Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Keith paused to take a sip of the blended malt he brought back from Hong Kong ostensibly as a 'gift' for me, which I eventually paid for after listening to his Shogun-esque airport saga. "It was a heavy bottle dude," he whined. "And, I was helping this Lucy Liu look-a-like through the airport, who was on crutches. Jet ski accident. We clicked like a Glock. Know what I mean?"
I was sitting in his enormous basement bedroom, replete with aqua-green shag carpet, that had not changed much since high school. The faux bamboo walls were adorned with creepy dark wooden masks of Polynesian Gods that stared back at me, as did my reflection in a rectangular mirror with a mortar and cluster of seashells frame that unkindly revealed I had more chins than a Hong Kong telephone book. There was a lava lamp and a painting of a grass skirted hula hoop girl seductively gazing well past me. I felt like I was in a Tiki bar in the South Pacific, but for the Bruce Lee posters and near life-size Millenium Falcon suspended from the ceiling.
"Knowing is not enough. We must apply," he quoted his long-dead martial arts mentor with the intensity of Yoda.
He pointed at the Bruce Lee poster on his wall, that has been there since grade 9. Seriously, grade 9!
"Debs you can take your blog to the next level if you apply the knowledge you have. You have to embrace Twitter and Facebook. They will drive traffic to your blog. And you have to write more reviews and stop those stupid, off-beat tales of woe of your life. Nobody wants to hear from Debbie Downer."
The plan was simple. I was supposed to drop by this evening, pick up the bottle, have maybe one drink and leave. But nothing is that simple with my Chinese-Canadian friend since primary school. No, he was determined to lecture me on entrepreneurship and the potential of my blog. I tried to be patient, but if he called me 'Debs' one more time I might have to bash his head in with the stormtrooper helmut sitting on top of the Sony Trinitron picture tube TV until his Mandarin shrieking mother comes downstairs and pulls me off him.
"That's a bit rich coming from you. Whatever happened to some of your brilliant ideas. Camo condoms?" I inquired.
"Huh?" Keith shifted in his wicker chair next to the king size waterbed, upon which were strewn black and white manga paperbacks. I shuddered to think what a crime scene investigator would see with a black light in here.
"C'mon, you remember the camouflage condoms. Last I heard, you were working on a logo. What was the logo?"
"Don't let them see you coming," Keith muttered sheepishly while he gazed at the TV, as if Anderson Cooper suddenly had something interesting to say. I much prefer Erin Burnett even when she doesn't have anything interesting to say.
"Or what about the mistletoe belt buckle? The great holiday gift! I even remember the branding you wanted to use: 'kiss me under the mistletoe." I was still searching for one more product idea that he thought would make him millions.
"Yeah, yeah, but I almost had it with the chainmail bikini. Damn prototype pinched when they sat down."
"Pinched? Oh come on! The poor college girl looked like she had welts after walking in it for ten minutes on the beach. Not to mention that the metal heated up in the sun and burned her skin."
"It didn't burn her skin!" He scrunched up his nose as his glasses were slipping. I could hear his mother upstairs pound her foot on the kitchen floor, which was her subtle signal for us to lower our voices.
"So, what do you think of this?" I asked, trying to defuse the conversation. I set my glass down next to an enormous conch shell.
Keith sniffed the shot glass, took a sip and nodded. "I am tasting a lot of smoke and mackerel. Online I read that the blend is made up of Talisker, Caol Ila and Tobermory."
Keith had an amazing memory and I had no doubt he read that. I could find very little online written about Poit Dhubh, a 12 year old blended malt. All I knew was that it was owned by a relatively small company (Praban na Linne Ltd.) located on the Isle of Skye. Distribution is limited.
"On the nose, I am picking up dandelion, honey, oats, brine, sea air and some sherry." I sniffed for more but wasn't getting anything else.
"Well, there is precious little sherry to taste. I dunno how you nose sherry." He averted his gaze from the TV. Anderson had gone to commercial.
"I smell it and I taste it." I held up the bottle to the light of the lava lamp. A pale malt with no caramel E150 coloring added either. "No doubt about it, sherry is present on the palate, which I grant is a bit baffling given the reported core malts. I think there may be some aging in ex-sherry casks of these peaty and smoky malts."
Keith was pensive. A silence. Maybe 30 seconds. A record he quickly shattered: "What I am getting on the palate is brine, wood smoke, lemons, and then some sherry, just slight. A real melding of peat, smoke and slight sherry. Interesting. 43% ABV and unchilfiltered. This is good shit."
"On the finish I really taste Talisker. There is a lemon seeds and pith note from the palate that remains on the finish along with a salty note that is Talisker. Rosewood and oranges too. You da man! Thanks for picking this up!" I enthused.
"The back label gives guidance. Just say Potch Ghoo."
