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Tag Archives: Whisky

  • 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

  • The Chimpossible Dream

    Outspoken Chimp is sitting with friends watching himself on a video for the umpteenth time. The video concerns the seasonal takeover of a chain of wine stores by a bunch of likeable, if unruly chimps, and Outspoken has convinced himself and all around him that he is by far the star of the show. A former tabloid journalist, he has a great flair for persuading people to believe the clearly improbable. As another bottle of Girouette Sauvignon Blanc is passed around, the rather surprising finale takes him back to his journalistic heyday.

    Girouette-Sauvignon-Blanc

    'MUST WE FLING THIS FILTH AT OUR POP KIDS?' blared a headline in the Sunday People, back in the punk era, above a hysterical piece that accused the New Musical Express of covering the new music's attendant hysteria in tones verging on the hysterical. Even by tabloid standards, this was award-winning gobbledegook! Not to be outdone, Outspoken swung straight on to the bandwagon. Picking randomly on Mancunian no-hopers, Primate Scream, the Daily Spud's front page article 'PUNK ROCK DRUG HOUNDS BEAT UP VICAR' carried nothing to substantiate its headline, but seethed with enough ill-conceived outrage to drive the band's record sales through the roof. Outspoken subsequently left Grub Street behind, making the trek to Manchester to work as the band's PR. Tied up in the boot of their Austin Allegro, by his own account...

    Outspoken-Banner

    The band went from strength to strength, or at least from stunt to stunt, until their singer, Passionate Chimp, began to feel restless. The sincerity with which he dealt with the band's subject matter - creationism, species-ism, dodgy Clint Eastwood films - was beyond reproach, but he was wishing the audience would show their approval with something other than phlegm. Maybe they could leave flowers at the front of the stage, like they did for Barbra Streisand, or a bottle of deliciously elegant wine like Domaine Condamine Syrah-Mourvèdre, or even throw their...ahem, that's quite enough now...

    Syrah-Mourvedre

    On a night off in the middle of a tour, he wanders into a cabaret club in Liverpool. A listless turn has the audience tapping their toes politely while eating chicken in a basket and gazing into glasses of Vin Tres Ordinaire. During the interval, Passionate Chimp takes the stage and starts cautiously to sing 'The Way We Were', an evolutionary favourite. The bouncers move to throw him off until they notice that people are paying attention. He glides into '(They Long To Be) Close To You', an anti-creationism classic, and people are looking fondly into each other's eyes and swaying gently while they push the boat out with some Anxo Albarino.

    Anxo-Martin

    By 'Ape-ril In Paris', the original act has packed up and wobbled home, having drowned his mediocrity with Kavalan Concert Master Taiwanese whisky; and as Passionate brings the house down with 'Lover Come Back To Me', the man with the bucket of 'roses for the lady' has sold out completely, the whole lot piled up at the front of the stage! The audience are on their feet, grown men are in tears and the club is in uproar, and as Passionate Chimp gathers up the flowers, buried among them he sees - yes! - underwear! A Littlewoods panty girdle with a phone number written on it in lipstick. Passionate hasn't been here an hour and already he has arrived!

    Passionate-Banner

    Making notes in a dark corner stands Outspoken himself. Even he has never convinced so many people so unequivocally of his own greatness. He mooches over to a man in a sheepskin coat, his hands bedecked with sovereign rings, and starts making arrangements.

    Is this the end for Primate Scream? Will Tom Jones be dethroned by a chimpanzee? Will our hero dial the number on the Littlewoods passion killers? Tune in next week, and in the meantime keep the heat turned up with a bottle of La Multa Garnacha, a hot blooded continental with a powerful body that you won't want to share with anybody else!

    La-Multa

  • 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!"

