Author Archives: danolofohman

…this summer has been absolutely mad.

Here in Sweden the summer of 2018 has turned out to be a serious anomaly. The hottest ever measured, in over 260 years of measurments. The hot spell began already in May, and is continuing even as I write. Highs of 33 – 34 ° Celsius (about 92 Fahrenheit) is not unusual for some days during a regular summer, but not almost every day as it´s been this year. There´s been a large number of tropical nights, where the temperature never goes below 20° C. Portable air-conditioning units are sold-out in the whole country. It´s difficult to remember what it feels like to not be sweaty.

All of this could add up to a great summer for those who like the beach and love a great tan, or a slight nuisance for those who don´t. But for our small country it has meant a lot of other things. The relentless heat and lack of rain has turned our vast wooded areas into tinderboxes ready to go up in flame with the slightest spark. Wildfires larger than has ever been seen before in the history of Sweden has consumed huge areas of forest and caused significant economic damage. Local fire-fighters has been unable to control the situation without help from European Union members like France, Italy, Germany and Poland. Although the societal impact has been fairly large there has been no fatalities, unlike the catastrophic wildfires that has sadly afflicted Greece.

Short-term fluctuations in the weather can´t really be said to be indicative of anything. A hotter than normal summer in a remote part of the world doesn´t necessarily mean  anything´s wrong. My myopic personal experiences does not extrapolate into something general. That said, the fact of global warming has been proved over and over again and without a doubt, by sound science from many different fields. The denial of this scientific fact can perhaps be understood in the light of modern behavioral research, but is nevertheless gravely wrong. The case of some of the world´s largest economies putting on their blindfolds is a cause for serious concern.

If nothing is done we are on the road to a future of hugely disruptive changes, that will redraw the geopolitical map in ways that we are probably not prepared to accept. Large areas of our planet will not be able to sustain human life, and the people living there will not sit still and just die quietly. They will be banging on our door. And what we will be able to offer them is something like this last summer or worse.

 

Advertisements

…2018 w 24 – Album of the week is “A secret wish” by Propaganda.

 

Propaganda band picture

Nobody put their mark on contemporary pop music in the mid-80´s like Trevor Horn did. Establishing his record company ZZT (Zang Tumb Tumb, getting the name from a sound poem by Italian futurist Marinetti), Horn made history with releases from ABC, The Buggles and most of all Frankie Goes to Hollywood. A creative powerhouse using the best talent around enhanced by the cutting edge technology of the time. Much of this is part of musical history, and as such impervious classics. Propaganda was probably the most unique group that this hotter than hot label was able to get their hands onto.

Formed in Dusseldorf in 1982 it took until 1985 for their first records to be released. Landmark album “A secret wish” was produced by Stephen Lipson under the auspices of Trevor Horn. While more than 30 years old today, this is a collection of songs that went way beyond what was expected of pop music at the time, and still does today. I have very fond memories of getting this record on vinyl at first release, and have been listening to it occasionally ever since. So many years later this still sounds like modern music pushing the envelope.

Opener “Dream within a Dream” builds around a spoken poem by Edgar Allan Poe, and in it´s original version delivers 8 minutes of dreamy pop melodies with mutating bubbling rhythms. Not many bands would dare to have this piece of music as the first track of their first album. Every time I listen to it I´m just as mesmerized as the first time in 1985. There´s not that much around that beats this one as an opening track. Melody, atmosphere, the propulsive beats and a certain amount of drama made this an instant classic.

“The murder of love” went further into the budding electro-pop territory with timeless verses and chorus, as well as a oddly fitting instrumental part of jazzy guitar. The evil twins of “Jewel/Duel” juxtapositioned the same song as both abrasive dark electronica and melodic electronic pop. Very few bands could write a chorus like that, as well as executing it as seemingly effortless as is done here.

 

p:Machinery went all in when it came to ecstatic synthesized pop, with an ear-worm faux-brass riff never to be forgotten. Absolutely impossible to sit still when this one blasts from the speakers. Great melody coupled with throbbing rhythms. Full of dark joy and flow.

The choice of covers also defines a group, and the decision to remake classic Josef K song “Sorry for laughing” was as well made as the song itself. There´s both novelty and adherence to the original in this version. Great music put through a time-warp and coming out as something unexpectedly shiny and new.

“Dr Mabuse (First Life)” was a rework of their first single, the obvious Fritz Lang references setting the tone. Done in several different mixes, but on the original album concentrated and concise. Sprung from one of the band´s oldest songs that over a period of time metamorphosed into this glowing gem.

