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Tony Grist

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Whisky [Mar. 1st, 2008|10:25 am]
Tony Grist
They sent me a questionnaire about spirits. Page after page of pictures of bottles. It was relatively easy to complete; you just clicked on the bottles you favoured.

I drink whisky. Sometimes. Not very much.

Why do we drink the stuff we drink? It's got a lot to do with image, hasn't it? When I was a kiddo I settled on whisky because it seemed like a serious drink- the sort of drink a learned professor would choose-  and I wanted to be thought serious.

My friend Stephen- who is a learned professor- drank a lot of Pernod.  He's a francophile. Pernod also connects you to that whole poete maudit thing. Sort of. 

I say "sort of" because Pernod is a sissified version of absinthe. It's had the stuff that makes you mad taken out. And that's rather the point of la sorciere glaque, isn't it- that it's bloody dangeous? Why else would a decadent bohemian drink something that tastes like licorice allsorts?

It's next door to an alcopop.

And spirits aren't supposed to slip down easy. They're a test. 

Your first sip is a rite of passage. After that you have to persevere.

When I was young I mixed my whisky with ginger ale to take the taste away.  Now I drink it neat. That's also about image. People think I'm well hard. 

Once, at a party in Scotland, I got through the best part of a bottle and was still standing at the end of it.  Respect!  Actually, I'm afraid I cheated. A lot of it went down the sink or into plant pots.

Do I like the taste? Er-um. I'm still not really sure. A little goes a long way.

But I like the images it puts in my head-  heather and peat-bogs and bracing winds and brochs. 

I'm afraid all that stuff about blends and single malts leaves me cold.

Can I tell the difference between a good whisky and a cheap whisky?


Same thing with brands. If it comes in a tall bottle and it's honey-coloured, it'll do. 

The survey asked about brands. Which ones are fashionable? Which ones are a bit naff?

How would I know?

My daughter drinks Jack Daniels so that has to be fashionable- right?

My dad used to drink Famous Grouse and my dad could afford the best, so I've always assumed it was a classy brand. 

But yesterday I saw it for sale in Netto and now I'm confused. 

[User Picture]From: upasaka
2008-03-01 12:56 pm (UTC)
I was thinking recently about my parents and the alcohol they drank and drink. When I was quite young, my father drank Daiquiris and my mother drank Old Fashioneds, both of which I was allowed to sample and consequently developed a taste for at a tender age. But that was when they were younger than I am now. Over time, my father went to drinking Scotch Whisky and my mother to Vodka. Eventually it was only Cutty Sark and Absolut Citron, a bottle of which my mother still keeps in the freezer.

I've run the gamut over my drinking years. The Martini (Tanqueray Gin, a tiny drop of dry vermouth and at least two olives) seems to have won out, but I still enjoy a good Scotch or Irish Whisky, especially in cold weather. I also like good Danish Akvavit when I can find it. The only thing I really can't abide is Tequila.

Edited at 2008-03-01 01:05 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-03-01 01:48 pm (UTC)
Doing the survey showed me just how picky I am. There's a whole list of things I would never drink- including rum and gin. Normally at home I drink wine. My favourite is a Spanish white called Esmeralda- which I cottoned onto in Catalonia and have been drinking ever since for sentimental reasons.
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[User Picture]From: momof2girls
2008-03-01 02:18 pm (UTC)
I thought the Famous Grouse was a classy brand, from what I've read about in British novels! I don't drink whiskey (as we Yanks spell it) myself. Maybe Jack Daniel's has a certain cachet over there because it's American?

Who knows. I like to think I drink good wine because I'll pick anything from Australia, and everyone knows Australian wine is the good stuff, right?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-03-01 08:18 pm (UTC)
American whisky is very different from scotch- much sweeter. I'm happy to drink both.

Yes, the Australian wine-makers have a very good reputation.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2008-03-01 02:29 pm (UTC)
I like whisky; also I used to have a job which involved classifying adverts for various products, and whisky was one of them. So this may be more than you wanted to know - in which case I apologise...

There seem to be two different ways in which a whisky (scotch) can be classy: it can be a single malt (ie, produced an one go by one distillery), or it can be an expensive blend (and some of the ones sold in Japan are *very* expensive). In England, which is all I really know about, drinking whiskey (not scotch: bourbon or Irish whiskey), is a matter of fashion and making a statement, so leave that aside.

