Gone Fishing

I personally find it perfectly natural to have both a sense of want and belonging. Sometimes they can be connected, sometimes they’re not. In the last decade you only need to see the sheer level of fervour when the latest smartphone is released, for example. People that were perfectly happy with their current £700 handset and tied into ridiculously priced contracts, suddenly decide that its now only worth sticking in the drawer with various dead batteries, old currency, and half used Bic pens as they queue in all weathers to get hold of that latest piece of technology.

Keeping up with the Jones’ isn’t a new concept. Far from it – this is something that has been built into the human psyche for centuries. Whether this be wanting to blend in, be one of the gang or have the same – if not more – than your neighbours. For many this mentality is the signal showing to all that they are successful and content.

Whisky is no different. I’ve already beaten this particular horse to death but FOMO is a very unhealthy thing. Sometimes you only need to look at some of the vitriol that is spread around the fields of whisky social media that is perpetuating some frankly unhelpful and, in some cases, harmful opinions. For example, let’s talk about an email that I received today. This email was sent from Bimber distillery to their Bimber Klub membership – exclusively sent to those of us who have seen both potential and joy in what has so far been produced and in the manner in which is has. What a shame it was then to see that the email was highlighting abuse and negative interactions that had been levelled at Bimber staff as a result of their recent (and massively popular) Spirit of the Underground series. Some people missed out, I missed out, but to sink as low as to abuse staff of a company that worked hard to bring to market a product that you wanted but just couldn’t get on the day because it was popular? Have a word with yourself, move on, breathe in the life in the air around you. Also don’t forget to have another word with yourself whist you’re at it. You’re part of the problem as well as the thousands of others (including me) all chasing that same bottle.

As a result of some of this nonsense, the distillery have enacted a lifetime ban and refund of membership for those who have been found to have sent messages/calls/emails to staff with any form of abuse of harmful content. In addition, all future limited releases will be issued via a weighted ballot to make things a little more balanced. In a widely welcomed move, Bimber have also stated that anyone found to have flipped (their definition being sold within 12 months of purchase) a bottle of a limited release, will also be barred from purchasing directly from the distillery in future. This will take a lot of work to track, and I certainly don’t envy the person responsible for this undoubtedly hellish Excel spreadsheet. You know who you are.

I must take a second here to apologise in advance, as just like those long drives back from family road trips – we’re not stopping yet.

I’ve always been an advocate of drinking what you want how you want to and an anti-snob. I really don’t care if you prefer your 30 year old Glendronach with a splash of vanilla Coke, nor is it any skin off my nose if you’re perfectly happy drinking a £9 bottle of supermarket own label blended whisky. Deep down within me however, is something of a scrap book of various things that I’ve seen said about certain brands, distilleries and whiskies be it reviews or offhand comments. I’ve not necessarily regurgitated these opinions but they have inadvertently had an impact on my shopping habits. I’ve almost been trained to overlook some offerings from this unconscious bias.

One of the whiskies that I’ve long ignored is Speyburn. Could it be the big flopping salmon on the label or is it because you could argue that Speyburn is the runt of the Inver House stable? Competing for space with Balblair and Pulteney would never have been easy, although given the recent revamps to these two ranges; some light finally made it onto the forest floor that has allowed Speyburn to grow more into my consciousness.

In one of those ‘why not’ moments that I think we all get from time to time with online shopping – I picked up a bottle of Speyburn 10yr old. One of the main reasons being it had been reduced to £24 which is well down from the usual £34 RRP but also something in me just gravitated to it for the first time.

Speyburn 10yr old Single Malt Scotch Whisky – 40% –  Chill Filtered – Added E150 Colouring – RRP £34

Yes so already this is chill filtered and contains E150a colouring. Are we surprised at this given the price point. Are they the only company to do this? No. So let’s move on.

