30 October 2011

Movies for Halloween

We've decided to go for cheesy pulp comedy. Or classy bgrade coolness, depending on perspective.

Therefore the line-up will be selected from:
Army of Darkness
My Name is Bruce
which, as a double-feature, works nicely

and bonus cheese brilliant of Van Helsing (which was superb at the Embassy theatre).


29 October 2011

A day to myself, and technology

So, I've got the day and house to myself. What to do? Movies, coffee, music, and beer. Simple.

Movie watch (so far): My Little Eye (alright thriller); Badlands (really enjoyed this)
Music (so far): Opeth-Heritage; Dream Theater-A Dramatic Turn of Events

Both albums were loud, as they're supposed to be. And were used as a backdrop to my cooking of some piccalilli. Yes, that's the kind of radical behaviour I get up to when left alone. The house smells of white wine vinegar, mustard and ginger. Works for me. And co-incidently goes well with the Crabbies Black Ginger Beer (6%, aged, and includes other spices - very very tasty - tho not as quaffable as their standard).

I've got left-overs from last night for tea, as I can't be bothered moving.

usually it pisses me off, but in this case - win. I've got a ReadyNAS duo where I store all my music and stuff that's not in the google cloud. It has 2x1.5TG drives in there, set up for full redundancy, so if one fails, everything is backup on drive2. Mainly as I don't think it would be good for my sanity to lose my music collection...sure I could import it from CD again, but the purchased mp3s and vinyl<->mp3 conversions, not quite so easy to replace.

Anyway, I recently upgraded to the new firmware and noticed it supported MacOS Time Machine backup. I thought, that's kinda useful. And didn't do anything about it. Last week I enabled it, set aside 300GB of NAS space for it (to back up both Mac's, it's done on MAC address, so both machines can share that 300GB), and kicked things off. It's much slower than my firewire800 external drive - taking many hours to do the initial 65GB backup. I'd configured it to not backup the dropbox directory, and may yet remove the Applications directory. But once it had done the first backup, it's been very quick, and runs happily in the background every few hours.
this means at some point soon, I'll have a few external harddrives to dispose of (2x 250gb USB, a 1TB internal loose, and a 750GB firewire800) which will be nice to tidy the electronics up a bit.
Here's the info from ReadyNas.

Right, onto the next movie and some beer. Piccalilli is now bottled.


28 October 2011

The Trews

Wandered to a gig last night, a Canadian band called 'The Trews'. I hadn't heard anything by them, but the ad had name-checked the Tragically Hip. I figured that was simply a desperate ploy to find a Canuck band someone had heard of.
But no, the Hip influences were quite definitely there, slightly more punky (?spikey) and heavier in places, so more the missing link between the Tragically Hip and the late Tea Party. Apparently they are quite big in Canada.
Great stuff, very small crowd which was unfortunate, but excellent show. It's great when you randomly turn up to a gig, with no expectations, and come away buying CDs. 8 quid well spent!

Here's a couple of vids, but I'd definitely recommend checking them out. UK tour schedule here


20 October 2011

Whisky show 4 : the final slide into depravity

Our heroes had been left enjoying an unknown blend. The vertical compass sliding, hours ticking by, the water bottle rapidly emptying. Had we thought of it, songs would have been sung; sea shanty's, obscure prog, ditties concerning ladies from tipperary (or this from Alec), strangers hugged. Instead, we found....

Benriach Pedro Ximinez 58.3%
Apparently I liked this, it got two ticks.
Yes, that's the end of the review.

Benriach 1972 40yo
Tasting notes appear to have gone out the window by this point, but:
Very sweet, vanilla and white chocolate, pineapple.
This was whole new levels of perfection. Someone should buy me a bottle. Please.

LFW Link

Old Malt Cask Clyneish
Having graced as many stands with our presence as we felt deserved us, we went back to some of our favourites.
Vanilla, white choc, pineapple, very prickly on tongue.
Clyneish seem to consistently disappoint. Located across the road from the old Brora (*swoon*) distillery, they've singuarly managed to miss the greatness of Brora. Oh well, maybe with time...
LFW Link

Glenglassaugh 43yo
Nose: lime, parmesan, pineapple, kiwifruit
Palate: spikey, sweet, butterscotch
Finish: long, pineapple
I have a comment from Alec, which if I take the letters individually, looks like: Surhi. I don't know either.
9/10. Probably 10/10.