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, A RIGHT ROYAL CARRY ON AND THE (CORNISH) MINORITY REPORT

    The world is scary and, quite frankly, the news does nothing to help. They could give us more heart-warming stories about kittens but, oh no, they have to tell us about Eastern European conflict that’s threatening to destabilise the entire continent. It’s like Orson Welles famous The War of the Worlds radio broadcast from the 30's all over again – except that whilst the US public was huddled under the kitchen table with the misguided assumption that aliens had landed, we’re huddled under the table in justified fear. So, we say, shun the news-stand, turn off the radio and telly and enjoy an alternative take on the news from yours truly, via the medium of delicious wine and whisky. So much better than actual news.
    Whilst Kate and Wills proudly parade young George around Australia and the press coo at his every hiccup and marvel at the wisdom of Kate’s choice of dress, we have a slightly different bundle of joy for you. It is not teething and its surname isn’t Windsor, but it sure is cute: it’s Oddbins’ Spring Breeze Mixed Case. It’s a selection of bright ‘n’ breezy wines for the bargainous price of £50, including the eternally popular, pear-scented Prosecco Ca’Rosa (£10), so you can raise a glass to George (and his dragon-bothering namesake, if you didn’t do so on Wednesday).
    Speaking of national pride, we now turn our beady eye to Cornwall, with the news that, as the BBC put it, ‘Cornwall is not England’. Yes, the region has won its battle for minority status, in recognition that there’s more to Cornwall than pasties and the grumpy yet affable Doc Martin. Great news for Cornwall. But, though we love them and they have the best regional flag ever, we are going to disagree with Tori here. We think we've spotted one down-side; Ireland, Wales and most definitely Scotland all produce famous whisky, so if they’re joining the gang in their official minority status, we reckon this is a ‘could do better’ area. Scotland has new malts coming out of ears, such as Flaughter, from anCnoc (the C’s silent, the flavours aren’t). anCnoc usually offer a more gentle, honeyed Highland style, but Flaughter (£55) is a new arrival that combines come-hither vanilla and toffee flavours with smoky, manfully peaty notes. Take heed Cornwall!
    Now. If we offered you six years’ pay for only 10 months’ work, you’d take it, right? Well unlike Manchester United’s remarkably well-remunerated former manager, David Moyes, you’re not quite so lucky. But – ta da – we have an alternative offer to ease your bitter disappointment. How about the chance to win one of two pairs of tickets to the terrifically trendy (people still say terrific, don’t they?) Meltdown festival this summer for simply subscribing to this newsletter (i.e. for doing nought).  Not bad eh? The winners will be announced in the next email, so stay tuned.

    Anyhoo. If we’ve managed to coax you from under the kitchen table in the tentative hope that the apocalypse isn’t nigh, then why not celebrate with a glass of the luscious, star anise, cinnamon and blackberry-flavoured antidote to unpleasant news that is Domaine de l’Arnesque’s Côtes du Rhône ‘Fleur de Garrigues’ (£9.25). And… relax. Just stay away from the radio.

    ‘Til next time.

  • FOR PEAT’S SAKE

    In search of the perfect summer whisky…
    Old Pulteney Barrels
    Big flavours are all the rage at the moment. The hit of chilli, lime, coriander and garlic provided by Vietnamese, Thai, Argentinian and Mexican food seems to have gazumped the gentle flavours of the Japanese cuisine that became so trendy in the 1980s. UK brewers seem to be following their American counterparts by cranking the hoppiness up to 11. New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, still delivering that roundhouse of gooseberry, tropical fruit and cut grass, couldn’t be more fashionable if each one were served by Ryan Gosling wearing an immaculately tailored suit and smouldering as he pours. And the most popular names on the lips of malt whisky drinkers are those distilleries that are ratcheting up the peat level. But here at Oddbins we have a few questions…

    What’s wrong with a delicious noodle broth and green tea? Why is it so hard to find a subtle pint of mild these days? Surely there’s still a place for the refinement of Sancerre? And doesn’t peat sometimes mask the delicacy and character of the original malt?

    Alastair, Scott, Ross and Ttom hard at work tasting

    Let’s start at the logical place: the beginning. To make malt whisky you need malt. But for fermentation you need sugar and this is locked in the malt as starch, which isn’t soluble in water and is therefore pretty much useless. To get the sugar out, you have to trick the malt into germinating, so that it starts to get ready to grow and turns the starch into the more easily usable sugar. To do this you soak it, then spread it out on the floor and leave it to do its thing. The germination is then stopped by drying the malt in a kiln, and this requires fuel. Big chunks of the Scottish Highlands are treeless and remote, so the locals used peat, defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “a brown, soil-like material characteristic of boggy, acid ground, consisting of partly decomposed vegetable matter.” Mmm delicious. Peat burns well and there’s quite a lot of it in Scotland, but when you burn it, it expels more smoke than the cast of Mad Men, and this pervades the final whisky giving an unmistakable smoky character. It’s a fine line between the peat enhancing the whisky and it becoming the defining character.

