a long wait for age-statement japanese whisky

yama060taste

We all knew this would happen, but it’s still very sad. Suntory just announced that they’ll stop selling Hakushu 12 and Hibiki 17. Whisky takes time to age; there is no way of fast forwarding a 12-, 15-, 18-, 21-, 30-year process. All Japanese whiskies we see nowadays are NAS. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with NAS, we trust the master distillers. The boom in 2014 cleaned out Nikka’s stock, so the image of shelf upon shelf of Yoichi, Miyagikyo, Taketsuru and others won’t return till at least 10 years from now.

yamazaki12

Meanwhile, any single malt especially Yamazaki, Yoichi or Miyagikyo that can be found are selling for higher and higher price. Nikkei chart of prices.

291 rye

The world whiskies award winners are in. Not a huge surprise, gear patrol has a summary. Best single malt is Hakushu 25, best blended malt is Taketsuru 17, best blended is jw gold.

291

In the bourbon category, best bourbon is 1792 full proof, best rye is from distillery 291 in Colorado. It’s harder to find outside Colorado, so I need to make sure we try to look for it when we drive through the state this summer. The distillery itself is in Colorado Springs, an hour south of Denver, so it means around 2hrs’ detour. May be I’ll just try to find a store. Breckenridge distilley, on the other hand, seems to be along our route.

monthly whisky subscription

whiskyme

I’m not in alcohol-drinking mode right now, the last alcoholic drink I had was the local lager at the treehouse in Bangkok two weeks ago. If I were in a whisky-drinking mode and if I were back in the UK, I’d totally sign up for the whisky of the month subscription offered by black rock whisky bar. Google maps tells me that it’s up the road from where I: a) went to school and b) worked when I was last in London, haha.

For £7 (when paid annually, or £7.99 paid monthly), subcribers get a 50ml sample of whisky every month. Launched in November, they’ve had Macallan Fine Oak 12, Royal Lochnagar 2000, and Loch Lomond Inchmurrin 18 so far. It’s around the cost of a dram in a whisky bar, so not too bad. I don’t know what will happen if people like the whisky and want to buy more, probably go to TWE.

The whisky is shipped in what vinepair called capri sun pouches. I guess it’s a good way of shipping, much safer and cheaper than small sample bottles. I’ve seen single serve wine pouches before, so it’s not a big leap to think about whisky transported this way.

shackleton whisky

It started with one of those trying-to-be-smart-but-comes-across-as-naff lifehacker posts, this one telling us how to graduate to better whiskey. It pains me to type that ‘e’ especially since some of their suggestions are not American or Irish. Basically they’re saying if you like a certain whisky, then you may want to try another, hopefully better, one:

  • like bulleit, try michter’s
  • like bulleit rye, try whistlepig farmstock
  • like jameson, try green spot
  • like laphroaig 10, try octomore
  • like macallan 12, try yamazaki 12
  • already like yamazaki 12, try amrut cask strength

I can’t comment much on bourbon or rye, because I don’t have enough exposure to them and basically my suggestion centres around blanton’s. At the risk of offending my friends who like jameson, I won’t drink it because it’s pretty terrible. I agree with green spot, and I’d go as far as saying move even further up and try redbreast. I love laphroaig the distillery but for peat monsters I prefer ardbeg any day, and yes octomore certainly.

I think the trend to like/buy/order japanese whisky by certain people is a fad. These are the people who queue for hours for the cronut, go gluten-free because goop says so, and are currently coughing up $37 for 2.5 gallons of raw water. Cough is the right word, because said raw water may come with a bunch of unfriendly friends. An anecdote is one of mm’s relatives, who went hunting for japanese whisky during their latest trip to hokkaido, when we’ve never seen him drink whisky or express any interest in whisky before. He says he’s looking for it because “everyone else is” and may be he can find a rare bottle to sell. Argh!! These people jumping on the bandwagon is the reason why there is zero supply of non-NAS japanese whisky.

/rant

The reason the lifehacker article caught my eye is the suggestion that if you like Johnnie Walker, try Shackleton. First of all, show me someone who likes JW, especially red and black. Last time I was served JW black I almost spit it out. So the suggestion to try Shackleton is interesting, because it’s an interesting whisky. I remember a little about its history.

In addition to the promotional video, there’s a good account in the NYT, even though there are passages that made my teeth grate. Read this about Richard Paterson, Whyte & Mackay’s master blender:

the sight of someone dropping ice cubes into a whiskey glass or knocking back a shot without taking sufficient time to savor it makes him furious. The whisky he threatened to kill me over was not any old tipple, either.

Aaaaarrrrrrgggghhhhh.

WHISKY.

W.H.I.S.K.Y.

THERE IS NO ‘E’ IN WHISKY. WHY CAN’T BLOODY AMERICANS EVER GET IT RIGHT?!!

/rant

shackletonwhiskynz

Anyway, in 1907, Shackleton and team tried to go to the south pole. Amongst the supplies they brought with them were 25 cases of whisky, 12 of brandy and 6 of port. Between four people. The expedition was ultimately a failure, although the team got to 112 miles from the pole, the furthest south at that time. When they turned back and sailed home in 1909, they left behind supplies that included cases of whisky and:

dried spinach, mint, stewed kidneys, oxtail soup, India relish, mutton cutlets in tomato sauce, Irish brawn, marrow fat, stewed rump steaks, tripe, concentrated egg powder, kippered mackerel, minced collops, and redcurrants.

Some of the stuff were pilfered but since 1990 the area around the hut where they stayed is controlled by the NZ-based Antarctic Heritage Trust. In 2007, three cases of whisky were discovered in the permafrost outside the hut; in 2010 these were chiselled from the ice and one case taken to Canterbury Museum.

The whisky that the Shackleton expedition brought with them was “Rare old Highland malt whisky, blended and bottled by Chas. Mackinlay & Co.” Mackinlay was eventually bought by Whyte & Mackay, which was then sold to an Indian billionaire, Vijay Mallya. Mallya’s private plane brought three bottles “home” to Scotland in 2011, where master blender Paterson and James Pryde, Whyte & Mackay’s chief chemist, extracted sample liquid from the original bottles for analysis. After one hundred years, there was a possibility that the whisky had turned bad. But luckily no. They found that the whisky was a blended malt, most likely from the defunct Glen Mhor distillery, which was owned by Mackinlay. The team was also able to ascertain that the water was from Loch Ness, the peat from the Orkneys, and the whisky was aged in american white oak sherry casks. 47.3% abv.

To everyone’s surprise, the whisky was light and fruity, and not smoky at all. There was peat, but it was subtle. Even Paterson, writing beforehand, expected a a heavy, peaty whisky that was the style back then. Plus there’s the image of Shackleton the macho explorer.

Sir Ernest Shackleton occupies a similar place to another with the same name, Ernest Hemingway. Larger than life, big, brash. A womaniser. The intrepid explorer. The guardian described Shackleton as having the essence of:

death-defying, pipe-smoking, god-among-men masculinity.

There’s a certain romanticism associated with explorers of that era, and soon modern marketing came into play. It was decided to replicate the whisky, and use the story to sell it. Paterson found stock from Glen Mohr and blended it with Dalmore and more than 20 other whiskies and so the Discovery edition was born. £150 and it’s no longer available. The second edition, Journey, inspired by the 2013 expedition that retraced another of Shackleton’s expeditions, is available for £110.

shackletonwhisky

The one that I think lifehacker meant as a replacement for JW is neither of these, but the mainstream, more accessible, version. It still retains the notes of vanilla, honey and orchard fruits of the earlier editions, but possibly using younger whiskies. Introduced in 2017 initially as duty free only and now more widely available, it seems to be positioned neatly in the premium blend category and at £34.95 is something I’d try, if only once. I’d like to try it against Naked Grouse, as the JW black step-up. At £27.95, it’s at a sweet price point. Then again, HP12 is around £30, and wins everything.

thai rice whisky

We booked and paid for our running away trip to Bangkok in January so it’s time to start putting together some research. Bangkok is an easy city to visit and we know roughly what we want to do already–markets including weekend markets, floating markets, the train market; poking around up and down the river, Ayatthaya if we have time, massage, street food, rooftop bars.

laokhao

mm asked me if Thailand has whisky and I said I don’t think so. Someone did a rundown of alcohol found in Thailand and the selection seems dismal. In terms of locally produced alcohols, it’s beer, some sort of rum, and lao khao which is made from rice. A description of the taste:

initial taste is sharp and sweet though soon the punch of alcohol with a hint of diesel kicks in, burning the throat and filling the nostrils…The burn lasted far longer than should be acceptable and I must admit that I didn’t love the bitter aftertaste.

It’s traditionally made in villages and is a working class drink. An excerpt from chef Andy Ricker’s book The Drinking Food of Thailand:

if you’re making three hundred baht (about nine dollars) a day toiling for twelve hours in the rice fields, you come home not only eager for a drink but also eager for that drink to be strong and cheap. Two bottles of lao khao cost about 130 baht and will get two guys drunk. Two similar-size bottles of beer cost about the same and will get no guys drunk.

