31 December 2014

So this is christmas...

Had a great time pre-xmas up in Scotland. Started off better than expected by flying out of Luton, which was pretty quiet.
Pottering around galleries, parties and great food/booze. Too much of both. As usual, GoMA was a nice relaxing place of calm in a morass of humanity out xmas shopping. There were very nice macaroons at the xmas market, but my tolerance of people meant that didn't last long. Most excellent farewell (possibly) to the ProgHof on the Saturday.
We left Queen St station about an hour before the tragedy which we didn't hear about until much later in the afternoon since we'd gone direct to SMWS for lunch.
Came back on xmas eve, nice relaxing train trip down the soon to be buggered by Virgin, east coast line.
Cooked an average, not spectacular, dinner on xmas day. And then promptly came down with food poisoning (or gastro something anyway) which has had me knocked out for 5 days. Great times.

But I've sorted out the top 15 album list, so that'll go up soonish.

16 December 2014


I suspect the fact you are having to advertise means that your line of everyone is talking about xxxx is a lie.

17 November 2014

English as what she is spoke

From a recruiters ad for an FM service delivery person.

Whisky Cabal XV: Heavyweight challenge: Ginger Ninja v the Beast of Islay

The full cabal assembled, laid out our wares, sorted out glasses and commenced the fifteenth whisky event. Admittedly none of realised that, but y'know it explains the special, almost magical vibe. That or the booze.
Where possible I'm linking to the lovely people at Good Spirits Co in Glasgow. Go spend money with them. We don't even get kick backs to say this!

121.39 SMWS Easy-drinking dram

Nose: xmas cake, ginger, sherry
Palate: warm, ginger, xmas cake, sherry
Finish: ginger, medium

The return of a cabal favourite, great stuff - and don't bother checking with SMWS there's none left. It was such a win when we tried it the first time all of us bought a bottle, and only Dr Death had some left. We've always liked Arran whiskies, but the ginger in this one makes is quite special.

8.5-9 /10

Cu bocan (Sherry Cask finish) 46%
N: rubber, dark chocolate, 'sweaty crotch', 'choc salty calls' Jayne (firefly): 'smells like crotch'
P: chocolate, peat
F: zombie finish. there's nothing there and then it sneaks up

Quaffable session whisky (will go on the now mythical pub list).
7.5 (A) - 8/10 (rest of cabal).

Provenance - Bunnahabhain dist 2001 12yo 46% sherry butt
N: chocolate, sherry, xmas cake
P: musty, sherry, xmas cake
F: med-long, very smooth

We didn't think it was a very complex whisky, but, to quote Dr Death, it was 'imminently chuggable'. I'm going to presume that puts it on our pub list too.

7 (A) - 8 /10 (rest of cabal).

Glendronach 15yo 46% Revival
N: sherry, raisins, molasses, sultanas, treacle, sherry toffee xmas cake
P: sherry, watery, strong, chocolate, long (or hairy, my notes are illegible)
F: medium

Return of the 15yo - we've had it before, and goddamnit, we'll have it again. Very very quaffable. Sadly unlikely to be a pub whisky.

7 (B) - 8/10 (rest of cabal).

Kilchoman Cask Strength 59.2% 
N: bacon, crisps, frazzles, peat smoke, rubber.
P: wow, peat, sweet, peat, bacon crisps, peat.
F: lovely as fuck, peat, sweet, bats arse mental.

Fair to say we liked this. It's the first easily available cask strength from Kilchoman and it delivers everything the new spirit I had years ago promised. It is superb.
Further research with Neil over the weekend suggests it's the cask strength version of the Coull Point as we tried the two of them and they're very similar.
Note: do not add water, it kills it something chronic and brings out a strong nose of urine. The effect was summarised as 'a night in chesterfield'.

9 (rest of cabal) - 10 (B) /10

Ardbeg Uigeadail 54.2% 
N: peat, smoke, rubber, phenol, medicinal
P: salty, long, sweet
F: long

Very quaffable, this is the sherry finish (kinda) from Ardbeg and therefore doesn't have the usual nut sack ripping qualities of Ardbeg. nice stuff.
7 - 7.5 /10

Carn Mor 17yo 46% 469 bottles, Benrinnes dist 1996 bott 2014.
N: bourbon, sweet
P: bourbon, spicy, meh
F: short-med

Benrinnes is a pretty rare distillery to find a single cask whisky from, and I think this one suffered from being drunk after two Islay monsters. I think we should revisit it, as ratings were:
6 (rest of cabal) - 7 (G) /10

SMWS: 9.68 Plentiful fruit - super charged sweetness 22yo dist 29/08/1990 188 bottles, refill hogshead, ex-bourbon 53.8%
N: mango, fruity, orange, wood glue (PVA)
P: tropical paradise in my mouth, mango
F: long sweet fruity

At the time of writing there are 8 bottles left at SMWS, and as we say to all Glen Grant bottlings from SMWS, you need this.

No bottles killed, no permanent damage to participants, it's like we're managing this quite well :)

Slainte, B

2 November 2014

Cooking with Bruce : Ginger Loaf

For the strange people out there, this one is gluten and dairy free. For the rest of us, it tastes great with cream and butter :)

250gm honey
50ml plain tasting oil
3 eggs
[small amount stout would work well here too]
300gm stem ginger (chopped)
3cm fresh ginger, grated
4t ground ginger
1t cinnamon
1 - 2 c gluten free flour
2t baking powder

  1. Heat oven to 170C /gas 3, line loaf tin
  2. Whisk eggs, honey, oil and stout (if using).
  3. Stir in everything else, as different gluten free flours vary in binding ability, you'll need to judge the mixture until it's thick (mine was about 1 3/4c flour).
  4. Bake for 60-70 mins.

30 September 2014

Metal vids

A couple of dark metal vids that I'm liking right now.

The new Bloodbath album looks to be a winner, or rather the single is great:

And while spinning around the dark reaches of death metal, I came across the new Belphegor single 'Conjuring the Dead'. This should appeal to anyone who likes the last couple of Behemoth albums:
me x

9 September 2014

Cooking with Bruce : Pecan Chocolate Mousse pie

Again, a fair gap between food blogs. But rest assured, I haven't starved. There is still significant (muscle) mass on the bones.

This blog gives an example of how the kitchen doesn't follow recipes - other than by utilising a few key ingredients. I had been told to make a gluten and dairy free dessert, and been sent a recipe for what was proudly (fuck knows why) called 'Gluten-free tofu peanut butter pie'.
Our kitchen doesn't respond well to being told to do anything, and I really don't like peanut butter, and putting tofu in a dessert seemed a really dumb idea. So things weren't off to a good start. I did like the concept of chocolate and maple syrup though. And so, plans were formed.

