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Wednesday 18 May 2011

Saturated Facts

One of the things I love about the UK is our veracious appetite for news; we seem to devour news stories with as much gusto as Americans devour saturated fat.

If you head to the Weatherspoons in Farringdon, a stones throw away from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in London, you’ll find massive TV screens not showing the football or MTV but rolling 24 hour news. Jump on public transport in The Big Smoke and you’ll be forced to read some form of gratis journal, updating you on anything from world news to local events and everything in between.

In the UK we are obese with facts, our arteries are clogged with knowledge. And yet we will chat about the weather as if we haven’t had access to media our entire lives. Indeed, it was Samuel Johnston writing for Idler in 1798 who remarked

It is commonly observed, that when two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather; they are in haste to tell each other, what each must already know, that it is hot or cold, bright or cloudy, windy or calm.

If you so desire, it is possible to feed solely from free news sources on a daily basis. To satisfy your hunger with the fast food version of news, the free paper.

Ranging from traditional news services such as The Metro on a weekday morning to The Evening Standard to see you back home again, London’s public transport system even has its own Male and Female specific style magazines, Shortlist and Stylist. The most niche of them all however must be City AM.

City AM is a free newspaper aimed at those folk who work, as the inventive and cunning title suggests, in the City. Those people who aggressively push figures around their offices (in more ways than one) and pride themselves on feasting at the table of capitalism, where the house red is often the blood of the weak and poor.

The most vile section of this actually sometimes informative rag, is called The Capitalist, particularly their weekly column entitled 'Bill Of The Week' where City workers are encouraged to send in a receipt for an outrageous lunch or dinner to be published for the rest of their fellow workers to admire.

Bill Of The Week is basically the modern day equivalent of a hunting trip: shoot an animal, cut off its head and mount it on a wall in your massive house, for all to see. Only in the current economic climate (caused in part by the traders and bankers who are lording their lunchtime killings), the beheaded animal is an endangered species and the rest of the world has no walls left to hang stuff on, having had to sell them to pay of the country's national debt...

At the start of the week I had the misfortune to stumble upon a copy of City AM while taking an early morning tube journey from Central London, heading out East. Flicking through I came across the aforementioned column showcasing a receipt for a long lunch taken by four City ‘gents’ on a Wednesday at the new Boisdale Restaurant in Canary Wharf. The total bill, for lunch, was a shade under £1800.

£1800. For lunch. For 4 people. On a Wednesday.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not hanging Capitalism out to dry here. I'm a supporter of Common Sense Capitalism but like anything, those involved to an extreme degree seem to come across badly. If you work hard and earn good money, you are within your rights to spend it how you see fit. It just seems clear from Bill Of The Week, that money doesn't buy you humility, meekness and modesty. Moreover, it just makes you look like a dick. But whatever your take on a lunchtime spend such as this, we should have a more detailed look at this weeks featured bill. What exactly has the eighteen hundred quid gone on?

The obvious headline spend is on food and wine. There are also some nice cigars thrown in the mix. But for those of you outside of London who have yet to hear about the new Boisdales, its newly opened bar features one of the finest whisky selections in the UK, with over 500 different Scotchs alone on the menu.

Surely there must be some excellent Scotch on our boys bill? After all, they've had the balls to send it in to City AM for publication. So, what have our highly paid, highly educated City fellas chosen to drink, with all those drams on tap and all that money in the bank?

Johnnie Walker Blue Label, at £27.20 a dram.

I’m fortunate enough to have visited the new Boisdale’s a couple of times since it opened in April, it being just a short tube ride away from home. The whisky selection is mind blowing, the atmosphere fantastic and the prices are reasonable. Considering the local clientèle, they’d be within their rights to charge a fortune. But they don’t.

Now, you can have all the seafood you like, you can visit the cigar terrace and have a Churchill or a Robusto. But if you’re surrounded by some of the greatest whisky in the world, at least try something you can’t get in Selfridges or a whisky you are unlikely to have at home.

Last time I popped in to the new Boisdales, one particular dram stood out on the menu for me. For £20.40p (for 50ml), that’s just under £7 less than the Blue Label, you can get yourself a single cask, cask strength 1968 39 year old Springbank. And you can order a 25ml dram for half that price...

Er, yes please:

Springbank – Acorn’s 1968 – 39 Year Old – Distilled April 1968 / Bottled November 2007 – Cask No 617 – 47.6% Vol

Nose: there are some smokes whiffs and the slight waxy nature that you would expect from a Springbank; I once had a candle handrolled from beeswax, with a light vanilla tone to it and this has a similar aroma but backed with tinned peaches and apricots. A delicate nose for something so old.

Palate: Plenty of peach melba, runny honey and dried apricot. A good deal of vanilla is rounded off with just a hint of smoke.

Finish: Delicate at first, with some light oak spices and then the runny honey and beeswax to finish.

Overall: A bargain of a dram and a slice of history from Campbeltown.

Wouldn't it be nice if City AM gave equal column inches on the same page as Bill Of The Week to a charity such as Christian Aid or Oxfam and requested that the people submitting such receipts make an equal donation to said charities, or even one closer to home such as Shelter, working to house and feed families made homeless in the local area. This may put their Wednesday afternoon spending in to light somewhat.

Right, I’m off for my knitting lesson with Madame Defarge...