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AnewmeaningforPyramidselling

Fakewhiskybottlesappearinmostmarketsoftheworld.ButasErkinTouzmohamedovreports,therearesomebizarreonesinEgypt
By Erkin Touzmahamedov
WhenMoseswenttoEgypt(tolethispeoplego),he’dhardlyhaveimaginedthatthisland’sinventorswouldgivetheworld‘wateroflife’.ItisgenerallyconsideredthatAlexandria’salchemistspassedtheknowledgeofdistillation–i.e.theproductionofalcohol–toEurope.Alas,Islam’sholybooktheKoranprohibitstheinternaluseofalcohol.ButinrecentyearswiththehugeinfluxofwesterntouristsintoEgypt,especiallytheRedSeatownsofSharmElSheikh,HurghadaandDahab–favouredbydiversfromallovertheworld,thesituationischanging.BeingadiverI’vewatchedthesetownsgrowforthelast10years.IcometotheRedSeafordivingonceortwiceayear.It’snotbecauseIampartoftheidlerich–forRussiansoneweekinafourstarhotel,allinclusive,willbeanythingfrom$150to$750perpersondependingupontheseasonincludingflights–quitereasonable,yeah?AndI’vebeenwatchinglocalwhiskiesastheyappear.Imeanwatching;I’mmostlysurethesedrinksarenotfororaluse,althoughsomeofthelabelssaytheyare‘forbeverage’.Iammoreofacollectorofthoseartefacts,thananoralconsumer.EgyptianwhiskyThefirstwhiskyIspottedinEgyptwasinDahabsixyearsago,anditwasafantasticproductcalledJhoniWalkerRedTablecompletewithfigureofastridingmanandinabottleresemblingtheworld-famoussquareone.AyearlaterthelineofEgyptianwhiskiesgrewtoincludemorevariationsofJohnnieWalker:BlackLabel–JohnnieWhaler(well,thereareprobablyalotofwhalesintheRedSea),JohnWarderer,JhonVolden,andtherewasalsoawonderfulWattleHorsewhisky.ThebiggestgroupofEgyptianwhiskiesisbasedonJohnnieWalkerbrands.Let’sjustcheckonthelabelsoftwosamples...Sampleone,relatingtoBlackLabel,mainlabelreads:JhonWhelerest1820
BlackLabel
DistilledBlended&BottledClassic
Sub-labelreads:
JhonWhaler,est1944AnothersamplerelatestoRedLabel,reads:
JohnWardererest1944
DistilledBlended&BottledClassic
FinnestSpecialWhiskeySub-labelshavetwoothervariationsonthebrandname–JhonVoldenandJhonWalder.Allonthesamebottle!Andofcourse,thelowerlabelhasthosefantasticinternationalawards,givenatprestigiouswineandspiritscompetitionsinCairo,Dahab,Suez,HurghadaandAlexandria.OtherfinespiritsareproducedbyInternationalBeverageCo.;itsrangeincludesKingRobertScotchWhisky,LondonHillGinandIsleofSkyewhisky.“OriginalIsleofSkyewhiskyAged8years”,accordingtothelabelisproducedby“InternationalBeverageCo.forbeverage”.Noteitplease–notfordisinfectingsurfaces,butforbeverage.Thisoneisreallybad.Thelabelsaysit’s“blended&distilledinScotland,”whilemostofotherlocalwhiskiesalthoughbeingchameleons,proclaimtheiroriginasEgyptian.ThesamegoesforotherInternationalBeverageCo.products–LondonHillDrayGinandKingRobertWhisky,accordingtothelabel,aremadeinScotland.Forbeverage.In2002twonewwhiskiesarrived–BlackScottsWhiskyandRedScottsWhisky.Thewhiskiesjustfeatureapiper,andarenotdirectlybasedonanyoriginalScottishwhiskies.Butthebacklabelgivesheapsofinfoaboutthequalityandheritageoftheproduct:“Awhisky’smagicandbrillianceisbestcapturedinitsephemeralflavor.Theelusivecharacterisattributedtothevariationinthequalityofthebarley,theoakcasks,andsurprisinglyeventothetypeofwaterused!Ourconstantendeavouratthedistilleryistokeepthemagicaliveandtogiveyouawhiskyatitsfinestandmostelegantbest.”Thisboastfulproductatleastdoesnotclaimtobe‘MadeinScotland.’Insteaditsaysitis“ProducedbyEl-GounaDistilleriesCompany–Alexandria.ProductofEgypt.”Theonly‘malt’Egyptianwhiskysofaris‘CavendishPureMaltWhisky,singlemaltwhisky,’distilledbyYavordios,Rizk&Co.Distillery.Theshopowner,whomademebuythisone(Ireallywasinterestedinrip-offsonly)said“Thisisareallygoodwhisky–Idrinkitmyself”.Ididn’tdare–apartfrombeinggenerallysuspicious,ithadsomesandanddustinsidethebottle.LastyeartherewasaparticularlyfineadditiontotherangeoffineEgyptianwhiskies.Youcanseeit’satotalcopyofthesizeandformofChivasRegal12yearold,withthe1801engraving–aradicalstepinthequalityofbottleproduction.Theonlyvisibledifferenceisthelabel–theEgyptianrelativeofanobleScottishdrinkiscalledChefasRijalandisactuallynota‘whisky’but,accordingtothelabel,a‘whsky.’Ifyoutaketimetoreadtheaddress,you’llbesurprisedthatChefasBrothers,blendedandbottledinEgypt,isbasedinKeith.ButKeith,Egypt,notKeith,Scotland.Thelegaladdressonthelabelreads“ChefasBrothersLtd.DistillersKeithAB555BS,Egypt.”ThecoatofarmshastheveryGaelicsoundinglogotreibhireas-bunaiteacho.ThemaindifferencebetweenEgyptianwhiskiesandtheoriginals,fromwhichtheyarecopied,isprobablyinthedrinking.ButhereIamnojudgeorwitness–Ihaveneverhadthegutstotastethem.First–believeme–theyeitherdon’twashthebottlesordon’tfiltertheliquid.There’samistysedimentinallofthesamplesthatIhave.Irespectthefactthatthislandhadthebestalchemistsintheworld,butIsuspecttheyhaven’tbeenpractisingformorethan1000years,andhaven’tkeptupwiththepaceoftechnologyandtraditionofspiritsproduction.ButIconfessIamnotatotalvirgininEgyptianspirits.‘All-inclusive’inEgyptmeanstherearenotonlyfreelocalbeersandwines,butofficialspiritsalso–arum,avodka,awhiskyandabrandy.‘Official’spiritsareproducedbyalegalcompanycalledZottos,basedinAlexandria.Notlongagoourdivingteamranoutofourimportedduty-freespiritstoofastandwedecidedtotrylocalones.Itriedtonosethemallblind.Youwouldn’tbeabletotellthedifferencebetweenthemeitheronthepalate,oronthenose–onlyontheeye,becausethecoloursareslightlydifferent.Itastedthemandtheyalltastethesame,andareprettyhorrible.Theyareprobablynotpoisonousinreasonablequantities–noneofusdiedanyway.OtherEgyptianSpiritsTherangeofEgyptianspiritsisgettingoutofcontrol.Youhaveavarietyofgins,includingGoldon’sSpecialDryGin(estd1939),whichaccordingtothelabelis“bestinagoodcocktail”,andGordoon’sSpecialCairoDryGin(estd1969).BothbottlesandlabelsareverysimilartothatofGordon’s.Alcoholcontentisquotedas“VOL:40%without”.There’safinevodka,calledFineland.You’dthinkthevodkawouldfeaturelocalcamelsandpyramidsonthelabel?No–ithasthesamedeerasontheFinnishone!AndthesameredArcticsunasontheoriginalFinlandvodka.Apartfromthatit’sa‘professional’vodka–atleastthat’swhatthelabelsays.Thenthere’sthealcoholcontent–quotedas“%vol”.Nomore–just“%vol”.Maybeit’sjusttohideitfromAllah?“%vol”,“40%without”?It’saspiritwithout40%,soitmustbeanalcoholfreespirit.NewcomersontheRedSeaspiritsmarketarecognacs(withMartellandHennessycopies),anises(withaPernodcopy),andtequila(withaSauzacopy).Ididn’tmakeamistakesayingthe‘RedSeaspiritsmarket’–youwon’tfindthesecollectibleitemsinCairoorothercitiesinEgypt.Andeventhesearenotreadilyavailable–youcanfindthemonlyinselect‘boutiques’inSharmEl-SheikhandHurghada.Asforme–IamanxiouslywaitingforEgyptianstocomeupwiththeirversionsofJohnnieWalkerBlueLabelandChivasRegalRoyalSalute.Or,maybetheycanmasterevenaCoronationCaskChivas50yearold?Tastingnotes:
Sorryfolks,wecouldn’tfindheroestotastethestufftodescribethepalate,tasteandaftertastetoyou.Iamsurethattheaftertastemustdefinitelybelingering.