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Spirits

  • The Real Spirit of Christmas

    Christmas Eve at Oddbins is doing exactly what Christmas Eve should do at Oddbins. The Liverpool store is thronged beyond all known laws of physics, and a sweet-natured queue snakes from the counter to the back of the shop and round on itself to the front door. Who in their right mind would think this was a good time to get the tasting samples out?

    CW-Gin

    "Ello darli-er, good afternoon madam!" But of course. Hello, Crazy Chimp. "I see you're feasting your minces on our gins, I've got a lovely one here you'll enjoy. You're not driving, are you? Oh, good, there you are, Christopher Wren Gin from the City of London Distillery. Mmm, nice palate, liquorice and oranges going on there, very Christmassy. Handsome bottle too, looks just like St. Paul's Cathedral. So that's two masterpieces with Wren's name for the price of one! Tell you what, I'll let you enjoy it in peace while I go and pop one under the counter for you..." And he scuttles away on his knuckles, to charm somebody else.

    Crazy-Banner

    At the end of the counter, a whisky lover is being told things by a chimp who has a slight smell of old books and a charming aura of forgotten academia. "...and Masataka Taketsuru, who established the distillery in 1934," instructs Curious Chimp, "was the first Japanese person to study whisky-making at Glasgow University. His Nikka From The Barrel is decidedly high in alcohol - 51.4%! But rather than merely making it hot, the extra abv adds depth, weight and richness, don't you think? Orange peel, cedar, woody spice - true decadence and indulgence, 50cl of Christmas. And the packaging? So stylish. If Blue Note was a distillery instead of a jazz label, they'd have made things that looked like this. Give me a bottle of this and a Horace Silver CD and I'll happily come and make Christmas dinner for you. As long as it's nut roast!"

    Nikka

    In the corner of the room, a roguish chimp is telling a group of rum aficionados about the time he and his old chum Shifty had to flee to Venezuela in a borrowed Jaguar. Crafty Chimp is no stranger "...heh, heh, heh, and no sooner had she finished peeling my banana than in walks her brother - turns out he was the bloody ambassador!"

    Crafty-Banner

    "That's one diplomatic incident I won't be returning to in a hurry, I can tell you, but this Diplomatico Exclusiva rum really is something you can go back to without a forged passport. It has the kind of gravitas that could get a chap out of any scrape - brown sugar and liquorice underneath delicious dried fruit peel and toffee characters - and it rather lends itself to be taken neat. Drunk au naturel, so to speak. Which takes me back rather neatly to the ambassador's sister..."

    Exclusiva

    Wandering around the shop with an empty bottle of Brockman's Gin and a beautific smile is Loveable Chimp. He is trying to get people to smell his empty bottle, and though he hasn't quite got them in the palm of his hand, he isn't giving a monkey's. It's Christmas Eve and his family and friends are all in the one place, and they are in their element, helping to choose gifts and treats for his beloved regulars, and everybody is in the very best of heart and humour. He is surrounded by people and chimps who are giving a shit this Christmas, and this, he muses as his smile grows even wider, is the true spirit of the season.

    Brockmans

    Although, that Nikka whisky was pretty decent, it has to be said...

    Thanks to all of you for another extraordinary year. Merry Christmas! x

  • WHISKIES OF MASS DELIGHTFULNESS

    It’s a sad and slightly hilarious fact that Bruichladdich – the gentle giant of Islay distilleries – was once spied on by the US on suspicion of making chemical weapons. In 2003, having locked onto the distillery’s web cam, the Americans thought that they were making WMDs, until they were assured otherwise. It’s almost as sad and hilarious as the time that an outraged UK united behind the ‘Free the Weatherfield One’, after the fictional character Deirdre Barlow was wrongfully imprisoned in Coronation Street.

    It has been a rollercoaster ride for Bruichladdich, which closed down in 1994 after 114 years’ operation, before being rescued in 2001. The apparently sinister-looking equipment – including the unusually tall and narrow spirit stills – was restored to its Victorian glory and is now the pride of the Rhinns, on the westernmost shore of Islay.

    Bruichladdich

    Under the governance of the not particularly dangerous Jim McEwan – formerly of Bowmore Distillery – they have resumed their place amongst the eight working distilleries on Islay. The team is passionate about provenance and use only Scottish barley, sometimes from the neighbouring fields, and water from Bruichladdich loch and the Octomore spring.

