Thursday, 1 October 2009

Radio Scotland Under the Influence season begins...

....Sunday 4th October. I'm on MacAulay and Co on Monday 5th to talk about it all, and my own two series When The Pubs Went Dry and Drinking for Scotland - the latter features some excerpts from this very blog!

http://bbc.co.uk/radioscotland

Friday, 31 July 2009

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

40 whiskies in a row: The good, the bad and the horrible

Now THAT was a truly bizarre, and enlightening experience.

I'd been asked ages ago to be one of the judges for the Independent Bottlers' Challenge, a competition in which the top indie bottlers of malt whisky submit their goods to be rated, blind, by a team of entirely sober people. No need for faffing about with colourful descriptions, just simple points out of ten, down to 0.1 and up to 9.9.

But I wasn't really expecting the box of 40 (yes, forty)single malt whiskies that arrived in the post at the weekend. Thirty, no less, Islay malts, the rest 'Island (non-Islay)' Miniatures, I hasten to add. But still.

How to go about it? Tempting as it was to be sociable and invite others to participate, I decided this would be a mistake. I had to go it alone and take it seriously. But how to set baseline parameters? What IS a 'ten' in whisky terms?

First of all, I decided to model my approach on that of John Ramsay, recently retired master blender for the Edrington Group. That meant no swallowing, a reduction with water (though John likes to go for 20 per cent alcohol, I prefer it marginally stronger), sniffing both without and with H2O, a spitoon, a teaspoon, tasting glass and a careful regard for colour. I also decided to tackle all 40 in one day, as I didn't trust my tastebuds to remain constant in their perceptiveness. This was all about comparisons, after all.

The bottles had numbers, not names, though alcoholic strength and age was indicated. To begin with, I went through the sniffing/tasting/sitting ritual with a bottling I have of Bruichladdich Infinity, which I both like and have suspicions of in equal measure. I made that a five, and got stuck in.

I don't want in any way to affect the outcome of the competition if other judges are reading this, so I'll restrict myself to generalities. First, considering there were 30 Islay malts, the variation, even in style, was astonishing. There were drams so heavily sherried their trademark peat was all but masked. There were mild, creamy, American-oak lightweights. There were horrible aberrations tasting of diesel or reeking of ( and I never thought I would actually say this,as I thought this was joke taste)burning tyres. The thought that somebody liked them enough to bottle them was awe-inspiring.

But there were some gems. Unexpected ones too, given the indicated ages. The truth about whisky that dare not speak its name is this: some casks are crap. Always were, always will be. Every year, aged, bad whisky that can't salvaged by decanting and ageing in different wood is recycled into the wash for re-distilling.

The question I'm asking is this: are my faculties completely awry, or are some independent bottlings so bad they ought never to have left the distillery?

And the observation I'm making is, that if I'd swallowed (even the two-teaspoon measure I was using) the alcohol would have unbalanced my opinion after maybe four whiskies, increasing affection and robbing me of objectivity. As it was, when finished, despite the inevitable absorption through the mouth, I felt as if I'd consumed maybe a pint of shandy.

Friday, 12 June 2009

End of an epic motorcycle/whisky trip around Scotland...

...and much more here. There will be magazine articles, a TV series on Single Malt TV, the release of the Journey's Blend whisky, an auction and a book. I have to say that I'm about to begin a month of sobriety as part of an impending radio series with the same name as this blog. Details to follow.




I'm in the Mcdonalds at Kirriemuir, heading north on the A90 to get the boat home tonight. And it's done! The Journey's Blend blend is complete, expertly put together by Edrington's head of all things blendiferous, John Ramsay, at the Glenturret distillery just outside Crieff. Also the site of the Famous Grouse Experience, hence the giant...bird thing.

It was absolutely brilliant watching John at work - using five whiskies collected on the trip - Highland Park, Kilchoman, Glengarioch, Bladnoch (most northerly, westerly, easterly and southerly, respectively) plus Glenturret itself, which is almost at the dead centre of Scotland. The exact proportions must remain a secret, but John, using his decades of experience, came up with a formula based on an exacting tasting of each whisky. I'll describe the process in more detail later. suffice to say that we did three variant blends, but the first was best. Brilliant, in fact.