Here's what the incredibly sexy kitchen turned out:
Pecan Chocolate Mousse Pie
1x pack gluten free digestives
3T cocoa powder
25gm pecans
115gm dark chocolate, melted

Combine first three in blender, mix in chocolate and pour into lined/greased cake tin. Place in fridge to chill and set.

4 eggs separated
2t sugar
180gm dark chocolate, melted  [this gives 20gm for taste testing]
1t vanilla essence
2T maple syrup
1/4c chopped pecans  [in my case, beaten up with my fist in the plastic container]

Beat egg whites until stiff, add sugar and beat in.
Mix egg yolks and melted chocolate, add vanilla, maple syrup, and pecans. Fold in egg whites.

Pour into the base, and leave for a few hours to set.

For those of you interested in the original recipe, and no I can't remember where it came from, other than hell, it's included below (edited for brevity).

Love, B
Gluten-free tofu peanut butter pie
  • 2 x 155g packets gluten-free, vegan ginger-nut biscuits or similar
  • 6 tablespoons deodorised virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 115g dark chocolate, melted
  • 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 450g silken tofu, drained and patted dry
  • 2/3 cup natural smooth peanut butter
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or runny honey (if not vegan)
  • 145g dark chocolate, melted
  • 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
Line the base of a 22cm (9-inch) cake tin with baking paper (parchment). 

Place the biscuits and cocoa into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times before blending on high until finely ground. Add the melted coconut oil and blend until well incorporated. Press mixture into the lined cake tin, lining the base and coming up the sides by approximately 5 cm. Spread the melted chocolate over the base and spread a little up the sides too. Sprinkle with peanuts and set aside.

Place the tofu, peanut butter, a pinch of sea salt, vanilla essence and maple syrup into the food processor bowl (cleaned), blend on high until smooth, scrapping down the sides at least once to make sure it's all incorporated.  Add the melted chocolate and blend until evenly distributed. Pour mixture into the pie case, smoothing off the top as you go. Chill in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours, preferably overnight.

19 August 2014

Little Black Higgs Boson

Todays blog includes literature, racism, and physics.

In 1899 Helen Bannerman published Little Black Sambo. A book I had read to me, as did the siblings. It's frequently banned as 'sambo' is classed a racial slur.
For those of you interested in the full version, with pictures, it's available on Project Gutenberg here. (that links to the HTML version, there's epub etc available as well).

It turns out she's also the grandmother (or rather, was) of Prof. Tom Kibble who discovered the Higgs boson.

Which is just the bestest random link.


17 August 2014

The Premier League

Yes, let's take a moment to reflect on this. I'm posting on football. This has been prompted by the season kicking off yesterday, and my general disinterest, verging on hatred, of it.

I'm not against football, indeed I follow the Bundesliga and try to watch as much of the World Cup as I can. Facts which seem to surprise work colleagues who are well aware of my dedicated passion for rugby, any rugby, well ok, any rugby that's not the dire English game.
So why the dislike for the Premier League? I used to watch it religiously on Sunday lunchtime, so what's changed? I think it's all tied to the money and the stupidity of the performers.

Unlike most sports who are desperate to get punters through the gates to fund the team, the Premier League doesn't need punters. Their money is made through TV sponsorship and related merchandising sales. Sure having a strong fan base is probably good for image, but with the astronomical sums paid for TV rights, whatever gate takings make they are still effectively loose change. Therefore the clubs don't need to care, and so can charge whatever they want knowing their prodcut will sell - and if it doesn't, meh, who cares. Still got the monies coming in.

Therefore the clubs can afford to buy in the best talent (I'd prefer the word, twats, but eh), to ensure success. This is an approach that i think causes the biggest problems for the English game. There's no shared experience for the game as they spend all their time playing with bought in players. This differs from the German, Dutch, Belgian etc experience who play with national team members more often. A situation very similar to rugby (especially NZ) selection policies where foreign based players are ineligible for national selection. That creates more value for the product (All Blacks) and ensures a strong local game. But with the greater money on offer for English football, that becomes irrelevant. Yeah ok, chicken and egg, TV or bought in players, but the end result is the same. The most marketed football league in the world.

Then the players themselves. It seems to me that the Premier league suffers from celebrity-itis. A bunch of overpaid people who kick a small ball around, held up as the pinnacle of sporting achievement in a culture which apparently values that.
Sure rugby players are recognised, idolised even, but they've grown up in the communities (or at least the same country) and so have some level of shared value system - and currently are not paid the astronomical amounts that footballers are, so appear to be more grounded. That might also be a reflection of having the crap kicked out of you in rucks/scrums makes it very hard to maintain a lofty position...

It seems that paying your players that much, takes the power from the team/manager and down to the individual. Which maybe socialist (except with the amount they're paid), but doesn't make much business sense as the bargaining position is too skewed.

I can't see it happening but the following could help:

  • reduce pay to players
  • focus on club, not individual
  • reduce numbers of foreign players - cap? 
All seems quite similar to how southern hemisphere rugby works, whereas the English game seems to follow the football, without the astronomical pay. Meaning the players dictate to the national organisation, which is not in the national teams best interest.

Which leads me back to the Bundesliga, the game play appears quicker, there's more focus on the football - less on appearance and dives - and although there are international stars there, they don't have the name recognition (or at least don't to me), as the premier league eejits.
And, apparently tickets are much cheaper.

But back to rugby for me.

8 August 2014

News of note

Today's national news section had two rather excellent articles, which deserve a wider audience:

Man who pretended to be a ghost fined £35.
Who-ever wrote the headline was obviously enjoying themselves, but it was topped by the subheading  of the online article (which wasn't in the paper version):
Police spokesman says witnesses complained about Anthony Stallard 'throwing his arms in the air and saying woooooo'
More here.

Man critically ill after three bites from snake
Which, on the face of it, isn't comedy. Except when you consider the facts:

  • the UK has one native venomous snake, the adder
  • the last death was a 5yo in 1975, previous to that there had been 14 deaths in 100 years
The gentleman in question was bitten "...by an adder that he had picked up." (italics mine). The Darwin Awards wait with baited breath...


14 July 2014

Cooking with Bruce : Fennel and Blue Cheese Souffle Tart

This is fantastic. And even better cold. Just make it. It also allowed me to deliver the line "look, the kitchen is not your place".

large head of fennel (or 2), chopped into sixths
olive oil
cup of milk
1T of butter
1T (heaped) of flour
3 eggs, separated
1/2c greek yoghurt
1t Dijon mustard
zest of lemon
40gm of grated parmesan
200gm (ish) of blue cheese (or even better, gorgonzola)
50gm toasted walnuts (ie cooked gently in butter/olive oil for 3-4mins) and broken up
Pastry (puff)


  • Preheat oven to 180C/Gas5
  • Blanch fennel heads in boiling water for 2mins then roast in oven with olive oil, salt, pepper until browning and caramelising
  • Melt butter in small pan, stir in flour until thick, add the milk slowly - stop when reasonably thick roux (was around 3/4c for me)
  • Mix egg yolks, yoghurt, mustard, zest and add to roux with salt and pepper
  • Grease tin, and cover with pastry, sprinkle parmesan over the base, chopped fennel, and walnuts
  • Beat egg whites until stuff, and fold into roux. Spoon over the base. 
  • Bake until 30min until set.