The Grouse is a blend, and it isn't an unduly expensive one, so in those terms it isn't particularly classy. On the other hand, it's perfectly respectable, seen as good value for money.

Personally, I like it, probably because it has a fair proportion of Highland Park in it, and that's one of my favourite malts.

OK, stopping now.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-03-01 08:25 pm (UTC)
That's interesting.

Were you classifying ads the way they classify films- deciding what age groups could see them?

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[User Picture]From: wyrmwwd
2008-03-01 02:34 pm (UTC)
When I was a kid, my folks drank cheap American beer (Hamms, mostly) or Seagrams 7. Now me, as an adult, won't touch cheap beer. My favorite is Guinness, but I enjoy experimenting with beers from all over the world. I wouldn't be caught dead drinking a cheap American beer. If I drink American, it is always from some esoteric micro-brewery.

Yes, there is an image thing going on, but this is besides the fact that I find a pint of Guinness to be one of the most pleasurable, sensuous experiences on earth.

What you drink can be a bit like sex... it is not only how it feels to you, but, how does s/he look on your arm? There is a bit of joy that comes from people looking at you and thinking "Wow, how did s/he get her/him?"
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-03-01 08:31 pm (UTC)
Guinness is too heavy for me. I start getting a headache after about three quarters of a pint.

I like authentic cask brewed beers. I don't drink them often, but if we're in a "real ale" pub I usually go for the brew with the most outlandish name.

And, yes, I guess there's an element of "look at me" about it.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2008-03-01 02:48 pm (UTC)
Well, you know. There are a LOT of snobby drinkers (I know some...) who are more interested in image than anything. Jack Daniels (here) is something people who have just started drinking, drink. It proves they can take 'the hard stuff'. And I've had Guinness, and it is good, but I find generally people who say they 'only' drink Guinness are a lot like the people who will ONLY drink Starbucks Coffee. (i'm not accusing anyone here of being a snob. These are just general observations.) If you like Famous Grouse, who cares if it's a classy brand?

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-03-01 08:35 pm (UTC)
Well precisely, I haven't a clue what the classy brands are.

Guinness is sort of in a class by itself. I've never aquired a taste for it. I prefer authentic cask- brewed ales from small breweries.
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[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2008-03-01 03:24 pm (UTC)
Dick Francis, in his novel Proof reckons Bells whisky to be the standard decent blend. That's the one we usually drink, by which I mean that we have a dusty bottle in the kitchen cabinet and very occasionally partake of a drop. I haven't tried Famous Grouse so don't know how it compares.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-03-01 08:40 pm (UTC)
I should imagine Dick Francis knows a thing or two about whisky.

My palate isn't very sophisticated and I have no memory for tastes. Give me a cheap whisky and tell me it's a rare single malt and I'd believe you.
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From: bodhibird
2008-03-01 03:37 pm (UTC)
I have a peculiar attitude towards spirits: I don't drink something unless I like the way it tastes. :-D I can't abide whiskey, and on the rare occasions I want hard liquor, I drink vodka. My mother drank it, and she used to aver that I was the best-behaved infant in restaurants because she dipped my pacifier in her martini, so maybe that explains why.

We drink a good deal of red wine at home, mostly good but inexpensive southeastern Australian wines. I've only developed a taste for beer in this century, literally, and I prefer them dark--stouts, porters, and the like. Guinness is okay, but Young's Double Chocolate Stout is swoon-worthy.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-03-01 08:43 pm (UTC)
Oh, I agree. I won't drink rum or gin because I don't like the way they taste.

The best beer I ever drank was the stuff my mother used to brew. It's spoiled me for anything else.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2008-03-01 04:00 pm (UTC)
Ah. Because of my Scots heritage I've become a whisky aficionado of sorts. All the blended ones, like Famous Grouse, are really for mixing with ginger. I like them with Stone's Ginger Wine on a winter night. But the real joy is the single malt. In 2000 the town of Dufftown on Spey did a millenium whisky tasting in the village hall on Saturdays. Four of us were up there on hols and solemnly sniffed and swished and made tasting notes. Afterwards they gave us a few "blind" to identify, and we could not! Best drunk either neat or, if you insist, with a soupcon of water or a couple of cubes of ice. My faves, if you want to try some, are:

Bruichladdich - light and citrusy
Lagavulin - the creme de la creme
Talisker - heavily peaty with a hint of TCP...

and if you insist on an American one, look for something called "Woodford Reserve" which you can get in Waitrose, and from time to time in Tesco. Sniff at it and you will be reminded of the interiors of churches.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-03-01 08:46 pm (UTC)
I love those names.

