My fellow inebriates,
The panic started when my dad invited his entire office to our house for a backyard barbeque.
I mean, my mum lost her shit.
Backing up six-odd years to give you some context, our family was being courted by producers of the TV show Consumed—kind of a “Hoarders-Lite” social experiment in which households are forced to declutter. Which is to say, we had some serious clutter verging on hoarder-type collecting at LBHQ. A family friend had contacted the Consumed producers on my parents’ behalf, hoping to do them a favour and help them embrace their inner Spartans. At the time my mum was very excited and ran around the house snapping photographic evidence of our sickness—piles of stereo gear, manuals for obsolete printers, toasters (yes, our toaster had a manual!) and sundry useless shit, dust-coated baby clothes, painted rocks and children’s art that somehow no one had been ruthless enough to purge, laptops that no longer functioned. If my parents didn’t get their new online, there would have been piles of newspapers too. It was some serious messed-up shit, MFI, and my mum welcomed the opportunity to have the Consumed people storm into our house and start chucking stuff into one of those big refuse containers and transform our chaos into clean, quiet emptiness.
So anyway, my mum sent all these photos to the Consumed people, who were very interested and ready to take next steps. The catch was my dad didn’t know she’d done that, and when he found out he was mortified. And he was very worried about someone swiping all his amazing stereo thingies that in his opinion WERE NOT AND NEVER HAVE BEEN CLUTTER. And so my mum cooled off and stopped emailing the Consumed people. And because the Consumed people probably had about a zillion other interested would-be candidates, aka, fame whores, they cooled off too, and our 15 minutes of fame on Canadian TV never happened.
Why am I telling you this?
Because the clutter never went away, my fellow inebriates. The piles remained and grew larger. We moved headquarters (to a larger but older house with WAY more spiders, all waiting to enweb our clutter, which they did. The clutter landed first in our garage (never to hold a car) and expanded throughout the house into spare rooms, offices, the rec room, the bathrooms, the hallways. If Jehovah’s Witnesses or the UPS guy knocked on our door my mother would immediately start apologizing for the clutter they could see from the front porch, all mummified in spiderwebs. Our home looked like a freaking haunted house. We could NEVER have people over, not if we wanted them to think we were halfway normal.
And that’s why, when my dad invited 30 people over for a barbecue, my mum went nuts. It was a come-to-Jesus moment, people. A moment when they looked at each other and made a fresh commitment to cleaning up the goddamn house.
Which they almost managed to do. I mean, if you don’t count all the areas they cordoned off (where clutter had been relocated), if you don’t investigate the fridge or any cupboards or under the bed, well, you could say they got a good 10 percent of the way there. Which made it okay to have a party.
A Gin Party!
That’s what Dad called it. It sounds really civilized—sitting in garden chairs getting our dose of quinine and talking about décor.
For me and Blackie Bear and all the usual suspects who turned up for this bash, it wasn’t just a Gin Party. It was Gin Shootout #5, and if you’ve been following our gin-related exploits, you know how these things go. It starts with a blast of offensive music to the captive audience that is our churchy whitebread neighbourhood. It’s quickly followed by pushy offerings of straight gin in teeny Solo cups and then an onslaught of inexpertly mixed G&Ts. Yeah! That’s a Gin-Shootout, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
POLO CLUB AMERICAN DRY GIN
Representing the bottom shelf, POLO CLUB AMERICAN DRY GIN (750 mL, $23.99) started us off. Billed as an “artisan gin” (we’ve heard that one before), POLO CLUB is distilled in small batches and boasts 44 percent alcohol. The aroma is piercing with a limited array of botanical notes, mostly citrus and a little spicy. While the flavour profile is much too aggressive for a martini, it doesn’t translate into a delightful G&T either—it’s knifey and impolite, with a decided afterburn. I was willing to pound it on the spot, but our guests made comments like:
A shocker in a bottle—NO!