4 July 2014

It's 27 years of Sin

My Record Collector calendar (which came free with the Jan edition before you accuse me of being old and stuck in the past etc. -I prefer to phrase it as hipster chic), reveals that today (4th July) in 1987 the Pet Shop Boys hit number 1 with "It's a Sin". Ok, so the 27th anniversary isn't really that significant, but y'know ...

It is one of my favourite tracks. Perfect. And definitely on the playlist should I ever die :) Which raised the valid question of which 12" version (thanks Neil), and so has prompted the following Collection of Sin. A far more fun version of the Axis of Evil.

There's an Ian Levine mix released on 12" single which I haven't been able to track down, or rather I cna't find it on YouTube - pretty sure it's sitting at home. And Neil, can't find any record of the Shep Pettibone mix...

The Official Video

The Disco Mix

The Phil Harding PWL Miami Mix

But like all great tracks, there are covers. And that's really the point of this post.

First up, GammaRay, a German power metal band who Neil (yes, he does appear to be featuring far too much in this post) thought I'd like. In a gorgonzola way. He's right. But while googling, I found out they did a cover of It's a Sin, and it's genius. Starts of pretty much like the original, just more guitar, and then dissolves into power metal. Brilliant.

What's that? Bit safe? Why yes, I'd have to agree with you. Don't worry, those wacky Italian black metal kiddiwinks, Graveworm, have a real treat for you:

Like those two, but need some middle ground? By god sonny jim, you're in luck - more Italian metal, this time from the delightfully named Lord Vampyr. Useful Wiki fact, Lord Vampyr graduated with a degree in Psychology. His band, and album, names are good enough I sense myself spinning some shortly (I've got some theatres des vampires somewhere, no, I don't know why either). 

That's the metal kids happy then, what about the emo's? Always remember, emo's have feelings too. Why just yesterday I was listening to MCR, and it never occurred to me that a MCR or GreenDay type band covering It's a Sin could be brilliant.
Thankfully the Finnish band The Jade, have a full video for you. All floppy hair, disaffected glances, peeling wallpaper, and black jackets with fabulously shiny buttons.

I did scan through the rest of the covers, and decided to not inflict anything that started with 'My interpretation...', although I will note that anyone who decides they have to describe themselves as a transgender musician, rather than a musician, probably isn't good enough to be called a musician. It's not like I describe myself as a cynical-fuck-blogger is it?
There are a worrying number of hard rock covers of It's a Sin. None add anything more than those above. And so, to end this momentous day with something more civilised, the LSO version.

Happy Sin Day !!! 

3 July 2014

abba. and yngwie.

yngwie malmsteen, does abba.

best spam this morning

my work email address is usually pretty spam free as i don't sign up for much with it.

however this gem came through this morning:

Hope you won't feel repulsive towards a young lady who is now working for a professional printing company based in CHINA. 

Should you need to print something, like tags, stickers, invoice books, books, paper bags etc., maybe we can do for you. 

Write me back, and then you will get a Chinese printing quote, most likely to be half of your local printing cost. Hopefully you can give us a chance to test it. 

Best regards

Emma     Sales Specialist  

Thank you Emma, you've quite overcome my natural repulsion to Chinese printers....

25 June 2014


We wanted the Baltics, but then Eurostar came up with some nice deals, so Belgium it is - this time. Talinn, I'm watching you...

Conversations concerning this went something like:
-contemplating going to belgium
--for the beer?
-no, why would you say that?
--i know you.
-it's more my bucket list of seeing the european parliament
-and my passionate engagement with Herman van Rompuy's haiku's.
--well yes, ok, they are very moving.

I should be in sales.

23 June 2014

Biking and my knee

My left knee and I have had a bad relationship for years. My expectations that it will do stuff when I want goes contrary to the knee's personality. It's hard to get angry with it, since I recognise that attitude...

Anyhoo, when biking I'd be fine for about 60-90 minutes then pain, and no power in the left knee. This made the return journey home slow, painful, and annoying. Three words I don't cope well with. So I sat down and thought about where the pain was, and what could be causing it. The pain was localised inside the knee, which meant it wasn't the position of the saddle (either too far back or too far forward), or height.  There's a good summary here.

Looking at a the knee joint, and assessing where the pain was, my thought was that my foot was turning out on the pedal. As the pain didn't show up during my shorter rides to work (upto 30mins with some large hills) I suspected it was cumulative, or kicked off after I'd been going for awhile.

Rather than rushing out and buying clip-on's which, in theory, shoudl force my feet to keep straight. I thought it would be worthwhile trying alternatives. So I grabbed some orthotics (as I said, my knee's and I have a long history...) and went cycling with those, while paying more attention to my foot position on the pedal. This helped a lot, but I still got some twinges which I put down to laziness and letting my foot turn. The next three longer rides I strapped the knee quite heavily, and aside from sweat and some rubbing, all was good.
(some of this was done on a stand for my bike, which proved useful to keep more of an eye on my cycling style)
So I'm quite confident it's postural. Next step is getting some SPDs and shoes...

It's fun when you get to experiment on yourself. Although if any of you want me to practise some surgery, I'm totally up for that too...


19 June 2014

Solving the Genesis Question : Gabriel or Collins

In a fit of research I believe I've solved the Genesis Question.

Collins does not appear in Genesis
Gabriel does not appear in Genesis
Peter does not appear in Genesis
Phil does appear in Genesis, a total of 8 times. In relation to 'Philistines'.

Further research:
No Anthony / Ants / Tony
No Hackett
No Steve
No Rutherford
No Mike
1x banks [of river Nile]

Obviously, this prompted queries about how many Fish are in the Silmarillion:
1x Fish [as in fisher-folk that dwelt by the River.]

You can all thank me later.

10 June 2014

Contender for worst [music] video, ever

Yes I know it's a big call, especially with the dross I've inflicted over the years. But this is completely, utterly, brilliantly OTT and so Bad it's Good. See what I did there eh?

9 June 2014

Cooking with Bruce : curried fish and pasta

It's been awhile since the last recipe, no real reason, I had a few I was going to put up, but for some reason (yeah ok, apathy) didn't.

This one is apparently from Antonio Carluccio - originally. I took one look at it, and decided it was unlikely to have enough flavour for me - it appeared to have been 'Englished'. So this is my version.