Glenglassaugh 45%
Nose: sweet smoke, salmon
rating: 10/10 (me); 9/10 (Alec)

Longrow - Oloroso sherry 14yo
Tomatin 15yo
Tomatin - Decades
Tomatin 1973 (not as good as I hoped)

LFW Link

We left then, before we were thrown out. There is discussion ongoing as to whether we had a coffee from Monmouth. I say we did. But no evidence to support this. Train ride home was quiet. A lesson from Alec, do not buy a large packet of crisps.

A brilliant day, and although crashing out when I got home, I felt good the next morning when I got up at 630 for rugby, and then Freshers Fair. See, I told you it was responsible drinking.


19 October 2011

Whisky Show Pt III

Last time we heard from our still standing heroes, they'd run off for a spot of luncheon. With water. Coffee was looked for, but discovered to be of the instant variety. We passed on this and sauntered back to the battle zone.
Before heading to the battle proper, we stopped off at the whisky and food matching session. These were very small drams, but with food.  No reviews, but I've tried to list what they were with.

Cragganmore 12yo can't remember what this was with
Caol Ila 12yo  with cheese (either cheddar or blue, notes just say cheese)
Dalmore 15yo with olives. This worked very very well. My extensive notes say 'lots yum'
Jura Prophecy  not a huge fan of Jura, but this with dark chocolate worked well

And so, further fortified we found a new stand to lean on...

Balvenie 15yo #908 single cask
Nose:  vanilla, fruit, honey, salt
Palate: pear, fruit, honey
Finiah: medium, fruity, sweet
7.5/10 hmm, notes appear a little more legible, although some of it looks more like 'rubbed fish'

Balvenie Port Finish 21yo 40%
Nose: rich, complex, burnt sugar
Palate: port, burnt sugar, complex
Finish: medium, peated, prickly which changes to mellow

Balvenie Peated 17yo
Nose: light, salt
Palate: smokey
Finish: medium
6/10 didn't work for me

About this point we had a longer talk to a German we'd met on quite a few stands and he suggested we head to a whisky fair in Limburg, Germany. My notes were good enough to work this out. Brilliant.

Kilchoman 5yo 60%
Kilchoman promised a lot, and then bottled their 3yo at 43% and kinda ruined it. So I was interested in trying the 5yo at cask...
Nose: very peaty, salt, burn
Palate: peat, smoke, phenol
Finish: long, massive
9/10 This is what I wanted. Ok, so there's no tact or subtlety, but then again sometimes you just want a big fuck off Islay. This qualifies.

Benromach 2001 Cask 
Nose: oil, salt, Islay          +H20 - increases floral notes
Palate: peat                                 - warm, floral
Finish: medium                           - medium
No rating on this one! LFW link

Longmorn 30yo Gordon and MacPhail
Nose: apple, demerra sugar, rich
Palate: long toffee, apple, sweet, syrupy mouth feel
Finish: medium-long
9/10 I don't think I want to know how much this one cost. But I do like Longmorn.

Strathisla 1963 43% Gordon and MacPhail
Nose: apples, pears
Palate: pears, brilliant, cream
Finish: medium, sweetness, ?fudge?
9/10 Very good chance these two are in fact 10s, if we'd had them on a clean palate.

Another whisky tasting we got told about, George Hill Whisky Tasting at the Loughborough Town Hall. Damn my notes are working their cute little ass magic.

Glen Grant 25yo Gordon and MacPhail
Not sure which one it was tho (G and M have a lot of their website)
Nose: Green apples
Palate: smooth, apples, fruit, tasty
Finish: medium, very nice, spicy fruit

Caol Ila - 1997 - Private Collection G/M
Nose: sweet, smokey Ila !!
Palate: fruit, smokey
Finish: med-long

I think it's fair to say things had degenerated by this point. But notes continue...

