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Everything posted by drinkslover

  1. Duty free is pretty crap at the airport itself. However, The Whisky Exchange's HQ is at Park Royal, which is not that far from Heathrow. If your friend takes the piccadilly line from Heathrow to Acton Town and changes trains to the northern branch of the piccadilly it should take less than an hour each way. The warehouse is a good 15 min walk from the station though.
  2. Point taken, it is overstating things a bit. It's not better than evens, but it's around one in three, which, in the opinion of nearly a thousand brands, is definitely worth a $400 punt.
  3. Could you explain what you mean by this? Are you saying that it's just too easy to get a gold medal in the SF Spirits Competition? Yes NO No idea It's probably not a great idea to charge them because: a) You might feel beholden to them, even subconsciously b) You might end up trying to keep everyone happy to protect your revenue stream c) You will be accused of trying to keep everyone happy to protect your revenue stream John Hansell discussed this a couple of years ago on his blog, so if things have radically changed since please forgive me, I take it all back. Here's a quote from the post: "A total of 847 spirits were entered into the competition. 749 of them were awarded a medal (Double Gold, Gold, Silver, or Bronze). If my math is correct, 88.4% of all entries got a medal. That’s nearly 9 out of every 10. And 31% of all entries were awarded a Gold or Double Gold. So, if you represent a spirit brand (Scotch whisky, bourbon, Irish whiskey, etc.), and you pay your $400 to enter it in this competition, you have a nearly 9 in 10 change of winning a medal (and a 3 in 10 chance to win Gold or Double Gold), which explains why 847 spirits were entered." Any 'competition' where nearly a third of contestants get a gold or better has got a major credibility issue for me. It is basically paying $400 for a medal. When a gold medal just means you're in the top 260 or so in a field of 847, it's not worth having. It is widely, if not publicly, acknowledged in the UK industry that the SF competition is essentially meaningless.
  4. Broadly agree with Chris. It's very difficult to find true impartiality - as an occasional reviewer and writer of tasting notes for a major spirits retailer I am well aware of the need to balance my responsibilities to my employer without compromising my personal integrity. I would never give a positive review of something I didn't like, but fortunately there are enough great drinks out there that I don't need to. I have more unsolicited samples than I could write up even if I didn't have a wide range of other responsibilities in my job, so I prefer to focus on the positive. In broader terms I have been flown to a variety of distilleries and experienced lavish hospitality without feeling the need to necessarily write glowing reviews afterwards. I'm aware of various other bloggers/writers who are happy to compromise in these areas, and will write glowing reviews of anything that crosses their desk in case the samples or free trips dry up. In essence, therefore, they are just cheerleaders for hire, which is a pity. There are at least two bloggers in the whisky field who are not fully disclosing the extent and nature of their employment within the industry as well. One 100% truly impartial spirits reviewer is Serge Valentin at Whiskyfun. Serge owns a collection of ad agencies and has been writing whiskyfun for several years. He is independently wealthy and has never been paid a penny for his alcohol writing. He is scrupulous about never taking any money from the industry - when we asked him to come from France to London and give a talk on his favourite distilleries at our whisky show, he agreed only on condition that we didn't pay his expenses. Serge's position is that his notes are just an online tasting diary for himself, so bearing in mind Chris's point that you need to find someone with a similar palate to yourself (or adjust reviews/scores accordingly), you can take whatever he writes 100% at face value. Other reviewers I respect and trust include Chris Bunting of Nonjatta and Dave Broom of Whisky magazine, who in my opinion is comfortably the best whisky writer currently operating, and has perfected the art of making a living from the industry without compromising his integrity. Not to drop a turd in the bath (as we say on this side of the pond), but over here we don't all trust Pacult, principally in my case because of the absurd situation with the SF spirits comp where any brand can pay their entrance money and have a way better than evens chance of getting a gold medal. With that cash cow going, it doesn't surprise me that he doesn't need to run adverts in his journal, more that the latter minor fact is held up as a badge of integrity.
