Sunday, 10 November 2013
Thursday, 7 November 2013
After an exhausting, emotional, enjoyable 4 days in the North East,
relaxing with some Yellow Sport & some Dobro action - 20.10.13
Ready to go at Mission control #TweedaleWhisky - 16.10.13
Last dram of the evening...with an added soupcon of chocolate.
Difficult to beat a quality dram of Karuizawa : ) 06.11.13
Dram no3: I'll soon be twanging the Dobro. Competing with next door neighbours cats.
Fast approaching "couldn't care less" 06.11.13
Totally exhausted. Couldn't make my last appointment of the day.
Time for 1st dram since last Friday. Earned it! 06.11.13
I'm getting dressed up for tonight's MilroysTT2.
Rubber mask is on as I'll be falling flat on my face 30.10.13
Harvesting my bean seeds for next year! I'm at an age when this is an exciting evening
...more so with some Kavalan. 25.10.2013
The theme for this evening's drams is "whimsy"! Kavalan Solist, Naked Grouse,
@BalconesWhisky 5th Anniv, Balvenie cask 7983
The opening riff from Aerosmith's 1975 Toys in the Attic
represents how I'm feeling after my first blast of @BalconesWhisky True Blue.
Sunrise from the office window after a superb @TWEWhiskyShow.
I hope I didn't sleep here last night! 07.10.13
The cheeky Darach Ur in the background would be my choice...
but the others are good 05.10.13
Our house is part Victorian museum, part every child's nightmare.
Things go bump in the night" 12.10.13
Monday, 29 July 2013
It has taken me roughly two minutes to chill out to a fine "cucumber raita, deep blue green sea, alone on the beach, no debt, no work, enough money, nobody knows me, stranger in a strange town" kind of tranquility. The night belongs to me again, I own it.
In drinking with Tai & Pat I suggest we recount one funny story from our respective pasts. The art of storytelling is alive and thriving in boozers around the world and I love listening to people tell quality stories that have significance and meaning for them. We swap stories which are too long to repeat here but nonetheless, they are very funny, unique, and provide clear evidence of the value of our existence here on this beautiful/shitty planet. For the sake of brevity I'll simply include the "punchline" or "highest point" of each of the three tales without attributing them to either of the story tellers.
Tale 1: "I just hope they put better padded rims on those Test of strength machines in Thailand!"
In the "rest room" there is a smartly dressed, African-American valet/butler/rest room guy with a smörgåsbord of lavatorial & post-lavatorial attractions (condoms, sweets, tissues, coloured pretty baubles, aftershave). This is new to me and I'm feeling uncomfortable. "Toilet/rest room protocol" is a minefield at best and I am thrown into confusion by this benign urinal confrontation. Do I say anything? If I do say anything, what do I say? What are the rules of engagement? What am I supposed to do? The one thing that I need to do is take a piss (note the American expression; in the UK we "have" a piss, in the US you "take" a piss. The former suggests ownership, the latter suggests theft, I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions). Anyway, even "doing" a piss is proving to be a challenge. It's not so much a case of "bashful bladder syndrome" but more of a case of "I'm trying to piss and there's a shop owner standing no more than 6ft away......syndrome".I wash my hands more thoroughly than I would normally do, it would be impolite not to. I am representing my country in terms of toilet hygiene. Never let it be said that the Brits are deficient in terms of urinary cleanliness. I don’t purchase anything (my level of unease is such that I barely make eye-contact), but my rye largesse is in full flow, I am Lord David of Alcock, I don't have any small change so I give him $5.
I have the munchies, I need to eat. I purchase a filled bread roll that weighs more than my forearm and weave my way back to the hotel. I wake up at 07.36 in a hotel sheet sea of ham, chicken, cheese and breadcrumbs.
Tuesday, 2 July 2013
Location: Seven Grand 515 W.Seventh St, Second Floor, Los Angeles
Knob Creek Cask Strength Bourbon 60%
A Black & White film on a small TV top left of bar, no sound, Juke box, “The girl from Ipanema” permeates the room, 20 punters, and two barmen. The sound of pool balls and conversations being struck. The beer...cold, the Creek...deep, sweet chocolate and caramel rye notes meander down my throat...escape, an escape from the oppressive heat, from the tensions that come with being alone in a sprawling city in a foreign country, from the streets punctuated with business bods and downtrods, and from the demands of having to stay focused. The decor whispers English boozer & American bar in equal measure. It's like a big old-fashioned, old English pub "snug" wrapped in speakeasy.
The whiskey list is impressive, they've even got Ardbog in here & it's only been out for three weeks!
