You are what you eat & drink


WTF is this?

Tobacco flavoured vodka…


A sour dram for Scotland

Suntory time: Japanese whisky named world’s best in sour dram for Scotland

World Whisky Bible gives highest mark to Yamazaki single malt while spiritual homeland’s ranking is dramatically watered down

A whisky from the Yamazaki distillery in Japan has been ranked the world’s best. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/Guardian

Scottish drinkers could be forgiven for crying into their drams after a single malt from Japan was named the best whisky in the world for the first time.

Whisky expert Jim Murray awarded a record-equalling 97.5 marks out of 100 to Suntory’s Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013, hailing it as “near indescribable genius” in his comments in the forthcoming 2015 World Whisky Bible.

Murray’s tasting notes described the whisky, from the company’s distillery near Kyoto in western Japan, as possessing “a nose of exquisite boldness” and as “thick, dry, [and] as rounded as a snooker ball”.

It is the first time since the guide was first published 12 years ago that the top award has gone to a whisky from Japan. The country’s whiskies were once the butt of jokes but have won a slew of awards and widespread critical acclaim in recent years.

To compound the pain felt in the spiritual home of the “water of life”, this is the first time that not a single Scottish whisky made it into the top five in Murray’s respected guide.

Suntory’s winning whisky is aged for 12 to 15 years in casks previously used for Oloroso sherry, giving it what Murray described as a “light, teasing spice”.

Source: TheGuardian Read more

What Next?


In Paris, the drink that drove Van Gogh mad

Famed for turning the cafes of Montmartre into a haven for booze-addled artists, the story of absinthe – and its current revival in Paris — is as thick and cloudy as the drink itself.

Absinthe: How the Green Fairy became literature’s drink

The green stuff     Absinthe, a green liquor known for its hallucinogenic effects and popular with legendary authors and artists, was banned for most of the past century. (Goran Heckler/Alamy)

The green stuff
Absinthe, a green liquor known for its hallucinogenic effects and popular with legendary authors and artists, was banned for most of the past century. (Goran Heckler/Alamy)

Absinthe has inspired many great authors of the last 150 years – and may have ruined some as well. Jane Ciabattari investigates the green spirit’s peculiar power.

Arthur Rimbaud called absinthe the “sagebrush of the glaciers”  because a key ingredient, the bitter-tasting herb Artemisia absinthium or wormwood, is plentiful in the icy Val-de-Travers region of Switzerland. That is where the legendary aromatic drink that came to symbolise decadence was invented in the late 18th Century. It’s hard to overstate absinthe’s cultural impact – or imagine a contemporary equivalent.

The spirit was a muse extraordinaire from 1859, when Édouard Manet’s The Absinthe Drinker shocked the annual Salon de Paris, to 1914, when Pablo Picasso created his painted bronze sculpture, The Glass of Absinthe. During the Belle Époque, the Green Fairy – nicknamed after its distinctive colour – was the drink of choice for so many writers and artists in Paris that five o’clock was known as the Green Hour, a happy hour when cafes filled with drinkers sitting with glasses of the verdant liquor. Absinthe solidified or destroyed friendships, and created visions and dream-like states that filtered into artistic work. It shaped Symbolism, Surrealism, Modernism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Cubism. Dozens of artists took as their subjects absinthe drinkers and the ritual paraphernalia: a glass, slotted spoon, sugar cubes – sugar softened the bitter bite of cheaper brands – and fountains dripping cold water to dilute the liquor.

Absinthe was, at its conception, not unlike other medicinal herbal preparations (vermouth, the German word for wormwood, among them). Its licorice flavor derived from fennel and anise. But this was an aperitif capable of creating blackouts, pass-outs, hallucinations and bizarre behaviour. Contemporary analysis indicates that the chemical thujone in wormwood was present in such minute quantities in properly distilled absinthe as to cause little psychoactive effect. It’s more likely that the damage was done by severe alcohol poisoning from drinking twelve to twenty shots a day. Still, the mystique remains.

Muse in a bottle

Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Emile Zola, Alfred Jarry and Oscar Wilde were among scores of writers who were notorious absinthe drinkers. Jarry insisted on drinking his absinthe straight; Baudelaire also used laudanum and opium; Rimbaud combined it with hashish. They wrote of its addictive appeal and effect on the creative process, and set their work in an absinthe-saturated milieu.

In the poem Poison, from his 1857 volume The Flowers of Evil, Baudelaire ranked absinthe ahead of wine and opium: “None of which equals the poison welling up in your eyes that show me my poor soul reversed, my dreams throng to drink at those green distorting pools.”