On the nose there’s initially from white wine like acidity. This softens slightly with sugary cereals, green apple, honey and vanilla. There’s also a slight fustiness in there too which detracts from the previous freshness a little. So far a little reminiscent of the many supermarket own label Speysiders. Towards the end there’s a touch of spice and candlewax.

The palate texture is pretty average but again I’ll allow it. We open up proceedings with more apple, vanilla custard and crumble topping. Basically a poncey deconstructed apple pie from some gastropub that’ll no doubt charge you £12 for the privilege of keeping all of those ingredients separately. I digress. Toffee comes through with a little spice and milky porridge with honey.

The finish is short to medium length with boiled sweets and more of that apple crumble.

Whilst this may sound like I’ve been spending too much time in local orchards, I was pleasantly surprised by this and is nowhere near as ineffectual as I was led to believe. This is a whisky that I’m happily drinking during these warmer days, or at least when they decide to turn up. For me, this was yet another reminder that there are plenty more fish in the sea.

Score: Good

Fancy some tunes? The Malt Music for this dram is ..well.. this.

Holy Grail – Indiana Jones himself can only hope to find such a treasure.
Unbelievable – Among the best I’ve ever had. Must be tried at all costs.
Outstanding – One you should try to get hold of. Qualities in abundance.
Very Good – One to have on the shelf regularly. Provides consistent enjoyment.
Good – I’d happily drink this. One to buy at the right price.
Solid – No particular flaws but no wow factor either.
Fine – There to take the edge off. Good for highballs and won’t need much thought.
Meh – Somewhat flawed. More of a chore than a pleasure.
Oh Dear – Consistent flaws. Gets you where you’re going at the speed you want to get there.
Please Make it Stop – Not one to seek out. Hope for a gift receipt.

This is Not a Whisky Review

One of the reasons that I started this written blog was to supplement the YouTube channel with content that isn’t all about whisky. I do enjoy a plethora of other liquids both in full, partial or non alcoholic forms.

One of those is Rum. I’m still pretty fresh, a noob if you will, when it comes to the sugarcane or molasses based nectar when compared to whisky. I have a natural leaning towards Bajan rum in particular after spending our honeymoon on Barbados. I hadn’t come across friendlier people with so much pride in their surroundings and produce.

There’s a couple of now overcooked images associated with rum of tropical beaches, questionable shirts, sunshine, or the full on Tiki culture that swept the globe a few years back. However given the vast spread of rum production across the world, you simply can’t assign these things so rashly any longer. Rum is produced in nations across the globe, from Antigua to Australia, Mauritius to Madeira and hell, even the Dominican Republic to Devon!

Rum also isn’t as simple as white, dark and spiced and extends far beyond the reaches of the local Tesco. People can get touchy about filtration and the addition of caramel colouring to some whiskies but they’d keel over in their chairs if Scotch whisky producers added sugar to their bottles which is a practice some Rum bottlers appear to be undertaking. This isn’t a new or necessarily underhand practice, I mean, it is but you could argue it happens in other drinks categories as it can also be seen practiced in Cognac.

Rum geeks out there; please do feel free to call out any mistakes – every day is a school day.

The variance in styles of rum can be as clear as a 12yr Glenfiddich compared to a cask strength Ardbeg and I’m yet to really dive deep into niches such as the ‘funkier’ Jamaican rums or Rhum Agricole etc.

The rum I’m looking at here is a bit of a departure from my normal bottles. This is an independent bottling that isn’t really all that independent at all. I’m talking about the Real McCoy. There is a close relationship between the Real McCoy and the Foursquare distillery in Barbados.

Foursquare Distillery image courtesy of iwsc.com

In 1920, the United States driven by a sense of religious fervour, outlawed the production, sale and consumption of alcohol. Ironically I suspect somebody passing that into law must have been under the influence but we’ll never know. In the same year, Bill McCoy and his brother Ben (yes Bill and Ben) having had their freight business in Florida fall on hard times due to the development of road and rail, sold their business and purchased a schooner. Bill was ex US navy and finished top of his class so knew a thing or two about the sea. So came into being their bootlegging business.