  5. You're a lucky man - in Tokyo AND discovering the delights of Japanese whisky!! Japan is the second biggest producer of single malt whisky in the world - and nearly all of it is excellent. Yoichi is superb - a single cask 20yo from a few years ago won Best Whisky in the World at the World Whiskies Awards and casued a sensation. Other Nikka whiskies to try include the From the Barreel 50cl - a splendid cask strength variant. Nikka's rivals Suntory own Yamazaki. The 12yo, as you've said, is very good - but if you can stretch to the extra cash the 18yo is really exceptional - rich, deeply sherried and unbelievably smooth and drinkable. Suntory also own Hakushu distillery, of which the 12yo is the one to start with - in a funny way it reminds me of pure pot still Irish whiskey eg Redbreast. If you can find a malt from the Hanyu distillery, it might well be worth considering too. THe distillery closed in 2000 and was idsmantled in 2004. it is well on the way to becoming Japn's version of Port ellen and Brora - a number of casks were retained by Ichiro Akuto, the grandson of the distillery's founder, who has released single cask versions as the 'Card Series' J(Jack of Clubs, Nine of Diamonds etc). The ones I've tried have been very good. Ichiro also has his own distillery, now, Chichibu. I haven't tried any myself, but initial reports are very promising. However, my favourite Japanese distillery is Karuizawa. If you see one of the cask-strength sherried versions from the 1970s, buy it. They are released as single casks here in specialist whisky shops here in Europe at around £150-200 and can sell at auction for up to £850 within months. I've given a brief overview herre, but by far the best Japanese whisky site on t'interweb is Chris Bunting's nonjatta.blogspot.com - it's very well written (by an English journalist living in Japan). Enjoy Tokyo and enjoy Japanese whisky - have you had a Mizuwari yet? Cheers, Drinkslover
  6. Don't forget LAB in Soho, still a great night out. A bit off the beaten track, Public House in Islington is owned and run by Simon Sheena who used to run the afore-mentioned Loungelover in its heyday. He still makes fantastic drinks. The Hide bar and Roast (both near London Bridge station) are also great bars with very talented and imaginative staff. Have fun!
  7. Real (ie illegally-distilled) Irish poteen is similar to the old 'shine in that it's illegal and made from whatever they get their hands on. The legal poteen that you can buy from specialist retailers and off-licenses in the UK is similar to the other products mentioned in that it is unaged spirit. However, I believe most poteen is made from potatoes, sugarbeet or grain, the first two of which which would make it dissimilar to the unaged grain moonshine or malt spirit mentioned above. Even with the poteen made from grain, the strength that it is distilled to would suggest it more as a high-strength vodka than an unaged whisky.
  8. I forgot to add to my earlier post that I've heard a rumour that Buffalo Trace might be looking at doing a 'white dog' style product in the fairly near future as well.
  9. There seem to be quite a few of these unaged spirits coming to market now, although some similar products have existed for some time. The website I work for has sold US unaged corn whiskey Georgia Moon (guaranteed less than thirty days old) for several years. It comes in a jamjar and we sell a reasonable amount of it to bars for its novelty value. Some use it as a cocktail ingredient. In the last year or two we have seen a steady trickle of unaged or very young Scotch malt spirit (which can't be called whisky as it isn't aged three years). These products are usually from new or under-new-ownership distilleries that need to raise funds while their whisky matures. Bruichladdich has been selling their product X4 for about a year (the name refers to the fact that this particular spirit is distilled four times). Kilchoman distillery (also on Islay) has been selling their new make spirit to visitors for a couple of years, although it hasn't been widely available through retailers. Now Glenglassaugh has also started to market a new-make spirit under the sobriquet 'The Spirit Drink That Dare Not Speak Its Name'. The distillery name is not mentioned on the packaging in case people mistake it for a whisky. I have no problem with any of these products in principle but I think that some are rather more fairly priced than others. Essentially most of them differ very little if at all from a vodka.
  10. Hi, I'm Tim F from the TWE blog - thanks for linking to me Some of my readers picked up the ball and ran with it - it turns out that Black Zero et al are from Panama, and their whisky is not, in fact, "Scotish" after all - what a surprise! For those interested, Chris Bunting from the excellent Japanese whisky blog Nonjatta has done a much better-written piece than my own on Japanese alcohol-free whisky here: http://nonjatta.blogspot.com/2009/06/hoisu-ky.html
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