Monday, September 20, 2010

SLAINTE!

One of my favourite Malt Whiskies and one that brings back pleasant memories is The Macallan.
I marketed this brand in New Zealand in the mid 1980's through to the early 90's. Whilst never being a big seller (in New Zealand) it certainly was head and shoulders above most of its competitors in majesty. This is definitely the king of Malts. It has power and consistency but the richness of the whisky is perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the sherry oak casks. I have always had at least one bottle of The Macallan in my collection at any one time and sometimes  a couple of different styles. The 12 y.o. though is definitely a perennial. When sorting out my whiskies recently I 'rediscovered' the The Macallan 'Twenties'.

This is a recreation of the style of The Macallan in the 1920's. Macallan's Master Distiller sampled bottles of The Macallan from that decade and matched their aroma and flavour with more recent distillations taken from the casks maturing in the warehouses. There definitely is an evolving style with whiskies and over the years public tastes vary and blenders put their personal stamps on production. The twenties style of bottled whisky was drier as after most of the production was sold to whisky blenders as a 'top dressing' single malt for their blended whiskies, the few remaining casks continued to mature their contents for longer, resulting in a whisky that was slightly drier than modern day Macallan. On sampling it again today I have really enjoyed its richness of flavour with a lovely peachy and citrus nose. There definitely is a pronounced sherry character (used sherry casks are used to age some good Malts in). The finish is spicy and gingery leaving you wanting more (dangerous!).
I was lucky enough to visit The Macallan distillery in 1989. I remember after having a great tour of the facilities having a comparative tasting in Easter Elchies House the beautiful old residence that defines the brand.
Easter Elchies House











Saturday, September 18, 2010

WHISKY GALORE!


Today has been a day of jobs around the house (Her Indoors is back). One of them was making concrete bricks with ceramics embedded for a garden. I had to fossick in the basement for a mould and for some quick drying cement which involved moving a few boxes and crates. A few of these contained some of my whiskies. Now I knew I had them but had kind of misplaced them in or move North. I recently wrote a post on tasting some of the Malt whiskies I have. These are additional to those.
When I was travelling in my job I used to buy a Malt whisky or Cognac at duty free on return. Some I gave away as gifts, others I just put in the wine cellar. Years ago I attended a whisky auction when United Distillers got rid of a lot of their old stock. There were some amazing bargains to be had and I still have some bottles left. Many years ago, I uncovered an old cache of spirits at a now long defunct liquor importers. I have a few old bottles from this.
In random order the bottles I dragged out of the basement today are:

Scapa 12 y.o. Malt from Orkney

Hugh O'Donnell Glen Mist whiskey liqueur from Ireland. (circa 1940's).
Highland Park 12 y.o. Malt from Orkney (old bottle shape).
Highland Park 12 y.o. Malt from Orkney (new bottle shape).
Cutty Sark blend (circa 1950's).
Tullamore Dew 12 y.o. Malt from Ireland.
Long John MacDonald Royal Choice 21 y.o. blend in wade decanters (3 bottles).
Antique 'extra special' blend (Mcleay Duff circa 1950's)
Macallan 12.y.o Malt.
The Royal Household blend (James Buchanan circa 1940's).
Haigs Dimple 12.y.o. blend (circa 1950's)
The Mill Burn 12.y.o. Malt (McLeay Duff circa 1950's)
Lord Calvert blended whiskey (Kentucky circa 1950's)
The Glendronach 15.y.o. Malt
Usher's 'extra' blended whisky ( circa 1950's)
The Macallan 'twenties' Malt (recreation of the 1920's style).
The Glenlivit 15.y.o Malt
Munro's King of Kings deluxe blend (in stone jug)
Chivas Regal 12.y.o. blend.

I should have dug these out earlier in winter but  we will enjoy a tipple with discerning friends. I'm sure that TSB would appreciate the taste of some of these.


Friday, September 10, 2010

A QUESTION OF TASTE






I have just completed an exhaustive comparative evaluation of the blogs that emanate from Richard (of RBB)’s bus station. There are a couple of sleek new models, a few solid performers but the rest are clapped out and dangerous to passengers who would be better off avoiding them. This exercise was not unlike a major comparative wine tasting. With a wine tasting, particularly Sauvignon Blanc, the judge is left with sore teeth and gums from the acid in the wine. This blog ‘tasting’ has similarly left me with uncomfortable feelings – nausea, distaste, pains in the nether regions amongst them. 

