Thursday, 18 February 2010

#370 - Freaky Gymnastics

Phew... I know that I promised that I would have some fresh whisky tasting notes for this log entry, but I just received an e-mail from a friend with a short, simple exercise. When I tried it, it freaked me out so much that I wanted to share it with as many people as possible. 

The exercise that proves that we don't always have as much control over our bodies as we like to think... Assuming you're sitting behind a PC at the moment, try to:

1) Lift your right leg from the floor and continue to make clockwise circles with your foot, and...

2) While you continue to make circles with your right leg, draw the number '6' in the air with your right hand.

If your body functions remotely like mine, you were unable to perform this simple task as well, because your leg automatically started circling in the other direction... Freaky, eh? Meanwhile, I don't have any fresh tasting notes, but I do have a few words to share about whisky. This morning I received this message from Kyle Anderson; 

"Dear Malt Madness, I am a recent discoverer of single malt scotch whisky when I went to this Pub/Restaurant: I usually stick to beer, but considering I was at the best SMSW bar in Chicago (Possibily all of the U.S.A.) I decided I would order whisky. I didn't know what to get because the Menu was so extensive and the most I knew about Scotland was the Spey river and how to Spey cast (I am an avid fly fisherman). The waitress asked what region (I picked spey side) and made a suggestion (Glenfiddich 12YO). Upon the first taste I was converted from a "Beer" guy to a "Beer and Whisky" guy. I am a college student in Chicago and have a limited budget, I took your advice and bought a bottle of Balvenie 12YO "Double Wood" ($39 USD) along with some snifters to serve it in. It is the best whisky I have had, but alas my budget is still tighter and I must make more modest purchases. I was wondering if there were any less expensive blended Scotch Whiskys (e.g. Chivas Regal, Johnny Walker, Cutty Sark, etc.) that came the closest to having a SMSW taste or in other words what's the best blended whisky. I have looked online and didn't find any comparisons of the blended whiskys. Any address in this matter is greatly appreciated."

I have to admit that it has been at least two decades since I bought a blended whisky because the presence of too much grain whisky spoils the fun for me. However, some malt maniacs don't share my prejudices, so here are a few tips from a few other malt maniacs; 

Lawrence Graham: "Well, odd as it may seem and for good value there’s Bell’s (just the standard garden variety) and as I just discovered in Hawaii…….. Clan MacGregor (Grants) for……..$11.99 which is certainly excellent value for money and being a college student dollars are always an issue. Before you start throwing your empty malt bottles at me try them…..I expect the Clan MacGregor is older than the stated 36 months; perhaps even 40 months. Lauders 36 months (Barton Brands) should be avoided…….. and the Scorseby 36 month (Diageo) is OK  and these also are around $11.99."

Louis Perlman: "Kyle is lucky that he has one of the best liquor stores in the country in his backyard. Tell him to go right over to the nearest Binny's, check for locations. Low end blends that I have found to be half decent include Grants, Ballantines, and even the latest Johnnie Walker Red, the last one much improved from the days it headlined the MM Bad Malt Alert list."

Serge Valentin: "Sorry, no real experience with blends... But BTW, I've seen that there's now a cold-distilled gin, Oxley (distillation by freezing of the water). Ever heard of such experiences with 'whisky'? (SWA forbid!)."

Lex Kraaijeveld: "Something I wrote some time ago on freeze-distilled ‘whisky’ (published as a ‘Whisky on the Edge’ column on the celticmalts web-site): Distilling of a spirit from a low-alcoholic liquid is basically nothing more than increasing the alcohol concentration by making use of the difference in boiling point between alcohol and water. But besides having a different boiling point, alcohol and water also have a different freezing point, which makes it possible to make a strong alcoholic spirit by gently freezing a low-alcoholic liquor: the water will freeze out of the liquid first, leaving an increasingly stronger spirit. Chinese records of 'frozen-out' wine go back to at least the 6th century, and possibly even further. In Europe, the Vikings had a drink that was called "winter wine" but it is unclear whether this indeed was a 'frozen-out' spirit or not. The earliest solid European record of a 'frozen-out' spirit is from the late 16th century. Dutch sailors were forced to overwinter on Nova Zembla, an island off the north coast of Siberia, in 1596. They made the chance discovery that when their beer barrels started to freeze ..... There was scarce any unfrozen Beer in the barrel; but in that thick Yiest that was unfrozen lay the Strength of the Beer, so that is was too Strong to drink alone, and that which was frozen tasted like Water ...

This Dutch-Siberian spirit was 'frozen-out' from a grain-based fermented liquor, so it basically was the 'frozen-out' counterpart of whisky! Producing an alcoholic spirit by heat-distillation is a technique that needed to be invented, but the use of temperatures below the freezing point of water to make a strong alcoholic spirit can easily be discovered by accident; just leave a barrel with beer or wine outside in the cold. Such a chance discovery could be made in any part of the world that has a climate where temperatures drop well below freezing in winter. To my knowledge there are no records to support this, but I wonder if some farmers in the Highlands of Scotland didn't know about whisky's 'frozen-out' sister centuries before the heat-distilled spirit came into being ....".

Serge Valentin: "Yes, thanks Lex. 
And there's this beer, 'Brewdog', that's made that way if I'm correct. I've also heard stories about cattle that got completely plastered ;-)  But ever heard of 'whisky' made like this? ('beer' being 'cold distilled' and then matured in wood)" 

Dave Broom: "Not all Brewdog is made this way.. sometimes (occasionally) they're just normal brewers. The first freeze distilled beer "Tactical Nuclear Penguin' was above 30% abv. It's status was almost immediately usurped by a German brewer who made one even stronger. The Brewdog guys have just retaliated with one at 41% ABV called 'Sink The Bismarck'. Old-style Canadian applejack was allegedly made by the freezing method."
Right.... Well, sorry Kyle - I tried, but as you can see the discussions among the malt maniacs have a tendency to get side-tracked ;-)  From my end, I can only offer one additional suggestion: try an Irish whisky instead of a blended Scotch; they often offer better value. The same goes for French cognacs these days IMHO.

Sweet drams...