Basically, it’s Thailand’s version of moonshine. I can imagine how it tastes–bold, strong and you can feel it going all the way down your throat. It’s made from a starter yeast cake, containing aromatics such as chillis, lemongrass, galangal as well as remnants from previous batches of yeast cakes. Not unlike sourdough starters where each batch contains parents, grandparents, great-grandparents of an aged original product. The cakes are dried then mixed with steamed sticky rice and water to make the beer. Fermentation takes 5-8 days then distilled. In the distillery in Baan Mai that Ricker visited, the distillate is heated over wood fires which gives a subtle smoky flavour. The short fermentation period and lack of aging means the product doesn’t have time to mellow and its edges smoothed out.

It’s not the most refined liquor and is usually drunk with soda water, coke or juice. It’s 2/3rd of all alcohol consumed in Thailand and is apparently very easy to get drunk with it. Alcohol content around 30-40% so it needs to be treated with respect. We should be able to find this at local shops. Probably will get a small bottle and we’ll make sure to have it after lining our stomachs with food beforehand.

bbmm accidental whisky tasting

Went out for haircut then met mm, our plan was to go to the expo. Ha! Talk about best laid plans of mice and men.

We saw a whisky shop and the rest of the day was shot.

whisky20171218

We were just browsing and then got chatting with the gentleman who worked there. They had samples for tasting, like HP12, Glenfarclas 105, Ardbeg Corryvrekan. Then as we talked more and tasted more, he introduced us to Aberlour a’bunadh, Glengoyne and several different ages of Glenfarclas, which was what we were interested in. He also gvae us several independent bottlers samples of Mortlach, an islay blend that was so fantastic, and one from cambeltown that I can’t remember the name.

The one independent bottler he recommded for daily drinking was Mcdonald’s Ben Nevis which was a special edition to celebrate Ben Nevis’ 185th year and the whisky was made in a way that attempted to recreated the traditional taste. NAS and apparently only 5 years old but tasted richer, with notes of dried fruit and subtle peat. Ben Nevis was bought by Nikka in 1989, who had been purchasing grain and malt from the distillery for years. Normal Ben Nevis uses the distinctive NIkka bottle but Mcdonald’s follows a more traditional model.

And finally, he brought out the big guns. We asked him which were his favourites and he went to the back and brought out a few bottles, saying let’s try sherry casks. The Glengoyne 21 (£110) we tasted already, Glendronach 21 Parliament (£115), and The Macallan 10 cask strength that is no longer available and sometimes available at auctions for over £500. He has it for almost £700. For the same price, there’s a 41 year old speyside whisky (can’t remember distillery) and he only has 3 bottles left.

We were tempted by the Macallan 10 and the 41 year old, but decided to think about it first. I did end up getting a bottle of the Mcdonald’s Ben Nevis.

Oh, he has Ardbeg Alligator, Rollercoaster and Supernova too, but I didn’t see Galileo. I need to get that Alligator.

By the time we left the shop it was too late to go to the expo. We had a quick dinner and went home.

bbmm happy hour at jamie’s

hhjamies201712

Met mm in the evening. Initially we were meeting at 7pm at the apple store so I can show her the mbp I have my eye on. I was early because I wanted to get some errands done first, but I was done by 6.30pm. Walked past Jamie’s and saw they had a tiered happy hour, between 6-7pm selected drinks only local$10, or around £1. Double the price between 7-8pm and triple between 8-9pm. Even then, $30 is good value. Only a slight catch, must only order from hh menu (ie house wines only) and standing room at the bar, not even high stools. The house red is malbec, and the house white veneto. There was also prosecco, beers, 3 cocktails and 3 mocktails. Decent selection.

Good thing I stopped there instead of heading to the apple store because mm was, what a surprise, late. She didn’t get there till 7.30pm. We ordered some bar snacks and I had another glass of wine.

By the time we were ready to leave it was 8.30pm. We thought of going to a AYCE hotpot place, but I had my reservations because it’d be late when we finish. We ended up having sashimi rice at a place a couple of doors down from Jamie’s. It was better than hotpot, the fish was fresh and the rice was well cooked.

random things I’ve been up to

Last of the catch-up posts, I think. What I’ve been up to during the past 3 weeks.

pumpkinsoup201711

I had a big bag of chestnuts that mm gave me. I wanted to roast them, peel then put in a braised chicken. But disaster happened! The chestnuts wouldn’t peel properly and stubbornly stuck to the shell. All I got was a big container of chestnut breadcrumbs.

Had to change plan, so made pumpkin and chestnut soup instead. The chestnut acted as perfect thickening agent, so the soup ended up quite thick. For liquid I made fresh turkey stock. Really, really nice. Served it with roti prata, which alas was store bought. Sprinkled on grated cheese.


sunset201711

We went for a drive one weekend, no real plans. Ended up at this oyster farm near the shenzhen border that has nice view of sunsets. Sunsets come early now, it starts getting dark at 5pm and full dark at 6pm. We brought picnic–mm brought an old bottle of macallan and some glasses which we sipped as we enjoyed the view. Only a small sip, since she’s driving.

We got chatting with a guy who had 2 tripods set up taking time lapse pictures. One was a Sony alpha 7 and the other was an iphone. He told us he just came back from Japan and he’s also been to a few other places to take timelapses of sunrises and sunsets. He collects the end results on his youtube channel. The timelapse here was at a place near where we were on that sunday.


frites01 frites02

A weekday evening out, met up for happy hour at frites. I started with trusty st bernadus abt 12, and then asked the assistant manager for a recommendation. He said to try the het kapittel watou prior, which is another trappist beer. Lighter that st bernadus, with chocolate tones. Nice alternative.

We weren’t that hungry, so we shared some miniburgers and a portion of frites.


musebar02

Met mm after her saturday appointment. Originally we were supposed to meet at the novotel but when I got there I discovered that happy hour had been pushed back to 6-8pm, and it was quite busy. I walked around the area wanting to find an alternative and came across this place called muse wine bar and art gallery. It was located in the basement of a boutique hotel and pretty quiet. They had a big wine list of bottles and a smaller list of by-the-glass wines. Not only the usual, but 3-4 pages of both red and white wines. The price was higher, but the tradeoff was quality and tranquility.

musebar04

On the walls were some ink art, I didn’t pay too much attention to the artist, but the artwork tied in with the quiet nature of the bar.

Next time we go there, I’ll order a bottle. Three glasses of wine came to around the same price as their cheapest bottle.


drago1

I stopped playing pokemon go. No incentive anymore, even with the last migration of legendary raids. I saw some people gathered around a gym while getting ready to get off the bus and didn’t bother running back like I would have before. The unfairness of raids, the stupid EX-raid invitations, the lack of pokemons other than commons, and I’m still bitter about no tauros, all contribute to my lethargy towards the game.

Some people have made the move to draconius go, which has all the features of pogo with fewer problems. Select a character and walk around to capture monsters. With names like Potty, these mythical creatures are cute as button, there are a total of 125 of them and they show up on a tracker at the bottom right of the screen. There are pillars of abundance (ie stops) where spinning grants random items that are useful in the game. Occasionally the adventuer gets attacked while walking, and has to battle the beast. Fighting can also be done in arenas (ie gyms). There are also many other features, refer to this useful beginner’s guide is on r/draconiusgo.

drago2

For some players, the playing experience is so much better, with more stops and creatures. For me, though, I stopped playing after a few tries. The two screenshots were taken from the same spot just down the road from where I live. The triangular area is the small local park. On the left, pogo with a gym and a bunch of stops. On the right, drago with…nothing. It’s the same picture everywhere else. The other disadvantage is my mobile provider isn’t counting data usage for pogo, they made a big deal when the game first came out and never took it away. So few people play now that it’s not worth them bothering with it. But with drago, I can’t imagine going out for hours and hours and eating into my mobile data allowance.

So, not playing either game. Not playing much else, just reading.

what did i miss part 3

A few of the stuff that’s happened over the past 2 weeks during nano, part 3. Sports and drinks, not sports drinks, two separate topics.

1a. marathons #1 — elites

The headlines all shouted “Galen Rupp is first American winner of the Chicago Marathon since 2002.” And although some of them clarifies that it’s the first American male since 2002 (last American female was Deena Kastor in 2005) it still feels like a huge, huge disservice to Tatyana McFadden, who has won the women’s wheelchair race fo the past seven years. I swear, paralympic athletes get an even worse deal than women athletes, the sort of media attention they get, ie zero. Not to take away Rupp’s victory, but the blatant inequality really needs to be addressed.

In the NYC marathon, Meb, in his last NYC, finished in 2:15:29, putting the 42 year old in 11th place. The women’s race was won by Shalane Flanagan. So the two big autumn US marathons both had American able-bodied winners. That’s good for the US. Much needed good news for them.

In unrelated news, Mo Farah is moving up to the marathon. And he got knighted. Yay Sir Mo!!


1b. marathons #2 — blind solo runner

Simon Wheatcroft finished the NYC marathon in 5:17:40. An unremarkable time, but what’s truly remarkable is that he is a blind runner who ran the race solo.

I ran a night race a couple of years ago and there were a number of visually impaired runners. They were just as fast and just as good as able-bodied runners. The route was through part of the country park so the terrain was rough with narrow and winding paths; the runners and their guides negotiated those with ease and I could hear the guides telling the runners to make a right turn or there is a hump coming up. I’m full of admiration for them, as I am with all paralympic athletes.

