What fruit flies can tell us about liquor

My fellow inebriates,

Today we have some very special guest reviewers.

I’m talking about fruit flies!

We actually thought they had given LBHQ a pass this year. Usually they arrive sometime around blackberry season, in August. This year they were strangely absent, though. Why, I wondered? Had June’s heat dome flamed them and all their eggs out of existence? Had we neglected to buy their favourite fruits? Or were they not double-vaxxed yet?

Whatever their reasoning, we weren’t sad about their absence. Fruit flies can be pests around alcohol. (And I’m an expert on being a pest around alcohol.) Just when you think there’s not a single one in sight, as soon as you pour a drink, they appear. Even if you have a bunch of neglected bananas on the counter or a full compost bin, those little fuckers will immediately zip toward your glass and prepare to land.

Sometimes it’s just one fruit fly that appears. You’ll swear and clap your paws around it, only to find it’s vanished. As soon as you relax, it will materialize again.

When that one fruit fly finally does meet its demise—either because you clouted it about the antennae or because it did a swan dive into your beer—it will immediately be succeeded by another, equally persistent fruit fly.

August, September and most of October passed without this phenomenon. And then suddenly they were here.

Instead of trying to eradicate them, I decided to get their opinions on some liquor.


Redbreast 12-year-old Still Pot Irish Whiskey

LB’s review: Redbreast is elegant and impeccably balanced. Richly aromatic, it wafts toffee, vanilla bean, soft tannins and hints of dried fruits and perhaps some hazelnut to balance out the sweetness. The mouthfeel is large and mouth-saturating and the finish is lingering. It leaves you wanting more. This whiskey more than delivers on its very reasonable price point.

Fruit flies’ review: They were willing to die for this. One immediately plummeted to its death on a large ice cube.


Crown Royal Canadian Whisky

LB’s review: Crown Royal was created to commemorate the 1939 grand tour of the British Royals to Canada. It is made from over 50 different whiskies! Crown Royal features light vanilla and toffee top notes along with undercurrents of baking spice, oak and a tiny hint of orange peel. The mouthfeel is substantial and satisfying and the finish is long. At around $27 for 750 mL, you can feel good about drinking it copiously by itself or making cocktails with it.

Fruit flies’ review: They were quite desperate to have it. Clearly the Redbreast-inspired suicide of their compatriot had taught them nothing. Or perhaps fruit flies are just nihilistic hedonists.


Swear Jar Canadian Whisky

LB’s review: I’ll be honest—we bought this for the container. Even though, at 750 mL, it is nowhere near capacious enough to be the family’s actual swear jar, it represents some pretty cool packaging. But as far as flavour goes, Swear Jar is odd. Aromatically, this three-year-old Quebecois offering leads with nuts. Which nut, I wasn’t sure for the longest time. Maybe almonds? Maybe hazelnuts? Or some sort of big nut mash-up. Singing and dancing behind this top note are peppery spice, cloves, some fruit and—yes—some kind of solvent. After nursing a glass each of Swear Jar, my parents decided to drink it no more and, instead, to push it at visitors as a cocktail ingredient. Not that we’ve had many visitors lately, so Swear Jar remains in the cupboard. But my parents poured some into a bowl for our fruit fly experiment this weekend, and I enjoyed it very much.

Fruit flies’ review: They acted as if it didn’t exist. Something in Swear Jar is a fruit fly deterrent.


Laphroaig Scottish Whisky

LB’s review: If you’re a fan of Islay whiskies, you may already know that Laphroaig 10-year-old represents incredible value. It is redolent with smoke, vanilla and peat, with an interesting brininess and medicinal aftertaste. The mouthfeel is full-bodied and warming without singeing your fur. The finish is lingering. As my dad commented, it gives Lagavulin a run for its money.

Fruit flies’ review: They LOVED this whisky. They agreed with my dad that it was just as good as Lagavulin, and one of them died for it. It didn’t get its chosen death, mind you—my dad got out the vacuum cleaner and hosed it into oblivion. After that we waited for more fruit flies to appear, but they must have been having second thoughts. That or the raunchy bananas on the counter started looking a bit less risky.

Liquorstore Bear enjoying a bowl of Swear Jar Canadian whisky - with no fruit flies competing for it.

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!