Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Raymond Chandler and Rye Whiskey

In my ideal world Christmas television would have a lot more black and white films in it, and quite a few of them would be classic Noir (which is how I remember it being not so long ago - or is that just how I choose to remember it?). Anyway, it’s ages since I’ve seen a good Raymond Chandler film and I’m missing them.

Fortunately I found a nice fat paperback full of what are being called short stories, but which are novella length, in my local bookshop. I haven’t read any of them, and am very much looking forward to getting stuck in to it. The collection is ‘Killer In The Rain’ published by Penguin.

Another excellent Noir collection which would make a brilliant gift are Sarah Weinman’s Woman Crime Writers anthologies. There are a couple of handsome hard backs which each have 4 novels in them. One book covers the 1940’s, the other the 1950’s. Her ‘Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives’ selection of short stories is tremendous, and more budget friendly. The Feminist Press also does a good line in Noir, and the Pushkin Vertigo range is worth a look.

Still, it’s Chandler who introduced me to the genre (or at least it was Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe, which is close enough) and his style is so iconic that I keep going back to him.

Chandler brings up booze quite a lot in his books - he gives a slightly unorthodox Gimlet (gin and lime, or lime cordial) recipe in one of them, but along with ‘Killer in the Rain’ I’m also eyeing up a bottle of Wild Turkey Rye whisky that I found at the back of my wardrobe, an unopened survivor of last Christmas.

Due to a youthful prejudice in favour of Scottish single malt whisky, I don’t know as much about American whiskey as I should. Good bourbon isn’t to hard to find on UK high streets. Maker’s Mark,  and Woodford Reserve are staples which won’t let you down, and taking those as a benchmark there’s  plenty more to explore (Waitrose does a decent selection, wine merchants will always be able to advise you, and any big supermarket ought to come up with something worthwhile).

Straight Rye whiskey turns out to be harder to find. The difference between the two is the base grain used - Bourbon uses a corn mash that gives a sweet, full bodied, profile. Rye produces something drier and spicier. When I say harder to find, there’s obviously no shortage of choice online, but I find delivery charges push the price higher than I generally like, and it’s not always easy to be in for deliveries that have to be signed for. Waitrose is generally good for spirits (not so much for liqueurs) which is where I found the Wild Turkey Rye, I also have a really good local shop that specialises in spirits.

I wanted my Rye specifically for cocktails (probably a Manhattan, but as it goes I’m still using bourbon to make them) although I’m open to drinking it on the rocks too. After years of being a malt snob it turns out that it’s never to late to learn about new things, and Rye with its dry, spicy, nose does an excellent job of evoking good cologne and leather shoes, along with dark bars and late nights.