Review – Fujifilm X-Pro2

The X-Pro2 is the first X series camera to feature Fujifilm’s new 24.3 megapixel X Trans sensor. That’s a decent jump from the 16.1 megapixels of previous X series bodies. Coming 4 years after the original and revolutionary X-Pro1, the X-Pro2 is every bit the flagship camera Fuji X shooters have been waiting for.

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Fujifilm let me borrow an X-Pro2 and the super telephoto XF100-400mm lens to review on a mid summer 3500km road trip through British Colombia and Alberta. I brought along a few other Fujifilm lenses as well as a Rokinon X mount 8mm fisheye to see what the X-Pro2 could do in various situations.

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X-Pro2 – XF100-400mm

This camera is gorgeous. It has a classic rangefinder look reminiscent of 1960’s Leica’s. As with all other X Series cameras that beauty is more than skin deep. The X Trans sensor is superb, offering outstanding detail and rich colours. The increased resolution gives you the ability to crop a bit more than you could with the old sensor.

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X-Pro2 – XF27mm f/2.8

Low light performance is good up to ISO 6400 and very usable up to ISO 12800. The mechanical shutter is good for 1/8000th of a second, up from 1/4000th on the X-T1/X-T10. The electronic shutter remains unchanged at a top speed of 1/32000th. It’s great for stealthy street shooting.

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X-Pro2 – XC 16-50mm

Auto focus points are WAY up, to 273, all of which are accessible. Wide tracking autofocus is significantly improved and the burst rate of 8 frames per second makes the X-Pro2 a real option for things like motorsports. My X-T10 handled a Formula 1 race with ease but the X-Pro2 would’ve been that much better. Time to plan for next year.

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X-Pro2 – XF100-400mm

The hybrid viewfinder is as cool as it gets. If you long for the days of film but need the information of a modern camera you will love the optical viewfinder (OVF). If you need to see exactly what you’re shooting you will love the electronic viewfinder (EVF). I shoot mostly with the EVF, its ultra fast refresh rate and high resolution work better for me but the OVF saw some duty with the XF27mm f/2.8 during some street shooting sessions. Of note for people who wear glasses while shooting, if they’re polarized sunglasses all you’ll see is a black EVF or rear screen when shooting landscape. I don’t get this with my X-T10 and it’s a bit frustrating.

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X-Pro2 – Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye

The controls ore excellent and you have 6 programmable buttons to personalize. the shutter speed and ISO dials are stacked like on old 35mm film camera and I absolutely love it that way. So many reviewers/photographers have complained about this setup and some have questioned its longevity. My 1960’s era Pentax SP1000 35mm SLR has an almost identical setup and it works perfectly.

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X-Pro2 – XF 27mm f/2.8

There’s a new joystick for selecting autofocus points. It’s placed within reach of your right thumb and is a great addition that will hopefully make its way to other X Series cameras. My only beef, and it’s a very small one, is that when carrying the X-Pro2 with a shoulder strap and leaving the cameras powered on between shoots it can easily move you focus point by rubbing up against you while walking.

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X-Pro2 – XF 100-400mm

Shooting with the X-Pro2 is so rewarding. Every button, every click, every shutter actuation sounds beautiful. The images are sublime, as X shooters have come to expect, and Fujifilm’s legendary film simulations look better than ever and the new Acros simulation is downright mesmerizing.

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X-Pro2 – XF 35mm f/1.4 R – Acros film simulation 

 

The semi-matte finish and magnesium body ensure this thing will last and age nicely. With weather sealing to keep dust and water out you will be shooting with the X-Pro2 for years to come. The diopter is new and improved, with a bigger dial which is easier to handle and less likely to be adjusted in you camera bag.

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X-Pro2 – Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye

 

There are dual card slots under a weather sealed door that has moved from the battery compartment to the side of the body. Shoot raw and JPEG simultaneously, use one for video and one for stills, whatever makes you happy. I’m not a video guy but the 1080 60p is better than previous Fujifilm efforts. If you want 4K you’ll want to wait for the X-T2.

