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--Asbach Uralt Brandy-- Asbach has a lengthy history that goes back to the year 1892. A chap called Hugo Asbach had been living and working in France in the distilling business. He then moved to Rüdesheim on the river Rhein in Germany where he decided to open his own distillery with the aim of creating a product equal to the quality of Cognac but with subtle flavour differences that would appeal to the German palette. Ever since Asbach has been one of the top selling brands of brandy in Germany and has a product range to match. In order to achieve the quality Hugo Asbach was accustomed to he used grapes almost exclusively from the Charente region is France, which is where the town of Cognac lies. The guidelines to which he worked were almost identical to those of the Cognac distillers and so a top quality product was born. This standard of production has been carried forth to the present day thus maintaining a reputation as being an excellent brandy. Asbach Uralt is the most basic of the Asbach range. The word Uralt means 'very old' or 'ancient' though I'm not entirely sure what the average age of the spirits used really is. Distillation is carried out in copper kettles (similar to Whisky production) and is double distilled (all but 1 Scottish Malt is double distilled) to achieve the alcohol percentage and purity required for maturation. The spirit is then aged in casks made from Limousin oak where the flavour is allowed to develop as it draws its rich caramel colour and sweetness from the wood. Typically the brandy is left to mature for somewhere between two and four years before it is blended to create the final product. The Asbach blends often contain spirit from 25 different vintages in order to maintain a consistent product. Special blends are finished in oak vats for various lengths of time to add extra character to the bottling. --Brandies-- There are many different types of brandies, the most famous are probably fine cognacs (and the most expensive), but these are from a small region in France about a town called Cognac. Like Champagne, this is a restriction whereby only brandies from the Charente region can call themselves Cognacs. Brandies vary massively in price as you can pick up a bottle of nondescript alcohol with the word 'Brandy' emblazoned on it for less than a tenner, though those with a few more quid might consider the Henry IV Dudognon Heritage at $3,400,000. Admittedly, most of the cost is the diamond coated bottle, but there are several very old Cognacs that cost many thousands of pounds regardless of the bottle. Brandy is most commonly considered to be made by distilling grapes, however there are many other fruit based products such as Calvados (Apples), Slivovice (Plums), Damassine (Prunes), Schnapps (all sorts!), Pomace (Such as Grappa or Marc) and other endless brandy possibilities! Brandy is made by fermenting the fruit to create a wine (just like the wine making process), this wine is then heated in a still where the alcohol evaporates. This alcohol then passes through a condenser to cool and turn back into a liquid (of stronger alcohol percentage than the wine). This first distillation is then passed through a further still where the same process happens and a more concentrated alcohol is produced. This alcohol is then aged in Oak casks (French law dictates a minimum of 12 months) and finally blended and bottled. --Tasting notes-- The most important part! What flavours and fragrances am I likely to experience with a glass of Asbach Uralt? -Nose- Asbach has quite a delicate nose, I pick up on the classic grape and honey fragrance associated with most brandies but then get the subtleties only associated with this German delight. Hints of cocoa, chocolate, a touch of wood and some light flowery notes right at the top with a touch of dried fruits, in particular, raisins. The nosing experience is most enjoyable when the alcohol is warm. I often place my glass (a snifter, balloon or wine glass) on a cup of recently boiled water to raise the temperature a little. -Palate- Reasonably dry with fantastic, sweet dried fruits such as dates and raisins, a hint of spice and those subtle wood and very light chocolaty tones. -Finish- As with all good brandies it has a wonderful, long finish that keeps the dried fruit flavour throughout and ends with a peppery almond note with a touch of chocolate. -Overall Rating- Nose - 22/25 Palate - 21/25 Finish - 20/25 Balance - 21/25 Total - 84/100 I think that 84/100 is a fair score for Asbach Uralt to receive. It is often difficult to rate a product that has been designed to be slightly different as there is little to compare it against. Fortunately I've been lucky enough to try another bottling from Asbach which has given me a basis on which to score. --Drinking Suggestions-- Enjoy your glass of brandy in a nice balloon, warming in your hand or perhaps over ice with some ginger ale and a wedge of orange or lime. Why not even try a cocktail? All brandy cocktails will taste fantastic with Asbach Uralt, so here are a couple of suggestions to whet the appetite... -Sidecar- 2 measures Asbach Uralt. ¾ measure Cointreau (or other orange liqueur). ¾ measure fresh Lemon juice. Sugar. *The* classic brandy cocktail. An absolutely fantastic drink that each bartender will have his or her own slight variation of the recipe. I like mine a little heavy on the brandy and with a touch of sugar. Shake all the liquid ingredients and pour into a sugar rimmed cocktail glass. Alternatively add a little sugar to the drink before it is shaken (not to make it sweet - just to balance all of the flavours). -Brandy Alexander- 2 measures Asbach Uralt. ½ measure White Chocolate liqueur (such as Mozart White or Creme de Cacao). ½ measure Dark Chocolate liqueur (such as Mozart Dark or Creme de Cacao). 1 measure of Fresh Double Cream. Freshly Grated Nutmeg. This is an opulent cocktail that should be considered a treat or to replace a dessert after dinner. Shake all of the liquid ingredients, double strain into a cocktail glass and grate some fresh nutmeg over the top. --Price and Availability-- This is not an expensive bottle of brandy as it is usually just below the £20 mark. I have seen it in supermarkets over the years but you are more likely to pick up a bottle in a specialist shop - Peckhams or Oddbins for example. There are several other products from Asbach, of which I have only tried 1 - the 15yro. The 15yro bottling that I tried was absolutely fantastic, considerably better than the Uralt but costs approximately £35. Asbach Urbrand. Asbach and Auslese Riesling liqueur. Asbach Privatbrand, aged 8. Asbach Spezialbrand, aged 15. Asbach Selection, aged 21. Asbach Vintage 1972. Cellarmaster's Collection. Asbach are also quite famous for fine German chocolates. --Overall Personal Opinion-- This is an excellent brandy that is certainly worth a try. It is not as smooth as a Cognac or as fiery as an Armagnac but has its own subtleties that are distinctly Asbach, there are no other brandies that taste quite the same. It is relatively inexpensive when compared to many basic cognacs though if I had around £20 to spend on a bottle I would definitely choose a bottle of H by Hine. H by Hine is my favourite standard brandy of all time - it's fantastic. That said, my bottle of Asbach fits nicely in amongst my collection of brandies and there are occasions when only an Asbach Uralt will do! I hope this has helped in your decision to purchase a bottle of fine German brandy!
--Heston Blumenthal - The Big Fat Duck Cookbook-- Heston Blumethal is arguably one of the worlds greatest chefs and definitely one of the most creative. His flagship restaurant 'The Fat Duck' in Bray, Berkshire has been in the worlds top ten Michelin starred restaurants for a number of years now, winning the award for the 'worlds best restaurant' in 2005 and falling second fiddle to Ferran Adrià's El Bulli on four occasions. The 2010 restaurant of choice is Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. This book covers Heston's history, the history of his restaurant, a selection of his finest recipes and an inventory of the equipment and suppliers to help you on your way to culinary genius. --Who is Heston Blumenthal?-- Heston Blumenthal is an eccentric chap, albeit a remarkably intelligent one. He can be quite simply described as a molecular gastronomist which, in an elaborate manner, describes the art of scientific cookery. He has recently risen to fame with his television series 'In Search of Perfection', 'Big Chef Takes on Little Chef' and 'Heston's Feasts'. Each and every show has been fascinating insight into the thoughts, the cooking process and final dishes of a world class chef. Although remarkably clichéd, he realised at once that he was going to be a chef after having a meal with his parents in L'Oustau de Baumaniére at the age of 16. He bought a copy of the Guide Michelin and GaultMillau where he read about the chefs of the day and poured over their recipes. Instead of a classic traineeship whereby the aspiring chef starts at the bottom - draining, straining and peeling - he learnt from the great chefs by following their recipes. So as a self taught chef he opened the doors of his restaurant The Fat Duck with absolutely no experience of working in a real kitchen environment. --The Book-- -Section 1 - History- I consider this to be the most fascinating section of the book, it describes Heston's rise to cheffing stardom in his own words. One particular anecdote, regarding the woes of cooking a dried been, springs to mind... 'After reading your findings on the cooking of green veg I have experimented with no salt and found that under the correct conditions, you can obtain properly cooked green vegetables without losing their colour by using no salt whatsoever. I still have problems, however, cooking dried beans. To blanch or not? To soak or not, and for how long? Water only to cover or the dried pulses will lose their water content. Calcium inhibits cooking but what about potassium? Water not too hot or too cold but what temperature, and only salt at the end although it seems to be OK to salt lentils at the beginning of their cooking if they have been pre-blanched! Do I cook in high mineral content bottled water or not?' Heston then talks through the development of his career, receiving his first Michelin star, improving the restaurant (from mismatching cutlery and second hand chairs), visits from inspectors and the vast array of experiments conducted and resources consulted over a number of years. The development of his menus follow alongside some of his signature dishes that were created and finally, that life changing moment, when The Fat Duck received it's third Michelin star. -Section 2 - The Recipes- There are a selection of forty-five recipes contained within this gargantuan cookbook. Each of the dishes is photographed superbly, giving the reader something to aspire to! When considering the overall dimensions of this book it is clear that it is going to be a little unwieldy in a heated kitchen environment. Nonetheless, as an attractive addition to interesting coffee table reading this is absolutely perfect (admittedly a little excessive, but much better than a copy of Heat magazine!). It's probably best, after seeing the price, that the recipes are copied onto a separate sheet of paper before disappearing into the kitchen for, more often than not, days... Having experimented with a number of the recipes I feel I am qualified enough to provide an educated opinion. All of my experiments have met mixed reactions and had varying outcomes. Some aspects of the dishes have been excellent whereas others have been a challenge for even the most disinterested palette. The most difficult aspect of this sort of home cooking is the limitations of what can realistically be considered a necessary addition to your personal collection of kitchen equipment. Heston uses a huge range of cooking devices and even just measuring the 13.5 grammes of this and 7ml of that becomes an arduous task fit for only the finest of scales. That said, the recipes are very well written and pretty easy to follow, albeit lasting several pages in many cases. The first recipe I tried was a red cabbage gazpacho with pommery grain mustard ice cream. It was cooked as a pre-starter for an elaborate feast myself and a friend presented for our lovely other-halves. This particular dish was selected as the only specialist piece of equipment required in the case was a sous vide machine. Fortunately I have some top class chef friends who let me loose in their kitchen for a little while to let me use what I needed. The dish comprised of a red cabbage gazpacho that was created from fresh (hand squeezed!) red cabbage juice, blended with a fresh cabernet sauvignon mayonaise and cut with a little cabernet sauvignon vinegar. The second element involved sliced cucumber and a sous vide, vacuum packing the cucumber till it turned transparent thus breaking the individual cells and intensifying the flavour. The final component was a pommery grain mustard ice cream designed to balance the freshness of the gazpacho whilst complementing the natural 'mustardiness' of the cabbage. The recipes continue along a similar incredible vein; 'Sardine on Toast Sorbet', 'Snail Porridge' and 'Nitro-Poached Green Tea and Lime Mousse' to name but a few. -Section 3 - Science- 'In what art or science other than cooking could improvements be made that would more powerfully contribute to increase the comforts and enjoyment of mankind?' Count Rumford, Sir Benjamin Thomson, 1794. Have you ever wondered about the myfibrils that muscle fibres are composed of that form the meat that we eat? Ever considered the thermodynamics of heat transfer whilst cooking? Why, scientifically, should we add salt to enhance the flavouring? Or even just want to understand the creation of perfect ice cream? Well! This is the book for you! These subjects, amongst several others are discussed in the opening pages of the science section closely followed by Equipment and Techniques. Some of the equipment described may boggle the mind. Why would I need a refractometer or a soundbox in the kitchen? The answers are fascinating! The third part of 'Science' discusses some of the weird and wonderful ingredients Heston employs in his cooking. All of the ingredients are substances that are found in day to day foodstuffs but in their broken down form, explaing what each ingredient does to the composition of a dish. Following the ingredient section is a series of essays and thoughts by all manner of scholars and writers tackling subjects including 'Haute Perfumery and Haute Cuisine', 'Multisensory Perception', 'Effects of Flavour Expectation on Liking: From Pleasure to Disgust' and finally 'Pleasure, the Brain and Food'. --Personal Opinion-- This is a fine example of cooking at the highest level. It is an excellent resource for those of us who wish to push their culinary boundaries and appreciation of molecular gastronomy. Although an outrageously expensive cookbook I believe it is worth it! A decent meal for two in a Michelin starred restaurant is likely to cost considerably more, especially if you have a penchant for fine wine... One of the most stunning aspects of this book is the artwork and photography. Each and every dish has been photographed superbly with accompanying whimsical artwork. There is a large fold-out section in the centre pages of the book that is dominated by a large piece of artwork though surrounded by the contents pages of the book. There are photos and carricatures of Heston at work, the equipment and processes and, of course, the food. If you have an interest in photography and molecular gastronomy I recommend a visit to the El Bulli website where you will find a photograph of every simgle dish Ferran Adrià has created for the last 10 years or so. I enjoy the approach Heston uses when tackling subjects unknown to the average cook. Nothing is written in an overly elaborate manner, the information is purveyed exceptionally well. It isn't designed to confuse, nor is it designed as a reference manual, it is simply designed to allow the reader an insight into the world of Heston Blumenthal, his ideas, creations and inspiration for the future. If you have a serious interest in Molecular gastronomy 'The Big Fat Duck Cookbook' should definitely be part of your collection alongside 'Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor', 'Modern Gastronomy: A to Z' and 'The Creative Universe of El Bulli's Ferran Adrià - A Reflection on the Worlds of Avant-Garde Cooking and Art'. --How Much?-- Well, here's the bad news! If you'd like a copy of this book the price seems to vary between £150 and £300 (I believe mine is a first edition copy so might be even more expensive). The tasting menu in The Fat Duck is £150 per head so you might as well book a table for two! In my case, Christmas 2008 was particularly fortuitous and I discovered this marvel at the base of my stocking. I hope this has been of some use to you intrepid explorers of the pantry and, if only for selfish reasons, you will considering adding this publication to your library of culinary literature. Simply Exceptional. John.
