Work is starting to get busy and I’ve not got a lot of time to write long blog posts at the moment, so here’s some more random ‘short’ snippets on booze that I’ve managed to throw down my throat recently. In other news the blog was three years old last Friday. Which is quite scary.
The year hasn’t ended yet and here it is – a blog post about the most recent Whisky Squad tasting. It’s even (unless plans go awry, in which case I’ll delete this sentence making these parentheses entirely pointless) before the next Squad meeting, the Christmas dinner on the 8th of December, so this officially makes me a good boy again.
Anyways, the second tasting of November was deliberately pushed towards the end of the month as it was in honour of Movember, and the extra couple of weeks meant that there were some moustaches on display, unlike during the Smoking Section tasting where MoSista Charly‘s stick on lip warmer was the only thing worthy of the name ‘Mo’. Anyways, we gathered upstairs at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society with bottles donated from a variety of sponsors and all the proceeds going straight to the Whisky4Movember fund raising efforts. Unfortunately we had some generous sponsors and even excluding the emergency bottle I had in my bag, just in case any of the whiskies didn’t arrive, we had eight drams to get through. It’s a hard life…
So, in an effort to stop writing about things that aren’t booze (which only really happens around this birthday moustache part of the year) here’s a quick round-up of outstanding items.
Firstly, my competition with the FABULOUS PRIZE! has now closed. The names have been collated, the random number generator has been prodded and a winner has been selected. The answer was of course that Mr Roskrow has recently started up the World Whisky Review with the fine folks at Connosr, who I seem to spend a lot of time pimping at the moment. The winner of the FABULOUS PRIZE! is none other than Chris Welfare, who will (once I manage to get down to the post office) be receiving a copy of Dom’s very pretty book The World’s Best Whiskies. Well done to him, thankyou to everyone who entered for showing that there are people reading this blog who I haven’t met, and thanks to everyone who wished the blog a happy birthday last week.
Anyways, moving swiftly on – MOVEMBER IS OVER! Soon my pretty face will yet again be hidden and people will stop saying ‘Oh, it suits you’ about my frankly ridiculous facial hair. By today my team had raised £3062 and the Whisky4Movember network, with a bunch of other whisky related teams in, hit £11,124, with over £6k of that coming from Master of Malt’s Movember bottling (of which more in a later post). Which is pretty impressive. You can still donate if you would like, but the moustaches have already started to come off. Mine hasn’t and hopefully I won’t look too ridiculous while my beard grows back. Anyways, here is some of the facial topiary that appeared:
Special mention must go to Mr Standing, who was bullied into joining in during the recording of an episode of Village of the Drammed and ended up agreeing to shave his head if he broke the £1000 mark. He did, and now he looks a bit scary.
Anyways, enough meta posting, normal booze related service will resume shortly
It’s the first of November and that means that Movember 2011 has begun. Last night I had my now traditional (two years makes it a tradition) shave and have revealed my lack of a strong chin to the world. In standard fashion I also went for a number of intermediary beards, this year starting with a nod towards the Amish symbol of marriage, a step towards Daniel P Carter and then a Treme inspired fluffy soul patch. I am quite keen on going for a shaven headed chin beard next year, but will probably get bored of the idea before I could implement it, which is a good thing:
So, I will be attempting to keep up a daily progress report on my MoSpace as I slowly (so very slowly) make myself look more ridiculous on a day by day basis. Other than the upcoming Movember WhiskySquad tasting (still a couple of tickets left) this is the last I’ll be mentioning it so be good and go sponsor me.
The year has rolled around again and my blog is getting alarmingly close to being two years old (November 23rd doth approach…) which can mean only one thing – it’s almost time for Movember. I looked out the window this morning into a fog layer deep enough that seeing the ground from 6 floors up wasn’t guaranteed and remembered that soon my delicate face will be exposed to the biting elemental fury that is a mild British winter. Fear for my chins, dear reader, fear for them.
