VIRUS VICTORS

After 106 days locked down in Sydney's Covid bubble, BILL WATT marks his freedom by celebrating the best of lockdown beer, whisky, film, TV, books, sport, wine & bubbly (yes, he knows bubbly is wine)


BEER

Keeping people sane in crises since the Bronze Age.


THE NOMINATIONS ARE:

Velkopopovický Kozel - A Czech dark beer known as The Goat.

Stockade Splicer XPA - A citrus-zested XPA brewed in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville.

Guinness Stout - The classic Irish stout. Rich and creamy.

Harviestoun Brewery's Ola Dubh Special 12 Reserve - Scottish black magic with a whisky edge.

AND THE WINNER IS:

Harviestoun Brewery's Ola Dubh Special 12 reserve.

Ola Dubh, meaning black oil in Scottish Gaelic, and pronounced Ola-doo, is an unbelievably good beer. This dark ale was matured in oak casks that were previously home to 12-year-old Highland Park single malt whisky. It's so complex you can taste the oak and the whisky as well as coffee, chocolate and smoky highlights. Bloody awesome. Be careful though, at 8 per cent alcohol volume it packs a punch.


WHISKY

Praise the Lord that I had a milestone birthday party the weekend before lockdown. The whisky gifts helped fuel my lockdown life.


THE NOMINATIONS ARE:

Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie - The unpeated but delightful black sheep of Islay whiskies.

Dalmore Cigar Malt - A politically incorrect whisky that was canned, then brought back by popular demand.

Caol Ila 12-yeard-old - A lightly peated Islay whisky that reminds you of a fresh, salty sea breeze.

Johnnie Walker Double Black - A Johnnie Walker product for proper grown ups with some smoky/peaty intensity.

AND THE WINNER IS:

Dalmore Cigar Malt.

This single malt Scottish whisky is matured in American white oak ex-bourbon casks, Matusalem oloroso sherry casks and Cabernet Sauvignon barriques, the final product being a blend of 10 and 14-year-old Dalmore single malts. It was originally designed to be enjoyed with a fine cigar (not my cup of tea), and was discontinued as smoking became a dirty word. Thank goodness the powerful whisky lobby in the US managed to get it recalled. It is a beautiful, rich whisky that has a spicy apple with cloves taste with a hint of sherry. Bloody fantastic!

WINE (excluding bubbly)

When you have Qantas frequent flyer points you can't use on flying the next best things is to use them on wine.


THE NOMINATIONS ARE:

Tahbilk Museum Release Marsanne 2013 A white wine with an unusual style from Central Victoria

Seppeltsfield Barossa Shiraz 2018 A tasty shiraz made for Qantas to mark its centenary year.

Jim Barry Clare Valley Riesling 2019 Subtly delicious riesling from South Australi's Clare Valley.

First Creek Hunter Valley Semillon 2019 A semillon from NSW's Hunter Region with a fresh citrusy zing to it.

AND THE WINNER IS:

Tahbilk Museum Release Marsanne 2013.

This wine was part of a mixed dozen from Qantas Wine, and was a delicious surprise. I hadn't tried a Marsanne style wine previous to this. Apparently the original Marsanne grapes are from the Rhone Valley in France but this fine wine comes from the Tahbilk winery in Central Victoria. It is quite different to other white wines I've tried, it's closest relative (in my amateur mind) would be an oaky chardonnay. It is very rich in body but has a certain rustic, stone-fruit taste. Wow.


SPARKLING WINE

Some things the pandemic couldn't stop, including Friday Night Bubbles with my beautiful wife.

THE NOMINATIONS ARE:

Champagne Tatinger Brut Reserve - A magnificent dry French bubbly with an effervescent but subtle tone.

Marquis de Goulaine Cremant de Loire - Another French bubbly, but this one is from the Loire Valley.

Pommery Brut Royal - We have great Aussie sparkling wines but this classy champagne gained France three out of four of the Lockdown Awards bubbly nominations.

Bay of Fires Tasmanian Cuvee - Tassie sparkling wines are on fire. Pardon the pun.

AND THE WINNER IS:

Marquis de Goulaine Cremant de Loire.

The French are a touchy bunch. Look at the way they reacted to Australia pulling out of deal to buy their inferior subs. So, if you aren't in the Champagne district of France, you can't call your wine champagne. Well, in my opinion the joke is on them. If this wine was called champagne rather than cremant (because it is made in the Loire Valley) we would be charged an extra $30 a bottle for it. As far as I am concerned, it pours, smells and tastes as good as its fancy French colleagues. But, of course, what would I know! I only drink the stuff.