--Ardbeg Rollercoaster-- --The Distillery-- The Ardbeg distillery is located of the West coast of Scotland on a small island called Islay and is run by a handful of people. Islay is a cracking little island home to 9(ish) distilleries that produce some of the worlds finest and often peatiest whiskies. If you are a big whisky fan I'd highly recommend a trip out as the food, drink and scenery are all excellent! In recent years Ardbeg have won a whole host of rewards including best whisky in the world and plenty of top ten finishes. This is an outstanding achievement in the world of spirits yet somehow they continue to release bottlings that are unbelievably good! Their initial Supernova bottling sold out in a matter of hours! --This Bottling-- Ardbeg Rollercoaster is a limited edition bottling that was created in order to celebrate ten years of the Ardbeg Committee. Ten different cask types from 1997 to 2006 were selected and carefully blended to create a 'whistlestop tour through Ardbeg's flavour highlights'. Each of these bottlings is a different strength, has a different character and adds something extra to this fascinating bottling. Below is a quick summary of the amount of each cask you should find in your bottling and some of the flavours found in those casks; 1997 - 9.5% - 2nd fill barrel (Citrus, lime, salty, brine) 1998 - 12.2% - Refill hogshead (Fudge, butterscotch, soy sauce, beeswax) 1999 - 14.2% - 1st fill barrel (Cherries, juniper, tarry ropes, smoky) 2000 - 10.9% - 1st fill barrel (Coriander, fennel, menthol pine) 2001 - 6.2% - Refill barrel (Smoked fish, almonds) 2002 - 8.9% - Refill barrel (Pepper, chilli, agave, tabasco) 2003 - 11.7% - 1st fill barrel (Malt, vanilla, apples, pears) 2004 - 10.6% - 1st fill barrel (Asparagus, yam, seaweed, umami) 2005 - 10.4% - 2nd fill sherry butt (Chocolate, treacle, dates, diesel) and 2006 - 5.4% - Refill hogshead (Fish pie, margaritas) --Whisky-- There are five different areas in which Scottish Whisky is distilled; Lowlands, Speyside, Highlands, Islay and Campbeltown. Islay whiskies are some of the most popular as they are all inherently peaty, a recent Ardbeg bottling is the peatiest ever made. If you are new to whisky it is best to start with a Lowland or a Speyside as they tend to be the smoothest and easiest on the palette. There are only a couple of whiskies that come out of campbelttown and the islands covers a vast area up North! --Making a Whisky-- There are several important stages when it comes to making a Whisky; -Maltings- Barley is soaked in water for around three days then it is spread out on the maltings floor where it begins to germinate and turn the starch into sugars. -Kilning- The Maltings are spread over a peat fire and dried out. This is where any peat flavours are imparted into the grain and thus, the end product. The peaty flavour does not come from the water that is used during the distillation. -Mashing- The Malted barley is now ground to a coarse flour and is mixed with hot water which reactivates the enzymes and finishes the production of starch and sugars. The water releases these sugars from the grist and is taken away to be fermented. -Fermentation- Yeast is added to the liquid (now called Wort) from the mash and is put into giant wooden washbacks where the wort ferments into a beer-like liquid called wash. -Distillation- The wash is pumped into copper stills and heated to boiling point. The gasses and vapours that come off the liquid whilst boiling head up through the still and are condensed by cold water. This liquid is now more like a wine. The process is repeated and we are left with a strong spirit (around 80%). This spirit is mixed with water to reduce it to an ideal strength for maturation. -Cooperage- Cooperage is the maintaining and creation of high quality casks that are used in the maturation of Whisky. This can include anything from hand building casks to the maintenance and often re-firing of casks. -Maturation- By far the longest stage of the Whisky making process. A Whisky can only be called a Whisky (in Scotland) if it has been left to mature on Scottish soil for a minimum of 3 years and 1 day. Whenever the Whisky leaves Scottish soil it is no longer classed as maturing and is bottled at that age. Different casks produce different flavours as do different lengths of time. --Tasting Notes-- This is a highly complex bottling as each of the ten different cask selections imparts it's own character and flavours upon the overall taste and nose of the whisky. Rollercoaster is a highly fitting name when considering the sheer number of flavours that some together here! -Colour- Classic Ardbeg Rich Gold. -Nose- There is so much going on in this when you nose it. I find it quite difficult to pin down the real dominant notes though I instantly know it's an Ardbeg and pick out their classic layers of sweetness, smokiness, spice and malt. Some of the notes from the casks mentioned at the start come through with fudge, toffee, molasses and chocolate providing the sweetness, then the flavours of a hot toddy - cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon provide the spice. Some of the fresher notes such as fennel and pine can be found alongside the rich black cherries, leather and honey. As I always say, you have to add a little water to find all the other flavours hiding there. So, heeding my own advice, I begin to pick up on the smokey character of this whisky, bonfires and peat filled chimneys then the smell of the sea - Ardbeg is right on the coast so there is often a wonderful seaweed note. -Taste- The sheer vastness of this Whisky becomes obvious when you begin to drink it. All of the flavours from the original ten casks are there to be found and the fact that it is 57.3% abv lets us know it's there! Such a creamy, complex, peaty explosion of flavour with so many of the classic Ardbeg traits. Peat, cherries, chocolate and cloves then refreshing coriander and fudgy, chewy nuts and caramel. -Finish and Balance- As with all top class whiskies the finish is endlessly long and remarkably smooth - even at 57%! A dram to be savoured. Balanced almost to perfection. -How good is it?- I think this Whisky is fantastic. There is so much going on and every sip reveals something new - provided you are happy to lookfor it! I'm going to use Jim Murrays rating system but with my own scores! Nose - 25/25 Taste - 24/25 Finish - 24/25 Balance - 24/25 Overall - 97/100 The nose is simply stunning! So much happening. --Drinking Whisky-- Every whisky drinker has his or own little way when it comes to drinking it, I like to have a taste of the spirit and then add only two or three tiny drops of water - just enough to release the other flavours. I think everyone should drink whisky how they enjoy it. If you like it neat, drink it neat, if you like it with coke, drink it with coke. Don't listen to the old guy at the end of the bar who is offended when you ask for a Whisky and coke! A nice introduction to whisky is to drink a blended whisky with ginger beer (or ginger ale) and plenty of fresh lime. -Hot Toddy Recipe- You can't beat a hot toddy in the winter... 1 ½ Whisky ½ - ¾ Fresh lemon juice About the same amount of honey as lemon 6 cloves, crushed Boiling water Nutmeg and Cinnamon to taste (optional) Mix the whisky, cloves, lemon, honey and a splash of the hot water in a latte glass or mug until consistent. Top the glass up with hot water and stir. Taste then serve with a wedge of lemon or an orange twist. --Recommendations-- If you are an Ardbeg or an Islay fan I can't recommend this enough. If you are new to Whisky then I would have a dram of an Ardbeg 10yro which is absolutely fantastic and a taste of things to come but considerably cheaper! --Price-- A bottle ofArdbeg Rollercoaster will set you back £50 from the distillery website though you have to join the committee to be able to buy a bottle - you are also limited to just the two bottles (one to drink and one to keep?!?!). There isn't a whole lot available so the price is likely to escalate fairly rapidly and within 6 months will cost well in excess of £150 (my guess!). www.Ardbeg.com John.
--Elijah Craig 12 Year Old Bourbon-- Elijah Craig was distilled at the Heaven Hill distillery in Bardstown, Nelson County for years however in 1996 this all changed - more on that at the end of the review. Elijah Craig 12yro has won several awards over the years including a double Gold medal at the San Francisco World Sprits Competition in 2001. Elijah Craig is named after a Baptist Minister who is widely considered as the 'Father of Bourbon' as it was he who originally fired the oak casks to give the Bourbon its characteristic oak and caramel flavours. He founded a distillery in 1789 (though not in Bourbon county) alongside a paper mill, saw mill, rope works and cloth mill which was where he developed the technique of burning the inside of the barrels prior storing the Bourbon in them. There are currently 2 products available in the Elijah Craig range; Elijah Craig 12yro Elijah Craig Single Barrel 18yro Both of which are definitely worth a go, though unless you have fifty quid to blow on a bottle of bourbon then I'd probably stick with the 12yro. -Bourbon- Bourbon is an American spirit that can be distilled anywhere in the States but almost all of them are made in Kentucky. Bourbon is distilled and then aged in oak barrels. By law these oak barrels can only be used once before they are sold on to makers of Scottish Whiskys, vineyards and the like. These barrels are often re-fired before being used to age again. Often you will find premium "Single Barrel" bourbons that have been kept in the same barrel throughout maturation. By putting the spirit into a fresh cask it takes more of the flavours from the wood faster than it would if it were sitting in the same cask. Other spirits such as cognac tend to use casks that have been used at least five times previously to keep the oak flavours to a minimum. Bourbon is made form corn (by law it has to be at least 51% corn but is usually closer to 70%) and the rest is made from wheat or rye. Bourbon is named after Bourbon County (Which is a dry state!) and is a French word. The French were fighting over territories in the battle of independence with the British and Kentucky was divided up. The French were given an area of land which they called Bourbon. --Tasting Notes-- -Colour- Elijah Craig has that classic Bourbon colour - Reddish Amber. When I swirl the glass I can tell that the Bourbon has a nice viscosity, leaving a trail of "legs" around the inside of the glass. When looking at the colour of a drink hold a white piece of paper behind the glass and have a light on in the background. -Nose- Most of the Bourbons that come from the Heaven Hill distillery have a wonderful citrussy, kumquat like character - and this is no different. I then get all manner of other delicate notes including a little bit of smoke, classic Boubon caramel, a little nutmeg and refreshing mint. Overall: Caramel, Smoke, Kumquat, Nutmeg, Mint. A good tip for when nosing drinks is to smell the back of your hand when changing between drinks. This action cleanses the palette ensuring that there is little residual smell from the previous spirit or otherwise in your nose. The ideal glass for the job is a snifter glass (tulip shaped) with a wine glass coming in second place for handiness! -Taste- Initially I get a malty/fruity flavour, like a malt loaf perhaps? Rich fruits such as fig and apricot. I get a little of the spiciness from the nutmeg and enjoy the classic flavours of sweet caramel and rich oak. Overall: Oak, Malt, Fig, Caramel, Nutmeg. It's always worth trying the spirit with a little water as you will find that it releases a whole different bouquet and often new set of flavours. This is because the water releases esters and aldehydes from the Whiskey. -Finish- The finish is excellent, long with subtle notes of liqorice and earthy flavours. The real star here is the balance, it is near perfection as all of the flavours come together perfectly and sit on your tongue wonderfully. --Cocktails-- Classic -Old Fashioned- 2 Measures Elijah Craig Bourbon Gomme sugar Angostura bitters Put a few ice cubes in a rocks glass with a few drops of bitters, the first measure of Blanton's and some sugar syrup. Stir with a bar spoon. As you are stirring gradually add ice cubes, one after another, ensuring the glass stays cold and that the spirit is continually moving. Add the second measure of Bourbon, some more ice and, if needed, a little more sugar. Stir as before and when the glass is full of ice - providing you are happy with the flavour - spray over the oil of some orange rind and garnish with a sliver of orange rind. -Manhattan (Perfect)- 2 Measures Elijah Craig Bourbon ½ Measure Sweet Vermouth ½ Measure Dry Vermouth A couple of dashes of Bitters It has to be said that Elijah makes a mean Manhattan - do it. Add the bourbon, bitters and vermouth to an ice filled shaker. Stir until cold. Double strain the drink into a Martini glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry and orange zest. Mmmmm... For a sweet Manhattan replace the dry vermouth with another ½ measure of sweet vermouth and a little maraschino syrup and for a dry Manhattan replace the sweet vermouth with dry vermouth. Easy. -Whiskey Sour- 2 Measures Elijah Craig Bourbon 1 Measure lemon juice 1 Egg white ¾ Gomme sugar syrup Put everything in a shaker with loads of ice, shake and pour into a rocks glass over ice. If possible, dry shake or blend the ingredients before shaking with ice as this emulsifies the egg and makes it really creamy. Garnish with a lemon wedge and a maraschino cherry. If you are not too keen on the egg white idea you can add a small amount of pineapple juice. The egg white is just in there to give the drink some body and a creaminess. Contemporary -Raspberry Lynchburg- 2 Measures Elijah Craig Bourbon 1 Measure lemon juice A handful of fresh Raspberries ¾ Gomme sugar syrup Lemonade Throw everything bar the lemonade into a shaker, shake hard and double strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with the lemonade and garnish with a few raspberries and a lemon wedge. -Bottle Design- Elijah Craig has quite a smart bottle. Oval Shaped with a huge cork stopper and the Elijah Craig signature on the glass. -Price- A quick look online at the usual booze related websites (Drinkshop and the Whisky Exchange) tells me that it is available around the £25 mark. I have picked a few bottles up in the past from Oddbins for around £20 so it's worth keeping an eye out. -News- Unfortunately, since the change of distillery in 1996 Elijah Craig has taken a bit of a blow flavour wise. My bottling is from the original Heaven Hill distillery and is excellent - 96/100, however, new bottlings are nowhere near as good. There is a syrupy flavour that masks the wonderful complexity of the finish and balance leaving you somewhat disappointed as the original bottling really excelled here. The new bottling loses 10 marks - 86/100, which is the reason for giving Elijah Craig 4 out of 5 stars. -Personal Opinion- If you spot an old bottling (no idea how! - uberdusty perhaps?) or if you have a bottle kicking around the house that has been there for a couple of years then excellent. If you have bought a bottle recently then it's not going to blow you away but is still a very good bourbon. All bourbon drinkers should definitely give this a go as it's not outrageously expensive and is still a lovely tipple. Thanks for reading! John!