Glengoyne 1972
Nose: fudge, apples
Palate: fruity, rhubarb (maybe?!!)
Finish: sweet, rhubarb custard

Glengoyne 21yo
Nose: yummy!!! fudge, sweet, complex, pears {maybe}
Palate: sherry, complex sex!, pears, sweet
Finish: long, yummy
LFW Link

Great Cop???? B???  [I'm pretty sure this was a blend, and I have no f'ing clue what it was called...]
Nose: very ???, grass
Palate: fruity, unbalanced

It's fair to say, looking at the last couple of pages of notes, things do not improve significantly. But for some of the better drams we threw back a lot of water, just so you lot can be wowed by our ability.
Vertical update: still standing.
Glass update: some acquired

And so, for another break we leave our heroes, both trying hard to focus and find somewhere they hadn't been before. And to avoid crap blends. But never fear, BenRiach beckons in Part 4 in Sphen's Glorious World of Whisky.


Whisky Show Pt II

In the continuing story of a cabal whose liver has gone to the dogs...

Glenlossie 1975 49.7% from BBR
Nose: green apples, perfume
Palate: tang, sherry, apples
Finish: medium, tasty
Like this a lot, but can't find it on their website, damnit.

One of our finds last year was Berry Bros. and Rudd, and their superb selection of whiskies. And so we found their table again, found the same guy we spoke to last year, and let him lead us astray. *Result*

Bunnahabhain 1979 32yo 54.7% BBR
Nose: light, delicate
Palate: massive, rich, sherry, full, utterly unlike the nose!
Finish: fantastic, meaty, full, long
Appears I liked this one, a lot. Shame I can't find it on their website. Grumble. Again.

Glenrothes 1995
Nose: coffee, chocolate
Palate: mocha, sweet, butterscotch, round   [is round a real description? meh...]
Finish: medium-long
I got hooked on Glenrothes when I picked up a bottle duty free, quite cheap (£30) and was blown away by it, as were my usual whisky partners in crime. Although the cabal missed out. Poor cabal. Since then we've had more of them, including some SMWS, all of which were uniformly great and interesting.

Glenrothes 1988
Nose: sweet, light, sherry
Palate: chewy, sherry, candied citrus
Finish: long, sherry, massive
I want some. I really really want some.

Glenrothes John Ramsey
Nose: floral, xmas cake
Palate: sherry, xmas cake, chewy, smokey
Finish: medium, sherry
9/10 a beautifully balanced whisky

You can buy Glenrothes from BBR, or LFW. I think it's fair to say, you won't regret it.

GlenGarioch Founders Reserve
Nose: toffee, old socks (and not in a good way)
Palate: very bourbon, strong
Finish: short
Did not like this. Won't offer a purchase link, because I care.

GlenGarioch 12yo
Nose: complex, bourbon, grass
Palate: light
Finish: short-medium
Again, avoid.

Old Pulteney 17yo
We escaped GlenGarioch to the Old Pulteney stand and asked to be saved as we were feeling unhappy from our recent tasting experience. thankfully the nice man took us under his wing...
Nose: chardonnay oak, green apples
Palate: tasty, peppery   [I think it's fair to say by this point notes are arbitrary...]
Finish: medium   [aside from arbitrary, they are also lacking in details]
I'm beginning to get over my aversion to OP, having had some quite nice ones recently.

Balblair 1987 or 1977 51.4%
There is some ambiguity as to which vintage this actually was. Apparently this was around £150.
Nose: pineapple, apple toffee, [and another word which looks like mayo...]
Palate: balanced, fruity, rich
Finish: medium, not hugely interesting
(Balblair was on the same stand as the OP)

Old Pulteney 23yo
Nose: Green apples
Nose: fiery, prickly pears,
Finish: short, tangy, prickly  [may have needed water, a concept that didn't occur to us]
I think I'll be hunting down more OP. Cabal...go forth and, err, acquire !
LFW Balblair Link

We headed off to find some food at this point, although in our usual style we got sidetracked by the SMWS stand.
35.39 Arabian Nights 31yo 40.9%
Nose: old socks (but good), rhubard custard sweets (I think Alec may have contributed that one...)
Palate: spiky but boring
Finish: medium-short
6/10 too rough
And an epic fail for SMWS. I'm prepared to concede it may not have been SMWS's fault, it may have been us.

