29 March 2012

Elbow, music, beer

I frequently dispair over the crap on the radio, frequently may be stretching it since this involves having the TV on a music channel, or the radio on commercial station. Neither can be called frequent.

But then my faith is restored by BBC 6Music.

And more importantly, by the fact that in this world, a band as brilliant as Elbow are both cool, and popular. No matter how much SiCo is in the world, this balances everything. I'm sitting here watching the bonus DVD to the reissue of Cast of Thousands, and rejoicing in all things Elbow. A bunch of blokes, who obviously like their ale, smoking, and in a superb piece of video making, fishing. yes, a video of an Elbow song while the boys go fishing. Bet that's never occurred to MDNA or Lady Gaga [see how hip I am].

This post may have been brought to you by some (vagueness ensues!) Belgian ales [geuze boon; rochefort 11 at least - i can see those bottles]

me xx

23 March 2012

6 nations : final round and summary

The final round of 6 nations fell on the day when we were heading down to London for the David Hockney exhibition, so watching the games was iPlayer that evening and Sunday morning.

Italy v Scotland
The wooden spoon, and in the context of this years games, loser for the downtrow. Scotland looked abysmal, doing all the bad stuff they've become specialists in - ball dropping, fumbled passes, general confusion at ruck time. Italy were made to look good by comparison. Actually Italy didn't play too badly at all. This may herald the end of the scottish coach, Andy Robinson hasn't had the best results from a team who, potentially, could do quite well. If they mastered the basics, and had a bit of belief there's quite a good team lurking in there.

Wales v France
This was for the grand slam (Wales already having won the triple crown). In the time honoured fashion, the erratic French team turned up. It wasn't a pretty game, although in places the French looked good with some creative use of the backline. But Wales deserved to win this.

England v Ireland
heh and played on St Patricks Day too. As I've mentioned, the Irish team is looking old and bereft of ideas. This was clearly demonstrated as England, who are looking a more organised unit, ripped the Irish.
I'm not convinced over Stuart Lancaster's experience, but he has fashioned an interesting attacking, young (for England) team. They haven't been tested by a good team - Wales were playing very badly when they beat them - but they look good. And it would be a foolish English RU if they overlooked Lancaster. I'm not sure he needs an assistant coach, as has been suggested as a role for Nick Mallett (Italy and SthAfr).

Overall, quite a dull tournament. Wales deserved to win, even if they played badly a lot of the time. Wazza Gatland (I'm determined this will catch on) should have a productive few years with the team.
I don't understand the love of the up and under kick. 8 times out of 10, it goes to the opposition with no chasers and is essentially useless. And yet it's used all the time over here. Stupid.
The ball handling skills are also poor, which probably explains why the speed of passes and backline moves appear slow. It all seems laboured in the backline, and no-one really hits the line at pace - or more accurately, at pace on the angle.
I think that's tied in with the lack of vision at first-five/half-back, most attack is one off the ruck. Which is quite easy to defend against, hence the smash up, ruck, smash up etc appearance of most games.

The end of year tour by NZ could be a bit messy for the locals...

12 March 2012

6 Nations : Week 4 - maybe?

Honestly, I have no idea what week this is. Let's just call it four.
This past weekends games ranged from disappointing to annoying. Which maybe a good summary of the 6 nations.

Scotland v Ireland
I'm sure the Scots will mark this one off as another growing experience, or somesuch. But honestly, the amount of growing and learning experiences they've had over the last 2 years and their inability to catch the ball at vital times, y'know, by the tryline, suggests an ability to learn slightly less than a well concussed heavy weight boxer.
Contrary to other games, which they should have won, this one they probably deserved to lose. I realise there are qualifiers there, mainly as I think Ireland are very over-rated team. They are getting old, and it shows.
Stand out for me was Richie Gray.

Wales v Italy
Wales cocked this up royally. Sure the Italians are improving, and should have beaten England a couple of weeks ago, but the Welsh were playing very very well. They didn't in this game. In fact, they looked rubbish, very little go forward ball, and general confusion in their backline.
Final scoreline flattered them, but I suspect Warren Gatland wasn't holding back.
Speaking of Wazza, I love his pre-match interviews, it's so obvious he doesn't want to be there, and every curt response ends with an unspoken 'now fuck off'. Go on, watch the next one, it's hilarious...

England v France
Supporting France appears akin to supporting Wellington. I'd picked the French to be 1 or 2 in the 6 nations this year, and generally it started well.
But whatever team turned up on Sunday, really wasn't convinced winning was something they wanted to do. Useless bastards. I think I yelled at them as much as I do when watching Scotland. FFS.
So for a match they should/could have won, they managed to piss around, look confused and directionless, and only pull out the good stuff with 15mins left. FFS.

All of which is making Lancaster's bid for England coach look better by the day. I have to admit he's done amazing things to turn the team around, and they now have a backline that catches, runs, and scores tries. Slightly concerning from my perspective. I think as a team, it's too early to be saying they've got a good one, but the signs are there. They haven't been pushed hard yet in the 6 nations, and Wales were playing badly when they almost lost to the England (rather than England almost winning).
I don't think there's the toughness in the team yet, but sadly it appears to be growing.