Two guys swing alongside & order 2 old fashioned. I've still not dipped my toe into the world of cocktails, maybe one day. A waft of lemon hits me from the dexterously crafted drinks ... maybe one day. I occasionally try to strike up a conversation with the barmen who are very accommodating, but the problem is, once I've uttered my sentence, my musician deafness kicks in and I can't hear their response, so I come across as a muttering, hapless, odd Brit who's not worth spending time with! Enjoy the solitude.
I ask the barman what the procedure is regarding tipping. I suppose I want to come across as "all cutesy, folksy, quaint, British tourist" whose politeness screams out "look after me, pour drinks down my neck"! He politely explains that I could open a credit account & tip at the end, or "pay & tip as you go". I opt for the former; it seems cleaner, quicker, & less stressful. Perhaps more importantly, it would allow me to forget how much I might be spending. I reach for my wallet only to find that I've left my credit card in my hotel safe in case I get kidnapped, held hostage, caught in cross-fire, or mugged on the 800 yard route from hotel to bar (the unworldly wise, neurotic tourist screwing with my head). I come across as a muttering, hapless, odd Brit who's not worth spending time with!
This whisky/beer combo is hitting the spot. Physiologically, which spot it's hitting I have no idea...but in the head it feels good.
"I haven't eaten today so I'll have a pint of lunch.... the O'Hara's Irish stout", my humour goes unnoticed. I should have added “my good man” to the end of the sentence in order to provide the complete “Lord of the Manor” experience... maybe next time.
O'Hara's Irish Stout (in a Guinness glass)
Lost Spirits Leviathan 1 Cabernet Wine Barrel. 53%abv *
The phrase "good pour" has entered my mental vocabulary. There are no "measures" in here, it's at the discretion, manual dexterity, and bonhomie of the barman. The Knob Creek was a good pour. The Leviathan was also a good pour. The advantage of a good pour is a longer, more pleasurable experience with a quality drink. The disadvantage occurs when the whiskey presses your "wrong" buttons! For me, the Leviathan was a slow starter of a whiskey that gradually began to impress.
My immediate opinion of the Leviathan is that it is a marriage made in a 7/11 store, a marriage of convenience, an adolescent underachiever. The Cabernet influence is in my face demanding my attention and I don't have the time, there's too much other stuff to take in. Now this doesn't make it a bad whiskey, in my experience there aren't many bad whiskies, there are whiskies that don't meet your requirements at that particular moment, whiskies that don't match your mood, or styles/flavours of whisky that you don't like. There are those that don't work well due to their proximity to the whiskey you've just had, and so on. There are also whiskies that you need to befriend, to spend time with and appreciate at your leisure, I'm thinking that the Leviathan fits into this category. This is definitely not a bad whiskey. (I realise that I normally taste whiskey in the safe confines of my tasting space, I need to get out more! I'm running the risk of becoming a whiskey technician with a limited understanding of the totality of the whiskey experience.)
On my left, I hear a young man explaining to his new girlfriend how there are many different kinds of whiskey...bourbon, rye, Tennessee, Kentucky.. Should I correct him? I think not (this is America and he's probably packing a piece!). I don't need to look at them to know that this is a new relationship. Their conversation fluctuates between "shallow" and "über shallow" and that's absolutely how it should be. I'm sure the whiskey will massage their confidence genes, allowing them to stumble out of the shallows and flirt with "depth" before confronting the big question that has been on their minds from the moment they met.
On my right I hear a Frenchman trying to impress a Japanese woman....the conversation seems to have moved on to how you stuff geese (a "foie gras" moment if you will)! I can't wait to get home and try it out (not). It's also a new relationship........he's now talking about his mother.
A couple of minutes later, two young men (to my left) ask for tequila shots, I think the barman indicates that he doesn't have what they want, and offers them a whisky alternative. They agree, he suggests one or two possible whiskey options, they choose and agree, he double checks their choice, they agree, he comes back and asks them for $86 ...they are shocked, shamefaced, and shit themselves...they disagree...he is polite, he takes the drinks back and brings them two shots of bottom of the range, hang your head in shame, adolescent shot, puke in two hours liquor....they are happy.
It's been a while since I've turned around. I've not eaten for 18 hours, I'm jet-lagged, the adrenalin of the day has eaten into my reserves. Focusing on the bar and drink in front of me provides a much needed anchor. Everything seems stable when I've only got two things to focus on. Fuck me, this Leviathan is starting to taste good, perhaps that's the secret of whiskey drinking...perseverance, it will all taste good in the end.
(c) Alcock 2013
Thursday, 13 June 2013
Nose: None of the seductive elusiveness that I've come to associate with grain whiskies. For me, much of the reward of grains lies in the delightful struggle to unlock their secrets - there's none of that here! Big sherry, bold fruits, jumbo raisins, ballsy bananas, all softened with a leathery sweet mustiness. There's oak in there but it's as though the cask has adopted a light touch, cradling, nurturing, allowing the liquid to evolve, to assert itself, to become......big.