Afterwards we repaired to the absolutely superb Barley Bree in Muthill for dinner - best of the trip, and one of the best I've ever had in Scotland). This morning, Rob Draper from Singlemalt TV carried out his final interviews (look out for two programmes on the trip soon) and we parted, Rob and his son Paul so impressed with the Barley Bree they're staying on, Ken and Rob Allanson heading for Cambridgeshire. Next year, America. Apparently.

Friday, 17 April 2009

A trip and a wee hauf...

It's all Rob Allanson's fault. He's the editor of Whisky Magazine, rides a motorbike and...well, I'll let him tell the tale.

"In June myself and BBC Scotland presenter, whisky writer and
motorbike nut Tom Morton (let's not forget he travelled to every
distillery in Scotland using an ancient sidecar outfit) are heading
out on a bit of a epic long distance whisky trip ­ entitled Journey¹s
Blend. To help out and document the trip a photographer and mechanic will complete the two wheeled entourage.
The idea will be to travel the compass points visiting the more
extreme distilleries and selecting whisky that will be shipped to the
hub of the circle to create a blended malt.

So starting at Highland Park, we head to Kilchoman, then Bladnoch and
Glen Garioch before finishing at Glenturret ­ taking about five days to do it.
At Glenturret, Edrington's master blender and whisky creator supreme
John Ramsay has agreed to pull the blend together. The result, just 50
bottles in all, which will be presented in a bespoke engraved
Glencairn Crystal bottle, will be unveiled at Whisky Live Glasgow, and
some of the proceeds will go to the Parkinson¹s Disease Society in honour of Michael Jackson."

(Tom points out, helpfully, to non-whisky connoisseurs, that this Michael Jackson is NOT the allegedly-still-living-singer, but the late and legendary whisky and beer writer.)

"Also to lend the project an air of sophistication, British bike
manufacturer Triumph has agreed to lend a couple of modern classics. I
have to say I cannot wait to ride a Bonneville. It¹s a bike I have
always wanted to ride, the essence of British motorbiking and
engineering. With its wonderful burbling exhaust note, I know it will
be hard to part with it after so many miles. Mind you the trip is also
a dream come true. ­ It's all about the bikes and whisky, both taken very responsibly, obviously."

Monday, 13 April 2009

Co-op Fairtrade Carmenere and back on the Pravastatin

...discovered, I insist, long before Victoria Moore lauded it in The Guardian. Best £4.99 buy in Brae, that's for sure.

Doesn't mix with Simvastatin, though. That's a nasty little way of lowering cholestorol! But it's ultra cheap, so expect your GP to at least get you to try it...

Crosses the blood-brain barrier, though, so it can unleash all kinds of side effects. Notably, in my case, with even a glass of wine, raging dizziness and pains in the legs.

Pravastatin, which I've been on for years, seems to be OK.

Oh, and did I mention that the 30-day teetotalism went well? Aff it for the week, again - stuff to do.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Day 31: they think it's all over...and it sort of is.

So, 30 days and 30 nights...I look slightly thinner ( a few pounds, nothing serious) slightly less puffy around the eyes. I've eaten more, drunk more tea (though less coffee) fitted an exhaust system to the Suzuki, done a little more walking and no running to speak of, written several songs, bought two guitars, sold one, bought a canoe, written several poems and knocked together the live show called 'Tom Morton's Drinking for Scotland', which has been booked for the Co-op Verb Garden at the Belladrum Festival. Oh, and set up a company to do specialised PR, designed business cards and flyers, had them printed and built a basic website. Plus a radio show, of course.

Would most of that would have happened had I been drinking? Not in 30 days...

Thing is, I'm going to have to do this again later in the year for real...sorry, for radio...och, anyway. I'll have a wee glass of wine tonight (Chilean Merlot) and see how I feel.