Wyborowa Wodka *************** Wyborowa is a Polish rye vodka that is one of my favourite vodkas (sorry - wodkas). It is distilled in Poznań and has been doing so since 1823. It was family owned for a considerable amount of time though is currently owned by the French outfit Pernod Ricard. One of the chaps that I work with was taken out to see the distillery, which is quite smart, and is now an ambassador for Wyborowa (though what that entails nobody seems to know). What we do know is that Wyborowa is an excellent product to be an ambassador for, considering Wyborowa is Polish for 'exquisite'. This wodka is produced by fermenting a rye mash and is then distilled several times in copper column stills. The shape and style of a still has an enormous effect on the style and flavours in an alcohol. If a repair is carried out on an old Whisky pot still then any replaced parts have to be battered and dented to match the old part exactly - or the flavour will not be the same. Wyborowa have a whole host of various flavours including apple, orange, lemon, pineapple, rose, almond and pear. I'm not a huge fan of flavoured vodka's as I often find them a little artificial and sweet but the Wyborowa flavours are all of a reasonable quality. I often use the lemon version alongside a homemade cucumber infusion when making Bloody Marys. They also have a premium version called Wyborowa Exquisite which is absolutely brilliant, and for a premium product, not overly expensive. --Vodka-- Vodka is the UK's biggest selling spirit and it doesn't look like that's going to change anytime soon... The real problem is that everyone drinks cheap, flavourless vodka (I can understand the appeal of that though!). There are plenty of incredibly different, interesting and flavoursome vodka's available on Supermarket shelves and off-licenses today. Even if you don't like the sound of sipping straight vodka why not buy a fruity vodka such as Ketel One Citroen and make a few cocktails... Classically you would associate vodka primarily with Russia, then Poland and possibly Lithuania. However, there are many excellent vodkas currently being produced in Finland, Holland, France and Sweden to name but a few. Historians reckon that vodka-like spirits were being made as early as 950AD in Russia but there is little information about this. In Poland vodka has been written about as early as 1534 but has been produced since the middle ages. Apparently in 17th century Russia vodka was an expensive commodity and 12 litres would cost two and a half cows! --Different base products-- It is possible to distill alcohol from pretty much anything organic that contains sugars. Including grains, plums, grapes, sugar cane, potatoes, apples, pears, etc. Most of the products we see started life in a similar form to vodka but are stored in casks for years and have various additives to change the flavours. Potatoes - Potatoes produce a very smooth, creamy style of vodka. Luksosowa is a great Polish potato vodka Rye - Rye produces is lovely nutty vodka, a great example of a rye vodka is Wyborowa. Has a smell and think walnuts... Grains - Most vodkas are distilled from Wheat, Corn, Sorghum and the like. Grapes - Although unusal in the Vodka world there are some grape based products. The grapes add a sweet, frutiness. Ciroc is one of the only vodkas I can think of at the moment that is distilled from grapes. --Tasting Notes-- -Colour- The colour of Wyborowa Vodka is, as with most Vodkas, clear. -Nose- This is probably my all time favourite vodka nose! I get nuts straight away, not any particular nut but a bowlful of them. This is followed by a wonderfully sweet, freshly baked rye-bread smell - totally unexpected in a vodka. It's nose is instantly recognisable as being Wyborowa. A good tip for when nosing drinks is to smell the back of your hand when changing between drinks. This action cleanses the palette ensuring that there is little residual smell from the previous spirit or otherwise in your nose. -Taste- Again, excellent. Those nuts and the rye bread are prominent, with some subtle spicing and a hint of sweetness. To appreciate the often complex palette of a Vodka it is important to have the Vodka at room temperature as subtleties are lost when cooled. Adding water often helps to bring out flavours previously unnoticed. (Heeds his own advice and adds a little water...) -Finish- The finish is very creamy, perhaps even oily. The flavour coats your mouth and isn't as isn't as short as vodka usually is. It's final flourish is a fantastically refreshing and cleansing finish. --Serving-- Although I previously mentioned that the best way to taste and appreciate all of the flavours is to serve it at room temperature it is also excellent served super cold and in cocktails. If you keep a bottle in the freezer you will notice that the vodka takes on (apparently) a much greater viscosity and is quite comforting when sipped cold. --Classic Vodka Cocktails-- -Vodka Martini- 3 measures of Wyborowa Vodka Varying amount of Dry Vermouth (such as Noilly Pratt) (to taste) Dead simple. Fill a shaker with ice, add the vermouth (if you like it very dry add only 2-5ml vermouth, if you like it wet add more...), add the vodka and stir for around 30seconds. Double strain into a chilled martini glass and serve with an olive, a twist, a pickled onion or even a Dickens (no olive or twist - think about it)! -Bloody Mary- 2 measures Wyborowa Vodka Dash of Dry Sherry (Such as Tio Pepe) Dash of Red Wine 10ml Lemon Juice 10 Dashes Worcestershire Sauce 4 Dashes Tabasco Cayenne Pepper (to taste) Celery Salt (to taste) 1/3 Teaspoon of Horseradish Sauce Tiny squeeze of Orange Lots of Black Pepper 150ml Tomato Juice If you like it hot add some habanero sauce or fresh hot chillies I work in a bar that specialises in Bloody Marys (the bar is called Booly Mardys) so my ingredients list is fairly extensive. Have a play around, try using Balsamic vinegar, Port, Gin, Tequila, Basil etc. Chuck all of your ingredients into a shaker, stir or shake gently and serve in a tall glass with a stick of celery, a wedge of lemon and a slice of cucumber then top generously with more cracked black pepper. --Contemporary Cocktails-- -Espresso martini recipe- 1 measure of Fresh Espresso 1 ½ measures Wyborowa Vodka 1 measure Toussaint ½ measure (or to taste) of Gomme sugar syrup Shake really, really, really hard then double strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with three coffee beans. It should have a nice creamy head -Calippo- 1 ½ measures Wyborowa Vodka ½ measure passionfruit liqueur (Passoa perhaps) ½ measure vanilla liqueur (Navan or Galliano perhaps) ½ measure vanilla infused Gomme sugar syrup 1 passion fruit ½ measure lemon juice ½ measure lime juice Scoop out the inside or a passionfruit, add all of the alcohol, sours and sugar to a cocktail shaker. Shake and double strain into a Collins glass filled with crushed ice. Serve with a half of a passionfruit on top (and a smile...). Should hopefully taste Callipo/Solero-like. --Price-- You shouldn't have to pay much more than around £15 for a bottle. It's available in the likes of Oddbins and Peckhams as well as the bigger supermarkets. --Opinion-- Wyborowa is one of my favourite vodkas both for mixing in cocktails and sipping neat. The wonderful, creamy nuttiness is sublime and the nose is such a one-of-a-kind smell that becomes instantly recognisable. It makes incredible martinis and (I think) is pretty good value for money - when you consider the cost of a bottle of Bourbon or Whisky. It is certainly leagues ahead of Smirnoff, Stolichnaya, 42 Below and the like. All in all, if you enjoy an ice cold vodka out the freezer or a nice martini and fancy something with a bit of character then I can't recommend Wyborowa Wodka enough. Do it! John!
HP w1907v Flat Screen Monitor ************************* I am a big fan of Hewlett-Packard and have rarely been disappointed by their products, so after receiving this monitor as a Christmas present back in '07 I was pretty chuffed. This particular model has a 19" widescreen screen, has a resolution of 1440 x 900 and runs at 60 Hz. The contrast ratio (ratio of the brightest white to the darkest black the monitor is able to achieve) is 1:1000 which is totally adequate for my needs. It's essentially a great all round monitor that suits my needs perfectly. --Installation-- As with most modern computing equipment this monitor was incredibly easy to set up and install. One simply attaches the heavy stand/base to the back of the monitor with a simple 'push and click' mechanism then plugs the relevant cables into the back of a computer - audio, power and VGA. There is a disk that comes with the monitor but it wasn't necessary and all that was required was the usual 'have a play with all the buttons to see what happens'. If you find the you have apparently irreversibly (and stupidly) changed the settings to something highly useless then there is an ever useful 'factory reset' option available! --Picture Quality-- The overall crispness and colour of this screen are excellent. Movies, images, text and the like are all clearly defined with no lag or blurring (the response time is measured at 5milliseconds). The biggest strain that I have induced on my monitor (and computer) is through using CAD (Computer Aided Design) software and it copes fine. The colours, balance, contrast, frequency, etc. are all fully adjustable to suit everybody's needs and is done so at ease. My monitor is left on for most of the day and is not showing any of the residual colours and imprints that you often see on screens that are left on a lot. --Sound Quality-- The quality of the sound (at a reasonable volume) is perfectly acceptable. However, the speakers themselves are not particularly loud and when turned up high the quality drops somewhat. On the other hand it is possible to argue that if you are after a high quality sounds and a large range of volumes then invest in a decent set of speakers. Now comes my only real gripe with this monitor - there is no earphone jack. If you want to listen to some music or watch a movie without disturbing others then unless you have an earphone jack on your computer then tough. It is possible to turn it down so it's very quiet but where is the fun in that? --Build Quality-- I'm quite impressed with the build quality. It looks smart and feels solid, the angle of the monitor can easily be adjusted (though it can't be raised or lowered) and the screen doesn't seem to pick up much dust. My last monitor had so much static that any piece of dust that happened to be in the area inevitably found its way to the screen. With this screen I actually have to go to the bother of hoovering the dust off the floor instead. It also weighs considerably more than I expected - in excess of 5kg, but this is mainly in the base and means that the monitor doesn't slide all over your desk and can easily take a knock without falling over. --Size-- The main appeal of a flat screen monitor is that it is flat and takes up a fraction of the space that a CRT monitor would take up. The dimensions of this monitor are 462x380x184 (mm) - width, height and depth (the depth includes the base - which can be pushed into an otherwise useless corner of a desk and has an indented tray where one might wish to keep a pen or six) --Features-- There are a whole host of useful features that come with this monitor; - Power saver mode helps to reduce the amount of energy you use by shutting the monitor down after a period of idle computing time. - Sleep timer allows one to set a timer that shuts the monitor down after a fixed period of time. - Language options. If English isn't your native tongue then there are a selection of other languages that the monitor can be set to (for menus, etc.) - Pre-set 'Quick Views' which have been modified (colour, contrast, brightness, etc.) for a selection of purposes. Gaming, watching movies, looking at photos and reading text. These pre-sets are actually quite good as movies often seem a bit bright and need toned down but with this monitor a perfect setting is only a couple of presses of a button away. - Plenty of other screen adjustment, colour settings, information pages and the like are also available. These features are all accessed and modified via four discreet looking buttons on the bottom right hand corner of the screen. It takes a while to fully understand how the system of selection works (and can be a bit of a pain) but once you have the hang of it it's quite straight forward. The on/off button is located on the top surface of the monitor and glows a soothing blue when switched on. --Advantages-- - Excellent screen quality - Power saver mode - Pre-set Quick Views - Reasonably priced - Plenty of language options - Very quiet (no fan noise) --Disadvantages-- - No headphone port - Not HD ready - Initially confusing menu navigation system - Poor(ish) quality speakers --Price and Availability-- Available in most decent electrical stores from Amazon to John Lewis and retails at the perfectly reasonable price of £117.00 at John Lewis but is often slightly more expensive elsewhere. With your monitor comes a one year warranty which can be upgraded to 3 or 5 years. I didn't bother and so far haven't required one! -- Overall Opinion-- All in all this is an excellent piece of kit, and when compared with the monitors I use in university, the one at work and a few others I've used (library, etc.) then I think that this is an excellent choice. It stays on for most of the day and is used pretty much continually without a single problem. There are no residual colours and imprints from having been left on continuously and it does exactly what it's told. Definitely worth a look if purchasing a new monitor and you're not too fussed about High Definition stuff or plugging all your toys into. The only real niggle that I have had regards the fact that there is no socket for your headphones but it is minor and is easily overcome. As ever, it's a quality piece of HP kit and I definitely recommend it.