Wheatcroft suffers from a rare genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa, and his sight has gradually deteriorated since he was a teenager. Nowadays, he can distinguish changes in light and darkness, like seeing the world through a fog. He knows when someone stands in front of him, because he sees a blurry shadow, but that’s it. He is also an experienced runner, marathoner and ultramarathoner, previously running with guides and trains by running up and down a straight abandoned road near his home in Doncaster. He memorises routes, obstacles, and navigate along the slightly raised edges of painted double yellow lines along the road.

In recent years, there have been massive inroads made in providing assisted technologies to help visually impaired people “see” by using AI and VR technologies. However, these type of technologies are limited–it requires outside help, or only work in static situations. For instance, a google glass subscription called aira connects the blind person and a sighted person so the sighted assistant can give verbal clues to tell the blind person what they are seeing through the glasses. The subscription costs US$349 per month, which is really expensive. Most assisted technology solutions are built around some sort of visual input and an audio output, but audio output is cumbersome. The Verge:

Imagine a Siri or Alexa-like interface describing every single object in your field of vision. Consider the cognitive overload that it would create on an already loud street crowded with obstacles.

wearworks

Wheatcroft set out to look for alternatives and came across Wayband, a product from a company called WearWorks that uses haptic technology, which provides output through the sense of touch rather than audio. The company was cofounded by 3 graduates of New York’s Pratt Institute and just finished a 3 year residency at Brooklyn’s Urban-X incubator. Wayband was featured at SXSW and uses two technologies. First, it uses known GPS technology (google maps, OpenStreetMap) to map a route for the runner, the signal is transmitted via bluetooth using an armband which buzzes in a sort of Morse code (eg 2 long taps to turn right). This pairs with an ultrasonic device called the Tortoise that broadcasts and receives ultrasonic pulses. If there is an object or person in range, the ultrasonic waves that reflect back are changed and the device lets the user know using a series of vibrations. This is not new, devices that help people park their cars use similar ultrasonic technology.

During the NYC marathon, Wheatcroft started by using this system, the first time it had been tested in a race. And what a way to test. Not a small local race, but one of the largest marathons in the world, with more than 50,000 runners. During the race he was also accompanied by Kevin Yoo, one of the founders of WearWorks as well as Neil Bacon and Andrea Corak, his longtime friends and guides. They ran behind him and were there as a last resort, to prevent him from running into another runner and ruining their marathon.

It wasn’t perfect: tall buildings affected the GPS which incorrectly told him he was off course, the rain caused the Tortoise to stop working at mile 15, and at one of the water stops another runner stopped abruptly in front of him. Even a sighted runner would have found it difficult to stop in time and there was a small collision. Neither runner was hurt. The team ended the race with guides running next to Wheatcroft as per usual, but the experiment was by and large successful. There is still a way to go before the product can be marketed but the team now knows what those improvements are.

The implications are huge. Not only for running or sports, this system can help a blind person navigate through normal life. Wheatcroft on NYT:

It’s not the end, it’s just a start.”


1c. marathons #3 — grass root runner

The running bubble has popped, says the NYT on the day of the NYC marathon. A strange thing to say, considering 50,000 participated and the success rate for applications was 17%. I got my annual VLM rejection in October, so from my perspective the running bubble hasn’t quite popped.

Thing is, although interest in the big races have held steady, less well known races and shorter distance races have seen a decline in participation. Some reasons:

  • cost — gone are the days of US$10 or $25 races, now the cost is astronomical, Las Vegas RNR 5k is $79.99!
  • too much focus on charity running — while an honourable effort, it has become blackmail with too few places available for non-charity runners and huge amounts that needs to be raised
  • too many races, and competition from speciality races like mud runs
  • competition from other fitness activities like cross fit

The industry has become a victim of its own success and commercialisation. Once a race gets taken over by corporate interests, something goes missing. Not only will I not pay $80 for a 5k, I won’t ever run a RNR race again whatever the price because they have become pure greed. I remember a long time ago an ex-colleague asked me if I was running the NYC marathon and I said it’s too expensive ($295 now). She was so surprised, she thought it was free and you just showed up. I wish.

I’ve written about charity running before. TL;DR: I hate it with the venom of a million exploding suns.

What we need, is a return to grassroots. Running clubs are still popular and just look at the success of parkruns in the UK. Another reason I want to go back to the UK.


2a. drinks #1 — alcohol and cancer

The American Society of Clinical Oncological published a report that says even light drinking can cause cancer. Yet another study that tells us not to eat or drink something, so much so that there was a study on the study of what foods are bad for us–in 2013 researchers took 40 ingredients from an ordinary cookbook and found 264 studies on whether at least one of those ingredients causes cancer. We’re talking about ingredients that are in almost everybody’s cupboards: salt, pepper, flour, egg, bread, butter, lemon, onion, carrot, milk, cheese.

We know that heavy or even moderate drinking has detrimental effects. The report says in the US, 3.5% of cancer deaths are attributable to alcohol. But as the NYT says in a more-or-less rebuttal:

this means that 96.5 percent of cancer deaths are not attributable to alcohol. If we eliminate heavy drinking, which no one endorses as healthy…that number climbs. If we also eliminate those who smoke…the number of cancer deaths not attributable to alcohol approaches 100 percent.

These reports mean well, but they tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies and then the media reports them using scaremongering headlines. The traditional image of a researcher is someone who observes or achieves some results and then postulates a theory that explains those results. There are researchers that are basically reverse-researchers, they know what result they want and then they do so-called research till they get those results. I call them hacks.


2b. drinks #2 — bartending in antarctica

antarcticabar

Interesting article about bars in Antarctica. There are 45 research stations in Antarctica, with thousands of researchers there in the summer but only a few hundred during the winter. Each station has its own bar with names like Gallagher’s Pub, Southern Exposure, Tatty Flag. The bars had no owners, no official hours, and no price. People shared their stash of personal alcohol and were in luck when one of the researchers also have bartending skills. Bartending in Antarctica is voluntary and requires creativity and innovation, as not all ingredients are available. The good thing is, no fridge is needed, just put the stuff outside.

Drinking can be a problem in Antarctica, because of the monotony of life, especially in the winter months. The bars became social focus points, and bartenders did the job all other bartenders do all over the world. One bartending researcher said he:

swapped out soda for booze when people drank too much…and kept them inside the bar rather than watching them stumble out the door where, completely inebriated, they could hurt themselves or pass out in the snow.


2c. drinks #3 — escape from IPA

escapefromipa

I do quick research during nano and I came across this beer called Escape from IPA from Pipeworks brewery in Chicago. What I found hilarious is the label, which is in line with all their other labels. Look at that Han Solo pirate escaping helicopters and red F1 racing cars, kinda comic book cliché.

With a name like Escape from IPA, it suggests that it’s the anti-IPA (scourge of craft beers). But it’s actually a 10% West Coast styled triple IPA made from 3 hops with the fancy names of Equinox, Galaxy, and Centennial.

Some people bet on racehorses based on their names or the colour of their jockey’s shirt. This is definitely one instance where people may pick a beer based on name or garish label. That’s exactly what my character did.


2d. drinks #4 — free beer while shopping

So a Morrisons in Leeds started offering free beer to shoppers while they go about their weekly shop. Not just beer, they have cider and wine too. The beer they serve is Saltaire Blonde ale from a local brewery.

morrisonsbeer

It’s a whole pint, according to the daily mail (not linking to that drek). Sounds like a good idea, except I’d prefer half or 1/3 pints because of drinking and driving. They should put the featured beer on its own display stand and study how sales increase. I’m very sure more people will buy it because they are given a sample.

what did i miss part 2

A few of the stuff that’s happened over the past 2 weeks during nano, part 2. All London related.

1. how to pronounce some place names

londonnames

This is from a few years ago, Londonist’s guide to how to pronounce names of London place names, which cropped up on r/london recently.

No, it’s not Lie-sester Square it’s Lester Square; and Marylebone always stumps non-Londoners. Apparently Rotherhithe too.

Personally, I don’t agree with Ommer-tun for Homerton, I’d pronounce the h. And I always say Aldwych as All-witch.

We shouldn’t make fun of non-locals. I don’t expect to know place names in countries where I don’t know the language, but there are some names in the US and Australia that I can see the word and it’s made up of letters but I cannot put the letters together to form coherent sounds.


2. map of walking times between tube stations

walkingtubemap1

TFL published a map that shows the walking distance between tube stations. There’s also a map that shows the number of steps between stations, so they can put a spin on the “steps = exercise” trend.

Practially, this is a useful map for visitors and newcomers. Every Londoner knows it’s pointless to take the Piccadilly Line between Leicester Square and Covent Garden. Between waiting for the train, the actual journey, and the horrendous wait for the lift at Covent Garden, it may take 10-15mins. Walking is 4mins.

walkingtubemap2

There’s another leaflet, journeys that could be quicker to walk [pdf] that is also very useful. For instance, the map would suggest it takes 18mins to walk between Queensway and Bayswater (via Notting Hill Gate) but the journey leaflet tells us it’s only 5mins. Google maps actually say 2mins, but that probably needs running at nighttime with no other pedestrians.


