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Kenmore Blended Scotch Whisky – not just whisky: Marks & Spencer’s whisky

Kenmore Blended Scotch Whisky

When it comes to own brand food and drink in the UK, there are a couple of shops known for being a cut above the rest. While Waitrose has steamrollered its way into the mainstream lead, there’s one pseudo-supermarket who has been doing the ‘posh provisions on the high street’ thing longer than most: Marks and Spencer. While my childhood trips to our local branch were focused on buying clothes (I am to this day almost exclusively dressed by M&S, due to a fear of all clothes shopping and Marks being a never-changing bastion of easy body-covering selection) they’ve been selling food and drink under their own labels since the 1920s.

Their booze selection is pretty decent, and I’ve quaffed many a bottle of rebadged and specially brewed beer over the years, however, I’ve never got my hands on their whisky before now. To start with, their blended whisky: Kenmore 5 year old.

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Punt e Mes, old and new

Punt e Mes

I’ve written in the past about my scepticism about the potential for bottle ageing high-alcohol boozes, but something that I’ve long understood is that things are quite different for lower strength drinks. This has been very much brought home by some of the Italian bitters and vermouths I’ve been able to try, thanks to my boss’s love of old liqueurs and aperitifs, and I’ve been meaning to have a bit of a taste test of my own for a while. While the market has realised that 1970s, 1960s and earlier bottlings of vermouth and bitters are worth some money, fortunately for me the 1990s still sound recent enough that bottles from the era are still reasonably priced. Digging through The Whisky Exchange website the other day I noticed that we had some 1990s Punt e Mes and grabbed one, as well as a more recent bottle for a bit of a comparison.

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Bruichladdich X4+3

Bruichladdich X4+3

I have a confession to make: I don’t really like Bruichladdich’s whisky. They’re the geek touchstone; the independent Hebridean distiller that showed that the little guy could go it alone; the home of Jim McEwan, his crazy experiments and his even crazier tasting notes; the one with their own shade of blue. However, with a very small number of exceptions, I’ve not enjoyed a bottle with the word Bruichladdich on it since I got into whisky. So, when I found one I liked, I thought I’d better make a note of it, especially as it’s one I assumed I would hate – Bruichladdich X4+3.

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Banoch Brae – Nisa Whisky

Banoch Brae

In recent times, the proliferation of whisky awards has had one strange effect that I didn’t predict: supermarket whisky is getting some recognition. The competitions operate in a simple way: companies send their bottlings in to be judged and then some (most?) are awarded medals. It’s a self-selected pool of whiskies that are eligible, as producers who don’t send in their whiskies don’t get a look in, and as the power of awards has increased, we’ve seen more shops send in their own-brands. I’d not heard of any of the smaller companies entering until a press release landed in my inbox announcing a silver medal at the International Spirits Challenge for Banoch Brae, the whisky bottled for Nisa.

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Caol Ila Feis Ile 2014 and 2013

Caol Ila

In a change form my normal obsessive note-taking, this year’s trip to Islay for Feis Ile, the “Festival of Malt and Music”, was surprisingly note free. I’m still trying to work out whether this was a deliberate choice, to step back and enjoy the experience in the moment without feeling a need to record it for posterity, or whether I just drank too much and lost the ability to write coherently. In the meantime I need to get the few notes I did scribble out of my notebook and brain and into the ether, so as to cement them in history rather than disappear slowly from my leaky head.

So, a pair of festival bottllings – Caol Ila Feis Ile 2014 and also last year’s, the 2013.

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Aviations (and Blue Moons)

Blue Moon

It’s World Gin Day again, which gives me another excuse to spend an afternoon drinking gin rather than tidying my flat. Last time I managed to write something for the day, I talked about the Negroni, still probably my favourite cocktail, and I’ve decided to go for another of my faves this time: the Aviation.

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Octomore Discovery – Bruichladdich Feis Ile 2014

20140527-081546-29746888.jpg

After years of trying, I’ve finally made it to what is often seen as an essential pilgrimage in the life of a whisky geek: I’ve come to Islay for Feis Ile – the festival of malt and music. Each distillery has an open day and at least one limited edition whisky, most of which are only available on the island. I’m staying a few minutes walk away from Bruichladdich and tried their Feis Ile bottling during their open day on Sunday, the quite ridiculous Octomore Discovery.

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Laphroaig Select

Laphroaig Select

From time to time the little whisky geek echo chamber that I sit in gets its collective metaphorical panties in virtual bunch. The most recent bunch-incident happened this past weekend with the launch of Laphroaig Select, the latest entry in the distillery’s ongoing line-up. Like a good little whisky geek, I got caught up with the crowd, but have spent the last few days considering my opinion. While I initially tried it within hours of the announcement of its existence was made public, a couple of days of thought have changed my mind considerably about the whisky.

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Tullamore Dew 12 – a reversal of opinion

Tullamore Dew 12

I’ve had a few of my closely held whisky beliefs shattered recently, which has opened my eyes to reexamining even more of them. In an initially unrelated incident, I realised I was out of everyday drinking whisky in the cupboard the other week, so I looked at the ‘coming up next’ shelf and chose a bottle that’d been sat there a while – Tullamore Dew 12 year old. It was one I’d been avoiding as I ‘knew’ that I wouldn’t like it, but, spoiler alert, I found that I was wrong.

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Powdered Alcohol – a mini-investigation into the wonder of Palcohol

Palcohol

One of the rules of Facebook, and the internet in general, is that people post things without really looking into what they’ve posted. I do it quite often, but am also quite obsessive in checking out other people’s posts, as I am That Guy on the internet.

Over the last few days a bunch of posts have appeared about a product called Palcohol, a pounch of ‘powdered alcohol’. Most of them said exactly the same thing, linking to the TTB label approval (the system I wrote about in my last post) and mentioning that a page had once existed on their website containing inappropriate marketing messages. In usual fashion, I decided to do some looking around to see what I could find so that I could be Best. Here’s what I found.

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