Saturday 9 July 2016

White Admiral, Black Bottle

Yes, another butterfly - but what's a chap to do at this time of year, when he knows the White Admirals and Silver-Washed Fritillaries are flying in the woodland rides (weather permitting)? Yesterday I took myself off to Bookham common in rather more hope than expectation. It was quite warm but cloudy, with a bit of a breeze, and the sun didn't break through once as I wandered for a couple of hours around the more promising parts of the common (and, for once, didn't get lost).
 My first sighting came after I'd decided to sit on a bench and read for a little while. As I got up, I glanced into the adjacent bramble patch - and there, within six feet of me, was the most beautiful fresh White Admiral quietly nectaring. This unexpected encounter with my favourite butterfly was the best possible start, and soon, as I strolled along, I was seeing more of these woodland beauties - mostly as I more usually see them, in flight, a flicker of white on dark, swooping and gliding, or powering along the margin of the ride. Those other, more showy power fliers, the Silver-Washed Fritillaries, were also in evidence, but in smaller numbers (for once) than the Admirals. I totted up 13 White Admirals (much better than last year) and five Silver-Washed Frits in this interlude of aurelian bliss, and travelled home a happy man.

On an entirely unrelated matter, regular readers might know that I have a weakness for Scotch whisky, the water of life. Finding it hard to justify indulging in single malts (unless they're on offer), I keep a beady eye on the blends available on the supermarket shelves. My recent researches have persuaded me that the standard Famous Grouse has declined steeply in quality, while Bell's has improved, Grant's sherry cask and ale cask blends are worth buying (especially if going cheap), the relaunched Johnnie Walker red label is not very good, and Teacher's, with its new peatier formula, has regained the crown as best-value everyday-drinking blend.
 And now there's a new, or rather relaunched, blend on the market - Gordon Graham's Black Bottle. This is not the Black Bottle of old, blended entirely from smoky Islay malts, but a more eclectic affair, aiming at something with a wider appeal. It's certainly distinctive, and not only for its traditionally shaped opaque bottle - no other supermarket blend tastes like this. How to describe it? Smooth, fruity, a bit spicy, with a heck of a lot of dark stuff going on - molasses, brown sugar, chocolate. I'm really not sure if I like it, but I've got a feeling I'll be back for more - and I'd recommend it to any habitual blend buyers looking for something different. Cheers!

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