About two months ago, I was colonized a stupendous badass of a respiratory virus*. I don't get sick very often, but this one knocked me on my butt for some time. Among its many fascinating effects, it completely eliminated my sense of smell for a while. Given that the majority of our perception of taste actually derives from our sense of smell, this presented a problem in terms of Weird Soda reviewing, i.e. everything I ate or drank tasted more or less like unseasoned boiled potatoes.
On the assumption that a series of reviews complaining about how various Weird sodas just tasted like potatoes, I decided it would be best to refrain from reviewing for a short time. Fortunately, my sense of smell has returned, and the Lab is ready to resume our duties.
I'm sure that you've been holding your breath in anticipation.
Today's review is the third of the Weird sodas we obtained at the Hawthorne Country Store in Escondido, CA. I didn't really detect a pattern in their offerings--a Lovecraftian grape soda, a Harry Potter-themed butterscotch cream soda, and this, some sort of Scandinavian holiday beverage. I present, for your edification and delight, Grandpa Lundquist's Christmas Soda.
|In the foreground: today's Weird soda. Just behind: Vorlon tomatoes. No, I'm not kidding. You'll have to ask the Kibbitzer about it.|
The label gives it the subtitle of "Scandinavian Julmust", and gives a short history. That "Jul" is Swedish for "Christmas" strikes me as a bit simplistic, so I've done a bit of looking into the matter.
"Yule" is a northern European midwinter festival. It has become associated with Christmas, but its roots are far deeper. Yule has been associated with the pagan legend of the Wild Hunt, a truly terrifying midwinter phenomenon. Sort of like Santa's sleigh, except pulled by the spirits of the dead instead of reindeer, led by a terrifying hunting-God instead of a jolly man in a red suit, and which will catch you and carry you off to Hell rather than bringing you toys. It's also associated with Odin-worship, and other pagan gods (who, in at least some old Scandinavian texts are described as Yule-beings).
Okay, maybe it's not SO different from the Lovecraftian grape soda.
In any case, though, this Julmust is (ostensibly) a Christmas soda, and supposed to be a friendly, family kind of drink, served at feasts and festivals of warmth and light in the cold of winter. Let's go with that.
Where and when: Purchased at the Hawthorne Country Store, Escondido, CA
Color: Dark brown, with almost no transparency. Quite foamy.
Scent: Oh, that's interesting. Sharp, sweet, ciderish, almost a bit citrusy. Very applelike. Pleasant and surprising.
K-i-C: "Grape beer. Smells like a grape shandy."
Taste: Quite sweet, more than I was expecting. I was anticipating something more musty or malty--this is quite clean. It's somewhere between grape and apple.
K-i-C: "Uuuuh." *shudder* "Oh, God. I'm going to go throw up now. It's got a very medicinal taste."
Me: "Really? I didn't get that at all."
K-i-C: "Well, you probably had a lot less grape-flavored medicine as a kid than I did."
The Kibbitzer finds this far more unpleasant than I do. She is visibly disgusted. I find it pretty nice. It's definitely unusual, though.
On a second sip, I get a bit more of a bitter, brewed undertone. Not really a bad thing, but it has a slightly more beer-like tone. It's still a minor component, and to me, it adds to it rather than being a problem.
Let's call it a grape-apple soda with a hint of beer, and just a hint of a link to pagan horrors of eldritch, ancient legend.
Quaff rating: 4.0. Pleasant and interesting, with some complexity underneath.
Cough rating: 0.5. While I don't find much to object to (maybe a slight distaste at the bitterness), the K-i-C is still shuddering and saying that she feels like it should be loosening phlegm.
*And my thanks to Neal Stephenson for that magnificent turn of phrase, as well as so much else.