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Tuesday, 7 January 2014

2014: The Year of the Hipflask



Greetings all and welcome to 2014. We’re safely into the year now and I’m sure that many of you will have made resolutions for yourselves in 2014.

Every year I have a set of resolutions which are wheeled out, only to be broken, unused or utterly ignored before the first month comes to an end. Such is their frequency that I’m tempted to have a print out of them laminated, just to hand to people on an annual basis, during the first week of each new year, to answer to the same question I’ve posed above about the ways in which I plan on improving my life over the coming twelve months.

And that is what a resolution should be: a form of improvement to one’s health and wellbeing. I can’t imagine that there are many people out there who have decided to eat more chocolate, take less exercise or do fewer good deeds.

As for my own ‘self-improvements’, the 2013 list started with the annual desire to lose weight, linked in with a greater level of exercise, and to ingest fewer foods (and drinks) which may reverse the process of me losing weight.

Second on my 2013 list was to become properly fluent in Norwegian; I carry the damn passport, so I should probably learn to hold a conversation in the mother-tongue for longer that few, erm, words...

Third on last year’s list was start a yearly trend of producing photo albums, proper printed ones, from pictures I’d taken throughout the year. In the pursuit of all drinks great, Neil and I often find ourselves in interesting and unusual places. Add to this all that goes on in one’s personal life with holiday, travel and family... then it makes sense to document it and with the ease of digital photography these days, a photo book seemed like the best option.

The World's Worst Boyband

So, how did I do in 2013? 

Well, when it comes to my health and fitness, then I think I’m around the same BMI as this time last year, but I did manage to run the Islay Half Marathon and finish in a time of 2 hours 22 seconds... something I’m very proud of given the unforgiving nature of the course and the weather.

This year, I’m openly throwing the gauntlet down to Ridley to run it. I can see him dressed up as a 118 118 character: part young Steve Ovett, part John Cleese in Clockwise taking on the hills and wind of the Inner Hebrides.

I’m gonna start the #RunRidleyRun to get him committed...

As a result of the ‘big run’, I think I’ll put a tick against that particular resolution. The same is true for my photo album. Oddly ordered from Jessops the day it went bust (I was still sent it by the company that printed their books for them, which was nice) it is something I have looked at on a regular basis over the past 12 months as a remind of the fun times which 2012 offered.

The major fail, and this happens each year, is the lack of improvement in my Norwegian. No great shakes, really but I’m desperate to not let my fellow countrymen down, especially as I’d love to host a tasting in the motherland sometime soon and have the appropriate vocabulary in order to do a proper job!

But here we are in 2014 and my main resolution remains the same: live a more healthy life.

Having recently moved out of Central London to an area which has cleaner air and bigger green spaces, I found myself on my first proper walk of the year yesterday. Seven miles took me from my front door, up to Windsor Castle, down the aptly-named Long Walk and back home again. 

Weighing in at just under two hours, it was an ideal way to start the working week, blowing out (almost literally with the weather we’ve been having in the UK this last week) the cobwebs of the Christmas break and reinvigorating myself before sitting down to a pile of emails, articles and other work.

The walk was thoroughly enjoyable, but the morning is no time to be taking a stroll at a leisurely pace. It is ‘exercise time’ and eventually the same route shall be turned into a jog. For now, I’m happy with a fast-paced wander, my ankles still somewhat weight-down by excess Xmas fare.

But as the evenings start to elongate and the light lingers for just that little bit longer, my local park will become somewhere to spend the twilight hours, either with friends on a dusky weekend summers evening or walking off the rigours of a day’s work during the week.

Either of these activities allows me to bring into play something I’ve been meaning to properly utilise for a while now: my hipflask. Or, more correctly, hipflasks.

Over the years I have been gifted a few nice hipflasks as well as picking the odd one up either at a distillery (the Lagavulin green leather one which comes with four cups, is particularly nice, if not a little large to be classed a hipflask) or in vintage/charity shops and I have learned a few things:

If you have a hipflask, I would suggest that you DON’T keep any liquid stored in them for much longer than a few days, maximum. Many hipflasks (unless glass) will eventually taint the liquid inside and leave you with a slightly odd colour as well as something which probably doesn’t taste quite like the initial product you first filled into your pocket-sized pouch. This means that if you don’t finish the contents, you should decant it back into the bottle it came from as soon as possible, when returning home, washing your flask out thoroughly before it is ready of duty once again.

Therefore, I find that it is good order to have two hipflasks in rotation at any one time; one for peated whisky and one for unpeated whisky. This makes the washing process rather less laborious, as you can still leave one flask with a whisper of peat smoke in it, safe in the knowledge that it won’t taint your 1960’s single cask Speyside for your walk the following week.

At the same time, if you are out walking with friends, it allows you to have two whiskies of differing flavour profiles depending on your mood/the weather/your friend’s love (or otherwise) or peated Scotch.

The walking and connected hipflasks, in turn, justify owning a good selection of whisky; providing a peated and an unpeated offering to takeaway, plus allowing you, as a whisky drinker, to experience a wider range of your bottles in a more visceral environment, out in the open.

It only remains to ask what the ideal whisky would be for my upcoming, late evening strolls around Windsor Great Park. The obvious answer: Johnnie Walker, surely...


Happy New Year, all and a very hearty ‘good luck’ with your own resolutions.