Friday, 30 May 2014

Another Christmas in the Canada

So the missus and I have been on our travels again. Yeh, this time it was back to Canada for Christmas with the in-laws. I won’t be doing a play-by-play (at least that’s not the intention), but we do have a lot to get through, so let’s knuckle down, shall we?

Canada, home of the moose. Where, judging by the clothes, people are an unusual shape – I was once given a Canadian hoody as a gift (that said “Salty” on the front in big letters) which had extra-long arms and hand holes that were too small for my hands, but then bloused over the biceps. The head hole was similarly too tight, but there was definite blousing over the chest. It all suggested this particular cut was for an effete superhero, someone big of chest and bicep, but small of head and hands – Captain Salty, presumably. That’s not to mention all the shirts my brother-in-law gets for me that are – get this – slim fit, and of the correct neck measurement, but for some reason are MASSIVE. MASSIVE! And I’m 6 foot 3.

I tried to wear one of the shirts to work recently, with just a jumper. Looking in the mirror, I turned to Mrs Cake and asked, “is the collar on this shirt humourously large?”  I looked like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, only with shit hair, stubble and dark circles under my eyes.

Anyway! I was very much looking forward to going back to Calgary, and to getting away from work for an extended period. Sure, I knew there were going to be awkward moments, even dull ones, but that would be offset by the fun times and by the alcohol. Yes. It was a chance to delve a little deeper into the world of Canadian whisky. I had planned to delve a little into American bourbon too, but that didn’t happen. So, Canadian whisky.

Too much just isn’t an option this time

Better too much than not enough, I am known to say. I even abbreviate it to BTMTNE. Repeat that to yourself a few times, get used to it. It takes a bit of practice.

Sadly, there is such a thing as too much when you’re talking about just the right amount of booze booze to drink for the duration of your holiday. You don’t want to be leaving some behind, or trying to stretch your meagre weight/space allowance to covering half empty (I mean, half full) bottles you weren’t able to finish. Or just chugging it down to get it out of the way… unless you’re a Neanderthal. You’re not a Neanderthal, are you? No, this blog is about enjoying alcohol in a relaxed, sophisticated way (most of the time. Sometimes. Well, it’s supposed to be…)

So, two and a half weeks. That would be spent at various people’s houses, in various places, beer would tend to be available… one bottle of whisky should suffice, right? One?

Mrs Cake and I took a stroll through the snow to the Liquor Depot in Woodbine, Calgary that same day we arrived. We had a few hours to kill before we could permit ourselves to go to bed (in an attempt to defeat jetlag), and a small mission was just the job.

The moustachioed assistant was very enthusiastic in recommending Lot 40, a single pot still rye that he said was good enough to fool the casual scotch drinker (we’ll see about that), but at 50 dollars it wasn’t in my plans just yet. I wanted something cheap, since I was going to be drinking it all in a short space of time – relative to how quickly I normally drink my spirits, which is around 3 months, but then I always have several bottles on the go at once…
My choice was Alberta Springs 10 (40% ABV), which I’d read some good things about in my pre-trip research. It was something around 25 Canadian dollars for 75cl, and I worked it out at the time to be equivalent to £16.19, so that’s pretty cheap. Sometime later I found that I could have gotten it even cheaper from another liquor store, but the Liquor Depot was the only one available to me at that time. And it doesn’t seem to matter as much when you’re dealing in currencies that aren’t as valuable as your own.

To my immense surprise, it didn’t take me very long to drink this at all. Seriously, I really thought it might last the whole holiday. I didn’t even open it on the first night, opting instead to polish off a few beers that had been in the mother-in-law’s fridge since my last visit two years ago, and then try the Finlandia vodka that was part of the welcoming committee she pulled out of the cupboard and instructed me to help dispose of.

Nevertheless it lasted about a week. The killer was the third evening at Mrs Cake’s dad’s where I brought it out on our return from an ice hockey match. He usually brings the booze out, but I don’t like to take liberties, so rather than wait I just put the Alberta Springs on the table and Mrs Cake and her dad both joined me in indulging and then refilling. He even liked it, which surprised me a little as he only seems to like Glenmorangie – and he always drinks it with ice.

