the tasting.

Salty at first, I found that it developed as I allowed it to sit on my tongue before finishing with a touch of (not unpleasant) bitterness at the end. Very different to the first, but in my opinion no worse for it. I couldn’t actually decide which I preferred (possibly the 1st, but I’d need a few more tastes to be sure).

On the reveal I learned something that I’d been meaning to test for some time – that I can’t necessarily tell a blend from a single malt. I always thought it would be easy due to the bitter grain taste – which perhaps explains the slight bitterness on the finish of this 2nd dram. However, the bitterness was not even out of the ordinary for some single malts, and the complexity and smoothness was unlike any blend I’ve found up to now. There were also reports that a drop of water would eliminate the bitterness, but I wasn’t really bothered about trying that.

This 2nd sample then was the 13 year old Whyte and Mackay which should retail around £20. That’s damn good value. It actually reminded me of the 12 year old Balvenie, though I was pretty sure it wasn’t that, as I actually liked the sample immediately.

Yeah, I’m struggling to get into that Balvenie. I kind of feel it’s like a puzzle that I have to solve, and for that reason, if I don’t know which of my whiskies to dip into on any occasion, that’s the one I’ve been going for.

Whisky probably shouldn’t be like a puzzle, should it? You should just be able to enjoy it. Puzzles are good too though – as long as you can solve them. Otherwise they leave you with feelings of inadequacy. I don’t think it’s as important to get the Balvenie as it would be to be able to finish a Sudoku puzzle though. My feeling on Sudoku is always, what’s the point, why don’t you just read a book? But I’d really want to be able to finish one if I ever started one in the first place.

Come to think of it, I did start one once, but just decided it was stupid before I wasted too much time on it. I ask you; putting numbers in boxes. Tsk.

Once again, time will tell and presumably, thanks to joining the Manchester Whisky Club, tastes will develop. I’ve got a lot of tastings to attend over the next 12 months, so as ever, I’ll keep you posted.

So that’s it for now. Check back next week, when I’m planning to return to the subject of distilled pomace, and describing what happened when I tasted a budget grappa alongside a very cheap orujo. Not to be missed, I’m sure.

Have a great weekend, and don’t forget you can now follow me on Twitter - @alcothusiast.


Friday, 18 January 2013

Out with the old [brandy], and in with the new

Last night I said a final farewell to the litre bottle of St Remy that Mrs Cake had brought back from Paris, and a quick perusal of my previous posts shows that I barely even acknowledged its existence. Well, that’s not fair. Once I’d gotten past the incredibly sturdy cardboard box and the plug-ugly bottle, and then allowed its charms to grow on me over a few weeks, it proved to be a very enjoyable brandy. So I’d like to pay it a little tribute today.

“Rémy XO is a brandy of character with complex aromas and a robust taste. It is recognised for its elegance, smoothness and the way it lingers on the palate. Enriched by a multitude of flavours that make it irresistible to the connoisseur, St-Rémy should be savoured at leisure in an intimate setting, as an aperitif or after-dinner drink”

So says St Remy cellar master, Martine Pain and yes, I could go with that – robust taste. It’s certainly preferable to the Courvoisier VSOP that, due to its bitter aftertaste, I keep being so disparaging about. No such problems here.

luminous amber?
The website claims it’s a luminous amber colour, again showing how much variety there can be in shades of amber – and indeed, luminosity. Does this look luminous amber to you? I would say it’s dark. I don’t know; really fricking dark.

In terms of nose, it’s supposed to be “mature… followed by a… woody and vanilla aroma” then with ripe fruit, jam and honey. Once again I failed to detect any of that. On the palate: “gingerbread, candied apricots, dates, figs and nuts… subtly spicy and aromatic”. Gingerbread?

I was thinking for a while that a litre of it was going to be hard to shift (the last time Mrs Cake brought me a bottle of brandy back from holiday, it stuck around for 3 years), so I took it on my golf-related stag do to help account for a bit of it, but it came as some surprise yesterday when I could tell by the trickle emerging from the bottle that it wasn’t much longer for this world. I hate dark bottles  – I always like to e able to see how much is left.