Meanwhile, here's a poem from Drinking for Scotland:Live -

The Nominated Driver

(A shorter version was written for Shetland Library's 'Bards in the Bogs' scheme, but the site specific nature of the poem probably told against it: it can only be displayed at the Voe toilets, an important, nay crucial staging post on the long road, the A970, between Lerwick and the North Mainland, especially if drink has been taken on board in Coalfishreek).

THE NOMINATED DRIVER

The nominated driver sits
And most deliberately shits

It's three AM, midsummer, Voe
He didn't really need to go

And this is most unsalubrious
The graffitti extremely dubious

The chauffeur needed to take a break
Though agreeing to drive was no mistake

He's never really liked the drink
With it, he finds, he just can't think

Straight, crooked, birly - any way
So sober, now, he likes to stay

And sometimes, he'll take his friends to town
And watch them pour the draught beer down

Their conversation, brilliant or slight
To him all just the purest shite

He sips his iced Coke, a dash of bitters
A cocktail found in literature

In Raymond Chandler's Marlowe thrillers
Drunk by the hero, not the killers

And not by Chandler, to tell the truth
Who died a hopeless, gibbering drouth

(A different Chandler from the one in Friends
Though they may come to similar ends)

Anyway, tonight, they went
to Posers, until the cash was spent

And now they're heading home, to Brae
Next week, though, he'll make them pay

For valeting his car, the bonnet
Even now is smeared with vomit.

And the back seat is soaked in piss
They aimed for a cider can and missed

So. In the crapper at Upper Voe
It's nearly time for him to go

They're singing Hank Williams and Steve Earle
Dreaming of missed chances with girls

They'll remember nothing of this night
The falling down, being sick, the fights

But the nominated driver will
In the toilet he's writing still

In his notebook, with great care
All sorts of things are detailed there

For staying sober there are compensations
He retains a wealth of information

All documented, filed and stored
Ready to settle any score

So never underestimate
Sobriety's capacity to hate

Always suspect that teetotal bloke
If he puts bitters in his Coke.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Teetotal day 28, verging on 29: the cost of alcohol.

Strong tea. Mug after mug today (Scottish Blend), consumed with great lip-smacking, soul-quenching relish.

Extraordinary piece in The Guardian by Chris Paling, a diary of his 30-odd days in a hospital ward specialising in alcohol-related stomach and liver complaints. Disturbing, especially as I've been daydreaming about a moderate return to imbibing come day 31, which is Tuesday.

Hmmm...perhaps not. Even with a large chunk of the family in Pisa, quaffing Frascati...

I do think the proposed 50p per unit minimum price for alcohol is absolutely justified. The argument that it somehow discriminates against 'sensible' drinkers is complete tosh. A 50 per unit bottle of wine is less than £6. It's only once wine gets above a fiver a bottle that you start paying a reasonable amount for the actual wine, as opposed to tax. Fifty pence a unit discriminates against insensible drinkers. Or to be exact, folk who use alcohol as a convenient anaesthetic/social lubricant, and don't really care about the taste.

Discrimination is the key. We should all be connoisseurs!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Day 27. An urgent need for a fried breakfast...

...to deal with the shock of having witnessed Lulu the St Bernard summarily dispatching one of the hens. Susan won't be pleased. Especially is it was one of the two chickens I couldn't persuade into the safety of the newly-built fowl stockade.

Anyway. I've done the out-with-pals-at-the-pub thing, now I have a weekend on my own just to wrap up this 30-day stint of teetotalism. Lots to do, including fitting the new exhaust for the Suzuki and writing the sequel to Serpentine. Must get on!

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Day 24: not even thinking about it anymore

My first job in TV was to present a documentary about alcohol. Part of that involved attending the dissection of an alcoholic's brain, and interviewing the pathologist during and after the operation.

The alcoholic concerned was, you will be happy to know, well and truly dead, and had been for quite some time.

We watched (and filmed. On PROPER film too, none of this video rubbish)as the skull was sawn open and the brain sliced. The single most memorable fact for me was the shrinkage of the brain, a shrivelling.

Over the past 23 days, I've visualised my own sober cerebellum expanding to fill the yawning spaces inside my skull, all the time awaiting great new insights, creativity and feats of memory.