On our arrival, two days previously he had brought out all the bottles he wanted me to help him dispose of – you see, people seem to keep bringing him peaty stuff, and he doesn’t like it. I got to finish off bottles of Bruichladdich Peat and Highland Park 12 – as well as try a sampler bottle of Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or, which he had a few of (it seems you got them free with the Original over there).

I was pleased to be able to finish the Highland Park, but you may remember from a pre-Christmas post (though that was an extraordinarily long time ago now) that I had advised Mrs Cake to buy him a bottle of that for Christmas. Fail. We ended up going to the liquor store later (before the planned Christmas with her father – Christmas is complicated with broken families) and getting his favourite, while I would be taking the Highland Park we had bought back home with me – every cloud, indeed.

As for the Bruichladdich; well, I like Bruichladdich, but I wasn’t all that impressed with this expression. Shame. It’s possible it had been sitting in his booze cupboard (already open) for a couple of years.

With Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with the brother-in-law (Brian) and family approaching, and then a couple of nights in the mountains, I knew I was going to get a chance to try another cheap brand. We went to the budget Liquor Superstore where there was a brand at nearly 45% ABV for only 18 dollars. Well, you know me; I was tempted because I like to try the cheap shit – especially if it is particularly strong (which it never is), but instead I went for the Canadian ’83, which I’ve seen attributed to Seagram’s, though nowhere is that name mentioned on the label – or indeed anywhere on the funky, dimpled bottle. It is a standard 40% ABV, and this time the 75cl cost around 20 Canadian dollars, which I worked out to be £12.38.

It stood by my side as Brian and I constructed a Barbie dream house for two hours on Christmas Eve. It fuelled me through the obligatory all-day Christmas session, where at the end, I still felt sober enough to drive (though I didn’t drive, incidentally). It accompanied us to Canmore, where we were based for my first ever skiing trip, and lasted all the way to New Year’s Eve - our last night, that we spent with friends playing Cards Against Humanity

I suppose you must be wondering what the verdict is on these two products. Were they any good? Which is best? Well, first let me apologise for failing to get any tasting notes down – I didn’t manage to get anything specific, but I can tell you, for the minimal outlay, they are very good. Of the two, I did prefer the Alberta Springs. It elicited the most consistent response from my tastebuds with its reliably sweet complexity.

By contrast I’m not sure what was going on with the ’83. On some occasions it was flat and uninteresting, while on others a pleasant sweetness emerged that I could enjoy almost as much as its predecessor.

Even so, the Alberta Springs wasn’t able to break into my top 3 of Canadian whiskies (in ranking order; Crown Royal Black, Crown Royal, Windsor Canadian), all of which are encouragingly affordable, though Crown Royal Black pushes the envelope slightly. I was able to bring a couple of Canadian whiskies back with me, as we’ll see in the next section, so maybe one of those will.

That’s all from me for this week. I’m off to Spain this weekend to hopefully replenish my stocks of brandy, orujo and absinthe, as well as pick up a Duty Free only Highland Park… and spend time with my family, of course! So I might be back posting next weekend, when we’ll look at Part 2…

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Irish Cream Three-Way: Carolan's vs Bailey's vs Ballycastle Premium

For many people, Irish Cream is a staple requirement around Christmas time. That’s why the main supermarkets start a bit of a price war, one that this year led to Baileys being available in Asda for £9. Yes, that’s more than you’d pay for Aldi’s Ballycastle Premium, but as I keep saying, Baileys is the undisputed king, and that’s a pretty good discount (about £5).

For me, Irish Cream is a staple all the time, though particularly in my coffee of a Sunday morning. I’ve been trying other brands, but I’d actually started to think I might never get around to buying a bottle of actual Baileys again, you see it’s hard to justify the usual price tag when the Ballycastle Premium is so damn good. At £9 though, I’d be letting you down if I didn’t give it a shot – especially since all the Carolan’s would soon be gone so, not only did I need a new bottle, but if there was ever going to be a chance to compare two premium Irish Cream brands, this was going to be it.
don't know why I can't rotate this...

