We’ve had some absolutely resplendent and sweltering weather here in the UK of late. Outside is a stunning day that promises to be a cracker, it’s a pity then that I should be so ill-suited to hot weather. Incidentally I’m equally ill-suited to cold weather, alas many people mistake this condition of double ill-suitedness for a personal disposition to moan. Getting back to the matter in hand, it is hot today in London! This problem is compounded by the fact that where I live, is fitted with some serious insulation that has turned my room into a tinderbox that is slowly baking me alive. I don’t want to crack my head open to find out but I believe that with this incredible heat my brain has turned to maple syrup. It is most amusing then, that today of all day’s I should be reviewing a whisky called Bacalta which is Gaelic for baked. It’s always a bad idea to drink whisky on days like this, but in the interests of my readership I shall persevere, quit my jibber jabber, and get on with the review.
Bacalta is the latest offering from Glenmorangie’s limited edition range. Aged in Madeira and Bourbon casks this is a wonderfully sweet and occasionally lively drink of considerable quality. Unfortunately it’s a tad pricey for a non-age statement whisky (£80), despite this I do think it is well worth seeking out for a tipple. On to the tasting notes! The nose is powerful but not forceful, opting to arrive in a gentle fashion. I get vanilla, honey, plum wine, and a delicious hint of mango. To be honest it’s quite intoxicating all by itself. On hitting the taste buds one suddenly gets all the fruits, there are simply so many different fruit notes here!!! If I were to list them all you’d think me quite mad for believing so much could dwell within one glass. Predominantly I get peeled orange, dried apricots and a little plum. There’s also a delightful crisp menthol mint that lingers through it all. The finish makes for a most excellent juxtaposition from all these sweet flavours. Out of nowhere dazzling pepper emerges, a dash of cinnamon, some clove, and a moreish tang of bitter oak. A sweet invigorating and varied dram, this is something rather spectacular.
Verdict: I think I’ll have another
Is red really a colour or just a dark shade of pink? What alcoholic beverage best represents your personality? An evil wizard has decided to turn the love of your life into a half fish half human monstrosity, not being all bad, he’s left the ordering up to you. So how do you want them? A careering rollercoaster ride for the imagination, in which wild ideas and preposterous propositions abound at a Mad Hatter’s tea party of pure nonsense, what’s not to love about talking bollocks? Well maybe on occasions it’s a tad pretentious, “The unrealistic special effects of the monster in John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ makes it all the more real given that on a very basic level it’s meant to embody the other”!!! As the election draws close here in the UK, I wanted to discuss the merits of talking bollocks. Fear not, I’m not about to go off on one about bullshit spouting politicians who are slowly eroding the fabric of our society. For you see dear reader bollocks and bullshit are entirely separate matters, even if they are perilously close to each other. The former is jovial and irreverent, the latter is just a ridiculous lie told with far too much confidence for my liking. What I want to argue here is that talking bollocks is not just a fun past time but a playful activity with some merit in developing our ability to entertain others ideas and better temper our emotions when our own ideas are shown up.
For evidence of this, I take you back to Christmas and the realm of the geeky. A single line spoilt the Doctor Who special for me last year. ‘Those windows like everything in this building are built to stand a blast equivalent to four nuclear explosions’. Now this had me fuming, as surely a paper thin see through material couldn’t have this property. It threw me out of the fantasy; the writer wanted me to believe that some flimsy paper thin glass was super-duper nuclear proof, just because. So when I saw a friend for a pint the next day I brought it up thinking it would provide a great topic to have a comical moan about. Instead his response was, “that was fine”, to which I replied ‘it was wholly unbelievable and completely inconsistent with our expectations about how the world works’. He retorted with a smile “name a fantastical show that isn’t like that”, sticking to my guns ‘yeh, but it didn’t even have an internally consistent explanation’. Then came his ace in the hole, ‘what about Ant Man?’ Now he was just playing games with me, he soon explained… In Ant Man, when the character shrinks he becomes super dense and that means despite his size he can knock people out. Yet with no explanation when he becomes super big he somehow gets super strong when he really should be a flimsy balloon. My friend knew I absolutely loved the scene in Civil War when Ant Man went supersize and smashed the place up and that I hadn’t complained about inconsistencies then. My response was comically complicated; evolution had predisposed me to expect big things to do damage and so the inconsistency was easy to overlook as it chimed with my expectations. I smiled; I was on thin ice and knew it. My friend smiled for the same reason, ‘so when you go into a police box what do you expect?’ ‘Also the TARDIS is bigger on the inside because…’ Check and mate, I chuckled uproariously and then bought the next round. I might have been annoyed by the glass, but as a criticism of the writing it was pathetic in that it lacked consistency with my other opinions. Oh, the sweet irony.