I got The Curmudgeon to assist me in the exercise as the sheer scale of it was daunting and I knew that he was used to wading through piles of shit after the plumbing problems he had in a previous abode. He put on his ‘shit suit’ for the job. I didn’t tell him that he looked like a dick (Richard (of RBB) had earlier likened him to a sperm which I guess is related.

The results are as follows, points out of 20: A Bronze medal is between 15.5 and 17; a Silver medal between 17 and 18.5 and  Gold medal between 18.5 and 20.

Akish the Philistine
Made in the traditional style and showing age. Tired and not looking as if it will last.  Any good aspects have turned to vinegar which is only being held up by a heavily wooded structure. 10-
Anselm’s Extremely Slow Blog
Rather dull and boring. Flat and Germanic with no zest. Flabby like a Liebfraumilch. Reminded me of Blue Nun. 12. 
Aurel’s Blog
Another Kraut style but with slightly more edge to it. Started off fresh but soon deteriorated. Old apples? Made in the newer style but the traditional values cannot be shaken off. 13.
Bennett’s Incredibly Fast Blog
A much newer style, refreshing in its boisterousness verging on brashness but lacking in depth. Some maturing will help bring out the hidden richness and knock off some of the rough edges. 13.
Bin Hire
An extremely bad odour is the first impression. No distinctive faults that can be identified but something disturbing lurking beneath. Made in a ‘me too’ style that lacks distinctiveness. Rotten fruitiness and a dusty, dirty finish. Best avoided. 10-
Christian Living
Made in the traditional style, rather unenlightening but ambiguous. There is a hint of something else lurking beneath. Sour grapes? There is an old woody structure but it is balanced by some luscious juicy tones. 14
Comeinyourpants.
The Curmudgeon became apoplectic when he saw how Richard (of RBB) referred to his blog (The Curmudgeon) on the list I had prepared. As all blogs were evaluated without the headings and therefore essentially ‘blind’, he did not know which blogs he was evaluating but obviously recognised his own. For fairness his points have been excluded so as not to distort the judging.
The inherent depth and richness is marred by an ascerbic edge which whilst not quite vitriolic is definitely acidic. Suffers from inconsistency but there is an underlying and constant resistance to the Roman style.  18 (Silver Medal).
Different Time Zone Bill
Erratic and insubstantial. Has aspirations to having an extra dimension but this just highlights the one-dimensionality of this product. Not to be trusted, there is no guarantee of provenance. 12.
Kiwi Doug.
One to look out for in the future. A relative newcomer but one with proven experience in other climes. Source material is imported but, with proper long-term grounding in NZ ‘terroir’ may yet prove itself. Recent showings are a bit tired perhaps showing low turnover. Fresh material and an extra sales and marketing push may change this. 16 (Bronze Medal).
Man of Errors
Definitely a designer brand but a beautifully constructed one at that. Boutique in nature due to its limited production and its eagerly sought after offerings. Man of Errors is in the top echelon. Criticism is that it might be a little cold and intellectual but there are shades and nuances that suggest a passionate beating heart just below the surface threatening to ravish and overwhelm. This heat and alcohol if kept in balance with structure and finesse may prove to be a classic. 18.6 Gold Medal.
My Spurt.
A show pony. One of these designer offerings that are all show and no substance. Aptly named as it seems that this one has shot its bolt before getting established. Designer in exterior there is unfortunately not much inside. A few tissues are recommended to wipe this one up. 12-
Nicola’s Supermarket Bag.
With a cheeky name poking fun at the hub this one started off really well. Using risky material that was bound to be controversial (cat murdering) consumers were trapped (but not to such a bad end as aforementioned cats). Overseas influence withdrew this from the market however so the initial promise failed to be delivered. 14.
Nicola’s Travel Bag.
All imported material this. With an understanding of local tastes this is not so bad but the source material is from some pretty dubious places. Continuity of supply has been a problem with fits and starts. Not a reliable proposition but there have been some quality offerings. One to support from the heart rather than the head I feel. A return to grass roots and an injection of local quality material is recommended and wished for. Keep on the horizon. 15.
Riccardo Testore
To be avoided. This is one of those imports quickly brought in to fill a gap in the market at a particular time. No class, no substance and it seems no continuity. Let it go the bargain bin. 10.
Richard’s Bass Bag
