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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Booze, glorious booze [20090515|10:40]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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[the weather today is |ebullient]
[with a hint of |Garfunkel & Oates - Present Face]

I've been wittering about SCIENCE an awful lot this week so I figured that since it's Friday, I'd talk about BOOZE instead.

On Wednesday night, imyril, her boy, a uni friend of his and I went to a whisky tasting at Vinopolis in London Bridge. We tasted seven whiskies from the Japanese distiller, Suntory. They sent along their master blender to teach us about their distilleries and the amazing amount of control exercised over their products. For instance, these people don't just buy sherry casks from producers in Spain to put their whisky in to mature. Oh no. That's not good enough. They go to the oak forests in northern Spain, select the trees that they want to be made into barrels and supervise the drying of the planks. Then they go to the cooperage to make sure that the barrels are assembled to specifications. Then they go to the sherry producers and say, "Please will you put your sherry in our barrels for a couple of years." They ensure that the barrels aren't filled with water or fish or anything else that doesn't belong in there. When the sherry is ready, they empty the barrels and ship them to Japan.

I'm pretty sure no other whisky producers in the world go to quite such lengths. Anyway, this chap was clearly a big nerdy chemist, and I was loving every minute of it. He used the Latin names for oak types and wasn't afraid of mentioning tylose. I don't think my sentiments were shared by everyone in the room, though, as his geeky lecture prevented the tasting of the tantalizing glasses in front of us until a good 45 minutes from the start.

  • Yamazaki 12 yo single malt: A light, honeyed easy drinker, with the exception of the rather smoky finish.
  • Yamazaki 18 yo single malt: As the big brother of the 12, I didn't feel it quite delivered. Smoothing the edges out somehow took away some of the interest.
  • Hakushu 12 yo: You know, I owned a bottle of this and finished it, and the second time around I didn't enjoy it. My palate was solidly overhwelmed by the smoke from nose to finish, and though adding water helped, it wasn't enough.
  • Hakushu 18 yo: This rich, deep sipper with the curly caramel edges transported me instantaneously to my happy place. Mind you, I was already feeling pretty relaxed. It broke my will not to buy anything. A bottle of it came home with me.
  • Hibiki 17 yo blend: Good for people who don't actually like whisky all that much and would rather be drinking cognac.
  • Hibiki 21 yo blend: See above, except with an oily finish that lingers much too long, rather like an ex-boyfriend that won't go away. I can't believe this costs upwards of £200/bottle.
  • Yamazaki Limited Edition Sherry Cask: On the other hand, I can't believe this is going to go for only £80/bottle. A piquant little delicacy, like rum-soaked raisins or chocolate-covered coffee beans. Sadly not available until September, but you can bet I'll save up for it.

We walked along the South Bank to Waterloo station to go home. You know, I've been here for five years and that view over the Thames, St Paul's Cathedral, the bridges, the dim lights in the water...it still has the power to make the thought hit me like a suckerpunch: god I love London.

[User Picture]From: nimoloth
2009-05-15 13:10 (UTC)
I've never seen Japanese whisky anywhere - I wonder if Gordon would like it? I don't drink whisky, but I like the smell! All the whisky up here is Scottish, with a bit of Irish if the bar has a very extensive collection.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-05-18 09:31 (UTC)
It's possible he might like them quite a lot, as they've diligently copied the Scottish techniques for distilling and aging whiskies. However, it is relatively expensive to obtain a nice bottle of Suntory or Nikka whisky when you can generally get a Scottish equivalent (in terms of nose/taste/finish) for about half the price. I recommend going to a tasting, because then you can sample quite a few and decide if you think they're worth it.
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[User Picture]From: wiggyfish
2009-05-15 14:50 (UTC)
I visited the Jack Daniels plant a couple of months ago. They claim to be the only distiller that maintains an onsite cooperage, and while they are particular about the wood, I don't remember anyone saying anything about picking specific trees. The barrels are charred ("toasted"?) for flavor and are only used once, after which they become remarkably comfortable rocking chairs.

I have never seen Japanese whiskey here either, though you can bet I'll go looking for the Yamazaki Limited Edition. Your description intrigues me.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-05-18 09:32 (UTC)
I don't think they can claim to be the only distiller that maintains an on-site cooperage, as, if the pictures were to be believed, it looks like the Yamazaki distillery in Tokyo has one for their Japanese oak barrels.

You should look for it, oh yes. It's going to be most wonderfully underpriced. :-D
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-05-18 09:35 (UTC)
It's very odd to me that I didn't like it. Perhaps it was the wrong time of the month.

Now I'm regretting missing the Glenmorangie tasting. Hopefully there'll be another this year? *bounce* I'm raring to go to more.
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[User Picture]From: automatic_kafka
2009-05-15 21:13 (UTC)
Whiskey is the bees knees.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-05-18 09:33 (UTC)
I keep a bottle of Ardbeg 10 year old at my desk, for emergency purposes.
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[User Picture]From: behsharam
2009-05-15 23:30 (UTC)
Wow. I want to try every single one of those!

I do not often comment on your science entries, but I want to state for the record that I love them. It is really easy for me to fall into literature and philosophy without paying attention to anything else. Your science entries help me to keep at least part of my mind on scientific matters.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-05-18 09:36 (UTC)
You will be in for a delicious evening if you do. I recommend it!

Also, thank you; I appreciate that very much.
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