    They produce three styles of whisky – the unpeated Classic Bruichladdich, the heavily peated Port Charlotte and the ‘super heavily peated’ Octomore. Oddbins is proud to stock all three expressions and invites you most warmly to come and sample ‘The Classic Laddie’ at any store this weekend. Trickle distilled, then matured by the shores of Lochindaal in premium American oak, it encapsulates Bruichladdich’s soft, mossy style.

  • NATURAL BORN SPIRITS

    Nature, eh, not in any hurry, is it? Worth the wait, though, especially if there's a beautifully-crafted spirit at the end of it, and we have four of them on free tasting in all of our stores this weekend (July11/12). They've all waited patiently for Mother Nature (and the odd distilling genius) to tell them when they're just right, and meanwhile they've breathed deeply of the character of their surroundings, be that the salt and iodine of Scotland's northern coast or the sweetly embracing tropical warmth of Guyana.

    The spirits are described below and, so you don't just have to take our word for it, we've included some rave press reviews from around Oddbins' geographical spread, which are in no way fictional.

    Mike - Whisky Blog June 2015 - Glengoyne

    Glengoyne 10 Year Old, £34

    This enjoys the slowest distillation of all Scotch whiskies, with malt dried by air alone rather than peat fire. It prompted no less a response than this, from Merseyside drink doyenne Keith Haslet of the Greasby Flagpole: ‘Soft, with a peat-free subtlety and a spicy, green fruit quality that would push it into apple curry territory, if there were such a thing.’ Er, cheers, Keith.

    Old Pulteney 10 Year Old, £33

    From the village of Wick, right up at the top of mainland Scotland, comes this neatly priced single malt, intense yet approachable, with a delicious salty tang on the finish. Typing feverishly in the online organ The Twickenham Hipster, Peregrine Tashwax advises us: "You can just see it, a perfectly singed gourmet stoat burger, served on a seasoned malting shovel drizzled with Pashley chain lube. There'd be smoothness and there'd be saltiness, and they'd both be well matched by an eggcup of this bourbon-tinged, coastal-crafted beauty." Which is high praise indeed! Apparently.

    Mike - Whisky Blog June 2015 - El Dorado

    El Dorado 12 Year Old, £38

    Aged in ex-bourbon casks and made in three different stills, this Demerara Rum from Guyana is a classic example of El Dorado's smooth, mellow, sweet and utterly delicious style. It’s no surprise it is festooned with medals, then. Dave ‘Ebeneezer’ Claypole was quite beside himself in the Ladbroke Mango, to wit: "A dash of this feller, a spot of Bacardi, a couple of glugs of lime and pineapple, sling on a sprig of mint and a couple of the old Chuck Berries and trust me, my boy, you are in Zombie Heaven!" And we couldn't have put it better than that. Or even similar to it.

    Balblair 2003, £43

    Whisky-making has gone on at Balblair, on the Dornoch Firth, since 1790. Instead of ageing for a pre-defined length of time, Distillery Manager John MacDonald bottles the whiskies when he considers them to be ready, so they are labelled with the year in which they were laid down to age. Murdo McHammer, Head of Applied Dissolution in Edinburgh's Poleaxe University, wrote in the Bruntsfield Gallant: "Delicious! A lovely mixture of orange and apricot, offset with a little creamy toffee," adding "my idea of a good, rounded dinner!"

  • GINDUSTRIAL TASTING THIS WEEKEND

    In the same way that dogs don’t arrive in the world being able to skip backwards around an assault course at Krufts, grain, peat and botanicals don’t just turn into delicious libations all by themselves: they need time, skill and love invested in them. They need nurturing by people who know what they’re doing. It’s abundantly clear when a drink has been made by a ham-fisted eejit and when it has been made with skill and passion. Be it ageing in soleras in the highlands of Guatemala (Ron Zacapa Rum), or infusing with bog myrtle and dandelion (Caorunn Gin), the ‘nurturing’ process involves is a mind-boggling array of decisions and the results are infinitely diverse and fascinating. So, this weekend we will be putting two curiously crafted gins on free tasting , so you can take notes on the effect their ‘upbringing’ has had on them…

    G'Vine Floraison

    First up is G’Vine Nouaison (£39.50). G’Vine is the only gin in the world to use the vine flower as a botanical and these ‘ginspired’ gins beautifully harness the different stages of the vine’s life. Whilst G’Vine Floraison is made with the fleeting magic of the budding flower, G’Vine Nouaison is heady, spicy and aromatic, as it is made with the mature flower as it transitions into a berry. Basically, if you are really undecided between buying a wine and a gin, this is your man.