So...

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Day 22: Diet coke, coffee, Shloer (grape) and honey chilli chicken chow mein...

To my favourite Chinese takeaway, just down from the awfulness that is my regular hotel in the Granite City. Secure parking and within BBC budget, though. It's either that or the Salvation Army.
In Aberdeen, still not tempted by red wine or whisky. Much.

I was amazed the old Suzuki GS1000G (American model, shaft drive, 80s muscle bike) started almost immediately after five months untouched in Stewart's garage. Not only, that, it needed nothing doing before blasting off towards Aberdeen today, fortunately in dry, if very windy weather. And that bulletproof Japanese parallel four never gave a hint of trouble. Much nicer to ride than my last bike, the much more modern BMW R1100R.

The John Gillan gig went well, I think, slightly low on numbers maybe, but a good 100 or so folk. All kudos to Funk Connection (11 of them) for donating their fee to Roxburghe House, the hospice in which John spent his last days.

It was a hard slog for me, playing across an empty dancefloor through loud foldback, plus a Phenergan and NorthLink hangover, to an invisible and largely inaudible audience. The songs are all about the lyrics, really...some nice comments afterwards, though, and it was all in a good cause.

Ridiculous £40 single for the train to Glasgow yesterday, but great to see Magnus. Out to Clydebank to get the bike, and then dinner with Mag and old pals Stewart, Maggie and Gill. F

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Day 19. Goin' South.

I'm getting lazy - this is basically the same as today's Beatcroft post. All I can say is that I STILL haven't had anything to drink, though I did sniff some Macleod's single malt last night. The aroma thereof, not the liquid itself. Just to see if it appealed. It didn#t it smelt of plastic and nail varnish remover.

Catching the boat tonight to Aberdeen.

Originally, I was transporting James to the National Youth Orchestra rehearsal weekend, which has been cancelled. On the back of that, I organised the collection on Sunday of my Suzuki GS1000 from Stewart's garage in Clydebank, and, when I was asked to m/c and play at the John Gillan Memorial Concert in Aberdeen, I was happy to agree.

Deal was I'd then stay in Glasgow with James and Magnus until Susan brought Martha down to the mainland for her orchestra rehearsals. Alas, we've not found anyone to look after the dogs, so I'm now hastening back across the Great Sea of Separation so Susan and the boys can go gallivanting in (wait for this!) Pisa. The one in Italy.

I get to babysit Lulu.

Oh well. I'm looking forward to the gig tomorrow night, actually, with Funk Connection and Wray Gunn and the Rockets. First live outing for the battered old Fender Malibu I bought recently on eBay.

The gig will celebrate the life of John Gillan, a well-known figure on the north-east music scene, a former Lemon Tree DJ who also worked at Bruce Miller's. All proceeds go to the hospice Roxburghe House.

See you there!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Day 17 - tested by Muscadet

...but not that hard. I had probiotic drinking yoghurt instead. Better with chilli.

Coffee consumption going down,I think - one bad latte, one very good double espresso.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Day 14: why have my breadmaking skills deserted me?

Truly felt like a beer or three, not during the Calcutta Cup (fell asleep) but the unnervingly tense, classically brutal and joyously old skool Wales-Ireland match. Really, it was crying out for Guinness. Or preferably Murphy's. Or it was crying out for me.

Still, I can sit and remember my first encounter with Murphy's Stout, back in 1978, in Cork. I had checked into one of those classic commercial hotels, I think called the Railway Inn, during a journalistic assignment to check out the imminent Irish oil boom (ah, the Porcupine Trough, out there in the Atlantic). I remember going down to the bar, where that precursor to Father Ted, the sitcom Oh! Father! was on the telly. I ordered Guinness, but of course they only had Murphy's on draught.

I have mever tasted a pint like that one. Creamy, sweeter than the Dublin stout, delicate and somehow, spiritually enlivening. At that time, Murphy's was unavailable in the rest of the UK. I bought several bottles to take back with me - weirdly shaped things, like milk bottles - but of course it tasted thin and dull back in Glasgow.

