Sunday, April 28, 2013

Evan Williams 1783 -- 186 lbs (-43) [31X]

Yum. There are a lot of words that could be used to describe Evan Williams 1783, but I'm going with that one. Evan Williams black label has been my "go to" bourbon for many moons now, and spending a few more dollars for an older, fuller tasting version is money well-spent. And since I like to put my money where my mouth is, I'm more than happy to drink it. 1783 is even better in coffee than it's younger brother. Wine Enthusiast goes as far as calling it "the best whiskey value in the world, bar none." Others have called it the best kept secret, but for me, nothing could be more obvious. Yum, again.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Sazerac's Sir Malcolm -- 183 lbs (-46) [6X]

The most interesting thing about Sir Malcolm (whoever that is) scotch may be the family it is a part of. Starting as a bar around 1870 in New Orleans, the Sazerac Company has acquired a huge number of liquor brands and distilleries, making it one of the top liquor suppliers in the US. It's scotch offerings include top-shelf imports such as Glenfarclas and bottom-shelf rebrands such as Lauder's. Sir Malcolm is, if you know me, one of the latter. Coming in at a price-point just above Lauder's, Sir Malcolm is kind of a baby bear of bottom-shelf blend brands--not too sweet, weak, or funky--this one is just right, if not uninteresting. It does have a slight pepper after-taste that gives it a bit of character.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day Whisky (Cromwell's Royal) -- 189 lbs (-40) [21X]

Cromwell's Royal is the first box whisky I've heard of (my wife calls it the "scotch box"). It's perfect for someone trying to maintain an affordable whisky diet and help save the planet. According to the packaging, "Bag in a Box packaging uses 325% less energy to be produced and recycled than glass ... it's also 100% recyclable". Those savings are probably lost considering that it's distilled and aged in Scotland, packaged in France, and then imported to the US, but I still applaud the effort in the hopes that it will inspire other companies to do the same. It tastes good for a bottom-shelf whisky, too-- clean, well-balanced, and a hint of citrus.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

A is for Aging with Attitude -- 184 lbs (-45) [20X]

On July 17th, when I turn 50, I intend to end this life. It's been a relatively good life--I made long-lasting friendships, married a wonderful woman, helped raise 5 awesome children, and contributed to great products during a successful career. I've also had some private highlights, like watching the first Terminator alone with James Cameron, studying improvisation with Lisa Kudrow, and having my cover of Umbrella favorited by MariƩ Digby. This life has been good enough, and complete enough, that I would be at peace with death, and that is both liberating and stifling: on one hand, I am free to do many things without fear of my own death; and on the other, I am reluctant to set new long-term goals for fear of leaving big things unfinished. This is the essence of my first-world, mid-life crisis, but I have finally struck upon a solution: I will treat the first 50 years of my life as a reasonably successful "done deal", and the next 0 to 50 years as an extra life to take new chances with.

You may wonder, how did I come to grips with death in the first place? Like many people, I was afraid of death, but as long as my father was alive, I did not take it too seriously. Then when he died 10 years ago, so did the psychological buffer that shielded me and enabled me to dream big and take chances. Suddenly I was next in the paternal line and I began to obsess about dying, even creating a website called inetself to squirrel away everything about myself in hopes that some future descendant may want to learn about me. After I archived the stories, songs, and videos I cared most about, I started making Captain Bummer episodes in an attempt to reach more people, but a hacker stole Captain Bummer's YouTube account and broke my momentum. I decided that I was done preparing for death, and that there were no big projects worth starting at my age... except, of all the mundane things, to get back to my high school weight.

This diet started out as a goal to lose 49 pounds by my 50th birthday, but in the process became so much more. It reminded me that taking a long-term view, trusting your instincts, and following the path less-trodden can all lead to amazing results. I now feel revitalized and empowered, ready to start a 2nd life. A life that starts with the best, hard-earned things from my previous life--family, career, skills, and individuality—and builds upon that. And while I may not have the advantages of youth, what I lack in spunk and memory function I can make up for with a lifetime of experience and reflection. If I live another 50 years, it will be well-preserved with alcohol cleaning my veins, relieving tension, fighting off micro-invaders, and regulating my weight; if I don't, then this new attitude towards aging will still have been worth the experiment. It has provided me with an escape from the paralysis of old-age conservatism, and now the world is full of exciting possibilities. With one life already in the bag, I am free to live this spare life to the fullest.