Curried Fish and Pasta
olive oil (large slug)
1x medium onion (chopped)
3x cloves garlic (chopped)
2 fish fillets
1 hot red chilli
150ml white wine (I was using a Pinot grigio, mainly as it was to hand)
400gm tomato passata
2T med-hot curry powder [I made my own]
2t cumin (freshly ground)
2t garam marsala
2 bay leaves

  1. Heat olive oil in a frypan on medium heat, add onion, garlic, chilli, and fish. Cook gently for 10 mins, and add the wine. Continue cooking until the fish is cooked, I was breaking it up while I was cooking.
  2. Remove the fish, onions, chilli and garlic leaving the liquid in the frypan. Add the passata, bay leaves and spices. Cook gently to reduce.
  3. While the sauce reduces, cook the pasta to al dente
  4. Combine all, and heat the fish through. Serve.
I thought it worked well, I'd rather spice it myself than use curry powder (pretentious, moi?) but that'd work too.


5 June 2014

gigs - swans and classical

I've had a couple of gigs in the last couple of weeks, both quite different to each other in style and result.
First up was the Swans in Manchester. They're on the road promoting their new album 'To Be Kind' which Buzz'n'Hum has reviewed here. Swans are not a background music kind of band, words such as relentless, uncompromising, scary, brutal, direct etc are the usual starting point for their reviews. Interestingly the new album, the followup to the stunning The Seer, has a strong krautrock vibe kicking along in the background. And it's that krautrock vibe that really came to the fore live, there's an (almost) danceable groove kicking along, which was unexpected. Imagine Can meets Tool meets [modern] Scott Walker. Sort-of. 
The band don't interact with the audience much, but Gira is quite mesmerising as a frontman. His vocals range from throaty menace to high pitched screams, all of which suck the audience into their highly dysfunctional world (mirror?). 
Speaking of the audience, great cross section of ages at the gig, even if it was, largely, a sausage fest. Swans appear to approach winning audiences over but figuring brutally sonically assaulting them is probably the best approach. It seemed to work. But it was also refreshing to have an audience there for the gig unlike most London concerts... but I did cherish my earplugs.

If you like your music challenging, at times nightmarish, try either The Seer or To Be Kind. The latter has more groove and is probably the more approachable of the two. And yes, approachable is entirely the wrong word. But they're both very very rewarding.

Last night I went to the Chamber Ensemble of London who were playing here as part of the LU Arts programme. An interesting programme on paper of British composers, many of whom I'd never heard of.
Kicked off with Purcell's Overture and Rondeau from Abdalazer which is one of my favourite pieces of music. Things didn't start well. The violins (more precisely the 1st violins) were slightly out of tune to each other. Entries were tentative, leading to a jagged start to themes as the instruments came in. I felt the balance was out too, I was sitting in the middle of a row about 3/4 back in the auditorium and the sound was dominated by the lead violins, which was a shame as the viola/cello/bass performances were excellent - when you could hear them. Personally, I thought they massacred Abdalazer which put me in a bad mood to start with. The same ragged performances and slipped notes occurred in the next piece, things improved when they played English pastoral, probably as the shimmering style of pastoral music covers more out of tune and entry issues.
I quite enjoyed the Harold Darke (of 'in the bleak midwinter' fame) piece (Fantasy in E major) which their composer in residence had orchestrated from an organ piece. 

The Ensemble can play very well, as I'd heard a few tracks from their new album on ClassicFM, but something was very amiss for this performance. It was so bad that I left at halftime, I put on John K Samson's Provincial which restored my humour somewhat.

Here's a version of the Rondeau which has more attack (and is in tune) than what I heard last night:

and here's some John K Samson.


21 May 2014

Whisky Cabal XIV

A quorate cabal assembled to damage bottles, and in a shocker the review is posted the next day. Wonders, they never cease.

All of us had one or two bottles for tasting, and unusually, no SMWS featured. We did think about grabbing some while raiding Alec's cabinet, but decided no, not this time.

Links are to the Good Spirits Co. in Glasgow, who we've adopted after the debacle of Loch Fyne Whiskies. So far they've been helpful, funny, and get the booze to us the next day. Withnail would approve.

Glen Grant 1974 Cask #7646 49.3% 37yo bottled 2012 Berry Bros Rudd
Nose: sherry, oak, old house, raising, figs, xmas cake
Palate: xmas cake, sherry, 'raisin glove' 'hulk smash'
Finish: medium-long, dry, Pinocchio finish, sweet, warm

A bottle for Rich's birthday, this was a sherry monster of superb quality. And yet, for a 37yo whisky, it had attitude, there's fight left in the old bugger yet [makes you wonder what it tasted like 20 years ago...]. Absolutely superb example of an old, classy, sherried Glen Grant.

Adnams Single Malt #1 43% 3yo matured in french oak
N: rubbery, burnt caramel, musty
P: neck it, honey, weird, rubbery
F: medium, warm

It's only just whisky (3years 1 day), and there's something about it that we thought tasted wrong. It's not bad, it's just not good. There's also an absence of complexity (and aggression) that suggests more ageing won't improve it either. We all agreed that if you saw it at the pub, we'd drink it in preference to a number of other pub-type whiskies, but over all - not a big win.
4-5 /10

Kilchoman Loch Gorm II 2014 release, 46%
N: salt, rubber, creosote, cream
P: warm, salt, sherry, spiky, smooth, peaty, quaffable
F: warm, med-long

In the interests of disclosure, I love both Loch Gorm releases. It's a beautifully balanced whisky with the Islay flavours perfectly married to a creamy sherry background. I do wonder if it missed a bit in the tasting as it's more subtle than you'd expect, so could have been killed by residual glen grant ? Anyway, it was liked, but did split the cabal with ratings of 6,7,7,8, averaging out at: 7/10

Arran 17yo 46%
N: subtle, bourbon, caramelised demerara sugar
P: grapefruit, fruity, tangy, spritzic, apples
F: medium-long

Arran have been quite interesting to follow over the last few years, their 10 and 12yo releases promised much, but had the feeling they were still too young. But every so often an independent bottler (SMWS usually) released an absolutely stunner - our group reviewed their ginger release way back at Cabal 2 - with all of us picking up a bottle, apparently Dr Death still has some and has promised to bring it to the next meeting (huzzah!!).
I've picked up Arran's every so often and liked them, and what we've noticed is that their house style has settled to a light, floral and fruity whisky with an interesting background of ginger. Obviously their sherry finish loses the ginger, but still we like those too.
We liked this one, a lot, it's quite surprising with the nose and palate not really matching up, but in a good way. Arran are releasing an 18yo next year, and will continue with an 18yo in their standard range.
Very recommended.
8-8.5 /10

Springbank Gaja Barolo 9yo 54.7%
N: ginger, apple, pear drops, oak, rubber
P: crystallised ginger, 'eric type drink', mental
F: short

+H2O: warmer, smooth, honey 'cream not crunch'
Alec picked this up as we all like Springbank, and it's an interesting wee dram. Very fighty (eric) neat, but quite warming and pleasant with water.
6/10 (neat)
7/10 (water)