Hendricks Gin ************ Hendricks gin is distilled in a shed in Ayrshire not that far south of Glasgow. It's distilled in one of four remaining working Carter-Head stills where the distillate vapours are passed through a tray of botanicals rather than left to steep in its liquid form. Towards the end of the distillation the spirit is put through a cucumber mash (Pulped cucumbers mixed with ice cold water) where the gin picks up its characteristic cucumbery flavour. Apparently, the slower the distillation, the smoother the gin. --Gin History-- Gin originated (properly - it is believed that Juniper based spirits go back the the12th century but were used for medicinal purposes) in Holland in the 17th century and was discovered by the English when fighting alongside the Dutch in war. The Dutch used to do shots before going into battle and this is where the term "Dutch courage" originates from. Gin was brought back to England and due to heavy import taxes and high beer prices people started to make gin themselves. By 1740 gin was out producing beer six times over so the government introduced the gin act which caused rioting so had to abolish it then reinstated it in 1751. The gin act at the time stated that if you could see the persons face who was selling the gin a tax had to be imposed. This was overcome by one particular chap who made a hole in his wall through which he could pass the gin and receive payment. He painted a picture of a Tom Cat on the wall and this is where the name "Tom Gin" came from. Tom gin is sweeter than gin is today but a very good gin liqueur called Haymans 1820 tastes very similar. Incidentally the cocktail called "Tom Collins" is made with Tom gin. Although London Gin can be distilled anywhere in the world Plymouth Gin can only be distilled in Plymouth --The Bottle-- The bottle is black and is shaped like an old apothecary bottle and was done so as these bottles were used to protect the healing powers of the botanical tonic that was held within. The early Hendricks bottles were opaque and it was a pain for seeing how much gin you had left... Fortunately the glass has been changed and you can peer through with the aid of a light. Strangely, the fellow whose company makes these bottles for Hendricks drinks in the bar that I work in. He has some intriguing stories about the complexities of the design and the reasoning behind some of its features - like the shoulder and the large air-gap. --Hendricks Gin Botanicals-- Each of these botanicals gives the gin its own subtleties and flavours. Juniper berries - The main ingredient in all standard gins. Lemon peel - Enhances the dryness of the gin whilst adding a crisp and refreshing nose and flavour. Orange peel - Uses oranges with a sweet rind to add a sweetness to the gin. Coriander - The coriander enhances the citrus flavours of the lemon and orange whilst adding a little peppery note. Bulgarian Rose Petals - Adds a floral note. Little information is given away about the rest of the botanicals used in the creation of Hendricks... --Tasting Notes-- -Colour- The colour of Hendricks gin, as with most gins, is clear and the body is reasonably viscous. -Nose- When nosing the spirit I pick up on some light citrussy (mostly orange) notes, a hint of coriander and a little bit of juniper but the most prominent smell is that of the rose petals. The nose is fantastically balanced and is instantly distinguishable. I could sit and smell this stuff all day long... A good tip for when nosing drinks is to smell the back of your hand when changing between drinks. This action cleanses the palette ensuring that there is little residual smell from the previous spirit or otherwise in your nose. -Taste- The complexity of this gin really shines on the palette. I get all of the flavours from the nose - citrus, coriander, juniper and the floral rose petal flavours but the gin ends on a long, refreshing cucumber note. If you want to properly taste the gin the best way to do so is to pour 1 part gin to 1 part of chilled mineral water and all of the individual flavours of the botanicals will be released. -Finish- Overall, the flavour is very delicate, perfectly balanced and incredibly refreshing. A very long finish (as you'd expect with a gin of this quality) and that lingering cucumber lift. Summer in a bottle perhaps? --Serving-- Classically, a Gin and Tonic is served with a good wedge of lemon. Since a rather clever Gordons marketing campaign we now serve gin with a nice wedge of lime. Martin Millers is excellent with fresh sliced strawberries but Hendricks is ideally served with a chunk of cucumber... --Cocktails-- -Cucumber Martini- 2 measures Hendricks Gin ½ - ¾ fresh lemon juice ½ gomme sugar syrup 2 inches frech cucumber Made correctly this is a fantastic, refreshing cocktail worthy of any cocktail list. Muddle the cucumber and add the gin and half a shot of lemon add some sugar syrup and continually taste whilst trying to find the balance between the cucumber, lemon, sugar and gin. Serve in an ice cold Martini glass and garnish with a nice slice of cucumber. -Cucumber Mary- 2 Measures Hendricks Gin 150 ml Tomato Juice 10 dashes Worcestershire Sauce 3-4 Dashes Green Tabasco Salt Black Pepper Celery Salt Cayenne Pepper Dry Sherry (Tio Pepe) Dash of Fresh Lemon Juice ½ Barspoon of Horseradish Sauce 2 Inches of Cucumber. This is a twist on the classic Bloody Mary and requires some of the flavours to be toned down in order to taste the delicate cucumber and gin. Muddle the cucumber, add all of the rest of the ingredients to taste, shake very gently and serve in the largest, curviest glass you have. A big wedge of cucumber, a wedge of lemon and some freshly ground black pepper on top. -Victorian Mojito 2 Measures Hendricks gin 10-12 Mint leaves 6 Wedges of lime Bar spoon of sugar Splash of Gomme syrup Apple juice Muddle the mint, lime and sugars in a Collins (high-ball) glass. Add the gin, fill with crushed ice, stir and finish by topping with a little apple juice. Garnish with a nice sprig of mint. --Price and Availability-- You can pick up a bottle for around £20 but is often more expensive. It is available in most good off licenses/delis like Oddbins or Peckhams and Rye. --Overall Opinion-- Hendricks gin is a superb gin that happily sits near the top of my top 10 gins list (alongside the likes of Martin Millers Westbourne, Plymouth Navy Strength and Tanqueray 10). It works perfectly in cocktails, on its own and as a Gin and Tonic. It is a little pricy but is a premium product and definitely worth every penny. The Hendricks website is as unusual as the gin and is worth a visit... What more can I say? If you fancy trying a gin that is a little different (and you like cucumbers) then you should give it a go! It does state on the bottle that Hendricks gin is 'Not for Everybody' and only '1 in 1000 gin drinkers prefer it', but they like it that way and I can't see it changing...
Gong - Wingful of Eyes ******************** Gong formed in Paris in 1968 after the Australian Daevid Allen was forced to leave Soft Machine because immigration officers refused his re-entry to Britain with his expired Visa. The original lineup of Gong consisted of Daevid Allen, Gilli Smith, Dider Malherbe and, eventually, drummer Pip Pyle. Since the very first Gong recordings of just Allen and Smith the band have gone through in excess of twenty different members and a silly number of line ups. They are still recording and releasing stuff today with their most recent being 'Mothergong O Amsterdam' in 2007. This album is a compilation that was put together by Mike Howlett (Gong '73-'76) that reflects on Gongs music between 1975 and 1978 (a time when there was no Daevid Allen). Here is an interesting excerpt from Mike Howlett's notes that might help you understand what Gong really is about; "This may therefore be a suitable occasion to clarify perhaps, Daevid Allen's original intention and principle in forming Gong. At the core is the idea that through music are communicated ideas, concepts and emotions beyond the capabilities of language alone. Added to this is the concept of the musician as in instrument of music, that dispites the foibles of personality and vain strugglings with technique, a group of musicians act as a conduit, transcending individual intent." --The Music-- Wingful of Eyes opens on 'Heavy Tune' which is my favourite track on this album. Heavy Tune is taken from Gong's 1978 album Expresso II and is a fantastic composition. It opens on the tapping of the high hat and an outrageously simple plodding bass line (one of my most memorable bass lines of all time). Heavy tune then jumps between epic guitar riffs and melodic, psychedelic plonking xylophone with an ever evolving bass line and fantastic drumming. What more can I say? Though I dare say that any Xylophonists out there may have a more suitable adjective for the description of their style. 'Cat in Clark's Shoes' left me with somewhat of a debate as to the identity of the lead instrument, for my musical ear isn't quite up to scratch. I will hesitate a guess at the soprano Sax though... Cat in Clark's Shoes opens on another awesome bass line, followed by soprano sax and after a bridge a fantastic battle for top spot between organ, sax and violin. Then comes another bridge and we're brought into the streets of France hearing street corner violinists and French conversation. But we're not done yet! The crescendo comes with the patter of Glockenspiel, mad sliding bass and violin to finish. Eight minutes of genius taken from Gong's 1975 album 'Shamal' Third on the album is 'Night Illusion' which is taken from Gong's 1976 album Gazeuse! And was written by Allan Holdsworth with more epic guitar riffs and soloing galore. Everytime I here it my memories of playing Sonic the Hedgehog on Megadrive are awaking and I can picture myself running down the twisty corridors of the bonus levels trying to collect as many coins as I can... Perhaps not the praise that Gong are after but praise nonetheless. 'Golden Dilemma' has the most intense opening on the entire album with crazy percussion galore which really does put across the message of dilemma. Shortly after the two minute mark the guitar comes in with a cool downbeat riff followed by percussion that brings the whole track into a breakdown, slowed up continuation of before. The ending drops the beat to the tempo of track number 5... 'Wingful of Eyes' the title track and second off the album Shamal is the first to include vocals. I really enjoy the first few seconds where the instruments are introduced and the ass line depicts the form of the vocals. This is also the first track to include the flute. I'm not the sort of person who reads into the meaning of a song but I really enjoy the simplicity of the way the vocals are sung and the poetry of the lyrics; 'There is a feeling we all know, Something happened long ago, When you remember who you were, Makes you what you are today. You are a kite upon a wind, Blowing through eternity, And you were always meant to fly, You are a wingful of eyes...' Track six, 'Three Blind Mice' is my second favourite track on the album and is a demonstration in "What to do with a Xylophone, if you own one". At least, it's what I'd aspire to if I owned a Xylophone. Three Blind Mice is also a drummers dream with fantastic drumming and a Bongo Bridge. 'Expresso' is back to the format of Night Illusion, and quite rightly so as it's from the same album. I'm sure that the spelling of expresso was considered a pun against the ignorance of many who ask for said mystical coffee. More sax, more epic guitar, more awesome drumming, more ridiculous xylophoning and more mad sliding bass guitar... Six minutes? Yes Please. As with Heavy Tune 'Soli' is take from Gong's 1978 album Expresso II and is probably the most chilled out and one of the more accessible tracks on Wingful of eyes. An awesome opening structure builds up to a crescendo of flowing xylophone and guitar solos that see Soli out to almost the very end bar a cheeky drum roll and a couple of tinkles... Track 9 'Shadow Of' seems to open on an outro and soften through it's 8 minutes eventually leading to some fantastic classical acoustic guitar. 'Mandrake' is brilliant. It's a composition that lies somewhere between what you might expect of a music box and a Chinese lullaby. Half way through Mandrake goes upbeat and gets a bit of a groove on - rocking out to some awesome Jazz sax licks and more incredible percussion before softening out to the most peaceful Gong finish yet. The finale of Wingful of Eyes is another taste of the Orient with 'Bambouji' this time including some Oriental female vocals, Oriental pipes, guitars, wind sound effects and the piste de resistance; a Gong. This has been a tremendous musical journey... --Track Listing-- 1. Heavy Tune 2. Cat in Clark's Shoes 3. Night Illusion 4. Golden Dilemma 5. Wingful of Eyes 6. Three Blind Mice 7. Expresso 8. Soli 9. Shadow Of 10. Mandrake 11. Bambouji 1986 Virgin Records --Price-- I picked my copy up from ever-reliable play.com for the princely fee of £4.95 though it is available on Amazon for a slightly higher fee, and I bought my original copy (which vanished in the sands of time) from HMV. --Overall Opinion-- Though much of the album is not Daevid Allen's early Gong it still symbolises what Gong are all about and that no matter how many metamorphoses there are of their music, it will always stick to the same principle. I think Mike Howlett defines what this sort of 'crazy' music is all about and bein able to listen to, appreciate and enjoy these recordings gives me an enormous sense of satisfaction. I think that this album is excellent, but I happen to like crazy, 70's experimental prog-rock-acid-jazz and that is exactly what this is. Many people who I have leant this album to just find that it becomes a bit much after a while and can't handle the cacophony of noise created by a bunch of eclectic, virtuoso musicians (those who have heard the album will know exactly what I mean). I consider this to be in my top handful of compilations ever and will happily recommend it to all those who has the time to really listen to it. Have those disillusions of xylophones only being associated with your time in the elevator dispelled and take the plunge into percussive heaven! --Recommendations- If you like this, or at least like the sound of it, then I recommend that you check out Gong's second recording 'Camembert Electrique' or perhaps give Soft Machine a go and try any of the albums from 1-5... John!