I've got a single malt in the cupboard. I just went and looked at the label and it turns out to be a nameless variety specialy produced for ASDA.

Maybe I'll pour myself a wee dram.
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[User Picture]From: craftyailz
2008-03-01 09:09 pm (UTC)
I drink most thinks with cola - not coke - not diet - just cola. Whisky and cola, rum and, brandy and, vodka and, malibu and. The only difference is gin, which I drink with slimline tonic.

Over her Whiskey - with the 'e' signifies Irish Whiskey - Bushmills and Jamesons and so on - still good with Cola.

When it comes to diet drinks like coke or lemonade I read somewhere that it is pretty much the same as sucking on the toe of an embalmed corpse - ie, full of formaldehyde (sp?) - and I don't want that with cola. lol
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-03-02 12:10 pm (UTC)
As you know I prefer to take my cola straight.

With ice.

And a slice of lemon would be nice.
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[User Picture]From: oakmouse
2008-03-02 04:26 am (UTC)
My FIL drinks Grouse. I've never been able to stand it myself except in mixed drinks (it makes a nice rusty nail), but then my tastes in whisky are peculiar and highly limited. I love Macallan, Talisker, Jura, and a Macallan blend that's sold as the proprietary house brand of an American grocery chain. Not snobbery, though, just a very narrow palate and an intense dislike for the chemical aftertaste I get from most whiskys.

Irish whiskey I can't stomach at all.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-03-02 12:13 pm (UTC)
I had a shot of whisky last night. I had to psych myself up to it. Did I enjoy it? I'm not really sure. I sometimes think we drink because it's expected of us and not because we really like it.
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[User Picture]From: idahoswede
2008-03-02 09:36 am (UTC)
My drink of choice is actually vodka over crushed ice and yes, I can tell the difference between a cheap vodka and the good stuff. I can also tell the difference between a single malt and blend and much prefer the singles and I do like the taste of both the good vodka and the single malt as well. Wouldn't catch me drinking gin (tastes like perfume) or stuff like tequila on a bet.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-03-02 12:16 pm (UTC)
I went through a phase of drinking gin and tonic. Mainly because it was the only thing on offer. These days I wouldn't touch the stuff. "Tastes like perfume"- yes, that's exactly right!
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2008-03-02 07:35 pm (UTC)
Amusing post, because it makes me think of my own drinking habits and how they have evolved. I started college drinking lighter beers like Corona. As I neared graduation my Scot-Irish ancestry took over, and I began drinking Guinness (with a breaking in period of drinking Black & Tans that, after reading about the Troubles, can't bring myself to do). Later on my fascination with monasticism and mysticism got me into Trappist ales. Now I seem to divide my time between the Trappists, Irish stouts, and American microbrews. I'm not much for hard liquor, but when I do it's single malt whisky that I pour over ice. The ice melts and dilutes the heat of it a bit.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-03-02 10:00 pm (UTC)
I drink very little these days. Once in a while I'll open a bottle of wine and work my way through it. Very occasionally I'll have a whisky. I wonder sometimes why I bother. On the whole I'd rather have a cup of tea or a glass of lemonade.
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[User Picture]From: mokie
2008-03-05 12:17 pm (UTC)
Absinthe never really made anybody go mad, excepting the wine industry that launched the crusade to put them out of business for stealing their profits. All modern chemistry and sleuthing have determined that thujone levels were pretty low, just enough (maybe) to make for "a lucid drunk."

Add a quasi-mystical ritual (based on its original use: water purification for French soldiers abroad) and I think you've got the appeal for the bohemians. Well, that and the fact that it was both low class and not wine--a snobbish anti-snob rebellion in a glass!

All of this says entirely too much about my drinking habits.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-03-05 03:22 pm (UTC)
I didn't know any of that. Fascinating.

I don't think I've ever had real absinthe. It's hard to come by over here.
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