3. john snow’s cholera map

I saw this on a tv program about sewage and how the world’s cities made the jump from being disease infested to, well, less so. It’s all about clean water.

choleramap

The story of how John Snow discovered that cholera spreads through water rather than through the air by plotting a map of outbreaks that showed occurrences near to a water pump in Soho is well known. His use of data mapping is as revolutionary as the discovery itself. The blob of black dots around the pump at Broad (now Broadwick) Street as pretty horrible. But the interesting thing is workers at the nearby brewery were not affected because: a) they drank mainly beer and b) the brewery had its own water supply. That would not have been the case if the disease spread in th air.

So many diseases from 100, 200 years ago are under control. Cholera, TB, measles. Have we reached peak discovery? There doesn’t seem to be huge discoveries like this anymore, more like small incremental ones. Then again, it could be that they were low key. HIV has been contained, and many cancers are less life-threatening now. We have so much to learn.


4. property prices

londonhouseprices

According to bloomberg, london house prices are coming down, with more sellers reducing their prices from originally marketed. A report published by Rightmove says on average the reduction is 6.7% due to:

initial over-optimism and a tougher market

That said, the average in november is still an eye-popping £628,219. I mean, that’s staggering compared with a national average of £311,043.

The article immediate below the one about housing talks about more bad news for the pound, with further drops possible. An uncertain brexit, Theresa May’s uncertain future, all lead to the market being bearish on the pound. This actually is good news for us, since it means we can buy more.

Around the table on tuesday’s lunch we were all talking about property, as a group of middle-aged professionals are wont to do. If only we’d all bought a place in London when we graduated, we’d be all sitting pretty now. Ah well, can’t turn back time. The consensus is, £ and house prices haven’t seen bottom, so it’s worth waiting a little while longer.


5. decadent hot chocolate

Have to end on a more cheerful note. How about the most decadent hot chocolate in the capital. Fortnum’s chocolate bar, Flotsam And Jetsam’s rainbow-coloured white unicorn chocolate, Fattie’s Bakery’s with a toasted marshmallow rim, and the best chocolate café name of all, Choccywoccydoodah. Some of them look like they have far too much whipped cream. My 2 favourites on this list:

darksugars

The one from Dark Sugars that has a mountain of chocolate shards shaved on top. The way the shards melt into the chocolate…

hotelchocclassic

And finally, the classic from Hotel Chocolat. Who needs fancy when you have classical elegance and top quality ingredients.

the story of how baileys was invented

baileys

TIL Baileys was invented in 1973 by David Gluckman and Hugh Reade Seymour-Davies. Mr Gluckman told the story in the Irish Times recently.

They’d just gotten their business started in London and were asked by the Irish company of their client International Distillers & Vintners (now Diageo) to create a new drinks brand for export.

Hugh: “What would happen if we mixed Irish whiskey and cream?”
David: “Let’s try it.”

We bought a small bottle of Jamesons Irish Whiskey and a tub of single cream and hurried back. It was a lovely May morning. 1973. Underdogs Sunderland had just won the FA Cup. We mixed the two ingredients in our kitchen, tasted the result and it was certainly intriguing, but in reality bloody awful. Undaunted, we threw in some sugar and it got better, but it still missed something.

We went back to the store, searching the shelves for something else, found our salvation in Cadbury’s Powdered Drinking Chocolate and added it to our formula. Hugh and I were taken by surprise. It tasted really good. Not only this, but the cream seemed to have the effect of making the drink taste stronger, like full-strength spirit. It was extraordinary.

The name Baileys, in totally British fashion, was named after a bistro next to a pub near their office. Those days, Soho Square was where the ad agencies were. The husband of their secretary designed a label that included grazing cows and lush green pastures. They had a couple of focus groups taste the product and one thought it tasted like a medicine for diarrhea. They placed two bottles at a pub at Marylebone Road and there it sat for days until a couple of policemen came and drank the whole bottle.

They went to Dublin to pitch their product and were told by the sales director of the company: “It’s not for the Irish market. It’ll never sell here.” Despite this negativity, the product was launched in the UK and Ireland in 1975. But it took a while before it started gaining popularity.

And the rest is history. David Gluckman went on to write a book about his 40-year career creating brands for the drinks industry. Baileys is now the worlds best selling liqueur brand with 82 million bottles sold every year.

TWE tasting sets


TWE is promoting its newest gift idea, dram-sized tasting bottles and sets. Cute 10ml bottles of all sorts, not only whisky but gin, bourbon etc. Single bottles or a dark wood gift box of multiple bottles plus a glass, what a stroke of packaging and marketing genius. They have a balvenie set, a lagavullin set, a sherry cask set. The tour of Scotland set has auchentoshan, glenfiddich, two lagavullins, talisker. The bourbon discovery set at £44.95 has the usual suspects–makers mark, evan williams, four roses, wild turkey, elijah craig. The Japanese whisky set has chichibu, mars, nikka coffey grain, taketsuru, yamazaki 12 at £54.95. To be honest, totally overpriced and we are definitely paying for packaging.

twechocwhisky

The around the world set has english whisky, miyagikiyo, michter’s, kavalan sherry oak, amrut peated. I’ve tried all of these. English whisky company is current and amrut is in the rotation queue. Miyagikyo is probably my favourite japanese single malt, even more so than the more well-known yamazaki and yoichi. I’m surprised they don’t have a european whiskies set, opportunity wasted.

The sets I’m drawn to are the rarer ones. Lost distilleries, Port Askaig, Laddie set. The chocolate and whisky set at £44.95 should be popular. It helps that in that set they have balvenie, glenfarcas, taisker and port askaig. Actually I wont mind this set, I’ll take the whiskies and give mum the chocolate.

flavours

aquavit

Sis gave me a pack of small bottles of aquavit from the Swedish shop a while ago. Since I’m trying to reduce my total amount of stuff, I opened it to give it a try. The labels are all in Swedish and I’m too lazy to google translate them. I can figure out some info from the pictures, there are bottles flavoured with rosemary, orange and some classic-looking labels. Aquavit is a spirit distilled from grain or potato and flavoured with caraway, dill, anise, fennel–caraway being the primary spice used. In Sweden, it’s a holiday or celebration drink drunk as a shot and accompanied with singing, before, during and after each round of shots with increasing enthusiasm. I can definitely taste the caraway and there’s a strong aftertaste of anise too. My first few sips had too much anise, but after a few more, it became sweeter and I was able to tolerate it better. I did not burst into song.

Tried with orange and passionfruit juice (which was what we had in the fridge) and it was quite nice.

Another spirit I’m trying to finish is a small bottle of ouzo I got in Greece. It’s been said that if:

you’re a fan of absinthe, aquavit, or liquorice in general, you’ll dig ouzo

because they all have the base note of anise together with fennel, coriander and cloves. Again, I had it with juice and it was pretty good.

This is very, very odd. I absolutely do not like anise-flavours and I will spit out liquorice. I can’t stand coriander either, it smells like detergent and I can’t stand to have even a small morsel in my food. But I love, love, love fennel and I was fine with both aquavit and ouzo. Okay, I wasn’t very keen on tasting them neat, and perhaps the sweetness of the juice masked the anise notes. I’ve also had absinthe before, once in France and once in the Czech Republic (oh, sorry Czechia) and I didn’t like it. There’s some whacky flavour palate thing going on.

Liquorice, like durian, is a very black-and-white flavour in that people either love it or hate it. There seems to be some scientific theories behind it, that there is a difference between how we handle the aroma vs the taste of flavours. Or precisely, specific chemicals in the food. Anise type food contains glycyrrhiza glabra, and aversion to its taste seems to determine whether someone likes or hates these foodstuffs. The compound that gives this class of food its distinctive smell is anethole, and reactions to smells can be changed over time. Still doesn’t really explain my experience.

One thing is clear, I’ll finish the aquavit and ouzo (with lots of juice), continue to cook fennel, and stay far away from liquorice.

english whisky

englishwhisky

I saw this English Whisky at M&S and thought I’d give it a try for the novelty factor. I’ve tried small drams by the St George’s distillery before, and the label says distilled in Norfolk, where the company is. I guessed (and confirmed) it’s a Marks and Spark’s exclusive distilled by St George’s.

First clue, NAS. Plus the distillery has only been in operation for about 10 years, so not likely to be more than 7 years old. My first impression, on taking the bottle out of the box, was how pale it is. It seems that it’s barely been aged in barrels at all, or that the barrels used are different from the typical sherry or bourbon barrels for scottish whisky.

Not much of a taste too, not fiery on the palate. My initial reaction was cake, but not as rich as cake. Somewhat sweet but not fruity. It was better when a drop of water was added, more fragrant, sweeter, and a longer finish.

In the UK it’s on sale for £35. I got it for equivalent of £50. For this price, there are plenty of other options. I’m glad I tried it, but I won’t go back to it once this bottle is finished.

a day of errands, and a great beer to end

A day full of errands and running around.

My tenant moved out. We exchanged emails around 2 weeks ago so I know he’s accepted a job offer in another country but I didn’t know that he’d be flying out so soon. He left the keys in the mailbox.

To his credit, he had professional cleaners come in and clean the flat. He also left his large coffee table, a dirt devil vacuum cleaner, a doorframe pull up bar and a modem which he should have returned to the internet provider. He also left lots of beer and vitamin water in the fridge–there must be 20 bottles of beer and 10 bottles of vitamin water. Now I have to figure out what to do with the flat next.

