AND IN THE GREEN CORNER...
The good gear...brb.
Well, it's been a long time coming and a long time promised but what say we splash a bit of spring water in the two combatants, release the aromas and let the taste off begin?
Okay, so JohnnyB got an internet fridge for his birthday. Piff, paff and ptui, say I. Fridge, schmidge! Councillor Bob Piper has got himself re-elected despite the best efforts of one Tony Blair. Byker's got himself a dream posting with VSO in Vietnam, Brockette has landed herself one ginourmous-fuck off-break out the Drambuie-nyaah nyaa nya nyaah nyaah-I can't quite believe this is happening to me-I got the fucking job-job, my old mucker The Shrub is off to all points north and the Naked Blog has just had a stonking guest week (even if I wasn't invited) and yet I still feel myself in a position to smirk in all their general directions.
And why is this, pray tell? Well, of all the gifts I have received from Jessica during the two or so years we have 'known' each other...in a chat room and blogger sense only, I might add, although the conversation has at times taken a turn for the biblical...by far the most tangible is the bottle of Booker's bourbon you see above. This was despatched my way some two and a half months ago for no better reasons than the facts that somehow, we have become friends and that she thought, or rather knew, I would appreciate it. As I said in my acceptance speech, I am not worthy.
First impressions? Well, the crate was pretty impressive, admirably stencilled with such evocative words as 'HIGHEST GRADE' and 'CLERMONT KENTUCKY', which, for some reason, evoked the names of Daniel Boone and Jimmy Stewart but the eyebrow raiser was, for me, the leather thong holding the sliding perspex frontispiece in place. Whisky and leather...oh, boy! Anyway, having released the thong and raised the perspex, I was faced with the chunkiest bit of wax sealant I had ever seen. Not knowing the correct protocol for such occasions, I plied my super-sharp, birthday present, multi-purpose, Hannibal Lector blade and then, to open the bottle by popping the cork was, for me, the work of but a moment.
Our Gert was present at the opening and first tasting thereof and the 63.4% by volume alcohol caused her to exclaim, "A kurva életbe!" which means, literally, "In a whore's life!" My reaction was somewhat more muted, being used to the cask strength Laphroaig, visible on the shelf in the background of the above photo, and also the near 60% home made Hungarian pálinka.
I swirled and I sniffed and I was overwhelmed by the vanilla. I sluiced around the taste buds and was perplexed by the lack of any promised smokiness. I swallowed and was blown away by the intensity of the aftertaste and the direct, in your face heat of the alcohol content.
In short, I wondered what all the fuss was about. I knew I would have to blog about it sooner or later and I made the decision there and then to leave it till a later date. A wise move, as it happened. Booker's is a sipping bourbon, rather like the single malts I am so fond of and so, I sipped and sipped, splashed a drop or two of spring water about and pretty soon, the feeling of, "If I'd wanted vanilla, I'd've gone to the fucking ice-cream parlour." began to fade and be replaced by an appreciation of the particular qualities of the distillation under advisement.
I think it was the disparity between smell and taste that threw me into a maelstrom of dislocation...after all, one whiff of a single malt and you know, just really know, what you've got coming...but the wait was well worth it and I now have a much better perspective on the relative merits of limited edition, straight from the barrel bourbon.
So let's cut to the chase, shall we? Let's pour a little of the Booker's into a clear glass and hold it to the light.
Colour: Deep, weathered oak; refracted reds; solemn somehow and dignified.
Swirl it around a bit and look deep, deep into its mysteries and how it reacts with the glass.
Body: Full, oily...this bugger's been on the weights.
Raise it to the nostrils and inhale deeply.
Nose: Huge vanilla, oak and a hint of the medicinal, slightly smoky.
Sluice it around the palate, linger a while, savour it.
Palate: It's intense alright, 63.4% alcohol and you would expect nothing less...vanilla again...intensely smoky...toffee/caramel...there's fruit in there, too...a hint of tannin (from the barrels, maybe?) and just a suspicion of a hint of a particle of an iota of tobacco.
Let's allow it to subject itself to the laws of gravity, shall we?
Finish: Very long, clean and somehow...musky. This stuff is growing on me.
So, what about the Laphroaig? Well, all I can do is repeat an earlier blog as follows...
Age: 10 years
Colour: Full, refractive, gold
Nose: Phenolic, seaweedy, very peaty with a hint of sweetness
Body: Medium and oily
Palate: Richly smoky, fully peated with a hint of sweetness, salty
Finish: Lingering and unique.
And, seeing as we're in a taste off, one just has to mention the cask strength. As with the 10 year old, I refer you to a previous blog.
This stuff is the business, the absolute dog's bollocks. At 57.3% alcohol and with a taste even more concentrated than the 10 year old, you may wish to take the precaution of nailing on your socks before sampling it. This should neither be your first experience of an Islay malt nor the first drink of an evening, but as a climax to a leisurely bender, it cannot be surpassed. Suffice it to say that, although I am reasonably free when it comes to offering around my other malts, this one is strictly for my own personal pleasure.
As is, from now on, the Booker's bourbon.
Winner? On points...the cask strength Laphroaig.