Was it something we said, Ray? Credit: Showtime
Was it something we said, Ray?
Credit: Showtime

Neat Stuff 30: Liev Schreiber fixes a Scotch, 19 new drams and the mother of Japanese whisky

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Fixing a drink for Ray Donovan: Liev Schreiber’s Scotch co-stars

Like everyone and everything else famous, it seems, Ray Donovan now has its own whiskey. Silver Screen Bottling Co. recently launched The Fixer, a 45% ABV blend inspired by Liev Schreiber’s brooding title character in the long-running Showtime crime drama.

A relentless peddler of TV- and movie-themed drams, Silver Screen is taking reservations for its new offering. What can we expect? “The Fixer Blended Whiskey is silky smooth and surprisingly light on the palate,” promise the tasting notes, which are straight from Central Casting. “Lively and fresh, it allows the lushness of the corn to come through.” Thanks for nothing.

They don’t drink that stuff in Southie

To be fair, whiskey plays a strong supporting role in the show, which follows the misadventures of South Boston transplant Ray Donovan as he cleans up after L.A.’s rich and famous. For Donovan, who’s also a devoted family man of sorts, all that dirty work creates a powerful thirst.

At Liquor.com and elsewhere, eagle-eyed Ray Donovan viewers have documented their sightings of an unusually wide range of Scotches, from a Highland Park 25 to a 1969 Glenlivet. Perhaps none is more diligent than Canadian blogger Curtis MacEachern, whose Scotch Cinema also tracks the spirit’s appearance in other films and TV shows.

What’s with the fake booze?

Although real brands predominate, many onscreen Scotches are fictional, as this sampling reveals. On Ray Donovan, folks have been known to quaff Stafford Twin Wood, a blatant Balvenie knockoff that’s also made its way onto fellow Showtime property Californication.

As for Schreiber, he’s apparently no stranger to the genuine article. “Meditation works,” the versatile actor, director and screenwriter told New York magazine’s Maria Elena Fernandez in 2017 when asked how he detaches from his job. “Unfortunately, Irish whiskey also works really well, which probably accounts for a lot of the alcoholism in the acting business.” Sorry to hear that.

The Choice of millions  Credit: Allied Blenders & Distillers

We salute you, Officer’s: Indian whiskies outsell their global rivals

Quick, name the world’s best-selling whiskey! If you guessed Officer’s Choice and not some two-bit brand from Scotland or the U.S., well done. The Indian blend ranked No. 1 for 2018, moving almost 34 million cases, according to International Wine and Spirits Research.

Last year, seven of the top 10 whiskey brands were Indian, including four of the top five, India TV reports. McDowell’s No.1, Imperial Blue and Royal Stag followed Officer’s Choice, with Johnnie Walker (a mere 18.3 million cases) finishing fifth. The bottom line: three out of five cases of whiskey sold globally now hail from India.

Following the money tells a different story, though

Besides Officer’s Choice, owned by homegrown Allied Blenders & Distillers, three of India’s four biggest whiskies belong to multinationals Diageo and Pernod Ricard. Then again, there is Indian-owned Amrut Distilleries, maker of the nation’s first single malt.

Last year, Whisky Bible author Jim Murray named eight-year-old Amrut Greedy Angels his top Asian dram. Is it only a matter of time before India conquers the premium market, too? We’ll be watching.

Distillery Select is your chance to visit Taiwan Credit: Kavalan
Distillery Select is your chance to visit Taiwan
Credit: Kavalan

These just in: 19 new whiskies with game

“Novelty is a wonderfully short-lived thing,” author John Wyndham wrote. So get out there and try some of these whiskies that have made their way to U.S. stores lately.

First, let’s hear from Forbes.com’s John McCarthy, who rounds up 14 bottles that impress him. We’re intrigued by Distillery Select ($60*), a Scotch-style single malt from Taiwan-based Kavalan. As McCarthy tells us, master blender Ian Chang capitalizes on his island nation’s subtropical climate by maturing the spirit in malt neutral casks. “This means minimal wood influence and an emphasis on the distillate, which is bottled at 86-proof and laden with fruit flavors.”

Or how about a 12-year-old Marco De Bartoli Marsala Cask ($80), by Ireland’s Knappogue Castle Whiskey? The sweet, distinctive marsala flavor comes across right away on the nose, then presents itself again on the finish, with a fresh, fruit-driven journey in between.”

Bonus: For Distillery Select and several other whiskies, McCarthy kindly includes cocktail recipes.

Smoke on the water

Clay Dillow of Fortune recommends six Scotches, including one overlap with McCarthy’s list—and one real smoke show. That would be the hard-to-find Octomore 9.1 Dialogos, from Islay’s Bruichladdich Distillery ($140), clocking in at 59.1% ABV.

“If you come across a bottle of the slightly vegetal and very peaty mélange of sea breeze, salted fudge and Christmas confections that is Octomore 9.1, consider yourself fortunate,” Dillow says, noting that the range’s next edition should drop this year. Lucky us.

*All dollar figures in USD

We know a Glenlivet when we see one Credit: Ernie Button, National Geographic
We know a Glenlivet when we see one
Credit: Ernie Button, National Geographic

Fantastic planet: Finding new worlds in an empty Scotch glass

If you thought a glass of whiskey couldn’t get any more beautiful, see here. At National Geographic, Daniel Stone explains how photographer Ernie Button has created a fantasy universe from the sediment left in a drained tumbler.

To make his images, Button takes pictures of the dried residue from a variety of Scotches, then trains multicoloured lights on their unique patterns. “The gray lines and swirls spring to life and make the rich designs resemble colorful landscapes of planets and moons,” Stone says.

Thanks to this artful treatment, plus some Photoshop work, Glenlivet produces lavalike waves, Balvenie yields what could be a glowing celestial body, and Macallan becomes a vortex resembling a blossom. Bottoms up!

The other Grace Jones, with her favorite dram Credit: SWNS 
The other Grace Jones, with her favorite dram
Credit: SWNS 

Alpha females: Two women who made history with whiskey

Correlation doesn’t imply causation, but we’re going with wishful thinking on this one. Grace Jones, Britain’s oldest person until she died recently at 112, credited her long life partly to a daily shot of Scotch.

“Whisky is very good for you,” the Telegraph reports Jones as saying of her Famous Grouse habit. “I started having a nightly tot of it when I turned 50, so I’ve been having it every night for the last 60 years and I certainly have no intention of stopping now.” We couldn’t agree more.

Masataka and Rita Taketsuru Credit: Royal Society of Chemistry 
Masataka and Rita Taketsuru
Credit: Royal Society of Chemistry 

Nikka’s Scottish connection

Not long after Jones was born, the U.K. played host to an encounter that would change the course of whiskey history. In 1919, in her Scottish hometown of Kirkintilloch, Rita Cowan met Masataka Taketsuru, who was there to study the art and science of making a dram.

The pair soon married and moved to Taketsuru’s native Japan, where he launched what became legendary distiller Nikka Whisky, the BBC relates. The location: Yoichi on the northern island of Hokkaido, which to him felt much like Scotland.

For playing a pivotal role in helping her husband release his first product, Rita Taketsuru is known as the mother of Japanese whisky. This August, Kirkintilloch will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the couple’s first meeting. We hope they’re planning to roll out some Nikka From the Barrel.🥃 

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