MOVIES

Couldn't go to the cinema, but could hire movies on Telstra Box Office using Telstra points. Genius!

THE NOMINATIONS ARE:

Hitman's Bodyguard - Bodyguard loses job, gets hired by apparently evil hitman, lots of people die.

Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard - Down and out hitman is hired by notorious hitman's wife, lots of people die.

Pixie - Quirky Irish story about a gangster's stepdaughter. Lots of people die.

American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally - Lots of people die (in WWII) then they put on trial an American radio broadcaster who backed the wrong side - Hitler's Germany.

AND THE WINNER IS:

Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard.

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas and Morgan Freeman, this movie was a joy to watch and was perfect for a lockdown evening on the couch drinking a fine bottle of bubbly and eating nibblies. Hilariously funny in parts, it is full of non-stop action, slapstick comedy and one-liners, many of them profane in the extreme. The plot is as flimsy as a one-man tent in a cyclone but that really doesn't matter. Yes, the body count is high, but the level of fun is even higher. Warning: If it's high culture you are after, this ain't the movie.


TV SHOWS

What would we have done in lockdown without television?


THE NOMINATIONS ARE:

A.P. Bio - An American comedy I'm sure was based on my high school biology teacher. His name is Jack, he is overqualified, isn't happy teaching biology and is hilariously unsuited to a classroom role.

Secret Scotland - Cruelly, comedian Susan Calman takes us to all the places in Scotland no-one from Australia can visit at the moment.

The Walking Dead - Seems like I've been watching this gruesome but fascinating dystopian zombie epic forever.

War Of The Worlds - A novel French-British take on the HG Wells Classic with some seriously mind-bending twists.

AND THE WINNER IS:

The Walking Dead.

After more than 10 years of watching this horror classic, I still eagerly await each new episode. Sure, its quality has varied over the years, but the current final season has been spot on. There's nothing quite like spending a lockdown Monday watching a group of misfit survivors fighting for their lives with the living dead and other groups of misfit survivors. I'll be hanging out for each new episode even with my new-found freedom.


BOOKS

From history to Scottish crime novels, they filled in the time when I should have been at cafes, restaurants & pubs


THE NOMINATIONS ARE:

The Coffin Makers Garden - Stuart MacBride. Wild times as flawed former detective Ash Henderson hunts a bizarre Scottish serial killer.

Philip & Alexander: Kings & Conquerors - Adrian Goldworthy. A father and son tale from ancient history that stretches from Greece to Afghanistan (yes, they were difficult way back then).

Barbarossa - How Hitler Lost The War - Jonathon Dimbleby. Crazy dictator thinks he's a better commander than Napoleon. Ah, nope. And tens of millions pay with their lives.

The Dark Remains - William McIlvaney & Ian Rankin. A murder in Glasgow in the 1970s threatens to spark a gang war. Let the chaos begin.

AND THE WINNER IS:

The Coffin Maker's Garden - Stuart MacBride

MacBride is one of the leaders in the hugely popular Scottish crime writing scene. Every one of his books is brutal, exciting and witty. This one is certainly no exception. With Scotland withering under one of its famous storms, scarred and cynical former detective Ash Henderson sets out to find a bizarre but very successful serial killer. Henderson criss-crosses Scotland in his quest to end one man's reign of terror. This is a truly exhilarating read. I could hardly put it down ... and my wife loved it too, so much so that she is reading two earlier Ash Henderson tomes.


SPORT

We couldn't attend a stadium, so thank goodness for live sport on TV.


THE NOMINATIONS ARE:

Tokyo Olympic Games - Plenty of Aussie gold medals, delightful novelties like BMX and skateboarding, and the therapeutic calm of women's golf.

South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL challenge - All the way to the grand final with a mix of skill, ingenuity and courage.

Scotland's World Cup qualifiers - Finally, with the help of an Aussie centre forward, the Tartan Terrors look like a team going place ... but will that place be Qatar?

Socceroos World Cup qualifiers - With the help of two Scots, the Socceroos look likely to seal a berth at the finals in Qatar.

AND THE WINNER IS:

South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL challenge

What a season, even if the mighty Rabbitohs did get pipped in the grand final by the brash young Penrith Panthers team. Souths were magnificent during the lockdown weeks, and each game kept a smile on dial of so many Rabbitohs supporters as they watched on TV. Departing halfback and captain Adam Reynolds deserved to be sent off with a premiership victory, but the gods (and referee?) were against him.






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