I didn’t have too much time to spend at the flat, I was rushing to a doctor’s appointment to clear my blocked ears. Yeah, I finally decided to get them sorted. It was nice to live at reduced volume but it’s not ideal. I’ve been to this ENT doc since I was young and he knows my ear health history. He poked and vacuumed the gunk out of my ears, pretty uncomfortable but effective. Expensive though, around USD80 and that was without medicine.

Took a bus back across the harbour to Sam’s. He out-did himself this time. Gave me an even better than normal haircut and within 40mins too. This time he cut it shorter than before and it feels so good to have so much of the thickness gone.

Went to the supermarket and bought a couple of bulbs of fennel. Seeing so many contestants use fennel on masterchef gave me a hankering after it. Organic and imported so very expensive. Almost USD10 for two small/medium bulbs. Ah well. Sis gave me a voucher for this supermarket and I still have quite a lot of balance left.

stbernadusabt12

By then it was around 5.30pm and I’d been running around since 1pm. Have over an hour till meeting mm for dinner. Decided on beer over wine so walked over to frites with their huge belgian beer selection. I wanted to see if they have St Bernadus abt 12, which I came across very often when I was googling Westvleteren 12. The story is shortly after WW2 the owners of St Bernadus brewery and the trappist monks from nearby St Sixtus monastery had an arrangement where they would share equipment and location. More importantly, the brewmaster from Westvleteren brought over the recipes, the know-how and the St. Sixtus yeast strain. The arrangement stopped in 1992 when the trappist monks decided that authentic trappist beer could only be brewed and sold within monastery walls. Nevertheless, St Bernadus continued with the recipe.

The long and short of it is, St Bernadus is the nearest alternative to the extremely rare Westvleteren 12.

I didn’t know enough when I was tasting the Westvleteren 12 to get a bottle of St Bernadus too. So I’m comparing a beer today with one I tasted a month ago. There are similarities and differences. Both are dark, creamy and complex. The Westvleteren was richer, smoother and had more dried fruit notes. The St Bernadus seemed more aerated and towards the end, I felt it tasted like any other dark ale whereas the Westvleteren was fruity and rich even at the end.

I still think the St Bernadus is a top-notch beer. Frites has happy hour monday to friday between 3-8pm and it was half price. With Westvleteren extremely difficult to get, I’ll be back again to taste the St Bernadus and I won’t feel like it’s a second choice.

solskinsoen

via Outside magazine, Solskinsoen is a film about running a brewery on an island in Denmark.

Penyllan brewery is located on Bornholm, which is mainly a holiday destination that fills up with holiday crowds in the summer and is very quiet in winter.

penyllan

What a beautiful place and committed brewers. They’ve only just started, their website is a landing page only. Their fb page says they will launch their first beers on 4 October.

pub party

ashleyrdpub01

Sis, Rob and I went to the first anniversary party of one of R’s friend Andy’s pub. R is an investor there also, like a few others that Andy has opened. It’s a nice little pub in a central area but on a street that is less crowded. I’m glad to have found it, sometimes I have a little time to spare and nowhere to go to, like a pub. Of course I can find a fast food place and sit for a bit, but honestly who wants to sit at Mcdonalds, having to share a filthy plastic table with others.

ashleyrdpub02

The party was between 4-9pm, so they could still take in customers. They had beer, rosé and red wine, all served in a plastic beer cup. Snacks too like chicken wings, salad, pasta. R’s friend Patrick showed up and he somehow snagged a bottle of prosecco for our table. Yay for young Patrick. We left at around 8pm, I got home with enough time to shower and watch MKR.

giant mango drink

giantmangodrink

Mum and I went to the warehouse outlets for a looksee. I was able to find a pair of crocs to replace the ones I’m wearing at home. It’s the last one on the shelf and I think they call it aquamarine. Considering the current one is bright green, and I’m only wearing it inside, I’m not that bothered about the colour. Pink, no. Any bright blue or green colour, okay.

On the way back to the station, I noticed a young woman with a giant cup of mango. A few steps later I saw the entrance to a small arcade, the sort that is in old buildings and a tiny bit crappy. This stall sells mango drinks, located amongst several other fast food stalls selling noodles, fishballs and the like. I ordered this one that comes in a big gulp size cup with mango juice, whipped cream, mango shaved ice and fresh mangos. The girl there says there is one full litre of mango juice inside. Mum opted for the small size but that one still had mango juice, whipped cream and fresh mango.

The mango juice tastes diluted even though the stall claims it’s not. May be it’s the type of mango they use. I wish they’d leave out the whipped cream, may be if I order it again I’ll tell them to leave it out. The fresh mango is from large mangos and was the best part of the drink.

We stayed and finished it, although we could have asked for a lid. We were going on the train so we didn’t want to (no eating and drinking on the mtr).

Good value, Large came to equivalent US$5 and small just under $4. We have a few frozen giant mangos in our fridge, we can probably make this ourselves. I’d replace the cream with ice cream, that’ll make it a proper dessert.

happy birthday, papa

westvleteren12

Today would have been Papa’s 80th birthday. We met at the foodcourt for lunch–korean food at 1/10th the price of jinjuu and the bibimbap actually had crust. The cemetery was very quiet, we were the only people visiting while we were there. Must have been papa looking out for us, our taxi driver was actually waiting at the taxi stand when we were about to leave. He claimed he was taking a break but he did let slip that he figured we would have problems getting a taxi. Smart of him.

One of my regrets is I saved up a bottle of westveleteren 12, the best beer in the world, for a special occasion and never got to share it with papa. Westvleteren has the smallest production of the Belgian Trappist monasteries and sale of this beer is limited to one crate per buyer who had to call ahead to reserve their purchase (if they get through on the phone). It’s been described as the holy grail of beer. This one treasured bottle I managed to find in Brussels five years ago during my chip- and chocwalk with my friend A.

Papa would have loved the beer. It’s dark and strong, at 10% alcohol. Rich, smoky, creamy. Tons of fruity, caramel notes–like it’s been soaked in dried fruit. It’s definitely one for sipping slowly. It’s a small 330ml bottle; but the complexity and higher alcohol content makes it more staisfying. It would have been great shared between the two of us.

Happy Birthday, Papa.

karuizawa ballot

twe

The ballot for two karuizawa golden geisha whiskies have begun at TWE. There are a very limited supply, only around 350 bottles combined. Needless to say, the price is also very high: £2500 for the 31 year and £2750 for the 33 year. The ballot gives the lucky person the chance to buy one but not both the bottles.

I lucked out on another karuizawa ballot a few years ago and was initially thinking this is too expensive for me. But it costs nothing to enter the ballot so, yes, I put in my email.

Karuizawa the town is between Tokyo and the Nagano region. It’s possible to plan a trip from Tokyo to Karuizawa then to Takayama and Kanazawa. Of course the distillery is closed, but there’s plenty to see and do what is one of Japan’s most upmarket resort area.

coke plus

cokeplusjapan

Coke launched coke plus a few months ago in japan, a zero calorie coke with

five grams of indigestible dextrin – a source of dietary fiber

I saw it in Japan; it’s being marketed towards the over-40s with the emphasis on health and was approved as Food of Specified Health Use (FOSHU). I just got a bottle from the small supermarket. It’s about 50% more expensive than the other cokes, possibly because it’s an import. In terms of taste, cnn says it

is like drinking an ultra-sweet cola-flavored jelly with a heavy dose of faux citrus and a biting carbonation

I don’t think it’s that bad. It’s somewhere between diet coke and coke zero in terms of fizziness and citrusness. I’ve cut down a lot on coke the past couple of years; if there’s a slight chance that it may have some health benefit, I won’t mind switching to coke plus. Until it’s more widely distributed, the higher price point is a good incentive to continue to limit consumption to the current average of one a week.

trip errands, happy hour

Went to the bank, changed some yen for our trip. Then met mm at the transport department to get our international driver’s licences. I’m so used to using either my UK or US driver’s licence to rent cars that I almost forgot Japan didn’t accept them. They do accept, amongst others, Swiss driver’s licence but I’ll have to get a certified Japanese translation. Less trouble to get the international one. We tried making an appointment online but couldn’t get one so it was walk-in. Argh, there was a loooooong queue. As usual, it involved queuing up for ages to go to one counter to hand in our application and another queue to pay. At least we got the licence there and didn’t have to go to a third counter. Government bureaucracy. Took 1.5hrs.

tequila

Went to happy hour at the place sis and I went to in April. Two-for-one drinks plus a small cold buffet bar with proscuitto, cheese, bread, olives, fruit. Instead of wine or beer or even whisky (they only had Chivas and Jack Daniels) we ordered tequila, after our experience at frites. The drink came with salt and lemon.


There are right and not so right ways of drinking tequila. The clichéd method is salt on back of hand, shot in one then lemon wedge. Or neat, as zagat suggested in the video. We sipped it like whisky. Added a little salt and a drop of lemon juice, but mostly as a slow drink to enjoy the taste. We’re not yet at the point where we know what is good tequila, and I didn’t make a note of the brand. No wonder people get drunk off it, it’s so easy to drink. Good thing there was food. That was my dinner, I didn’t feel like eating anything else; mm had a meeting so I walked with her part ways until my bus stop. I was home by 7.30pm.

make tea in microwave, outrageous

inst001kettle

Some scientists in from the University of Newcastle in Australia are claiming that making tea using a microwave is the best method as it’s supposed to release more of tea’s beneficial active ingredients. They placed a tea bag with water, microwaved it at half power for 30 seconds and let it sit for a minute.

