Sunday, June 30, 2013

Luck of the Irish Whiskey -- 187 lbs (-42) [42X]

Except for the night I almost killed myself with free Jameson & Bushmills, I haven't had any Irish whiskey on this diet. And I don't have a good reason. Let's be romantic and say I was saving the best for last, because that will be my conclusion as my one-year experiment comes to a close. I can tell you in hindsight, however, that Irish whiskey does not appear to have a bottom-shelf presence--the cheapest Irish whiskey I can buy (Finnegan) is $20 before taxes, and it tastes better than most any scotch, bourbon, or other whisky I have tried. It's no wonder I can't control myself around it.

And I could use a little Irish luck. I need to lose ~7 pounds in 2.5 weeks to meet my one-year goal, and that will be extra challenging with the long American Independence Day weekend coming up. I am not confident that I'll make it, or that I will continue after my birthday, so place your bets now.

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Famous Black Grouse -- 185 lbs (-44) [31X]

The Black Grouse was quite lovely--a Father's Day present thoroughly enjoyed. It falls into the same semi-sweet, lightly smoky bucket as Black Bottle, Teachers Highland Cream, and Passport. Jim Murray's Whisky Bible gives it a generous 94 (much higher than the others in this class, though it doesn't seem that different to me), and I rate it a 3-2-3 on my sweetness, strength, and complexity scale of 1-5 (where being in the middle is best, IMO).

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cachaça & Quinquina -- 188 lbs (-41) [36X]

Enough experimentation. At this point, I've tried enough new distilled spirits from "The Drunken Botanist" to have strengthened my resolve for scotch and bourbon. It'll just be me and whisky for awhile, after I finish off the Boca Loco Cachaça and Bonal Gentiane-Quina (the latter isn't actually distilled, but "fortified").

Boca Loco Cachaça
I was a rum drinker long before whisky, and may do a nostalgic tour someday, but I wanted to try something slightly different with Boca Loco. Cachaça is distilled from pure sugercane juice (as opposed to molasses like rum), and is the main ingredient in a Caipirinha, a Brazilian cocktail a friend of mine is quite fond of (not unlike a Mojito--the ingredients are eerily similar). Boca Loco is much sweeter than rum, perhaps a bit too much to drink neat, but it's decent in coffee, and obviously good with lime juice. My main complaint about Boca Loco is the extra tall bottle--too tall to fit in my liquor cabinet w/ a pour spout, so I have to keep putting the spout on and taking it off, or risk spillage. Perhaps there is a shorter pourer out there, but I never had a need for one before.

Bonal Gentiane-Quina
The first mixed drink ever served to me in a pitcher was a Manhattan, so it holds a special place in my heart. And yet, despite experimenting with a variety of whiskies and vermouths, I've never had a Manhattan that I truly loved. Call it one of several unfulfilled quests in my life--perhaps unfulfillable now that I am hooked on whisky neat. The problem for me is that Manhattans, even with a dry vermouth, are just too sweet. So when I read about Bonal Gentiane-Quina, quinquina being a bitter cousin of vermouth, I had to give it a try. Well, straight up, it tastes like fermented Chinese orange chicken sauce with a lot of peel--almost enjoyable but ultimately disgusting. It was somehow sweeter than a sweet vermouth and dry at the same time. The resulting Manhattan, alas, was still too sweet, but pretty good. I may experiment mixing Bonal Gentiane-Quina with other whiskies just to finish the bottle, or I might just pour it down the drain--we'll see.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

BMI Death Calculator -- 189 lbs (-40) [38X]

Of all First World problems, none seems to take so much time and energy as fussing about weight. Medical science, for instance, has done so many studies on BMI that it is having to do studies of those studies--and even those draw different conclusions. Pretty much all studies confirm that people who are extremely underweight (< 16 BMI) or extremely overweight (> 35 BMI) have greatly increased death rates, but the results for people in the overweight range (25 to 30 BMI) vary from small risk to increased benefit--the trend being towards the latter. A study in 2010 of 19 other studies found that, for white adult males at least, being mildly overweight was best. An even more recent study in 2012, of 97 unique studies, concluded that overweight and grade 1 obesity classifications were optimal for all-cause mortality (and was widely covered in the media).

For your own morbid fun, you can see where yourself and others might have fared in the 2010 study here:

BMI: ?

