Oh Joy! Someone on our street has decided to learn the tenor saxophone. He has spent the morning struggling with the instrument, blowing down towards the difficult lower notes, failing to adjust his embouchure, inadvertently leaping up a squeaky octave. So we have the mournful lowing of a costive calf to add to the vuvuzela-like drone of the Indy cars down on Lakeshore – the sounds of a Toronto summer. The tenor sax was the instrument of my own misspent youth and I am more keenly aware than ever of the pain it can cause. I see now why it drove my Dad out of the house and caused the neighbours to bang on the wall next to my bedroom. Coincidentally, a kind reader recently sent me a link to the one and only single I made as a saxophonist, back in the 1970s. I share it here, as a warning of where unbridled saxophony can lead. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dX_bnjCQ73g
But that is not the purpose of this blog. I apologise for my long absence. Important matters have preoccupied me. It has taken the arrival of a rare Canadian whisky to kick-start things again – the Crown Royal XR, a precious and coveted item of Canadiana. This whisky was blended from the last, irreplaceable barrels saved from the tragic fire that burned down the Waterloo Distillery in 1993, lovingly assembled by Master Blender Andrew Mackay. It’s subtle, perfectly balanced, not too sweet, and as smooth as the gold-embroidered red velvet bag in which it nestles. The body is rich and creamy, but it’s the amazing complexity of aromas and flavours – none of them too dominant – that makes this worthy of long contemplation. The list of descriptors grows so long that it ceases to be of much use. Yes, there is fresh coniferous wood, fresh fruit rather than the usual dates and dried figs, floral effects, candied citrus, even a trace of minty herbs… Seek a particular nuance and you can probably find it in here. The overall effect is of a shifting kaleidoscope and the finish is long, spicy and smooth, never drying out, always supple and dynamic. If, like me, you are sometimes tempted to take a brash bourbon bombastado down a peg or two, this would be the whisky to represent Canada – though a bourbon lover would have to set aside his leathery palate and concentrate hard to appreciate it.
As of this moment, there are 400 cases left in Canada, with only 50 earmarked for Ontario. The bulk of the inventory is heading west to brighten the lives of fans in Alberta and B.C. Retail at the LCBO: $179.95 – a never-to-be repeated investment in Canadian history.