Glendronach 21yo 48%
N: sherry, xmas cake, monster, bandages
P: sherry, oak, monster, honey
F: warm, long, so very very long

Good Spirits Co describe this as "Christmas pudding in a glass". We can't improve on that description - it's damn near perfect as a sherry monster. With the Glengoyne teapot dram increasing in price every year we think it's worthwhile keeping an eye on the Glendronach range - we've never had a bad one, in fact we've had some very very good ones. Like this. Go forth, buy it.
(the second birthday whisky for Rich, sadly he turned selfish and took the bottles away from us...pout...foot stomp...)
9.5-10 /10

Laphroaig PX
N: TCP, salt, peat, bacon
P: wrong crazy, dry, salt, 'mmm whisky', sherry
F: long, smokey, spiky

Only available in duty free (hence link to Laphroaig's homepage, not Good Spirits Co.) we've tried this before, but as Alec wasn't at that tasting I dragged it along again. We do like it. And none of us are fans of Laphroaig - aside from the very expensive old ones [me] and the Quarter-cask [also me], most Laphraoig is too vicious and not very complex.
So if you see the PX in duty free, pick up a bottle, it's everything Laphraoig isn't.
8.5-9.5 /10

So, another good tasting with a wide range of flavours - and scores. I'm also going on record to say I'll produce a Pub Whisky summary within the next month. There, happy now? eh? bastards.

Love, B

20 May 2014

more metal from the netherworld

Today I've been spinning new music on Spotify. This started out reasonably well with a swedish metal band 'Astrakhan', sort of Symphony X but more under control, and yeah hints of Pain of Salvation. I liked it, possibly not enough to buy the album, but I'll spin them again and if/when a new album comes out will give it a go.

Next up was Sean Kuti + Egypt80's new album 'a long way to the beginning' which is brilliant. He's quite pissed off, and that's a good thing (musically).

And then things took off on a tangent. Actually tangent maybe being too kind, I found Troll Bends Fir. A folk-metal / beer-folk band from Russia, where most lyrics, songs, albums appear to focus on beer and brewing. This I can both cope, and get onboard, with. Wikipedia. There's a lot of tin whistle/flute, and violin, and one song appeared to consist of singing 'slainte' over a metal beat and fiddle accompaniment. Ideal drinking music.
Album titles reflect their central premise: Hopheart, Brothers in drinks, 1516/Order of the Holy Hop.
A clear magnificent manifesto.

Can't seem to find a band camp link for them, and kinda refuse to link to myspace or facebook. so have a youtube video instead.

13 March 2014

Customer Service and Loch Fyne Whisky

Yes I know LFW have been idolised in these pages. Their customer service was second to none, delivery was brilliantly quick, and any queries were dealt with. For that reason our cabal's non SMWS purchases went through LFW if at all possible.

Last year LFW were bought out by one the bigger boys, the Whisky Shop. Article here.

Things didn't seem too bad, but a recent experience means I won't be ordering from them.

So we placed an order for four bottles, one very nice old Glen Grant, a Springbank and a couple of the Hazelburn Rundlets and Kilderkins release.
I had to email twice before getting a reply - asking if they had the R & K.

As the R & K wasn't on the website yet, I had to call through the order.
We realised pretty quick that the price we'd been charged wasn't what was advertised on the website. So I email back and pointed this out, got a reply saying sure we'll sort that out.

Yeah about that.

There were over 12 emails, 8 phone calls, and two weeks before the difference was refunded. Sure it wasn't a significant amount, but really - getting assured every time that 'yes, that'll be refunded today' - effectively a repeating lie - doesn't make it likely that I'll think happy thoughts about the company, or want to spend more money there.

So LFW are off our xmas card list, and our whisky ordering list. I think we'll add Whisky Shop onto that blanket ban too.

So who does that leave? I'm quite happy to order from the distilleries themselves, unfortunately not all of them have online ordering (Benriach, Glenglassaugh are you reading this?!) so I'm open to suggestions. I've used Royal Mile Whiskies and Whisky Exchange a few times, and aside from WEx being a little pricey I've been happy with them.
But we'd rather support a small company, so suggest away....
I'd say we'd order 4-6 bottles about 4-6 times a year, obviously slightly more at Xmas :)


5 March 2014

Stupid ignorant surveys

I'm pissed off.

I have had to fill in some forms tonight. For a place in Ulster. I am seriously pissed off at the pig ignorant questions for the HR side.

These included:
Religion - where they listed a number of god-bothering twats, then had none, and other.
Now, religion is a choice. Therefore the null position is always nothing, but not 'none', anything else is the alternative hypothesis (it's kinda similar to smoking, we're all non-smokers until we start).
so I'm going to guess that the correct response is other and something else - however you define the null hypothesis.

the next question had sexual orientation, which had 'decline to answer' as an option. now surely sexual orientation is genetically determined (or at least influenced), so why does that have decline to answer - and the god *choice* doesn't?


and stupidity.

I may have pointed this out on the survey feedback.

27 February 2014


Just a couple of videos today, but quite brilliant ones.

First up, Amon Amarth. Yes, named after a Lord of the Rings location. I think AA have popped up before, but this video from 2013 makes everything else they've done seem a little small minded. Let's see, we have a 4 minute song, what could possibly make it better? How about a full backstory which takes longer than the song itself? Yeah, that could work. Anything we base this on? Well y'know, there's that LotR thing, that George RR Martin malarky, and well pretty much all other fantasy stuff. Hey, yeah, that'll do us. I present to you, Father of the Wolf.

Next up, the new single from Polish metal lads, Behemoth. Safe to say, NSFW, it's also brutal but rifftastic and suspect it may not find a lot of love from my usual readers.
But hey, I like them, and the new album is a lot of win.

BEHEMOTH "Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel" Official Video Uncensored from Behemoth Official on Vimeo.


30 January 2014

Whisky Cabal XIII : The Return of Death

Again we'd lost 25% of our membership, but we did have the return of Dr Death - but the absence of Alec-of-the-rating-problems meant that numbers were likely to be less controversial. Swings and roundabouts.

A reduced number of whiskies this evening, which may account for how good we all felt the next morning - possibly something in that.

Kilchoman Machir Bay 2013 edition 
Nose: peat, rubber, uncomplex, salt
Palate: vigorous, salt, whores breath, peat, sweet, honey  [apologies, that 3rd one was mine]
Finish: long, very long
7.5-8 /10

Bottled from 4 and 5 year old bourbon casks, this expression from Kilchoman got a thumbs up from us - admittedly most of their whiskies have. And thanks to Neil, I've now tried the Loch Gorm, which would probably get a 10/10 if I had any to review.
This whisky is very good at what it does, and it's not trying to be anything other than a peaty whisky - but again, it's well balanced and not over the top as you'd expect from some young Islay's.

The fightyness of this dram suggests it should be called : Eric.
And another one we'd add to our Pub list (list of whiskies likely to be found in pubs that are drinkable). At some point, I'll collate that...