Hazard Ratio: ?

This person is classified as ?

This person is probably around ?% more at risk of dying based on their weight and height

Please note these results are normalized across a large number of variables such as age, health, and lifestyle, so they should be taken with a "grain of salt". For instance, the same study found that moderate alcohol consumption was associated with decreasing death rates for increasing BMI (for non-smokers). Stated differently, overweight drinkers that don't smoke tend to live longer.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Do Dad's Deserve Better? -- 193 lbs (-36) [5X]

Starting tomorrow, I start my last push to meet my 50th birthday goal of 180 lbs. My plan? Pretty much how I started almost a year ago: intermittent fasting with only alcohol, protein, and veggies.

So there's this Father's Day campaign started by Johnnie Walker about how dads should get scotch, rather than ties or cuff links, as a present. And while I can relate to that sentiment, I'm not sure that we dads really deserve it. First of all, this isn't very practical, since only the mom can legally buy alcohol, and any self-respecting mom isn't going to walk into a liquor store with kids in tow. Second, we made a choice to sacrifice certain things when getting married and raising kids, and our wife and kids shouldn't be asked to pay tribute for that. I believe we should still buy and drink scotch--we owe it to ourselves--but nobody else "owes" us. The thought behind a tie is fine, even if we don't wear ties.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

More Apples & Pears -- 189 lbs (-40) [37X]

Last month, inspired by Amy Stewart's "The Drunken Botanist", I tried apple and pear brandy for the first time, settling on the American Captain Apple Jack* and Clear Creek Pear Brandy. This month, I went international with the French Berneroy VSOP Calvados and German Fidelitas Obstler (also an eau-de-vie). The calvados was sweeter and tastier than the apple jack, and the eau-de-vie was the most bitter of the four, but good for a dry mood. I'd probably be done with apple and pear brandy, except Clear Creek is practically next door compared to France and Germany, so I ought to visit there someday.

* You could say I have a thing for names that start with Captain, but don't read into that

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Potter's Blended Scotch Whisky -- 189 lbs (-40) [35X]

Despite the almost over-whelming choice in blended scotch, I've found they fall into a few groups of similar-tasting whiskies (at least in my price range). And while sophisticated reviewers will go on at length about nose, palate, and finish, my simple brain and tongue prefer to classify whiskies along three basic parameters: sweetness, strength, and complexity. On a scale of 1-5, I'd give Potter's Blended Scotch Whisky a 3-2-2 rating, joining one of my favorite groups with honored members Pipers Clan, Old Crofter, and Dewar's. Welcome to the team, Potter's!

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Shochu & Soju -- 187 lbs (-42) [36X]

Amy Stewart's "The Drunken Botanist" continues to inspire me to try new spirits. This week it's Japanese shochu and Korean soju, the latter of which supposedly outsells all other spirits in the world. These liquors come in a wide variety and are distilled primarily from rice, sweet potato and/or buckwheat. Although they can have the same alcohol content as whisky, they tend to come in much lower. That has the advantage of not having to meter out so carefully, but the disadvantage of still qualifying as hard liquor and subject to the same high taxes (at least in WA). My choices ranged between 20-30% ABV:

● EvenStar Shochu Ginger (30%)
-- I'm a big fan of ginger and couldn't resist. It was like ginger beer meets gin, and did not disappoint.
● Satsuma Mura Imo Shochu (25%)
-- To me, this was a drier, cleaner version of the sake wine I've tried in Japanese restaurants.
● Ku Soju Original (20.1%)
-- This is the cheap super-selling stuff, and tasted like sake in sugar water. Not in a bad way.

I thought I'd ruin this post by including one of my favorite, most politically-incorrect and culturally-insensitive comedy sketches, because every time I sip one of these fine beverages, I think of "bingo, bingo, housey, housey":

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Trader Joe's Kentucky Bourbon -- 191 lbs (-38) [13X]

Topping off my amateur reviews of Trader Joe's branded whiskies is their Kentucky Bourbon. True to form, Trader Joe's strikes a strong balance between good quality and price ($14.99 pre-tax). It isn't a steal like the Blended Scotch, but is more accessible than the Highland Single Malt on a bourbon scale, in that Trader Joe's Kentucky Bourbon has the complex, spicy dryness of a sophisticated bourbon. And of course, it tastes great in coffee. :-)

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