The following is a selection of refreshments which I have at home. Some are better than others, and some are now controlled substances:
Old GlenMcBain's Very Dry Southern Discomfort
Despite its name, this is in fact a gin, and of a rather different kind. The '59 is remarkable due to an odd miscommunication between the directors - who wanted just 19% alcohol content - and the management who allegedly misheard and made 90%. Popular these days, if you can get it, for starting barbecues. Completely undrinkable.
The '59 vintage was disappointing, but the '60 was the best yet, mainly because the processing was handed over to Holton et Compagnie, who came close to repeating the success in '61, but whose services were discontinued for reasons which are still to be fully explained. The '62 was to be a disappointment, and though it started well, the '63 was ruined by a severe winter which also appears to have killed off most of the estate workers. Keep the '60 and '61, just to look at. The '62 is drinkable if you like a sour aftertaste.
McGarry's Isle Avsummathat Malt
Simply excellent, the new method of '64 was a revelation. Disciplined, consistent, easy on the palate, warming, and reassuring, the product aged too far before its time and was discontinued after one year. A terrible shame.
Furphy's Northern Bitter
Undeniably solid quality, which won top prize in its class in '69, this brew never really shook off its dull image as the beer you chose when your favourite wasn't available. All the same, one of the best brews of its time, and the source of many a happy Saturday evening down the pub. Went very well with Currie.
Kirby's Yorkshire Ale
Of extremely unpredictable, and generally disappointing, quality, you couldn't fault this brewery for trying. As a general rule, though, you'd rather drink Harpic. The brewery closed in 1973.
The extremely affable management could not translate their enthusiasm into quality product, the '75 being down-rated by most connoisseurs to Grade Four. With the occasional exception, best forgotten.
My favourite wines, of consistently good quality from the '78 through to the '86, with the '87 showing just a slight falling off in attack. These wines, which can be drunk at any time with anything, are stylish, big, full, and of generally incredible finish. Some of the first English wines to be exported to Europe. Absolutely recommended, savour the '83 if you can. Priceless, and unlikely ever to be repeated.
Bassett's #21 Punch
After a huge clear-out of factory workers in mid '87, with unknown replacements coming in to service the machinery, this punch - said to be made from rejected liquorice and weed-killer - was expensive, disappointing, and ultimately disastrous as the factory was closed by popular demand early in '88. Thank goodness.
The '88 vintage was unsalvageable after an appalling start, though the '89 was a gallant effort. The main problem with this wine is that it is impossible to say whether it is red or white (hence its appellation as rosé), an issue which baffled the directors for two and a half years, and although you could get the occasional entertaining bottle, the quality was unforeseeable. A little rough on the palate, this was a naïve wine which used far too many expensive grapes in the blending. A shame.
Lee's Worcester Sauce
This delightful accessory to cocktails containing tomato juice, or Crème de Puffin, took a long time to appeal to the public, especially as early production was disgusting. By the time consistency was achieved, the public were disillusioned. The factory has moved hither and yon, and can still produce an excellent flavour, but management tend to make unfortunate strategic decisions on an alarmingly regular basis.
Made from questionable pears, by and large, this low-alcohol beverage was popular for a time, and did seem to improve, recovering from a near catastrophe in '92. But management declared that the product could be improved no further, and the public reacted by switching allegiance to rival refreshments.
Roeder's Ajax Hausvin
Extraordinary. You could taste the windmills in this product. Fresh, airy, honest, vigorous, and occasionally intoxicating, ultimately disappointing in its failure to retain its EC Grade 2 Standing in '96.
An excellent beer, from Llwgychgwychllppllh (pronounced "armpit"), which tastes as fresh in the eighth pint as in the first. Unobtrusive but extremely steady, no bits of crud floating in the mix, pours smoothly, and leaves absolutely no hangover whatsoever. The brewery recently moved to expanded headquarters in Swansea (also pronounced "armpit").
Taylor's "Return to" Port
From the same chateau which made the glorious wines of '78 to '87, this brilliant liquor won a prize in its class in '00, but struggled to keep a place amongst the elite in '01, despite a staggeringly well-won award at the Merseyside Exhibition. Never quite won back its promise but, again, eminently drinkable. No-one who tried it will ever forget the May '00 bottling - in its distinctive All-Yellow label. Will always be a drink with which to celebrate good times.
The '02 cannot be drunk with any known food. Blended from a variety of horribly costly imported grapes, there was certainly promise in the early vine reportage, but the failure was spectacular in the end. Marketing was not helped by the whinery's policy of charging extra if you opened the bottle and found it corked. If you drink it, you will notice the appalling follow-through (or "after-burn" as one Wag put it).
The '03 and '04 vintages were, if inconsistent, a very economical alternative to the big premier wines. The '05 is predicted to struggle by some, but I have a feeling that it will be a pleasant surprise. As a new winery, it is perhaps a little premature to judge potential, though there have to be concerns on the financial front and these could ultimately be problematic. However, the growing panel of Icelandic expertise does indicate a strong propensity for this wine to be an excellent compliment to white fish. Personally, I'm stocking up....