Now that I’ve had time to properly appreciate it, I think for the time being I am going to have to award this brandy the accolade of “Best Brandy I Have Owned So Far”. No, it doesn’t have much competition, but as you will see, I intend to work on that. I’d have to say the Cardinal Mendoza is a challenger, but I was still drinking my spirits with ice when I had a bottle of that (imagine!). In fact, I had thought this was only good enough to drink with ice at first. How wrong I was.

It’s good stuff. As I say, it may not be the most enticing bottle in the Duty Free shop, but you could do a lot worse. I’m sure it didn’t cost much (Mrs Cake wouldn’t want to waste too much money on it), and it’s probably one I would never have picked for myself, but I’ll keep fond memories of the short time we spent together: Me, holding the glass up to the light and admiring it. That brandy wore its glass like lingerie. It looked good, and it tasted soft and sweet, but also a little fiery - like a beautiful lady. Mmm…

Sorry. Did I type that out loud?

 I didn’t even ask Mrs Cake to bring me any brandy (though I was going to), so it was a nice surprise when she did. And now it’s gone, I can move on to my next one.

I’ve always thought that brandy is an easy spirit to like in comparison with other spirits. Whisky, for instance, can take a bit of getting into. In my experience, people don’t even try to like vodka or tequila – they just treat them as fasttracks to getting drunk. As for gin… well, that’s just for drinking with tonic, isn’t it?

I do have a healthy appreciation for brandy already, but I’m nowhere near as experienced in it as I am in the field of whisky, so with my next purchase it was time to tread some new ground.

I don’t want to get all factual on your ass here - as ever, if you want to know factual stuff, you’re on the internet already, use it. Wikipedia is a decent place to start. No, this is a blog, not an encyclopaedia…

There are numerous countries that produce brandy, but French brandy seems to fall into three categories, Cognac and Armagnac – named after the regions that produce them - and… other. St Remy falls into the other category.

Having tried one or two brands of Cognac previously, I decided to keep an eye out for some Armagnac. If you look in the supermarket though, most types of brandy available are cognac – that’s your Courvoisier, Remy Martin, Martell etc.

Cognac is distilled twice in pot stills, and is bottled fairly young. Armagnac on the other hand, is distilled only once, in column stills, and as a result is known for being a less smooth spirit, though it tends to be aged for longer, allowing for development of the spirit and certain aromatic elements. Presumably this makes for a more complex spirit. I’ll be the judge of that!

It is produced in smaller quantities than Cognac, and tends to be made by independent producers, as opposed to the giant brands that dominate Cognac production.

Really, that information was more than enough for me. You had me at ‘less smooth spirit’. I made sure to stop by the booze aisle in the big Tesco the last time I was there, and had a look around. As I say, I saw five or six varieties of Cognac and, hidden away, underneath the shelf all the other brandies were on, and at the side, next to one of those large labels that sticks out saying “Whisky”, was a single bottle of Armagnac, £20. It didn’t look like much – in fact, it looked more like a bottle of balsamic vinegar. The label was tatty, and it said “Tesco” on it, so this was clearly the bottled for Tesco variety. I decided I didn’t really want to risk that.

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that I got my next chance. This time I’d called into the Marks and Spencer supermarket in town, armed with £9 in vouchers that were the reward for using my credit card so profligately.

Well, they had an Armagnac and it came in a nice box with a picture of a very attractive teardrop shaped bottle on it. It was 20 years old and £33. Most importantly, it looked interesting enough to part with my cash for – and at 20 years old, that meant that I would be beating my oldest spirit record by 2 years within a couple of weeks of setting it. I had to go for it really – particularly since I found another voucher offering £3 off purchases of food and wine. I asked if brandy counted as wine, and the cashier said it did.

I’ve been wondering since the last time I had a look at the booze in Marks and Spencer, whether their own brands are any good. Every supermarket has its own brands, but you’d generally expect them to be pretty poor. Marks and Spencer have a bit of a reputation for quality though, and when I saw they have their own brand of Islay scotch for around the price of an actual bottle of Laphroaig, it made me wonder. In this instance though, £33 seems far too cheap for a 20 year old spirit in a fancy bottle…

What a bottle though! Look at that! I love that solid glass bit at the bottom. I let it sit on the coffee table for a few hours, just so I could keep looking at it. It reminds me of the body of a beautiful electric guitar, curvy and solid.