    Now don’t get us wrong, we love a peaty whisky. There’s something spectacular about an Islay malt. Those who receive our fortnightly emails may remember us waxing lyrical about one of our favourite peaty drams as follows…

    “You walk out of the cold wind flecked with sea spray, through the door of the smokehouse. The smoky warmth envelopes you like a billowing duvet as shrivelling Arbroath Smokies swing pendulously. A rugged Scot with the enormous tattooed arms of a sailor is flinging clods of peat on to the fire with a shovel. A rogue lump flies off the spade and hits you firmly in the face causing you to stagger backwards into the fisherman who has just arrived with his haul. You slip on a spilled haddock and fall at the feet of the fisherman, coming to a final rest on his rubber galoshes covered in seaweed. That’s what the manly Smokehead Islay Malt Whisky tastes like and it’s good.”

    So we know it might sound controversial to say this, but we sometimes find the peat a bit heavy for these summer months. On top of which, peat is also the Marmite of the whisky drinking world. So what’s the alternative? Well, they might not be quite so hip and cool right now, but there’s a plethora of less peaty and more summery malts out there. So we hit the road to find them…

    Knockdhu Sign

    First stop was Knockdhu, who produce the incredible anCnoc whisky. We think this forward thinking distillery is one of the big names to watch in the whisky world. These guys took it in their stride when people confused them with Knockando and changed the name of their whisky (how many other distilleries would do that?), when snow destroyed two of their warehouses in 2010 they just built a new one and used that as an excuse for a party, and eschewing boring calligraphy and olde worlde stylings they even let a New York artist design their labels. If anyone is going to give malt whisky a modern makeover, it is Knockdhu. Having said that, as innovative as their thinking is, the whisky-making process is hands-on and old school, as you can tell by the photo of the only computer used in making anCnoc.

    anCnoc's Computer

    In whisky circles a lot is made of the “angels’ share”, the romantic name for the malt that evaporates through the barrels as it is aged. But during our visit, Alistair Reid, the Assistant Distillery Manager, said that in the old days at Knockdhu, so much whisky was stolen by or given away to employees and locals, that he believed “the angels’ share was a fallacy.” Although they claim that those days are long gone, if you visit them, they’re so jovial we weren’t convinced that they don’t pinch a wee dram from time to time. And we wouldn’t blame them, Alastair from our Aberdeen shop described the anCnoc 12 Year Old as being as “easy going as the distillery”, the oak is gentle, there’s no overpowering peat, just complex malt, barley sugars, honeycomb, citrus, pear, apple and praline flavours. The smoothness accompanied by that twist of refreshing citrus makes this a perfect malt for watching the sun set at the end of a summer’s day. The richer anCnoc 16 Year Old, aged purely in bourbon casks, is available in our shops and will be on the web soon.

    Balblair Sign

    Next stop was Balblair, the Highlands’ oldest distillery. We fell in love with it immediately when Distillery Manager John MacDonald bounded out in his tweed jacket and warmly greeted the postie, who had arrived at the same time as us, by name and then told us that it was a wine merchant who had turned the fortunes of this distillery around after the war. Maybe that’s why they opt for vintages on their labels rather than the traditional age statements. Carrying on the whisky-making lesson, the next step is to mill the malt into coarse flour called “grist”. Balblair believe that the importance of this process should not be underestimated, so John checks it daily to make sure the grist is perfect. Hot water is added, which dissolves the sugar, creating a sugary liquid that is unappetisingly called “wort”. The wort is moved into a big vessel called a washback and yeast is added. This starts to ferment, producing what is in essence a beer, called “wash”. Sometimes this can be like an ale, sometimes it can be quite malty, but at Balblair, as Ross from our Mitchell Street shop in Glasgow pointed out, it smells like a fruity weissbier. And this gives you an idea of what to expect when you try their single malt.