Now, I think I'll have a cup of tea, while waiting for my disastrous bread to bake. I don;t know what's going on, but for the last fortnight, my normally dependable breadmaking skills seem to have deserted me. After more than three months now of having no shop-bought bread in the house...

It's the revenge of the yeast!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Day 12. Ho hum...

I'm finding that I get a lot more done.

Must be all that coffee. I've also discovered an abiding passion for cake.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Teetotal Ten

Susan was right. Drink or the lack thereof stops being an issue. So much. Lovely day, as well, which cheers everyone and everything well and truly up

And what's more, I successfully made it through today without consuming any chocolate. Well, apart from the chips (the tiny, tiny chips) in the biscuits I ate during the programme. A bad idea. Biscuits always make me choke.

Onwards and upwards. I made some melon, raspberry and carrot smoothies earlier, but no-one will drink them but me.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Day eight, Sunday. Exercise and sausages.


Third fierce coffee of the day. Dave Hammond and his German TV producer colleague arrived aboard the Charles Lidbury, the Severn-class Aith Lifeboat. I was out for a wee walk-cum-jog along the Ness of Hillswick when I heard its motors, and then she (why is it 'she' if the name is Charles?) came powering down Ura Firth with a bone in her teeth. Thrilling sight. The RNLI is my default charity. Let's face it, as Mr Hammond says, if you live on an island and mess about in boats, it's not giving to charity, it's insurance.

By the way, it's quite a calm day, misty and warm for winter. That picture's courtesy of the RNLI.

Meanwhile, Susan, used to long stretches of teetotalism due to being on call, assures me that after a fortnight you just stop thinking about alcohol. I suppose it's a sign of its importance in my life that, while I have no real compulsion to have a drink, it's on my mind a lot. But, hey. It's 30 days. And there's always caffeine.

Just started John Bingham's book No Need for Speed: A Beginner's guide to the Joy of Running. The fates seem to be ganging up on me, dangling trainers and trackie bottoms. At the moment, I feel vaguely sick after jogging 100 yards. Mr Bingham's 'walking and jogging' regime seems sort of civilised. We shall see. Bicycles seem more fun.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Seven days: No non-alcoholic beer in Lerwick!

Coke Zero (2)
Britvic J2O (1)
Coffee (Equal Exchange fair trade dark roast beans)(4)
Nambarrie tea (2)
Two-finger Kit-Kats (2)
Mini Mars Bar (1)

Cheese...now there's an idea.

Searched for non-alcoholic beer (both Furstenberg and Becks do good ones) but nothing in Lerwick. Good grief, that J2O stuff is horrible. Slimy fruit juice. Apparently you can get it in alcopop form.

That's twice I've walked out of the Co-op and once from Tesco in the last four weeks, unable to thole waiting at checkouts. This time, trying to buy a Guardian at Tesco ( I know, I know) a huge queue developed behind a man to whom BOTH staff devoted what seemed like hours. A man who was trying to claim money from last week's lottery ticket. Except it wasn't last week's at all, it was tonight's...

Friday, 13 March 2009

Day six: it's Friday; have a cup of tea

How does alcohol function in someone's life? Well, if life is a video, alcohol is:

(1) The fast forward button, zipping you through the boring bits. Unfortunately, it leaves you bedraggled and unable to cope quite as well with the interesting stuff as you otherwise might have. Not to mention fatter and more out of breath.

(2) The on-off switch. Turning off so that, when you switch back on again, everything seems clearer and more comprehensible. Or, on the other hand, not.

(3) The eject control. Alcohol, as anyone who's tried to write something will know, can, in suitable quantities, allow your mind to flip right over into another story, another way of looking at things. Swop Mamma Mia for Citizen Kane. Or vice versa.

(4) Focus. It can make the movie look sharper, clearer, better. Or fuzzier.

"Between briliance and oblivion/that's the condition that I'm living in."