No.

No.

No.

As the Independent said, it’s

likely to appall any self-respecting Brit to their very core

and there is an uproar on twitter about this.

I’ve learned to compromise when I visit friends in the US. Yes I have to use the microwave to heat tea and I’ve had to use…gasp…half and half when I had no other choice. But I didn’t expect this travesty to come from the Aussies. I remember thinking when we were in Australia recently thank god the Aussies know how to make tea. I’m so wrong.

But seriously, there are rules for tea making:

  • USE A KETTLE, water must be freshly boiled
  • under no circumstances is lipton acceptable
  • teabag in or out is personal choice
  • milk first only with loose-leaf tea, never with tea bags
  • USE A KETTLE

family day, happy hour

Bank stuff in the morning with Sis. Mum went to get a table for dim sum lunch. After lunch we went to visit Papa. It’s turned warm and humid and people were burning stuff so there was smoke all over the place. The taxi queue back to the station was very long, fortunately the wait wasn’t that bad.

Since we were out and there was time, Sis and I went to the probate office to file an amendment. Typical bureaucracy: queue up at one counter, queue up at another, then another, form filling, more queuing.

hh20170411

We needed to sit down afterwards and went to a new restaurant-bistro type place at the spot that used to be grappas. They had two-for-one happy hour plus a small plates counter. We had wine: barbera d’asti for me and malbec for sis. The small plates counter was good: sandwiches, olives, artichoke-pepper, lots of cheese, two types of charcuterie, fruit and a nice selection of relish and chutneys. For some reason I totally adore chutneys and can eat it on its own. They also had a blackberry chutney that I also liked.

There was an app that kept track of happy hour places but they change to quickly the app can’t keep up. Stone Nullah Tavern that used to have $1 drinks that doubles in price every 20mins is now all-you-can-drink for a set price. The old reliable bars like Canny Man are pretty consistent, with 30-40% deals. Passion near the office was good, they do two-for-one but perhaps due to the inexperience of the staff they allow two people to share one deal vs most places the offer is per order. Increasingly, there is a tendency to serve snacks. The french place we were going to go to serves a small plate of parma ham and HMV has small plates too, though I haven’t been there for a while.

pillastro wine

pillastro2014

Normally when I drink wine at home I use a mug. Yes, it’s terrible.

So I opened a bottle of Pillastro Primivito 2014 that sis gave me. I thought I should do it better justice and use a proper wine glass. Okay, it’s still a stemless, not a fancy one but it’s an improvement.

Nice wine. Primivito is the same grape as zinfandel apparently. No wonder it was fruity and fragrant. Easy to drink too.

soju and beer

I was watching this video about why korean bbq is better in the US than in korea. I disagree, korean bbq in korea certainly has fewer choices–i’ve been to small restaurants where there is literally one thing on the menu, but it was one thing done well–it’s a matter of taste. Americans like lots of choice and lots of everything. That’s not necessarily the way it’s done traditionally.

Anyway, the host was drinking a mixture of soju and beer. I slapped my head, duh!!! Why hadn’t I thought of it before? I’ve drunk soju on its own and obviously beer on its own.

It’s apparently a big thing. They even have specially marked glasses to get the ratio just right. 30:70 soju:beer is popular. There are also other methods to fix the drink, including swirling or mixing with a chopstick to create a foam on top.

And there’s the famous soju bomb, which involves dropping a bunch of shotglasses of soju in glasses of beer, like a domino effect. Very cool.

sojubeer

All I did was mix a splash of soju with beer; I got cass so it’s all korean. The ratio was around 1:4 soju:beer. I can taste the sweet soju in with the mild beer. The alcohol % of the drink is more than beer; soju is 17%. It’s probably something I’ll try in a korean restaurant if there are enough people to finish one soju, otherwise it’s more of a novelty drink for me.

writers tears

writerstears2017

Finished the bottle of Dalwhinnie. It’s okay, middle of the road.

While thinking about the next bottle to open, I’ve been buying scads of Writers Tears, which is back at m&s at a lower price. I haven’t tried WT extensively, so it was an easy decision to open a bottle for the next rotation.

There’s something about Irish blends, that make them different from Scottish or Japanese blends. The Famous Grouse series is the only ones I like in the Scottish blends stable, and I’ve tried so very hard to like Hibiki but nope. Irish blends are usually a mix of malt, pot still and grain, I think the pot still tempers the harshness. WT is a blend of pure pot still and malt, no grain. Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin:

A deliciously soft, sweet, easy drinking dram.

Mr Murray gives it 93 points:

the arrival is an alternating delivery of soft and hard waves, the former showing a more bitter, almost myopic determination to hammer home its traditional pot still stand point; the sweeter more yielding notes dissolve with little ot no resistance, leaving an acaia honeyed trail

The fruity but not overly fruity notes on the nose is oh so pleasant. The palate is smooth and sweet with just enough kick. The finish is lingering and I have to say pleasant again. I love cask strengths and this one at a normal 40% tastes almost of cask strength. It’s cheaper than HP12, around the price of 2 bottles of good wine and can easily become my day-to-day dram.

p.s. posted on st patrick’s day

bbmm wine at home

Just a few hours a week isn’t much, but we tried to make the best use of them. We wanted to go to the travel agent but mm wanted to meet for drinks beforehand. I checked that the german bierhalle had happy hour and we had a glass of house red each. Not very inspiring house red, it suited our purposes.

For the travel agent visit, we got one of the really knowledgeable agents there. He asked a few questions about where, when and what sort of things we liked doing and proceeded to plan our itinerary. Even looked up options for airports in/out and how we can add our friend lily to the trip. Whilst mm was asking him other questions, I asked my original agent about the NCL refund and she said still waiting. Not her fault, local NCL is being slow and useless. More about our possible trip later.

margaux201703

Instead of going to a restaurant, we went to the market, bought hainanese chicken and veg, and had dinner at her place. So much nicer, and watched Bones too. Finished about 2/3rd of the whole chicken, plus giblets. The wine was great! It’s so rarely that I get to try someone more expensive than the regular cheap zin or pinots I drink at home. What we both liked about this margaux was how fragrant it was, so fruity, so full of berry notes. We both swirled the wine (not overfilling the glass) and inhaled the rich blackcurrant aroma, it was enough sometimes, no need to drink it. When we did taste, it was sweet and smooth without being overly caramel-y and hardly any tannic aftertaste.

We polished off the entire bottle.

Good food, good wine, good company. Definitely have to do it again.

tokyo all you can drink sake

kurand

Met mm yesterday for tea and walking around the last day of the brands expo. We also had decisions we needed to make prior to our tokyo trip. Hotel, train, pocket wifi. She brought her mb so i showed her kurand sake market which offers unlimited sake tastings for ¥3240 per session. Considering the evening session is from 5-11pm that’s pretty much unlimited time.

They have several branches and operate on a standing bar basis. Looking at the pictures, they have bottle upon bottle of different sakes in a wall of fridges and the idea is to drink all we like. Food not included, we’re encouraged to bring our own.

She was scrolling around and saw that they also offer tasting lessons. Two hours during the unlimited session. The lesson is conducted by a British sake expert and looks very comprehensive. There is a guided tasted of 10-12 sakes afterwards. Cost ¥5950.

I filled in the booking form and we’re in. Our first day is sorted; we get off the plane, hop on the airport limousine, check-in to our hotel, grab something quick to eat and head over to the sake market. Hopefully it will be a perfect start to the trip.

pokehalloween, day of errands, iced chocolate reward

pokemonhalloween

Thursday is office day, but I didn’t need to go in today. But I still left early because I had a lot planned for the day.

There is a pokemon go halloween event. Massive spawnings of gastly family, drowzee family and cubone family literally everywhere. The tracker map is back and if the map is zoomed out there are so many spawnings that they’re all clustered together.

I took over the gym up the road only to realise I had a few hours to go to claim my bonus, hahaha. Someone kicked me out soon after. By then I was on my way to the nearby housing estate for breakfast. I’d only been playing about an hour and my phone already needed charging. Another 30mins or so walking around morse park and more gastlys and drowzees and I caught my first marowak. Bus to signal hill, with a detour at k11 to charge both phone and ext battery. Signal hill gave more than just the halloween spawns, good varieties but nothing too exciting.

klnparkfountain

Lunch of scotch egg from marks and seasonal japanese beer from 7-eleven. Sat at the downtown park, with first very efficient sniping of the gym at one of the fountains. Quite hot but okay to sit outside, tolerable pollution today. They turned the fountain on while I was there, it was peaceful to watch it for a few minutes.

A good morning’s work. A huge amount of pokemons caught and also candy increase. Double candies means 6 per pokemon caught, I’m now at almost 300 gastly candies.

Dropped off a document at the bank, then walked back to the office. It’s almost november and still it’s 30ºC. Did a little work, surfed around the internet and continued reading my book. I’m not billing today so I’m not actually working, just charging my phone and enjoying the aircon.

