Jim Morrison called, and he wants his shtick back Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Jim Morrison called, and he wants his shtick back
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Neat Stuff 25: Jay Buchanan drinks on the job, we chat with Jim Murray, and here’s to World Whisky Day

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No. 1 Son: Jay Buchanan is a whiskey rock-a-roller

If the 1970s weren’t rock’s greatest decade, they were easily its greasiest. Rival Sons have bottled some of that magic with Feral Roots, their recent sixth album, whose single “Do Your Worst” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.

Having opened for metal gods Black Sabbath, this fall the hard-touring California four-piece hit the road with grunge survivors Stone Temple Pilots. Rival Sons owe much of their grit to singer and co-songwriter Jay Buchanan, who sounds like Robert Plant messing with Paul Rodgers.

Be still our beating heart Credit: Redbreast
Be still our beating heart
Credit: Redbreast

One bourbon, one Scotch, one mug

His secret? Thanks to Daily Beast’s Noah Rothbaum, we know that like many of his old-skool role models, the agile vocalist drinks on the job. “I always keep a drink neat on stage in a mug,” Buchanan explains. “Just taking a tiny sip of whiskey, just enough to wet my palate. It helps my throat while I’m singing.” Sure, Jay.

Judging from the records he says changed his life, Buchanan has impeccable taste in music. He’s also a fairly discerning drinker, partial to a post-show Redbreast 15-Year-Old pot still Irish whiskey with “a good solid ice cube.” True to that Scottish surname, he also counts Laphroaig and Oban among his road drams. At home, the bourbon fan’s collection has run to Belle Meade, Blanton’s and Elijah Craig 18-Year-Old Single Barrel. Son of a gun.

A hawk by any other name Credit: Eigashima Shuzo Co.
A hawk by any other name
Credit: Eigashima Shuzo Co.

Warning label: Indian whiskey fans find the humor in a Japanese dram

India takes its whiskey seriously, but a little comedy never hurts. In the western part of the subcontinent, people of a certain linguistic group are cracking up over Kamitaka, a Japanese blend from veteran distiller Eigashima Shuzo Co. whose 40.3% ABV gives it some punch.

As Storypick’s Soham Nag points out, Kamitaka—Japanese for “god hawk,” apparently—means “put less” in Marathi, which is spoken by roughly 83 million Indians. In other words, if you’re in on the joke, the bottle’s name is a warning. We’re no surgeon general, but is that a bad thing?

Jim Murray
Give it to us straight, Jim
Credit: Jim Murray

The Neat Stuff Q&A: Jim Murray talks Welsh and world whiskies

by Charlene Rooke – @packlight

Whisky Bible author and legend Jim Murray was recently in Toronto pouring Penderyn, the first and only modern whisky produced in Wales. We caught up with him to ask five burning questions.

In Canada, most whisky lovers have barely heard of Penderyn, let alone tasted it. Why have you chosen to come here and pour it?

Penderyn is the first Welsh distillery since Victorian times. It was a very brave thing to do. When they built the distillery, the thirst for innovation and new products wasn’t there. Penderyn is still quite new for a lot of people, even though it’s been going since the start of the 21st century.

When I’m giving whisky tastings around the world, I might sometimes put it in there, because I do them blind, so people don’t have a preconceived idea of whether they like something or not. Suddenly people’s eyes and taste buds and minds are open: they have to judge the whisky on how good it is.

It shocks people. They say, “What the bloody hell is this? It’s Welsh?” If you think about it, a lot of people just drink single malts, or just bourbon, or only Canadian whisky. If they drink a Welsh whisky, it opens up the possibilities for them.

So what’s the deal with Welsh whisky? How is Penderyn produced?

The actual still that they erected and built the distillery around, I first saw this still in a really disused building, a barn, on a very hot day in Wales, maybe 12 years before the distillery was even built. It was invented by scientists over at Surrey University down in Guildford. It was different because it distilled, in one movement, up to a very high strength—it was like a mix between column and pot. You get a very clean, light spirit that way. If you make your spirit cleaner like Penderyn did, it means your spirit is open to faster maturation. It will take what the cask is giving it far, far quicker.

Many of your fans associate you with ratings of their favorite Scotches. Is world whisky a new trend?

The whole point of the Whisky Bible is it’s about whisky! When it first came out in 1993, I took enormous criticism because I was judging bourbons, and Japanese and Canadian and Brazilian whiskies…and people were calling me a heretic. It was unbelievable. But I have never, ever compromised with that. I have always stuck with writing about world whiskies.

In the early 1990s, the quality of many Scotch whiskies declined, because the quality of the casks wasn’t as good as they once were. There were no whisky shows and no people parading out in kilts, and the industry was struggling. Things have changed dramatically now.

I’ve done books on bourbon, Irish whiskies, all kinds of world whiskies that back in the day didn’t sell. But I knew people would catch up. In 2017, when a Canadian whisky won World Whisky of the Year, I took enormous flak again! But it’s not about ego. It’s about trying to point people in the direction of where there’s great whisky.

Read the full interview with Jim Murray here.

No, Blair Bowman, here’s to you Credit: World Whisky Day
No, Blair Bowman, here’s to you
Credit: World Whisky Day

Global effort: 12 bottles for World Whisky Day

Need another excuse to pour a dram? No matter how you spell your favorite drink, May 18 was World Whisky Day. Bars, distillers and anyone with a bottle can join in on the fun by holding a free registered event. Just promise us you won’t go it alone.

For this annual celebration, which has fallen on the third Saturday in May since 2012, you can thank its Scottish founder, Blair Bowman. No grizzled whisk(e)y enthusiast, the author of The Pocket Guide to Whisky has yet to hit 30.

“It’s definitely achieved its goal of reaching new people because it was always about bringing new people into the industry,” Bowman said of his invention in a 2017 interview. With or without World Whisky Day’s help, those noobs include millennials, who favor Irish whiskey, CNBC reports. We’re thinking it goes great with pea toast.

Barking up the right tree Credit: Forest Distillery
Barking up the right tree
Credit: Forest Distillery

A walk in the woods

To get you into the WWD spirit, Brendan Hodrien of the Independent rounds up 12 bottles from around the globe, with an emphasis on Europe.

By the sound of things, we’d happily get lost in Forest Whisky Blend Number Two by England’s Forest Distillery. “The nose of this expression is deep and sweet with orchard fruit and caramel, the [palate] is a pleasing mixture of cereal and spice,” Hodrien says, “moderated by vanilla and smoke with sophisticated oak notes taking the reins and gliding the liquid into a lingering finish of burnt wood and orange.”

Also: Japanese blend Nikka Days, whose nose is “busting with fresh apples, barley and citrus,” according to Hodrien. “The [palate] is immensely smooth and carries through the orchard fruit but emphasizes a complex alignment of liquorice, citrus, oak and chocolate, the finish is decadently sweet and creamy with a peppering of spice.”

Hodrien recommends a drop or two of water with 45% ABV Seven Stars No. 2 Merak from Spirit of Hven, a pot still operation on a tiny southern Swedish island. “The nose is made up of orchard fruits over a campfire,” he says of the smoky, certified organic single malt, which is aged in American, French and Spanish oak. The palate? It “mingles warm spices with candied orange peel, leading into a peaty and lasting finish.” A slice of Hven.🥃

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