Another January and time to quit drinking (again!).
It hardly seems possible that I wrote as long ago as January 2018 about The January Club — the one where members give up drinking for the month, not the neo-fascist group from the 1930s.
Where on earth have those four years gone? Well, of course we know where two of them are: stuck in a never-ending loop of pandemic lockdowns. But the other two seem to have melted into oblivion. Maybe it’s just age, when a general mushiness of memory seems to take hold no matter how many brain exercises we do, or just possibly it’s the number of bottles of Scotch I seem to take out back from time to time (ahem!). After the first big lockdown, when the bottle recycling program at Toronto’s Beer Store reopened, I took back a crate of J&B bottles, but I swear that was a year’s worth.
To keep my spirits up (pun intended), I’m reminded of my late father-in-law who used to say he wasn’t going to drink any more in January and he wasn’t going to drink any less. Humpty Dumpty remarks to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass: “Neither more nor less.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, and we know what happened to him.
Anyway, here we are at the beginning of another year, when we hoped that all the unpleasantness of the pandemic would be over and done with, and what do we wake up to? Another damned variant. More lockdowns. More restrictions. Hell, it is enough to drive one to drink!
Speaking of which, when I came through Gatwick Airport (badly named London Gatwick, even though it’s miles south of the city) returning from a recent trip to the old country, I was accosted outside the World of Whiskies shop by a very kind gentleman. He offered me a free sample of a very good single malt at about eight in the morning. Who was I to refuse? But I did say that I was not really in the mood for single malt and would prefer a good blend. I was heading for the display of Johnnie Walker Black Label, when he steered me to a special offer of a Triple Cask Edition. That sample chugged down too, I bought a bottle and slipped it into my carry on.
Having survived the tedious journey back across the pond, with a ghastly cold box meal en route and a second PCR test on arrival, it was time to crack open the bottle. After pouring a slug with a neighbour who enjoys a good Scotch as much as I do, I added just a wee drop of filtered water and we were off.
We both noticed that there was a less smoky nose to the whisky. The three casks the whisky has been finished in, selected by master blender Chris Clark, are the result of over 10 years experimentation to get the balance right. The first cask was formerly used to mature American Bourbon, the second was old Scotch whisky and the third and final cask was Caribbean pot still rum. They must have had fun over the years mucking about with different combinations of casks, Caribbean rums and Bourbons.
The blender says: “With a deeper knowledge of the intriguing effects of using these casks, we have harnessed their lively character to awaken exciting new fruit and spice flavours in our Scotch.” He promises the special edition focuses on the lighter flavours and aromas found in the regular blend. The label further promises that the blend includes two whiskies from the Black Label reserves: “vibrant fruity malts from Cardhu and creamy grain whiskies from Cameronbridge for a whisky with layers of spice, soft ripening orchard fruit and sweet vanilla notes.” After wading through all that verbiage, we ask ourselves if we’re enjoying the blend as much as regular Johnnie Black. Honestly, I’m not sure it was worth the bother. If anything, it was too sweet for my taste. But if you want your whisky to reflect the taste of Bourbon or rum, with a hint of brown sugar, then this whisky is for you.
Since it is only available at airport duty free shops, I’m not sure I could justify the trouble of flying somewhere just to get a bottle. In fact, given the risks associated with travelling, I’m not sure I could justify flying anywhere anyway. In the meanwhile, I’ll put the bottle aside and wait for the visit of another Scotch-loving friend to try it out. That is, after I get through Dry January.
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This is Nigel’s 330th blog and the start of our 11th year of publication on Gentleman’s Portion. The SEARCH function at the top works really well if you want to look back and see some of our previous stories.