Smithwick’s—yummy, cold, and redolent of all the crap in our very old freezer

My fellow inebriates,

My dad swears by this freezer thingie he uses to keep cans of beer cold.

It even has a bear on it.

In this case, we’re having a Smithwick’s Red Ale. It’s a nice malty, mellow beer with low hops and creaminess.

I don’t know why my dad didn’t tell my mum about this beer—she would totally like it. Maybe he was using his freezer thingie to hide the words “Premium Red Ale.” It doesn’t matter, though. The freezer thingie itself is, in any case, a deterrent (for her, not me); she says it “smells like the freezer.”

I found Dad’s beer because I can smell it with my bear nose. Sure, I can also detect the freezer thingie’s gross freezer-burnt-what-the-hell-was it sitting-next-to-why-do-we-never-clean-the-freezer-maybe-the-whole-appliance-is-faulty-oh-wait-did-we-finally-bury-that-dead-gerbil odour, but I don’t care. As you can see, I bellied right up to it so I could help my dad drink that Smithwick’s.

I highly recommend getting several freezer thingies for your household so you don’t have to share.

I also recommend a dedicated beer fridge/freezer for them so they just smell like beer.

And if you have a deceased gerbil in a baggie in the freezer (because the ground was too hard to dig in winter), it’s probably time to have that funeral.

Bushmill’s Black Bush—luring bears into the liquor store

My fellow inebriates,

This week one of my favourite booze websites, Good Spirits News (GSN), drew my attention to Bushmill’s Black Bush Whiskey. When I saw they had given it an A+, I immediately went online to see if our government booze store stocked it. Score! It was even on sale for $34.99.

Bushmill's Irish Whiskey bottle

For this marvellous shopping trip, I accompanied my mum, riding in her backpack. I hadn’t been out of the house since long before the pandemic, so this was novel. The whole world had changed. Our booze store had even rebranded.

My mum was reluctant to take me along. In the past, I’ve attempted to stay behind at the store. But she told me if I tried to hop out of the backpack this time and take up residence in the Irish whiskey section, I’d probably end up being destroyed (and not in the good, wasted kind of way). She pointed out that I was no longer as fluffy as I was when I first sprang from the liquor store’s Christmas share-a-bear sale so many years ago.

I countered that neither was she.

Still, I took her point about the common practice of darting bears that show up at liquor stores and promised to stay in the backpack.

Happens all the time.

Thus we made a surgical strike, claimed our Black Bush and hightailed it out of there.

Two days later (why??? why do I always have to wait???) we tried it. Our friends at GSN were correct—Black Bush is a fine whiskey that’s weighty and rich in a classic toasty-caramel vein. On the nose you get faint nuttiness and butterscotch. On the palate it has a ton going on—some spices, some dried fruits and some tea tannins. Those flavours develop in your mouth and finish off on the sweet side. In short, it takes your palate through a small journey, much like my foray in the backpack, although without the threat of being darted.

Black Bush is made from 80% malt whiskey and 20% grain whiskey, which makes it a bargain (regular $38.99). It spends years in sherry casks, which confers a sweetness on it that my dad and I noticed right out of the gate. My mum didn’t find it sweet, but that’s because she’s been hanging out in the Canadian rye section for so long. Still, she felt connected to this whiskey because it hails from her mum’s birthplace, County Antrim in Northern Ireland (although Bushmill’s is owned by the folks who make Cuervo).

By Jonathan Schachter, 2005, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5848335

Given how little travel is going on these days, Black Bush is the closest we’re going to get to Northern Ireland anytime soon, so we might as well drink copious amounts of it.

And you, too, my fellow inebriates. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced whiskey you can sip or mix into a mean cocktail, this is it. Get your mother to put you in a backpack and take you to your local booze shop ASAP!

Zin, cab, negroamaro and CAH—a glimpse of “normal” at LBHQ

My fellow inebriates,

On Saturday I had the rare opportunity of tasting THREE different red wines. Sitting outside on the deck with a couple of guests, sharing vaccine news and playing Cards Against Humanity, it felt kind of normal.

All so plausible…

Between 8:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. we consumed:

  1. Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel, U.S. (2017); sale price $17.99, reg. $22.99  
  2. Tom Gore Cabernet Sauvignon, U.S. (2018); $19.99
  3. Luccarelli Puglia Negroamaro, Italy (2018); $15.99

The first two bottles vanished quickly. The third didn’t quite get finished. (I attempted to open it at breakfast, but you know my challenges with opening bottles.)

Lingering along with my hangover is the question—did we drink these bottles in the correct order?

If it’s best to drink the best wine first, then we did things right. The Ravenswood was smooth and plummy while still being refined and balanced. In addition to layers of blackcurrant, tannins, and oak, it had a slight hint of baking spice in the finish. It was billed as “medium-bodied,” but it bordered on being full-bodied. We all loved it, and that’s why it was gone in a flash.

Choices, choices…

It sucks to take the stage after a great act, but the Tom Gore held its own. Bold and smooth, dry and balanced, it was a touch oakier than the zin but equally bursting with dark red fruit, and it had its own hint of peppery spice. Sometimes it can feel rough switching from one wine to another, but not with this wine. We all guzzled it happily. Only my dad thought the zin was better; the rest of us thought these first two were about on par with each other.

I like the pool noodle.

If being the second act sucks, you really don’t want to be last. That was the fate of Luccarelli, a less expensive wine we’ve had plenty of times before and always thought was a pretty good bargain. Sure, it was bold, and also smooth, but after the first two wines, it seemed less structured (although things were getting pretty unstructured on the deck by this point). It had a jamminess that seemed undisciplined, plus an unwelcome sweetness in the finish. As such, it sealed the deal on our collective hangover today.

I don’t blame Luccarelli for its poor comparative showing. If it hadn’t been upstaged, it would have been a decent wine. If the bottle had been able to talk to Dad before he unscrewed its cap, it might have yelled, “What the fuck are you doing? There’s no way I’m going on after those guys. Come on.” But we wouldn’t have heard—we were busy offending the neighbours with our reprehensible card choices. Into our glasses the wine sloshed, and we drank it with minimal complaint.

My dad was on a roll last night. Not only did he open three bottles of wine, which hasn’t happened in a couple of years, but he also beat the pants off us at Cards Against Humanity. Usually he refuses to play out on the deck because he thinks the neighbours are listening. But last night he was a different human. Maybe COVID-19 altered his brain chemistry? Should I feel thankful?