Oran Mór ******** Oran Mór is a West end of Glasgow pub situated where Byres road crosses Great Western Road - opposite the botanical gardens. It has been built into what used to be the old Kelvinside Parish Church. Refurbishment of Kelvinside Parish church started in 2002 and Oran Mór opened it's doors on the first day of the West End festival in June 2004. It has since grown to be one of the trendiest venues in Glasgow and attracts a mixed crowd. Oran Mór is Gaelic for "Big song" or "Great melody of Life". Oran Mór is a massive building housing two restaurants, a whisky bar, a lounge bar, a nightclub, a ballroom and a private dining room. It is the only bar in the West end to stay open till two o'clock in the Morning every night of the week. It is owned by a man called Colin Beattie who owns several Glasgow pubs including another successful Whisky bar - Ben Nevis. --The Whisky Bar and Lounge Bar-- When Oran Mór originally opened its doors these two bars were priced differently, this seemed odd because in actual fact they are exactly the same bar but face different sides of the room. Traditionally, bars have the two sides - public bar and lounge bar and usually led into different rooms, but in the case of Oran Mór the bar is an island in the centre of a large room. This scheme didn't last long! Especially when customers started to realise that the whisky side was ten pence cheaper!! With a selection of around 150 Whiskies there is plenty of choice for the connoisseur, ranging from the malt of the moment at £1.50, which changes every month, to whisky that you can expect to pay over £20 for a nip! The collection is ever-growing with whiskies from Wales, Japan, Canada, America and of course Scotland. There is a large choice of drafts beers; Miller, Fosters, Kronenbourg, San Miguel, Baltika, John Smiths, Mcewans 80/-, Guinness, Kronenbourg Blanc, Deuchars IPA, 3 guest real ales and Strongbow cider. Bar food is served everyday until nine and includes most of the Scottish classics; Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, Cullen Skink and Smoked Salmon to name but a few. The main problem with this bar is that there is no music and lacks atmosphere. Unless there is a special event or a Scottish jam session in the corner, the only thing to listen to is the banter of your friends and the bar staff! It's a shame because it has lots of potential but the wrong people in charge. It's not particularly cheap either, averaging around £3 for a pint. Another point is that you can't have your kids in here - strictly 18 and over. --The Brasserie Restaurant-- The Brasserie is the "posh" area of Oran Mór, where the best food is served with the finest drinks. Originally this bar was going to be a cocktail bar and restaurant but it was quickly realised that the West End of Glasgow didn't need another cocktail bar. The menu is constantly changing, using as much as possible Scottish ingredients. Currently a three course meal costs around thirty pounds per head and is generally worth the money as the food is of a consistently high quality and the staff are very good. Children are welcome in here. --The Auditorium-- This is by far the most impressive room in the building. It is a vast ballroom with an overlooking gallery, original stained glass windows and mural ceiling by Alasdair Gray. The first thing you notice about this room is the ceiling - it's amazing. Alasdair Gray is a fantastic artist and writer who has written several plays and books. Oran Mór has a full wedding license allowing couples to marry in the church. In July of 2005 Shaun of the Dead star Simon Pegg married Maureen McCann and had their reception in this amazing room. If you're considering having your wedding or reception here I'd consult the bank manager first... The Auditorium has been used for many different things; fashion shows, casino nights, acoustic gigs, weddings, conferences, themed parties, graduations, ceilidhs... Personally I think it's a brilliant venue for a ceilidh. Set up the band on the stage and dance the night away to some Scottish music in a Scottish setting! And bring the kids, it's all good in the auditorium! The only real problem with the auditorium is the size of the bar. It's pretty small! If you are at a graduation, or a big party with hundreds of people, it is rather tricky working your way up there... When you eventually make it to the bar you will notice the prices, averaging upwards of three pounds for a pint! --The Conservatory Restaurant-- The conservatory was built on to the side of the building and has a huge window overlooking Byres road. It's on the same level as the main bar area and joins through some curtains. The menu is identical to the bar menu but the conservatory makes your meal a little more private and is ideal for larger groups who all want to sit together. A meal in the Conservatory (or Bar) will cost around four pounds for a starter, nine pounds for a main course and three pounds for a pudding! Add a bottle of wine at twelve pounds and there you are! You can't have your kids in here though. --The Private Dining Room-- When you go into the Private Dining Room it's like entering a gentleman's club. Big comfy red leather chairs, a vast dining table, beautiful wooden floors and a nice little bar. With private entrance via a lift this room is ideal for private functions, meetings and the like. The Scottish Football Association (SFA) have had meetings here as well as birthday parties, small wedding receptions and anniversaries. This room has to be booked beforehand as it is private and not open to just have a look. Although rumour has it that this will be part of the brasserie restaurant soon. The only problem with the PDR is the fact that it's quite small, it's suitable for groups of forty or less but I probably wouldn't have more than thirty people in there. --The Venue Nightclub-- Past gigs in the venue have included Jose Gonzalez and Maceo Parker. The nightclub is open most nights, Friday and Saturday are the big nights that attract the biggest crowds. It costs eight whole pounds to get in on a Friday or Saturday which is ridiculous! But anywhere that doesn't let me in for free is ridiculous in my books (scummy student...)! The venue is more expensive than the bar, again averaging upwards of three pounds for a pint unless you go on a Sunday or a Thursday when there are cheap drinks promotions at £1.50. The Venue also plays host to the highly successful "Play, Pie and a Pint" where during lunch hour a small play s put on, typically around forty minutes, and each customer watches the play whilst enjoying a pie and pint. All for a tenner. At first I was sceptical as to whether or not it would be worth going to see, but it soon attracted a lot of attention, especially with big names like Robbie Coltrane writing and performing in plays. The Evening times, a Glasgow newspaper, and Orange sponsor the event, allowing everyone with an Orange phone to purchase tickets "buy one get one free" on Wednesdays. The shows run every day bar Sunday and the Saturday show is particularly popular with as many as 250 people coming to see the play. The play changes each week, with different writers, cast and set there is going to be something for everyone! Downsides - eight pounds to get in! It closes at the same time as the bar, 2am. To some people this could be a blessing in disguise getting them in bed an hour earlier but I think most people prefer the extra hour most clubs offer. Also Bobbie Bluebell. He is the DJ. Does everyone remember a song called "Young at Heart" by Bobbie and the Bluebells? Well this is the man himself and he likes his cheesy music! So be prepared for a night of the finest cheese. Funnily enough children aren't allowed in the club, strictly 18 and over! --Conclusions...-- All in all, what do I think of Oran Mór?? Personally I'm really not a fan but I do have to say that it is a fascinating building! It's a church for one! It is heavily orientated around Scotland, in keeping with all of the other bars that Colin Beattie owns and there is always something happening (gigs, plays, charity events, etc.) It does have plenty of downsides - no music in the main bar, it's somewhat overpriced and on the weekends is very, very busy. There is so much potential and with the right people could be the ultimate Glasgow venue. I'd say that it's worth a visit, even if you just want to have a gander at the Whisky collection and the Auditorium ceiling but I wouldn't make it a regular affair. I really hope that one day they see the real value in Oran Mór and thurn it into the venue that the building deserves. Generally the staff are very good. Mostly helpful and efficient which is all good in a bar! It's especially difficult working on the busy Friday and Saturday nights so it's nice to know that the staff are usually on the ball and get you served as quickly as possible. It's especially nice in the summer when you can sit out in the beer garden watching the world roll by, though if you know anything about Glasgow you'll know that it's usually wet...
--Glenfiddich Solera 15yro-- The Glenfiddich distillery is half a mile outside Dufftown in the Highlands of Scotland and has been there since 1886. The distillery was built and founded by William Grant and is still in the family today. Glenfiddich is one of the worlds largest Whisky brands and is still housed by some of those buildings that were built in 1886. Glenfiddich Solera 15yro is a 15 year old Single Malt Whisky that has been aged in three different casks; Sherry, Bourbon and New Oak. It is then moved to the Solera Vat whose level never drops below the half way mark. The Whisky is then finished for a relatively short amount of time in Solera Tuns. You're thinking 'What on earth does Solera mean and what are Tuns?'. Fortunately I know the answer... A Solera is essentially an aging process that happens in a set of different containers which, in this case, are the 3 different barrels, the Vat and the Tuns. When the spirit reaches it's desired age most of it is moved to a different container but some is left to be blended with the new spirit - hence keeping the Vat always at least half full. A Tun is essentially a big cask. Bigger than a Hogshead or a Barrel and is often used in winemaking. It holds around 940 litres of liquid. There are five different areas in which Scottish Whisky is distilled; Lowlands, Speyside, Highlands, Islay and Campbeltown. Islay whiskies are some of the most popular as they are all inherently peaty, a recent Ardbeg bottling is the peatiest ever made. If you are new to whisky it is best to start with a Lowland or a Speyside as they tend to be the smoothest and easiest on the palette. The Glenfiddich distillery is classed as a Speyside Whisky as it lies very close to the banks of the river Spey. --Making a Whisky-- There are several important stages when it comes to making a Whisky; -Maltings- Barley is soaked in water for around three days then it is spread out on the maltings floor where it begins to germinate and turn the starch into sugars. -Kilning- The Maltings are spread over a peat fire and dried out. This is where any peat flavours are imparted into the grain and thus, the end product. The peaty flavour does not come from the water that is used during the distillation. -Mashing- The Malted barley is now ground to a coarse flour and is mixed with hot water which reactivates the enzymes and finishes the production of starch and sugars. The water releases these sugars from the grist and is taken away to be fermented. -Fermentation- Yeast is added to the liquid (now called Wort) from the mash and is put into giant wooden washbacks where the wort ferments into a beer-like liquid called wash. -Distillation- The wash is pumped into copper stills and heated to boiling point. The gasses and vapours that come off the liquid whilst boiling head up through the still and are condensed by cold water. This liquid is now more like a wine. The process is repeated and we are left with a strong spirit (around 80%). This spirit is mixed with water to reduce it to an ideal strength for maturation. -Cooperage- Cooperage is the maintaining and creation of high quality casks that are used in the maturation of Whisky. This can include anything from hand building casks to the maintenance and often re-firing of casks. -Maturation- By far the longest stage of the Whisky making process. A Whisky can only be called a Whisky (in Scotland) if it has been left to mature on Scottish soil for a minimum of 3 years and 1 day. Whenever the Whisky leaves Scottish soil it is no longer classed as maturing and is bottled at that age. Different casks produce different flavours as do different lengths of time. --Tasting Notes-- I'm going to use Jim Murray's evaluation system as I think it's the best available. -Colour- The colour looks a bit like old gold - that classic Whisky colour. A subtle darkness and depth added to a gold colour. A good tip for when looking at the colour of a drink is to hold a white piece of paper behind the glass and hold it up towards a light. -Nose- When nosing I pick up on soft fruits like plums, peaches and apricots. There is also a Bourbon-like smell of caramel or fudge and oak then seems to finish on Barley notes. When nosing drinks it is often highly beneficial to add a drop of water to the spirit which opens up the bouquet significantly. Another tip is to smell the back of your hand between drinks as this action cleanses the palette ensuring that there is little residual smell from the previous spirit in your nose. -Taste- Those soft fruits are coming through - in particular I'm thinking apricot. Quite an intense flavour but really refreshing and light at the same time. The sweetness of the fruit and spiciness from ginger, perhaps, seem to balance perfectly. Again, try this with a drop of water to see how the flavour changes. -Finish and Balance- Long and luxurious, the best part of this Whisky is definitely the finish. There is a toffee-like sweetness that settles on your tongue after swallowing. Almost perfectly balanced with hints of fruit, spiciness, sweetness and barley from nose to finish. -How good is it?- Jim Murrays system of rating Whisky: Nose - 23/25 Taste - 23/25 Finish - 24.5/25 Balance - 24/25 Overall - 94.5/100 Though clearly an excellent all round Whisky it's the finish and balance where it comes into it's own. An excellent bottling from Glenfiddich. --Drinking Whisky-- Every whisky drinker has his or own little way when it comes to drinking it, I like to have a taste of the spirit and then add only two or three tiny drops of water - just enough to release the other flavours. I think everyone should drink Whisky how they enjoy it. If you like it neat, drink it neat, if you like it with coke, drink it with coke. Don't listen to the old guy at the end of the bar who is offended when you ask for a Whisky and coke! A nice introduction to whisky is to drink a blended whisky with ginger beer (or ginger ale) and plenty of fresh lime. -Hot Toddy Recipe- You can't beat a hot toddy in the winter... 1 ½ Whisky ½ - ¾ Fresh lemon juice About the same amount of honey as lemon 6 cloves, crushed Boiling water Mix the whisky, cloves, lemon, honey and a splash of the hot water in a latte glass or mug until consistent. Top the glass up with hot water and stir. Taste then serve with a wedge of lemon or an orange twist. -Whisky Sour- 2 Measures Whisky 1 Measure lemon juice 1 Egg white ¾ Gomme sugar syrup Add to shaker, shake and pour into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a lemon wedge and a maraschino cherry. If you are not too keen on the egg white idea you can add a small amount of pineapple juice. The egg white is just in there to give the drink some body and a creaminess. --Recommendations-- This is a by far my favourite Glenfiddich bottling. The 12yro is rubbish, some of the special editions like the 12yro Caoran Reserve didn't excite, the 21yro and 30yro were good, but nowhere near as good as the 15yro. So, if you are going to try a Glenfiddich I recommend that you start here. It's obviously a little more expensive than the 12yro but is worth every penny. --Price-- A bottle of the Glenfiddich Solera 15yro will set you back £29.99 from the distillery website and is probably available cheaper elsewhere (I got mine duty free). www.Glenfiddich.com John.