Whilst lacking in finesse and becoming a bit tired this original is still the market leader. Volume overpowers quality for sure but consistency and reliability have to count for something. At times flabby and at other times insipid there is still an element of unpredictability in the content. Source material shows some rot in the root system but overall though this one is like the old favourite uncle or the big cuddly teddy bear (the one with one ear). 18.5 (Gold Medal).
Richard’s Bass Bag 2.
Severe, hard, straight up and down. This is a cut down version of the previous and unfortunately lacks the warmth and familiarity of the original kind of like Crawford Farm versus Kim Crawford SP. OK for those dinner parties with poseurs but not to share with friends. 14.
Richard’s Bass Bag 3
Obviously being aware of the resistance to the austerity of RBB2, the new RBB3 tried to inject some warmth to this otherwise pale and pathetic offering. I feel that it only serves to split the market. Second Fiddle (see later) does this better. 13.
Satan Son of the Dawn
The deregulation of the market has brought in some exciting and crazy offerings . This one is dangerous and edgy. The overpowering stench of sulphur detracts on the nose however and the taste is a little too hot. That said the spiciness promised well but there have been no new releases and the current vintages are becoming stale. What could have been? 15.
Second Fiddle
A budget brand that has been around for a while. Unpretentious and unassuming this is a case of you get what you pay for. Occasionally it goes off market, whether from shortage of material, production difficulties or a marketing strategy of undersupply I don’t know. If RBB is like a cuddly old uncle this one is like that familiar old auntie who smells of mothballs, is a bit self-opinionated but you know that her heart is in the right place. It would help if you knew that she was loaded and was going to leave you the farm, but there you go. 16 (Bronze Medal)
Shaw Thing!
Flash and brassy this one ripped into the market full of promise and consistently under delivered. Content is shallow, tone is pushy and arrogant with a whiff that gets up your nose. It hasn’t been available for a while which is probably just as well. 11.
The Basket Guy
A nice brand that was well constructed with fine delicate material, a nice nose and refreshing finish. Some behind-the-scenes production difficulties seemed to erode the stability and production halted. A fond memory. 14.5.
The Confusion Chronicles
A precocious newcomer which started out tentatively but, once becoming established showed itself to be daring and controversial. Entering the New World arena with the baggage of traditional Old World on its back this one has showed promise. Edgy and flighty it doesn’t linger so the small offerings have to be taken and savoured as they arise. Some paranoia evident vis a vis the security of the underwear drawer and an unwillingness to enlist professional help.17 (Bronze Medal)
The Painted Face.
With start-up capital provided from the hub this one started out very slow and just sat for a while. Just when retailers were about to dump it from the shelves it rejuvenated itself and now shows promise of joining the ‘A’ team. A young style it has some quirkiness and individuality that is welcomed. Fresh, fruity and sweet with  a nice underlying edge this is one that shows those flabby Krauts what a good Germanic style should be like. 16 (Bronze Medal)
The Pink Paddler
With atrocious labelling this one was about to be written off as yet another insipid Rose until the content was explored. It is adventurous, clever and muscular showing great sustainability and power whilst retaining a sweet femininity. Unpredictable in a positive sense this one shows promise. 16.6 (Bronze Medal).
The The Guy
Had to take Alka Selzer after this one. It repeats on you. Not recommended. 10-
The Wine Guy
I couldn’t rate myself but asked The Curmudgeon to do so and not to tell me the results until after they were published.
Has he gone? What a tosser! I only did this because he promised me a drink and then the mean bastard gave me a left-over bottle of Crawford Farm Pinot Noir. It was quite nice but I won’t tell him that. His blog is boring and he seems obsessed with talking about wine. I put up with it in case he shares some with me but the greedy bugger just drinks the lot (sorry he says 'evaluates'). I’d give him 0 out of 20 for his site but I know that he has a couple of magnums in the cellar so won’t be able to drink those in a sitting so I’ll give him a 17.5 (Silver Medal). The Curmudgeon.
Twisted Scottish Bastard
An irreverent brand, this however is not like the critter ones and actually has some substance behind the boorish fa├žade. Thick-skinned and definitely woody this is rough and rustic on the surface but surprisingly has some delicacy underneath. Like a Malt whisky aged in sherry casks this one combines power with sophistication. Maturing though will knock off the remaining rough edges 18.5 (Gold Medal)

