The Medicinal Whisky, or “in which I steal the phrase ‘sea salt ice cream’”


A few years ago, on one of the evenings he came to stay with me, I asked my father which whisky he would like to drink. His immediate and unquestioning response was – “the medicinal one you gave me for christmas a few years ago…” This left me in something of a quandary. My immediate thought was towards Laphroaig – long held as the iodine king of whiskies, that peaty sharp tang, reminiscent of TCP or deep heat, as I have heard it described. But my dad never liked peated whiskies, so I was confused… What whisky, what distillery could he mean…? I started through ideas, immediately rejecting all other Islays, even Caol Ila, with its clean sharpness. I thought of Talisker, thinking of the peppery goodness, but again, I wouldn’t have got that for him. i stretched to Brimstone, or aged gins, I thought of almost every option I could run through, until I asked him what about it made him think “medicinal”; apparently I had told him the bottle it came in was based on a victorian medicine bottle – immediately I knew – the A’bunadh.


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Tripping Whisky…

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…

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A Guest Post…

…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.

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Auchentoshan, not to be confused with the fake tan…

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.

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Arran: No Backstory Required

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.

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The Cutty Sark

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.

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