Pensées. Vol. 6.

Singular Spirits, Part III

I revisited recently the Anejo Reserva iteration of Havana Club rum, long available here with the three and seven year old versions, and now too a “Smoky”.

The Anejo was always the best, imo. The current bottling is good although the cocoa and tobacco notes mentioned in the LCBO’s listing seem less emphatic than I recall. There is a fruity skein to it, with a fragrance of light molasses from the wash in distillation.

Light-bodied in a good way, where the flavour circles round the wagons so to speak.



1955 Vaux Stout

Vaux Brewery of Sunderland UK did an advertising splash in 1955. Compared to its ads of ca. 1900 I discussed earlier this week, the 1955 efforts show the sophistication advertising had gained in the interval.

See e.g. in Shields Daily News, November 25, 1955. A half-page ad pictures a man and woman, maybe 35-40, each holding a filled glass. The words “Less Bitter” appear above the female figure, while “Less Sweet” captions the male side.

The ad stresses the beer is right for “Northern tastes”: “not too bitter nor too sweet” and also “smoother and stronger”.

I have not sought to pin down the (technical) attributes of 1955 Vaux stout. It probably had at least 4% abv and a minimum 65% attenuation. The pitch was being made imo between the dryish, more acerbic Guinness style and the sweeter, lower-alcohol Mackeson stout and similar beers.

Despite such laudable efforts stout never made great strides in postwar Britain, the signal case of Guinness and to an extent Mackeson (the milk stout), apart. Perhaps the alternatives these offered were sufficiently well-defined that little room remained for another (major) brand.*

Italian Seasoning

I interjected a note of humour in a Twitter discussion yesterday on spices or spice blends currently popular in British cooking.

I said Keith Moon – the late drummer of The Who – mentioned Italian seasoning in a humorous monologue filmed in a documentary on the band years ago, and perhaps the mixture still played a telling role in UK kitchens.

It turns out Italian seasoning is very popular here, at any rate. The major supermarkets in Toronto all carry a version, indeed our own spice cabinet has one: McCormick’s.

We used it last night to dust baby potatoes with a spray of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then into the oven at high temperature for 20 minutes or so.

As Moon himself might have put it, “Perfect, dear boy!”.

Music Masters

Another recent Twitter thread canvassed favourite rock covers. There are so many good ones, it is hard to know where to start.

I’ll give two examples, not unrelated: The Byrds’ Turn! Turn! Turn!, composed by Pete Seeger, and Roger McGuinn’s recording of Tom Petty’s American Girl

The Petty song is itself a tribute to McGuinn’s style of singing and playing, so McGuinn’s take is sort of a quasi-cover, and rather superior. Apart from originating the style in question, the drums in McGuinn’s arrangement avoid the “double-time” style of Petty’s recording.

This improves on the composition, since the lyric has a musing, elegiac quality which seems at odds with a quick-march tempo.

Passing of Terry Teachout

I was deeply saddened to learn recently of the passing at only 65 of the American drama and cultural critic, Terry Teachout. (He died in January but I learned of it only recently).

Teachout was also an acclaimed biographer, his studies included author H.L. Mencken, musician Louis Armstrong, and the ballet choreographer, George Balanchine.

The New York Times obituary will inform readers not familiar with Teachout’s background and accomplishment. This filmed interview with Teachout is informative, too.

He wrote monthly for Commentary magazine, as its critic-at-large. He wrote on everything from The Great American Songbook to British composers like Sir Edward Elgar, and actors such as Clark Gable.

Here is a sample of his writing, on Edward Elgar from 2004 (via the Commentary website).

*Speaking relatively, in other words. E.g., Guinness had competitors of its type even in Ireland, although Guinness remained far dominant in the category.


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