Little Ben (The Ample Dram) and I recently returned from a trip of two parts around scotland – we spent a few days in the Speyside region, and a few on Islay, something of a pilgrimmage. It was a truly amazing trip, genuinely quite awesome, in the most fundamental meaning of the word and there is lots more to write baout it. But for now, i present the list of tastes and drams I had whilst away, to give you some idea of what we tried. We also brought home a few bottles, including a few Feis Ile releases not mentioned here, that will also soon be written up fully. In the meantime, peruse and enjoy, and ask any questions you may have…
…In which my close friend and whisky ally discusses Balvenie’s Roasted Malt. Ben recently set up his own blog, and after some deliberation on what the names should be, settled on The Ample Dram. He is a fine writer, although the lack of photographs I find a little disturbing, so I felt I should dress up this guest post with a picture or two of my own… Anyway, Ben Challen, The Ample Dram, Balvenie and extra toasty roasty malt, what’s not to enjoy…?
When Big Ben (LittleTipple) asked me to write a guest post for his blog, my first thought was, “How will I put enough words in it?” Words aren’t usually my thing – when once asked to describe myself in three words, I went for ‘laconic’. But it turns out that it’s incredibly easy to write about something when you feel so strongly about it, and now I think I understand why Ben’s posts keep going; I sympathise with that feeling of having to make yourself stop writing, rather than keep writing.
I think what got me hooked on whisky were the memories. The range and strength of flavour is a huge part, don’t get me wrong, but what anchored it in my heart was the unbeatable evocativeness of a good dram. Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban brings back memories of a fantastic cream tea in a café in Llangollen. Caol Ila 12yo recalls childhood camping trips in the New Forest. Each of the whiskies of my early years has its own memory, united in aeternum, and it brings a wonderful sort of synaesthesia to the whole experience.
I seem to be having a little difficulty finding the right words for my posts at the moment, and i’m spending a little time on a few business ideas and tastings, so i present, proudly, a selection of my whisky photographs:
There are few events more unconsciously homoerotic than bodybuilding competitions. I recently found myself at the Southern heats for the UK Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation competition. Seeing around 200 men and women, covered by the flimsiest rags, oiled, sweating and heavily over tanned is a very odd and unusual experience. Most people that I have told, of both sexes, have immediately responded with incredulous responses of envy at getting to see these examples of physical perfection, however, after the 2nd set of bodies, it stops being entertaining, and you start seeing the obsession, the damage, the devotion and the commitment that it takes, you start to see the competition, the success and the disappointment, and more than anything else, you start to smell the fake tan.
Let me tell you a story about a man named Ben. 2 summers ago Ben went, with his Mother, to an exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, to see an exhibition by famed Beatles Destroyer and bed dweller, Yoko Ono. The first thing he sees on entering the exhibition are three piles of dirt sat atop a tarpaulin. “That’s not art”, he thinks. He walks into another room, with a clear acrylic maze. “That’s not art”, he thinks. As he goes to leave, hurriedly, he sees in a piece of rag on the floor which everyone has walked over. “interactive canvas #472” it’s called. He steps over it to make sure he doesn’t interact. There’s a sign written on the floor. “this is the ceiling” it says. “No it isn’t”, he thinks.
Blends have had something of a resurgence lately, gaining huge support from bloggers, writers and drinkers. They gained a less than positive reputation in the mid 90s as single malts increased in popularity and exclusivity; the latter highlighted their status as a sign of class and refinement whilst blends became the representation of the lowest common denominator, often priced as the cheapest brands on the whisky shelves in the supermarket. However, with long established brands such as Famous Grouse and Johnny Walker either starting to develop new whiskies or simply advertise existing products more effectively, higher priced, higher quality blends are now visibly supplementing these brand’s ranges and are being taken more seriously again.
My Grandpa never drank but was always interested in hearing me talk at length on whisky. He was fascinated by two things: my ability to talk at great length on almost any given subject but, more importantly, the scientific and experimental background to whisky; i.e. the concept of altering small variables to give fantastically different flavours and the effect of the uncontrollable variables in the development of whisky. His time spent working in Japan inspired me to look into the Japanese world of whisky. I only ever saw him try one whisky I recommended and I’m not sure he was quite convinced on my interest in the amber nectar. Continue reading Grandpa