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Jack and Victor
This may come as a shock to some of you, so please brace yourselves. Jack and Victor aren’t real people. There, I said it. They are, of course, the much-loved comedy creations of Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill.
Jack and Victor were a pair of old-age pensioners from Glasgow, played by Kiernan and Hemphill. They first appeared in the excellent “Still Game” stage play that toured Scotland, England, Ireland and Canada between 1997 and 1999. The play saw Jack, Victor and Winston (played by Paul Reilly), stuck in a high-rise flat, thanks to a broken lift.
The pair’s first TV appearance came in the sketch show Chewin’ The Fat, which had itself begun life on BBC Radio Scotland. Such was the TV version’s success locally, Series 3 was rolled out nationally across the UK. Chewin’ The Fat ran for four series, with a Hogmanay special broadcast each year from 2000 to 2005. When it ended, Jack and Victor were the obvious choices for a spinoff series.
Still Game debuted in 2002. The first three series’ ran on BBC One Scotland but the show went national from series 4 onwards. The original run ended with series 6 but Jack and Victor weren’t quite finished yet.
In 2013, it was announced that the characters would be returning in a live show at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow. Initially, four performances were announced, though that was later increased to sixteen and then increased again to twenty-one! The shows played to 210,000 people and made an estimated £6,000,000 in ticket sales.
In 2016, a seventh series was announced, nine years after the end of the original run. An eighth series followed before the ninth and final series aired in 2019. A final live show concluded in November 2019 with Kiernan and Hemphill declaring that the characters would then go into “comedy retirement”.
I was a fan of the show, obviously. I was a fan of Chewin’ The Fat as well, though I’m not sure the sketch format has aged quite so well as Still Game. I first encountered Jack & Victor through a VHS copy of the original stageplay and thought it was the funniest thing I had seen in years. Being born and raised in the outskirts of Glasgow, in a very Glaswegian family, I felt like I knew the characters. The early series of the TV show were excellent and though it perhaps lost its way a little in later years, it always had its moments and the closing scenes of the final episode were genuinely touching. In any case, I’m not here to critique the show.
That statement that Jack and Victor had only gone into “comedy retirement” did seem to indicate that we hadn’t heard the last of them, however…
What has all this got to do with whisky? Well, not much. Although, you could argue that a Jack and Victor whisky makes more sense than other TV/whisky tie-ins. Jack, Victor & co are certainly shown to enjoy a dram on many occasions and even visit a distillery at one point. So what if the writers were looking for a way to maintain the profitability of their most successful property? I’m not criticising, everyone else is at it, so why not Still Game?
I could very easily rant about this being a cynical cash grab with little to entice proper whisky drinkers, but that would probably make me the sort of old grump you’d find sat at the bar in the Clansman. In any case, I think we’re all grown up enough to recognise the product for what it is, and that’s a bit of fun. At £35 a bottle it isn’t priced too steeply, although I doubt you’d pay the same for other no-age-statement blends, bottled at 40%. Still, you feel the majority of Still Game fans who fancy a bottle would be able to afford one and that’s what we want to see.
Prior to delivery, information on the blend was limited to a few tasting notes but the back of the bottle says distilled, blended and bottled in Scotland by Loch Lomond distillery. “Distilled, blended and bottled” is a curious phrase. Particularly the distilled part. Is this blend made up of both malt and grain whiskies from Loch Lomond? Is it a rather rare single distillery blend?
Smell: Vanilla fudge. Plenty of honey. Breakfast cereal. Caramel. Digestive biscuits. A wee touch of oak and some subtle smoke. Water releases apples and pears. Lemon too.
Taste: Orange and chocolate. Honey. Gentle peppery spice. Caramel and toffee. Apple. Surprisingly oaky. Cinnamon. Over brewed tea. Decent weight for a blend at 40%.
Thoughts: The likes of Aldi and Lidl have skewed the blended Scotch market with quality offerings at ridiculously low prices. Next to them, Jack and Victor’s dram looks like it costs a fortune. Taking a step back, however, £35 is hardly excessive. Especially when compared with other TV tie-ins. Would I have paid £35 for the same whisky under a different label? Without tasting first? Probably not. Having tasted it? Maybe. There’s a lot of competition at this price point but I reckon this dram could hold its own.
The label says “The perfect blend for good times, family, and auld pals” and I think that’s probably about right. It’s not a dram to ponder over for hours on end. It isn’t going to stimulate your palate to new levels of ecstasy. It is, however, a solid, tasty, session-able wee whisky.
I suppose it’s also a bit of a conversation piece. Bring this out among company and you can throw the cork away as you all relive your favourite moments from Still Game. A bit of a cash grab? Aye, but no one’s being forced to buy it and crucially, those that do fancy a bottle aren’t being fleeced for ridiculous amounts. So fair play. I say good luck to the Craiglang boys in this, their comedy retirement.
For more on Jack and Victor whisky, visit here