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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Update: The Supernova 2014 has now been properly announced, and is being released (at least in Europe) on September 12th 2014. Oliver Klimek has some tasting notes and details up on Dramming. Rambling about other vaguely related things follows.
Something that’s popped up while speaking to m’colleagues recently is our lack of ability to see the future. There seems to be an assumption from drinkers that those who work in the booze industry, especially retail, know all the news from the industry. While that’s flattering it’s not particularly accurate, with hundred of new products appearing across the booze spectrum each month it’s quite hard to keep up with all of the new releases. Fortunately there are a number of tools that help us seem a little more informed, one of which is courtesy of the US government – COLAs Online.
I’ve commented in the past on how easy it is to pick up a fairly random selection of Polish beers from the random shops near my flat, one of the benefits of living in one of the most traditionally Polish areas of London. However, until now it’s been Polish beers from Poland, generally with little English on the can unless they’re a slightly larger brand that has made its way in via larger scale import channels. While trawling the shelves of yet another corner shop (there are a lot of corners around the Hanger Lane Gyratory) I came across something that was slightly different – a style that I’ve not see before from a Polish brewer: Żywiec Bock.
It worries me where simple questions can lead. “What is an average bottle of whisky?”, I innocently asked myself recently when the Scotch Whisky Association produced their yearly pre-budget report on how damaging spirits duty is to their industry. While I’m on the fence on lower alcohol duty, and am still working out what I think of Minimum Unit Pricing, I always like to see what the SWA say about the world of whisky, especially when they’re pushing for duty to be lowered in budget. One of this year’s headline numbers was that 79% of the price of an average bottle is now tax. “That sounds like a lot,” I thought to myself, leading inevitably to my earlier question – “What is an average bottle of whisky?”.