In life, there are things that are criminally underrated. For instance, people only talk about Beyonce, but really, Kelly Rowland is far more beautiful than people admit.
And so, it is with whiskey. People like to yap about Black Label, but is it really the best poison in our shelves? We spoke to three connoisseurs and they told us the poison they think deserves more credit than it deserves.
Jameson, Black Barrel
-Kenyan Bar Guy
Do you know why people are particular about their whiskey?
“A double on the rocks Glen”
“Not too much ice. Just a rock or two. I don’t want her to kiss too cold. Know what I mean? Goodman Glen. Goodman.”
“Single malt. Make her fiery. Just a finger Glen but keep them coming.”
Also, Glen sounds like the name of a suave bartender with folded shirt sleeves, thin tie and a colorful vest – the coat not the undergarment.
People are particular with whiskey because they have different personalities. You have to treat whiskey right. You have to learn what it wants. What its dreams are. Learn its past. Embrace it, the perfection and the flaws. Whiskey is a hard drink to love. But so are all the best things in life. You need to know what kind of people it lets into its life. Where it wants to hang out. How it likes to be served. You just don’t pop one open for the sake of it.
Jameson Black Barrel is one of those Whiskies with a shy attitude. Its shyness doesn’t come from esteem issues, no it is just reserved. It looks good, it knows it looks good, but it stays away from the limelight. It lets its younger, more ratchet cousin to steal the limelight.
It goes down smooth. But, there’s a smokiness to its flavor, a harsh kind that slightly scorches the back of your throat. You can soothe it by dropping a few ice blocks in your ice. As it goes down it warms up your innards. Gives you a nice warm glow like a fire licking new wood introduced into its flames.
With its personality, you have to be patient with it. It is not the kind of whiskey to throw to the back of your throat in carnal party nature. You let it touch your lips first, then let it sit in your mouth. Let it unravel itself on your taste buds before allowing it to go down. It respects you when you respect it, an unwritten gentleman’s code. It is not for a binge on a night out. No. It sits on your shelf for special moments or long days after work. Days when you can’t seem to get your tie off your neck fast enough. Days when you need a little fire and smoke down your throat. Actually, that is the best way to describe it, fire and smoke. A slightly barbecued whiskey with a smoky flavor.
For that, it is a bit on the higher end of the price scale but nothing a middle-class chap with a girlfriend can’t afford.
Anyway, for what it is worth, everyone deserves a Black Barrel in their lives.
Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey
-Ian, The Connoisseur
I don’t think good ol’ Jasper Newton ‘Jack’ Daniel gets the credit he deserves for perfectly bringing together the ultimate whiskey. I mean, sure, he gets some credit… but I don’t think it’s enough. I think the Johnnie Walker family probably gets waay too much airtime, and I think jolly ol’ Jack can kick the ass of any member of the Walker family; any goddamn day.
Let me break it down for you;
For starters, Jack Daniels has a distinct smell; kind of like oak, or wood. You couldn’t miss it. The makers of Old No. 7 charcoal-filtered it so that it comes out with this slightly smoky character.
I walked into a bar with a friend of mine – Lovine – the other day and she asked for a double of Jack Daniels. When it came, she brought it to her nose and said, “Ian, I don’t think this is what I ordered.” So, I brought it up to my nose as well and then I called the waiter and said, “Take this shit back and bring us what we ordered; Jack Daniels because this ain’t it.” She tried arguing that it was, so we gave it to her to smell and, sure enough, she took it back and brought Lovine a double of her drink.
See, that’s Jack; Tennessee’s finest at its best. They crafted a smell so unique only to it you couldn’t crack even it if they locked you in their warehouse for three decades. Or till African Presidents finally get Museveni’s sense of humor.
Secondly, Old No. 7 is regular harsh; the kind of harsh whiskey should be. Whiskey should never be too sweet that it can be downed with a loaf of bread or sting too much it feels like sulphuric acid down your throat. Jack is regular harsh; mildly so. It goes down perfectly neat, but I prefer mine with two ice cubes, tops. There are also those people who like theirs with a little dash of Coke; which, frankly, I think is disrespectful to any whiskey, but to each their own.
It tastes like bananas and charcoal and caramel and goes down easily and, towards the end, you get a dash of that oak once again, with a little bit of cereal sweetness. I have also never woken up with a hangover after a night out drinking Jack Daniels. Never. And I’m not making that shit up.
It is not for people who want to get hammered in the bar and start grinding on strangers. Or for these boys in bomber jackets and pink socks. Jack is for Gentlemen; the classy type who move to the rhythm of music only with their heads and soul.
So, if whiskey was boxing, Jack Daniel Old No. 7 would be Muhammad Ali and Johnnie Walker would be Floyd Mayweather; I mean, Floyd is good and all but he’s no Ali.
I bet there was a time you were a child or a teening boy and there was a girl, five years older, or more, who captured your naive idea or beauty. Her face was long and clean and Lisa Gaitho foundation has nothing on her. The old Vaseline jelly played the role of gloss, balm and lipstick and the angels still dreamed of kissing her in her sleep.
Don’t forget the rumor that her brain was a magnet for Mathematical formulas.
Now you are grown up ass man, three decades to boot and you have spent 10% of your liver. On a good day, you brag to unsuspecting girls by drinking a single malt like the damn cool Glenlivet (hoping that Kenyan clueless clubbers don’t switch from Glenfiddich to your favorite coz it’s hard to find a favorite single malt when you can afford so few of them).
You know so well, the way I know, money taps open for 12 hours, once every month. I mean, if you think about, your salary gets a mob-beating for 12 hours straight, non-stop, soon it lands in your account.
A drinking acquaintance has a Ruracio and beer-table brotherhood doesn’t allow you to miss. It’s somewhere in Kasekini, a far-flung village where the most expensive drink is Flying Horse. You meet your childhood idea of beauty and she is fine like you know what I wanted to type. The pores in her neck are clean, not clogged like those of your current rebound (your girl left you because you’ve been struggling for too long) and you can bet she dances Zumba to keep fit.
Man. VAT 69 could easily pass for that girl even after adjusting yourself to the second part of its name. It tastes the way a whiskey should taste and it could play synonym to consistency, easily, again. Of course, you know it’s not perfect everywhere and you need to cap your dreams and imaginations.
The class of 69 drinks it with hot water, but haven’t we agreed that it’s the worst class when it comes to modern aesthetics? By the way, the class of 1969 learns from us despite being 20 years apart. Bad thing is that they are fast learners and they have stolen our girls and convinced them that Black Label is the only whiskey in Kenya.
VAT 69 is good on ice, on water and even with a dress of silly Coke. Lemme not catch you though. I think it’s painfully underrated and it should be declared the king of low-end whiskey blends.