Rimbaud, who “saw poetry as alchemical, a way of changing reality” Edmund White notes in his biography of the poet, saw absinthe as an artistic tool. Rimbaud’s manifesto was unambiguous: he declared that a poet “makes himself a seer through a long, prodigious and rational disordering of all the senses.” Absinthe, with its hallucinogenic effects, could achieve just that.

Guy de Maupassant imbibed, as did characters in many of his short stories. His A Queer Night in Paris features a provincial notary who wangles an invitation to a party in the studio of an acclaimed painter. He drinks so much absinthe he tries to waltz with his chair and then falls to the ground. From that moment he forgets everything, and wakes up naked in a strange bed.

Contemporaries cited absinthe as shortening the lives of Baudelaire, Jarry and poets Verlaine and Alfred de Musset, among others. It may even have precipitated Vincent Van Gogh cutting off his ear. Blamed for causing psychosis, even murder, by 1915 absinthe was banned in France, Switzerland, the US and most of Europe.

Cultural hangover

The Green Fairy faded as a cultural influence for most of the 20th Century, to be replaced by cocktails, martinis and, in the 1960s, a panoply of mind-altering drugs. There were occasional echoes of its power, though mostly nostalgic.

Ernest Hemingway sipped the Green Fairy in Spain in the 1920s as a journalist, and later during the Spanish Civil War. His character Jake Barnes consoles himself with absinthe after Lady Brett runs off with the bullfighter in The Sun Also Rises. In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan brings along a canteen of the stuff. In Death in the Afternoon Hemingway explains he stopped bullfighting because he couldn’t do it happily “except after drinking three or four absinthes, which, while they inflamed my courage, slightly distorted my reflexes.”

Hemingway even invented a Death in the Afternoon cocktail for a 1935 celebrity drinks book: “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”

In the late 20th Century, absinthe became a decadent reference point among a new generation of writers based in latter-day Bohemian outposts like San Francisco and New Orleans.

“The absinthe cauterized my throat with its flavor, part pepper, part licorice, part rot,” wrote precocious New Orleans horror writer Poppy Z Brite in a 1989 story, His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood. The narrator and his boyfriend, jaded grave robbers, have found more than fifty bottles of the now-outlawed liquor, sealed up in a New Orleans family tomb. By the end, the narrator is fantasising about his first bitter kiss of the spirit from beyond the grave.

Source: BBCNews Read more

Let’s beGIN with a little history

When gin was full of sulphuric acid and turpentine

Gin did not shake off its bad reputation in the 19th Century

It’s 250 years since the death of William Hogarth. His famous work Gin Lane still informs the way people think about the drink.

It’s arguably the most potent anti-drug poster ever conceived. A woman, her clothes in disarray, her head thrown back in intoxicated oblivion, allows her baby to slip from her grasp, surely to its death in a stairwell below.

She’s the centrepiece in an eye-wateringly grim urban melee – full of death, misery, starvation and fighting.

The year was 1751. The drug in question was gin. And the engraving was a conscious effort by William Hogarth, along with his friend novelist Henry Fielding, to force the government to do something about a drink that was threatening to tear apart the social fabric of England.

The craze had started with changes in the laws at the end of 17th Century aimed at curbing consumption of French brandy by liberalising the distilling industry.

The Glorious Revolution in 1688 saw the arrival of William and Mary, from the Netherlands, to topple James II. The Dutch influx brought a new spirit – genever – which rapidly caught on in England.

“There was a good chance in the 18th Century that the gins being drunk in London were genever-style,” says Gary Regan, author of the Bartender’s Gin Compendium. “A lot of it was probably really terrible. People were distilling in their houses.”

Of course, the genever being drunk by William III and his successors was not easy to replicate in a bathtub in a basement. The eager entrepreneurs reached for just about any additive they could in an effort to make the drink even vaguely palatable.


Types of gin

Genever, Jenever: Dutch spirit, still immensely popular in the Netherlands today. Distilled from malt wine and flavoured with juniper, hence the name jenever. Also referred to as Madam Geneva in English.

Old Tom Gin: Now used to refer to a style of gin popular in England in the 19th Century. Typically sweeter than modern gin. Various explanations for how name came to be. Traditionally often featuring some sort of cat on the bottle.

London Dry Gin: Modern style of gin, which has dominated since the late 19th Century.

