a little booze…

…is better than a lot of booze, and occasionally abstinence is even better. I was reading the thoughts on alcohol from one of the organisers of the next iteration of the New Librarians’ Symposium in Canberra in a couple of weeks and really like that they made a conscious decision for non boozy social events. There’s a bunch of reasons why this is a good thing which she covers, not least about ensuring a comfortable, inclusive environment.

Drinking at professional events is a bit of a tightope at times mixing with concerns about mixing and social engagement, yet ensuring that you remain professional and the old chestnut of the grey areas around the overlaps of personal and professional. Different people have different tolerances for alcohol and behave differently after a few drinks. I used to argue that I needed to have several drinks before I could be comfortable enough to dance :)

abseiling down a canyon in CreteLooking back over my own history of booze, in my early days of conferencing, my attitude was along the lines of “free booze, yes please!”. I didn’t get full on drunk very often but I liked to be tipsy and maintaining tipsy is a tricky thing and it’s too easy to tip over beyond tipsy. I think mostly I did okay and as far as I’m aware didn’t do anything too  stupid…I tend to do the really stupid stuff sober. At the same time I’m now conscious that I don’t need to drink and stay to the end of the festivities; staying for a while and then leaving can be rather healthy.

At a personal level, sometimes my drinking has been good and sometimes bad. I used to argue that wine should be an essential part of every meal and would always have a glass or two. Then I’d like to have glass while cooking, in those rare times I actually cooked (I hate cooking but cook well enough to get by) and I eventually noticed that I was moving from a glass or two a night, to half a bottle, to most of the bottle…thinking so long as there’s one glass left all is well. That’s not healthy nor sustainable, and I did manage to ease back from that direction when I took stock.

A few years ago, I stopped drinking entirely for several months. I’d been concerned for some time about my sleeping and partners reported that I was often restless and snored horribly; they expressed concerns re sleep apnea too. Following a breakup, I saw a sleep specialist and had an overnight sleeping test with lots of diodes on my head. Slacker that I am it took me a couple of years to get round to finding out the results. I didn’t have sleep apnea however that was a period when I was drinking more and when I went back for the diagnosis I was drinking less and sleeping better.

As a result of my decision to stop drinking altogether I found that I slept a lot better and lost a significant amount of weight. I’d like to say that it stopped my snoring, however it remained the case that like my father, I am a world-class snoring champion. These days, I try to avoid wine on weekday evenings though I occasionally lapse and when I do, it does affect my sleeping. I do enjoy a dram of whisky in the late evening, preferably around 9pm, after 10pm is too late and might affect my sleep.

On the weekends, I like a nice beer or two in the afternoon while spending a few hours on the couch engaged with the playstation. Catch-ups with friends usually involves an afternoon of drinking at one of the many craft distilleries in the inner west. Serving sizes are small and the environment is more conducive to chatting than bingeing. I still like to drink but try to ensure that I don’t drink too much these days.

thoughts of pedro

One of these days I may get round to blogging a list of all the whiskies I like though it’s fair to say I have strong leanings toward sherry casks and regular strength whiskies, cask strength is mostly not for me. I’ve just opened a bottle of 16 year old Balvenie (triple cask) which is rather pleasant. My current favourite at the moment however is a newish one from Laphroaig that was matured in Pedro Ximenez casks and is 48% alcohol: Laphroaig’s PX Cask. Interestingly I bought a litre at the airport for about AD$110 but have seen it retailing locally for around $200.

five overdue

It’s been over a month since I last blogged and even longer since I did a round-up of interesting articles. I blame post #blogjune recovery. I’ve had a quick dash back through the last month or so of tweeted articles and chose these 5. I was going to include this list of gaming terms but decided I didn’t agree with some of the definitions. So here’s an overdue list of five things:

#blogjune 2016 recap

So that’s it then, blogging over for another year. Here’s where I promise that I’ll start blogging again and do so more often. Like I do most years and then fail to deliver :-) With that said, I did manage to increase my blogging rate a couple of months ago and have had a steady increase in advance of June this time round. That suggests I might have enough ticker to keep going. I could point to the list of 20 or so ideas on my list of potential posts but I can do that most years…even in 2014 where I only blogged 4 times during June. It’s less the ideas and more the inclination; getting round to writing and expanding the idea on one device or another.

