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  • 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

  • Chimps Tea Party

    The door looks like it could lead into any pantry. And it does, sort of. A few square feet of crockery, cutlery, non-perishable foods, general kitchen clutter pushed out of the way into one small room. But what's down that little winding staircase at the end? Darkness, perhaps danger, a world of adventure? As our eyes adjust, we can make out wood, glass, a stillness perhaps eternally undisturbed, a sense that the place can get on quietly with its work without our help. As our ears attune to subliminal Gregorian chant, we fumble around the wall until we find an ancient Bakelite switch, and...

    Snazzy-Banner

    ...welcome to Snazzy's wine cellar! The chant gives way to the Ronettes singing Sleigh Ride, and strings of flashing Christmas lights adorn row upon row, rack upon rack of wines, a bottle encyclopedia of every vinous fascination, a cornucopia of Dionysian ecstasy! And certain gaps suggest that Snazzy is at home, dot dot dot...

    A chimp's tea party is a different thing altogether when Snazzy is hosting it. His guests are nonplussed, having brought along bananas, party blowers, a great many custard pies and even some tea. Instead, Snazzy has laid on some of their favourite wines from their time at Oddbins and they are swirling, sniffing and slurping. And these are truly fabulous wines. While they have all tried any number of wonders from Oddbins' glittering range, Snazzy has gone for the ones we'd normally save for a special occasion. Like a Christmas gathering!

    Notorious-Banner

    Notorious is enthused by a bottle of Gaja Dragomis Barolo"What I like about a good Barolo is that it will age for 20 years, even more, but if you open it now and let it breathe for a good while, it still delivers a profoundly rewarding wine experience. Oh my soul, herbs, spices, berries all coming together on the palate to give you what amounts to a delicatessen in a bottle. Made from the Nebbiolo grape, by the way, which is so named from the Nebbia, an October mist which used to herald the beginning of the harvest. They're rather more scientific nowadays." The other chimps are impressed by Notorious' fondness, unaware that his knowledge stems from time spent with a protective Sicilian family who had looked after him during a couple of, let's say, sensitive months.

    Barolo

    Crazy is enamoured of the Man O' War Dreadnought Syrah"This is from a world class winery, this is, 150 acres over a big spread of plots on Waiheke Island in Auckland Bay. Some of the steepest land in the area, giving the grapes a whole load of sunshine but with a cool breeze from the sea so they don't get too ripe and lose their unique character. Another savoury, Christmas dinner-type wine, with a blueberry and pepper vibe, stylistically not too far from a Northern Rhône masterpiece." What Crazy doesn't tell them is that he was drawn to the wine because "Dreadnought" sounded like his unstoppable approach to his social life.

    Dreadnought

    Snazzy himself is absorbed by a Chardonnay, World's End "Rebel Rebel" from California's Napa Valley. During the afternoon he has been asked once or twice how he funds his lavish lifestyle, breezily replying "oh, friends in high places, you know. And a couple on low places, just in case...". Right now, however, he is utterly consumed. "Now here's a winemaker for you," he announces to the diminishing attention of his friends. "Jonathan Maltus, played a big part in the Garagiste movement of the 1990's. Hugely impressive CV - Château Teyssier in Saint-Emilion, where you can also find his benchmark wine 'Le Dome', and now this." His eyes screw shut in a growing transport of vinous delight. "So complex yet so vibrant, pineapple and even pear drops on the nose, a crisp palate with the merest smidgen of oak, and that finish, it's still going on, it's, it's..." 

    Rebel

    He looks to the end of the table for approval and elaboration, an appropriate end to his rhapsody. "S'alright, I s'pose," concludes Outspoken. Snazzy looks at him as his face crumbles with disappointment. As his friends try to suppress their laughter, a custard pie hits him on the back of the head. Turning, unwisely, to see where it came from, two more hit him on either side of his face. The table falls into screeching, party blower uproar as Loveable pours a pot of cold tea down the front of Snazzy's trousers, and as he tries to back off he falls over a banana skin.

    Chimpmas has arrived.

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