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Saturday, 15 October 2011

I'm Not A Plastic Bag

It’s a gloriously sunny day in London. The season can’t make its mind up if it wants to give us a prolonged Indian Summer or if Autumn should really kick in with a vengeance.

Such is the ferocity of the sunshine, that it is very much a day for short sleeves. So much so, that I’ve been out for a long walk this morning to enjoy the sunshine, especially as the evenings are drawing in faster than a British Defence Secretary’s political career.

And so it is, that I find myself at the always popular Borough Market. A hive of Middle Class activity, this particular food market in London is a honeypot for wannbe Jamie Olivers; if a bomb was to go off at the height of the lunchtime rush hour, in middle of the complex, The Guardian readership would surely be cut by 20%.

As I queue in the simmering autumnal heat for a chorizo sandwich (exactly...) I find myself surrounded by a good few couples. It’s a Saturday lunchtime and, without exception, each couple seems to be evenly weighted: a woman in her mid twenties to mid forties, a cotton tote bag with a witty political / ecological / ethical statement printed on the side (“Yes We Can” / “I’m not a plastic bag” etc), weight down no doubt by a selection of organic veg, her wannbe-bought-in-OXFAM-but-actually-quite-expensively-bought -from-anthropologie crocheted skirt brushing the tops of her soft brown leather brogues, she leads her boyfriend through the crushing crowds with her other hand.

He looks lost, confused at the real difference between the organic apples in the bag and the ones his girlfriend usually buys from the Waitrose just off Upper Street. Adorned in skinny jeans, turned up just above the ankles, no socks and battered deck shoes, his Lyle & Scott cardigan hides a.n.other t-shirt from anyone of the fashion houses who supply Urban Outfitters.

I’m wear a not-to-dissimilar outfit (from the chap, not the lady), save from the deck shoes (do me a favour), the addition of a pair of socks (it is October, after all) and my t-shirt, which is a football top. It is a Saturday, my team are playing (somewhere dreadful in the North) and I’m proud to wear a shirt that says “This is my team and later on I’ll have a cold beer and listen to the commentary via the local radio’s website.” (I’ve never been to Macclesfield and, to be honest, not sure I ever want to go.) But as the couple brush past me, the chap catches my eye. Then looks me up and down.

There is a look of despair in his eyes. It was immediate, even before he caught sight of my attire. And then it happened. He clocked my football shirt. And it was as if something snapped, deep in him.

Why can’t I wear my football shirt out?” he seemed to say. It’s a Saturday. I want to go home and drink a beer and listen to the commentary. But I can’t. I’ve agreed to help prepare an organic dinner party for Sophie’s friends. She’ll go ape-shit if I even look up the scores on my iPhone. Why am I here? Why am I alive?

Well, my friend. That’s life. You’re now part of a team. And that team wants to present you to the people of this planet as her boyfriend. As a result, you can’t be seen to be wearing football shirts to a middleclass mecca such as Borough Market. Not even on a Saturday. What if, shudder, she was to run in to some of her colleges from the charity she works for? Or, worse still, some of her friends? What would they say if her man was wearing a hideous nylon football top? You might as well spit in their face... or be carrying a plastic bag from Iceland.

When bottling a whisky, the major distillers need to make sure their liquid represents the brand they’ve spent years developing. You can’t suddenly whack out an unpeated Ardbeg 10 Year Old in the same bottle. Or a non-sherried Macallan in an Own Bottle. They, much like the girl above, have worked hard to develop the image of their partner. The whisky has expectations to meet; it can’t be seen to be wearing a football shirt. Oh, gosh no.

However, independent bottlings can do what the hell they like. It’s the equivalent of a day at home: you can throw off the shackles of ‘appearance’, stick on those baggy old jimjam bottoms and your stained old football shirt from last time your team won a cup and act how the hell you like. It’s still you, but without any boxes to tick. That’s where indie bottling excel. They’re the whisky, but relaxed.

Queen Of The Moorlands Rare Cask Edition XXXVII - Bruichladdich – 2001 – Cask #312 – 1st Fill Ex Sherry Hogshead – 62.5% vol

Nose: very sharp initially, but with some air strong toffee notes (bluebird), old B&B wardrobe draws, smoke and a hint of seaweed. The sherry is the predominant driver to the nose, giving it good body. With water, mocca notes develop as does walnut and hazelnut tones.

Palate: The peat creates a good bed for toffee notes, but crunchy toffee like the middle of a Dime Bar. With water the whole dram comes alive, with increased brandy butter flavours, the nutty tones from the nose (emphasis on the walnut over the hazelnut) and some burnt sugars.

Finish: Burning embers of pulled pork with smoky sauce, sweet sugars (brown) and dark rye bread.

Overall: A heavily flavoured dram that needs water to come alive. Lots of rich flavours which balance well but could be overpowering if the water ratio isn’t right. This bottle will give you twice as much whisky, as it really does take water. Meaty, smoky and fully flavoured.

This is one of the first bottles from the new ownership distillation, and can be bought for £80 here.