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Spirits

  • International Whisk(e)y Day

    Now, if you’ve ever been near a social media site, two things will likely have happened. Firstly, your internet soul was probably harvested by some pompous Etonian and a child with pink hair. Once they had it, they set some Ukrainian girls round your house who convinced you never to rule a small village in Sri Lanka. We know, you would’ve been like a young Chandrika Kumaratunga, those posh gits! Secondly, you probably noticed there’s quite a lot of days in celebration of stuff on social media. Most are stupid; like ‘World Brazil Nut Day’; it’s not even a real nut, nor is it exclusively from Brazil, we should just call it ‘South American Devious Seed Day!’ Yet, there is one day, that is more powerfully festive than Christmas, Easter and ‘South American Devious Seed Day’ combined; we are of course talking about ‘International Whisky Day’. This morning people up and down the country leant out of their respective windows to ask of their respective paper boys, “what’s today my fine fellow?” To which they received the reply, “Today? Why, it’s International Whisky Day!” In honour of this most auspicious occasion we thought we’d play the role of the ghost of International Whisky Past, Present & Future…

    Scotch-Whisky

    What is Single Malt Scotch Whisky?

    It’s pretty straight forward actually; it must be made from 100% malted barley and come from a single distillery. That way, you get a whisky that’s truly expressive of that distillery and the place it hails from. This applies to whisky produced across Scotland, be it off the coast like Talisker or right down south like Glenkinchie. They’ll tell you a story those single malts… you just need a word or two of Gaelic.

    Bourbon

    What is Bourbon?

    (Don’t say chocolate biscuit, don’t say chocolate biscuit.) It’s a brown custard cream (Damn it!) The esteemed scion of Bourbon County, Kentucky - now made across the whole of the USA - is a grain whiskey that must consist of at least 51% corn. Bourbon’s flavour is defined by the maturation of the spirit; it must be aged in charred new oak barrels for a minimum of two years, imparting body, vanilla sweetness and whatever other qualities are sought by the distiller, be they the spice-and-honey complexity of Evan Williams, or the voluptuously spicy yet sweetness of Maker’s Mark Bourbon.Japan

    What are Japanese Whiskies Like?

    Whisky production in Japan began around 1870, but the first commercial production was in 1924 upon the opening of the country's first distillery, Yamazaki Perhaps the most renowned name in Japanese Whisky is Masataka Taketsuru. Taketsuru married a Scottish woman and while in Scotland, Taketsuru underwent a five-day crash course in distillation at Longmorn, also studying grain distillation at Bo’ness and spending five months at Hazelburn in Campbeltown. He took his knowledge back to Japan to help Shinjiro Torii establish the countries first distillery, Yamazaki. In 1934 he established his own distillery Dainipponkaju, which would later change its name to Nikka. Typically, Japanese whiskies are quite similar in style to Scotch, most malted barley and peat is shipped from the UK. Perhaps the most distinctive factor in Japanese whisky production is the use of ‘clear wort’ that typically gives the whiskies a crisp, clean and fruiter flavours opposed to cereal characters classic in Scotch.

    Irish

    How are Irish Whiskies Different?

    Firstly, they are spelt ‘Whiskey’ in Ireland not ‘Whisky’ because everyone felt understanding the world of spirits was far too easy without uniform spelling. Most consider Ireland the original home of whiskey with some records dating Irish distillation back to the 13th Century.  However, a long period of decline from the late 19th Century has seen Irish Whiskey over taken by many other whisky producing regions. For many decades Irish Whiskey production was dominated by two distilleries, however we’re pleased to say there’s a bit of a resurgence on. In the last few years new craft distilleries have been popping up like Teeling in Dublin and Glendalough that are producing truly astonishing small batch whiskies. Although there are a broad range of styles, Irish Whiskey is typically defined by being triple distilled and with minimal use of peat. This creates whiskies that are delicate, light-bodied and aromatic with notes of corn husk, dried citrus fruit and caramel.

  • St. Patrick's Day

    Paddys-Day-Blog-Banner Irish Whiskey for St Patrick's Day

    It’s St Paddy’s Day on Saturday! Where we can all ruin various delicious beverages by chucking a load of green food colouring in them. Our favourite is the river in Chicago that changes colour for a few hours; it’s reminiscent of when someone would micturate in a public swimming pool and an incriminating stream of green would lead straight back to the source. Was that real or was it a lifeguard conspiracy to keep us all docile and law-abiding? They were such squares; guarding our lives! We say, let’s march (but not run as it’s slippery) onto poolside, topple those ivory high chairs, give the swimming pools back to the people and dye them all green for St. Paddy’s Day! Woo revolution!

    If you are celebrating St Patrick’s Day we have some wonderful Irish whiskies and gins that will go down an absolute treat, we must also ask you to not attempt to overthrow the management of your local swimming pool, they’re actually doing a fine job.

  • 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).

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