Or, on the other hand, there's tea. Anyway, that's day six, which has included my first unhungover morning flight back to Shetland in recent history. Less scary. Fewer palpitations. Gone are the British Airways Budgie days when they would serve brandy with your morning coffee...

Note to self: do not substitute buying guitars on eBay for alcohol...

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Teetotal day four: the woman who poured my Amrut whisky down the toilet

I have never been searched more thoroughly. Well, my hand luggage, anyway. Sumburgh security is legendary for its detailed rummaging through bags, and I thought I'd removed everything confiscatable. But I'd missed the pewter whisky flask (50th birthday present from old pal Stewart)full of Amrut Indian single malt (unfiltered and world-class, really).

"You can only carry this on board if it's empty," said the woman in charge. I looked at her. She looked at me. I thought, 'this is only day four, and if I don't drink this...'

"Would you mind," I said, "getting rid of it for me?" She took the flask into the toilet and returned it, empty. I feel confident she didn't drink it.

Glumly, I drank mineral water on the flight, which was bumpy as hell. But I had sour cream pretzels.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Day three: Dreams of Guinness and dust

No, really. Proper, hallucinogenic dreams last night involving a bar where the gantry was all clear, empty glasses and bottles, and Guinness, extra cold, on draught. I could taste it.

That and a road coated in white, choking dust.

Not that I'm a great fan of Guinness. I did have a transcendent experience in Cork in 1978, where I first tasted Murphy's Stout. Much nicer.

Thing is, I woke up without any desire for an alcoholic drink. I've only ever been tempted in that direction on two, mega-hungover occasions, one involving a funeral. No, what I wanted was tea and some of my fresh-baked bread. Which, I must admit, did taste a bit yeasty...

Anyway, I've decided that for the next 27 days I will not stint on grub, eating what I like, without guilt. So today at 11.45 am I was in the Skipidock scoffing macaroni cheese and chips with real enjoyment. Yum.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Moderation Management and the First 30...day two

Here's a thing: Moderation Management is an organisation set up to help folk who want to cut down (but not necessarily give up) on their drinking of alcohol. It's the un-Alcoholics Anonymous. Have a read at their estimable website for more.

MM have one rule: you can't drink moderately, they say, unless you can do a straight 30 days without touching a drop. I've done this once previously - annotated in the late lamented 'Soda Water and Lime' blog - and, in the run-up to the radio series I'll be doing soon about alcohol and its attendant health and social issues (working title: How Not to Drink)I'm having a go at it again.

So far, this is day two. Day one doesn't really count, as, after a splendid night out at friends, I was in a Martin-Amis-after-Interviewing-Antony-Burgess state of hungoverness yesterday.

So far, so easy. I know it won't begin to bite until Friday, that-end-of-the-week-reward moment. The remnants of a toxic headache remain to taunt me with the words: gin, red, white, Balvenie, Grouse. Enough, already.

I'll be using this blog as diary and reminder to keep on the straight and narrow, with some asides into hopefully interesting drink-related territory. If I become a sobriety bore, do tell.

Monday, 23 February 2009

(One of) the other Tom Morton(s) breaks cover

I've been aware for some time of the existence of several other Tom Mortons working in what might generalise as 'the media.' This one broke cover the other night in Channel Four News. He appears to be some kind of advertising guru.

There's another TM in Australia, a broadcaster and writer, oddly enough, and I once appeared at book reading in a school to find a display of one of his books artfully arranged behind me. There's a dead Tom Morton, acclaimed painter; and there's Tom Morton the curator of the Cubitt Gallery in London, also a writer.

It may have been one of these TMs or a different one entirely who wrote an article recently for MicroMart about gaming, thus occasioning my father to get in touch, anxiously wondering how I'd acquired all this abstruse knowledge about Grand Theft Auto and the like.

It wisnae me.

Thing is, though, should I change my name to avoid confusion? Is it up to me?
Who am I, anyway? Thomas MacCalman Morton is my full name. How about T MacCalman Morton, a soubriquet I have used on occasion when wishing to appear pretentious. Or Tom MacCalman Morton. Or, to return to the name I was universally known by until university, Tommy Morton?