This brings up a provisional team for the Lions this year, to be coached by Wazza. So here's my not really thought out picks:
Matt banahan; manu tuilagi (tho i think he doesn't have the skills yet); ben foden; ben youngs; owen farrell;

tommy bowe; jamie heaslip;   -def not Sexton

entire frontrow; luke charteris; faletau; halfpenny; hook; north; priestland; jamie roberts; sam warburton (probable captain); lydiate;  -- yes ok, most of the welsh team.

richie gray; david denton (maybe, he seemed quite good...); lamont;

Now, I haven't gone through and worked out if this actually selects a complete team. All I've done is flick through the teams and listed those I've thought are playing well.


5 March 2012

Whisky Cabal 7 : Where we experience the Americans, and retreat quickly to the spiritual homeland

The cabal assembled, although one of number had to call off with illness, so we were back to three. But many whiskies, so we coped.
All links, as expected, to our besties at Loch Fyne Whisky.
Here's a pic of the line-up including a glass for absent, poorly, Dr's. (apologies for the horrendous photo, I've chastised my phone, and it's apologised profusely)

We opened with a bourbon - for variety, and to see how the bourbon flavour affect the whisky.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon, distillers select.
Nose: bourbon, fruity, lemon, PVA glue, phenol
Palate: undergrad drink, vigorous
Finish: warm, but short
4-5/10 as a whisky
None of us are bourbon drinkers, but were keen to try some. Thanks to Beaux, we could. We ain't sold on it, we appreciate what it does for scotch, but on it's own? probably not. I may try making some bbq sauce (Rich, any recipes...?). I'm not saying no to trying more, but dunno if I'll rush out either.

Glenrothes 1994 Signatory Vintage 17yo 239/805; dist 28.01.94, bot 07.04.11; 46%, sherry butt
Nose: toasted marshmallows, burnt fireworks, rubber
Palate: sultanas, tangy, honey, cloudy lemonade
Finish: med - long
The main comment, very very drinkable. You cannot go wrong with this baby.

7-7.5 /10

Tomintoul 16yo 40%
Nose: parmesan cheese, old wood chips, cut grass
Palate: good fighty, tangy, lemon, bourbon, thick mouth feel (2 of us, the usual dissenter piped up to say no)
Finish: short, manuka honey
6.5-7 /10
Again, very drinkable. Just not quite in the Glenrothes class.

Bruichladdich 10yo 46%
Nose: hint of old socks, artificial smoked fish
Palate: salt, smooth, smokey, sherry?
Finish: long salt, growing

This is, apparently, LFW's bottling of the year. We can see why. It's a superb stuff. Our tasting notes don't do it justice, but we really like this. It's everything a whisky should be.

Glengoyne Teapot dram 58.8%
Nose: sherry 'oh sir'
Palate: fcuking sherry monster, sugar, honey, molasses, sherry, honey - did we mention sherry?
Finish: long, hot, honey

Only available from Glengoyne, hence the link heading off to them rather than LFW. This is a brilliant sherry monster. Neil and I tried a number of their really expensive whiskies, and this kicked them into touch.
Addition of water gave cut grass and wet sheep on the nose (yeah, ok, wet sheep was mine)

Bunnahabhain 2001 Signatory Bottling 57.7% 10yo 572/581; dist 21/09/01 bot 25/11/11' sherry butt cask 1765
Nose: sweet, marshmallows, love hearts, teardrops
Palate: sweet, salt, pears, vanilla
Finish: med-long, sweet, prickly
Definitely drinkable. I'm annoyed tho as I'm having to reassess my view of Bunna, which I had thought was overrated, but appears to have come right over the last few bottles I've had...

BenRiach 10yo Curiositas 40% 
Nose: salt, phenol
Palate: salt, peat, sweet
Finish: short
7.5 /10
Not a lot of subtlety in this. It says salt, it delivers salt. You want sherry? Don't buy this.

BenRiach Solstice 17yo 50%
Nose: salt, sweet, peat, treacle tart
Palate: salt, sweet, stupid port, fruits, nuts
Finish: med-long

It's fair to say the 15yo Solstice and I had a deep and passionate relationship. On so many levels did I love it. It was stupid, it was complex, it was imminently drinkable.
The 17yo is less bats arse mental, and as a result loses a bit to the 15yo. I won't say it's more mature, as it's still stupidly ridiculous. But slightly more under control. Sadly LFW are saying it's out of stock.

Springbank Rundlets and Kilderkins 49.4%
Nose: salt, peat, phenol, wet woollen sock
Palate: smooth, sherry, xmas cake, raisins, rhubarb
Finish: smooth, medium
8.5 - 9 /10

My Springbank had died, and this was it's reincarnation. It's not half as aggressive as LFW suggest (...a cross between Vinnie Jones and Sid James...).
A bit of background (thanks google and my long history of drinking...), a runlet is an archaic size of wine cask, holding about 68 litres, and the kilderkin a size of ale cask, holding about 81 litres. The reason, I suspect, Springbank have used these is that it causes whisky to develop quicker - smaller sized casks develop quickly allowing quicker bottling as the flavours have come through.
Either way, very interesting and good dram - recommend that one too.