Whisky and Words Number 7: Johnnie Walker Green and Black

Johnnie Walker Black, on a rock
Johnnie Walker Black, on a rock

I just got back from a week in New York City – spent seven days tramping all over Manhattan Island, seeing the sights. We had fabulous weather and came home knackered every day. And yet, after the crowds, and with the noise and the time change, it was great to unwind with a nightcap at the hotel. We were spending major $$$ on a rarely indulgent vacation (food, shows, museums), so we bought a bottle of whisky at a local shop instead of heading to the hotel bar for a $15 cocktail. The pick for the week: Johnnie Walker Black Label. That whisky, for the few souls who have read through the reviews below, serves as a benchmark for me — a case of a mass-market product done consistently well. And in a week where we didn’t want to have to over-think our whisky, it was a natural choice. Good enough to feel we were still treating ourselves while reasonable enough in cost (though with that Manhattan tax, a bit spendy) to not kill our daytime budget. I had written of JW Black here that it had a nose of light peat, with honey, peaches and sherry notes. The palate I find fairly complex, repeating the peaches with a dash of vanilla, white pepper and earthy oak. I note a touch of watermelon as well. The finish is its weakness, as it is rather quick. You get some honey and oak tannins to balance. Bottom Line: JW Black is hard to beat for the price. It is $40 for 750 ml at home; we found a liter bottle for $62 in Manhattan – about 20% more expensive. Continue reading “Whisky and Words Number 7: Johnnie Walker Green and Black”

Google Photos – Fantastic New Thing or Pain in the Butt?

A story about photographs and online storage

This is not about whisky. Or words (or writing). You may have noticed I post a number of photos to this blog in the Illustrations project. So this is topical! Like many folks who opted for a small, light laptop, I have to deal with space issues. This is my tale…

[UPDATE – see below for using the dedicated uploader, which deals in part with the wacky part…but still results in a hot mess if you back up Google Photos to your PC.]

I’m back to writing after a short hiatus getting my photos sussed out. My photo collection was in disarray, as I’d been overspilling the space on my Surface Pro. There is not a lot of space in the Pro’s C:\ drive (I have 128 GB), and OneDrive is mapped to a directory on the C drive by default. I managed to redirect Dropbox to the SD card and started using Dropbox for my ‘Interests’ photos. It took time moving all that stuff; I have a lot of interests: cars, technology, old decrepit stuff, graffiti and stickers, and soon I was overrunning my Dropbox limit. I have a good 8 GB on Dropbox from signing up friends and family, but the next step up is Dropbox for Business. That’s a big chunk o’change, 1 TB of space for $10/month, no intermediate step. Well, that didn’t fly with me. Grumble.

A tantalizing offer

So then Google comes along and announces free photo storage, for pictures under 16 megapixels. Well, great, my ‘good’ camera, the Olympus OMD EM-10, only does 16 MP. My phone, the HTC One M9 takes up to 20 MP but I can dial that back. 20 MP from a phone camera is a bit crazy, unless you’re going to crop the hell out of it.

Continue reading “Google Photos – Fantastic New Thing or Pain in the Butt?”

Whisky and Words Number Six: Johnnie Walker Black / the Two-Jacksons

Johnny Walker logo, (c) Diageo plc.
Johnny Walker logo, (c) Diageo plc.

This is a bit unfair to old JWB — he wants to just keep walking, but just as the old boy saunters past the once-garish, now-tatty hawker’s booth nestled in the seawall of Old Brighton, just west of the pier, out come a couple yobs wielding – wait for it – glencairn glasses. Frightening. You guessed it, we’re not just looking at old JW Black here, but comparing him to another Black and a simian. And even a single-malt. Which we gotta do as there are 1000 reviews of JWB around – we need some spice for this old pottage.

Seymour Duncan JB pickup, in situ.
Seymour Duncan JB pickup, in situ.