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X-Pro2 – XC50-230mm

Overall the X-Pro2 is an outstanding camera. Good looking, solid performer, great images, extensive Fuji glass to suit every photographer. But that can be said about lots of cameras from every manufacturer. The difference with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 is something that isn’t technical, it’s a feeling. The X-Pro2 makes me want to use it. It makes me want to flex my creative muscles, it’s makes me feel like an artist as opposed to just some guy with a fancy camera.

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X-Pro2 – XF100-400mm

If you’re an X Series shooter, and want to upgrade your gear, the X-Pro2 will not disappoint.

Scott.

Retro Review – Minolta Hi-Matic 7s

My rangefinder obsession continues undiminished. My Minolta Hi-Matic 7s is one I’ve had for quite a while but I just got around to putting a roll through it. I chose Ilford Delta 400 Professional black and white negative film, my first time shooting with it. First time camera with first time film produced some interesting results.

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The Hi-Matic 7s was produced in 1966 as a replacement to the Hi-Matic 7. The only real difference was the addition of a hot shoe. It has a Rokkor 45mm f/1.8 lens that stops down to f/22. Shutter speeds go from bulb up to 1/500th of a second, not the fastest but that’s not really what this camera is about. The meter in my example doesn’t work so I shot everything using the “Sunny Sixteen” rule with varying success.

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The Rokkor glass is very sexy. Great contrast, sharp in the center only falling off a bit wide open. The viewfinder patch and frame lines are bright and the finders parallax correction is decent from 6 feet to infinity. Closer than 6 feet is a bit off, something that I’ll be able to anticipate on my next roll. The film advance lever has the longest throw I’ve ever come across which takes some time to master. it’s easy enough to operate but it’s hard to move though a single frame in one motion.

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It’s a bit of a brick. Heavy, not super portable, but still smaller than SLR’s of a similar vintage. I picked mine up on Ebay from a vintage camera seller in Japan. Other than the meter it’s perfect and I got it for $50 including shipping. I did manage to shoot some nice shots of the inside of my lens caps too as rangefinders don’t look though the lens like an SLR. I’m sure it won’t be the last time.

Film is not dead! Don’t let your old cameras collect dust in the attic. Go get them, clean them up, get some film, and create art!

Scott.

Montreal – 2016 F1 Canadian Grand Prix

The Canadian Grand Prix is a bucket list item that I have now checked off. The 7th race of the 21 race 2016 Formula 1 calendar took place from June 10th to 13th on Isle Notre Dame at the Circuit Gilles Villineuve. My dad and I took in all three days of racing in varying amounts with Sunday being our longest day at the track. In our off track time we tried to explore as much of Montreal as possible on foot.

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Turn 8 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

The race itself was as enjoyable as I’d hoped. Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes took the top spot after a race long battle with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. My favourite driver and team, Jenson Button and McLaren Honda, didn’t make it to the end suffering an engine failure bu the MP4-31 looks and sounds great.

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The Biosphere from Expo ’67

Getting to the track was a breeze on the Metro. We stayed a few blocks from Berri-UQAM, the central Metro station. From there it’s a short one stop trip under the river to Jean Drapeau Station and a short walk to the track. We bought 3 day Metro passes for $18 and had little trouble navigating the system.

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Mural Festival

There are free festivals that coincide with the GP weekend. Mural Festival, a massive street festival on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, and Francofolies, a 6 stage music festival centered around the Place Des Arts along Rue Sainte-Catherine. They’d be reason enough to visit Montreal on their own let alone the Grand Prix.

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Old Montreal

Old Montreal was my favourite part of town. The Saint-Sulpice Seminary being the oldest building dating back to 1687 and the Notre-Dame Basilica (1829)… I have no words to describe how beautiful and grand it is. Narrow cobblestone streets lined by old buildings give a European charm to the area. One could be forgiven for thinking they were in Prague or Paris. Restaurants, shops, bars, the area has a great vibe and was in full swing over the race weekend. Make sure to check out the Old Port of Montreal while you’re in the area.