Asda actually had a choice of Baileys flavours on offer, but I haven’t gotten around to those yet. It’s the Original I’m interested in at this point. Mrs Cake agreed to join me in a comparative tasting later that afternoon.

Statistics first though; I paid an outrageous £14.50 for the Carolan’s, which equates to £1 per percent of ABV. The Baileys, which is usually pricey, as I said was £9, but here you’re getting a cockle-warming 17%.

In terms of packaging, they are not dissimilar, though Baileys seem to have streamlined their bottle a little, which I actually prefer to the standard Irish Cream receptacle. Baileys has some fun text on the back that says something along the lines of… we like cream and we like spirits. But both together, they said? We just smiled…

So, one comparative tasting with the missus coming up…


The main use we have for Irish Cream is over ice, so that would be where the winner would be decided. I would also try the Baileys in coffee, but that would be just additional to the main experiment. I poured a glass of each product for Mrs Cake and I and repaired to the living room to watch a bit of telly and draw some conclusions.


I couldn't tell any difference. Both look creamy and good, neither show the kind of wateriness you might expect from cheaper brands. Neither are cheap, so all is as it should be. Mrs Cake called them out by sight, but I forgot to ask her what gave it away.


I don’t drink Irish Cream in the same way I drink spirits so nosing doesn’t really come into it. I started with a couple of sips of Carolan’s, and enjoyed it as I had been doing up to now. When I went for a sip of the Bailey’s though, the nose leaps out at you… it’s just so creamy… like good ice cream. And the flavour… is just superb, not a note out of place. Carolan’s is nice, in fact Mrs Cake said she prefers Carolan’s for its unique flavour, but for me, while I enjoy the Carolan’s, moving back to the Baileys makes me exclaim – out loud, things like ‘it’s like chocolate truffles!’. It achieves the ultimate accolade – a drink that is worth savouring every drop so for me, at this point it is still the king.

When it comes to coffee, I already stated in an earlier post that Carolan’s doesn’t go too well. There’s just something a bit weird about it. None of that with Baileys… in fact no other Irish Cream has failed to excel with coffee so far, so that has to be a mark against Carolan’s.

Well, we know now who is the Irish Cream champion among the higher priced category, but we need to know who is really the king though. I had to get a Ballycastle Premium in, didn’t I? Oh yes. So I did.

It has featured on this blog before, but just as a reminder, Ballycastle Premium is the premium expression of Aldi’s flagship own brand. For ABV it matches Baileys with 17% and my latest bottle cost £6.49 – that’s an increase of 50p on last time, though it still represents great value.

There’s no need to go too deeply into this one, so let’s cut to the chase; is it as good as Bailey’s? Well, not quite, but it’s very close. Mrs Cake reckons she prefers the normal Ballycastle to both, but for me the Bailey’s is just slightly more luxurious, slightly better balanced, more creamy, less milky but… you have to remember that pricetag. If you can pick up a Bailey’s consistently for £9 I’d recommend that you do but if you can’t… or if the pounds are a little hard to come by one month… Ballycastle Premium makes an able deputy.

I think… it’s time to start heading out into all the different supermarkets and seeing what alternative brands they have. Keep an eye out for further updates.

That's me for this week. The post is a bit early as I'm going to the Bearded Theory festival tomorrow to stand about in the rain and drink 24 cans of Holsten Pils along with whatever spirits I can handle and hopefully a liberal quantity of Thornbridge Ales. Then next week I'll be in the depths of despair once more. Join me once the horrors have subsided for another post. And enjoy yer bank holiday.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Alcohol and Performance

You may not know me in this particular capacity, but in a former life I was actually a musician. From age 16 to around 33 I wrote songs and played guitar in various bands until one day I decided I was tired of constantly trying different chords next to each other, attempting to communicate my vision to other musicians and hoping someone would actually care, while what I really wanted to do was play a bit more sport before my body gave out. I quit the band and went from playing football once a week to twice – that was the plan at least – the 1st time I played a second time in a week, I twisted my knee pretty badly and ended up on crutches, putting my first ever Spanish golf holiday in jeopardy.