HP Deskjet 5940 Inkjet Printer ************************* I bought this printer safe in the knowledge that Hewlett-Packard produce quality printers - initially I was very happy with my purchase but after a few months became rather disappointed. For less than £60 you can have a printer that is capable of printing good quality edge to edge photos and can print up to 30 pages of text a minute (If it decides it wants to)! --Installation-- This printer was immensely easy to install. You didn't have to print a test page and check alignment then tell it what to do... It just got on with it. Plug it in, stick in the CD and voila! Printer! Annoyingly it didn't come with a usb lead so you have to buy one separately, but I think that this is fairly common practice these days (a cable should cost no more than a tenner). -- Print Quality-- Impressive! I was quite shocked at the quality of the prints on all modes (fast draft through to best quality). The quality of print on draft mode is fantastic, I print 90% of my stuff on fast draft as it is usually text and you can't see any real loss in quality. The photo prints are excellent, with or without special photo ink. The photos are not grainy and the printer picks out the colours brilliantly. --Print speed-- If you adjust your print settings, and put it onto fast draft mode, it prints up to 30 pages a minute. Which is silly! There isn't much loss in quality, provided all you are printing is pages of black and white text. It takes a wee while to print the full page colour photographs but that is more than acceptable --Software-- I'm not a particularly big fan of the HP software that is bundled in with the drivers as I find it overly intrusive. It offers all sorts of services from online photo storage to new cartridges and cartridge recycling which is fine, but I like my software to do what it's designed to do and nothing else. The software package includes image editing software which is reasonably good for simple tasks such as red eye removal and cropping. It's very user friendly and regularly updates itself if you have an internet connection. The installation of the software, much like the printer itself, is a doddle. Just don't expect an all singing all dancing image editing package. --Ink and Ink Usage-- I have had my printer a good three years and have only changed the cartridges once (one of each). I think that this is perfectly reasonable considering moderate usage (I'm a student so type and print plenty of courseworks). A black cartridge for this printer typically costs around £14, a colour cartridge is around £16 (for the larger cartridge) and there are special photo cartridges which are also around £14. Although there are photo cartridges it doesn't mean that you have to buy one to print your photos. The normal colour cartridge does a perfectly good job of it anyway. The photo cartridge is designed to enhance skin tones, vibrant colours and contrast for more lifelike photos. --Extras-- If you like you can plug your camera into the PictBridge port on the front of the printer for direct printing from your camera. It is a USB port so you will not have to buy any new leads or adapters, you just use the one that came with your camera. I can't comment on it's effectiveness as I'd rather look at my pictures properly before printing them but I'm sure it works! The printer comes with full cartridges (Black, tri colour and I got a photo one too) and a sample media pack which has a few sheets of HP photo paper. --Maintenance-- This printer is just over a year old now and the feed mechanism is touch and go at best. The problem started around six months in and has worsened since. Basically the printer does not grip the paper and therefore does not feed properly. I contacted HP and they asked me all the usual questions (have I used the software cleaning, feeding problem shooters etc) then suggested I contact a different department and ask for a kit that has been designed for this printer to effectively remedy this problem. The kit did help reduce the problem but by no means fixed it. Further reading has led me to believe that this is a very common problem. The only way I could get it to print eventually was to hand feed every page or to stick it on its fastest mode and keep playing with it till it started to feed. It works fine when it's working fast. --Design-- Terrible feed mechanism aside, the design is fairly sleek though I'm no expert in 'Printer Haute Couture'. It's not a great chunk of a beast so sits perfectly fine within the confines of my desk. The only piece of under-engineering I have noticed is the part you pull out for the printed pages to rest on, it's a bit flimsy and it wouldn't take much to break it. --Noise-- Long gone is the racket of noise that was the Dot Matrix printer. It's as quiet as necessary so wouldn't be disruptive in an office environment but it is a little noisier when on fast draft mode as it chucks the paper in and out considerably faster. --Advantages-- - Excellent print quality - Edge to edge prints - Fast, economical print settings - Reasonably priced - Quiet --Disadvantages-- - Very dodgy feed mechanism - No printer lead - Overly intrusive software bundle - Flimsy paper tray - Fairly average solution to the very dodgy feed mechanism -- Overall Opinion-- All in all it is an excellent printer and I would recommend it to everyone. Unfortunately however, the problems with the feed mechanism become unbearable. My parents (who I recommended this printer to shortly after my purchase) really can't stand their printer and my girlfriend got so annoyed she bought a new one. Which, incidentally, is excellent... Touch wood... So, don't buy one unless you are remarkably patient and have little else to do, or if you happen to have an excellent solution to the feed problem!
Soft Machine - Fourth/Fifth ********************** Soft Machine?? Who are Soft Machine I hear you asking!! Essentially they are a prog-rock fusion-jazz band from the late sixties, early seventies. Well, anyone familiar with Daevid Allen will have heard of this awesome band. They formed in 1966 in Canterbury with Daevid Allen on guitar, Mike Ratledge on keyboard, Robert Wyatt on Drums and Kevin Ayers on guitar. Daevid Allen is an Australian who played a large part in so many awesome movements. Gong, Soft Machine, Banana Moon and Daevid Allens University of Errors to name but a few. This CD album composes of their fourth and fifth releases as a band, cleverly named 'Fourth' and 'Fifth'. So you get two albums for the price of one which in my books is great chat! In 1968 they played a three month tour of the US opening for the Jimmy Hendrix Experience and recorded their first album in New York. This is an evolving band, a band whose music changes as new musicians come and go with their own influences and styles giving every album it's own personality. Many argue that "Third" is the Soft Machines greatest album but "Fourth" is definitely a close contender. --Fourth-- Soft Machine Fourth is indeed the fourth of the bands albums and was released in the autumn of 1971. The line-up for this record was the Hopper, Ratledge, Wyatt & Dean quartet who were arguably at their creative peak. The album opens on a song called "Teeth" which is a crazed, confused, perplex, nine minute long, prog-acid-jazz-rock piece that combines brilliant fast sax work with, perhaps, possessed organ playing, sublime flowing double bass lines and fantastic off beat drumming. This track is epic, winding its way along a long jazz filled road of early 70's mystery - sometimes at great speed and at others with the haste of a snail. Following "Teeth" is "Kings and Queens", a song that has a sort of gracious sadness with an element of poetry that seems to be trying to tell a story... "Fletchers Blemish" is Elton Dean's stuttering, psychedelic mastermind combining ridiculous sax licks and drumming full of energy. The track opens on a cymbal role that is reminiscent of the tense build up before the rattlesnake attacks in the old westerns. After the tense build up the snake well and truly attacks! Turning his victim into a warbling saxophonic mess. The real star of this album (Fourth) is "Virtuality". It comes in four parts and spans the best part of twenty minutes. Each part works into the next part seamlessly with a wave of music that seems to build up to a crescendo that never comes. Instead, "Virtuality 4" brings you back down to earth and into the land of chill-out. I usually only associate the word 'genius' with artists that make you stop in your tracks and think "where did that come from?" - the mind boggles when you start wondering what sort of strange mental land the guys were in when they wrote it. --Fifth-- Fifth was recorded between November 1971 and February 1972 in London but this time Wyatt had moved on and Phil Howard and John Marshall stepped in to the drums. This album opens on "All White" which is a 7/4 jam in E minor and continues the sound of the previous album. There is a minute and a half of contemplative, tentative sax then the drums come in and the mad jazz commences. Awesome organ playing, rolling bass, quality drumming and more of that genius sax playing. "Drop" opens on the sound of water dripping in a cave and echoed organ sounds that float into the distance but then lead to the inevitable - another frantic 7/4, running sax and organ jaunt! Absolutely fantastic. "M C" is a quiet, echoing floating piece with fast cymbal work and ghost drumming that slips away... I have a vivid image of psychedelic multi-coloured spirals and Neil from the Young Ones floating into the distance in a dream about hole-ridden shoes. The fifth song on this album is "L B O". If there was a weak link on this album it could be this. It's essentially a chance for the drummer to showcase his talents (a Moby Dick moment), and although not obtrusive, won't be to everyone's taste. Personally, I find jazz drumming awe-inspiring and enjoy this track just as much as all of the others. "Pigling Bland" is my personal favourite on fifth. Brilliant funky bass lines and is closer to fusion than the rest of the album and is probably the most accessible song for those who might find the other tracks just a bit too crazy! Jazz café music at its finest. As with "Fourth" this album ends on an ambient note but this time in the form of "Bone". This is a three and a half minute cymbal-ridden and eighties computer game evil organ jaunt that leaves you wanting to go back for more... --Track listing-- -Fourth- 1. Teeth 2. Kings and Queens 3. Fletcher's Blemish 4. Virtually Part 1 5. Virtually Part 2 6. Virtually Part 3 7. Virtually Part 4 -Fifth- 1. All White 2. Drop 3. M C 4. As If 5. L B O 6. Pigling Bland 7. Bone --Price-- I can't for the life of me remember when, where or how much this was picked up for, though my guess would be 5 years ago, Fopp and a fiver. A sneaky peak on Amazon tells me that it is currently retailing at: £6.79 --Overall Opinion and Recommendations-- It's incredibly difficult to describe what this record really encapsulates. There is no structure, there are no notes and I suppose that the same piece was never played twice. All of the music is sound, sound that meanders freely between the instruments. The tracks aren't songs, they are unravelling, complex stories that flow in and out of a continually evolving theme. I am never going to grow tired of listening to this album, I love listening and finding new bits - like watching a good film. Anyone who is into prog rock or fusion jazz should adore this record. Anyone with an open mind and is particularly fond of the Saxophone should have a listen too. It's especially good as it combines two fantastic albums - getting two for the price of one is always a bonus. If you don't know much about this genre/era of music then this is as good a starting place as any. It will lead onto so many other fantastic bands because as mentioned previously it is an evolving band and all of the musicians involved move onto other fantastic projects... Check it out! If I were to recommend some similar stuff to this I'd say; "Go out and buy Wingful of Eyes by Gong". Please do.
Goslings Black Seal Rum ********************* Goslings Black Seal is a dark rum from Bermuda and has been around since 1858. The distillery itself was founded over 50years previously in 1806 by a chap called James Gosling (An Englishman I believe) and as far as I know is still owned by the Goslings family. The distillery is still going strong and currently produce three excellent products (well, there are others but they are special editions, etc.) - Goslings Gold Seal - Goslings Black Seal - Goslings Family Reserve The other couple of products are Black seal but at different proofs (strengths) such as Black Seal 151 proof. Goslings is somewhat different to most other spirits in when it's being distilled as they distill their spirit in both Continuous Stills and Copper Pot Stills. Continuous stills are tall, column-like stills that, as the name suggests, can run continuously, whereas the Copper Pot Stills (rounder, dumpy stills) are operated with batches of spirit. --Rum-- Rum is essentially the product of extracting some use from the waste material of sugar cane. Technically rum has to come from the Rum Belt (which includes the Caribbean, Guatemala, plenty of South America and lots of other little islands) but is made all over the world in places as far fetched as Glasgow and Belgium. Rum, like Whisky and Tequila, has a wide range of ages, flavours and colours: - Cuban/Latin style rums tend to be very light and delicate (e.g. Bacardi). - Rhum Agricole is a French style of Rum that is made on the French Caribbean islands and is made from pressed sugar cane juice rather than molasses (e.g. Barbancourt). - Demerara rums are quite soft, medium bodied and all come from the same part of South America - Guyana (e.g. El Dorado). - Barbados rums are all easy drinking, smooth rums that tend to be a nice introduction to the world of rum drinking (e.g. Mount Gay). - Jamaican rums are the heavy hitters. Pungent, fruity rums with bags of character and individuality (e.g. Appleton Estate). --Tasting Notes-- Tasting notes are quite personal things as everybody's palette is slightly different. What tastes like a wonderfully rich, peaty Malt Whisky to me might taste like TCP to you... -Colour- As the name suggests this rum is very dark, almost black. When looking at the colour of a drink hold a white piece of paper behind the glass and have a light on in the background. -Nose- When nosing Goslings Black Seal I get the wonderful richness that I associate with dark rums. Sweet stewed fruits, syrupy plums, a hint of treacle then the spiciness of cumin and a warm, herby smell - probably something like asafoetida. All in all, a very complex nose. A good tip for when nosing drinks is to smell the back of your hand when changing between drinks. This action cleanses the palette ensuring that there is little residual smell from the previous spirit or otherwise in your nose. -Taste- The taste is considerably more delicate than what you might think - considering the fact that it's a very dark, rich smelling liquid. I pick up on the pudding theme again, sweet, rich, stewed fruits but with a gentleness that fills your mouth and isn't overpowering. A few cubes of ice and a good squeeze of fresh lime reduces the sweetness and makes for a lovely sipper. Try tasting the rum on its own, with a splash of water, with some ice or with a dash of ginger beer or ginger ale. Each different way of serving releases different smells and tastes that are difficult to pick up on when only tasting on it's own. -Finish- The finish brings those notes of cumin and asafoetida from the nose and leaves a very clean, fresh spiciness. If you've aded a squeeze of lime the tartness and acidity add to the spiciness but also cleans your palette. --Cocktail Suggestions-- -Dark and Stormy- Ingredients: 2 Measures of Goslings Black Seal Ginger Beer Fresh Lime Method: This is 'the' classic dark rum cocktail and was originally made with this very rum. Excellent. Stick some rum, a few squeezes of fresh lime and some ginger beer in a nice tall, ice filled glass. -Treacle Recipe- This is a classic rum cocktail and brings out the individual flavours of the rum but removes the harshness of the alcohol itself. If you enjoy the flavours of a rum but find drinking it neat a bit overpowering then try a treacle before you fill the glass with coke... Ingredients: 2 Measures Goslings Black Seal Gomme sugar Fresh pressed apple juice Angostura bitters Glass: Chilled Rocks glass (Short) Method: Put a few ice cubes in the glass with a few drops of bitters, the first measure of rum and some sugar syrup. Stir with a bar spoon. As you are stirring gradually add ice cubes, one after another, ensuring the glass stays cold and that the spirit is continually moving. Add the second measure of rum, some more ice and, if needed, a little more sugar. Stir as before and when the glass is full of ice - providing you are happy with the flavour - top up with the apple juice. It should only require the merest splash of apple. Garnish with a tiered apple wedge. Variations on the theme are nice. Some people stir in a piece of orange rind from the beginning, some add a little chocolate liquor... If you want any cocktail suggestions or ideas feel free to send me a message. --Price-- I've seen bottles of Goslings for less than £12 in the big supermarkets which is an absolute bargain! That sai, in your local off license I'd expect to pay around £15. --Personal Opinion-- Well, for the money, I don't think there is a better, readily available, dark rum on the market. It makes the worlds best Dark n Stormy and tastes sublime on its own. If you try it and you like it then keep an eye out for its big brother - Goslings Family Reserve - it's quite simply stunning. As a side note, if you are a fan of rum and are interested in reading about what the world has to offer then pick up a copy of Dave Broom's book - Rum. Full of highly useful rum related information!