Now, a couple of weeks have passed since I wrote the St Remy tribute, and followed it up with the story of how I came into possession of my 20 year old Armagnac, so I’ve easily had plenty  much chance to ease that oversized cork out and splash it out into a glass. It certainly made Christmas with the family easier to handle! Just being a bit flippant there. I did take it with me, and enjoy it on a few consecutive nights, playing Trivial Pursuit and watching Preppers UK on the unbelievably annoying SKY box.

Do you know? I know what they mean by ‘rougher spirit’ too. It really is, but it’s no less enjoyable for it. It has an unusual mouthfeel, but also a complex taste. I can’t make a direct comparison with any particular brand of Cognac, since I passed the last of the Courvoisier onto someone else some time ago, but I can be fairly certain that I’m enjoying this one much more. It isn’t as sweet for a start, nor is its aftertaste bitter. In addition you get a nice burn, which I think is an essential part of any spirit drinking experience – though I’m sure real aficionados will disagree with that.

There’s still just about more than half a bottle to go, so it’s a good sign that I like this one so much already. Long may it continue. I read on Wikipedia that once opened, Armagnac stays drinkable for years – unlike scotch that is supposed to oxidise after just 3 months – so I don’t need to hurry on this one, which is a good thing because I’ve opened a few bottles of special whisky recently, and I need to start polishing them off.

It could be a while before I actually take a risk on M&S own brand scotch, but at least I’ve been able to find out what their Armagnac is like, and maybe that will be a suitable barometer. It makes me wonder though, what’s the Tesco Armagnac like? I suppose I’m going to have to get that one now as well.

It’s just occurred to me that perhaps I should offer some comparison with the St Remy that opened this article. Well the reason I hadn’t before is that I don’t really consider them all that comparable. It’s almost as if they are a completely different spirit. Brandy comes in many guises – the Armagnac being a kind of amber colour, while the St Remy was more of a dark ruby, and in terms of flavour… sure, they’re both unmistakably brandy, but they belong to different genres. I’d like to be able to break it down to constituent flavours for you, but I’ve still got a lot to learn in that regard, and I’ve got nothing for you at the moment. Which is best? It’s all a matter of taste, isn’t it? The St Remy, I’m sure, is better value for money, but the Armagnac comes in that impressive bottle, and that’s got to count for something (a lot). I’m going to have to hold off on the matter of flavour. There’s still half a bottle of Armagnac to go, and I’m not going to make the same mistake I always do where I judge something too soon. I’m just going to enjoy it.

Now, as I write this we’re just approaching the weekend once more, and once again it has the potential for being a good one. What have we got going on? Well, I’ll tell you. First, you should know that Drink it How You Like it has joined the 21st century, and now has its own Twitter account; @alcothusiast, so you can follow me, and keep up to date with what’s going on there. I’m not really sure what the point of it is yet, or how I’m going to use it, but I understand lots of people are using it to their advantage. I’ll probably just use it to let you know what I’m up to, and maybe throw some random thoughts out there, see what comes back.

I can’t say I was particularly bothered about joining all the younger generation and the celebrities in this whole Twitter debacle, but The Manchester Whisky Club that I blogged about last week was holding its first Twitter tasting event last night, so I figured I’d join up for that. You can read more about it on Twitter (#mcrwc), or in a future Drink it How You Like it post (presumably).

What else is going on this weekend? Well, I’ll be meeting up with some friends for my latest pub crawl, which has been christened birthdaywinesuitchops - presumably because it’s someone’s birthday, but also because last time we were out we thought it would be fun to do a pub crawl where we all drink wine instead of beer, and wear suits. The ‘chops’ part relates to the fact that one of the group has finally given in, and decided to grow some sidies. I’m not sure whether I’ll stick to the part that says we have to drink wine, but we’ll see what the mood is like on the day.

This pub crawl thing is getting pretty desperate now. We need a new town or something. When you have to start drinking wine and wearing suits just to make it interesting, something’s wrong! It would definitely be better if it were summer.