We will leave our intrepid journeys (pt2) for a time, while the victims go forth and enjoy some food. And a lot of water.


and in other news, battle metal

After a ridiculously hot week, the English weather has crashed back into the more expected damp and cold early winter. Cold enough that I've dug out the polypro's and a jacket. That being said, even at high speed on the bike this morning I was still warm, so it may have been overkill.
Currently in denial over a cold, I blame freshers flu. But it's more annoying than debilitating (again, I have crap man-flu), and it's not like I can get any more grumpy at work.

Wandered down to London last week to meet up with Mr S for our yearly dose of battle/folk metal. A mini-fest called Heidenfest, with 6 bands on the card.
First up were Skalmold, an Icelandic bunch of crazed viking metal. Great stuff and great start to the evening. In keeping with battle/folk/viking metal, all very tongue in cheek and OTT.  It's a bit hard to describe them, so instead have a 10min video....

Is it just me or is Icelandic quite amusing to listen to?  Although the song itself is ace.

Next up were Trollfest who are, apparently, some form of super group for folk/black metal.
Again more fun than a packet full of wobbly jelly. Great stage presence - if you flick through their website, you'll find their singer wearing t-shirt with "fat people are hard to kidnap", which seems to sum up their approach to music.
Oh and big win for Trollfest? Use of particularly non-metal instruments, such as accordions. The world of metal needs more accordions, oh and balilika's, which they also seemed to have.

Here's a video, ostensibly about the making of the new album, but realistically it's a homage to drinking. A lot. Whisky, jagameister, beer ... and heartfelt sentiments such as "if Jesus comes back, we'll kill him again"

SAdly band 3 weren't able to attend, a Russian group called Arkona, who were stuck in France for some reason.
And so to Band 4, Alestorm. We'd seen these guys before supporting Sabaton. Scottish Pirate Metal. Three words that work really well. No really. Lots of pirate shirts and blow up cutlasses present in the audience - always good to see. As expected, they put on a great show. More rum and beer. In fact i like them so much, you're getting two videos.
Mainly as the second one uses a keytar. And much like accordions, metal needs more keytars. Mmm KeyTar.

Finntroll were up next, and with that kind of name, we had high hopes. Sadly the band appeared to take themselves seriously, and we weren't too hooked on them. Oh well. One duffer out of 5 wasn't too bad.
Actually this song seems ok, wonder why we didn't like them. They did, from memory have a banjo which was a good sign...

And finally, the mighty Turisas which Mr S had dragged me to last year. Great stuff. Lots of make-ups bags in the mens toilet by this point, all red and black, in preparation for Turisas. They are a great live band, their leadsinger has brilliant stage presence, and they are the kings of battle metal. Indeed their main song is: Battle Metal. As headliners, I'm giving you two tracks:

Fans were fantastic, lots of dressing up, and lots of chicks. Ahhh metal gigs - if more people made the effort they'd see how much more fun metal is than any other genre. Even black metal (Dimmu Borgir) was a really good atmosphere.

Shortly I'll be heading back to whisky reviews. But I thought a music interlude would be appropriate.


17 October 2011

Whisky Show 2011 Part 1

We enjoyed last years Whisky Show so much that it really was a no-brainer to attend this years. The big win we noticed last year was the limited number of tickets available meant it wasn't packed, indeed it was quite comfortable moving around the stands. And the food they provided was good.

This year, due to a falling out (?) between the organisers, the venue had changed to Vinopolis, which also hosts Whisky Exchange in London. This is next to the Borough Market, so gave us an opportunity to wander around it. Sadly I couldn't get any Monmouth Coffee as the queue was rather long. But the cafe down the road is also very good, and not nearly as packed.

