Wine in France, Beer in England, and Whisky in Scotland… The Studies of a Devolping Alcoholic?

That is just a joke in the title, though I don’t mean to make light of a crippling disease, but I do have a curious affinity for alcoholic beverages. And after that last post, I could really use a drink.

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O Château, in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. Very slick wine bar, most notably of the company owned by Olivier Magny, whose book “Into Wine” is essential reading for wine novices and even established lovers (for the purposes of reaffirmation).
The Mont Brouilly of Beaujolais, one of the few regions of  Gamay (a grape varietal). Delicious light bodied stuff, low in tannins, plenty of subtle notes of spices, dark berries, flowers like lilacs/violets, and stone/chalk
The Mont Brouilly of Beaujolais, one of the few regions of Gamay (a grape varietal). Delicious light bodied stuff, low in tannins, plenty of subtle notes of spices, dark berries, flowers like lilacs/violets, and stone/chalk

It’s one of the ways I introduce myself. Hi, my name’s Abigail, you will soon find out that I have a more than casual interest in alcohol. Now, I must make a distinction: it’s perfectly plausible and acceptable to prefer to taste versus drink, or to taste more often than one drinks. My interest stems simply from enjoying the sensory experience and the challenge it presents: trying to identify recognizable scents and flavors, assessing the texture, the acidity or sweetness, attempting to form a catalog of scents, tastes, and similarities between different types of drinks. I approach every glass of wine, spirit, or beer with a sense of excitable curiosity.

Crate Brewery: a very cool place. Located in Hackney Wick (London), in an industrial complex, right on a canal, that serves fresh pizza with their fresh, house-made beer... very enjoyable atmosphere, would be a great place to go with a large group.
Crate Brewery: a very cool place. Located in Hackney Wick (London), in an industrial complex, right on a canal, that serves fresh, stone-baked pizza with their fresh, house-made beer… very enjoyable atmosphere, would be a great place to go with a large group.

It’s about engaging a little bit deeper with something that can be, usually is, consumed without much consideration. It’s a cool thing us humans have created, and I like to treat it as such, rather than as a means to cognitive abandon.

3384 bottles of whiskey accumulated by Brazilian businessman Claive Vidiz, now residing in Edinburgh at the Scotch Whisky Experience
3384 bottles of whiskey accumulated by Brazilian businessman Claive Vidiz, now residing in Edinburgh at the Scotch Whisky Experience
228L bottle of Famous Grouse blended whisky, we were assured that it's not just colored water ;)
228L bottle of Famous Grouse blended whisky, we were assured that it’s not just colored water 😉

I have the most comprehensive knowledge of wine, but I am hardly discriminatory. So here’s a list of some online and published resources, and some recommendations of what’s worth trying in the market today:

Column to refer to for recommendations and beer info

Blog for wine news, basic info, & tasting notes

Beer Bible, the food pairing version

Introductory wine book

Oxford Companions to Wine & Beer (Spirits is to be composed?)

Stylish blog for mixed drinks, this girl’s totally crashing the Boy’s Club!

Don’t really have any resources for spirits… I basically browse the shelves for new bottles and order those straight at the bar. That way I can figure out what they’re like without having to commit to a $40+ bottle.

Baxter Pamola Xtra Pale Ale – Portland, ME

The beer industry’s weird, I get that the market trend, across all industries, is to release products a bit before their designated season, but it’s just plain wrong to crack open pumpkin beers, autumn ales, and oktoberfests in early August. Even as we hit September, it’s still an average of 80 degrees F outside I want nothing to do with spiced things and dark brews. This pale ale is the welcomed relief, it’s cool/crisp/light, and is capable of refreshing in the lingering hot and sticky weather.

Foolproof Backyahd – Pawtucket, RI

Here’s a completely approachable IPA (India Pale Ale). The most predominant feature of IPA’s is the hop concentration. I personally have a low tolerance for their flavor, which is why I like the Backyahd it’s all subtle and balanced.

Caol Ila (Single Malt Scotch Whisky)

My journey with single malt Scotch whisky has just started and I would like it to be known that it was Caol Ila’s 12 year that sent me down that long, dark road. It is so featured here, in a little narration of one of my nights in London, the perfect example of how square I am. This is probably an introductory level option, so it worked excellently for me.

Portobello Road Gin (…)

Discovered this gin at the Old Ship Inn in London after a day of train > airplane > train travel, and I just really needed a drink. Served in the classic gin & tonic variation, it was delectable and I will definitely be referring to it again. Although I am not sure of it’s availability in the U.S. Plymouth Gin, of the Black Friar’s Distillery is a good option for affordability and I last purchased Hayman’s Old Tom Gin (although that might not be the most authentic?), which was very nice as well. Not going to mention Hendrick’s, everyone seems to love it but I get some kind of chemical taste that doesn’t vibe well with me.

Chartreuse (Liqueur)

Why not throw a liqueur into the mix! This stuff is powerful, I really like it’s medicinal quality. I would insist on pouring a bit to linger over after dinner.

Commanderie de Peyrassol – Provence, [southern] France (Rosé [undisclosed grapes])

It’s worth it to throw one rosé into the mix. Commanderie de Peyrassol was my favorite of this season. It’s really light, and has subtle floral notes that do not appear instantly. I really admired it’s delicacy.