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The Old Port of Montreal

There are 2 places you simply have to go if you want an authentic, old school Montreal meal. First is Schwartz’s Deli, the quintessential spot for Montreal Smoked Meat and Poutine. It’s been serving the hits at 3895 Saint-Laurent Boulevard since 1928. Be prepared to line up and wait, which is totally worth it.

The second place is Bar-B-Barn, a chicken and rib joint that has been frozen in time since 1967. Dark wood, dim lighting, amazing ribs and chicken, and all the nostalgia you can handle. Come hungry or be prepared to leave with a doggy bag.

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Bar B Barn

Street art, both visual and performance, are everywhere in Montreal. Epic murals, street performers, musicians. Buskers in Metro stations have dedicated spots and seemed to be doing quite well playing for the massive GP crowds that swept through the stations daily.

A few tips. Try to speak French, even if you’re terrible. Everyone we dealt with, minus our airport bus driver, spoke fluent English but we noticed a marked improvement in service if we attempted to speak French. A simple Bonjour or Merci will get you a long way. That being said, service in Montreal was disappointing on all fronts. It was a busy weekend but I was surprised that things took as long as they did in restaurants and bars, some not full at all.

Learn the Montreal Metro system before you go. It uses a tap system similar to a lot of major transit systems but only requires you to tap in, not out. Learn where the stations are, where you can get to, look up the 747 Airport Bus, a cheap and decent way to get from Trudeau Airport to Downtown Montreal.

Montreal is a wonderful place that I am anxious to return to. So much history, so much culture, so much potential. I’ve only scratched the surface and I can’t wait to return.

Thanks to my wife Lyndsey for arranging the Grand Prix tickets and my dad for arranging our flights. All photos in this post (minus the food photos) we taking using Fujifilm X series cameras and lenses. Thanks to Fujifilm for their continued support (they let me borrow stuff, it’s awesome).

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Scott.

 

Review – Panasonic Lumix LX-100

When I want to review a camera but the manufacturer plays the “someone will contact you shortly” game… I buy the camera myself. The Panasonic Lumix LX-100 has been on my radar for some time. 4K video, 12.8mp micro four thirds sensor, fast Leica glass. All the ingredients for a great little camera. Do the specs add up? Let’s find out.

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This thing is a dust magnet…

Let’s start with 4K video. I’m not a video guy but this thing is seriously impressive given it’s small size. 30 frames per second might not be enough for the hardcore videographers out there but this camera isn’t aimed at them. Sadly my video skills are abysmal so I’ll post something dug up from YouTube in place of my kid playing indoor soccer.

Video = good, but how does the LX-100 fair as a still camera? It’s bigger than the Sony RX100 IV but it has a larger micro 4/3 sensor, larger than the Sony’s 1″ sensor. It fits in a coat pocket but it’s a bit big to tuck into your Levis. Full manual controls with dedicated dials for shutter speed, exposure compensation, and an aperture ring on the lens. The Lieca DC Vario-Summilux lens is fast and sharp. Its 10.9-34mm focal length (25-74mm full frame equivalent) and f/1.7-2.8 aperture are a good combo.

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Colour and contrast are are good in most light as long as you don’t push ISO above 1600. Higher ISO’s produce a strange yellow/orange hue. This is my first micro 4/3 experience and I was hoping for better ISO flexibility. That being said the built in image stabilization made hand holding longer shutter speeds a good option.

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Low light performance is just ok. Noise is controllable as long as you stay under ISO 1600, ISO 800 and under are strongly recommended. Auto-focus in low light is truly terrible (sorry Panasonic) and often results in complete failure. Manual focusing is a good alternative. It utilizes a zoomed in area and focus peaking in the center of the frame.

