For the last four months I’ve had a serious case of writer’s block, which goes some way towards explaining the sporadic output of this blog of late. Try as I might the words have only been coming out a few at a time. The mad ACME firework factory of my mind has for reasons unknown ground to a halt. It is a most bothersome and weary set of circumstances, which has been exacerbated by a procrastinating frenzy, precipitated by the online availability of a bazillion self-help guides that offer simple steps for beating writer’s block. I’ve gone for long walks, brainstormed like a boss, and listened to the awesome jazz of Mulatu Astatke. All to no avail! Finally when one article suggested I talk to an imaginary friend I decided to stop reading the articles. It was with a wry smile then that I greeted the bottle of Writers Tears that sat alone upon the top of the drink shelf at my local newsagent. On noticing the extra gimmick that this was the Red Head, I knew it had to be mine. I’d love at this stage dear reader to impart the knowledge that this proved the cure to my ailment, but sadly that would be complete balderdash. What isn’t complete balderdash is that this is an utterly delightful wee dram!!! On to the tasting notes…
Writers Tears Red Head is an Irish whiskey and a fantastically sweet and spicy sherry cask dream. The nose makes for a congenial welcome; there is a considerable oak spiciness present, a glorious nuttiness, some orange marmalade, not to mention the fruity plum. The drink itself, arrives with a creamy hazelnut taste, a great deal of ginger spiciness then builds, with dates, and with a little water some coffee notes following. The finish is a fiery affair combining an orange peel after taste with ginger some cinnamon and clove. This is a whiskey that wonderfully combines bombastic spiciness with fruity intermissions. My imaginary friend particularly enjoyed it.
Verdict: A Fiery Lass
I’ve been blogging for just over a year now and yet in that time I’ve never got round to reviewing a single bourbon, an unconscionable dereliction of my drinking duties, for which I can only fall upon my knees and beg forgiveness dear reader. It is my hope that this review will make amends for this. So what makes a whiskey bourbon? There are quite a few stipulations but the two main ones in terms of flavour are as follows. Firstly, it must be made from a grain mash containing no less than 51% corn. Secondly, it must be aged in new charred oak barrels. The result generally speaking is a whiskey that is far sweeter than its Scottish cousins, which has only a hint of smoke, and often some delicious spicy notes due to the further addition of some rye in the grain mix. Or to put it another way, absolutely splendid stuff!!!
For me Four Roses Small Batch is the quintessential bourbon, it is highly affordable and guaranteed to go down real smooth, a whiskey staple if ever one existed. So, let’s get down to some tasting. Small batch has a vibrant floral nose along with subtle hints of rye spiciness, oak, and orange peel. It is a captivating whiskey siren that entices you into taking a sip. The drink itself arrives with possibly the best vanilla note I’ve ever tasted, then a bitter sweet cherry develops only to quickly fade, next we find a warm ginger emerge with butterscotch and cinnamon soon following. The finish is fairly long; it sees more wondrous vanilla with a dash of black pepper and a most unexpected but highly welcome lapsang souchong tea. In my opinion, at just under £30 a bottle this is the best introduction to Bourbon available in the UK. If you haven’t got a bottle sitting on your shelf right this instant then I would urge you to procure one at your earliest convenience.
Last week this Blog turned one!!! And in typical fashion I’ve only just got round to celebrating this momentous event. Started on a diabolical whim, I certainly would not have predicted that one year on I would still be writing for this fine publication. Let alone that some people would have actually bothered to read it. To all you wonderful people that have read commented and seemingly enjoyed my random musings, I truly cannot thank you enough! It has been an absolute joy to witness this half-baked idea rise to the lofty heights of a fluffy Victoria sponge. Admittedly in the last six months my posts have become rather sporadic but I solemnly swear that in the coming months I’ll pull up my socks and get back to blogging form. In the meantime I hope you will join me in celebrating this anniversary dear reader and by spontaneously breaking into dance to this awesome tune from Kool and the Gang. Now that I’ve finished getting my groove on around my living room, allow me to present…
My Top 5 Moments of the Blogging Year
I think it’s safe to say that epic feats of daring do have been few and far between this year. Nevertheless I think I made up for this in one fell swoop, by falling out of a plane in the most awkward manner imaginable. Against all odds I loved every second of this experience. Read on here!
The Harry Potter studio tour quite simply set my imagination ablaze this year. From the moment I found myself standing in the great hall of Hogwarts I was off in a world of my own. I left pretending to ride an invisible broomstick, which says it all really. Read on here!
I had a delightful moment of Zen in the Kyoto Garden this year. Located within Holland Park this Japanese garden may be tiny but it is absolutely stunning and I’m very pleased with some of the photographs I got on my trip. Read on here!