Wednesday, 12 June 2013
The day and evening of her passing were relatively quiet save for the normal hospital hubbub. Mum's two remaining sisters and respective husbands spent some time with her, my two sisters, their husbands, the grandchildren and myself were there for most of the day. It was clear to us that mum was not long for this world but the dilemma arose as the evening wore on - should we stay, not knowing how long she would hang on for, or should we go home and get some sleep in order to gather strength for what could be another long day? On the doctors and nurses advice we took the latter choice on the proviso that, if there was a marked deterioration, we would be called back immediately. No more than 10 minutes after arriving home the phone rang and we rushed back to the hospital (a journey of no more than 15 minutes) only to find that mum had died.
Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Firstly, it took me by surprise. I regularly trawl the whisky databases in a vain attempt to keep abreast of what's occurring in the whisky world. Sites such as whisky intelligence; whisky whisky whisky; whisky news; whisky pages and so on, as well as many of the great blogs out there, regularly receive my time and attention. My fascination (borderline obsession) with Japanese whisky ensures that the Nonjatta site takes a regular pounding and it was on a routine trawl of Nonjatta that I saw the Port Pipe.
Secondly, having tried and really enjoyed Chichibu the First, I was keen to see how the distillery was progressing. The distillery is located in the hills of Saitama Prefecture, began production of Ichiro's Malt whisky in 2008, and is owned by Ichiro Akuto.
Thirdly, it's pink! Well that's not strictly true, there's a lot of pink on the label and on the box. Nevertheless, it's an unusual colour and it certainly created an "I'm looking at something interesting" feeling. It's pink! Or is it? The fickle nature of colour perception never ceases to amuse and intrigue me. I've offered an interesting example of a colour illusion at the end of the review, it's intriguing stuff!
Colour: If you've read my previous review you will recognise my position that colour is a somewhat transient concept. This colour of this dram is no exception (but it's pink!). In an attempt to nail the colour to the mast (and test the persisting perception of pink) I even bought a couple of bottles of cheap Rose from the local supermarket.
From the top row (left to right): Chichibu Port Pipe, New Zealand 2010 Marlborough Rose, Oxford Landing South Australia 2012 Rose, Chichibu Port Pipe.
Middle row: Left - Port Pipe; Right - Marlborough Rose
Bottom Row: Chichibu the First, Ichiro's Malt The Final vintage of Hanyu, Ichiro's Malt Cask Strength 23 years old, Chichibu Port Pipe
Nose: A sweet, fruity aroma with hints of Turkish delight, Baklava, nuts, honey, and....Port (it's not a blind tasting and the word is firmly cemented into my short term memory). There's a youthful element here, a slightly acidic, vinous quality. Not unpleasant by any means.
Palate: There is a warmth and roundedness to this whisky that belies its youth. At a healthy 54.5% abv and at only 4 years old you might expect a degree of harshness...it simply doesn't materialise. The sweet, Port influence is evident from the outset but it doesn't dominate. There are hints of oak and rosehip.
Finish: It has a medium length, "Rocket salad" spicy finish
My description might create the impression that this is an overpoweringly sweet whisky. This isn't the case. Yes, there is a sweetness but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is not a whisky that will blow everyone away....but I really rate it. For me, it's another bright star in the constellation of Japanese whiskies.
Believe it or not!
In my student days I vividly remember the first time I encountered the Rubik's cube colour illusion. For me, it remains one of the most mind boggling and easily accessible examples of how the mind can play tricks on our perceptions of colour. The two images below are the ones I encountered all those years ago.
In the diagram on the left, the top middle and left front middle squares seem to be brown and yellow respectively. I could stare at this image for hours and still come to the same conclusion. I now know that my perception of the colours as being different is wrong! They are in fact, as the diagram on the right shows, the same colour. "Witchcraft" I hear you scream, "trick photography" you may murmur, "someone has slipped acid in my Earl Grey" you may sing loudly. There's no escaping it.....they are both brown.
Tuesday, 26 March 2013
Colour: I often find it challenging describing the colour of whisky. After all, the colour will shift in different lights, it will mutate with a tilt of the head, evolve as the volume ebbs with each sip, in many ways it is as fluid as the fluid itself. Whilst meditating on this challenge I came across a beautiful image of Mokume-gane (a Japanese alloy - burl metal) which seems to capture all the colour permutations that I was noting – bronzes, golds, coppers....they were all there.
Legs: Like teardrops clinging to the side of the glencairn, etching an arc into the glass, viscous, slow, and deliberate.