My knee still isn’t quite right (more than 2 years later), but after a long period of recovery I went back to playing football once a week. I didn’t go back to music straight away though – nor did I miss it. Gone were the days when I thought in music and obsessed about it. I felt it was a shame that I couldn’t call myself a musician anymore, and I felt sad that my skills honed over years of serious playing would atrophy but… you can always go back later in life if you want to – it’s not unlike riding a bike...

…as I have found now that I have returned to music in a much reduced capacity. My friend David’s band required a bass player – for a few upcoming gigs in the first instance – so I offered to help out. I do miss the exhilaration of gigging, of entering a venue just as a guy, and leaving it feeling that you own it – not so much, doing a bad gig and feeling depressed about it, but you got to take the rough with the smooth. So this is good because it requires none of the effort of writing songs and leading a band, but I do get to play gigs pretty much straight away – and in case you didn’t know, guitar players make the best bass players – it’s just hard to convince a guitar player to switch to the bass. Luckily for Custom 12 (as they’re known), I like the bass (thanks to the music of James Brown as well as players such as Mike Watt) and I’m fairly good at it – in my own way.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to change this into a blog about the band or about music, but it does mean that I can cover another aspect of experiencing alcohol, which is what this blog is all about – that of performance and alcohol. I’m not talking sexual performance here, though that could potentially be far more interesting (by which I mean x-rated) because alcohol lowers the inhibitions… and that coincidentally is where alcohol comes in useful in the performance of music – to a degree at least, because as we’ll see, there are parameters that need to be adhered to. Sexual performance and alcohol… can be one for the future.

I remember my first ever gig [wistfully]. My friend Phil and I performed as an acoustic duo in the upstairs room of Sheffield’s The Grapes pub. I was so nervous that I was shaking during the soundcheck. I knew I couldn’t perform like that. Your accuracy and timing can be all over the place when you’re nervous – though conversely,  it can also help you perform to the best of your ability; it’s like you might hear it said that sportsmen ‘raise their game’ against the strongest opponents. It’s a fine line. I later learned not to be so nervous, but on that occasion I knew I needed alcohol.

I think I drank three pints and two double vodkas before we hit the stage that night, and the gig went really well. There was one point where I forgot the next bit of a song called ‘Let’s Make Friends’, and I just paused, trying desperately to remember the next part. Phil continued for a few bars and then stopped.

Keep going, mate!” I urged.

He set off again, and that proved the jolt I needed to get the next few bars back in my head. I jumped in, and we finished the song triumphantly.

I learned soon after that there is such a thing as too much alcohol before a gig – three pints and two double vodkas would normally represent far too much, but on that first occasion it did the job. Easily the worst example of too much was when my friend Pits and I went to a birthday party in Macclesfield where they had band equipment set up. Having been in a band together before, we figured we could do a quick rendition of Neil Young’s Hey Hey, My My which is a particular favourite of mine. Pits decided he would play the drums, despite his enthusiasm far exceeding his ability on that particular instrument.

I don’t like thinking about the performance, but let’s just say we were very drunk and it was shit. I knew it was shit from the moment we started, but we ploughed on, all the while aware that it wasn’t getting any better. Occasionally I manage to forget about the whole experience for a while… but then I remember. It’s like when you’ve done something bad that you feel really guilty about and you hate yourself for it, then you forget for a bit, and you go, “wait, I was feeling bad about something… what was I feeling bad about?... oh yeh.” It’s ruined that song for me. I was hoping writing about it might make me feel better, but it’s just reminded me again. I actually started writing about the episode in more detail, thinking it would be an entertaining story, but it was just too painful. Anyway…

It really is a shame that you need to moderate your alcohol intake before a gig because there is often a lot of waiting around, and waiting around breeds nerves – will we play well? Will we be able to hear ourselves? Will there be anyone there to hear us? Too much alcohol though, and I find you can become numb to the music; disconnected and clumsy – you don’t know it until you’ve performed in a band, but a lot of the time you can’t actually hear yourself on stage, or you can’t hear the other members, so it can be very difficult to play tightly and in time. It only takes one person to make a mistake in order to put everyone off, and the more complicated you make your songs, the more things there are to go wrong. Too little alcohol though, and you can be nervous, stiff and boring.