As a warm-up we looked at some other fringe blogs:
Jeshua
Bland and boring text book stuff. Some offerings so sweet and cloying as to make one gag 8-
Jesus Christ
Strong and controversial but too volatile to safely consume. 12.
Jessica
Sweet and savoury at the same time this one is instantly recognizable but has an exotic character. Suffers from over exposure though and is best kept as a secret. 14.
Simon E. Crafter
Blowsy over-worked American. All puff, no quality. 10 
John Locke
A pretend brand. Teases the consumer but has no real follow through. Only makes noises when it suits but will not support the Hub. 10.
Bas’s Bag.
Withered character with distinct goaty, gamey aroma. Strong whiff of ammonia on top of thin centre makes this particularly unpalatable. No recent offerings so may have died away. 10-

Thursday, September 9, 2010

ARROGANCE OR INDIFFERENCE?


Sometimes releases from wine companies, particularly big wine companies are bad. This can be attributed to pressure to move wine in tanks (small and medium companies also have this problem), pressure to fill the bottles to meet the demands of a strong brand (medium size companies also have this problem), or shovelling out anything as long as the packaging and website looks OK (generally the domain only of the big companies). It is when the responsibility of the brand is handed over to Marketing without enough input from the winemakers that there is a problem. This is fine if the marketers know something about wine but if they don't it is a case of consumer beware. I bought a bottle of Crawford Farm Pinot Noir 2008 today. It was heavily discounted ($11.99 down from over $20). Cheap yes but there have been so many very good wine specials on recently that I thought this was another. I was particularly looking for a Pinot Noir and avoiding the other cheap offerings as I know how much it costs to make good Pinot Noir. I chose the Crawford Farm on price yes (discounted price) but also becuse I trusted the brand. Generally, Crawford Farm  is made from selected fruit parcels like its cousin Kim Crawford 'spot label'. Foolishly I didn't check the back label. If I had done I would not have bought the wine.
Opening it this evening I was immediately struck by its pale colour and apparent lack of substance. This may be OK for a light Burgundy or a much older wine but this is a NZ 2008 Pinot Noir.  The taste showed a great deal of winemaker 'working' to extract some flavours and to try and put a bit of body in. Confused I checked the back label and discovered that the fruit source is from Marlborough, Hawkes Bay and Gisborne. Now I usually drink Marlborough Pinot Noir as my fourth choice after Waipara, Martinborough and Central Otago and find it OK but rarely exciting. But..Hawkes Bay and...Gisborne! Man, no wonder the wine is overworked.
I looked up the Crawford Farm website (subset of Kim Crawford/subset of Constellation NZ website) and was informed:

"The grapes for this wine were selected from cool climate vineyards in New
Zealand's premier Viticultural regions of Marlborough, Central Otago and
Nelson."

Interesting.

The wine notes blurb on the Crawford Farm Pinot Noir 2008 on  the website went on to tell me:

"The fruit was judiciously handled and cold soaked for four days to optimise
flavour and colour extraction and then fermented using selected yeast
strains to ensure maximum complexity (and a small portion of the ferment
was left to 'go wild' for added flavour and interest!).  100% Malolactic
fermentation together with partial French Oak maturation has resulted in a
full flavoured and well structured wine with instant appeal and a delightful,
lingering finish. "

I think that the marketers and the winemakers should get together over a glass of this concoction and get their story straight before releasing it to us the great unwashed.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

MIRACLE MARKETING


The Swiss have created an 8% alcohol 'wine' in powdered form that is aimed at the hiking/tramping/camping market. I'm sure that it tastes awful. After a long arduous hike a cool drink from a fresh mountain stream would be more enjoyable. If its more leisurely hiking/tramping that you do then why not carry a bottle or two of the real stuff. Second Fiddle is a strong believer in the Virgin Mary's mysteries and Jesus' miricles and recently spoke of the wedding at Cana where the big J supposedly turned water into wine at Mary's request. Maybe J had a packet or two of 'Trek 'n' Eat Rouge secreted on his person.