Finally, there’s just one more thing I want to promote. My friend Rob Riot’s band, PreciousMcKenzie has a free gig at Gulliver’s on Oldham Street (Mcr) tomorrow, so I’m considering popping in for some of that. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

Have a good weekend then, and I’ll see you on Twitter and back here next week for another post. Nice.

Friday, 11 January 2013

New things to do in 2013... Manchester Whisky Club

Happy Friday everybody! And happy birthday to Clare at the Feast and Glory blog. I’m sure she’ll be indulging in some gourmet food and copious quantities of sauvignon blanc this evening, and why the hell not?

It’s just a quick post from me this week, but next week I’ll be back with something a little meatier. Here we go.

My friend David and I joined the Manchester Whisky Club recently, which is a new initiative to bring whisky enthusiasts (like me and my friend David) together… to what end I’m not entirely sure just yet, but I expect there will be some drunkenness, some laughs and plenty of tastings.

Membership is £15 per year, for which you receive a membership pack (including membership card – oooh!) and two “sample drams” for a ‘twitter tasting’ to be held shortly so that might see Dihuli getting its own Twitter account – watch this space.

With the Twitter tasting being a good few weeks away when I received my samples, I obviously couldn't resist at least opening them up to have a sniff. I'm looking forward now to actually trying them.

Membership numbers are strictly limited, so it may already be too late for you to join. Nevertheless, meetings are to be held monthly at the Lass o’ Gowrie pub, though you can’t attend unless you’re a member. Visit the club website for details of how you can join.

The first ever actual meeting is to be held in January, and details of future meetings are already up on the site. There is an additional charge of £12 to £25 for each meeting, depending upon what is being tasted. It looks good, and it isn’t run for profit, so you can be fairly sure that the price you’re paying is fair. A good night out costs £30-£50 these days (and that’s a conservative estimate), so if I can get nicely drunk at these meetings, it will be a bargain.

The club is run by Andy, who I haven’t met face to face yet, but I have been in touch quite a few times on the e-mail, and he seems like a good guy. I’m certainly looking forward to the first event, and the possibility of some future adventures to write about on this blog.

I’m particularly interested to see what the other members are like, and for some reason I suspect that David and I will be the youngest. I wonder also whether there will be any women there… not that I’m looking to meet any, but probably not.

Well, that’s it for this week. I don’t have any major drink-related plans this weekend, but I will hopefully be dipping into a few of my special spirits, plus there’s a new bottle of budget vermouth to open, so I’m looking forward to that.

I think the missus and I are going to a ‘decorating party’ on Saturday, helping some friends to strip their walls. They promised beer and food, and since I’ve never been to anything like that before, I’m hoping it literally means drinking beer and stripping walls at the same time, rather than doing the work and having the reward later. We shall see!

Sunday of course brings the big match, Manchester United vs Liverpool, so I’ll be going to John’s house to watch that. We’re all Liverpool fans by the way, but don’t let that prejudice you against us.

Whatever you’re doing this weekend, do it well eh? I’ll see you next week.

Friday, 4 January 2013

What can I do with this bottle of... Scotch?

Happy new year everybody! It’s a sad time around here – after 14 whole days off that went by in a supersonic alcohol-fuelled instant, it’s time to be getting back to work. Of course, returning to work is horrible any time you have more than a standard weekend off, it’s just that 14 days is a long time to have passed by so quickly. The best bit is the whole period from the beginning to the time when you realise there will actually be a day soon when you have to go back to work. Being able to forget about work altogether is wonderful, but it just makes it worse for those last few days when you start counting the minutes, and doing as little as possible, hoping that it will make time go slower. And now it’s back to the endless cycle of looking forward to every coming weekend.

I did have a whole new year’s eve themed post planned, but I barely even got near a computer in my time off, so while it was written, I never got around to posting it. It seems a bit irrelevant now, so I may just lift a few things from it for upcoming posts – or save it till next year.