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We left quite late, almost 7pm. Dinner at 8pm at pokka café, mm had udon and I had korean fried chicken and topoki. We joined the restaurant group’s membership and one of the perks is one voucher per month of a free drink with meal. Considering they are a coffee specialist, their coffee is pretty good. But mm didn’t want coffee so we asked if we can order iced chocolate. Wow. I almost never order chocolate drinks because I find them too sweet or too sickly rich. This was different. Rich, but not overly so. Not too sweet. Very smooth. Came in a jug which we can pour over ice ourselves (or ask for a second glass and share). Good enough to be a dessert. This will be our monthly indulgence for the next 11 months.

I bought a few incubators in the morning and by the time I got home after a long day, I hatched two 10km eggs. Eevee and Electabuzz, sigh.

bbmm tea, sneakers, sake tasting

sake04

Met up for tea at toastbox; great value for money, we were at the café for more than an hour with just tea/coffee and toast. Spotted a poster for a popup sportswear outlet upstairs and got there to be faced with a literal mountain of sneakers. I got one pair and mm got 3 pairs, 40-70% off.

The reason for meeting up was to go to the japanese wine stands at sogo. We were there on thursday and bought 15 bottles between us. The promoters there said they were opening some new bottles for tasting this weekend, so we were there to try some new ones as well as re-taste others available. There were so many varieties of sake and umeshu. One of the tasting was from an interesting glass device. A small tap at the bottom and separate compartment for ice.

In the end we bought even more bottles, I have 10 in total now. Different sakes including one made from organic rice. Also different umeshu from different types of plums and aged for different times. One used whisky techniques, and tasted stronger. There was also a 3-year one that was richer and had more depth of flavour than a corresponding 7-year.

office, bbmm hh

Office day. I finished writing the employee handbook.

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Lunch with sis, we had to go to the bank to sign even more forms but the staff there were very helpful. We went to le relais since she had a voucher, but end up couldn’t get it to work. No matter. The light lunch was salad and a small plate of their regular steak and fries. Came with ice cream or sorbet and could upgrade to lemon tart or profiteroles. I had lemon tart. Quite a good deal. A couple of glasses of wine too.

After work mm and I ended up at stone nullah tavern. They don’t have their $1 starter happy hour anymore, now for a fixed price (around 2 glasses of wine) it’s free flow wine, beer, basic cocktails betwen 5-7pm. Plus bacon and fried chicken. We ate enough chicken that we didn’t need to have dinner.

Tram to sogo for mm to hand in a credit card application. Walked around and spent the rest of the evening at the japanese wine stands, trying sake and umeshu. Tried so much that we got quite tipsy! I bought 8 bottles of various sakes and umeshus, happy with my selection. They even deliver so I’ll get them next weekend.

pokehunting, happy hour, steak dinner

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Met up with mm to go pokéhunting. The shopping centre we went to didn’t have many good pokémons but it was nice to just sit and relax. Our friend D whatsapped us that he’s ready to hunt. We met up first at Hullet House, which used to be the marine police headquarters and now converted to a hotel. The colonial building has been restored and it looks very pretty, both during the day and at nightfall.

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The bar had happy hour which included local craft beers. Definitely a colonial atmosphere and a nice place to meet and chat.

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D took us to some hotspots: the back of ToysRUs, the far corner of a rooftop car park. Got a few draginis and a golduck. We had dinner at a casual Italian place. I had the wagyu beef set: scallop salad, pumpkin soup, A5 wagyu steak, petit fours. The steak was…okay. Very thin and not rare enough.

After dinner we walked to a place D said he found Pikachus but there weren’t any. It’s next to my bus stop home so it was at least convenient.

office drinks

donutwine

Went over to the office for office drinks. Brought red bean doughnuts from the nearby bakery.

Strange office drinks. Everybody took their glass back to their desk and continued working. I was left sitting there waiting for pokemons to appear. Afterwards mm and I took a bus back and forth to visit more pokestops.

I thought we might have dinner together but I ended up sadly having noodles at place near the bus stop home. Seems like my company is not wanted.

sherry cocktail, vietnamese dinner

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Went over to the flat to get some stuff done. Had an hour or so to kill before dinner so I stopped at a tapas place offering $35 happy hour cocktails and bottle beers. Had a cocktail called pasito: pedro ximenez, triple sec, lime juice, mint. Not bad, can taste the sweetness of the sherry tempered by the lime, could do with a little more lime.

prawnsduckcurry

Dinner was with my old friend Dr W, we were in the same year at king’s and had lost touch. Reconnecting friends is one of the better things about social media. She lives near me so we met at the shopping centre nearby, at a new vietnamese place. Had 2 starters: sugar cane prawns and vietnamese spring rolls; mains were coconut duck curry and vegetables. The curry came with french bread and wasn’t too spicy. Very nice.

it’s watermelon day

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It’s watermelon day! Much needed refreshment for the height of summer. I cut up a mini watermelon after dinner and thought I’d make a drink too. Most watermelon cocktails are made with vodka, I’ve found ones with bourbon so I thought I’d give it a try since I don’t want to open a bottle of vodka just for this.

The first try I kept it simple, muddled a few cubes of watermelon with my current bourbon: the excellent Breckenridge. That’s it. I can smell the mixture of bourbon sweetness with watermelon freshness. Tastewise, the strength of the spirit wipes out the sweetness of the fruit and the combo has a slightly unpleasant bitter aftertaste. The remaining watermelon flesh had zero flavour that ruined the whole thing. Very surprised. I’ve kept it too simple; it’s not balanced.

The watermelon julep recipe adds lime juice, basil, mint and sea salt. I think definitely needs mint and a few drops of citrus plus a little sugar syrup. May be even soda water. I’ve also seen cucumber added: not sure about that because cucumber, though fresh, also has bitter notes.

The second try I soaked a few cubes of watermelon in bourbon for a few hours. They tasted better after infusion. Added sugar syrup and a few slices of cucumber for decoration. Much better.

bbmm happy hour

Went for happy hour with mm at a hotel bar. Buy one get one free between 3-9pm, nice. I had two glasses of rioja and she had an abruzzo followed by a sauvignon blanc. Only 150ml servings which suited us.

Dinner at a new, authentic Korean bbq place. So authentic the meal came with soju and one of the wait staff was Korean. The bbq was great, the beef ribs super flavourful. The belly pork was good too. Came with a tofu seafood soup and bibimbap. Way too much for 2 people although we did our best.

Good to catch up with mm. I asked her where we should go for holiday this year and she was non-commital. May be we won’t get to go this year, sigh.

chenin blanc rhino

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Not a white wine drinker at all. Been buying a bunch of Tussock Jumper wines because of the cute labels and thought I might get this one for Sis. But I don’t know if she’ll like it. The only solution, try it out myself. Hahaha, any excuse.

The difference between red and white wines is that there are some whites that are really tasteless. Chenin blancs have been described as

rather bland, off-dry wine suitable only for the bottom end of the wine market

Ouch. This one is from South Africa, hence the rhino label. I find it crisp rather than bland. Acidic though not chokingly so. Pleasantly drinkable. A little bit of peppery aftertaste.

Sis tends to drink chardonnays so I think she might like it. I’ll see if the store still has its 30-40% sale. Otherwise I already bought her a prosecco and a malbec.

bbmm new watering hole

coedobeer

Went to the japanese brewery for happy hour with mm. I hadn’t noticed before, their own beers are a free upgrade at happy hour whereas guest brews are discounted around 20%.

I knew what I wanted because I had their flight last time I visited. Usually when there’s an amber ale, that ends up being my favourite so my choice was beniaka. The staff were also nice enough to let us have a taste, mm described what she liked and the staff recommended an amber lager from Taiwan. It was very crisp, yet with a depth of flavour. I asked to try a sour beer from Denmark, it was more like a sparkling wine than beer.

Nice place, mm took a pic of their storage fridge and called the place our new watering hole.

After happy hour we went to a korean ayce bbq place. Relatively quiet, it’s a weekday. Didn’t eat as much as we used to but still quite a lot of beef, lamb, chicken, tongue which we wrapped in lettuce. We were there quite a while, it was 9pm when we left and it felt like 8pm.

bbmm happy hour

Happy hour with mm. It’s weekend so no happy hour discount really. Wanted to go to the Japanese brewery but was put off by this woman talking loudly. Why do people feel the need to put their voice volume on maximum? Went to hmv café but was horrified when the waiter said their alcohol licence has to be renewed and probably not until the end of the month. Someone must have screwed up at the office.

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Decamped to wildfire. I had a weissbier and mm had asahi. Was peckish so ordered some calamari. Nice chat, catching up for the past week.

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Stopped at a hole-in-the-wall place on our way to find dinner. They sell mainly handrolls, lots of variety like uni, salmon, salmon roe, scallop, lobster, lobster roe and so on. A good selection of oysters too so we picked a few. From top, two each: massé, canadian, coffin bay. The massé was the most expensive, our favourite was the coffin bays: sweet with bags of flavour.