I love those random moments in adventures that you could never have predicted beforehand. I was dumbfounded this year, when swimming in ice cold waters on Hampstead Heath I suddenly found myself being lapped by old age pensioners. However my absolute highlight of the year came when some lovely people ensured I had a blooming marvellous time playing crazy golf. Read on here!
A surreal neon dreamscape where you can sip a coffee, I was truly blown away by the spectacle that is God’s Own Junkyard. Located in the back of beyond (Sorry Walthamstow), this is the very definition of a hidden gem. Read on here!
So that in a nutshell marks the end of my first year of Blogging. Here’s to many more years of London, Whisky, and Adventure.
Oh and to talking even more Bollocks!!!
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
Astute eagle eyed detective that you are, you may well have noticed that I haven’t bloody well posted a new article in five weeks! I do sincerely apologize for this dear reader, but my arch nemesis Darth Real Life has once again been snapping at my heels with the essential and oh so boring side of existence. Not to be melodramatic or anything. Still the waters have calmed and I declare that once more I shall prove an outstanding citizen and upholder of all that is light hearted and whimsical. This glittering citadel of foolishness is once again open, hurrah! To this end, please find below a most splendiferous St Patricks whiskey special, which has arrived but a month late. One can only assume it took the scenic route.
The Irish make some of the finest, most incredibly unique, and wonderfully complex whiskeys in the world. It thus astounds me that people celebrating St Patricks day around the world, usually honour the Irish by dumping green dye in their beer. God forbid that they might try some culturally significant, knock your socks off whiskey, which will get them drunk twice as fast. Thus let me bang the drum for one of Ireland’s greatest achievements, honestly it’s up there with Joyce and Beckett. Irish whiskey has two unique defining features. Firstly it is triple distilled which makes it incredibly smooth and easy to drink. Secondly it is made in pot stills that mix malted and un-malted barley, this practice came about as a means to keep costs down when the English introduced a tax on malted barley in 1785. The result is a whiskey which can have a great deal of complexity at a young age. Generally speaking Irish whiskeys are lighter and less bombastic than their Scottish cousins, but at their best they offer an incredible array of delicate flavours which are positively mind blowing. As introductions to this style go, you can’t go wrong with Green Spot and Redbreast 12. However in this instance I’ve opted to review Jameson’s Gold Reserve as it’s more widely available and a personal favourite of mine. Enough with the history lesson, let’s get on with the tasting notes!!!
Jameson Gold Reserve has a pleasant gentle nose, with honey, vanilla, green apple, and a majestic menthol mint. It’s an odd thing to say but it smells smooth. Upon hitting the taste buds, this whiskey springs to life, first with vanilla and sweet honey, then a brief toffee banana that somehow seamlessly blends into green apple and bitter gooseberry. The finish has some more gooseberry, incredible virgin oak tannins, and a subtle black pepper. It’s crisp and dry, which makes the whole experience feel refreshing. Ultimately I think this blended whiskey is a master class in perfectly combining bitter and sweet notes. If you’ve never had an Irish whiskey before you’re in for a treat and personally I think the Gold Reserve once acquainted with is sure to become a lifelong friend, Sláinte.
Verdict: The Wild Rover
The common reaction of most people on seeing a bottle of this stuff for the first time is a look of bewildered bemusement, as they try to work out how the hell you’re meant to pronounce Poit Dhubh. I have it on good authority (the back of the bottle) that it’s pronounced Potch Ghoo and that it’s Gaelic for illicit still. Though I must confess that I’m still a little baffled as to how one gets from reading Poit Dhubh to saying Potch Ghoo, but I digress. Four years ago I received my first bottle of Potch Ghoo for Christmas, I had never heard of this blended whisky from the Isle of Skye before, and hence was a little dubious as to the quality of the contents of the bottle. As so often in life, I need not have worried, as the contents proved positively mind blowing. A fantastic whisky most people had never heard of, it soon became a frequent topic of conversation. More recently I was in a newsagent and to my considerable surprise I discovered perched on their top shelf a single bottle of this uncommon whisky. I wasted no time at all and immediately bought the bottle, eager to discover whether my younger self had a bloody clue in what he was talking about!!!
Anyhoo enough with the backstory, let’s get on to the tasting notes of this magnificent dram! The nose has some honey, a hint of sea salt, plenty of sherry, and a pleasant smokiness that has an uncanny resemblance to the smell of the vanilla tobacco that a friend uses. The drink itself is full of twists and turns. Initially one is presented with incredibly sweet honey, next a toffee note, followed by salted caramel, some sherry, a zingy bitter lemon then emerges, before a delightful peat draws proceedings to a close. The finish is fairly long; it’s peppery, with plenty of peat, some oak, and a faint reminder of sherry. In this manner, Poit Dhubh delivers a wondrous drinking experience. A fantastic quality whisky, of considerable complexity, at a decent price, I strongly recommend you give it a try.
Verdict: A nimble acrobatic display of varied flavours!
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