Yes, the missus and I spent the entire holiday drunk and recovering from being drunk. It was certainly never the intention, but I think I ended up drinking every single day except New Year’s Day itself. I had planned to have a drink that evening, figuring it would be necessary to make me feel better, but by the time evening came, I felt so ill I could barely keep the Chinese takeaway down that I’d been looking forward to all fricking day. One day we even drank all day, from breakfast to bedtime, but more on that another time.

I’ll be going on a bit of a detox now then, I think. I’ve actually made myself sick of booze, which isn’t good news for you – assuming you like the blog. By the time you read this, a couple of days will have passed though, and I should be back to my booze-craving best. I wouldn’t worry too much; the festive period did provide a few more things for me to write about, but we’ll get to those later no doubt.

Without any further prevarication then, let’s get on to this week’s post.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a “What can I do with this bottle of…?” feature, so it’s about time I think, for a new one.

Now, in case I haven’t made it blatantly obvious in previous posts, I like scotch. But that doesn’t mean I have to like all scotch. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that some scotch is bad. I’ll bet you knew that already. Nevertheless, if you did happen to come into possession of a bottle of scotch that you can’t glean any enjoyment from on its own, what can you do with it, short of giving it to the red nosed old man at the bus stop? And I don’t mean Father Christmas. The one sitting by the pile of sick. That one.

Well, this post has been in construction for quite some time, so we’ll be meeting a few different brands in our experiments, and I’m actually going to structure this post by brand, just to make it a bit less messy. To be fair, most of these brands aren’t actually what I’d call bad scotch. Some are ok, some are even pretty good, but all were pretty much the worst scotch I had available at the time of each experiment. Let’s get started, shall we?

Glen Moray Classic

That bit I said before about some of the scotches not actually being bad: this is the one that actually is bad. Really bad. Sorry to my friend who bought me this as a birthday present. Your intentions were honourable, and I sure appreciate the effort, but this is the worst scotch I have ever tasted, and it’s a single malt at that. In fact, it’s the cheapest single malt I’ve seen in the shops so far (around £17), and it’s cheaper than two of the blends that are coming up later in the post.

Glen Moray is an insipid urine colour and has a prominent metallic taste that lingers long past its welcome. Some might call that a ‘finish’, but the only good place for a metallic finish is on a new car. Good points? It has a cork rather than a screw cap, so at least it sounds good when you open it. You should probably always be wary of single malt scotch that doesn’t carry an age statement – unless it’s cask strength, let’s say.

After a few attempts of drinking it on its own, I tried a couple of experiments. First, the Whisky Mac, which is simply scotch with a splash of ginger wine. You can read a little bit more about that drink here. I’m not massively into ginger I’m afraid, and despite it being a strong flavour, it couldn’t prevent that metallic taste from the Glen Moray cutting right through. This was the only occasion I can remember this year of actually throwing a drink down the sink, rather than have to finish it. If I’m only going to have one drink this evening, I said to myself, I don’t want it to be this one.

This next drink, I first tried with one of my other blends, but I’ll come to that shortly. It was successful with that one, so I thought I’d give it a try with Glen Moray, and surprisingly the results were pleasing here, too.

the soft touch family
The Soft Touch is 1 measure of whisky, half a measure of London dry gin and half a measure of triple sec, stirred with ice and topped up with soda. It’s not a strongly flavoured drink, but the gin adds a nice floral touch and the soda makes it satisfyingly refreshing. I got the recipe from the rumhowlerblog website. If you haven’t visited before, Rumhowler is well worth a look, both for researching bottles of all the various kinds of liquor, and also for serving suggestions for each one.

After that, the Glen Moray remained untouched until the drunken chess match that I played with Phil earlier this year. I took it along as something to neck rather than to enjoy – since I knew that would be the order of the day. I still wasn’t able to finish it that day, so a week or so later I just poured what was left into a glass, and did what had to be done.

bargain Whyte and MacKay
Whyte and Mackay Special

Whyte and Mackay was an impulse buy, when I saw it on offer for £12 in Tesco. I’d never tried it before, but judging by the blurb on the label, it looked like it was quite highly thought of. I don’t know how much credence you can give to that, mind; I’m sure Bell’s is highly thought of among their marketing department.