BRUICHLADDICH – THE BOTANIST ISLAY DRY
Next up, and decidedly top-shelf, came BRUICHLADDICH – THE BOTANIST ISLAY DRY (750 mL, $46.29). I’ve been lusting after this gin for a couple of years. Islay! Who knew there was such a thing as an Islay gin? Gorgeously packaged, this gin features 31 botanicals including Islay juniper, bog myrtle leaves, mugwort, red clover and many more. The nose is lush and layered with big and small notes. On the palate it’s oh-so-subtle, with no one botanical stealing the spotlight, cool yet mellow, with a delightful citrus/coriander finish. This gin would make a world-class martini. We worried that it would disappear into tonic water, and to an extent this was true; with no one botanical dominating the flavour profile, the resulting G&T—while being highly drinkable—wasn’t as memorable as we would have liked. This didn’t prevent our guests from polishing off THE BOTANIST, though. As one commented,
Delightful. Get ready to get shitfaced on this one!
GORDON’S LONDON DRY GIN
Next in line, an old reliable and James Bond favourite gin, GORDON’S (750 mL, $22.49).
You’ve heard all about GORDON’S in this space before, so I’ll skip to the comments.
Crisp and clean like folded linen.
A delightful favourite. Gross, but it works.
Tastes like a man named Gordon.
(The author of this last comment won a prize for its insightfulness.)
VICTORIA DISTILLERS EMPRESS 1908 GIN
Up to the top shelf again, we have VICTORIA DISTILLERS EMPRESS 1908 GIN (750 mL, $46.99). The product of a collaboration between Victoria’s famed Empress Hotel and Victoria Distillers, this gin features, in addition to juniper, ginger, grapefruit and other “ginny” botanicals, vibrant butterfly pea flower extract, resulting in a jewel-like indigo tint, as well as tea infusion (the Empress Hotel’s own brand). Fully organic, this gin promises to turn from indigo to pink when an acid (such as citrus juice) is added. Perhaps we didn’t add enough lime juice, but we didn’t observe this phenomenon. Everyone loved the colour, but the flavour received mixed reviews. It lacks crispness and is heavily floral, which some liked …
So delightful … a little rascal.
… some didn’t mind …
Very floral bouquet, better with tonic.
… some minded a little …
Like a forgotten garden.
… and some overtly hated it:
Tastes like SHIT … Fuck that, but I will still drink it all.
HOMEMADE LAVENDER GIN!!
Check out the small mason jar in our gin assortment. This was a homemade gin brought by guests. Astonishingly, although the base spirit is POLO CLUB, the addition of lavender infusion manages to elevate it beyond its cheap-ass niche. Delicately pink (or yellow, as the phone camera would have it), this homemade hooch earned rave comments …
… and not-so-rave comments …
I’d rather drink essential oil.
I loved it, and my dad’s co-workers should know that mason jars of gin are always welcome at LBHQ.
BROKER’S LONDON DRY PREMIUM
And finally—of course!—the perennial winner of our Gin Shootouts, BROKER’S GIN (750 mL, $27.99). I’ve been horrible about keeping in touch with Julia Gale of BROKER’S GIN, who at one point considered me one of her very closest international friends, but I will loop her in on this post so she knows that we continue to enjoy BROKER’S and in fact billed it as the gin to beat at this party.
Every so often we ask ourselves, is BROKER’S GIN really all that? With dozens of other gins on the shelves, surely it can’t be the best. And then we buy it and go ahhhhhhhhhhh! It really is wonderful. Our one under-age drinker agreed; he said from now on it would be his gin of choice, although, truth be told, he had some of everything. I do hope the police don’t arrive and put me in small handcuffs.
Where was I? Tasting notes. Lovely smoothness and botanical character, BROKER’S is delicate and nuanced straight-up, while still having the chops to cut through tonic just enough to announce its presence. It is a near-perfect gin at a reasonable price. Not all of our guests agreed, mind you; one called it “plain old gin.” Julia?