Being a Bartender ************** Or just a sneaky peak into all things alcohol... Being a bartender is pretty straightforward, becoming a good bartender is a little challenging but becoming a great bartender might be a good deal more difficult than everyone thinks... In this review I'll look at product knowledge, presentation, flair bartending, and other random bits and bobs! I'll try my hardest to throw in a few little known interesting booze-related facts for your reading pleasure. ----Terminology---- I was thinking it might be best if I wrote some sort of nomenclature detailing the words,ways and equipment of the bartender so here is a brief list of some of the less obvious. Hawthorne strainer - coiled strainer for shakers Double strain - strain with a hawthorn and then a small sieve Bar Spoon - a long, spiraled spoon Wheel - a slice through a piece of segmented fruit that looks like a wheel! Boston Shaker - cocktail shaker, half glass, half tin Muddler - a little rolling pin used for mashing fruit in a tin Twist - a twist of the zest of a citrus fruit Rocks Glass - A short, wide glass you would serve a short drink in Collins Glass - Also known as a highball, usually quite tall and around a half pint Martini Glass - A glass you'd serve a martini in Hurricane Glass - A tall, curvy, 80's style glass with a stemmed base Champagne Flute - A champagne glass Sling Glass - A tall narrow glass, like a tall flute Brandy Balloon - A round stemmed glass for serving brandy. It is designed so that the spirit is warmed in the palm of the hand Snifter Glass - Ideal for nosing whiskies Proof - Proof is generally an American thing but is double the A.B.V. (percentage) ----Product Knowledge---- Sounds funny but every good bartender must have an unrivalled knowledge of what he or she is selling and making. It often means the difference between a tip and no tip - which in this sort of industry is paramount in deciding whether it's beans on toast for tea or Sea bass and Truffles. It is always important to taste what you are selling. The best way to do this is to hold a straw into the drink, put your finger on the end of the straw then lift the straw to your mouth. This lets you taste the drink without leaving your lipstick on the rim of the glass! This is particularly important when you are making cocktails. You might have forgotten an ingredient and a quick taste would tell you that, you might need a little more sugar or maybe you've put too much sugar in. Don't give a paying customer a drink that you think doesn't taste right, they won't be back. What I'll try and do here is give an outline of a selection of different spirits, what they are, where they come from, differences in brands and maybe a recipe or two to help you on your way... -Vodka- Most people believe Vodka to be a cheap and nasty mixing spirit that gets you drunk. Well, if you want it to be then it can be done as vodka tends to be one of the cheapest spirits on the shelf in your local off-license. It also has a very short finish, meaning that the taste doesn't tend to linger on your tongue so is considered to be more palatable. It is most widely consumed in Poland and Russia and is usually distilled from potatoes or grain. A couple of good Vodka's to try could be Ketel 1, a very smooth vodka from Holland that is ideal for mixing martinis or perhaps you could try Grey Goose which is a fantastic French vodka. Espresso martini recipe 1 measure of fresh espresso 1 ½ measures vodka 1 measure Toussaint ½ measure (or to taste) of gomme sugar syrup Shake really, really, really hard then double strain into a martini glass and garnish with three coffee beans. It should have a nice creamy head. -Gin- Ahh, one of my favourite spirits... You would be amazed at the differences in flavours between gins that come from all over the place! Different kinds of berries, different kinds of botanicals, different vintages of gins whose flavours depend upon the local selection of fresh botanicals from past years and of course different qualities of the methods and waters used in picking and distillation. There are a few different kinds of gin. The most common is London gin which can be distilled anywhere you fancy! Plymouth gin on the other hand can only be distilled in Plymouth. There is Tom gin which is a more traditional, sweet gin and other gins such as Dutch gin. Gin originated in Holland and was drunk in shots by armies before going into battle - hence the term "Dutch Courage". It was introduced to the English whilst fighting the French and it made its way over here... A classic example of going a little over the top in the gin world is Martin Millers gin. The botanicals are distilled in London then shipped over to Iceland where the spirit is blended with Icelandic, glacial water. This gin is superb and has won awards year after year. If serving it with tonic I recommend adding some sliced strawberries rather than the familiar lemon or lime. Incidentally, gin is traditionally served with lemon however a very clever marketing ploy by Gordons seems to have changed the way we drink gin and is now usually served with lime. I'd like to say that I do not rate Bombay Sapphire, in fact I think it's a terrible gin whose only use is in gin and tonics. In blind tasting it almost always comes out worst. Sorry! However I respect the fact that it brought gin to the masses. If you don't particularly enjoy the taste of gin then try Bombay Sapphire as it has a short finish (like vodka) and the flavour doesn't linger. Bramble recipe This is an incredibly simple and tasty classic cocktail 2 measures gin ¾ measure fresh lemon juice Gomme sugar to taste Crème de Mure (Blackberry Liqueur) Stir together the lemon, gin and sugar in a rocks glass until it tastes nice. Add crushed ice to the brim, lace with some crème de mure and garnish with a couple of blackberries and a twist of lemon. -Whisky- There are several different kinds of Scotch Whisky; blends, single malts, vatted malts and grain whisky. A Scottish whisky can only be called so after it has been left to mature in a barrel for 3 years and one day on Scottish soil. From then on it can only be further aged on Scottish soil as the second it leaves the country it leaves at the age it is at then. It has to be made only from water and barley, although caramel can be added to change the colour, and it has to be bottled at a minimum of 40% A.B.V. There are five different areas in which Scottish Whisky is distilled; Lowlands, Speyside, Highlands, Islay and Campbeltown. Islay whiskies are some of the most popular as they are all inherently peaty. If you are new to whisky it is best to start with a Lowland or a Speyside as they tend to be the smoothest and easiest on the palette. When serving a whisky always offer ice and water but never pour the water yourself. Offer it in a small jug or a second glass. Every whisky drinker has his or own little way when it comes to drinking it, I like to have a taste of the spirit and then add only two or three tiny drops of water - just enough to release the other flavours. A nice introduction to whisky is to drink a blended whisky with ginger beer and fresh lime. Hot Toddy Recipe You can't beat a hot toddy in the winter... 1 ½ Whisky ½ - ¾ Fresh lemon juice About the same amount of honey as whisky 6 cloves, crushed Boiling water Mix the whisky, cloves, lemon, honey and a splash of the hot water in a latte glass until consistent. Top the glass up with hot water and stir. Taste then serve with a wedge of lemon or an orange twist. -Bourbon- Mutter the word bourbon and the word you are most likely to hear in reply is Jack Daniels. For starters, Jack Daniels isn't even a Bourbon, it's a Tenessee Whiskey and in my humble opinion, it's not particularly good at being that either. It is overly sweet and lacks in subtle flavours. Bourbon, on the other hand, is an American spirit that can be distilled anywhere in the States but almost all of them are made in Kentucky. Bourbon is distilled from corn (by law it has to be at least 51% corn but is usually closer to 70%) and the rest is mate from wheat or rye. It is then aged in oak barrels. By law these oak barrels can only be used once before they are sold on to makers of Scottish Whiskys, vineyards and the like. These barrels are often re-fired before being used to age again. Bourbon is named after Bourbon county (Which is a dry state!) and is a French word. The French were fighting over territories in the battle of independence with the British and Kentucky was divided up and the French were given an area of land which they called Bourbon. My personal favourite bourbon is the Old Rip Van Winkle as it works perfectly in Old Fashions and makes a cracking Manhattan (Again, a Manhattan is classically made with Rye Whiskey). It has subtle hints of vanilla that come out beautifully with the water off the ice. Rat-Pack Manhattan recipe 2 Measures Elmer T Lee Bourbon ½ Measure Sweet Vermouth ½ Measure Dry Vermouth Splash Grand Marnier cuvée du cent - Cinquantenaire Add the bourbon and vermouth to an ice filled shaker. Stir until cold. Rinse the inside of a Martini glass with the Grand Marnier. Double strain the drink into the glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry and orange zest. Mmmmm... -Tequila- It makes you happy! No, really it does! Mention the word tequila and it's either slammers or Margaritas. Tequila is made from a plant called the blue agave and is technically just a form of mezcal (mezcal is the spirit with the worm in the bottom...). Tequila is much like champagne in that it can only be called tequila if it is made in certain regions of Mexico (Namely Jalisco and the highlands of Jalisco). Tequila is bottled in five different categories; -oro (gold) which is unaged tequila that often has colourings and flavourings that resemble an aged tequila -blanco (white) or plata (silver) are unaged white spirit -reposado (rested) is aged for a minimum or two months and a maximum of 1 year -anejo (aged) is aged between one and three years -extra anejo (extra aged) is a minimum of three years old If you are a tequila fan and ever spot Patron XO Café you should have a taste. It is a tequila and coffee liqueur that is really something special. Classic Margarita recipe 2 measures of tequila 1 measure of tripel sec ½ measure of fresh lime juice ½ measure of lime cordial Shake and double strain into a margarita glass that has a salted rim and garnish with a wheel of fresh lime. -Rum- Rum is a fantastically versatile spirit that is distilled from sugarcane produce such as molasses and pressed sugar cane 'juice'. There are so many different rums from all over the world and every single one is special in its own way. There are oodles of different classifications of rums; light rums, dark rums, spiced rums, flavoured rums, gold rums, over proofed rums, premium rums and dry rums. Then within these different categories you have various different ages of rums. Often though, the age depicts the colour. This is how I prefer to classify rums: - Cuban/Latin style rums tend to be very light and delicate (e.g. Bacardi). - Rhum Agricole is a French style of Rum that is made on the French Caribbean islands and is made from pressed sugar cane juice rather than molasses (e.g. Barbancourt). - Demerara rums are quite soft, medium bodied and all come from the same part of South America - Guyana (e.g. El Dorado). - Barbados rums are all easy drinking, smooth rums that tend to be a nice introduction to the world of rum drinking (e.g. Mount Gay). - Jamaican rums are the heavy hitters. Pungent, fruity rums with bags of character and individuality (e.g. Appleton Estate). If I were to recommend a rum it would have to be Ron Zacapa Centenario. Simply Gorgeous. Treacle recipe 2 Measures of a good rum Dash of bitters Sugar syrup Apple juice Put a couple of ice cubes in the bottom of an ice cold rocks glass with a dash of bitters and a splash of sugar. Add the first measure of rum and start stirring with a bar spoon. Continue stirring with the spoon for approximately ten minutes, adding pieces of ice gradually and the second measure of rum about half way through. Try not to touch the glass as the idea is to chill the drink and slowly break up the spirit. Once you have a full glass of ice and rum top with a splash of apple juice. Stir and garnish with a tiered wedge of apple. This is a variation of an old fashioned which is done with bourbon but any type of spirit could be used. -Triple Sec- Triple sec is an orange flavoured spirit that was invented in 1834 by Jean-Baptiste Combier in Saumur, France. The word sec means dry in French. Those of you who have tasted Cointreau will know exactly what this stuff is. This is most often used when making someone a cosmopolitan. Cheeky cosmopolitan recipe This is the same as a standard cosmo only using tequila instead. 1 measure Tequila (Jose Cuervo Tradicional?) 