    Paragraph-9-So-that's-the-wash

    In a nutshell Balblair whiskies hit a fruitiness that no other distillery comes close to. There is no peat in them and very few sherry casks are used, making them clean and balanced. The refreshing Balblair 2001 (a 10 Year Old) is an aperitif malt, offering up toffee apple, custard creams, pear, pineapple, orange, lemon and vanilla. There isn’t much of this vintage left, so don’t miss out, the 2002 will be arriving soon. The Balblair 1997, available in our shops, has just won a gold medal at the International Spirits Challenge 2013. The heavier Balblair 1989 (a 23 Year Old) is rich with caramel, vanilla cream, nutty spices, banana, apple and lemon. Yours truly, fancied trying this with a crème caramel on a summer’s evening, but the guys at Balblair were unfortunately not forthcoming with the pudding or the sunshine, as the drizzle set in over Tain.

    Balblair's MaltsFinally, we headed to the most northerly distillery on the mainland: Old Pulteney. We may not have been quite as exciting as the Russian millionaires who visited the day before or the killer whales who swam through the bay in search of seals that morning, but Malcolm Waring, the Distillery Manager, still made us feel like part of the family. The barrels in Wick used to be filled with herring, but now the majority of barrels here contain award winning single malt (apparently a German chap tried ageing a whisky in a herring barrel, but we think he was told politely that he could keep the results for himself). Old Pulteney’s malt has maintained a maritime feel, even if Wick has not. Malcolm tells us that they are “making hay at the moment”, the fact that their 21 Year Old just won Jim Murray’s World Whisky of the Year 2012 must have helped. Old Pulteney is referred to as the “Manzanilla of the North”, due to its salty twang and is aged mainly in bourbon casks from Jack Daniels, Buffalo Trace and Maker’s Mark, for three reasons. The first is that bourbon casks are cheaper than sherry casks, the second is that they don’t impart as much flavours, which keeps the purity of the malt, and finally because bourbon casks add sweetness that balances the saltiness of Old Pulteney perfectly. Only two people own single casks of Old Pulteney, one is Prince Charles and if you can tell us who the other one is we might offer you a prize.

    Old Pulteney SignThe Old Pulteney 12 Year Old has lashings of salt, lemon, sweet coconut and banana pith. The Old Pulteney 17 Year Old has a little Oloroso sherry influence adding richness and cooked fruit into the mix. One third of the Old Pulteney 21 Year Old is aged in Fino sherry casks and the complexity of it cannot be explained, you just have to try it to find out why this was voted the best whisky in the world. While sitting on a wall in the sunshine eating fish and chips with a dram of Old Pulteney trying to decide which was the perfect summer malt, Scott, from our Queensferry Street shop in Edinburgh, started telling us that he’d just seen a seagull (or a scurry as they call them in Wick), that was as big as a Westie. At that point we decided it might be time to come home.

    Old Pulteney Sign

    In conclusion, peat is awesome, but during the summer months, such as they are, we much prefer these gentle but refreshing malts aged in bourbon casks. (TO)

    This post was written while drinking: Semeli Feast White. OK, we know it sounds sacrilegious, but after all that whisky, we just fancied a glass of wine. This new wine of ours has proven almost as popular in Scotland as whisky, receiving praise from Tom Bruce-Gardyne in The Herald, Rose Murray Brown in Scotland on Sunday and Tom Cannavan who made it his wine of the week on his Wine Pages website. But it isn’t just north of the border, Tim Atkin also made it his wine of the week. High praise for an £8.50 Greek white: crunchy, floral, spicy and more importantly it’s undeniably summery. Wish that heat wave would hurry up.