SMWS 35.94 'Fruits and nuts and Indian spices' 26yo 52% ex-bourbon
N: marshmallows, not peaty, hint of sherry, strawberries
P: tropical fruit salad, fudge, passionfruit, golden syrup, cumin, ginger
F: med-long, spicy

addition of water gave more honey and smoother : 8.5-9.5 /10 "quaff ability"

A distillery our cabal is quite partial to, and very drinkable. SMWS appear to have their title about right for this one too. Very tasty.
Note: at the time of posting there were 11 bottles left...

SMWS 76.105 'A continuous snow-fall of curiosities' ex-sherry 59.3% 19yo.
N: marzipan, new leather, sweetness, hint of lavender
P: spicy, big, smacks you and leaves,
(addition of water gives: smoother, ginger, chilli)
F: med-short
Cask: 5/10
Addition water: 7/10
I am typing this while snow falls gently outside, which seems appropriate.

Not a quaffing whisky, at cask strength this is one vicious bugger. But we did agree it would make a good 'Camping Whisky' in that it would cut through a chilly evening.
Addition of water was definitely required.
It's also an unusual example from this distillery (Mortlach) who we like, and are more known for sherry monsters rather than this quite un-sherry-like dram.  At 59.3% after 19 years, it makes you wonder what another 10-15 years in cask would have done...
at time of writing, 17 bottles left.

Laphroaig PX 48%
N: salt, TCP, peat, bacon, sherry
P: salt, sherry, 'wrong', smooth, like the Benriach solstice, sweet, truffly
F: short

None of the group are big fans of Laphroaig, but this is a wee bit special. It's not over the top (unlike what the nose suggests) and it's definitely an Islay - but moderated by the sherry to produce a smooth very very drinkable whisky. As Dr Death summarised it 'messes with your head'.
I've only seen it in duty free, and it's around £55

Springbank 12yo cask strength
N: dark chocolate, smoke, peat
P: dark chocolate, spicy, manuka honey
F: med-long, warm

I like Springbank, and Id' asked Neil to pick me a bottle to have over Xmas since I couldn't guarantee what East Mids Airport would have (in the end they had the Laphroaig PX), and so he grabbed this. Very good choice sir! it's not hugely complex, but it is very nice and comforting. Quite ideal for the current weather.

Slainte, B

6 nations 2014 predictions

I do have another whisky tasting report to put up, but that can wait since the 6 nations kicks off this weekend. And I feel I need to inflict my views on this on you.

Last year was (another) rebuilding year for Scotland. I thought they made progress as a team under Scott, and without any major stars they seem to play better as a team than some others. I'm also encouraged that Stuart Hogg is back in as fullback.
I'd like to think that this year those last minute defeats will be turned around, but then again I've been supporting Wellington for years and live in a state of constant optimism which is continually dashed by reality.
Should beat Italy, and maybe Ireland. So let's say position 4 or 5. In my world, they'll come 2.

Bugger all idea, they'll have a blinder game and decide 'eh bof, we proved how good we are last week, no need to continue like that'. And therefore go on to lose to Italy. An incredible number of players will go through the team, and there is unlikely to be a halfback/first-five combination that sticks for more than one game. There will be fighting, and potentially intervention from Hollande - to distract from his current infidelity problems. Position 2 or 3.

The papers will claim this is the year that England deliver on their potential. This will be true, except their potential will be significantly lower than the papers are expecting. This will be a cause of considerable mirth for the other five nations, and indeed most of the rugby playing universe. Huzzah. I would like to see Chris Ashton make a tit of himself, and predict that Owen will once again fail to deliver at international level.
Position 3 or 4.

Getting old as a team, and showing no real creative spark. Some flashes of brilliance, but generally playing old style rugby, badly. I find them really boring to watch, and hopefully the other teams have figured there's not much in the way of creativity from Ireland. They will be hyped tho', on the basis they almost beat the All Blacks (hahahahahahahahahah).
Position 4 or 5.

Actually getting better, and have claimed a few unexpected scalps in recent years. But no real change in position so 5-6.

Even hamstrung by injuries, they should still be strong enough to beat everyone else. Their injury toll is horrendous, and their inability to manage the club side is going to affect the team in the next few years, but this year - should be still be ok. Actually the injuries appear largely self inflicted, watching their tackling suggests an enthusiastic puppy dog diving in, and unfortunately getting their head on the wrong side - leading to the concussions that dog (heheh) the team. Having said that, their front row is superb, and the demolition job they did on England last year was very very sexy. It was so beautifully it should be used as a training video for how tight head and loose head props should work, truly a masterclass. I am, however, upset that WazzaG hasn't caught on as the media reference for Warren G.
Position 1.

29 January 2014

20 January 2014

Cooking with Bruce : Caramelised shallots, fig and beetroot tart with French goat’s cheese and red wine syrup

Yes, I know it's been awhile since the last instalment of cooking with Bruce. I have been cooking, but have forgotten to post the recipes i liked. However yesterday I felt the urge to go a bit over the top so:

Caramelised shallots, fig and beetroot tart with French goat’s cheese and red wine syrup

100g Turkish dried figs
400ml red wine
300gm caster sugar
300gm puff pastry
4 large beetroot
400g chopped shallots
1t chopped thyme
200gm French goat’s cheese

Simmer figs, wine and caster sugar for 30mins then leave to cool overnight.

Cut puff pastry 5mm thick and cut into squares or circles, place on baking tray and rest for 30min before baking at 200C until golden.

Wrap beetroot individually in tin foil and bake until tender (rest on something to stop base burning), cool and chop into rounds, or boil gently until cooked.

Sweat shallots in olive oil, salt, and thyme, cover and cook until caramelised.

Drain figs and reserve the liquid, chop figs finely and add to shallots - cook for 5 mins. Allow to cool, reduce the liquid to a syrup. 

Top the pastry with the shallot mixture, then beetroot, top with goats cheese, season and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 5min at 200C. 

To serve, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, spoon some of the red wine syrup around the outside, with a green salad on the side. 

Love, B

16 January 2014

Google Nexus 4 and Kitkat (4.4) vs Jelly Bean (4.3) : dialler issue

I switched from iOS to Android when my iPhone 3G (not 3GS) finally gave up the ghost, and by that stage Apple weren't doing any OS updates to it either. That was a few years ago. On the whole I'm pretty happy with Android, since v4 it's felt less like a hobby OS and more stable. Even if it doesn't seem as stable as iOS, which is understandable since it gets skinned for each manufacturers hardware- making it akin to Windows in trying to accomodate everything.

I've got a Nexus 4 (the google phone) so you'd expect Android to play nicely with Googles own hardware, and yeah, upto 4.4.2, it has - it seems noticeably quicker doing things than on equivalent hardware.

So far, so good.