In the end we took the tram a few blocks down and had dinner at a diner place. Found another bar that had happy hour for real. Only one other table there when we sat down at 8pm, friends of the manager it seems. Beer was buy 2 get one free. Plus a bowl of peanuts. Happy hour officially ended at 9pm but they still served us the one free beer at 9.30pm. The place started filling up around 10pm and it was time for us to go home.

Great evening. Drank 1.5l of beer in total. Didn’t go anywhere special, we just needed a venue to sit and chat.

tomato shochu

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I have this bottle of tomato wine we bought in Japan many, many years ago. Time to try it. Not a lot of information available, a reverse google image search gave me a bar located in Saitama that served this tomato shōchū 焼酎 at ¥380.

It’s a clear liquid that smells strong and reminiscent of sake. 25% alcohol doesn’t sound strong, but it certainly tastes strong and left a burning sensation as it travels down my throat. Small sips, especially drinking neat. Not a great deal of tomato flavour.

Distilled spirits, like grain alcohol, are not that memorable neat. I’ll try adding it to soda water and/or juice. In Japanese supermarkets and convenience stores there are lots of mixed shōchū drinks made with soda water and flavouring such as lemon, lime, apple.

Another method is to drink shōchū with warm water, a bit like hot sake.

tussock jumper wines

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I was at the small supermarket getting sparkling water when I saw that they had a whole shelf of wine from tussock jumper. What caught my eye: the unusual name, the labels with different animals all wearing a red jumper and then the sheer variety of wines, from cab to pinot to malbec in the red department; sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, riesling in the white deparment. Even a prosecco.

Never heard of the label before so I did some googling. The brand originated in New Zealand, with a label with a sheep wearing a red jumper. The company then expanded the concept, producing

labels with a striking animal character representing its country of origin and wearing the brand’s signature red jumper

Examples of labels: koala for the Australian shiraz, bull for the Spanish tempranillo, rhino for the South African chenin blanc.

tussockjumpermap

Their website shows 16 wines from 11 countries. Doesn’t include the prosecco so 17 wines. It’s one of the current wine trends, sourcing wine from different producers and slapping on an eye-catching label.

I deliberated on which to get. The cutest label is a penguin (Argentinian cab), but I don’t drink cab unless I have no other choice. Malbec from Argentina (beefy cow), pinor noir from France (boar) or the one wine I hadn’t heard of, touriga nacional aragonez from Portugal (donkey) were possibilities.

In the end I opted for the zinfandel from USA, partly because I hadn’t had zin for a while and partly because of the bison label. The tasting notes say

crisp red berry and currant flavors, a touch of spice and a smooth yet crisp finish

It’s fairly inoffensive, if not particularly special. Fruity on the nose and easy to drink without needing to air. A little citrus and a little pepper. Not too tannic, which I like. Enough of an aftertaste to linger on the palette.

Price-wise the collection is upper average scale. Definitely better than the cheap plonk at the larger supermarkets and the labels add recognition. I’ll probably try a few more and get some as presents for Sis’ birthday.

strong rice wine, nice bottle

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A few shunde visits with mm ago, I bought a bottle of rice spirit because of the cute masks bottle. It wasn’t expensive, around the same price as a bottle of wine or less.

The description says it’s baiju 白酒, literally translating as white wine. White because it’s clear, it is nothing like the white wine made from grapes. From what I can gather on the ingredients label, it’s made from several different types of rice, a little wheat and a grain spirit made from sorghum.

It’s 45%, so is expected to be strong. I like stronger cask strength whisky, so it’s not like I can’t take 45% alcohol. But wow, this one is strong. Hits you on the nose as soon as it’s poured out. Apparently baiju is classified according to is fragrance, and I’m sort of guessing (since I can’t read the corresponding character very well) that it’s one classified as having a strong fragrance. Interesting wiki article, says the strong fragrance is due to high esters like ethyl acetate. So that’s the smell!! It’s been so long since I’ve been in a lab environment, I couldn’t identify the ester smell.

There’s none of the smoothness of whisky, the alcohol is front and centre. Definitely a sipping spirit. Tiny tiny sips too, just let it touch your lips and tip of tongue, then roll it around your mouth. Didn’t like it at first but it grew on me. Worth the very low price and I can keep the bottle as decoration.

world whisky day

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It’s world whisky day. My whisky today is toasted to Papa, who would have enjoyed this. The bottle is a newly opened Laphroaig QA cask:

initially matured in bourbon barrels before being finished in charred American white oak casks. The result is a peaty, warming and spicy whisky

I bought it at DXB together with a PX cask. It was duty free only, but now available at TWE for £56 (litre bottle). The “QA” comes from Quercus Alba, Latin for American oak.

The peaty aroma hits as soon as it’s nosed. Quite distinctive Laphroaig, although less so than the PX or even the 10 year. In terms of taste: smooth, sweet with a pleasant tail. Easy on the palate to the point of uninteresting, actually. A r/scotch reviewer aptly described it as:

a very tame 10 year

That said, a nice one to try although for me the 48% Quarter Cask, at £35, is the better choice. QA at 40% works out to be £40 for 700ml.

winewalk

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Sis and I went to a fun event called winewalk. 17 stores and restaurants in the area around fashion walk took part. For the price of a ticket, we get a wine glass and a passport and we can walk around visiting each participating outlet. They will give us a small serving of wine and sometimes there were snacks.

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We started at the Moët van. Even though it was flat (!) it was still delicious. Other places served mostly new world wine. Pacific Coffee had a nice Yarra Valley Pinot Noir. Simplylife/Minh & Kok served this Margaret River Cab Merlot that was truly awful; I discretely poured it away after one mouthful. The Japanese brewery Coedo had a California Chardonnay–I’m never a Chardonnay fan, it was okay but bland.

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Coast had a Yarra Valley rosé that was very good, but the server gave us such a small portion it was pathetic. Coast also had one of the better snacks: a small prawn cocktail.

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One of the more interesting selection was a French cider. The two girls we were sitting next to on the bench didn’t like it, but I thought I’d give it a try. It was pretty nice. Bear in mind that it’s a winewalk so most people expected wine.

winewalk17sparklingred

Almost time to go, I wanted to try the Yarra Valley Chandon Brut Pinot Shiraz at Wildfire because we don’t often drink sparkling reds. Ugh, now I know why we don’t drink sparkling reds, it tasted like cough syrup with a bit of fizz.

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Good thing we saved the best till last. Ted Baker served ice lolly with Veuve Cliquot. Arguable about whether VC is better than Moët, who cares! Both were great. Having a cool ice lolly was perfect.

I counted up my stamps, I visited 15 out of 17; Sis had fewer. Considering the small serving sizes and I didn’t finish each glass, probably around 3 glasses in total.

more beer

Met my great aunt from Toronto for buffet lunch. Then she and Mum went off shopping and I ran some bank errands.

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Met my FA at happy hour. I chose a dark Belgian ale from La Chouffe brewery. Another dark ale, like the milk stout yesterday. Rich with a sweet after taste. Served in a cute glass with the picture of a gnome. Considering they are @lachouffegnome on twitter, it must be their signature theme.

bbmm jap lunch, #happyhour

shotachirashi2016

Met mm for lunch. Didn’t want her to drive ryan so just met her in town. We went to a japanese restaurant called sushi shota that she visited once before with ex-colleagues. New for me. Quite upmarket, lunch sets were local $160-380 (USD20-50).

We sat at the counter (the best place to sit at a japanese restaurant) and both went for the mid-range Hokkaido chirashi set. Salad and chawanmushi to start; the sushi bowl had an abundance of fresh and delicious fish: salmon, salmon roe, uni, striped jack, fatty tuna, whelk, scallop, spot prawn. Sesame ice cream to finish.

Great to take a leisurely lunch and catch up. I really miss her, and I think/hope she misses me too although she seems to be way too busy with exams, coursework and other obligations.

Ran an errand or two–had to change my credit card for my mobile and internet autopays, remember my credit card got compromised and I had to get a new one?

Anyway, perfect timing to decamp to a happy hour place. My suggestion this time: HMV café. They opened a huge 3-storey store and we walked around looking at CDs, DVDs, vinyl records and headphones before finding a bar table at the bar-café. She had a black coffee and I had the house red. It’s a fantastic happy hour meeting place: convenient location, quiet restaurant, decent drinks selection and music that is present but not overly loud.

#68 new whisky arras cask strength

ldnwhiskyex012casks

Tasks #64-68 of 101.1001 are to try 5 new whiskies. This is the last one.

I finished both the Laphroaig PX and Bunnahabhain Cruach-Mhona. Wanted something to fill my flask that I keep with me on my desk. Decided to open this one that I bought at TWE from their “fill your own bottle” casks.

arraswhisky

It’s a blended whisky called Arras. Cask strength at 54.2%. I can’t find much info on it online, the only pages point to TWE’s own promotion. No tasting notes anywhere I can find either.

Pleasant on the nose, slight sherry sweetness. Not smoky or peaty at all. Since it’s cask strength, I find the first sip fairly strong. Once it settles down, I taste fruitiness: pineapple and citrus primarily. Add a drop of water and the aroma spreads. Reasonably smooth, with more citrus aftertaste. Medium tail.

IIRC it was £40 for 500ml, which puts it in the expensive range, especially for a blend. Worth it, though. TWE obviously select their casks carefully. I may not get this one next time, but I’ll definitely think about their other “fill your own bottle” options.