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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 creations of Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill.
Jack and Victor first appeared on TV in Chewin’ The Fat, a sketch show that began life on BBC Radio Scotland. The show’s success led to a television series on BBC One Scotland. By Series 3, it was being shown nationally across the UK. Chewin’ The Fat ran for four series, with a Hogmanay special broadcast each year from 2000 to 2005.
Jack and Victor were a pair of old-age pensioners from Glasgow, played by Kiernan and Hemphill themselves. 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. When Chewin’ The Fat ended, Jack and Victor were the obvious choice 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 shows 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 it has aged quite so well. I remember seeing a VHS copy of the original Still Game stage show and thinking it was the funniest thing I had seen in years and the early series of the TV show were much the same. I thought it lost its way a bit in later years but still 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 this makes more sense than other TV/whisky tie-ins. Jack, Victor & co are shown to enjoy a dram on several occasions and even visit a distillery at one point. Beyond that, I think it’s pretty obvious that the writers were looking for a way to maintain the profitability of their most successful property. I’m not criticising, by the way, 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 usually 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 many 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. Personally, I thought the shiny new Jack and Victor crest looked suspiciously like that of Glasgow-based blender and bottler, Douglas Laing and thought maybe they had something to do with putting it together. That doesn’t seem to be the case, however, as 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. Wee touch of oak and some subtle smoke. Water releases apple and pear. Lemon too.
Taste: Orange and chocolate. Honey. Gentle peppery spice. Caramel and toffee. Apple. Surprisingly oaky. Cinnamon. Overbrewed tea. Decent weight for a blend at 40%.
Value for money: 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 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 of ridiculous amounts. So fair play. Good luck to the Craiglang boys in this, their comedy retirement.
For more on Jack and Victor whisky, visit here