In short – Movember is a charity that raises money for men’s health organisations, especially focusing on prostate cancer. The money raising bit mainly comes from hairy idiots like me removing the hairiness from their faces and gently cultivating some kind of moustache. I did it last year and I’ll be doing it again this one…
November is done and my moustache has grown. My razor has now been put away, my beard is growing and sensation has started to return to my cold, cold face. The Whisky4Movember team did well (and you can still donate to us if you feel the urge) raising £1800 between us, and I even managed to put £200 towards that total.
Here’s a quick moustache round-up from the team:
While obviously not as awesome as us, there were more people out in the world of whisky who joined in for movember. Dominic Roskrow, who I met at one of his tastings at the beginning of November, grew and hated his moustache as part of Lucasz of the Edinburgh Whisky blog’s team, Blair Bowman of the Aberdeen University Whisky Society grew his despite being in worryingly warm Spain, and Richard Paterson, of cancer survival and moustache wearing fame, shaved his off:
Many thanks to all of you lovely people who donated. As a dubious reward to you, and everyone else, here’s a short video of my beautiful face:
Despite the amount of time this blog implies I spend doing booze related activities I do also have a day job as a computer programmer. As part of this ‘secret’ second life I like to go and play at techy conferences and this last weekend I attended Barcamp London 8. Despite the potential of the word ‘Barcamp’ to refer to boozy activities (although there was a bar that I worked on and a lot of booze consumed, with drunken karaoke as the natural consequence of the latter) it is instead a free, community driven unconference, where there is no specific agenda and talks are all proposed and scheduled during the conference itself. While Barcamps are traditionally quite technical in nature they are not prescriptively so and I ran a session on one of my favourite topics – Whisky for Beginners.
Anyways, you can grab a copy of my slides (which get updated to make them more readable) from my website, although they were more a thing to have behind me on a screen than something filled with a load of information. Many thanks go to Rachel Clarke, who in a previous life worked at a distillery and knows a lot more about the making of whisky than I, who filled in some gaps and told me where I went wrong – it seems that my knowledge of grain whisky mashbills, amongst other things, is even more deficient than I thought…
Here are some links to some bits and pieces that I mentioned during my talk:
- Scotch Whisky Association legal definition of Scotch Whisky
- The legal definitions of the different whisky types
- Whisky regions on Wikipedia
- Richard Paterson’s blog
- Taiwanese whisky on this blog (the whisky on the title page is Kavalan Solist sherry cask)
- Whisky barrel speakers
- Master of Malt’s Drinks by The Dram (where my sample jars came from)
- My Movember page
The whiskies I brought along were:
- Master of Malt Mo’land Movember whisky. Lowland blended malt Scotch whisky. 40% ABV. ~£35 from Master of Malt.
- SMWS 127.3, ‘Beach BBQ for Older Boy Scouts’. Islay (Port Charlotte) cask strength single cask single malt Scotch whisky. 67%. ~£50. Sold out at the SMWS site.
Many thanks to all of those who came along. Please drop me a comment or email with any comments – it was my first Barcamp talk so any hints and tips are greatly appreciated. The talk has a page on lanyrd.com, so please add anything else you find about it up there.
September flew by a bit for me and shortly after I finished writing up last month’s Whisky Squad another one appeared on the horizon. In honour of the fluffy top lips of a chunk of The Squad this session’s theme was Movember. Whisky Gandalf Darren, the man behind Whisky4Movember and random chap for Master of Malt, had done some looking around and brought us four moustache related whiskies to try.
First up was one half of Master of Malt’s special edition pair of Movember bottlings for 2010. Selected by Darren, bottled by Masgter of Malt and featuring five different labels per expression, each honouring one of the well known moustached chaps of the whisky industry – Richard Paterson, Dave Broom, Charlie MacLean, Serge Valentin and Marcin Miller. This first bottle was the Mo’land, a single cask lowland whisky, and our featured moustache was that of Richard Paterson who I’ve bumped into a few times over the summer. Richard is an especially appropriate candidate for honouring on the bottle as not only has he survived cancer but also removed his rather famous moustache for Movember. The whisky had a light nose with bees wax, butter, malt syrup and boiled sweets. To taste it started with a syrup sweetness which rolled through surprisingly rich polished wooden floors to a sweetly woody finish. Water brought out more butter and woody spice, with vanilla and a hint of fruit. A light and easy drinking dram that might entice whisky novices in as well as keeping me happy.
