Wednesday, 19 January 2011

memorable tipple - Blackwoods 60%: The King of Gins!

Oh but to be a student again! Although I love my life as it is now, I still think back with fond memories to my days as an undergraduate in Leeds (not that they were that long ago) and the copious amount of drinking that I used to indulge in.

My friends and I were real gin drinker and it was not unusual for a litre and half or more to be consumed in any one sitting depending on how many of us there were. The only thing we were ever in danger of holding back on was the tonic!

Along with Port, in fact, even more so, I like to think that I have rather a sound knowledge of Gin. Having tried everything from the utterly repulsive Greenwich Gin brought from an off license in Potts Point, Sydney to the deliciously subtle Van GoghGin from Amsterdam, Holland I reckon I’ve got an understanding of the spirit.

I want to draw your attention to one extremely special variety that is distilled in, of all places, The Shetland Isles. Blackwoods, apart from making their excellent vintage Gin (classified as vintge as the range of botanicals used differ according to availability in any given year) also make a number of batches which reach an eye-popping 60%abv. Now, having drunk this particular gin a number of times, I can tell you that this is not something to be taken lightly. In fact, I would say that it is probably the strongest alcoholic drink that I have ever consumed.

It is also extremely dangerous and I will include these word of caution to sit alongside my praise. Although it is extremely strong, it does not contain this high volume in its taste which consequently makes it incredibly moreish. It is chock full of botanical which mask the kidney and liver bashing effects of the drink. Therefore drink sparingly.

On one occasion this was not the case. I had just handed in the first draft of my dissertation and, without any work to return for two months (and a four week holiday looming fast on the horizon) I was in exceptionally good spirits. Coupled with this promise of some fast times and heady evenings was the case of gin and one bottle of Blackwoods 60 that had arrived on my doorstep that day. 

So far I had been at a loose end and suddenly, as always happens when you are least expecting it, one of my best friends called and expressed an interest in conducting a film session followed by a game of risk. In my rash and youthful foolishness I readily agreed, unaware of the dangerous contract that I was getting myself into.

The evening started off as usual and both of us spent a few minutes admiring the purchase, which I must say, was an eccentric one. Then I decided to offer a sniff of the 60 percent as an amuse bouche of sorts before we decided to crack onto the really heavy drinking, supplied by some cheap rubbish. 

However, things did not go entirely according to plan and after that first herbaceous, cutting and clean sip I felt that one (as it is with most things in life) was never going to be enough. As with most spirits, we started drinking fast and furiously unaware of the levels of intoxication that might hit us as we drank more and more. Raiders of the lost Ark was followed by Rocky III and by the game of Risk we were extremely merry…so merry in fact that we forgot most of the rules and played a most unsavoury form of the game!

After more drinking came the bright idea to crack into some cigars. As luck would have it, I had a couple of Romeo y Julieta Coronas which needed smoking and so soon we were puffing away on Cuba’s finest export! Unaware that this would only make us feel drunker than we already were. Then, like a couple of piss artists from a Samuel Beckett play, we decided to shoot the breeze brushing on such subjects as philosophy (which only the really drunk can talk about sincerely!).

Soon the Gin was gone, every last precious drop had been consumed but still, for some inexplicable reason, our thirsts were not quenched. Then, for some inexplicable and perhaps very drink-influenced decision, we decided to go and buy ourselves a small bottle of brandy and drink the night away.

After a few brandies swilling round my stomach with 35cl of 60% Gin and the smoke of a large cuban cigar, I was feeling decidedly ill and had to excuse myself for the roof. Legging it across the corridor, I only just about made it to the loo in time to projectile vomit across into the bowl…pretty nifty for a young man who shoul have known a lot better. But what a great night.

I spent a very heavy next morning feeling very sorry for myself and had my mate on the other end of the phone bemoaning his fate (he had thrown up in a dustbin on the way home)! Yes this gin is extremely potent and at £25 it is certainly not cheap, however it contributed to one of the best nights of drinking that I have ever had!

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