I know this has been a bizarre post but I think its heart is in the right place. It’s easier to entertain others ideas and accept that you’re wrong when the conversation is ridiculous. More personally, if I can be so plainly wrong and yet emotionally vehement about something as easy going as a TV programme, then sadly I’m probably not much better in assessing the most important questions facing society. In the UK we seem to live in an increasingly polarized country, in which two sides both assume they’re completely right and so end up talking past one another. We need to talk more bollocks to each other and playfully trip each other’s irreverent opinions up. That way when we’re wrong about something important and someone points it out there’s a greater chance that we’ll have developed the skills to acknowledge this.
Of course this could all be a load of old bollocks on my part.
This shall be a day long remembered! Only the most ardent of my readers are likely to have read my long winded first post, but to recap when I first embarked upon this blog I set myself the challenge of three, knock your socks off, are you out of your tiny mind, make you scream ‘I’m alive’ adventures. After several years of the boring and mundane I’d finally put my foot down and decided that this time it would be different. Having resolved myself to completing one every four months, I then entered into a rigorous regime of procrastination in which the wild side of life was forever postponed by the allegedly essential. Thus after a great deal of time passed, I suddenly felt a little low on realizing that this time it wasn’t any different. Only, as the totally crazy photographic evidence above shows, most unexpectedly and quite delightfully, this time it is different! I have undertaken a true out of this world worthy of a bucket list adventure. And as you’re about to find out I loved every precious second of it.
So there I am, strapped to a stranger sitting in a rickety plane flying two miles above the earth and I have to pinch myself it feels like a dream. There’s a red light that’s about to turn green and I can’t help but briefly imagine that I’m a commando on a super-secret mission in a war film. My imagination is working overtime, as I try to ignore the very basic mechanic that I will have to execute in order for this adventure to occur. I usually get a tad frightened on normal plane journeys and that’s without the thought that at some point during the ride I’m going to have to bloody well jump out of it. It turns out I didn’t need to jump, oh no! I had to cumbersomely sit down on the edge of the exit and then as I teetered on the abyss I had to cross my legs and wrap them around the fuselage. I then felt a light tap on my shoulders which was my cue to fall forward like an undignified drunk. Upon reflection, I think I would have much preferred a short swift jump.
Whoosh! The first few seconds of the jump are a total blur as a result of the fifty espressos worth of adrenalin that automatically pumped through my veins on account of me doing something very stupid. I came to my senses a little while in, to find the camera lady falling below trying to grab my attention, she was blowing kisses. I’ve desperately tried to avoid using this word, but it was truly surreal. It sounds mad but after the initial fright of exiting, the experience of falling was a wonderfully pleasant affair. A beautiful majestic scene before me coupled with the exhilarating and calming white noise of the wind gave me a brief moment of ecstatic clarity. It came to a close when the parachute deployed and I suddenly felt like I was pulled up to the heavens. Looking at the amazing higgledy piggledy farmland below, we now fell gracefully as we gently twirled our way back to earth. Arriving with a bump, I was brimming ear to ear with joy having experienced the extraordinary.
I can safely say that exiting a plane from extreme height is terrifying but I also cannot recommend this experience highly enough. After the initial shock, the fall is pure magic. I’d like to give a big thank you, to all the wonderful people at the London Parachute School who made this most excellent adventure happen.
A good friend from Edinburgh recently had a mild heart seizure when I informed him that the fine single malt he was enjoying was not of the Scottish persuasion. This paled in comparison to the confounded flabbergasted look that followed the news that it was in fact Welsh in origin. Having already suggested that this was a damn fine dram, there was no escaping the fact that he had just betrayed his Scottish ancestry. Thankfully a few more sips of this fine amber jewelled nectar soon put pay to any patriotic pretence as to what makes a good whisky. In no time at all he was sampling as many whiskies of the world as he could cram into one night. My personal bar was lucky to survive the encounter, mostly intact. My friend assured me that this was a small price to pay for expanding his horizons.