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The Leica glass is impressive. Edge to edge sharpness is good wide open and gets better as the lens is stopped down. At f/1.7 you can get acceptable shallow depth of field but the bokeh is kind of blah. It almost looks like smartphone bokeh.

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Macro shooting is good but again auto-focus drops the ball. To focus on close subjects you have to use manual focus. Pretty typical for close focusing though and not a bad thing.

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There are some creative filters you can shoot with but they’re mostly garbage. The only one I found useful was high contrast black and white. After shooting with Fujifilm’s film simulations other creative filters are always disappointing. Let this be a lesson, don’t shoot with filters because they suck.

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Long exposures look good aside from some weird lines in the starbursts around lights. Noise is well controlled and the menu and dials are easy to navigate to get the perfect long exposure.

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For all of you food instagrammers the LX-100 is a great choice. Small, discreet, good colour, rich detail, shallow depth of field wide open. Food photography is where this little camera shines.

The odd thing about the LX-100 is that it has a twin. The Leica D-Lux Type 109. It’s almost identical inside and out. The LX-100 has a nice grip and thumb rest where the D-Lux is smooth and minimalist but other than that? The LX-100 costs $800-$1000+ CAD where the Leica is $1599 CAD. I can’t imagine the Leica being worth the extra cash.

So who’s the Lumix LX-100 for? It’s perfect for the hobby/enthusiast photographer looking to take their images and video to the next level. It combines great video with good image quality and packs it into a small, well built camera with a premium feel and look that will appeal to the fashion conscious. It doesn’t quite hold up if you’re a serios shooter looking for a pocket/travel camera. It’s close but it’s not quite there.

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Scott.

 

3 weeks with the Fujifilm X-E2s

January saw 3 new cameras and a new lens added to the Fujifilm X series lineup. All of them were given extensive coverage and praise by many outlets, all except one. The X-E2s is an updated version of the X-E2 where as everything else was essentially brand new. Sure, the X-Pro1 and X-Pro2 look very similar but they’re so far apart in terms of performance it’s hard to see the 2 as a simple upgrade.

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Fujifilm X-E2s/Fujinon XF 27mm f/2.8

I owned the original X-E1 but decided to pick up an X-T10 instead of the X-E2 due to a few performance differences. The X-E2s gives you everything the X-T10 has in a sexy rangefinder style body. The grip, top plate, and buttons have been slightly restyled from the X-E2 and they are noticeable but not life changing upgrades. With the firmware 4.0 upgrade current X-E2 owners get all the internal upgrades (electronic shutter, better AF etc.) for free.

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If you’re a Fujiflim X series shooter you’ll feel right at home with the X-E2s. The image quality is on par with the rest of the lineup and its firmware brings usability up to the same level as well. The only thing I missed when switching between the X-T10 and the X-E2s is the front control dial/button. It’s useful when shooting in manual mode and when doing long exposure work when using lenses without a manual aperture ring. Is it a deal breaker? Not really. The X-E2s is slightly smaller than the X-T10 and that is important in some situations.

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Price wise the X-E2s sits in the middle of the pack (excluding the X-Pro2) at $899 body only. That’s the same as the X-T10, $100 more than the X-E2 which is on sale until March 31st and still readily available, and $450 less than the weather sealed X-T1. The entry level X-M1 ($549 body only) and X-A2 ($549 with the 16-55mm OIS II lens) occupy the bottom end of the lineup but are crazy bargains given the image quality they produce.

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All images shown here were shot with the X-E2s and various X Series lenses except the product shot, that was an LG G4. Out of camera jpegs are outstanding and the latest film simulations are all there minus X-Pro2 exclusive Acros black and white. These aren’t filters, they are simulations of classic film stock right down to the grain and they’re fantastic to shoot with.