As I often state, I blog for me and noone else, to inhabit an online space of my online. However I do like to look at the stats though I care not whether they’re good or bad. 2010 was my best year ever on this platform, coincidentally that was also the first year of #blogjune and 2012 seems to be the last, really good year before the drop off and general decline. Stats perked up in 2014 but that was also my second best year for blogging with 30 posts in June.

blog statistics

#blogjune has been running for 7 years now and I’ve managed to make it to 30 posts for 3 of those 7 years, including this year. I’m pretty happy with this year’s effort:

  • 33 posts
  • 10,000 words, averaging around 300 words per day

In 2010, my first #blogjune, and my most prolific, I managed 19,000 words in 34 posts, around 560 words per day. I’m sorta curious what my stats are like for each June rather than the annual tallies, graphed above. However, I haven’t worked out how to export the data easily and to be honest my stats, like my care factor, are pretty low :)

My top 5 posts were:

I also started, or attempted to start a series on alcohol, or at least whisky:

I have another post semi-written on whisky and feel like I can probably write a few more. One idea that’s on my list is to go through all the beers I’ve rated via untappd and list them, pointing out my favourites. Perhaps I should also write a post on how much I drink which is actually less than you might assume from all my alcohol references.

 

it’s all in the cask

Following on from my earlier post on flavour profiles, one of the things that I’ve begun to recognise is the way that different casks affect the flavour of the whisky. Particularly if the whisky has been put in barrels that have been used previously for other types of drinks including bourbon, sherry and port. David Stewart, the malt master at Balvenie, developed a procedure for 2 cask maturation whereby whiskies are moved to a new cask in their final months of maturation. A current favourite of mine is Balvenie’s DoubleWood 17 year old which is initially aged in American oak barrels and finished in European oak sherry barrels.

When I was in Tasmania I sampled a few whiskies from Overeem including their 43% sherry cask and their 43% port cask. I love the sherry cask version but not really into the port version. I’ve just had a look at Highland Park’s website and was amused to discover that they prefer sherry casks too :-) I recently sampled and bought a bottle of Benriach’s Pedro Ximinez sherry cask whisky. My palate seems to be following a very clear pattern here :) I’ve just come across a top 10 sherry based whiskies to try, of which I think the Yamazaki is the only one I’ve tried and it too was yum.

With that said, I need to avoid limiting factors too. There are other barrel options that seem to work well for me. When I was in NZ last year I got to try “The 1987“, 1987 being the year the whisky was put into the barrel. I’m unclear which barrel it was stored in but the notes refer to both american oak and ex-bourbon barrels. It may well have started in American oak and been finished in the ex-bourbon…or vice versa :) Either way, it was a soft, smooth dram that was utterly delish.

neat flavouring

Many years ago, possibly in 2000 I went to Scotland and spent a week or so travelling about, riding a hop on/hop off backpacker bus and staying in hostels. I think this was my first introduction to whisky and I was able to sample a few. On that trip, in the hop off phase, a friend and I travelled to the Orkney Islands and stayed in Stromness. The Orkney Islands have two whiskies, both of which I got to try: Scapa and Highland Park. The latter was the best whisky I tried that trip and I’ve been drinking it off and on since. Turns out it’s regarded as one of the better Scottish whiskies, not that I knew it at the time.

In recent years I’ve been trying out a broader range of whiskies here and there and finding some new ones I like, and some I don’t. I’ve been to a few tasting shows as well. I’ve recently come across discussions around flavour profiles and the use of them as a tool to work out other whiskies you might like. It follows the idea that if you prefer a particular flavour profile then you should like all or most whiskies that exhibit similar characteristics.

A friend pointed out an infographic that someone had put together to visually represent the data that goes into creating profiles. Looking at the image for Highland Park, sure enough other whiskies I like have similar profiles including: Balvenie, Benriach, Bowmore and Glenlivet. Curiously, I love Laphroiag but hate Ardbeg even though they have similar profiles and I would normally say that I avoid the really smoky whiskies. In which case, my enjoyment of Laphroiag is something of an anomaly. Nor is it the case that you are limited to one or two profiles as I have recently come across Glenrothes which is slightly different again. It’s a shame that that infographic only covers 86 whiskies and I’d love to see something covering a broader range.

tassie spoils

tasmanian wine and whiskyA few weeks ago we popped down to Tassie for a long weekend and amongst other things we, or mostly I, tasted quite a few whiskies and spent evenings in the Nant bar and the Lark bar. We actually visited the Lark bar a couple of times as it had a really good atmosphere and had many Tassie whiskies available as well as Lark, whereas Nant only had Nant from Tassie plus a good range of international whiskies.

We also did a gourmet food tour of Bruny Island including cheese and whisky. The final stop was the House of Whisky and the included tasting was Nant however there was plenty of time so I was able to do a flight of four tastings including:

The Sullivan’s Cove was definitely my favourite, however the Overeem was a close second. Alas, or luckily, the Sullivan’s Cove was not available for sale as it’s really expensive these days. The guy did however give me the empty box as they had about 20 empty boxes out the back. I don’t recall being particularly fond of the Trapper’s but really liked the Mackay’s.

As part of the Bruny Island trip, we had lunch and tastings at the Bruny Island winery and they make some rather yummy pinot noir so I picked up a bottle of their standard and their reserve. The final item in the picture is a colourful owl I picked up at the Salamanca markets.