Reviews will start out with some detail, and, as expected, begin to decrease in both detail and in the original, legibility. But somehow I'll cope. This may stretch to more than one post, it was that sort of day.
We definitely noticed the absence of Islay whiskies, the independent bottlers had some, but the majors (Bruichladdich, Caol Ila, Lagavulin etc) were absent. Ardbeg were present, sort-of, consisting of hot chicks pushing a very large bottle around and offering nips (of whisky). Which we turned down. In keeping with last year, we aimed to acquire 1 or 2 glasses to share with the cabal. This was successful, and so a career in espionage beckons.
I suspect this blog may break the record for most links I've done in a post...and where possible, I've linked to Loch Fyne Whiskys for purchasing.

Btw: this will read as a large number of drams, but bear in mind each isn't a full measure, most are not even half measure.

Adelphi - Linkwood 26yo 53.2%
I like Adelphi as an independent bottler, and I love Linkwood for the big sherry complexity. So this seemed an ideal opening dram.
Nose: sherry, raisins
Palate: sherry, raisins, xmas cake, massive
Finish: medium-long, raisins, very very tasty

This is their new 26yo Linkwood, and on tasting, it's a winner. 8/10

Tomintoul 16yo
Nose: floral, light
Palate: chewy, hint citrus?,  fresh, raisins - hint of
Finish: short, but very nice

7/10. I liked this, very delicate whisky, but well balanced. LFW link

Tomintoul 14yo unchill filtered
Nose: light, floral, citrus, fennel !
Palate: very light
Finish: hint of pepper
didn't like this one as much as the 16yo, LFW link

Glencadam 12yo 46% Portwood finish
Nose: light port
Palate: very sweet
Finish: peppery, medium length
lovely balanced whisky, delivered far more than I thought it would. 7/10

Glencadam 14yo Oloroso finish
Nose: tasteless -ish
Palate: bland
Finish: short, maybe pepper?
Didn't think much of this one 5/10

LFW link for Glencadam

Old Malt Cask - Little Mill 19yo 50%
Old Malt Cask are a wonderfully diverse independent bottler. I've had a number of theirs, including a sublime Port Ellen 26yo.  Little Mill were a lowland distillery, until they closed a number of years ago. Lowland drams get a bad rep, admittedly a large part of the rep is deserved. But after trying a SMWS little mill some time ago, I've become more interested in them.
Nose: grass, citrus
Palate: tasty, warm, honey sweet, cloves
Finish: medium, sweet

I enjoyed this, it's about £50 from memory, and probably worth it. Interesting, complex, and unexpectedly tasty.

Clan Denny Port Dundas 33yo 54.2% grain

Nose: port, mocha, coffee, shoe polish
Palate: vanilla, bitter, creamy
Finish: coffee, med-long
Ok, we were surprised by this. The OMC guy said we should try it, as it was 33yo old, and a grain whisky, so something different. That worked for us. It's around £75, but for a 33yo whisky, that ain't too bad. And tastewise, it's a surprise and very good. Worth a punt.

Tobermory 15yo  (note no website yet)
Nose: sweet, odd
Palate: smoky, sherry sweet, 'hairy'  [at least I think that's what it reads] EDIT: feedback from the PsychoChicken suggests this could be 'fudge' which does make some sense.
Finish: very short, pepper, salt
Nothing special, although better than I remembered, so I may track down other Tobermory's to try.
LFW link

Glenglassaugh 26yo 46%
This was our find of 2010, and so a visit to their stand seemed entirely reasonable. I was hoping they'd have their brand new whisky to try, but sadly no. And at £100 a bottle for a 3yo, I don't think I'll be getting any. In their defence, they are only bottling one cask to celebrate their coming of age.

Nose: sherry, grass, huge
Palate: big, full, tangy, pepper, cloves, lovely
Finihs: medium-long, sherry, wood, warm
I like this whisky a lot, although if I had the money I'd go for their older ones - which are divine.

LFW link

And that, I think, will do for Part 1 of our tasting.


14 October 2011

Photos, film, and their death

There's been a lot of coverage in the press here about the forthcoming death of film. This has, in particular been prompted by the latest exhibition at the Tate Modern main hall where  Tacita Dean has an exhibition shot on 35mm film.
Sort of a last homage to physical film.
Dean even ran into problems getting the film cut properly, as the Dutch lab being used to process the film couldn't manage it - and another specialist had to be called in.
Article on this.