Both the malt whiskies and the grain whiskies that make up the blend are aged, though for an unspecified amount of time, and I would expect that is probably the case with all blends, isn’t it? Most, at least.  Scotchnoob suggests grain whiskies need to be aged for around 17 years before they start to taste good, but I’m fairly sure a blend at the lower end of the spectrum isn’t going to include any that are that old. Probably even grain whiskies start to get expensive at 17 years old.

I did buy it just to see what it was like, expectations low, and I wasn’t overawed by any means. I’d like to say it has a dark flavour, but I don’t see how you could have any inkling of what I mean by that. As you know, I’m woefully inadequate at describing whisky. With each passing glass though, my appreciation deepened. I didn’t mind using it to mix drinks (I think I had at least 3 other whiskies on the go at that point), but nor did I mind drinking it straight, when I didn’t feel like depleting the stocks of my more precious liquors.

The Godfather is a mix of amaretto and scotch. I found it on Wikipedia, and I’m afraid the relative quantities weren’t specified. I mixed at a ratio of 1:1. It was ok, but the Whyte and Mackay was preferable on its own.

I tried the Soft Touch with this one before trying it with the Glen Moray, and was impressed enough to try it with that one, as I said just before. It is nice, but if you like scotch, it’s hard to justify diluting its stronger flavours so much.

mint julep
The Rumhowler also suggests a drink called AlpineMeadows, which is one and a half measures of Glenfiddich 15 year old or Highland Park 12 year old with ¾ of a measure of gin and ¾ of a measure of triple sec, but without soda. That’s very specific, isn’t it? – all those fractions. Clearly Rumhowler has a far more sensitive palate than I do. He’s the drinking equivalent of a musician that insists on playing a ’74 Strat on a record instead of an ’86 one, because he can hear the difference. I certainly didn’t fancy giving any of my Highland Park over to such a mix, and had intended to try it with a cheaper scotch, but on reflection the HP is quite a fine, light-bodied malt, and no doubt that would be instrumental in the outcome of the drink. I just couldn’t see any point in trying it with a blended scotch. Perhaps my palate is developing after all…

My final experiment with Whyte and Mackay was the Mint Julep. Really you should be using bourbon, but I didn’t have any, and I couldn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work with scotch anyway. And it did. It’s just the kind of cocktail I like; press some mint leaves in a glass with a tablespoon of sugar syrup, fill the glass with crushed ice, then pour three measures of whisky over it. Very nice.


what it should look like
Another impulse buy, because I saw on hotukdeals that ASDA were selling bottles for £11. It’s light bodied and light coloured, but again, pretty good for a blend. By the time I got to the stage that I wanted to finish it and make room in the cupboard for a new acquisition, I had gone off mixing drinks somewhat, so I drank nearly all of this straight. I did get around to trying the Bourbon Milk Punch, though.

BMP recipe
what it looked like
Obviously I used Grants instead of bourbon, and the results were satisfactory. Nice and sour, how I like it, but it turned out that the honey didn’t make it into the drink. I think it just went hard, and stayed in the shaker.

My gripe with this drink is the quantity. I don’t think the glass I used is much bigger than the one in the photo in the book, but on seeing that, you’d be expecting something fairly large, instead of the little dribble I got. You’re probably best doubling up on everything to make it worthwhile.

The Black Grouse

The saga of acquiring this bottle has been fully documented already. It is supposed to be the Famous Grouse’s interpretation of the Islay style, but I never quite came to appreciate that. I tasted a little bit of peat smoke… once. It never quite floated my boat, so I did try one drinks combination. Scotch on the rocks with a twist was suggested by an episode of Columbo (see also, the Drinks with convicted killers part 2 post for a full evaluation). It’s exactly what you’d think it is, and I don’t really have anything more to say about it.

Dewar’s 12 Years Old, Double Aged

Ah, the Dewar’s; a litre bottle that I purchased in Duty Free, thinking I was getting something special. But no, that would be the Special Reserve. This isn’t that bad though, actually. It took half a litre, but one day I really started enjoying it, and I was pleased that I still had half a litre left. At first I thought it had that dark flavour that I referred to in describing Whyte and Mackay, but that only lasts the duration of your first sip. After that it seemed to be grain whisky all the way, but it did benefit from holding it in my mouth a lot longer than you normally might. That way I seemed to get a little beyond the grain flavours, and at least to a hint of woodyness.