I found through experimentation that my optimum alcohol intake for improved musical performance is three pints. I could have more in rehearsal, but when it came to be the night of the gig, I always stopped at three – but tried to make up for it afterwards. I never made it policy in my bands, but as far as I can remember, each member stuck to it – no one wants to look like an idiot on stage, or be the one to let the side down – that’s why you get nervous in the first place. There aren’t many people who can be the onstage drunk, and get away with it. And if you’re serious about being in a band, you need to be professional. Being in a band is one of the few potential career paths where alcohol is a possibility – even mandatory – but if you don’t do a good show no one is going to like you and you aren’t going to have fun.

I suppose the worst case scenario would be like the bootleg recording I once heard of Jimi Hendrix jamming with Jim Morrison. Morrison was a mess, and just spent the whole time slurring expletives into the mic – poet, my ass. Not cool, even for him. So this is probably the only exception I have found to the BTMTNE rule – Better Too Much Than Not Enough.

I joined Custom 12 four weeks before they were scheduled to play a show at Manchester’s Retro Bar. We managed one (and pretty much) a half rehearsals before David and I had a week’s golfing booked in Spain, after which there was a week in which we couldn’t rehearse due to practice room issues, before finally getting three rehearsals in the week before the gig itself. I put in a bit of time at home as well – I wasn’t going to be the weak link if I could help it.

Summer had hit the UK at last, and on the Sunday before the gig Mrs Cake and I took a walk to a nearby pub and sat in the beer garden with a pint (Bohemia Regent for me, Manchester Pale Ale for the missus). It was one of those days where you have to go out and do something because otherwise it’s a crime. I so desperately wanted to stay there all afternoon, but no, I had a rehearsal that evening, and since there was a gig coming up in a week and I hadn’t even learned all the songs yet, I knew I couldn’t show up pissed. At the ripe old age of 35 it seems, I’ve finally learned some self-control. There’s a time for being cool and rock n’ roll, and there’s a time for being professional. When you’re new to a band and you want to impress, you need to be professional. I would just have to look forward to getting home later that night, when I had decided I’d allow myself to open my Gran Duque D’Alba Solera Gran Riserva brandy.

When I joined the band I was a little excited about being able to make choices about what to drink at rehearsal again. Beer is the classic choice of course, but buying 4-8 cans of something nice every week can get expensive after a while – especially when you have to pay for the rehearsal room and a couple of drinks at the pub beforehand.

To deal with that expense, in the past I would call at Aldi on my way and pick up a bottle of red wine for £2.99. I could make that last two rehearsals, or just get smashed each week. It hasn’t actually worked out that way so far, unfortunately. I’ve been a bit hard up for the last few months, so I’ve been driving to rehearsal with a single can in my bass bag, and having a couple of drinks when I get home instead. And that’s actually ok. I don’t have to deal with the bus home and it saves me money.

As for the gig, well that went well too. I was a lot more relaxed than I used to be – confident that I’d done enough to learn the songs and, since now I’m just the bass player and not the focal point, the whole thing doesn’t rest on me. I don’t have to take personal ownership over everything, which means the pressure is greatly reduced. Correspondingly, the glory afterwards isn’t quite so pronounced either, but for now, I’m happy with that. I just need to make sure my parts are good and that I play them well. It all makes for good times.

Thanks for reading. I was just perusing some of my previous posts and figured some of the personality has dropped out since I stopped posting on a Friday night… I don’t really want to start doing that again, but… for the moment it seems potentially worthwhile. It was kind of nice to sign off with a weekend of booze-fuelled adventures ahead. So here I am, and while it was supposed to be Friday night again, I ended up going to the pub after work, and didn’t fancy sitting at the computer. So now it’s Saturday evening, and while I was intending to be at the Levenshulme Beer Festival by now, I’m actually still waiting to go. We ended up doing a marathon shop in advance of next weekend’s music and booze fest – Bearded Theory (which you might remember me blogging about last year) and now we’re just chillin’ for a bit.  