Established in 2004 Penderyn is a fiery young upstart in the world of whisky, which has taken a hefty haul of awards and accolades since coming on the scene. Despite this, it was only recently that I tried this fine dram when some friends gave me a bottle for Christmas, a most excellent present indeed. Penderyn is a very young whisky, I would imagine no more than six year old. Nevertheless it is fairly complex in flavour. It comes in a variety of bottlings, and from what I hear all are very good. The one I tried, the Celt, is lightly peated. The nose gives just a hint of smoke, some zesty orange, pear drops, cranberry, vanilla, and a medicinal smell reminiscent of TCP. The drink itself, is incredibly smooth, with a lot of honey, orange citrus, some vanilla, and a superb mild smoke note that majestically reveals itself mid-sip. The finish is a long one, it’s peppery with some fennel and orange peel, plus a good amount of smoke. I think this whisky really is quite special. It’s uniquely sweet, in that it’s heavy on the honey but has little to no brown sugar. I would thus urge you to support this daring scheme whose origins lie in a half-baked idea around a pub table. I really love this stuff, a perfect after dinner enlivener.
Verdict: It’s Sweet Whisky Mead
After several days filled with pure undiluted skippity hoppity joy, last week the empire struck back and my arch nemesis ‘Darth Real Life’ returned to the fore. Suddenly I was in a world of necessary, dull as ditch water, irksomeness. Life’s little tasks called, dentist appointments, internet providers, family occasions. Good lord I forgot the mountain of dirty dishes! I’m not sure how it happened, but at some point it appears that society revoked my child status and stuck a grown up badge on me. I won’t lie, it’s been downhill ever since. Returning to the particularity of my troubles, suddenly, within this maelstrom of the mundane, I sensed a brief opening in the force, a teeny tiny patch of that rare commodity, free time! Thus at lunchtime today, I decided to take it easy with a brilliant meal at one of my favourite restaurants and so restore balance to the force.
Yum Yum is a Thai restaurant located on Stoke Newington High Street and its simply goodness I tell ya. Located in a gorgeous Georgian house the environment is low lit and delightfully mellow. It serves nutritious and delicious food that always proves uplifting. They also do magnificent cocktails, but I swear I didn’t indulge on a weekday, even if they are purely medicinal. The staff are the most remarkable feature of this restaurant, wonderfully unobtrusive and yet simultaneously such, cheerful, charming, caring, people. I spent a little over thirty minutes here today and without fail Yum Yum worked its magic. I left feeling most calm and relaxed. I have no doubt that if this restaurant was located in Shoreditch it would be better known and queued out the door. If you ever get the chance to go, don’t hesitate, I cannot recommend this place highly enough. It is an absolute delight.
I do occasionally fear that I may well be bat shit crazy. For you see dear reader, not being content with one chance at catching pneumonia, this week I returned to Hampstead Heath for another ice cold swim. Only this time I was wise enough to bring a reviver along, in the form of a cask strength whisky sure to put pay to any germs with delusions of grandeur. I was slightly worried to bring a dram along the first time, as drinking whisky first thing in the morning is a sure sign that you’ve found your calling in life, in most cases it’s an AA meeting. However there is always an exception that makes the rule, how else could one get away with being a hypocrite! Having concluded that this instance was just such a circumstance, I soon rediscovered just why whisky and adventure pair together so nicely. Having enjoyed an invigorating swim, I quickly took a brisk walk before sitting down for a wee tipple. Unfortunately I’m a forgetful oaf and while I remembered to bring a table for this expedition, I forgot the glass. Thus I found myself sporting the hobo look on this fine morning. It didn’t matter though as the amber jewel nectar once imbibed brought about a serene state of mind. My body warmed, my mind emptied, and I beheld the majesty of existence. In my book it wasn’t a bad start to the day.
Having finally got back home and secured a glass allow me to present my tasting notes for Glenlivet Nadurra. At 63.1% this is strong stuff, and should be mixed with a little water to bring out all the flavours. The nose is initially just pure alcohol but with a little acclimatisation one soon begins to detect a host of citrusy smells with a distinct pear smell coming to the fore. An initial sweet toffee note gives way to a tremendous pineapple/pear drop taste which is incredibly unique and a hallmark of Glenlivet. I must say that this particular cask strength edition really allows you to appreciate this inimitable flavour. The after taste is a gentle sweet cappuccino that never intrudes but remains present for a good deal of time after you’ve finished. An absolutely remarkable way to start a morning but one that I daren’t repeat for quite some time, a refined and interesting dram that I certainly recommend giving a go.
Verdict: A Classic at Cask Strength