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

A is for Assfordable (Scoresby) -- 188 lbs (-41) [27X]

Scoresby tastes like ass, but not in a bad way. It has a slight chemical tincture, similar to Hamilton's Lowlands Regional Malt and Cutty Sark, that stands out even to a crude palate like mine, and that is at first offensive but can grow on you. It is priced at the bottom, not near the bottom, next to Lauders. Scoresby is supposedly the best-selling scotch on the US west coast, and one of these days I'll spring for the market data to confirm. It is certainly popular enough to have garnered several web reviews, my favorite being a deep and humorous post by top-shelf whisky-lovin' pastor Reverend Christopher I. Thoma. Rev Thoma says that Scoresby is good because it is a scotch, but bad relative to other scotches. Then he goes on to compare it to paint and pee. Amen to that.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

A is for Anesthesia -- 185 lbs (-44) [28X]

We're born--we struggle to live in this turbulent, fast-paced world for a short while--and then we die. In the process, when we're not hurting each other, we help dismantle the universe by using energy and materials that can never fully be replaced. This is the operation of life, for which alcohol is the anesthesia (to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw). Actually, at safe blood alcohol concentrations (BAC), alcohol is more of a mild sedative than an anesthetic, but we'll take what we can get. While it can function as anesthesia at dangerously high BAC levels, getting that drunk can lead to more pain and sadness in need of more anesthesia--a vicious cycle that is not worth it. Besides, most of us don't want to eliminate pain and sadness at the expense of pleasure and happiness, right? Personally, I just want to take the hard edge off so I can focus on doing the best I can with my tiny share of the universe's energy and materials.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A is for Angus Dundee -- 189 lbs (-40) [19X]

Angus Dundee may be the only "A" scotch I can afford (Ardbeg will have to wait until the kids move out), but it is still more interesting and tasty than my usual bottom-shelf fair. Angus Dundee is different from other blends I've tried in that it supposedly contains no grain whisky (made from corn or wheat in a column still)--only single malt whiskies (made from barley in a pot still). Such a whisky used to be called a "vatted scotch", but the official name is now "blended malt whisky" (I'm partial to "multiple malt whisky"). Angus Dundee is a full-bodied scotch with a light smokey/peaty flavor. It is produced by Angus Dundee Distillers but is not listed as a product on their website. I guess it is part of their bulk export that gets locally bottled and branded by an import company--kind of like what happens with beef, pork, and chicken after the better parts are removed. If that's a good metaphor, then Angus Dundee is a great hot dog.

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Friday, April 5, 2013

A is for Antiseptic (and Africa) -- 187 lbs (-42) [30X]

Somewhere deep in the jungles of the Congo in 1950, Katherine Hepburn was puking her guts out in a bucket next to a piano. Everyone on location for the production of The African Queen had contracted dysentery from the local water supply--everyone except for the hardcore scotch-drinkers, Humphrey Bogart and John Huston. Hepburn would later remark “those two undisciplined weaklings had so lined their insides with alcohol that no bug could live in the atmosphere.” No bug indeed.

In 1986, Sheldon Cohen and associates set out to test the popular belief that smoking and drinking increase susceptibility to the common cold. After a thorough 3-year study, the hypothesis was confirmed for smoking, but the researchers were surprised to find that non-smoking drinkers caught the fewest colds. Not only that, but cold resistance increased with the number of drinks consumed.

There has been little follow-up since that first study*, published in 1993, since the US government only pays for studies intended to reduce per capita alcohol consumption. When such studies produce the opposite results, as so many have, there is no political incentive to probe further, so little is understood about the underlying mechanisms at work here. Why anyone should be surprised, however, is beyond me given how well alcohol works as an antiseptic and disinfectant outside of the body. It is well-documented how alcohol inhibits the growth and reproduction of many microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses, especially at concentrations of 60% to 90% in water. That suggests that drinking straight 40% whisky might be more effective at avoiding colds than beer, wine, or mixed drinks, and that higher proofs may be even better. But higher proofs could be more dangerous for other reasons, which is why so much more research is needed here, and why the political bias against such research is robbing the public of valuable knowledge that could be leveraged to increase productivity and decrease health costs.

Interestingly, I didn't know about any of this when I started dieting with alcohol, but rather I noticed a pattern that colds seemed warded off on the days I drank straight whiskey (as opposed to beer, wine, or mixed drinks). After that happened several times, I made sure I drank some straight bourbon or scotch every day, and thus the Whisky Diet was born. I finally did get one of the many colds that run through my family, but whisky still seemed to help me power through it. As Bogart said of the African Queen incident, "I built a solid wall of scotch between me and the bugs."

* Eriko Ouchi and associates recently published a retrospective study suggesting that resistance to colds increases with frequency, rather than quantity, of alcohol consumption.

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Monday, April 1, 2013

A is for Anonymous -- 0.08572895793 metric tons

Remember, remember
The fifteenth of November
The whisky treason and plot
I know of no reason
Why the whisky treason
Should ever be forgot

For over eight months we have been watching you, your campaigns of offbeat information, your pathetic struggle against weight, and your barley-biased nature ... Anonymous has therefore decided that your diet should be destroyed.

We know you to be Freemason, as was the scotch-lover Robert Burns before you, and as is the Scotch Whisky Association a secret masonic lodge.

The attacks against you, scotch, and Freemasonry will continue in order to protect the right to freedom of drink, and end what we believe to be the financial exploitation of single malt drinkers.

What he consumed yesterday:
● 2 game wardens
● 7 hunters
● A cow
● Cask of distilled malted barley