The weather’s good though, so maybe I’ll see you at the Levy Fest in an hour or so, or at Bearded Theory next week. Have a good ‘un and I’ll see you back here next week (though probably on Thursday rather than Friday), when at this point I am intending to post about an Irish Cream three-way. It’s not quite as interesting as it sounds, but if you like Irish Cream and you want to know how three different brands compare… this is where you want to be. So, yeh… not as interesting as I made it sound. BOOBIES!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Taking centre stage this week is another example of one of my favourite spirit varieties, grappa. This one has a ridiculously long name, so we’ll just call it Mille Lune, as that appears to be the particular expression. It was purchased directly from the Castello San Donato in Perano vineyard in the Chianti region of Italy, for the modest sum of 15 euros for 50cl, and has already featured on this blog as one of my 2013 Spirits of the Year . Time now for a bit more depth…

Chianti, we learned, is made mostly with Sangiovese grapes, though apparently there is also some merlot in this one.

It comes in a classy, two-tone box with gold lettering and a long, narrow bottle with a crest embossed onto it. It is bottled at 42%. It doesn’t look like it’s available in the UK, so it definitely achieves the booze tourism objectives of exclusivity and value.

It wasn’t the only grappa I bought on this trip, as you would find out by reading here, but it was the first I opened of the two I took home. The other is an aged (and even numbered) variety, so I’m expecting that to be the most special.

Fulfilment was announced by a strong scent of white chocolate emerging from the newly opened bottle, an impression that continues over to the palate, though there is also a touch of liquorice (in a nice way) if you hold it at the back of your tongue. For maximum enjoyment, see if you can hold it just over your molars.

The finish is a little tart (just how I like my women), though it isn’t bitter so you’re left with a perfect balance against the sweetness.

The strong impression of white chocolate inspired me to acquire a bar of Choceur (Aldi’s finest) to try with it, but I’m sorry to say they don’t go together. The chocolate is far sweeter, and that means the grappa comes off less favourably. But that’s fine, just drink the grappa on its own.

I don’t recall being as impressed as this at the vineyard tasting, but I’ve been loving this since I opened it. For the moment it surpasses even the Domenis Storica that had been my favourite grappa up to this point, and in comparison this is great value compared to the 32 euros I paid for that.

At the moment, all I want to drink is this grappa and the 100 Proof Stolichnaya (another Spirit of the Year), so you know it’s good stuff. 

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Ardbeg 10: it's a salty sex party in your mouth.

Purchasing whisky has become increasingly difficult over the last year or so, as I widen my tastes and extend my budget. For my most recent single malt acquisition, I decided to restrict myself to around £40. I had just gotten back from holiday after all, so some of that still needed paying for…

Oddly though, when I put out a call for recommendations on Twitter, I got nothing  - and with all the whisky people who follow me… very strange. Well I wasn’t waiting forever, and despite the fact that I didn’t want to get an Islay malt, I couldn’t really decide what else to get.  I decided then that it was time to right a wrong and make a dream come true. I had wanted to buy a bottle of Ardbeg when I visited Islay last February, but had been unable to do so because the distillery was closed on the Saturday, when I had planned to make my purchases.

I won’t be making these kinds of mistakes again, I assure you. Next time I visit any distilleries, I’ll check when they’re open. And for next time I need to decide what to buy, I’ve actually come up with a very geeky system that alternates between all the various styles, regions and ages… I’ll be telling you about that another time.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this short post that is all about the Ardbeg 10. Apologies in advance that there are no photos in this one. Somehow I forgot to photograph it during its short lifespan, no doubt believing I had already done so. Ah well.

Ardbeg 10 is bottled at 46%, as it should be (at the very least) and is non-chill filtered. You can pick it up for between £35 (if you’re very lucky) and £45 (if less so).

I had to have mine delivered to work, which I’ll never do again since they had it in the post room three days before finally bringing it to my office. I’d started to get paranoid because the courier had confirmed they’d delivered it – what if someone liberated it? What if they stored it inappropriately? Hurry up and bring iiiiiit…

I delayed fulfilment (the moment of opening) just a couple of weeks, until a Friday night when all I had to look forward to was a weekend of DIY. If I wasn’t going to get to relax this weekend, I was going to start it off right.

