Though our request was for novelties to test, some wholesalers and retailers sent us samples of their more grown-up products. The contrast was extraordinary, and useful. Yes, we loved Theakston's Black Sheep Ale, the 21-year-old Sainsbury Royal Elgin whisky, and the 16-year-old Speyside. The 10-year- old tawny port was mellow and divine, and the vintage Dows sprightly and beautiful. How, we came to wonder, can the same shops that sell these stock apple wines dressed up as tequila cocktail, spiked lemonade, and various rather sinister candy drinks? Only the vodkas, the chic new spirit of preference in the youth market, showed class. Notably, the Polmos Wodka Wyborowa Pure Grain is a beautifully made spirit. May in 1996 it be drunk with the dignity it deserves.
Hooper's Ginger Brew "Thirst Quencher": Strong ginger flavour, but with a chemically edge. Sinister to label booze "thirst quencher".
Hooch Alcoholic Lemonade:Nasty commercial lemonade spiked for juvenile delinquents.
Jetts Lime Clear Beer: described itself as "cold filtered". Pure cleaning fluid. Smirnoff Moscow Mule: Its rust-coloured, metal-effect bottle is a packaging crime. Drink tastes as if it involves ginger ale and Angostura bitters.
Marks & Spencer Vodka Lemon and Tonic: Harsh, not a patch on the real stuff.
Sainsbury's Piranha Alcoholic Lemonade: Inexcusable.
Mrs Pucker's Citrus Brew: Foul-tasting skoosh aimed at kiddie market. Entirely reprehensible.
Mrs Pucker's Alcoholic Orange: A melted Mr Man lolly. Nasty.
Strong Cider Shock: Urine soaked alley on the nose; very foul tasting too.
Red Hot Slimmer: Comes in rocket-shaped, pocket-sized container that prompted a witty lady onlooker to inquire. "Does it come with batteries?"Aimed at kids who want to sneak drinks into dance halls. Chillis lend glowing warmth to aftertaste. Rather good.
Cactus Jack Tequilla Shooter: More pickle in the pocket-packaging.
Ravers Mexican Sunrise: Acidyellow chemistry experiment. Cough medicine taste. Truly the worst of the bunch.
Smirnoff Mellow Russian Vodka Black Label: Very drinkable. Has to be neat and very cold.
Polmos Zubrowka Bison Brand Wodka: Composty.
Polmos Wodka Wyborowa Pure Grain: Smooth, full-bodied, viscous, sweet edge, excellent.
Polmos Krolewska: Pretty bottle. Raw tasting.