Monthly Archives: October 2014

…”The Knick” captivates and horrifies.

The KnickContinuing the trend of high-profile directors making TV-series, ”The Knick” is Steven Soderbergh taking on the story of life at the Knickerbocker Hospital in New York at the beginning of the 20th century. Produced by Cinemax and with Clive Owen in the role of brilliant surgeon John Thackery, the show finds its centre in the conflict of wanting to do good but often achieving the opposite because of lack of knowledge and technique.

Sparing no efforts to look characteristic of the era this show transports the viewer back to the early 1900´s, a time where many diseases now easily treated were inevitably fatal. On many occasions surgeons fumbled in the dark trying to devise new procedures for devastating conditions, and on others knew what needed to be done but lacked the tools to do it. The process of discovery pushing medicine forward is what´s fuelling the characters of this story, as well as the drugs of the time.

There´s of course the usual drama and parallel storylines that can be expected, but for me the main allure of the show is the depiction of surgery as equal parts inquisitive inventiveness and horror. The scene where Thackery, despite managing the speed thought needed for a successful surgery, loses yet another placenta previa case is a gory representation of the struggle that this discipline has endured to achieve the finesse it has today.

A series well worth watching, not only for Clive Owen´s manic performance as cocaine and opium addicted leading man Thackery. Never before has two lovers’ first steps towards intimacy been depicted as in this show. Piqued your curiosity? Well, go see for yourselves.

it´s happening again – will Twin Peaks continue to blow our minds?

Lynch & FrostIt began with a not that easily interpreted twitter, “That gum you like is going to come back in style”, and continued with reports that maverick duo Mark Frost and David Lynch were working on a follow-up to their iconic TV-series “Twin Peaks”. For those of you not old enough to have watched this ground-breaking show back in the day it´s still essential to understand its impact. This is work that forever changed the history of TV-series, both concerning form and content. Personally I would see new episodes of “Twin Peaks” as the television equivalent of a record of new material by The Beatles. Yes, it´s that big.

Twin peaksThe original series is by now a classic with almost endless influence on the way that TV has been made for the last 25 years. Everything just clicked into a whole much larger than its parts. The moody title song, the brilliant selection of actors, the allure of the story creating a mythology all its own and the sheer audacity of pulling something like this off. Never before had anything similar been seen on television.

As a director David Lynch is without a doubt one of the true masters of our time, with not one single bad movie on his CV. A creative force both idiosyncratic and steeped in the visual art of the 20th and 21st centuries. You can´t really imagine anything better than the movies he made between 1986 and 2006.

That said, continuing the story of special agent Dale Cooper and his struggle against evil is not something that´s going to be easy. A new take on “Twin Peaks” would need to surpass the old series by a ridiculous amount of miles. It would not only have to be innovative when it comes to story, but also in dealing with the connection to the legacy of the original. Even though we ´re living in an age where nostalgic repackaging is the most enduringly successful trend this show will need to go further. The new installment of “Twin Peaks” will probably be the most anticipated piece of television ever made. Nothing´s going to stop me from watching it.

…2014 w 40 – Album of the week is “Wakin on a pretty daze” by Kurt Vile.

Kurt VilePhiladelphian indie musician starting his career in 1997 with self-recorded tapes, later continuing as a founding member of The War on Drugs together with long-time friend Adam Granduciel. Quitting the band after debut album “Wagonwheel Blues” (2008), Vile concentrated on his solo career releasing a string of albums. The only one of those that I´ve listened to is 2011´s “Smoke ring for my halo”, which has many interesting parts despite not gripping me as much as 2013´s “Waking on a pretty Daze”, which feels much more focused both in playing and songwriting, despite being written mainly on the road.

Wakin on a pretty dazeThe opening title track is one of those songs that does everything right. Effortlessly flowing acoustic and electric 12 string guitars carries the melodic centre forward, interrupted by delicate bursts of elegant solo guitar reminiscent of prime time Neil Young or a more laid-back Dinosaur Jr (if that´s even possible). Unbelievably good.

“KV Crimes” continues with a melodic rocker breathing cool all over. “Was all talk” has both rhythm and melody and flows like a spring brook. “Never run away” shows off the laid-back side of the band while still being immersed in melody. “Pure pain” builds on a combination of brilliant guitar playing and great arrangements creating a paean to the significant others put on the wayside by the creative process. “Shame chamber” is pop with a twist, fuelled by the insistent whoops of Kurt and continuing into the psychedelic “Snowflakes are dancing”. Closer “Goldtones” marries elegant slide guitar to Pavement style singing and perfectly bookends the album.

There´s a hazy, dreamy feel to many of the songs on this album, with arrangements sometimes taking off into unexpected directions. The guitar playing is great and the larger scope of some of the songs really suits Vile. A great album of pretty traditional rock music still managing to sound both fresh and new. Going to be watching this guy in the future.

…let´s go out into the unknown – my first ever Gin tasting.

Juniper berriesDeriving its name from juniper berries and its ancestry from the Dutch and Belgian Jenever, this is a spirit that´s been with us since the 16th century. The raw alcohol produced by pot stills needed to be flavoured by something to make it more palatable, and juniper berries both gave a nice taste and was considered medicinal. A variety of production techniques and choice of flavouring botanicals has been utilized and is responsible for the large selection of gins available today. This is a drink that has gone from being the poor man´s burden to becoming one of the most popular cocktail ingredients ever, further developing into the high-end products that´s driving todays return to popularity.