  • DAD'S THE WORD

    Just in case you’ve forgotten, Sunday is Father’s Day. Unfortunately the big day is now a bit too close for us to get online orders there in time, although to be honest most Dads are probably so used to waiting around for their kids, that if a present arrives a couple of days late, he might not even notice. The good news though is that there is still time to get yourself to one of our shops. So in this edition of Oddnews we’re offering up some sound fatherly advice for anyone looking for a little late inspiration…

    If your Dad is a bit of a red wine-loving maddo, try him on La Folle Noire d’Ambat (a bargain at £10). “La Folle Noire” means “the crazy black”. We have no idea what “Ambat” means. Wikipedia suggests it is a mythical hero from Malekula Island, Vanuatu. But this wine is from just north of Toulouse in the South of France, so we’re not quite sure that can be right. You can’t always trust the internet though. The producer, Domaine Le Roc’s, website says about this wine: “Cette cuvée appelle à grignoter, à saucissonner et soutient remarquablement la conversation.” If you put that into Google Translate it suggests nibbling on something quite unexpected, which would definitely provoke the remarkable conversation that it also says it is a good match for. But enough of that. Made from 100% Négrette (a descendent of an ancient Cypriot grape variety) this meaty and manly red has received high praise from critic Jamie Goode, who gave it 92 out of 100 and declared “I just love this wine.” Recently described by another wine writer, Andrew Campbell, as “simply bizarre”, this eccentric little red is quite the adventure…

    If you were thinking of buying Pops a bottle of whisky this year, don’t just buy him the usual, explore his adventurous side and plump for something a little out of the ordinary. We’ve fallen in love with the picturesque Balblair distillery. Opened in 1790, it is the oldest distillery in the highlands (making it even older than wild west legend Buffalo Bill). Rather than producing whiskies with fixed aged statements (e.g. 12 year old, 15 year old, 18 years old, etc), they bottle only the casks that have reached perfection each year, creating wonderful vintage malts that capture a snapshot in time. It is also an incredibly friendly place; on a recent visit, we loved that Distillery Manager John MacDonald greeted the postman by name (we have to admit that we don’t know our postie’s name, but have decided that we will find out next time he comes round). When you make a whisky, the first step is to make a beer, which is called the wash. At Balblair the smell of the wash is like that of a delicious fruity weissbier. This beer is then distilled producing a new-make spirit, which is then aged in oak barrels. We have never tasted a richer, fruitier or more delicious new-make spirit than Balblair’s. The fruitiness carries all the way through their whisky making process, and when you uncork a bottle of Balblair 2001 (currently on offer at £38), it erupts with apples, lemons, oranges, pears, pineapples, custard cream biscuits and vanilla. Smooth, but remarkably fresh, this whisky is the perfect way to unwind after an adventure, buffalo-related or otherwise. We’re now wondering what Buffalo Bill’s daughters would have answered to the following question…
    McCain really posed one of the 20th Century’s toughest conundrums with this one. Although the little girl in the advert was pretty confident that she’d solved it, we think we have a better idea… why not have both? Forget taking the old man out for an expensive meal or having to labour over a hot stove, simply grab a bottle of Canard-Duchêne Authentic Brut  (currently on offer at £20) and head to the chippy. Champagne with fish and chips is one of life’s decadent little pleasures. If you haven’t tried it, or more importantly, if your Dad hasn’t tried it, treat him this Sunday. The full but fresh style of the multi award winning Canard-Duchêne (IWSC Silver, Decanter Bronze and IWC Bronze) makes it the perfect choice. Daddy or chips? Both please and a side portion of Daddy’s Sauce and maybe some mushy peas.

    That’s all from us, but while we are talking of mushiness, we’ll leave you with a clichéd, but nonetheless factually accurate, quote from tennis star Maria Sharapova…

    “Without my Dad, I wouldn’t be here.”

  • OUR LOVE LETTER TO YOU

    Putting Our Hearts on the Line (and into the Wine)

    Dear customer,

    We know we probably shouldn’t be writing to you now: it’s well past midnight, we’ve had a dram of whisky and we’re feeling a bit misty-eyed. But we have something to tell you, something important… we love you!

    The thing is, customer, we’d be nothing without you and we thought that we should let you know how appreciative we are. We first got thinking about all this last month, when we noticed that you struggle to find the time to unwind, and show yourself a bit of TLC. You may have noticed the posters we put in our shops to remind you to treat yourself, like our very subtle “Relax with some red wine IMMEDIATELY” poster.

