SMWS September 2015 Outturn

The September outturn is another decent showing from the SMWS. Will their tyranny of excellence never end?

DSC_0271If you like sherried whiskies, then this list sees you SOL - "Sherry? Out of Luck!"

There's a whopping six first-fill bourbon casks though, which is pretty decent. And there's a white-wine cask too, which is a nice find.

My favourites were the Arran, the Longmorn, the Highland Park, the Glenfarclas and the Cragganmore. There was also a very pleasant surprise in the unusual Ardmore, which is the white wine cask alluded to earlier - and a must try for anyone visiting an SMWS bar! But the standout whisky for the list was the Bowmore - a wonderful dram, very much in the style I like from that distillery.

So there's obviously a lot to like about this list. But whisky is subjective, so it's worth noting that there are some people I was drinking with who will be dismayed at the lower scores I gave the Glen Moray and the Laphroaig - perhaps they just weren't the style I was looking for? Who knows. But disagreement is one of the fuels that fires the passions in the whisky world, so I'd be remiss if I didn't score them honestly, and then accuse anyone who disagrees with me of being a crass idiot who needs further education!

(That last part was a joke. It's a pity that we've reached the point where the internet needs jokes pointed out to it, but there we are...)

Overall, I think that September's list was a good one. When it shone, it really shone - and there seemed to be something to please almost everyone, except possibly the sherry fans. But you can't please all the people all of the time...

Senate House

Senate House

Senate House on a bright December morning.

Sometimes you're just in the right place at the right time with a camera...

Masks II

Masks II

When my friend Alasdair spent some time on Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth, I took up and took some photos. These fine people were around, and I'm still not sure why they had gas masks.

They did give a very good answer when I asked them. "Why not?"

Fleeting Contrast

Fleeting Contrast

I don't know why, but I like to take photos from trains. This is one of them.

I like the composition - the bridge, the building, the reflections, they all come together quite nicely.

Dawn bus

Dawn Bus

I took this way back in 2011. These days, I process very few photos immediately - I like to go back to my work much later and see my photos without the bias of immediate enthusiasm.

This one kept popping back into my mind though - I knew I'd taken a photo I was happy with. And it only took me four years to find it again, process it and publish it.

Ladies' Day At Lords

As I select a picture to put up this week, Australia have just collapsed in the fourth Test of the Ashes.

So a cricket theme seemed reasonable right now. A few years ago, I got invited to Lord's to sit in the Pavilion. It was Lord's Ladies Day, at which ladies get free entry to encourage their interest in the game. I happened to catch this photo, which I think will increase ladies' interest in cricket considerably.

2015 Birthday Dramming

DSC_0179For my birthday in 2015, I wanted to open some half-decent drams and share them with friends. This, naturally, leads to what is known as Analysis Paralysis.

I decided to make it easy by going for something rare - and settled on a Brora.

Of course, many of my friends are experienced and widely travelled whisky connoisseurs - I associate with a cut above the average drunkard, I can assure you. For many of them, Brora is less of a special event than you'd think, so I decided to let reverse psychology work its magic. I told them I'd be bringing a lesser Brora.

That did the trick.


In truth, there have been many bottlings of Brora over the years, and some have better reputations than others. I decided to pick one that was from over a decade ago, which was highly unlikely to have been tasted before. Everyone rushes for the Special Releases or a Rare Malt, but bottlers like Gordon & MacPhail, Douglas Laing and Signatory were keeping us well stocked in excellent Brora for many years.

So I selected a Signatory Vintage Un-chillfiltered Collection Brora, and on opening it I found only one regret - that I'd waited over a decade to do so!

DSC_0180Of course, there may be deviants and heretics amongst my friends who - for moral, religious or other dubious grounds - may refuse a Brora. I'm unsure where I met these people, but they just won't go away, and I'm too polite to tell them where to go. For these people, I arranged a fallback whisky - an Alchemist bottling of 10 year old Springbank, with a twist.

We are all merely temporarily strangers

Out of my depthIt's the anniversary of the 7th July 2005 London bombings today, and lots of people have stories about how close they were to danger.

That's human nature. A strange kind of braggadocio that we all succumb to - albeit in this case in the noble cause of trying to encourage empathy in all around us.

I was fairly safe. I worked with one of the victims, but can't really claim to have known him well. Our office was on Bunhill Row in the City of London, we worked on different floors. But that day, our department was out on a departmental away day. We were over at Lincoln's Inn Fields, near Holborn.

Over the last decade, on each anniversary's reflections, I've come to think of James Mayes as a person I almost knew. I'd bumped into him a few times, but only exchanged greetings and a few sentences. At our little departmental away day, the intention was to get to know the other colleagues in my department better. We might have learnt how to build a bridge out of six sheets of A4, three paper clips and a pencil. We'd have been bored during speeches. And we'd have done our best to hide our suspicion that most of the team bonding would have been better done in a pub.

(And I'd have certainly been going to the pub afterwards. We had that kind of team, and lots of the other teams in the department were the same!)

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