Johnnie Walker comes up a lot in my reviews of blends because I consider the Black a damn good whisky for the price. At $40 US (two Jacksons), you get a consistent product which has enough character to sip neat. And yet, do I buy it often? No, because like my wife and her cooking, I can’t leave well enough alone. I’m always trying new things, even when I’ve found something I like. Johnny Black is like a Seymour Duncan ‘JB’ guitar pickup – reliable in character, and although you know you’ll stray, it’s also known you’ll return home now and then to its comfortable familiarity. It even has a similar name, and costs about the same. Weird, huh?

Continue reading “Whisky and Words Number Six: Johnnie Walker Black / the Two-Jacksons”

Whisky and Words Number Five: Black Bottle

The Black Bottle
The Black Bottle

The Black Bottle is a whisky that I’ve anticipated for some time. It has a legendary status on the internet as a remarkably good whisky for a reasonable price. I had hopes it might topple Johnny Walker Black as the two-Jackson ($40) standard bottling to keep in the liquor cabinet. JWB serves as a standard for balance and reasonable complexity around here.

But as the redoubtable Ralfy commented in Review #450, the bottling has apparently changed. In his review #16, from 2009, he talked of golden syrup, fresh fruit and integrated peat. The color was a light gold – he even referred to them backing off on the caramel coloring.

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Whisky Battle of the Sub-Jacksons: Cutty Sark, Duggan’s Dew, Grant’s, Ballantine’s

Alright, we’re all not driving Ferraris and eating at Shanghai Shanghai every day. Some of us punters have to grab a value whisky now and then. Usually, my bottom line is Teachers, which at a 45% malt blend is a pretty solid pick. But that’s more than a double-deucer here in Oregon ($22). More on that battle later. This entry is a test of what sub-$20 whiskies will leave you wanting more, vs. going for the Altoids to clean the horrid burnt-rubber taste out of your mouth (I’m looking at you, Old Smuggler).

What I expect

What I am expecting is drinkable blends one could enjoy in a mix that doesn’t overwhelm. I don’t mix cola with scotch, for example, but I might do soda. There has to be some taste to the scotch, else why not use rum, it’s cheaper still. So, these have to have something going for them. I also expect there to be an inverse relationship between advertising budget and taste. Why? At these prices, they can’t have their cake and eat it too. Either their cost basis is in Sportsman Afield adverts or in the bottle.

What I was hoping for was to find that these could be contenders for a sip neat now and then. Who knows, we might get lucky.

The contenders

This is an interesting bunch. We have a big name, which comes with the biggest price (and biggest advertising budget), a whisky I’d never heard of until I started researching Monkey Shoulder, and another I’ve never seen even on the web. It’s a dark horse, for sure.

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What kind of tweeter are you?

I’m not the one to judge, having been doing twitter seriously for just a year, but anyone with powers of observation can see certain patterns in the chaos. If it seems that the list leans towards those either writing, editing, agenting or publishing books, that’s because of MacNaughton’s Laws 1 & 2:

1. Every damn fool thinks he or she can write a book.

2. Every damn fool is on the Internet.

And yes, both the above apply to myself; I appreciate the irony. Note the order below is not arbitrary.

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Why are there no hats in GOT?

Of course they are sad, they're getting frostbite.
Of course they are sad, they’re getting frostbite.

I have to say this really bugs me. I’m catching up on Game of Thrones, I bought the DVDs for Seasons two and three, after hanging around my bro-in-law’s house some years back and catching the first season. It was good. And I’ve gone a bit video since the last big book edit. Being a fan of the series (I’ve read all the books, reviews coming), I’m watching these characters and getting into the story, enjoying how they moved such a monster of a story arc onto video — tighter, quicker -paced, just as hard hitting. The casting has been excellent and the acting superb.

But as I watch, now and them I am wondering, where are their damn hats??! Let’s start with those wacky Crows, bumbling about in the Far North, beyond the wall, where it’s got to be bone-chilling cold. Okay, I get it, we’ve debunked the myth that you lose 45% of your body heat through your head (link), it is more like 10%. However, having lived in a very cold climate (the High Sierra) in winter, I guarantee that if you are out all day in below freezing weather, carrying/scavenging for food, you aren’t going to blithely brave frostbite and waste 10% of your hard-to-replenish body heat by forgetting your hat. Just look at Laplanders. Always the hat.

Continue reading “Why are there no hats in GOT?”