Thursday, May 30, 2013

Brandy Is Dandy *And* Quicker -- 189 lbs (-40) [32X]

For someone who finds all hard liquor to be at least a little sweet, as I now do, brandy is my just desserts. Although I haven't had any brandy on this one-year diet until this late month, I am certainly no stranger (remind me to tell you how I pierced my nipple on bag of brandy someday), and Amy Stewart has recently twisted my arm to supplement whisky with all kinds of non-whisky. In particular, she got me very excited about apple and pear brandy, which I hadn't tried, and I have since found to be quite enjoyable, if not a wee bit expensive-- I paid a total of $84.05/L for Clear Creek Pear brandy at Total Wine vs. $13.4/L for plain old Christian Bros at Trader Joe's. Honestly, I don't get why Christian Brothers is a bottom-shelf brandy. It tastes great, clean, and firm, and also mixes well with coffee as one might expect. Bros is always a good deal, but Trader Joe's has somehow managed to sell it at a steal. Buy some quick before they get wise!

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Shape of Things to Come -- 191 lbs (-38) [11X]

I seem to have gained 2-3 pounds this month, on average, probably from lots of donuts, pizza, and other starchy/fried foods. It just goes to show that alcohol is no diet pill--I never said it was. My thesis has always been that you don't need to cut out alcohol in a diet, rather it helps in metabolic and psychological ways and has additional health benefits. YOU NEED TO ACTUALLY DIET in some fashion (or exercise) to lose weight at this age--you can't just eat whatever you want whenever without compensating somehow, as I have been recently. If it weren't for my birthday (7/17) looming so close, I can totally see myself careening back into my old pot-bellied self. That's too bad, really, because maintaining a healthy BMI could go a long way in extending my second life, but I don't see any motivation anchoring me to that after I turn 50. I'm just an Orson Wells at heart, but for now, it's back to the business at hand. I'm running out of runway and heading in the wrong direction, so let's see if I can't cut out donuts et al for the remainder of the duration... starting after this holiday weekend and taking off Father's Day, that is :-).

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

O Canadian Whisky -- 191 lbs (-38) [9X]

Until I developed a taste for whisky/whiskey, it all tasted pretty much like gasoline. But now it amazes me how different scotch, bourbon, and Canadian whisky are from one another, and how well each holds together as a category despite plenty of variety within. It turns out that national regulations are largely responsible for this cohesion--the UK requires scotch to be made from at least some malted barley, the US requires bourbon to be made from at least 51% corn, and Canadian whisky must "possess the aroma, taste and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky". That last one may seem too self-referential at first, but Canadian whisky is historically a blend of two primary components that give it a distinctive, yet mild taste: a very light "base" whisky made primarily from corn, and a heavier "flavoring" whisky high in rye. This general character is found in all of this month's bottom-shelf Canadian whiskies, with only subtle variation between them. R&R is the mildest, if not a tad watery; Black Velvet has a feint pepper kick at the end, which is a bit stronger in the less-sweet Black Velvet Reserve 8y; and Canadian Mist is somewhere in the middle with a well-balanced, hearty flavor. Canadian whisky gets bonus points for mixing well with coffee (like bourbon but unlike scotch) *and* being good straight-up when you want something slightly less sweet than bourbon (but not as good as pricier scotch).

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Friday, May 17, 2013

10 Months Down, 2 To Go -- 190 lbs (-39) [12X]

When I started this diet, I told myself that it was only one year out of my life, and it would be over eventually. The first 4 months seemed to go quickly, but the last 6 feel as if they have stretched on forever--and I still haven't achieved my weight-loss goal of 49 lbs by my 50th birthday on July 17, 2013. Somewhere along the line I modified that goal to weigh 180 or less *on* my birthday, and that has had the interesting side-effect of enabling me to put off losing the last ~10 lbs until the last possible minute (weeks, really), yet motivating me to stay within 10 lbs of my goal at the same time. I'm having a hard time with that last part this month, however, because my work place has started carrying Snyder's hot buffalo wing pretzels. Of all things, I have little or no resistance to this evil, starchy snack. I try to keep it out of the house for that reason, but now Fate has decided to stick this in my face Monday through Friday, which are supposed to be my weight-loss days. And I know it is Fate, because this is a relatively obscure product, and there is really no good reason to put it in a vending machine unless it is to TAUNT ME. So I may find myself drifting farther away from my goal before Father's Day, after which I vow to cut out all starch until my birthday. It's only one month out of my life, so how hard can it be?

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

2 Bang-for-the-Buck Bourbons -- 188 lbs (-41) [32X]

Old Crow Reserve has the somewhat rare distinction of being a value brand *and* having a rich history. It was supposedly the first sour mash whiskey, and a favorite of Mark Twain, Ulysses S. Grant (the one entombed, not buried, in Grant's Tomb), and Hunter S. Thompson. Once a top-selling bourbon, Old Crow lost significant market share due to human error, greed, and pride, and today's Old Crow is owned by Jim Beam and produced with a different recipe.

Colonel Lee bourbon has the somewhat unrare indistinction of being one of Sazerac's 30+ bourbon brands. Old Crow is a bit heartier, and it should be, given it is aged an extra year and has a higher ABV. But both taste smooth, clean, and sweet.