Android 4.4 came out late last year and it's caused problems on a number of devices. But the problem I had was when I made, or answered, a phone call - the dialler pad went black and inactive. The only way I could hang up was by holding the power button, or waiting until the caller hangup. And I couldn't use phone banking, or put the phone on speaker.
Sometimes hitting the power button on the side showed a brief glimpse of the panel. couldn't do anythnig with it, so presume this is Google's attempt at teasing me.

Not really the best look for a device marketed as a phone.

Even for me who doesn't really use the phone as a phone much.

So I've written this summary to bring together the number of pages and things I tried, eventually taking the phone back to Android 4.3.

What did I try
The internet is full of suggestions. Here's what I tried and what happened.

Tried alternative dialler
Kinda improved things, but still when receiving phone calls everything went dark.

Safe Mode
This is similar to booting into Safe Mode on a PC, it disables 3rd party apps etc. Instructions here.
Result: same problem, so it's Android and not an app I installed.

Restore to factory settings
Your phone has a restore to factory settings somewhere. It'll clear everything, so back up if you don't already sync to Google.
Result: as expected, same as Safe Mode.

Clean Install of 4.4.2
I'll give more detailed instructions under the restore to 4.3 section below. But figured before I took it back, I'd try a clean install of 4.4.2.
Result: phone seemed more responsive, but same problem with dialler.

Restore back to 4.3
And so, after being unable to get some voicemail, I decided to go back to 4.3. This involved a few webpages, and wasn't very Mac focussed, so here's my attempt at bringing it together - hopefully making it reasonably straightforward for most users.
Sources for this:
Cult of Android
Android Developer Site
Unlock bootloader for Nexus 4

Software you'll need
Android SDK- Developer Tools and API libraries
Android Factory Images - choose the 4.3 version
Android File Transfer Agent (maybe already installed if you move files/music around)

Your Mac should already have the drivers to see the Nexus, if not install the Android File Transfer agent from here.
Extract the Android SDK, it will say you need to have a Java environment installed, but all you want from this large bundle is a small file called Fastboot.
Extract the 4.3 Factory image.
I kept both extractions in Downloads, as it was easier to keep track of where they were. But that's just me.
Find the file in the SDK called 'fastboot' and move this into the extracted 4.3 directory (called occam-jwr66y). Fastboot is probably in a subfolder called 'platform-tools'.

Put Nexus into Bootloader mode
Turn the phone off, then switch on by pressing the power key, and Volume Up + Volume Down simultaneously.
Connect the phone to the computer.
Start up a terminal window (Launchpad / Other / Terminal). Use the cd command to get to the directory you've saved everything into, for example mine was:
cd ~/Downloads/occam-jwr66y


./fastboot oem unlock

You will be prompted on the phone to verify the process.
Open the script flash-all.sh using TextEdit from the occam-jwr66y folder and edit it so that all of the fastboot commands read ./fastboot my script now looks like:

./fastboot flash bootloader bootloader-mako-makoz20i.img
./fastboot reboot-bootloader
sleep 5
./fastboot flash radio radio-mako-m9615a-cefwmazm-2.0.1700.84.img
./fastboot reboot-bootloader
sleep 5
./fastboot -w update image-occam-jwr66y.zip

Back to Terminal, and type

Your phone will automatically reboot, and ask you to set it up again. Things worked fine for me here.
But I also rebooted into the Bootloader, connected my phone up, and typed the following into the terminal window to lock the bootloader again:
./fastboot oem lock

It was then an annoying process of going through the Android store for My Apps, then clicking on the All tab and choosing what I wanted to reinstall.
However the phone dialler now does what I want it to do. 
Hope this helps someone...


5 January 2014

Albums of the year 2013

I'd like to thank our Thursday Night Music Night group for making me listen to a whole bunch of new stuff this year - even for me there seemed a lot of new, unusual, stuff that I spun. Not bad for a group that spun out from a few of us who like beer and music and decided Thursday night was a good night to combine these interests -- across many time zones too...
I've tried to link to the artists pages, so if you do feel like buying the album - get it from them. And marked which artists are from NZ as I was surprised how many are in the top10 this year.

The two that didn't make it into the top10:
Jordan Reyne - Annihilation Sequence   [kiwi]
The Eels - Wonderful Glorious  [which, as an album it is]

10= Gloryhammer,  Tales from the Kingdom of Fife.
Yeah, if you'd told me I'd have been rating a pisstake prog-metal album in my top 10, I'd have clipped you one. But it's ace. Go on, just watch this video - and if you get the chance to see them live, take it, possibly the most enjoyable gig of the year.

10= Nathan Haines - Vermillion Skies  [kiwi]
I've listened to NH over the years and never really clicked, enjoyable and good, sometimes great, live. But this album is something special, approachable jazz, chilled out, late night whisky drinking stuff (Neil, I'd recommend this one to you). He's apparently based in London now, so must keep an eye out for him...

9 Rhian Sheehan - Stories from Elsewhere  [kiwi]
Continuing on from Standing in Silence and Seven Tales of the North Wind, Sheehan's odd mix of spacious, atmospheric and yet personal instrumental music just gets better and better. Initially a little jarring, as the album is slightly closer and more intimate, and he's found a small glockenspiel kinda thing, but it's a grower. Wonderful stuff.

8 Light Bearer - Silver Tongue
Recommendation from Scott (possibly). Post-rock, metal, concept driven rock. Fucking great, brutal, powerful, melodic.

7 Roy Harper - Man or Myth
Eventful year for Roy (go google if you haven't heard). I've spun his albums occasionally over the years, nothing had really grabbed me, but reviews (and TNMN) raved about the new one. So I picked it up. Brilliant. He's a twisted, cynical bugger, and damn he can write dem good tunes.

6 Phoenix Foundation - Fandango  [kiwi]
The lads return with a big, bold, sprawling double album. Pushing the psychedelic more, and possibly their best? Certainly running Pegasus close. Enjoyed the gigs this year too, the Liverpool one was a bit ramshackle, bringing back lovely memories of those San Fran BH gigs...ahhhh....

5 Boards of Canada - Tomorrows Harvest
First album in years. As good as the last one. Great electonic stuff.

4 Pere Ubu - Lady from Shanghai
Ok, I expected to like this. But not as much as I did. I dunno if it's a good starting point for Pere Ubu, but it's worth spinning - especially if youre a fan of late era Tom Waits, or late era Scott Walker. It's not as avante garde, but it's very fresh and very creative.

3 Fish - Feast of Consequences
Being a fan of Fish has, recently, been a fan with diminishing returns. So I preordered the new album out of a sense of duty (since I've enjoyed so much of his output), and the expectation of some great artwork by Mark Wilkinson.
Wow. Lyrically strongest for years, he's really engaged with the topics, musically almost up to the lyrics. And live, very emotional with the war suite visuals.