What you’re talking about when you get the Ardbeg 10 is absolute value for money. It is already renowned as one of the finest whiskies in the world, and it is certainly one of the best I’ve experienced. It pushes towards those heights of surely being about as enjoyable as it is possible for a whisky to be, and whenever I try a new spirit, that is what I’m looking for.  You open the bottle, and it jumps out at you (like releasing a genie from a bottle as one particularly good review on Master of Malt puts it), even instantly transports you somewhere else – in this case Islay, of course. If you’ve never been, this is the smell of Islay; thick, sweet peat – if you visit the various distilleries at least. Pour it and you can sit for ten minutes just inhaling those fumes from the top of your glencairn glass, no rush, no need to actually taste it yet. I took one sniff, and just passed it straight to Mrs Cake, check this out. Amazing. Nosing this whisky alone is as enjoyable as drinking so many other whiskies.

The colour is very pale, putting many cheaper, artificially coloured whiskies to shame with its bare-faced cheek. I ams what I ams, it says, and what I ams, it goes on, is very lightly coloured and even a bit cloudy – that’ll be the lack of chill filtering, don’tchaknow. Yes, deeply coloured whiskies look nice, but I’m not buying them for their colour. Having said that, I do tend to be put off at the point of purchase by pale, urine-hued whiskies, but Ardbeg doesn’t need you to entertain such concerns because it comes in a dark green bottle, that it might give you a surprise:

Aw, it’s yellow!

Worry ye not.

When you do get to the tasting, it is everything a whisky should be; sweet and warming. The flavour doesn’t dissipate, it envelops the tongue and embraces it like it’s a salty sex party in your mouth and everyone’s on ecstacy (except they do get to achieve completion. All of them. Repeatedly).  Every drop radiates and demands you prise everything you can from each molecule. Forget about all your vanillas and your chocolates and your green apples and whatever else you look for to convince yourself whatever you’re drinking has quality and complexity, just savour the intense richness, the rich intenseness and the tense rich in-ness.

So, what about the finish? Well, the Ardbeg 10 has an afterglow that lingers like a night of strenuous love that slowly dissolves into the dawn. You open your eyes and peer at the morning, creeping through the blinds and think, what a night; let’s stay in and do it again.

If you were to wait for it to fade completely between each sip a double measure could last you hours. Even better - and what I consider to be the mark of a truly great finish; there will be occasions the following evening (even the day after that) when you can taste it almost as clearly as the night before. As one reviewer on Proof66 notes, “You know when you spend the night next to a camp fire and your clothes smells like smoke the next day? That's what Ardbeg does to my mouth. “ And that, of course is a good thing. My analogy would be… dirtier, but I’m going to resist the temptation.

If you want to pass an entertaining ten minutes, you might like to have a look at the reviews of Ardbeg 10 on Master of Malt. Opinion is divided between the extremes with (at the time of writing) 25 five star reviews, 14 four and a half star reviews and 6 four star reviews on the one hand alongside 6 reviews where only half a star is awarded and a smattering of other low scores on the other. Sure, the weight is clearly in favour of this being a quality dram, but it is fascinating how much it offends some people. One of them says, “I’ll be giving this away” – how I wish I could be the lucky recipient – while another poured it down the sink, and more than a few were overpowered by iodine.  Pussies.

Of particular note is one reviewer who ‘always takes his dram with Irn Bru’ - because it adds more flavour to whisky – though with Ardbeg the combination is ‘awful’ – well, I know Irn Bru’s all right, so it must be the Ardbeg that is the problem...

I suppose that’s like a restaurant critic who professes to eat everything with ketchup and then complains that it doesn’t work with the duck – as if it’s the duck that ruined the ketchup. I don’t think you’d give their reviews much credence. Sorry for ruining your Irn Bru with my fine single malt… you fucking idiot.

Another reviewer attempts to qualify his half star review by stating “I am very open minded”, which you could compare to starting a sentence with “I’m not a racist but…” or “I’m hot homophobic but…” or “I’ve never hit a woman but…”

Seriously; thanks for coming out.

Just because some of the negative reviews are ludicrous, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t heed what they say. The fact remains that some people don’t like Ardbeg. You might be among them, so be warned. Either way, I’m firmly among Ardbeg’s admirers, and I don’t care if you don’t like it.