“The Chase”, slowly flowing with dreamy melodies starts the winding down of the album, ending with “The last Word (Strength to Dream)”. An instrumental piece finishing “A secret wish” just as it begun, with Susanne Freytag reciting the opening lines of the Poe poem.

Shortly after the vinyl release, a CD-version appeared with an additional song, remixes and a slightly different running order. The thing to go for today is of course the Deluxe 2010 2 disc reissue, with all the material from both the original vinyl and CD´s, as well as an entire disc´s worth of wonderful extra material. If nothing else a good way of getting the exclusive “Do well” cassette songs from 1985.

Although the band came to a slightly messy end, this album lives on as their legacy. A dark and exciting excursion into what electronic pop could have become, that succeeded in being both art and entertainment. The music complemented by the artwork, stylish black and white imagery of the band, the sense of mystery and of course the at the time shocking Baader-Meinhof quote. A must have in every record collection.

 

 

 

…let´s listen to the snarl of the White Dog – American whiskey tasting no 15.

I must confess going from finding white dog quite vile to learning to appreciate it´s special character has been quite a trip. Whether you should call it whiskey or not is another question that I´ll leave unanswered for now. In storage I have about a dozen bottles for later review, but I´m going to start with these two.

George Dickel No 1 White Corn Whisky, 91 proof (45,5%).

George Dickel White Whiskey

Made from the same mash bill as their No. 8, No. 12 and Barrel Select whiskies, meaning 84% corn, 8% rye and 8% malted barley, followed by their trademark chilling and charcoal mellowing. No barrel-maturing whatsoever.

Crystal clear in colour with some viscosity in the glass. The nose is big and open, with loads of corn and slight hints of rye and barley at the finish. There´s also some faint floral notes reminiscent of a crude grappa. Neat in a tasting glass you get strong corn notes, initially somehow without much of the sweetness that will hit you in the middle. The finish decreases the sweetness and morphs into fairly dry spice. Probably my favourite white dog so far.

Coming in a bottle instantly recognizable from the rest of the Dickel range. Not exactly stylish but I like the consistant idea behind their design. Together with the No 12 a drink that should have a permanent place in my collection.

Platte Valley Corn Whiskey, 90 proof (45%).

Platte Valley Corn Whiskey

Produced by the McCormick Distilling Company, with a history going back to 1856. Made from a mash bill of 100% corn and then matured for three years this is a pretty unusual corn whiskey.

Light yellow colour. A nose dominated by corn and buttery popcorn. Sweet and without much complexity. Neat in a tasting glass it´s dominated by corn without that much sweetness. The finish is short and carries a slight burn.

Special mention must be made of the earthenware jug that this whiskey comes in. I find it quite classy and it will earn a place on my kitchen counter together with my wooden boxes of 25 and 30 year old Highland Parks.

…”The Handmaid´s Tale” is essential TV.

Faithful                                                                                                                                                                 The TV-series depicting the USA as we know it descending into a totalitarian regime has rocked the world of serialised television in so many ways. Based on the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, this is a modern dystopia with a depressingly realistic feel.

With an accumulation of environmental assaults severely reducing human fecundity the issue of female fertility instantly becomes commoditized, creating the concept of the Handmaid. A class of fertile women groomed for service as living wombs for the male elite, regardless of these often older men´s ability to spawn children or not.

The gradual but still quite swift descent of a democratic society into totalitarianism is shown in eerie flashbacks of life as we know it juxtapositioned with the fictional present day. Poignant moments are interspersed with depictions of day-to-day reality, creating an interesting mosaic of what life in the new state “Gilead” is like. The resemblances to Soviet Gulags are intentionally easy to spot, as well as highly significant in the larger story arch.

Although much might sound as doom and gloom the performance of leading lady Elisabeth Moss makes things different. Her huge registry of displaying different emotional states enriches this tale in so many ways. It´s  hard to think of any other actor taking on this role in a similar fashion.

The second series has just begun. So far it has widely surpassed the first season. Let´s hope it will continue in the same good way.

 

…the big Jack Daniel´s tasting is long overdue – American whiskey tasting no 14.

Jack Daniel´s Old No. 7, 80 proof (40%).

Tasted and written about before (https://danolofohman.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/american-whiskey-tasting-no-1-is-on-the-schedule/), this is the most popular and basic product of the Jack Daniel´s distillery. A very enjoyable drink with its smooth and mellow vanilla, caramel and fruit notes. The first American whiskey I ever tasted, and still one of my favourites.

