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Friday, 24 April 2009

In The Loop

I recently spent a wonderful evening at the Electric Cinema in London’s famous Portabello Road, where I took in a showing of In The Loop. Scripted by a man who would take up a seat at my fantasy dinner party, Armando Iannucci, the film is a fantastically witty comedy about the way bumbling MP’s are cajoled by aggressive (Scottish!) spin doctors to tow the party line. In this case, avoiding committing, or otherwise, the UK to a war in the Middle East. Set between Westminster and Washington DC it gives a fascinating insight into the way the world is run; for one Cabinet Minister, balancing the needs of his constituency in Middle England with that of an impending war, to be voted on at the UN in New York.

I came away from the film thinking how difficult it must be to balance the life of a jet-set Cabinet Minister against that of a run-of-mill Member of Parliament, dealing with bad local schools, farmers and walls. Whenever they get a chance, they must sink into their sofa’s in the 2nd home, stick on some pay-per-view and pour themselves a nice big Scotch! All the tax payers expenses, you understand...!

So which Scotch would be the choice for our busy MP’s? Well, there are currently two bottlings available to buy at the House Of Commons and two in the House Of Lords. The Commons bottlings, as with the Lords, come in two forms: Single Malt and Blended.

House Of Commons Blended Scotch Whisky – Bottled By Gordon & Macphail – 70cl – 40%

Nose- This has a very delicate and quite wonderful nose to it. Lots of floral notes (Heather, honeysuckle, Rosehip and Vanilla) and a hint, just a hint of golden syrup.
Palate - Again, very delicate on the palate and not overly complex: honey with vanilla fudge.
Finish - Toffee apple followed by lots of liquorice and a wave of vanilla cream. A very delicate hint of smoke right at the finish.
Overall- this does what any good, cheap blend should do; provide a quality dram that isn’t over expensive nor too complex for the palate. It doesn’t just “taste like whisky” either. They honed in on what they want to achieve with an overall flavour profile, and gone for it. And it works. Lovely packaging too. This would make a nice gift for someone.

Single Malt:

Now, this is a real treat and a super rarity. Unlike the House Of Lords, where the single malt is unnamed, the House of Commons have gone for it big time! If the selection of bottles available in the corridors of power are this, plus two blends and an unnamed Chivas single malt (answer on a postcard for that one, please!) then this one is the icing on the cake. The Robinho in the Manchester City squad...

The Macallan - Speaker Martin’s Highland Single Malt Whisky - 10 Years Old – 40% vol - 70cl

Let’s kick off with the information on the elaborate, but beautifully presented box:

“Michael Martin was elected Speaker of the House Of Commons on 23rd October 2000. He has been a Member of Parliament since 1979 and has represented the Glasgow Springburn constituency since then. He is and avid player of the Highland bagpipe, ‘the noble instrument of Scotland’, and was keen for it to be featured on this malt.
On 26th February 2001, a tasting of some of the finest malt whiskies took place in the Speaker’s House, House Of Commons. The Speaker together with a number of Parliamentary colleagues specially selected this rich 10 years old Macallan.”

As mentioned above, the box and bottle both show the bagpipes and has the musical notation for the traditional Scottish song “Mhairi Bhan Og” or “Fair Young Mary” on it.

N- Freshly cut green apples, Toffee, fresh mint. Lots of malt and sherry. Like the soaked biscuits at the bottom of a trifle.
P- Slightly weak at first (to the seasoned Scotch drinker most things at 40% need more punch), but then you get figs, raisins, cloves and freshly cooked wholemeal brown bread.
F- A touch of delicate wood smoke with some mince pie spices. The perfect length.
O- A sumptuous dram, worthy of a place in my Cabinet! This really is a lovely, lovely pour. The right balance of sherry, oak, fruits and spices. Hear, hear!

NOTE: Speaker Martin must have an amazing nose, or an amazing set of friends as he is a teetotaller! He doesn’t touch a drop. Much is the shame, as he’s really missing out with his own bottling here!