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

3 Scotches Only A Mother Could Love -- 190 lbs (-39) [11X]

And only a mother could tell them apart. There isn't anything particularly distinguishing amongst these bottom-shelf whiskies, besides the packaging. Yeah, Sir Edwards won some medal, Old Bridge plays off a historic landmark, and Highland Breeze has a tad higher alcohol content, but a mother will try not to play favorites. Wait, I'm not a mom, and none of these beat Pipers Clan in this category. Sorry, kids, you'll never amount to anything great. You should be thankful you can be called a scotch. But Daddy still loves you in his own way.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mixed-Up May -- 189 lbs (-40) [25X]

At the beginning of each month, I stock up on liquor at Total Wine. Usually, it's all about scotch and Evan Williams, but this month, I have several divergent themes going on:

● Cinco de Mayo
I won't post a separate review of it this time around, but I bought a .375 ml bottle of El Jimador Reposado tequila for 5/5 and found it to be far superior to the Zapopan tequila I bought recently. I'm not really a tequila person, but I found this to be quite enjoyable by itself. Perhaps being aged in imported Kentucky white oak barrels makes it a semi-whiskey cross-over, but it certainly gave me pause.

● Scotch is like Pizza
I've never met a pizza I didn't like--even the cardboard-tasting stuff at now-extinct drive-ins was manna to me. In that spirit (pun intended), I continue to scrape bottom in the hopes of finding that next great blended scotch value. Sadly, one of the scotches I bought (Pipers Clan) I've tried before and forgot, but at least I was consistent and still liked it. One of the great things about getting old is getting to have the same first-time experience over and over.

● Bargain Basement Bourbon
It's time to give corn whiskey some love. For one, I'm about to run out of new low-end scotch brands to try. For two, I've been too co-dependent on Evan Williams far too long, and I really should be open to new value brands.

● Canadian Bottom-Shelf
Nothing is easier on the wallet than cheap-ass Canadian whiskey. The biggest problem with scotch, budget-wise, is the import overhead that exists even for the lowest of the low. I've been afraid my whole life to try the equivalent Canadian brands, maybe because it's hard to believe anything of value could be so darn inexpensive, but my new fearless outlook on life enables me to finally chance it.

● Brandies
There is a recurring theme of cheap and cheaper going on here, but I've shelled out quite a bit more for some apple and pear brandy, thanks to some enticing passages in "The Drunken Botanist, a fascinating book about the plant biology behind my favorite liquids.

FWIW, I did buy some Christian Bros to counter the steep cost of pear brandy.

Here's what's on the menu for May:
ProductVolumeBase PriceSpirits Liter TaxSpirits Sales TaxTotal
Canadian Mist375ml$4.79$1.41$.98$7.18 ($19.15/L)
R&R Canadian750ml$6.99$2.83$1.43$11.25 ($15.00/L)
Black Velvet750ml$7.99$2.83$1.64$12.46 ($16.61/L)
El Jimador Reposado375ml$9.49$1.41$1.95$12.85 ($34.27/L)
Christian Bros Brandy750ml$9.49$2.83$1.95$14.27 ($19.03/L)
Old Crow Reserve750ml$10.99$2.83$2.25$16.07 ($21.43/L)
Pipers Clan Scotch750ml$10.99$2.83$2.25$16.07 ($21.43/L)
Highland Breeze750ml$11.99$2.83$2.46$17.28 ($23.04/L)
Black Velvet 8yr750ml$11.99$2.83$2.46$17.28 ($23.04/L)
Old Bridge Scotch Whisky750ml$12.99$2.83$2.66$18.48 ($24.64/L)
Sir Edwards Blended Scotch Whisky750ml$12.99$2.83$2.66$18.48 ($24.64/L)
Colonel Lee Bourbon1.75L$16.99$6.60$3.48$27.07 ($15.47/L)
Captain Apple Jack750ml$17.99$2.83$3.69$24.51 ($32.68/L)
Clear Creek Pear Brandy375ml$24.99$1.41$5.12$31.52 ($84.05/L)

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Trader Joe's Highland Single Malt -- 189 lbs (-40) [23X]

After being surprised at how good Trader Joe's Blended Whisky is, I've been anxious to try their single malt. I'd have to say I'm a bit disappointed-- it seems a bit watery and is missing that back-of-the-tongue sweetness I've come to associate with scotch, but it still isn't half-bad. I'd also have to point out that I'm not sure I'm in with the whole single malt value proposition thing. For $23.99 (in WA state, before lots of taxes), I can buy one of two bottom-end single malt brands, or I can buy a wide variety of great blends. More to the point, I prefer the taste of Trader Joe's Blended Whisky, at $9.99 for 33% more volume, to Trader Joe's Highland Single Malt. Yeah, I'll still drink the latter, and enjoy it, but in the back of my mind I'll be thinking "I could be drinking something better and cheaper right now" rather than "I could be drinking something better and much more expensive right now".

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Black Bottle Whisky -- 186 lbs (-43) [32X]

I've been wanting to try Black Bottle (which is the greenest black I've seen) ever since Jason Debly mentioned it, along with Teachers Highland, as a great scotch value in his humorous lambasting of Lauder's. According to Ralfy, the great YouTube scotch reviewer, Black Bottle contains a malt whisky from every of-age distiller in Islay. When I noticed Total Wine was now carrying Black Bottle, it was a no-brainer to toss it in the cart, and it did not disappoint. Black Bottle is a nearly perfect blend of creamy, sweet, and smoky scotch--everything I value in the right proportions--and as such is my new current favorite. Unfortunately, it's just out of my price range to drink regularly--Passport will have to suffice when I'm in a smoky mood.

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