Jack Daniel´s Single Barrel Select, 90 proof (45%).

Unlike the Old No. 7, that´s blended from many different barrels to achieve a consistent taste, this whiskey comes from a single barrel, chosen for its special character. Only about one in a hundred barrels are chosen to be matured in the higher parts of the Jack Daniel´s barrelhouses. The high location on the storage ricks makes the whiskey mature faster, as well as concentrating both alcohol content and flavour. My particular bottle is from rick L-16 and barrel 13-7230.

Jack Daniels single barrel select

Dark copper colour. Neat in a tasting glass we have a much more complex nose compared to the Old No. 7. The usual vanilla and caramel notes are initially hidden by a strong whiff of oak, giving way to corn sweetness, cocoa and fruit. On the palate you get a medium bodied feel, with initial sweetness, caramel and cocoa, giving way to wood, peppery rye and a slightly bitter finish. In a tumbler with ice the sweetness is enhanced, while reducing the length and bitterness of the finish.

Coming in a heavy, decanter-like bottle of thick glass, embossed with the Jack Daniel name, the wood/cork stopper adds to the exclusive feel of this whiskey. Tasting a variety of different single barrel releases would certainly be interesting.

Jack Daniel´s Silver Select Single Barrel, 100 proof (50%).

Another single barrel whiskey, from selected barrels stored high in the Jack Daniel rickhouses. Bottled at a higher proof and without any mentioning of the exact barrel identity.

Jack Daniels Silver Select Single Barrel

Slightly darker copper compared to the Single Barrel Select. A distinct nose with initial sweetness giving way to cherry notes and a finish of oak. Neat in a tasting glass you get a mellow whiskey without much burn despite the high proof. Smooth sweetness and cherry, followed by vanilla and caramel, with a medium long finish of peppery spice. In a tumbler with ice the smoothness is accentuated while lifting the cherry notes and the oaky finish.

The bottling is very similar to the Single Barrel Select, with heavy decanter-like glass and an embossed metal-looking label. A very well-made and smooth expression of the Jack Daniel´s way of making whiskey.

Jack Daniel´s Master Distiller Series No. 1, Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel , 86 proof (43%).

The first in a series of releases honoring the seven master distillers of the Jack Daniel company. Jasper Newton Daniel, the founder of the company and its first master distiller has given his name to the first edition of this series. Apart from being the founder of the company, Jack Daniel also served as master distiller for the time period of 1866 – 1911.

Jack Daniels Master Distillers 1

Copper colour. A nose characterized by corn sweetness, vanilla and caramel, finishing with rye spice and oak. Neat in a tasting glass you get a light mouthfeel, mellow sweetness and a fairly short finish of wood. A very smooth and easily drinkable whiskey still not without allure. In a tumbler with ice not very much happens, the whiskey pretty much keeping its character.

Packed in a bottle very much similar to the Old No. 7, but in a box with a picture of the master distiller, this limited edition surely will make an impact.

 

Jack Daniel´s Master Distiller Series No. 2, Jesse Butler “Jess” Motlow, 86 proof (43%).

Known for his storytelling abilities as well as his taste for good whiskey, Jess Motlow was the man who took the Jack Daniel´s distillery through 28 years of prohibition. Not only rebuilding the distillery from memory, but also keeping the family recipe of distilling and charcoal mellowing through his service during the years 1911 – 1941.

Jack Daniels Master Distillers 2

Light copper colour. A nose slightly stronger on rye pepper than caramel and vanilla. Neat in a tasting glass there´s a light and elegant mix of spice and sweetness, with a fairly short finish of sweetness and oak. In a tumbler with ice the sweetness comes to the front, making it even more drinkable.

The packaging is identical to its predecessor and gives this limited release a similarly exclusive feel.

 

 

Jack Daniel´s Master Distiller Series No. 3, Lemuel Lee “Lem” Tolley, 86 proof (43%).

The grandnephew of Mr Jack, Lem Tolley, steered the distillery through a period of increased demand without compromising the quality of the whiskey. Serving as master distiller during the years 1941 – 1964, this is a man who left a distinctive mark on the legacy of Jack Daniel´s.

Jack Daniels Master Distillers 3

Light copper colour. A nose with the perfect mix of caramel and spice. Neat in a tasting glass you get a well-balanced take on the Old No. 7. Smooth and mellow sweetness, with a short but still distinct finish.