It is an area I've got a bit of experience in. And generally, I'm fine with film dying. When I was taking pictures of chromosomes, the quality of digital photographs wasn't good enough - and the heath robinson approach to attaching a camera to a microscope didn't help. For that reason I took most of my early-mid period chromosome pictures using B/W film. That also meant I could develop each negative to focus on specific aspects of the picture.
After developing the negative, I'd scan it in at 1500dpi and work in photoshop to karyotype or whatever. This did seem to be duplication of work, but the system worked ok for me.

As digital cameras, and attachments for microscopes, improved, I switched to taking the pictures on an 8-10MP camera which seemed to do the job to a reasonable standard.

So from that perspective I can completely understand why film would die. Sure it's sad, but in terms of resolution, cost, speed etc surely digital wins out.

The downside is storage. As it is with most digital formats. Film, although it degrades and gets scratches etc exists for a long time, in the same format (however format shifting film could be a great b-grade movie). Digital however, can be saved in a multitude of formats, and there's no standard on how to change the format as they change. For example, I've got very old images stored as JPG, which although readable, are of poor quality compared to my more recent hi-res TIFF, but what happens if I'd left this on floppy disk, or other pointless media? Could I still read them? Most of mine are on DVD or sitting on the server. But at some point I'm confident they'll reach a stage where I can no longer read them.

Blogs will soon follow concerning my bike ride (promise!) and our whisky show, which involved um extensive tasting. Brilliant!


2 October 2011

Gigs and stuff

It's currently hell at work, freshers have arrived and there are too many I have to deal with. Sigh. Dead giveaways to their arrival: discarded items of clothing including mismatched socks, underwear; empty 2L bottles of stonebow; and piles of carrot containing 'stuff'.

Loving the walk in.

Gigs: we headed up to Derby to see Denys Baptiste the other week. Having been told to listen to his album, Let Freedom Ring, by the PsychoChicken, I'd been hooked for sometime. So with him playing a few minutes up the road, seemed churlish not to go. I dragged S along, figuring he's pretty approachable jazz. Finding food in Derby city centre wasn't too good, but I've got tips from a local for the next visit. Didn't help that the pub we liked, the Brewery Tap, was full - hence the wander around the centre. It seems dead after 6pm on a Friday.
Gig was great. Hard to describe him, but let's given it a bash: elements of be-bop, calypso, african. I think using 1950s/60s jazz (US) and 60s (UK) maybe a good place to start? Meh, it's not a genre I'm that good with. I picked a fair amount of Coltrane (understandable), and possibly some Brubeck and JJ Johnson/K Winding. Was that just me? who knows!

Anyway, thoroughly enjoyed it and finally picked up Let Freedom Ring and his new album, Identity by Subtraction. I'm enjoying the new one, but will give it a few weeks or so to sink through.

Went to a beerfest on the Saturday down at the Great Central Railway which was brilliant. About 40 ales, and half a dozen ciders/perrys. Really lovely venue, and great vibe - definitely going back next year. And for 2 quid keeping the glass seemed a win too. I now have two pint glasses. I may have some photos at some point. Possibly not. Cant remember if I took any :)

Decided to not go to the Unthanks on the Sunday as was feeling a little tired.

But went to a country/folk gig on the Wednesday in Leicester, Slaid Cleaves. It's fair to say that Cleaves is not from the Dolly Parton country pop school. If there's not at least one death, it's just not worth singing.
I'd heard a couple of tracks, but nothing really. Basically he sounded kinda interesting, and with a name like that, I couldn't not go.
He was great. Really engaging between songs, and excellent song writing. Funny and more than happy to sign stuff and chat to the fans. Another intimate gig at the Musician, seated, loved it.
I picked up his new 2CD live album, which from the track listing seems a good reflection of what I heard. Also comes with two beer coasters. Almost reason enough..
Lyrically, driven by characters, so very personal lyrics, and very emotional in places. To the point where he had the audience eating out of his hand. Not sure how many of them had heard him before (I hadn't) but there were a lot of CDs flying off his stall.

and a song written about his now drowned village

Love, B