2 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away
far more spacious than his more recent albums, shorter, and songs are allowed to breath. Getting close to being his best album? yeah I'd say so. And great to see live in Prague.

1 Steve Wilson - The Raven Who Refused To Sing (and other stories)
No surprise here. It's a blinder.

2 January 2014

Whisky Cabal Meeting 12 : winter is coming

It's not worth repeating how rubbish we are at organising meetings is it? Nah, didn't think so. This is the somewhat delayed writeup of the last session.

I may even have a photo somewhere, which can go up later.

Glen Keith Berry Bros & Rudd 1993 Cask#97100 53.8%

Nose: glue, bourbon, pine, socks, lavender
Palate: warm tingly, pineapples, dried fruit, mango
Finish: med-short

We branched out and bought some indie bottlings from BBR recently, and this was one of them. You don't see too many bottlings from Glen Keith as it's largely used in blends (distillery is owned by Chivas) which is one reason why this bottle was picked up.
And we liked it. A lot. It's light, but interesting enough to keep going back to.

Cardhu 40%
N: sweet, sherry (hint), wet dog, rubber
P: hint of sherry
F: short
A 6/10; R 4/10; B 3-4/10

Not liked this time around. We had tried this one before (see here) when we liked it a bit more, but this time - nothing.

Glenglassaugh Revival
N: caramel, fresh rubber, "changing an inner tube", manuka honey
P: raisins, cake, cherries, xmas cake, mulled wine, cloves
F: med-long
R 7/10 B/A 7.5/10

A and I had tried this at a whisky show, and liked it, and oddly, we liked it again. Huzzah !! The second release from Glenglassaugh, well worth having.

SMWS 30.74 Sweet, fruity and rich 60.3% 11yo d27/3/01 refill port pipe
N: wow, port, vigorous, sulphur, raisins, cake, sherry, toffee apple
P: treacle, figs, salty, sweet
F: long
B/R 9/10 A 8.5/10

this was very very nice, from our good friends at Glenrothes. Fantastic nose and the palate lives up to the promise. Addition of water produced more woody and musty notes - which worked well. If there's any left, grab a bottle.

SMWS 64.36 Marshmallows in a duffle bag 60.3% d26/5/2004 7yo 1st fill barrel ex-bourbon
N: spritzic, lemonade, tropical fruits, sherbet, lovehearts
P: sherbet, lavender, vigorous
F: big, massive
Described by one of the cabal as "Barely legal evil whore" which, if nothing else, should lead to some interesting search results on google.
8/10 subtle, it ain't, from Mannochmore

SMWS 66.32 Roly-poly pudding 13yo 50.6% refill gouda ex-sherry
N: coastal, rubber, salt, phenol, sulphur, beetroot   [yeah, I dunno either]
P: eek, coast, salt, long, sherry
F: med-long
Again, a retasting of an Ardmore, and the same grading (see here), suggesting that we are consistent and our problem child is just wrong in requiring a standard each tasting.

Port Charlotte 10 59.8%
N: smoke, salt, coast, rubber, 'oh fuck', phenol
P: warm, massive, salted honey, cough syrup
F: long - massive
A 8/10; R 9.5/10 B 10/10
Again a retasting, and similar to the last time, no link as it's impossible to find. They've released a 46% version, which is apparently very good - but I haven't tried that.
There is a PC11 but it's only available in a limited number of airport shops, which is annoying.

We've all received booze based Xmas gifts so there maybe another tasting coming soon...


1 January 2014

in more positive news

Pitlochry. Love the place.

We headed up after a quiet wee xmas party with N+S in the proghof. [quiet maybe a matter of opinion].
Having been dragged up there by N a couple of times, I already knew of the Moulin Hotel and the distillery Edradour. I may have mentioned them before. So figuring a quiet time ignoring people over xmas was a plan, we stayed at the Moulin Hotel. They have a brewery. This a very good thing as they brew Ale of Atholl and Old Remedial. The latter, although a heavy killer, is one of my favourite beers. The pub food is also very good.

It snowed on the 23-24th, and rained, but hopes were low for a white xmas. Indeed it turned out to be blue sky, followed by rain. Not really what we were expecting.

N+S turned up on the 26th, and so we made ourselves comfortable in the pub. This worked well. Some drams were had. This also worked well.

Sadly Edradour was closed (although an offer was made to open depending on when we were there - which didn't quite fit, oh well), and I had no major desire to head to Blair Atholl distillery this time. Mainly as we'd stocked up at the quite superb booze shop in Pitlochry, DrinkMonger - one of the royal mile whisky shops. Great whisky, beer, wine - well ok, great booze up.

Even better, very limited mobile (no 3g) and wifi. Ahhh bliss.


English Customer Service 2

Flight to Glasgow from EMA, figured we'll catch a taxi (£16), so booked it online and got confirmation email etc. All seemed straightforward, at which point I should have been concerned, but really booking a taxi...how fucking hard can that be ?!
Shepshed Taxi's. 20 minutes late for pickup, and I had to ring twice to find out where the fuck they were. No apology from the driver, just some stupid excuse he'd been delayed as his last passenger had to drive around to find an ATM. I don't care. It's not relevant, I'd booked a specific time. Use another driver. Then tried to claim I'd booked it for 1010 - even though I had the fucking printout saying 10am.

On one of the calls I'd said "so what discount will be put through for this" and got told something would be sorted. Mentioned this to the driver who laughed. Ahhh bad move fucktard. So I knocked off £1.50 /5min waiting, so £6 as they were 20 minutes late. Oh how heartbroken the poor wee lad looked. I pointed out that if he'd had to wait for me, I'd have been charged, so it seemed reasonable that it worked both ways.

I even contacted the company to complain and got a rather ignorant, and unhelpful, reply.

Result: Avoid Shepshed Taxi's.

English customer service 1

There will be two parts to this occasional series on the rubbish that is customer service. There are, obviously, outstanding examples (Beers of Europe and Loch Fyne Whiskies spring to mind). But this is an example of the poor-average.

I like a cigar every-so-often. I tend to use SimplyCigars, who are, generally, excellent and I'd thoroughly recommend them. But this xmas order was an exercise in frustration. I placed it around the 10th of Dec, and received notification that it had shipped a couple of days later. 8 days later it still hadn't arrived, so I emailed - no response (contrary to the claim on the website of response within 24 hours). I ended up ringing 8 times and emailing 3 times, I kept get responses saying they'd get back to me and that it had been picked up by royalmail and was their problem. They generally didn't get back to me, only returning calls twice and no emails. I even rang RoyalMail who said they had never received it - and their response was very quick and helpful. in the end, following a number of increasingly frequent calls, simply cigars shipped a replacement out - which arrived the day before I left for holiday.

Can't say I was very impressed with their inability to get back to me, or lack of ownership of the issues. Their resolution was good, if last minute. And in their defence, their service upto now has been excellent, and I'll stick with them. But still, it's pretty annoying.