"Gaelic is a really strange language" Keith muttered. Staring up at the poster of Bruce once more he said:
"Willing is not enough we must do."
I nodded and added, "I think we must 'do' . . . more Potch Ghoo!"
P.S. If you want a slightly more succinct review of this good blended malt Scotch, click on my video.
Sunday, January 10, 2016
"Do you like those ones?"
"Yup!" and turned away so she could not read my ashen face.
My mind was already trying to scheme what of equal value I could exchange the Dewar's for. Bowmore was a keeper, but Dewar's was one I intended to exchange. And I mean exchange! My last experience with that blend had not been pleasant. A couple of years ago I bought a bottle and found it to be terrible.
Over the phone, on boxing day evening, I was lamenting to a friend the high cost of Scotch whisky. Where I live (Canada) blends and single malt prices have gone through the roof in recent years. Let me give you a few examples:
Chivas Regal 12yrs - $49
Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 yrs - $53
Chivas Regal 18 yrs - $99
Balvenie Double Wood 12 yrs - $75
Cardhu 12 yrs - $75
Cragganmore 12 yrs - $75
Highland Park 12yrs - $80
Glenmorangie Nectar D'OR 12yrs - $80
Laphroaig 10yrs - $80
Talisker 10yrs - $80
Dalmore 12 yrs - $95
I mean $53 for Johnnie Walker Black?*&^%!!!! What is the world coming to? It seems that $75 is now the new threshold for a good 12 year old single malt. Don't even thing about anything older. For the really good stuff you are looking north of $100 in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many other high tax states.
There are two reasons for higher prices lately: (1) Greedy government imposed sin taxes; (2) increased demand overseas causes drinks companies to raise their prices here. But, now for the good news! Global Scotch whisky exports fell by 7% last year and demand fell particularly hard in its biggest markets USA (-9%). According to the BBC (click here) some other markets shrunk also: Singapore (-39%), and Germany (-18%).
Part of the reason we have seen a trend as of late away from age statements (ie. Macallan) was that past demand was so strong (Taiwan +36%, India +29%) that drinks companies thought sales would continue to grow no matter what they did. I can hear the suits in the C-Suite now: "Just keep that single malt tasting close to what it already tasted like. They will never notice a few less years in the barrel or less 1st fill casks. Hell, nearly all of them mix with ice and soda anyway."
Guess what? I think guys like you and I have noticed, and we are doing what consumers in other areas of the economy have always done, we migrate to products offering better value for the dollar.
Canadian and American whiskies are enjoying a bit of a boom in sales as of late. Quality is the best it has ever been and prices are very reasonable when compared to Scotch whisky. And then there is rum! Ever try some sipping rums? Goslings? Eldorado 12 years? You can spend a lot less on those spirits and guys are catching on.
So, when I got off the phone, bearing all of the above in mind, I though "oh, what the hell, let's give the Dewar's 12yrs a go." My New Year's Resolution will be to only review whiskies under the $100 price point and really try to find and review those bargains that deliver good quality. Maybe Dewar's is a better blend than it was four or five years ago. Blends can change in taste. Sometimes it is an intentional decision by the suits in head office to task a master blender with changing the flavor profile to what they deem is 'mainstream' which is code word for stronger sales. I really think this is what happened to Black Grouse. When it burst on the market around 2003 it was a peat and iodine bomb with plenty of tar and smoke of Islay. Try it today and it is not even recognizable to what it had once been. It's sherried and grainier than it ever was.
A lot cheaper than Johnnie Walker Black and Chivas 12 where I live.
Mellon, fruitcake, raspberries.
Spiced honey up front, followed by easy sherry notes, golden barley, pancakes, spiced strawberries.
Malty, black pepper, fennel, anise, arak, black licorice, blackened toast.
This is really good in the blend category. Definitely displays some sherry notes on the palate and then there is a very pleasant finish of malt, black licorice and dark toast. Well balanced. Not grainy either. I was so shocked by my initial impressions that I revisited this bottle several times over the holidays and the flavors remained consistent.
The abv is 40% and I just have a gut feeling that this bottle might not taste so great if it was half empty and placed on a shelf for six months. Dewar's 12 upon opening is a delight and remains for a while, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it does not respond well to oxidation. I would finish this bottle within two months once the bottle falls below 50% full.
I would add Dewar's 12 to my list of 'comfort blends' that deliver good value for money. I put this on par with Chivas 12 (another blend that seems to go flat in the bottle too soon after opening), but Johnnie Walker Black is still more interesting. Black doesn't go flat. It just remains really good.
So, I guess I should thank the Wife and also refrain from referring to her as the Wife (fortunately she never reads the blog - living with me is enough of a treat).
Happy New Year 2016!
P.S. Now that you have read this post, below is my video review.