Plymouth Gin: Similar to London dry gin, although said to be slightly sweeter, and the subject of protected geographical indication status, meaning it can only be made in Plymouth.

Sloe Gin: A liqueur made from gin and sloe berries from the blackthorn.


“You had a poorer populace who aspired to drink like the king,” says Lesley Solmonson, author of Gin: A Global History. “They wanted novelty. But the poor couldn’t afford the genever that the king was drinking.”

Instead home distilling operations mushroomed, with some areas having every single building churning out bad gin.

“They were using sulphuric acid, turpentine and lime oil,” says Solmonson. “It was like death in a glass. One tankard could kill you.”

“People were drinking to forget their misery. These gins were roughly double what the proof of a modern gin is. And they were drinking a whole tankard of it.”

For even the most virtuous pauper, temptation was hard to avoid.

“It was ferociously adulterated,” says Jenny Uglow. “And it was sold everywhere – in grocer’s shops and ship’s chandlers. There was a bar in every building. It has been said that it tasted more like rubbing alcohol.”

The first half of the 18th Century saw rapidly escalating concern over the new drug’s effects, as the records of the Old Bailey show.

Source: BBCNews Read more


An Interesting Assortment


Ballantine’s limited edition collection

The Ballantine’s 17 Year Old Signature Distillery Collection consists of whiskies from four different distilleries each intended which demonstrates the taste profile and “unique structure” of the blended Scotch whisky.

The four “signature” whiskies released in the collection are Scapa, Miltonduff, Glenburgie and, most recently, Glentauchers. – The Spirits Business


Interesting Question

Followed a new Tweeter today. This was the first tweet that I saw at the top:

chatelle_napoleon_brandy_25088An interesting question.

My immediate response is brandy!

Now perhaps I am a boring old fart with no imagination, so I was perplexed by the question; maybe I am just a stick-in-the-mud traditionalist that has never considered anything outside the brandy box.

But I see that rum and whisky also get a mention on google. One link even suggested Southern Comfort.

To me there are some traditions, that to break them leads directly to purgatory, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Things like sherry in a trifle or other than a brandy sauce with a Christmas pud are just not tampered with. Just think, a Brandy Alexander without brandy, the mere thought takes me beyond redemption.

So you can imagine my surprise when I read this tweet.

Egg Nog, needs brandy to be an Egg Nog.



Bundaberg rum

From Australia

The Times

…launches its own brand of gin

I’ve seen a couple of excellent media spoofs recently on The Onion (here and here, since you ask) so I blinked twice when an email arrived saying: “The Times newspaper has today launched a new premium London Dry Gin.”

First thought: The Onion had managed to hack into News UK’s corporate relations data base. But it turns out to be true. Here it is on The Times’s website.

Now for the hype. The Times London dry gin is “made in very small batches to a unique recipe” with nine botanicals plus “a cold-distilled mixture of fresh zests.”

Times editor John Witherow describes it in the press release as “a fantastic blend with a unique taste.”

It is being launched through The Times’s whisky club for a special price of £29.95 (that’s a £5 discount on the retail price).

Each bottle carries an individually-numbered label featuring the royal crest along with The Times’s lion resting on juniper branches. And it quotes John Walter, the founder and proprietor of The Times: “A newspaper is like a well-covered table, it should contain something suited to every palate.”

However, in the paper’s 2013 food and drink recommendations today, The Times London dry gin doesn’t get a mention. Better luck next year. Cheers!



Have you Found your Christmas Spirit Yet?


What’s Soju?

It’s a bean!

Noooo, that’s soya.

Soju is to South Korea like grappa is to Italy, or cachaça is to Brazil, or sake is to Japan, etc.

Interesting fact: Three times more soju is sold around the world than vodka.


A spirit  distilled from rice, between 20% and 46% ABV.

Soju: the most popular booze in the world

The South Korean spirit is the globe’s best-selling alcohol. But they’re not just drinking it in Korea these days – you can try chilled shots or soju cocktails in New York and London

A shot of soju: ‘The best is described as buttery, grainy or malty, with hints of sweetness.’ Photograph: Washington Post/Getty Images

Attention pub quizzers and booze geeks. There’s a brand of one particular spirit that sells more than twice as much as any other in the world. Any guesses? If you said vodka, back of the class. The answer is soju, national hooch of South Korea. Jinro Soju…

Soju now sells in 80 countries, with a rising profile helped by Korean superstar Psy, who not only proclaimed soju his “best friend” but also lent his dark-glassed visage to various campaigns to get the rest of the world smitten too.

