South by Southeast

After ‘B’ for BenRiach comes ‘C’ for… Cary Grant of course!

The BFI Southbank has been something of a revelation for me recently. Here you can enjoy films from yesteryears that you never imagined you would be able to see on the big screen all in a civilised, comfortable and popcorn-free environment. You can even bring a drink in from the bar! (Although squidgy cups are involved… may have to smuggle a Glencairn glass in next time…)

It is currently The Genius of Hitchcock season and I simply could not turn down the opportunity to go and see one of my all-time favourite films: North by Northwest.

“I’ve got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders depended [sic] upon me, and I don’t intend to disappoint them all by getting myself ‘slightly’ killed.”

– Roger ‘O’ Thornhill (Cary Grant)

This film is simply brilliant. A gripping espionage thriller with terrific dialogue, humour and even some sauciness that undoubtedly influenced the Bond movies (Hitchcock was even asked to direct an original version of Thunderball shortly after North by Northwest was released in 1959) revolving around the ultimate case of mistaken identity.

It is, amongst other things, also a film about booze. Thornhill’s fondness for a drink or two (like his attitude towards the truth, being an advertising man) is spectacularly turned against him within the first quarter of an hour of the film but at the start we find him on his way to have a few Martinis in the Oak Bar at the Plaza, New York.

“We’ve gotten a head start here”
“That won’t last long.”
“I was saying that you may be slow in starting, but there’s nobody faster coming down the homestretch!”

What follows must be the most anybody has been forced to drink in a film ever (let alone one that was made in the 1950s and is rated ‘PG’) made all the more serious by the fact that it is intended to set poor old Thornhill up for an overly elaborate  (although escapable) death. (Wow, this film really did influence Bond!)

– “Scotch? Rye? Bourbon? Vodka?…”
“Nothing. I’ll take a quick ride back to town.”

“That has been arranged but first, a libation… Bourbon!”

If anybody can tell me which bourbon this is I would greatly appreciate it!
(Click to enlarge)

…answers on a Postcard please!

“Assault with a gun and a bourbon and a sports car!”

– Roger Thornhill (or is that George Kaplan?)

Following another overly elaborate attempt on Thornhill’s life later in the film it is not immediately apparent which scotch Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) pours for them – possibly Haig Gold Label with the old diamond-shaped back label? Product placement, refreshingly, was not such a major consideration in the 1950s!

– “I could use a drink.”
– “I have some scotch.”
– “With water. No ice.”
(Eve has ice in hers)

The best thing about these dramatic attempts to kill him, which is made more difficult to appreciate having grown up with twenty odd Bond films and countless other more recent movies, is that they were far from clichéd when North by Northwest was being made. This, along with Thornhill’s status as a regular guy (albeit a well-tailored one) who has been thrown into this extraordinary situation, make lines like “I could use a drink” all the more believable.

– “Go ahead, it can’t be for me.”

Cary Grant’s (or is that Archibald Leach’s?) greatest drinking moment in North by Northwest however, comes when he manages to order a pre-dinner Gibson in the dining carriage of a train with few places to hide despite the fact that he has been identified in every newspaper as a murderous fugitive whilst simultaneously breaking the ice with his new and rather attractive female acquaintance.

– “The moment I meet an attractive woman, I have to start pretending I have no desire to make love to her.”

Similar to a Martini but garnished with an onion as opposed to an olive, the Gibson is an underrated variation that has been somewhat eclipsed by “the meteoric rise in classic Martini’s” and “the trends for olives and lemon zests” (69 Colebrooke Row blog).

More recently the Gibson has, perhaps unsurprisingly, been seen in Mad Men – after all, Roger O. Thornhill is the original Don Draper. Other nods to North by Northwest in the series include the stylised skyscraper opening (along with it’s Vertigo-style Hitchcockian falling man), Don Draper’s use of an alias and the fact that his father’s name is Archibald (Cary Grant’s real name). In Mad Men it is Roger Sterling who is the Gibson drinker however.

Mad Man

As the credits roll in a cinema where you could hear a pin drop during the more tense moments of the film and where everybody laughed together during the many humorous and witty moments, applause spontaneously broke out for a thoroughly appreciated motion picture.

If however we had all raised a glass instead then that would have surely been equally if not more appropriate.