We moved on to another moustachioed bottle, this time last year’s Master of Malt Movember bottling – M’Orkney. As a spooned malt from Orkney, mainly consisting of the more well known of the distilleries on the islands, it’s not that much of a mystery where the spirit came from. ‘Spooning’ is a brand protection practise where a distiller will add a spoon of another distillery’s whisky to a cask when they sell it. This doesn’t affect the flavour of the whisky, a spoon is very small in comparison to a cask, but it makes the whisky legally a blended malt and prevents the buyer, and whoever the whisky is eventually sold on to, from bottling the whisky and selling it under the original distiller’s name. Certain distillers are well known for blocking bottlings in this fashion, with Glenfiddich and Balvenie (both owned by William Grant & Sons) being two of the more famous. The addition of a drop of Scapa to a cask of Highland Park (let’s just say…) hasn’t made much of a dent in the M’Orkney, with a nose of stony peat, sweet smoke, super sour candy balls and a pinch of salt coming through. To taste it’s sweet with a controlled dryness. There was wood ash, peppery spice, a citrus tang and a prickly finish. Water softened the prickle and brought out more lemon and vanilla. Annoyingly this one is sold out or I’d be grabbing one for my cupboard.
Next up was one of Richard Paterson’s whiskies – the Dalmore 15. A classic highland distillery, just down the road from Glenmorangie, Dalmore’s been in the news recently with the release of their newest whisky – The Trinitas. Named for the fact that there are just three bottles available it has taken the record for world’s most expensive whisky, at £100,000 for 70cl. Two of the three bottles are spoken for, one having gone to a private collector and one to Sukhinder Singh from The Whisky Exchange, but the other is still available from TWE, so If you’re interested you can give them a call. It looks to be a record that may not stand for long as Macallan’s ‘Cire Perdue’ decanter of 64 year old whisky has almost finished its trip around the world and will shortly be auctioned off in aid of Charity: Water – with 10cl samples going for over $40000 it looks like the whisky (with its rather special Lalique decanter) might break the Trinitas’s record. The rather more affordable Dalmore 15 is a rich deep red (although the colour is helped on its way with some added spirit caramel) with chocolate, cherry, shreddies and dry wood on the nose. To taste the cherries become glacé and are joined by almonds, ginger, orange and sweet spices – a bit like a rich cherry bakewell at Christmas. A bit of water, as it can’t take much before losing the richness, adds vanilla, more sweetness and some delicate dried fruit.
We then moved back to Movember whiskies, picking up the second of this year’s MoM bottlings – Smo’key. This was one was adorned with the face of Dave Broom. Dave is a well known drinks writer, especially known for his writing about whisky, which has appeared in pretty much every whisky publication under the sun, and also in a number of books, including his latest – The World Atlas of Whisky (which may shortly appearing on my shelf next to my World Atlas of Wine from the same series). The Smo’key is a blended malt like the Mo’land, but this time going for the opposite end of the flavour scale, featuring whiskies from Islay. On the nose there wasn’t all that much, with sweet mulchy peat and a touch of stone dust. The taste had much more, with sweet grassy peat, butter, sweet and sour oranges, a hint of coal and a vegetal back palate leading to a prickly finish. Water brought out more of the nose’s stoniness with some coal smoke. There was also more fruitiness and the butter gained some fat, making the mouthfeel creamy. Darren doesn’t know what whiskies went into the bottle, but after some discussion around the room it was thought that there was definitely some Caol Ila in there, cut with some lighter Blasda-like Ardbeg as well as a whole lot more.