Packed in the by now easily recognizable variation on the classical Jack Daniel´s bottle, this release carries on the design characteristics of the series.

 

 

Gentleman Jack, Rare Tennessee Whiskey, 80 proof (40%).

In many respects similar to the Old No. 7, but with an additional mellowing procedure. This whiskey is filtered through sugar cane charcoal first after distillation and then after barrel maturation, all to achieve a smoother character.

Gentleman Jack

Amber colour. The nose has a complex mix of fruit, caramel sweetness and rye spice, making it an elegant variety of Tennessee whiskey. The palate is smooth and light, with a pleasant corn sweetness and a short rye finish. A very refined and smooth whiskey which might be too polished for the adventurous, or a way in for those who believe they dislike Tennessee whiskey.

Coming in an elegant square bottle quite unlike the other Jack Daniel´s products. With embossed glass and faux-metal label, it´s look is quite high-profile.

 

Jack Daniel´s Sinatra Select, 90 proof (45%).

Paying tribute to big Jack Daniel´s fan Frank Sinatra, this whiskey is a blend of regular Old No. 7 and whiskey matured in special “Sinatra barrels”, meaning barrels with ricks inside of them to increase contact between spirit and wood.

Jack Daniels Sinatra Select

Darker amber than the ordinary Old No. 7. A nose with hints of smoke followed by oak, balanced with corn, vanilla and hints of orange. Neat in a tasting glass you definitely get more oak than you´re used to from a Jack Daniel´s whiskey, but really no astringency. Wood is followed by smooth vanilla, corn and some citrus tones. Fairly long and smooth finish. Elegant and refined.

Luxuriously packed, as you might expect from the pretty steep price. A cloth covered special cardboard box holding the bottle in place, also containing a small booklet celebrating the relationship between Sinatra and Jack Daniel´s. A heavy, specially made bottle riffing on the regular one but still recognizable as Jack.

Jack Daniel´s No. 27 Gold, 80 proof (40%).

Probably conceived as the smoothest Jack Daniel´s distillate ever, this is basically the Old No. 7 that´s been primarily aged in new American oak, finished in maple-wood barrels and then charcoal mellowed twice.

Jack Daniels no 27 Gold

Golden colour. Mellow on the nose with wood, corn, vanilla and toffee notes. Neat in a tasting glass it´s very smooth and balanced, showing oak with a slight astringency followed by a finish of oak, vanilla and fleeting banana notes. Elegant but in my opinion losing some of what I like in the original No. 7.

Coming in an upscale golden cardboard box and with a similarly heavy bottle variety that was used for the Sinatra selection. Very nice to have tried it, but will not be a repeat buy at this price.

 

Jack Daniel´s Rested Tennessee Rye, 80 proof (40%).

For the first time since Prohibition Jack Daniel´s has changed it´s mash bill, and made a whiskey with predominantly rye (the exact proportions being 70% rye, 18% corn and 12% malted barley). The distillate was first released as Tennessee Unaged Rye in 2013. The limited edition made it very expensive in my part of the world, and I must confess to not having tried it. The new iteration is called Rested Tennessee Rye, and has been matured for a short time in barrels. Also quite expensive and released in limited quantities as a way of following it´s maturation from the unaged rye, through this and finally to the finished rye that will be released later.

Jack Daniels rested Tennessee rye

Clear gold in colour. The nose has a clearly detectable rye spiciness even though the period of barrel maturation has bestowed it a more marked sweetness than could be expected, with both vanilla and faint banana notes. Neat in a tasting glass there´s fairly overpowering initial wood, followed by some sweetness and a pretty short finish where some weak spice can be found. Interesting as a waypoint in a work in progress, but certainly not something I would buy again at that price.

Coming in a classy bottle a bit similar to the Single Barrel Selects, with batch number and what seems to be a genuine master distiller autograph. Really looking forward to the rye-proper release.

Since this tasting was done a while ago, several new iterations of the Master Distillers series has arrived ( nr 4 – 6, apparently quickly sold out), as well as a matured rye in two variations. Hopefully something that can be returned to.

…”Annihilation” is a story swinging both ways.