    Aviation.jpg

    Let’s say you’re less of a vine-loving Francophile, and more of an Aviator-wearing All-America. Well, there’s a gin for you, too. The botanicals chosen for Aviation Gin aim to conjure up the ‘lushness, spice, creativity, and freshness of the Pacific Northwest’. They do this using the rich, floral and savoury notes of lavender, cardamom, and sarsaparilla and the result is a leather-clad, sexy beast of a gin that will make you think you’re top gun.

    If scientists want a decisive answer on the nature vs nurture debate, they should really come along. White coats not necessary.

  • Miss Whisky Tastings

    Whisky news ahoy!

    If you are a person who loves whisky and, more specifically, a person in Aberdeen, Edinburgh or Mitchell Street who loves whisky, train your periscope on this here news.

    Miss Whisky Blog

    The one and only Alwynne Gwilt – AKA Miss Whisky – is a prolific whisky blogger and writer and will be hosting tastings of Glengoyne, Tamdhu and Smokehead at the following shops, from 4.30-7pm:

    Aberdeen City – Wednesday 29th April
    Queensferry Street, Edinburgh – Thursday 30th April
    Mitchell Street, Glasgow – Friday 1st May

    Alwynne has been named one of the Top 10 Women in Whisky by The Drinks Business magazine and, quite simply, knows her stuff.

    Come with open ears and open mouths and prepared to be wowed.

  • EASTER, MEDITERRANEAN STYLE

    Mediterraneans just do things better, don’t they? They eat better, they drink better and they look better. In comparison, us northerners look like anaemic Flintstones. Take Easter, for example. The usual procedure over here is to buy over-priced, low-quality chocolate eggs and eat them, guiltily, just as the new year’s diet was beginning to have an effect.

    Go to Greece, Spain or Italy and you’ll find communities coming together at lively, colourful celebrations with beautiful lamb spits and other traditional fare.

    So, this Easter, we say, Go Mediterranean. But, if you don’t quite have the time to organise a neighbourhood gathering and serve an entire spit roast *shocked gasp*, then just chuck a leg o’ lamb in the oven with heaps of rosemary and serve it with the 100% Grenache Serabel Côtes du Rhône (£8). It is made by Cave de Monterail, a teensy negociants who offer extraordinarily good value for money. It’s a compact little spice-box of a wine that is liberally endowed with rich, black fruit and bright tannins and is outrageously good with lamb.

    If you’re less of a traditionalist and see this four day Bank Holiday weekend as an opportunity to do nothing but watch Murder, She Wrote/go clubbing/play chess, whilst sipping at a spectacularly good G&T, check dis out…

    Easter - Gin Mare

    We have the muy bueno Gin Mare (£41.25) on free tasting in all shops this weekend. Made with Arbequina olives, Greek thyme, Italian basil and Turkish rosemary, in a distillery near Spain’s Costa Dorada, it is a decidedly Mediterranean gin and is decidedly Odd (that’s a big compliment round these parts). It has to be tasted to be believed… come on down!

  • FOOTBALL LOVE, FOOTBALL HATE, FOOT WHAT?