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Up helly Aa and the process of recovery

I presume that vikings didn't drink whisky, or indeed claret. Or, for that matter, Coca Cola and Tennents Lager (from separate tins; mixing the two is not advised).

My alcohol consumption on the night of the Northmavine fire festival involved wine with dinner, more wine at the Hilswick Hall (one of those tiny aeroplane bottles), a tin of lager and a tin of coke. I always like to mix my drinks on such occasions. But it was the two whiskies that both lifted things towards the end of the night (a wee livener, as they say) and left me in a state of post-festivity fuzziness next day.

I have no idea what the whisky was. It was probably Bells. Certainly, my head was ringing like one yesterday. The red wine was...red. Sort of winey.

In other words, a good time was had. You'll forgive me if my powers of description and analysis seem to have taken as much of a battering as my liver. I don't think vikings were very big on nosing their drinks. It was probably a side effect of all that fly agaric.

Anyway, what I should really have had was dark rum, as in Watson's Trawler, Navy rum or Stewart's. Dark rum is a traditional favourite in Shetland, probably due to the islands' maritime heritage. In fact, Stewart's is now wholly Shetland owned, after it was discovered that 90 per cent of sales were in the islands. I do draw the line at Morgan's Spiced. For some reason, that drink is always associated, in my experience with extremely bad, if entertaining, behaviour. I blame the turmeric. Or maybe the cinnamon.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

St Augustine says...

Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.

But then, nobody's perfect.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Rumours of mothballed distilleries, and is that all political hacks drink these days?

I hear strong rumours that, due to the recession, Diageo may be about to mothball its much-vaunted £100m distillery development at Roseisle on Sepyside...watch this (and other) spaces...

*** *** ***

Ah, that abstemious Scottish Government...and its journalistic gallery...

Monday, 26 January 2009

Don't try this at home...

Whisky is NOT good for quenching the thirst. Though enough of it may make you forget you actually HAD a thirst in the first place.

http://www.metro.co.uk/weird/article.html?Whisky_respite_for_man_trapped_under_sofa&in_article_id=503131&in_page_id=2

Thursday, 15 January 2009

New edition of Unfiltered, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's magazine...

...and the front page story is about my trip to Lewis to investigate the world's most remote whisky distillery...Check it out here.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Drambuie - still horrendous

Drambuie - the name comes from an dram buidheach,the drink that satisfies - is a whisky liqueur, the recipe for which allegedly has its source in the addled mind of Prince Charles Edward Stuart.

I've never liked it. Too cloyingly sweet (honey and, ahem, 'herbs' allegedly provide the flavour). Indeed, I dislike sweet liqueurs generally. And cocktails. Unless, of course one is watching The Big Lebowski and consuming numerous White Russians (milk, vodka, ice, Kahlua. Alcoholic iced hot chocolate). Anyway I obtained some supposedly 'old-style' Drambuie miniatures and last night, I opened one.

Some 14 hours later, my mouth still feels like it's been coated with alcoholic treacle. Absolutely awful. Who drinks this stuff? No wonder Prince Charlie lost the '45 if he was quaffing this stuff. Dude.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

End of the festivities

Susan bought me a bottle of Jamieson's (standard, no-age blend...the booze not the birthday) for my birthday and that very sweet dram has been hallmarking my last couple of days celebrating the new year. Very nice, but best neat. Adding water renders it immediately edgy.

A break now, I think, from booze. In the next month or two I'm going to be tackling a major radio series about drink and its various perils, and that will involve a sustained, public period of teetotalism. Better get in practice!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

2009, and where did that 18-year-old Jura go?

Woke up this morning thinking, well, that's it: a teetotal 2009...

Changed my mind, though. As it is, having carted out the empties from last night (dear God, how is that number of empty bottles even possible?) I'm wondering how all that 18-year-old Jura vanished? Wisnae me! I had a thimbleful at the bells and it was rather nice.

Now, I managed to get through Hogmanay without unsealing my precious hand-filled 25-year-old Pulteney. Will it last another year, though? We shall see.

Meanwhile, Slainte/Skol!