The “Southern Reach Trilogy” created by writer Jeff VanderMeer and published in 2014 is a high-point of recent speculative fiction. Being pointed in the direction of both the books and the later movie adaptation of the first installment of the series by my colleague D is yet an example of the merits of listening to people with good taste. I very much share his impression of these books as a H. P. Lovecraft for a younger generation.  There´s spooky natural phenomena going on, which will forever change the fate of the persons involved. Although the books provide some sort of closure for the main characters, there´s no feel-good happy ending to the saga. Instead you get a ride into a unique imagination filled with ambiguity and just sheer strangeness. Nothing really gets explained and at the end you´re left with more questions than answers.

These are books that will keep you thinking for a long time about the stories, the metaphors and the audacity of it´s writer in creating something so strangely unique. Mystical, sprawling and hard-hitting at the same time, these stories are hard to classify in a way that you rarely encounter nowadays. While writing this I´m getting ready for my third re-read, which is something that almost never happens.

Some parts of this work emerging as a movie was almost inevitable, while no-one could really be expected to transfer the special feeling of this material to the screen in a fully satisfactory way. The movie “Annihilation” is pretty much what could be seen as a reasonable interpretation of some of the themes from the book. Best seen as a work of it´s own, separated from the deeper universe of the books, this is still an at least partly enjoyable film. If you need to choose and have the time, read the books. Otherwise the film will give you a glimpse of what´s actually there in this story.

 

…Koval is inventive and unique – American whiskey tasting no 13.

Koval

The Koval distillery was established in 2008 in Chicago, by Robert and Sonat Birnecker. Building on traditions from Robert´s Austrian family the distillery chose to make spirits from locally produced grains, processed and distilled at their facilities. A decision setting them apart from many of the whiskey-boom producers just bottling spirits made somewhere else.

Koval Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey, 94 proof (47%).

Koval bourbon

Made from a unique mashbill of the requisite 51% corn with the rest being millet, a grain used for food as well as alcoholic beverages mainly in parts of Africa and Asia. To my knowledge Koval are the only producers using millet for whiskey.

Liquid honey coloured and a nose with light fruit notes, mostly apricot, followed by more subdued vanilla and caramel. Neat in a tasting glass you get initial fruit, more apricot, leading over to some sweetness and ending with pepper and a light burn. Very elegant and sophisticated.

Koval Single Barrel Whiskey Four Grain, 94 proof (47%).

Koval four grain

Made from a mashbill of corn, malted barley, wheat and rye, this is a whiskey with a totally different character from the previous one.

Very similar to the bourbon in colour, but with a nose beginning with pretty powerful banana fudge and treacle, malt, fleeting vanilla and ending on dry spice. Neat in a tasting glass you get a whiskey with a full mouthfeel, beginning with a short burn giving way to caramel, fruit and a closing rye spiciness mixed with oak. This one packs a lot of taste and is really, really nice.

Koval Single Barrel Whiskey Millet, 90 proof (40%).

Koval millet

Here we have another unique product from this inventive distillery. A whiskey with a mash bill of 100% millet farmed in the American Midwest.

I suspect that it´s the similarities of the barreling techniques used for these whiskeys that makes their colours so similar, if not to say undistinguishable. The nose begins with light and pleasant citrus notes, fruit and ending on black pepper. Neat in a tasting glass you get mild and delicate notes of almost liqueur- like sweetness, with a drier ending of spice. Certainly a most unusual whiskey and an interesting experience.

Koval Grain Spirit Rye, 80 proof (40%).

Koval white rye

I´m a bit confused over this one, though. There seems to be an earlier series of products from the distillery with different bottles and labels, including a white rye whiskey. The present Koval webpage lists a “White Whiskey Rye” in their product line, while my bottle says “Grain Spirit Rye”. Not entirely sure that these two are the same.

Regardless of that, here we have a distillate based on rye that has not been affected by maturing in oak barrels. The drink is crystal clear, with an aromatic nose of citrus and pine needles. Neat in a tasting glass you get a drink almost totally without any of the spicy notes you´re used to expect from rye. More like a less botanical gin or a more tasty vodka. There´s initial sweetness giving way to floral notes and ending on very discrete, almost imagined peppery spiciness. Not a drink I would enjoy on its own again, but I would very much like a trial of exchanging gin and vodka for this one in several cocktails.

Koval Single Barrel Whiskey Rye, 80 proof (40%).

Koval rye

Colourwise resembling their other output. A fruity nose with apples, pears and grain. Neat in a tasting glass you get fruit, apples and pears, followed by a finish of light pepper spice. A most unusual rye with a character all its own.

Without a doubt a distiller worth following through the coming years of experimentation. High ambitions and skills, as well as a willingness to go beyond what is expected when it comes to process and raw material.