    20 June, 2014

    Major sporting tournaments tend to polarise sporty types and non-sporty types into two squarely opposing camps. The sporty types gather together to discuss tactics, glancing dubiously at the non-sporty types, while the non-sporty types wonder what the fuss is about, becoming increasingly incredulous towards their Lycra-clad opposites. But the World Camp introduces a third type: the ignorant enthusiast (Oddbins falls into this category). So, this week, whether you’re a lover, a hater or an intrigued novice swept up in the excitement of it all, we’ve something for you this World Cup…

    Mari

    Firstly, for the haters. We know that, when you haven’t got your head in the sand and your fingers in your ears avoiding football, you’re a really nice bunch. You like a good laugh and you like rooting out curious libations – that’s why you subscribe to Odd News, right? So, to appease your football-weary souls, may we introduce a lama. “What???” you may splutter. But don’t worry, we’re not talking about the fluffy South American camel, we’re talking about Mari – Join the Lama (275ml, 5.9%, £3.95): a medium-sweet fusion of Mosel Riesling, fermented Yerba Maté (tea leaves) from Argentina and Austrian elderflower. It sounds mental but it tastes out of this world. Also from Austria and also rather leftfield, we have a sparkling Grüner Veltliner made by wine wunderkind Markus Huber. With all the sensual orchard fruit and bold spice of still Grüner Veltliner, wrapped up in an enticing, soft fizz, it’s a total delight. Supplies are limited, so get stuck in whilst you can.

    FOX

    Secondly, for the ‘intrigued novice swept up in the excitement of it all’, we have a cunning plan that involves watching the World Cup and winning a £50 gift card, without knowing a crumb about football. Here’s how it works:

    1. Purchase a pair of wines that are up against each other (wine matching explanations here; wine and fixtures here)
    2. Taste the wines at home. (This is easier with four friends or relatives).
    3. Score the wines thus: each taster decides if they prefer one wine over the other or if it’s a draw. Each person preferring a wine scores a goal for the corresponding team.  So if three tasters prefer wine A, one prefers wine B and one has no preference, your score is 3-1 to Wine A. If all 5 tasters don’t have a preference between the wines, your score is 0-0
    4. Post your score (whether it’s 3:2 or 0:0), with a picture of both wines together, on Twitter or Facebook, using @OddbinsWine. To state the bleedin’ obvious, Tweets must be posted before the match.*
    5. All correct predictions will win a £50 gift card**
    6. We do not accept bribes. Unlike certain members of a Geneva-based ‘not-for-profit organisation’ reportedly.

    *ReTweets do not count as entries
    **One prediction is allowed per person, per match

    DES OLLIEUXThirdly, for people who actually know about football. Regardless of whether England cling on to life tonight (Forza Italia!), you can win wine this World Cup. If you correctly predict any score, using your knowledge of the game, we’ll give you both teams’ representative wines. For example, if you predict that Germany will beat Ghana 3-1 tomorrow, you win Château Ollieux La Volière (representing France) and Oveja-Negra Sauvignon Blanc/Carmenère (representing Ghana). For all the team’s wines, click here. To repeat, we’re inviting you to call any match to win wine. Just reply to this email, or Tweet us @Oddbins, using #WorldCup, before the match.*

    *Again, one prediction is allowed per person, per match. ReTweets do not count as entries.

    Yea, though our football knowledge be sparse and our passion sporadic, we will find a way to involve wine in the World Cup in any way we can.

    Go football!

  • PROVOCATION, MOTORHEAD & AMP; FREEBIES FOR DADDY

     6 June, 2014

    The Oddbins Marketing Department is always trying to get our Buyer Ana to say provocative things. The most recent conversation, over a nice cup of Lady Grey, went something like this: “So, Ana – with two female finalists in The Palate* (our hunt to find the UK’s finest amateur wine taster) – and our two Listings (wines discovered on holiday and recommended to us by the public) sniffed out by women, would you say that women are better wine tasters than men?” To which Ana, thoughtful and unwilling to be drawn on such assertions, replies “no, I don’t think you can say that. What I would say is women are at least as good as men, but none is better than the other.” At which we nod sagely. But why don’t we test this out for ourselves, dear reader? This Father’s Day (Sunday June 15, lest we forget…), why not get the old man one of the tasty morsels below and get him to send us a tasting note to daddystastingnote@oddbins.com. If we agree with what he says, we’ll send him a £30 online gift voucher.

    Peat Monster

    So, first up is Daddy’s favourite, Scotch whisky. The Peat Monster, from the Compass Box Whisky Company, is a blissful blend of peated Highland whiskies. Adorned with a beautiful yet bonkers label featuring some kind of gremlin, it looks great, but just wait ‘til he rips the top off. With deeply satisfying bonfire aromas and heady spicy notes, it’ll give him lots to chew on as he’s writing his tasting note. But we insist you do a Scout’s Honour right now and promise not to give him our tasting note….