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Should you buy an X-E2s over an X-T10 or an X-E2? That’s a difficult question to answer. The X-T10 offers slightly more functionality with its extra buttons and tilting screen. The X-E2 offers a lower price with identical specs. The X-E2s does improve the feel of the rear controls over the X-E2 and the grip is more comfortable. I would guess the X-E2 won’t be available for much longer so keep an eye out for price drops and clearance sales. If you like the rangefinder style body and can live with fewer buttons get the X-E2s. If you like the SLR-ish look of the X-T10 you won’t regret buying it either. It really is a question of style, not substance.

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Thanks to Fujifilm Canada for letting me test this camera and share my thoughts. I’ll be reviewing the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-1 instant photo printer in an upcoming post. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see what I’m up to and what gear I’m using. You can subscribe to this blog or share it via the buttons below. Click some, you know you want to.

Scott.

Quick Bite – The Sugar Shack in 70 Mile House

Ah 70 Mile House, the gateway to Green Lake and a place you’d probably miss if you blinked while driving through it on Highway 97. 70 Mile House isn’t known for much but that is about to change. There’s a new spot about a mile past the general store that feels like a slice of Quebec in the middle of rural BC. The Sugar Shack has everything your inner Quebecois desires. Tourtière du Lac-St-Jean, Poutine, Montreal Smoked Meat, Maple baked beans, Cretons, Maple syrup, Maple toffee, Maple bacon… They also do some kick-ass breakfasts and make maple sweetened coffee.

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I stopped in to check out their smoked meat sandwich and poutine. The poutine is very good. hand cut fries, house made gravy, and real cheese curds. It’s up there with anything you can get in Vancouver and wouldn’t be out of place in Quebec. The smoked meat sandwich was just ok. The meat is very salty and a bit dry.

The maple sweetened coffee and poutine make The Sugar Shack a “must visit” kind of place if you ever find yourself in this picturesque part of BC.

Facebook – The Sugar Shack

World wide web – thesugarshack.sfobc.com

Scott.

Booze Reviews, Oktoberfest Beers!!!

Ah October, Thanksgiving turkey dinners, food coma’s and Oktoberfest. Beer is a wonderful thing and having a 16-18 day festival to honor it sounds good to me. I’m going to introduce you to 2 beers today, one made specifically for Oktoberfest and another that is a Czech style pilsner.

First up is Surrey’s own Russell Brewing Company with another solid entry in their Brewmaster series, Russell Marzen. Marzen is a tradition Oktoberfest beer that’s been brewed since the 16th century in Bavaria. Russell’s take on this classic has all of the usual traits of a good “Dunkles Märzenwhich is amber to dark in color (amber in this case) with a rich malt flavor and a clean finish. The only major difference is this Canadian interpretation is decidedly more hop filled than the German marzen, which isn’t a bad thing. Once again the Russell Brewmaster series hits a home run. One minor quibble is the only size available is a 650ml bottle which makes it hard to get it in to restaurants that aren’t willing to put it on tap. This is an issue I have with the Brewmaster Series in its entirety, a missed opportunity.

Next up is the clean and refreshing Pilsner from Gordon Biersch in San Jose, California. an area know more for Silicon Valley than beer. This isn’t a typical west coast craft beer, there’s hops but not a lot and it is very easy to drink. It’s a great summer beer that can also hold its own on a cold fall night. You’ll notice in the picture that I picked up a five pack…ya ya someone was thirsty before picture time. This beer gets bonus points for being distributed locally by my pals at Beerthirst, you should check out the great stuff they’re doing for the local  beer scene.

Stop drinking crappy beer!!!! You have no excuse.

Scott.

Booze Reviews – Russell Brewing Company Brewmaster Series

Craft beer, really good craft beer, has been the sole property of the Pacific coast of the good old USA for a few years now. Enough hops to punch you in the face from the inside, Porters darker than night time at Mount St. Helens and every other bizarre infusion your could imagine have become commonplace in Washington. Oregon and Northern California. Canada has been left in the dust by a nation known for Bud Light and spray cheese.