    But the nearer it gets to Christmas, the more we’re reflecting on how lucky we are to have you. When you think about it, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster of a journey: there have been heady highs, when we felt light and dizzy just at the thought of you, and there were lows when we felt empty and we weren’t sure if we’d make it. But when times got tough, you….*sobs*…. stuck with us….*loud sniffing*.

    However, we think you’ll agree that, these days, things are pretty swell. In fact, we reckon things are better than ever. As our lovely Head of Buying, Emma Nichols, said recently: “People talk about the glory days of Oddbins, but I’m excited now because I think the glory days are ahead of us.” So to hell with looking back, our sights are firmly locked on the future because our love was meant to last.

    We believe that the reason our love is so strong is that we are doing what relationship counsellors will advise any partner: we are listening to you. We’ve understood your needs and desires and we’ve been going hell-for-leather making them happen, baby…

    We’ve re-stocked our shelves with some dangerously exciting products that have got the wine world a-chattering, like the fabulous Le Cigare Volant from the talented folk at Bonny Doon, our mind-bendingly innovative Cellarfoot Underwater Syrah, the most incredible Pinotage ever created in the Chamonix Pinotage and our Portuguese range, which has been much lauded in the press.

    We’ve been holding regular, free tastings and have provided a gamut of easy, fun ways to buy your wine. For example, you can peruse the latest case of wine handpicked by our very own bloggers, or buyers, or if it’s gifts (corporate or otherwise) you’re after, we have a range of ready-to-go gift sets, available pre-packed that we can deliver to single or multiple addresses complete with personalised gift messages.

    But we’ve been learning too: you told us you’d love more local beer on our shelves and, loving you deeply as we do, we took this very seriously and now have nearly 150 local ales in total. From southwest London we have, for example, the very popular Rocky Head Pale Ale, made by Steve Daniels, a former Head Buyer with Oddbins, while in Oxford we have the festive brew Tannenbaum, from the Compass Brewery. Also from London we have a range of exceptional ales from microbreweries like Moncada and London Fields. In Bristol we have the spiced Bristoltoe from the Bristol Beer Factory, which won the 2011 BBC Food and Farming Awards, while in Scotland we have Jarl from Fyne Ales, which scooped gold at last year’s International Beer Challenge.

    Now although we can’t buy you presents (sorry to tear down the “fourth wall”, but you do realise we are a wine merchant and not your lover, don’t you?), but what we can do is to offer you splendiferous prices...  like the delicate yet yeasty Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV, which is down to a very approachable £30 (was £40), the French grape-based G'Vine Nouaison Gin £33.50 (was £38.50) and the Sauternes and cognac barrel aged Excellia Blanco Tequila £39 (was £44).

    If you’re thinking “yes, yes, this is all well and good, I know you love me, just tell me what is going to go well with me Brussels Sprouts you daft idiot”,

    …then allow us to direct you to our Oddbins 12 Wines of Christmas case. Delivered straight to your door, for £115, you get 12 delicious, handpicked wines. From the gorgeously smooth Sandeman LBV 2007 to the ‘people’s Cava’ Condesa Blanca; from the bestselling, practically iconic Quinta de Bons Ventos to the honeyed and gentle Concha y Toro Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, this case has it all.

    We have some flipping fabulous new Fine Wine arrivals too, the kind that would transform the most humble Pigs-in-Blankets into something altogether more exalted, such as Château Gloria Saint-Julien 2007 (£38). Firm, supple, full-of-fruit but perfectly-balanced, it is a dream of a wine. But do you know what would look really good on the Christmas table? A giant magnum of loveliness, like the Louis Alegre Crianza Rioja 2008.

    Well, we really must go to bed now, it’s getting light outside and if we continue all this mushy stuff we might end up saying something embarrassing. But before we go, we should tell you that… (LT)

    This post was written while drinking: Old Pulteney 21 Year Old. We pushed the boat out, because that’s just the effect you have on us. Crowned king of the whisky world by Jim Murray in 2012, it really is a handsome malt. As Mr Murray says, it “explodes from the glass with vitality, charisma and class." It might have you writing love letters throughout the night, though. As a last thought, and as we’re writing about things we love, we thought we’d dig out an old favourite from the criminally funny Monty Python, the Upper Class Twit of the Year Competition...

    Remind you of anyone? Let us know in the comments box below...

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