Now I think I must have been drinking it at the wrong time – like, on a Sunday when I’m coming off a heavy drinking session – because one day I came to appreciate a good deal more complexity in it than was immediately apparent. It’s actually quite delicate for a blend. Let that be a lesson to you; don’t trust your impressions of a spirit the day after a heavy session. And don’t bother drinking your special spirits until you’re fully compus mentus again.

My one experiment with this (so far) is whisky and beer, which was suggested by stupid underdog movie, Bad News Bears, Billy Bob Thornton. We couldn’t have gotten more than 10 minutes in before deciding we knew everything that was going to happen and that we didn’t want to watch the rest, but that was long enough to see the aforementioned Mr Thornton open a can of beer, pour a good quantity away, and then top up the can with whisky. I couldn’t tell you why he didn’t just drink the quantity that he wanted to remove from the can – I would – but he didn’t.

Mrs Cake asked if I’d ever tried that, and I said I thought I recalled doing that thing where you buy a pint of lager and a shot of whisky and drop the shot glass into the beer glass, then drink both. A friend of mine at university did it, and made himself ill. I’m not sure if I’d actually tried it, or if I just remembered him telling me about it, but I know it didn’t make me ill.

So the other Saturday I thought I’d try it as a warm up before going out. I poured myself a can of Holsten Pils and added two shots of Dewar’s 12 year old. I didn’t need to drink any of the lager to make room, as the can was 440ml and the glass was a full pint.

The taste of the Dewar’s permeated the whole of the lager, and in quite a pleasing way. I felt that what I keep referring to as Dewars’ ‘dark’ flavour complemented the lager quite nicely. It just caused me to wonder what the point in it is, though. Presumably it’s a good way of getting a buzz on quickly, but you could do that by downing a double whisky and chasing it with a lager. The taste of both combined isn’t preferable to each on its own, but as I say; the Dewars isn’t that bad a blend in the first place. Perhaps if you were to try this with the Glen Moray Classic, you might perceive more benefit.

I don’t know whether people tend to do this in real life, but the fact the character in the film does is no doubt supposed to communicate something about him, like, I don’t know, he’s a maverick redneck alcoholic.

Drinking out of a glass is a little classier than the beer can method in the film, but that’s not particularly important.

Well, that’s all there is for now. I’m sure I’ll be returning to this theme at some point in the future, so do check back. If you’re looking for more scotch based combinations, your best bet is the Rumhowler blog, as I said before. He suggests a drink for every bottle he reviews, so it’s a useful resource. Most of those whiskies are probably good enough to drink on their own, though.

Just a couple of notes before I go. First this Sunday is the anniversary of my first ever post. This one marks my 65th. I doubt I’ll be able to be so prolific next year, but I’ve enjoyed the journey, and will hopefully be motivated enough to keep the effort up, and keep on improving. So, thanks to everyone that’s read the blog, especially those that have visited regularly. Keep it up.

Finally, just a word on the approaching weekend, and what you can look forward to in the coming weeks. Being that we’ve just had Christmas, I’ve come into a couple of extra bottles of scotch, as you do if you’re the enviable member of your family who routinely gets scotch for Christmas. That brings my current whisky family to 5 members. After conducting an inpromtpu tasting with Paul last week (that will probably come up in this blog at some point), I thought it would be negligent of me not to put all five of these to the test, side by side. So that’s what I’m going to do tonight… after I’ve cleaned the car we’re selling, and taken it where it needs to go…

So it will be Dewar’s 12 year old blended scotch vs Green Spot single pot still Irish whisky, vs Caol Ila 18 year old single malt, vs Balvenie 12 year old “double wood”, vs Gordon and MacPhail Scapa 2001.

It should be interesting. Don’t expect the results straight away mind, I think I have some other posts to get out of the way before I reveal the results of the comparison.

Whatever you’re up to, I hope the new year blues aren’t hitting you too bad. Have a good un, and remember to check back next week for… something else.