    *Pauses whilst you solemnly salute the screen*

    … Right, moving on.

    Local Beer

    Maybe your Dad isn’t like other Dads. If he’s like some Dads, he’s more into curious beers, Motörhead and doing up the motorbike (still), and would be happy as a sandboy with a case of local beer. In that case, we’d wag our finger towards our Local Beer – London Mixed Case of 12. Featuring beers from trailblazing brewers, including Stu and Claire at the East London Brewery, and Gary Ward at Bethnal Green’s Redchurch Brewery, it contains some of the best brews from the capital. Redchurch’s Pale Ale, for example, is a bold, fresh ale and – for the geeks out there – is made with high quality Maris Otter pale malt, with a blend of American and New Zealand-sourced hops. If your Dad’s a real BeerHëad, he’ll probably write a thesis on the history and merits of these respective hops, and we can only encourage this.

    Bourgogne Sous La Velle

    And finally. For the more dapper, linen-suited, jazz-hands Dads out there, we’ve a little secret from Burgundy that you really ought to know about… Its name is Bourgogne Blanc Sous la Velle Christian Bellang 2012, but the title belies the fact that half of this wine is made with Chardonnay grapes from Meursault. Because their appellation (certified wine region) doesn’t allow Meursault on the label, they declassified it and called it ‘Bourgogne’. Basically that’s the equivalent of putting the Brazilian football team in the Mexico team kit...  It’s a bargain.

    ‘Til next time.

    *Last chance to enter Round One of The Palate is this weekend (June 7/8) – get down to your local shop to take part, absolutely free. Alternatively, you can take part at Stockbridge Farmers’ Market, Edinburgh, on 8 June and at The Oddbins Wine Fair at The Church on the Hill, Glasgow – get your tickets from any Glasgow Oddbins (map here: http://www.oddbins.com/ourstores).

  • AND THE AWARD FOR THE WORST SPEECH GOS TO...

    Award acceptance speeches can be tricky. Alex Turner, the cheeky little Arctic Monkey, exemplified this in a rambling, bitter and frankly hilarious diatribe on rock ‘n’ roll when collecting Best British Group award at The Brits recently. What people say at awards ceremonies is often very telling: Alex Turner is clearly frustrated; some people have extraordinary egos; some are plain confused. It is with this in mind that we look at some of the winners and losers of the wine world – starting, modestly, with ourselves.

    On Wednesday evening, we were delighted to receive the Specialist Chain Award for our Portuguese wine range, from the Association of Portuguese Wine Importers. So now we’re all here, gathered together at our computers/iPads/phones, we’re going to make an acceptance speech of the tearful, ‘thanking gazillions of people’ ilk. But don’t worry, we’re not naming individuals; we’re naming a single group: you, our customers. We can line our shelves with all the Portuguese wine in the world, but there ain’t no point unless people actually buy the stuff. And you have! You’ve embraced the unpronounceable grape varieties and the unknown wine regions with open arms. One wine that you particularly love is also beloved of the press. Hamish Anderson, in The Telegraph, recently said of Quinta dos Roques (£12.25), that ‘although [it’s] their ‘entry-level’ bottling, it delivers plenty: rich brambly fruit, leather and black pepper. Its grip of tannin is best served alongside hearty food – steak or a rich stew’. Hamish, we agree. Keep spreading the Portuguese word and maybe we’ll retain this title for a third year running. But for now, *wiping tears from our blotchy red face*, thank you, customers. This one’s for you.

    One country that you don’t hear much about in the wine world is Romania. They haven’t quite nailed the Alistair Campbell school of PR, but what they have nailed is stylish, cracking value wine. If they were to make an acceptance speech, it would most likely be humble, self-effacing and quick. So we’d like to step up to the platform and make a bit of noise on their behalf, principally about Frunza Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio. These wines come in at £6.50, arrive dressed in very modest, yet chic labels, and they are fantastic. We’ve never tasted Pinot Noir so good under £7; it’s soft, it’s moreish and bursting with berry goodness. And the can easily compete with Pinot Grigios twice the price. So down with humility! Down with self-effacement – this stuff is brilliant and we hereby crown Frunza the One of the Most Excellent Wineries, Like, Ever.