Caskstrength and Carry On

After ‘A’ for Arran comes ‘B’ for BenRiach…

Caskstrength And Carry On BenRiach (16 Year Old 1996 Cask 5614, 55.2%) – limited release of 296 bottled in July 2012 – £54.95

This is the second release in the boys’ potentially epic A-Z series of bottlings.

“Cask 5614 was distilled in 1996 and initially filled into a bourbon hogshead.  However in 2008, the decision was made to re-rack the whisky into a rather succulent, spicy Pedro Ximinez sherry cask for the four remaining years of its maturation.”

– Neil & Joel

Released in conjuction with BenRiach and available to buy since midnight last night exclusively through Master of Malt, expect this highly collectable offering to sell out very quickly… (If you had your eye on one of the cotton tope bags available with the first 50 sold, they are looong gone already!)

Joel And Neil signing each bottle by hand at MoM towers

Nose: Werther’s Originals give way to some muscovado, cinnamon and salted caramel.

Palate: Spicy and rich. Clearly cask strength without being too harsh and without detracting from deep caramel and dark chocolate as well as white pepper heat.

Finish: Warm, drying and satisfying. More salted caramel and spice.

Overall: Big, bold and spicy – does what it says on the tin, delicious.


After ‘B’ for BenRiach comes ‘C’ for…


It’s Whisky Jim, but not as we know it…

DISCLAIMER: This Blog Post, whilst based on ‘actual things’ may well run away with itself and contain conclusions and assertions of dubious scientific merit… Plus it was written into the (really, very) wee hours and may be influenced by utter delirium…

It is the distant future, the year 19841999, 2001, ?, fossil fuels are totally exhausted and it turns out cold fusion was just childish science fiction *ahem* – “but how will the distilleries keep running?” I hear you cry and “how on earth are we going to power our hover mobiles for our trips over to the Islay festival???”

My god, I… I don’t know… Please tell me there’s a way‽  [<- interrobang]

Well, assuming that the robots haven’t (in the words of New Zealand’s premier folk band) poisoned our asses with poisonous gases by then, there may just be a way of solving both of these pressing conundrums…

Back in 2010 boffins at Edinburgh Napier University developed a biofuel for cars made from the two main by-products of whisky production: the pot ale and the draff. Samples of these by-products were provided from the nearby Glenkinchie distillery.

Fast forward to 2012 and the director of the university’s Biofuel Research Centre Prof. Martin Tangney has formed a new company, Edinburgh Napier University’s Celtic Renewables Ltd., to commercialise the process with the dream of making it available at the pumps!

The biobutanol produced is said to provide 25% more power than bioethanol fuels and unlike other biofuels can even be used in unmodified petrol cars (or your standard petrol run hover mobile).

On closer inspection this sample doesn’t appear to be pot ale or draff but I’d better taste it to be sure…

Meanwhile plans got under way back in early 2008 between the Combination of Rothes Distillers (CoRD) and Helius Energy to build a biomass heat and power plant in Moray that would burn draff to generate electricity whilst converting pot ale into organic fertiliser and animal feed.

Construction of the £60m project commenced last May with work due to finish in 2013 when it will utilise by-products from 16 Speyside distilleries including Glenlivet and Macallan. Unlike Diageo’s own bioenergy plant at the Cameronbridge distillery, the Rothes plant will also provide electricity for public use, enough for 9,000 homes supposedly.

So it is that in the distant apocalyptic future the whisky industry, having been self sufficient in terms of their energy requirements as long as anyone can remember, carries on regardless and even powers small towns and villages within a certain proximity to the distilleries. The inhabitants of these pockets of civilisation, some of the last remaining on Earth, are able to visit each other with relative ease in their hover mobiles and aircraft for both leisure and of course to trade the prized commodity of whisky.

The only thing that could possibly stop this coming to pass and thus spell the end for all mankind is if there was some kind of  total collapse in people’s interest in whisky between now and Judgement Day in the coming decades… Quick! With this much at stake it is imperative that we travel back in time to the year 2012 and impress upon humanity the importance of their continuing, nay growing, love for whisky!

To the DeLorean!!!

Well there you have it. If you don’t drink whisky then you Sir are endangering humanity. Think about that.

Unless the whisky industry becomes self-aware… Oh God.


P.S. That’s an entire whisky-related science fiction Blog post without a single mention of Ardbeg Space Whisky! (Oops.)