La Collina Lunaris Secco Malvasia Dell’Emilia – Reggio Emilia, [northern] Italy (Malvasia)

I am easily excited by bubbly, all bubbly. I do not discriminate, so long as it’s delicious. And this stuff, well wow, it was delicious. It’s rich and yeasty, there are fruity flavors of apples and pears, but it stays dry and there are notes of fermentation that are perfectly subtle without being off-putting. Provided you’re not surrounded by pretentious/ill-informed company, this is a great wine (around $20) to celebrate the everyday.

AFAR Magazine

I don’t read many travel magazines, or other sorts of publications in that genre, but I rely heavily on AFAR to get my wanderlust fix. I’ve been subscribed to the magazine since it was first realeased a few years ago, and I look forward to each new issue with such glee. Most recently, I’m getting the impression that the content is changing… but they do stay true to the concept of “experiential travel”, meaning throwing yourself into the culture, interacting with the locals, and trying to get meaning out of the experience. I say the content is changing because I’m noticing features on spas and isolated bungalows, which definitely cut out any chances for “meaningful experiences”. This is, however, the source of one of my all time favorite pieces of published material. The article transcends the idea of travel into this realm of commentary on human interaction and it’s phenomenal. The reason I bring your attention to AFAR today, is because I wanted to share the super database they’ve inspired online. Members are encouraged to compose “Highlights”, just little snippets of places to eat, drink, and visit. The whole thing is slowly growing to be an incredible resource for inspiration. Basically share any neighborhood feature you love to visit and look up what other people may have added. Just a note, I said it’s growing, so you’re most likely to find highlights concentrated on the bigger and frequently visited cities. But it’s still worth a look, especially my account (shameless plugging).

That is all, thank you! Read the article though, seriously.

A little story

Quiet streets enveloped by large, white buildings, I stroll with myself a while, heels clacking deliberately in rhythm, with intended precision, to occupy my attention. As the neighborhood morphs, I identify my destination, and am shocked by a splash of bright red on an otherwise brown street: “Boisdale Wine & Cigar Club”. This place needs to work on its first impression. While I appreciate the exciting color, it’s the bottles of champagne dressed in cheesy labels on display in the window that turn me off, and the menu, posted on a board, is that of typical tavern food either lacking in ingenuity, or execution which was the fault I encountered during our meal.

Entranced in my anylizations, I don’t immediately notice my friend approaching from up the road until I hear a little shout and find her accomponied by a striking stranger. Awkward introductions, after this experience I am well prepared for the 3-kiss greeting, and we are escorted by Monsieur British to the upstairs lounge. Passing through the dining room, past the deck, up the stairs, and to the lounge, I cannot help but chuckle to myself at the ridiculous green carpeting and excessive plaid accents. I feel as though I have been transported to some overdone, geriatric, hunting lodge… in Scotland! Rather than swiftly turning around and walking right out the door, there is the promise of champagne, an impressive wine list, and a live jazz band later in the evening. After watching this… gentleman… interact with my friend for a few minutes, I become aware that I am in for a treat tonight. Mr. British has made it very clear that he intends to get her into his bed tonight. He has put on full display, the peacock unfurling his magnificent feathers, his dry English humoUr and self-effacing while self-promoting charm. As the night progresses, and the champagne starts to make me all smiley, I have started to admire his show. Luckily, I am not the target audience, and while it’s working on me, my friend reacts alternatively with disinterest and disgust. The jazz soon, well not soon, but time has passed rather quickly, starts up. With our plate taken away, we adjust and try to find comfort in the dining chairs. All the while, conversation ebbs and flows with the ending of a song, on the subjects of jazz musicians, higher education, other things that do not make the lasting impression for me to remember now.

Then whiskey is mentioned, and this I remember. Aparently I am the only one in a good mood tonight, and browsing through the list on my own, I catch the name Coal Ila. I know not a thing about scotch whiskey, but I know this name. It was a proclaimed favorite of one of the owners of the wine shop I was employed at, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to taste it, seeing as how I do not shop for and keep scotch whiskey. A slick glass with a portion of just a few ounces is brought to me, along with a small glass pitcher, and I find myself more excited than expected. Cupping the glass in my hands, and taking a deep breath, I am entranced by its aroma. It is oaky, so subtley smoky, it has a wonderful earthiness more reflective of rocks as opposed to dirt, and with a splash of water, the smells intensify and I cannot resist a minute longer. The scents carry to the palate and I am greeted by such a wonderful taste, there is no harshness, it is balanced perfectly, and I am thankful for having found this thing here.

I return back to earth, and try to share my experience but it does not translate quite so significantly, so we linger a bit longer. The band takes a break, and after more than a few minutes we decide to go. As pure comedy, although he certainly did not intend it as so, our benefactor asks my friend if she would come home with him, and she replies with a kurt no. Out of nowhere he turns to me and asks if I would, and without even thinking I respond with a shameless laugh and a… no. Ah well, he always has a girl on Saturday night!, but I am not too worried for his well being. Things remain quite friendly, unchanged, and he walks with us to the train station. I get a pleasant farewell and am witness to a fair attempt and a passionate kiss goodbye which, poor thing, was singular directional. Like young girls, we giggle as we make our way to the platform, astonished at his gaul and the irony of the situation. We make our way into the night, my friend contemplating the best way to politely thank him for the evening, and I, dreamily remembering the sensory mignificence of the scotch.