    And lastly, as we’re getting a little tired and emotional, we’ll hand over to Dan, the Manager at Oddbins Chorlton, which held its own Win(e)ter Olympics (see what we did there?) last week…
    “Dan here! Throughout the last few weeks me and the gang have been re-tasting rather lovely tipples left, right and centre, in our quest to crown the ultimate bargain of bargains on our shelves. Without further ado, here are some highlights: Best Bargain Red goes to Paseo Red (£5.75), from Portugal, A.K.A. ‘The one with the bike on it’. Our little Portuguese friend here is seriously good value and seriously quaffable; Best Bargain Fine Wine goes to Filipa Pato FP Branco (£11.75), from Portugal. We finish on an absolute stonker here: featured in February's edition of Decanter Magazine, it was named as their ‘Must Try White’ in their ‘20 Great Wines Under £25’, scoring a whopping 94/100. A pear, white fruit and mineral affair that just begs for simple, fresh seafood.”

    Before we go, we have to thank our Mum. Mum – we love you.

  • THE ARK OF LOVE

    When we moan about the weather here in Britain, we usually do so with a grim sense of humour, draw up our coats and go about business as usual, mumbling about it being nice weather for ducks. But our recent hammering by Atlantic storms is testing even the most stiff upper lipped of us. Here at Oddbins Towers, whilst we can’t control nature, build an Ark (round or otherwise) or prevent the predictable bun-fight of people trying to score political points in hastily-purchased Hunter wellies, we can – and will – do the only thing we know how... free Champagne anyone?!
    As British and as controversial as our misbehaving jet stream, Disraeli certainly had a valid point about passion. Enter stage left, Drappier Exception 2008; a Champagne that doesn’t have a PR machine spinning away behind it, or music mogul clientele, but what it does have by the truckload is passion. Drappier is a family-owned House that's mad keen on Pinot Noir, who happen to be the former supplier of Charles de Gaulle. The love and energy they put into their wines is evident in the 2008: with flavours of freshly baked cinnamon buns paired with cleansing acidity, it’s an absolute charmer and has made Drappier converts of our staff and customers alike (plus, with £4 off, it has extra allure). So today, on this rain-lashed Valentine’s Day, we’re putting this big hunk o’ passion on free tasting in most shops, which are not flooded, we assure you*.

    *Flood status correct as we went to print.

    Meanwhile, for those inconvenienced by the recent tube strikes or those who just love their beer, our London shops will be offering a free tasting of London Fields Brewery’s rather fine range. And, if you’re after an alternative to Cadbury’s Milk Tray this Valentine’s Day, we’d thoroughly recommend their Chocolate Porter. Plus, you can get the Milk Tray Man look for free as you splosh through puddles on your way back from Oddbins, all because the lady loves a nice Porter…

    February 14 is unquestionably a day to celebrate being big Down Under, right?! Seems like the perfect opportunity to discuss our love-in with creative genius Ben Glaetzer who – along with his chums in Langhorne Creek, South Australia – creates wines to make you go weak at the knees. As well as having a very Valentine's-friendly name, his Heartland Dolcetto Lagrein is a brilliant example of Italian grape varieties thriving in Australia. If bright, perfumed and sensuous is how you like your ideal dinner companion, then Ben’s bottles are bound to have you at g’day. His wines are available online and in selected shops and you can get up close and personal with Ben on our Meet the Winemaker page here.
    But if neither free Champagne nor craft beer tastings can alleviate your displeasure at the weather, then you may want to go On The Road to the Americas. No, we’re not going to take you on a personal quest for meaning and belonging across the United States - as romantic as that may sound - but 'Beat' a track further south, to the enticing climes of the Caribbean. Distilled in Guatemala, and aged in the Solera method used in sherries, Ron Zacapa’s Solera Rum offers real escapism and currently has £5 off. The oldest part of this mix has been wending its way to the bottle for some 25 years and the result is sweet, unctuous and utterly sexy. It is swathed in heady caramel, dark chocolate, molasses, coconut and dried banana flavours, and its lingering finish is perfect for those who are in it for the long run…

    So, unless the Atlantic winds thwart us entirely, we’ll see you next time.

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