In the lower end of the spectrum we have neutral spirits with added flavourings dominated by juniper. Considered better is distilled gin, where alcohol of agricultural origin is redistilled with a selection of botanicals,  with London dry gin being a special category carefully controlling the amount of added sweetening (less than 0,1 g/litre) and not allowing any other additional ingredients except water. The use of pot or column stills can further influence the character of the distillate. An interesting development is the manufacture of gin in countries not traditionally connected with this spirit.

Spirit of Hven Organic Gin, 40%.

Spirit of Hven organic ginMade by the Spirit of Hven distillery that I´ve written about before, this double distilled drink is called an organic gin and is made from organic wheat in a copper pot still. After a time of oak barrel maturation the spirit is infused with Bourbon vanilla from Mauritius, cassia bark, fresh Swedish juniper berries, cardamom, calamus root, Sichuan pepper, aniseed and grains of paradise (Guinea pepper) before a second distillation.

Despite no filtering whatsoever, this distillate is crystal clear and without any clouding. The nose has an initial alcohol tanginess followed by some short vanilla notes and a dominating citrus. On the palate it´s slightly oily, beginning with citrus and fleeting juniper blending into mild vanilla and a fairly short ending of peppery notes and a hint of licorice.

The bottle is the usual conical one with running wax drippings that we´ve gotten used to from Spirit of Hven. Original but not exactly beautiful if you want my opinion. Still an interesting drink that´s more defined by its barrel maturation than the botanicals. Probably better enjoyed on its own than as a cocktail ingredient.

Nils Oscar Tärnö Gin, 41,5%.

Tärnö GinFrom the makers of the fabulous Nils Oscar line of craft beers comes this gin made entirely from ecologically produced grains, herbs and berries. Distilled in a pot still with juniper berries, elder, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander and lemon.

Crystal clear colour without any visible impurities. The nose is fresh and crisp, dominated by pleasantly fruity elder aromas, making it unique amongst the gins sampled today. In a tasting glass this drink is not distinguished by complexity but instead shows an individual character dominated by elegant juniper and elder notes, making it very special while still quite easy to drink. A deceptively simple but well-crafted gin unlike any other.

The bottle is a no-frills variety in line with what their other spirits and beers come in , making the point that the content is what matters. A really unique gin showing that simplicity can outperform complexity if it´s done right.

Wannborga Ö Gin, Artisan London Dry, 40 %.

Wannborga Ö ginManufactured by the Wannborga distillery on the Öland island off the Swedish east coast (I´ve tried their whiskey and vodka in earlier posts) this is a gin made entirely from ecologically produced wheat and herbs in a pot still. Nine different botanicals are used, including juniper, coriander and white pepper.

Clear and crisp water colour. A nose characterized by distinct and easily recognized citrus, cinnamon and white pepper. The palate is well-balanced but not that exciting, with citrus, juniper and cinnamon dominating and lacking much complexity. There´s a sweetness to the finish that I personally don´t like that much.

The bottle is the usual high and slim design that Wannborga uses, this time with blue glass and still as impractical since it needs a lot of height on the shelf. A gin that´s well-made but still somehow lacking in personality.

Bombay Sapphire Gin, 40 %.

Bombay SapphireThe Bombay Sapphire Company makes one of the high-end products that´s always on top-ten lists of the best gins. A London dry gin distilled using a Carter-Head still (earlier mentioned in the post about Reyka Vodka). Triple distilled with a manufacturing process where alcohol vapour pass through perforated baskets containing the botanicals, giving a lighter and more floral drink. 10 hand selected botanicals are used in the making of Bombay Sapphire – Italian juniper berries, Spanish lemon peel, coriander seeds from Morocco, German angelica root, Italian iris root, grains of paradise from West Africa, cubeb berries from Java, Indonesian cassia bark, Spanish almonds and licorice from China.

The colour is clear and sparkling. A complex nose with citrus perfectly balanced with spices. The taste continues in the same vein offering a very well-balanced blend of juniper, citrus and spiciness, not letting any one botanical take over. What strikes you the most when tasting this gin is the seamless marriage of all its ingredients.

The bottle is classy, with sapphire blue glass alluding to the Star of Bombay and small drawings of the botanicals down the sides. To sum it up – an extremely smooth gin but with lots of character. A real winner.

Hendrick´s Gin, 44%.

Hendrick´sHere we have a truly unique gin, both when it comes to taste and production techniques. Called “a most unusual gin” by its manufacturer, also boldly stating that “it is not for everyone”. They actually have a point there.

The final product of Hendrick´s gin is a blend of two very different distillates. The first one coming from a copper Bennet pot still from 1860, containing only 450 litres. Botanicals are left to steep in neutral grain spirits for 24 hours and then boiled and distilled. The second one is made with a Carter-Head still, where the botanicals are bathed in alcohol vapour, ensuring a very gentle extraction of the tastes. While some of the flavourings used are well-known in gin production, some are not. Yarrow, juniper, elderflower, angelica root, orange peel, caraway, coriander, chamomile, cubeb berry, orris root and lemon. After blending these two very different spirits, the distillate gets its final touch by an infusion of Bulgarian Rosa Damascena and specially selected cucumbers.

Clear as spring water. The nose is both complex and unusual, heavy on floral notes with a base of juniper and citrus fruits. The complexity carries on in the taste, with initial bursts of juniper and citrus followed by aromatic elderflower and rose petals, finishing with a very delicate note of cucumber. Making Dry Martinis with this gin and two slices of fresh cucumber instead of the usual olive is something everybody should try.

The apothecary style bottle is totally unique, and together with the graphic style of their website aimed at instilling a sense of decades of tradition for this gin created in 1999. Well, whatever, I kind of like it. Heavy, sturdy brown glass looking like it´s containing an age-old folk medicine. This gin has an abundance of personality and style, and is one of my absolute favourites.