Russel Brewing Company, located in Surrey, has posted a serious challenge to the supremacy of the Pacific North West of America with its Brewmaster Series. The only issue with these wonderfully crafted bottles and kegs filled with liquid gold is that they are limited quantity. From the Blood Alley ESB to the Black Death Porter every beer in this series is outstanding. My personal favorite is the Guuud! Ale designed specifically Kitanoya-Guu Izakaya restaurants as a palate cleanser.

Like I said these beers are limited quantity releases and are available at select private liquor stores including Central City in Surrey and Legacy Liquor Store in the athletes village. Get them before they’re gone, or contact Russell and demand they be put into full production!!!

Cheers

Scott.

Abigail’s Party

Have you ever gone somewhere, walked in the door and said to yourself “If I owned a restaurant it would be just like this.”? Abigail’s Party oozes cool, it’s small and intimate and has great atmosphere and the food holds up against its visual appeal. Located at 1685 Yew street in Kits, right across the street from the (in)famous Kingshead Pub this little section of Yew street is as cool a block as you will find anywhere in Vancouver.

Being Jersey Shore fans Lyndsey and I had to try the Deep Fried Pickles served with paprika aioli which were as good as Snooki promised they would be. We also tried the Tuna Tartare which was cured in grapefruit and served with avocado and cucumber with sesame wonton crisps. Very light and fresh, I could have eaten a lot more of this dish. Apologies for the picture quality in this post, it’s time for an iPhone, sorry Blackberry, we had a good run.

For our mains we shared the Aged Cheddar Mac and Cheese which was so good I’ve had dreams about it. The aged cheddar was very sharp and kicked what is normally a sad letdown at restaurants in to a winner. Lyndsey had the Herb Crusted Halibut with asparagus, clams and fingerling potatoes in a curry cream sauce. The fish was great judging from the small bite I had. The herb crust was made up of almond, basil, italian parsley, chervil and tarragon.

I had the Steak Frites, a staple of French Cuisine in North America. It consisted of a medium rare flat iron steak from Pemberton Meadows served sliced over triple fried Kennebec fries with an arugula salad. Everything about this dish was great, the steak, the fries, the peppery arugula salad, everything.

I’ve been told that I can be too positive in my reviews, I will say this once, I give praise where praise is due and I’m not in the business of going to eat at restaurants where I have heard others had poor service or bad food. I will always tell you straight up if I enjoyed my experience or if there were areas that needed improvement. Abigail’s Party is the real deal, go there and find out for yourself. Follow them on twitter too, they’re good times.

Scott.

Booze Reviews! Cocktails in a can

It’s a good thing when 2 days after a conversation about whether cocktails in a can exist they show up on your kitchen counter. They may not be the exact kind I was looking for but Jack Daniels and cola along with Jack Daniels and lemonade are close enough to the rum and cola that I was searching for. Why haven’t these pre-made drinks in a can existed until now? I don’t know but I’m glad they’re here.

Jack Daniels, as I’m sure most of you know, is a Tennessee Whiskey which is a type of bourbon made in…wait for it…Tennessee!! The Jack Daniels brand is arguably the most well known type of Tennessee Whisky and is very popular among the mixed drink crowd. The canned version of the popular JD and cola tastes just like it would if you mixed it yourself and a can comes in at a healthy 6% abv. There are 2 minor issues I have with this beverage, the first being that it was a little flat. I’m not sure what would cause the lack of carbonation but it would do this drink wonders. The second issue is that back when I was a young lad, in my early 20’s, I got sloppy drunk on JD and cola at the now defunct Marble Arch Gentleman’s Club and ever since I’ve had a problem with JD in general. The fact that I enjoyed this drink means that my aversion is weakening or I’m getting old.

The JD and lemonade was flat as well but that’s ok because lemonade is supposed to be flat. Overall these canned drinks surprised me with their apparent quality and lack of the chemical taste that plagues coolers and “hard” lemonades. I could see this replacing beer in my cooler on hot days at the cabin or playing softball because it’s more refreshing and less filling.

Yay for Booze Reviews!!!

Scott.