Our fifth whisky of the night, breaking the rule (as seems to have happen at most Whisky Squads) that we only taste four whiskies, was Smokehead Extra Black. Smokehead is a range of bottlings by Ian MacLeod of whisky from an unnamed Islay distillery (it’s [almost certainly] Ardbeg). Along with the regular bottling and this 18 year old Extra Black they also used to do an Extra Rare, which I have a cloth bag covered bottle of in my whisky cupboard. Smokehead has been a great supporter of Movember this year, supplying whisky to a variety of the events celebrating the month, hence a bottle appearing at our table. On the nose it was sweet and lightly smokey, with a thin and nicely astringent smoke rather than a choking cloud. To taste it had a sweet start with TCP, tar, damp peat and wet smoke in the middle, and a sweet smokey finish. A bit of water brought oranges and a hint of lemon as well as a thick vanilla caramel.
My Mo’ (I hate that term) continues to grow, as do those of the other Whisky4Movember team members. To support our ‘tachey efforts you can sponsor us over on the Movember site, throw Richard Paterson some cash instead/as well or buy one of the Movember bottlings from Master of Malt – £8 of the £34.95 selling price will go to charity.
Another whisky squad done and another one scheduled. At the time of writing there are still a couple of places left at the Squad Christmas dinner – a three course meal from The Gunmaker’s seasonal menu with some matched whiskies and the usual random banter. Book soon or be disappointed.
Master of Malt Mo’land
Blended lowland Scotch malt whisky. 40%. £34.95 at Master of Malt
Master of Malt M’Orkney
Spooned Orcadian malt whisky. 40%. Sold out
Highland single malt Scotch whisky. 40%. ~£40 at Master of Malt
Master of Malt Smo’key
Blended Islay Scotch malt whisky. 40%. £34.95 at Master of Malt
Smokehead 18 Year Old Extra Black
Islay single malt Scotch whisky. 46%. ~£85 at Master of Malt
To be perfectly honest I blame the Australians. It could have been any number of of countries in the southern hemisphere, but in the end it was the Aussies that have set things up ready for a month of pain for me: it is almost time for Movember. Started years back somewhere in the heat blasted antipodean wasteland, Movember is a charity movement dedicated to the cultivation of top lip facial hair during the month of November. As is usual with the charidee the participants approach everyone they see and demand sponsorship for their silly activities, this time the growing of a moustache and no other facial hair (unless it can be considered part of a moustache style). This post is that demand.
I’ve had a beard, which includes as part of its makeup a moustache, for coming on ten years. Over time bits of the beard have been removed and regrown (currently the whole lot is in full bloom due to an effort to make my Movember transformation all the more shocking) but the two constants have been chinny bit and moustache. The thing about Movember is that in order to grow a mo’ (an abbreviation for ‘tache that I’ve not heard outside of Movember) you need to not have one to start with, otherwise its more ‘cultivating an already existing hedge’, so I’m looking at Movember from a slightly different place than many of the participants. In short, I’m going to have a shave.
And this is where my Australian blaming comes to the fore – what kind of sadistic people would export a charity event that will lead inexorably to the exposing of my usually fur insulated face to the perils of a London winter? Our southern hemisphere summer experiencing far flung former colonial chums.
So, sponsoring me is sponsoring a three-in-one holy trinity of stupid activities:
- Growing a moustache, like all the other Mo’ Bros (sistahs can join in with stick-on ‘taches if they wish)
- Being clean shaven for the first time in almost a decade, and remaining that way (apart from the ‘tache) for a month
- Exposing my poor delicate face to the ravages of biting winds
Movember supports men’s health charities, especially focusing on prostate cancer in the UK (one of those fun men’s problems that we generally keep quiet about, even though we moan loudly about the potential of getting a cold), so you could count this as enlightened self interest, what with me being a man and slowly encroaching upon the ages where the probabilities of experiencing many of the health problems in question rises, but you should all sponsor me anyway.
My “Mo Space” is where you can go to sponsor me and keep an eye on my ‘tache growing progress through the month. I’m part of a team called Whisky 4 Movember, organised by Whisky Guy Darren Rook and featuring members of Whisky Squad, and we are also going to be doing some whisky related charity shenanigans during the month – there’s a potential for for a fun run (with whisky in hand) as well as some tastings and special Movember bottlings from Master of Malt (here are last year’s – I’ve seen the labels for this year’s and they’re rather nifty). I’ll update here as soon as I hear any details.
Anyways, sponsor me, relish my humiliation and do a bit for charity.