1 measure triple sec Dash of orange bitters 2 measures cranberry juice Splash of fresh lime juice Shake and double strain into a martini glass, garnish with a flamed orange peel. -Cachaca- Not the most versatile of spirits but a damn good one none the less. You cannot beat a well made, fresh, Caipriniah. Cachaca is similar to rum in that it is a distilled sugar cane product but was originally drunk by peasants. They would take some of the cachaca, mix it with some molasses to sweeten it and add some fresh lime then ideally it would be served on crushed ice. Caipriniah 6 wedges of lime Soft brown sugar Gomme syrup Two measures of cachaca Muddle a tiny amount or gomme syrup with a good barspoon of soft brown sugar until it forms a paste, add the lime wedges and muddle them in there too. Fill the glass with crushed ice (rocks glass). Add the first measure of cachaca and stir it all together then add the second measure and stir again. Top up the crushed ice and serve with a twist or wedge of fresh lime. -Brandy- Brandy is a grape based spirit that is (usually) distilled from wine. There are several different kinds of Brandys; -Cognac is from the Cognac region in France -Armagnac is from the Armagnac region in France -Fruit brandy's such as Slivovice, Calvados, Kirschwasser, Palinka, etc. -Lourinha is a Portuguese brandy Brandy has been around for hundreds of years but was popularized in the 14th century. Brandy is similar to champagne in the certain typres of Brandy, such as cognac, can only be produced in certain areas. The South Africans make brandy and by law it is distilled almost exactly identically to cognac (double distilled in pot stills then aged for a minimum of 3 years). Brandy Alexander recipe 2 measures of Brandy ½ measure crème cacao White ½ measure crème cacao Brown 1 measure double cream Shake, double strain into a Martini glass and garnish by grating nutmeg over the top. ---Beers--- Beer, ahhhh... There are so many different kinds of beer it's untrue! Lager, ale, stout, wheat, bitter, rice, pilsner... Beer essentially needs 3 or 4 ingredients to be made. The first is water, secondly a choice of starch - typically barley - and some yeast. Different choices of starch produce different kinds of beers, often rice, oats, wheat and rye are used. The fourth ingredient is usually some sort of flavouring such as hops. The local water supply also plays a large part in the type of beer that is made, much like when distilling a whisky. Dublin has very hard water which makes it ideal for brewing stouts, whereas other places that have soft water will be ideal for brewing light beers. Zymocenosilicaphobia (Zi-mo-cenno-cilly-kafobi-e,) n. Excessive or irrational fear of an empty beer glass; Prejudice or hatred of an empty beer glass. Lager is the most commonly consumed type of beer in the world. It originated in the cellars of Eastern European monastries and castles because the cellars were cold and thus helped the Lager to ferment. The yeast used when making a lager is a bottom feeding yeast whereas in an ale top feeding yeast is usually used. Rice beers include Budweiser and Tsing Tao (Check out Tsing Tao - it's a great light, refreshing summery beer). Stouts include Guinness and Murphys. Lagers include Fosters, Carling, Heiniken, Tennants and Krusovice. ---Wine--- I'd like to go through a selection of wines but the best way to learn is to go and have a tasting session with an expert. Everyone tends to have their own preferences for grape variety and country of origin. I like a nice rioja, a full bodied oak laden red that is full on the nose and has a long, satisfying finish. Here is a list of common grape varieties; Assyrtiko Grüner Veltliner Riesling Barbera Malbec Sangiovese Bual Malmsey Sauv-Blanc/Sémillon Cab Sauvignon/Carmenere Sauvignon Blanc Cab-Sauv/Merlot Marsanne Scheurebe/Sämling 88 Cabernet Franc Melon de Bourgogne Semillon Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Shiraz/Cab Sauv Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc/Merlot Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon & Franc Silvaner/Sylvaner Carignan Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Southern Rhône Blend Carmenère Mourvèdre Syrah/Shiraz Champagne Blend Muscat Tannat Chardonnay Nebbiolo Tempranillo/Tinto Fino Chasselas Northern Rhône blend Tinto Fino/Cabernet Sauvignon Chenin Blanc Tocai Friulano Cortese Palomino Fino Uva di Troia Corvina Picolit Verdejo Dolcetto Picpoul Verdelho Freisa Pinot Blanc Verdicchio Furmint Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio Vernaccia Gamay Pinot Noir Viognier Garganega Port Blend Viura Gewürztraminer Primitivo Grenache/Garnacha Ribolla Gialla Zinfandel That list is maybe a little over the top but it just gives an idea of the number of different varieties there are. Considering many wines are blends of more than one type of grape the different types and flavours of wine are limitless. I have been led to believe that Spain alone has 600 different varieties of grape. ----Presentation---- Presentation is key when you work behind a bar. Both how you yourself are presented and how the drink is presented. You should always dress smartly and in keeping with your surroundings. I wear a shirt, trousers and black shoes and this is the usual attire for bartenders. I find it irritating when you purchase a drink that just doesn't look appetising - you wouldn't be impressed with a meal if it were slopped all over your plate and looked like it took thirty seconds and a microwave to prepare. So it's important to put some effort into how the drink looks. Take, for example, the Gin and Tonic. Firstly fill the glass to the brim with ice - this is important. In order to preserve the flavour of the drink there must be plenty of ice as the ice melts less slowly and therefore does not water down the drink nearly as quickly as a drink with half a dozen pieces of ice floating in it. Secondly choose the correct type of fruit for a garnish. Different gins taste best with different sorts of fruit; a lemon slice, a lime wedge, sliced strawberries, melon balls or even cucumber. The best thing to do, if you have a choice of fruit, is ask how the customer prefers their gin served. Add the gin and always offer bottled tonic, draft tonic isn't that great... If you are serving Gordons, Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire or Blackwoods I recommend lime. For Citadel, Beefeater or Whitley Neil I like a slice of lemon. Hendricks is always served with cucumber and Martin Millers is great on strawberries. One of the most important things about presentation is your banter! If you have no chat and look like a dour so and so then it's going to reflect in your tips. If you have great banter, a smile of some description and some rubbish jokes then you'll do just fine! When working in a bar with a vast array of spirits it's also great to know a bit about them. ----Flair Bartending---- Look its Tom Cruise! Nahh, Tom Cruise was rubbish in Cocktail! Flair bartending has come on in leaps and bounds since then (admittedly the movie did help propel this progression as it made flair famous) and competition is fierce all over the world - you may have seen some flair bartending on adverts on telly. Flair is a bit like juggling and requires a lot of skill and spatial awareness. Personally I enjoy doing some flair but haven't quite reached the technical stage of many however do try to use "working flair" where humanly possible. Working flair is when the bartender is mixing the drink at the same time as he or she is throwing bottles all over the shop! The best way of improving your flair is to get someone to show you a few moves then try linking the moves. It's mostly down to practice though, lots and lots of practice! It's also worth spending £20 on a flair bottle. These things are made of tough plastic and have the weight of a glass bottle. If you can't afford one though just wrap a vodka bottle in duct tape so that when it smashes it doesn't go everywhere. If anyone happens to find themselves in the West End of Glasgow then come check us out! The bar is at the top of Byres road and is called Booly Mardy's (or Bloody Mary's). If anyone has any booze or bar related question feel free to leave me a message or drop me an email. The sheer amount of random facts some of my colleagues know about alcohol is incredible (or worrying?!?!)! I'll probably add to this review and update as time goes by... I still want to do a bit about cider, champagne and loads of other spirits and cocktails! Thanks for reading and remember a Martini is stirred, not bloody shaken! John! p.s. I'm going to a add to this review over time as there is such a vast amount of information that could be included that it could take years to write...
Jaco Pastorius - Jaco Pastorius Jaco Pastorius is awesome. He is, to the bass guitar, what Hendrix and Page are to the electric guitar, Beethoven to the piano or John Coltrane to sax. He was born in December of 1951 in Norristown, Pennsylvania and was given the name John Francis Pastorius III. He got the nickname Jaco from his love of sports and basketball umpire Jocko Conlan then later changed the spelling to the French spelling Jaco after receiving a note from pianist Alex Darqui. His father was a drummer so Jaco decided to follow in his footsteps, however at the age of 15 he badly injured his wrist and so took up the double bass in his school band. After saving enough money to buy a bass he discovered it couldn't stand up to the humidity and discovered his bass in pieces on the floor. Replacing his bass would be too costly so he prised the frets from his Fender guitar and filled in the spaces with putty. And so the legendary fretless bass style of Jaco Pastorius was born. Throughout the late seventies and early eighties Jaco collaborated with many musicians on many different albums - notably Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Al Di Meola's solo stuff. He released the album I'm reviewing - Jaco Pastorius - in 1976 and from then on released a further 9 solo albums, 6 albums with Weather Report and collaborated on around 18 albums. In the mid eighties it was starting to become obvious that Jaco was suffering from bi-polar disorder alongside a hefty drug and alcohol abuse problem. This meant that his music began to suffer as his behaviour became more and more erratic which pushed him to become an outcast in the music business. After sneaking onstage at a Carlos Santana gig on September 11th 1987 he was ejected and made his way to the Midnight Bottle Club. He was refused entry to the club and ended in a nasty confrontation with the bouncer who left Jaco disfigured and brain dead. His family removed him from his life support machine 10 days later on September 21st 1987. The bouncer who killed Jaco was sentenced with second degree murder however only served four months of his sentence. Onto the review of the album... This is a fantastic CD with two of my personal favourite Jaco tunes. There are so many other amazing musicians who have collaborated on this CD - Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Randy and Michael Brecker, David Sanborn, Lenny White, Don Alias, Hubert Laws and Narada Michael Walden to name but a few... Essentially this is a jazz CD but it covers so many different aspects of jazz. "Come on, come over" is dance jazz with soul vocals (from Sam & Dave - Double Dynamite) whereas "Continuum" is a crazy chromatic, melodious noise with bells, pianos bass and drums, then "Speak like a child" adds a twelve piece string orchestra. The CD opens on "Donna Lee", an awe-inspiring duet between Jaco's fretless bass and Don Alias on the conga drums. Here's part a quote from Pat Metheny (April 2000) - "...not to mention that it's just about the hippest start to a debut album in the history of recorded music". Can't really argue with that?! A totally ridiculous, flowing, melodious bassline with one of the best percussionists to ever touch the congas in the background. Fantastic. Following "Donna Lee" is "Come on, Come over", a track that reunited soul men Sam and Dave, and is dance jazz... A fantastic groovy bass line, awesome vocalists, fantastic percussion and wahwah guitar. Come on Come Over instantly puts a smile on my face and gets me into the groove. Next comes "Continuum". Continuum is one of those tracks that you can instantly identify as being a Jaco Pastorius piece. Simply through the style of bass playing. Soft chords, harmonics and impossible stretches with the occasional burst of silly finger speed. Melodious loveliness. Continuum shows that the bass guitar shouldn't be confined to just keeping the rhythm. "Kuru/Speak like a Child" starts with Kuru which is a high paced jazz feast of Herbie Hancock's awesome piano skills, Jaco's super fast bass line and Don Alias' bongo and conga genius. Speak like a Child introduces a twelve piece string arrangement and softens the whole experience. Jaco and Herbie effortlessly move between the floating serenity of Speak like a Child and the super fast, clean sounding chase scene that is Kuru. Eight minutes of brilliance. Track 5, "Portrait of Tracy", is one of the most influential bass solo's that has ever existed. It takes artificial harmonics to a whole new level and teaches the bassist so much about his or her guitar. In interviews with great modern bassists such as Victor Wooten when asked about who they were inspired by Jaco always comes up, then, Portrait of Tracy is one of the tracks that has been most inspirational. "Opus Pocus" revels in a plethora of percussive sounds with steel drums, regular drums, and Don Alias' other percussive delights. All is rounded off with Herbie n the keys and Wayne Shorter on Soprano Sax. Track 7 "Okonkole Y Tromba" utilises Jaco's speed and delicate touch with his rolling harmonic bass line, Don Alias on a collection of weird and wonderful drums and Peter Gordon plays the French Horn. "(Used to be a) Cha-Cha" is on the CD twice. The original record doesn't have the second version which is basically an alternate take with Jaco, Hubert Laws (Flute) and Herbie Hancock jamming. I always think it's great when you can listen to a song played differently, that's what makes live music and jamming so amazing - especially in the world of Jazz. Cha-Cha is classic Jaco brilliance. Forgotten Love, track nine, is a mini concerto written by Jaco specifically for Herbie Hancock's piano and Jaco doesn't perform on it. Again, this just adds that little extra something that so many artists lack. The same string orchestra that play on Kuru/Speak like a child are present with a few extra musicians, including bass players. 6/4 jam is as it sounds. A jam in 6/4. This is essentially the speed of the beat of the song. To be honest I can't really fault this album! I consider it in my top 5 albums of all time and never, ever grow tired of listening to it. I am a little biased seeing as I play bass guitar and Jaco is somewhat of a legend to me. But, bass aside, it is a fantastic jazz album that is definitely worth having in your collection! Every track has its own angle, a different personal point of view and different musicians. Like it says on the back of the cd - "...the album was a small gem in ever-changing light." Another point to consider is that this was his first ever record. He started writing some of the tracks when he was 18 so this just shows his musical maturity and the level of skill he had. Track listing 1. Donna Lee 2. Come on, Come over 3. Continuum 4. Kuru/Speak like a Child 5. Portrait of Tracey 6. Opus Pocus 7. Okonkole Y Tromba 8. (Used to be A) Cha Cha 9. Forgotten Love 10. (Used to be A) Cha Cha (alternate take) - bonus track 11. 6/4 Jam - bonus track Originally released by Epic in 1976, this has been re-released by Legacy (Sony) in 2000. Available on Amazon for the whopping fee of £4.98. The booklet has an interesting read about Jaco and when this album was being recorded - written by Pat Metheny. It also has a few photos of jam sessions and recording with the plethora of musicians he collaborated with on this album. The only bad thing that I can think of and have read about this album is the fact that it doesn't quite have the "feel" of the original on vinyl (considering it has been remastered) but it's safe to say that few cd's capture the feel of a vinyl record. Incidentally, if anyone has a copy of this record lying around on vinyl I'd like it. I'd like it a lot... If someone could bear to part with theirs! A must have for anyone who enjoys jazz or virtuoso bass players!