Psy is just sharing his countrymen’s passion. In a country with the world’s highest per capita alcohol consumption (hey, it can’t be easy living next door to North Korea), soju takes a whopping 97% of the spirits market. But this is a drink embedded in Korean culture since the 14th century, when Mongol invaders taught the locals how to distill, with fermented rice as the traditional starter. Today, the final spirit ranges in strength from 45% ABV to more common varieties that hit your glass ataround 25% ABV.

As with most spirits there’s good stuff and bad stuff about – the latter being low-grade muck made from sweet potatoes and tapioca rather than artfully distilled fermented rice. Look for respected brands such as Chamisul or the delightfully named Chum-Churum. If you’re in Korea, search out Andong – a 45% ABV beauty so highly regarded it has been officially designated as Korea’s Intangible Cultural Assets No 12.

In the UK, it’s the less potent soju you’ll find in Korean bars and restaurants, where many punters drink it neat, chilled in a shot glass. This is also, of course, a great chance to discover soju’s ubiquity as a novel complement to nosh.

Read more

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Ever drunk Sheep Dip?

sheep_dipNo? Me neither, but the name’s good.

Want to know why it’s called Sheep Dip? Check out Spencerfield’s site, there’s an interesting history.

The White Ghost




Read more about Jacob’s Ghost on The Global Play Book

And on Whisky…


Vodka from strange places

One doesn’t normally associate vodka with New Zealand; Russia, Finland, Poland, yes, but not ‘Down Under.’

New Zealand does make it’s own.

It’s available in the USA, having been recently launched there.

“After humble beginnings in their eponymous shed at Wanaka (still affectionately used for office functions), this new world vodka offering is holding its own on the world stage, recently winning the prestigious Silver Medal in the World Spirits Competition.” – Gourmet

“Broken Shed surprised me, and not because it uses spring water from both islands of New Zealand. No, what really struck me was that it’s distilled from whey, the liquid byproduct of cheesemaking. Whey is rich in protein and lactose, a sugar. The Mongolians have been making airag from mares’ milk forever, and variations on fermented milk exist throughout Asia and the middle east. Given the Kiwi origin of this spirit, I’m going to guess sheep’s milk was the source of the whey.” – Benitos Wine Review

“Broken Shed is a naturally smooth vodka that is crafted without including any additives or sugars.” – TopShelfLiquor

Source: – Click on the image

First I found this…

Which I stole borrowed from Fixed Gear Blog. There were no indications as to what it was, I just like old things. It appeared to be about Finnish beer; ‘Lager’ and the thirsty bear gave me the clue.

So I googled Finnish beer, there’s a lot of it.

That’s about when I found this…

Nectar of the Gods

Reflections on Beer, Scotch, and Philosophy

Which is a pretty informative blog about lots, kept me reading for ages.  There are few blogs that inspire me to write about them, this is one of them. Click on their banner to transport you to happiness. A permanent link below as well.

Original Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Recipe

Jack Daniel’s is one of the best-selling whiskeys in the world and its founder was from Wales. Photograph: Charlie Riedel/AP

A Welsh businessman claims to have found the original recipe for Jack Daniel’s whiskey in a book of herbal remedies.

Mark Evans said he discovered the lost recipe while he was researching his family history. The book was written in 1853 by his great-great grandmother, whose surname was Daniels and who was also a local herbalist in Llanelli in south Wales.

He now believes that the recipe was taken to Lynchburg, Tennessee, in the US, by her brother-in-law – John “Jack the lad” Daniels – where Jack Daniel’s whiskey is distilled.

Jack Daniel’s is one of the best-selling whiskeys in the world and its founder was from Wales. Evans said the recipe also matches ingredients found on the bottle.

“I’m pretty sure I’ve discovered the original recipe in great-great grannie’s book. I was doing some family research, looking at photographs and things, and I wanted to look at the family bible. At the bottom of the bookcase was this book,” he told the Llanelli Star.

He added: “My great, great-grandmother wrote in the book in 1853, and Jack Daniel’s is dated 1866, so it predates it. There is a link, because my grandmother’s grandfather’s brother – my great, great uncle – left for America and nobody ever heard from him after a couple of letters. That was during the time that Jack Daniel’s was set up, but more important than that, he was called John ‘Jack the Lad’ Daniel’s. We know he went to Lynchburg Tennessee and I’m pretty sure he used great-great grannie’s recipe to start off the whiskey business.”

Source: The Guardian Read more