Cpt Bill McCoy

The brothers travelled through the Caribbean, Canada and South America smuggling Rye and Irish Whiskey, wines and, more notably, Rum. Sitting the bare minimum 3 miles off the coast of the eastern US in International Waters, Bill sold his wares to the medley of small boats that came out to meet them to fulfill the slaking thirst of America’s infamous speakeasys.

Everything was going swimmingly. The brothers’ were making good money, so much so that they expanded operations by buying a second, larger craft. However, this came to an end when Bill was captured by the US coastguard in 1923 who had to pursue him into international waters. Bill tried to flee but his 3 mast schooner was no match for a coastguard steamship which repeatedly fired 4inch shells at Bill and his crew. In fairness to Bill, he didn’t go into court cap in hand and was in fact quoted as saying “I have no tale of woe to tell you. I was outside the three-mile limit, selling whisky, and good whisky, to anyone and everyone who wanted to buy” ..and who can blame him?

The Real McCoy range is made up of a few releases, all distilled and matured and, as far as I’m aware, bottled at Foursquare distillery. Using molasses, the rum produced here is for me an iconic Bajan style rum. The rum I’ll be looking at today is the Real McCoy 14yr old Limited Edition. There are some crossovers with Foursquare’s own Doorly’s range as they also have a 5yr old, 12 yr old and 14 yr old.

Real McCoy 14yr Old Limited Edition Bajan Rum – 46% NCF Unknown Natural Colour Unknown No Added Sugars RRP £82.75 Bott 2019

This rum is produced using both pot still and column still spirit and was matured in ex bourbon casks.

The colour in the glass is a nice deep copper hue. If someone whispered the words ‘Dark Rum’ in my ear this is the sort of thing I’d envisage right before I called the police.

On the nose there’s initially some big eucalyptus notes, followed by grilled pineapple and coconut. Things open up a little more with more fruit but we’re taking a trip back in time for me, its banana with brown sugar and sultanas that you wrap in tinfoil and stick on the BBQ. Anyone else remember that? There is a touch of earthiness that is preceded by something akin to butterscotch and a small sprinkle of orange zest.

On the palate the texture is good, similar to most middle of the road non-chill filtered whiskies I’ve tried in the past 14 years. That earthiness from the nose comes in first of all alongside a honey like sweetness and a hint of smoke. Raisins, toffee and treacle are up next with a hefty helping of oak influence. Spices and vanilla take us into the finish alongside dark chocolate.

The finish itself is lovely and long, warming and with plenty of honey and spices including but not limited to Grenadian nutmeg.

Overall this is my kind of drinking rum. Complex and can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with many of the whiskies on my shelves. The legacy of Bill McCoy is alive and well. I’d note this is a little more difficult to get hold of here in the UK. It’s available at the Whisky Exchange but is much more readily available across the pond in the US…

Just saying..

Score: Outstanding

Fancy some tunes? The Rum Rhythm for this dram comes from Ohio based Monster Rally with Adventure, an instrumental tune with a tropical/bluegrass crossover vibe.

Holy Grail – Indiana Jones himself can only hope to find such a treasure.
Unbelievable – Among the best I’ve ever had. Must be tried at all costs.
Outstanding – One you should try to get hold of. Qualities in abundance.
Very Good – One to have on the shelf regularly. Provides consistent enjoyment.
Good – I’d happily drink this. One to buy at the right price.
Solid – No particular flaws but no wow factor either.
Fine – There to take the edge off. Good for highballs and won’t need much thought.
Meh – Somewhat flawed. More of a chore than a pleasure.
Oh Dear – Consistent flaws. Gets you where you’re going at the speed you want to get there.
Please Make it Stop – Not one to seek out. Hope for a gift receipt.