And that’s about it. A herd of people attended our backyard barbeque. I skulked in the background. They ate, they drank, they gave us their insightful comments. Not very much hard data, unfortunately. Although my mum designed score sheets, she neglected to include scoring instructions. So you’ll have to make do with qualitative data only.
Until next time, my fellow inebriates. (And no, I don’t know when that will be. My parents suck at doing my typing.)
My fellow inebriates,
You should see the amazing beer fridges that have popped up in our neighbourhood this week.
Even Miss P made one.
Well, she started making one.
And Miss V made a snow gerbil.
My question is, where is the beer to put in these fridges, and how do we guard that beer from this red-eyed gerbil?
Whaaat, my fellow inebriates? You say you don’t want balls in your Canadian whisky?
Well, you might want balls in your Canadian whisky if they were THESE balls.
That’s right, my fellow inebriates! Giant balls of ice!
My dad brought home these spherical ice moulds for my mum’s birthday a while back. At first she was very ungrateful, not having ever expressed a wish for such things, but after experiencing them in a rock glass of CROWN ROYAL RESERVE Canadian rye whisky, she repented of her birthday brattiness and agreed that Dad had found a good thing.
Now, whether you should add ice to your whisky in the first place is its own controversy. If your whisk(e)y is cask-strength OR cheap and nasty, you need no excuse. But what about a reasonably nice rye whisky like CROWN ROYAL RESERVE? Purists might urge you to drink it neat—all the better to fully experience it. And adding water (not ice) can actually help release flavours in a good whisk(e)y that might not otherwise come out, by breaking the surface tension of the drink and creating a reaction that releases aromas. But ice? That’s where purist and drinkers like my mum diverge.
Adding ice to whisk(e)y isn’t unforgivable, but it does limit the “nose.” If you have a very high-quality beverage, purists will urge you very strongly to forgo the ice. But if you, like the dwellers of LBHQ, are on a soul-destroying budget, well, you’re gonna want to add ice your wretched but affordable swill.
So how did a thing like CROWN ROYAL RESERVE enter our house? Not for donkey’s years has my mother purchased a rye that didn’t come in a plastic bottle.
It was my Uncle J (who doesn’t know I call him that) who brought this delightful premium version of CROWN ROYAL to LBHQ. In kneejerk fashion, we got out the ice (and the Coca Cola in Uncle J’s case) and went to town on the bottle. While we can’t report what it tastes like neat, we nonetheless detected CROWN ROYAL RESERVE’s notes of maple and caramel, its smoothness and its balance. What it lacks in complexity it makes up for with its well-behaved sippability. All of us went back for a second belt, and my mum crunched her ice into nothing.
Which is probably why Dad bought her the ice balls. When you have a mouthful of screaming dental work as my dad does, listening to your wife of 13 years crunch the shit out of the ice in her CROWN ROYAL RESERVE must make you want to call a lawyer. Hats off to my dad for taking the high road and buying her ice balls instead, underappreciated though they were initially.
A few warnings about these very large balls:
You have to be smart about how you put them in your drink.
RULE ONE: Ice first. You cannot pour your rye and then chuck one of these balls in. You’ll lose your rye. And yes, Mum tried it.
RULE TWO: Be careful. These are big honking balls. Even if your rock glass is empty, you mustn’t drop them in or you’ll risk breaking the glass. And yes, Mum tried that too. (Run hot water over the spherical ice mould to loosen the ice ball, take off the ice-mould lid, put the glass upside down over the mould and then flip it right-side-up with the iceball pressed against the bottom of the glass. Voila!
RULE THREE: Knowing that you can’t put your booze in the glass first, if you’re concerned about measuring that booze, you won’t be able to use the iceball-filled glass as a visual measure for your pour-line—at least not until you get used to having big balls in your glass. Grab a jigger so you can measure your booze and then pour it onto the ice.
And if you don’t want to measure, that’s fine too. No car keys, though, my fellow inebriates! Stay home and keep pouring CROWN ROYAL RESERVE over the ice until it melts. Your balls will stay with you all night long.