Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WhiskyFest NYC is only a week away! Join Stephen there!

Last year, Bill and I stormed the WhiskyFest weekend, and all sorts of craziness ensued, including the dawning of Billy Glencairnhands™. This year, it will be on a Wednesday night, not spread out over a weekend--and my liver is thanking the gods as I type this. 

I will be flying solo this time around, but just look for the Grouchos and say hey if you see me there.

WhiskyFest is put on by the good people behind Whisky Advocate (and the guy in the pic to the right is the magazine's Editor, John Hansell). Now, if this picture doesn't capture all the fun you thought would expect from the vaunted WhiskyFest event , then you might want to try the one below. 

If you're not already a ticketed passenger, regular tickets are still available. You can find them here:

If you're kicking yourself for having missed both the Early Bird pricing and the VIP tickets now that they have sold out, you may just be in luck: Stephen has one VIP ticket he's looking to sell for exactly what he paid for it, and nothing more and nothing less ($274). 
If you're interested, email him at:
       stephen (at)

The event is the biggest and the baddest of the whisky festivals you'll come across. If you're around and can swing it, it's well worth experiencing. 

Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

L'esprit de Tiffon, Cognac (30 milliliter-seconds of Heaven)

[We do not normally review cognac, but when we received this vial from Wealth Solutions alongside the vial for the Gordon & MacPhail 1948 Glen Grant 66 Year Old, we decided we needed to review it. Oh, and the fact that the grapes involved here are crazy old didn't hurt, either.]

     This all takes place, in a sense, outside our normal spacetime continuum. The offering was sold out before being made available to the general public, and short of an inconceivable auction or the unimaginable good fortune of being a Very, Very, Special Friend to one of the Few Purchasers, we live outside the light-cone emanation L'esprit de Tiffon makes in the cognac field. The "milliliter-second" is not a commonly used unit in the study of Physics. How could it be? I just invented it, and I’m not a physicist. There are, among many other units, meters-per-second, foot-pounds (which are joules), and joules-per-mole—which obviously should be joules-per-ferret, but I digress. The milliliter-second is appropriate for a drink like this, because it reintroduces L'esprit de Tiffon into the spacetime continuum via a portal in the cognactime spectrum. In spacetime, L'esprit de Tiffon is made from pre-phylloxera grapes; for those of you not up on your wine history, phylloxera spread throughout France, beginning in 1863, wiping out much viticulture before remaining grape vines were grafted on resistant—if barbaric—American roots. (It’d be ironic if it weren’t nearly tragic.) These grapes, in the cognacspectrum, were harvested from from 1805 to 1860. Between 150 and 210 years old: Outside spacetime. The ml-sec is my personal consumption unit for this inestimable drink. So far, and I’ve been thinking and typing for quite a while, much like the House of Tiffon vis-à-vis this spirit, my consumption rate is 0 ml-sec.
      Two brief notes before the review. First, as the cognac aficionado of the three of us, I nearly managed to make off with the entire glass vial. Damn John for reading the fine print and learning the details of the sample we were sent! Second, I had to decide what vessel to drink the cognac from. A Tang Dynasty golden chalice? A Fabergé rock crystal goblet carved by renowned workmaster Michael Perchin? The cracked-by-my-dishwasher cognac snifter I’ve used since 1982? Ultimately, I decided that I’d just mainline it from the 30 ml-sec container that it came to us in.

Tasting notes:
     The nose of L'esprit de Tiffon is beyond the feverish and maniacal conceptions of Walt Disney’s crew of animators for Fantasia. Beyond Tex Avery. Apple blossoms sanctified by kisses from adorable children who always wash behind their ears, raw sugar plum faeries dancing to Debussy, militarized Free French Raisins—dried in Morocco, resistant to all forms of oppression. Rich butter caramel fudge: the smell of victory over Spain, Italy, and Prussia. A grasshopper chirruping in dried herbal leaves in a sandalwood cage festooned with candied clove lanterns. Crème brûlée paratroopers storming the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, intent on liberating Carnaval revelers from ennui and angst. Or caramelizing them.
     The mouth—I don’t want to drink my last few milliliters! I want it to stay here, untouched by time, forever scenting the room, calling back to my ancestors, relaying dim but unmistakable echoes of lost time to the undefinable future. But duty calls: A whooooooosh, a buzzzzzzzz, a Champagne flute playing Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, a cedar drillbit boring into the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a surge of, uh, amazing cognac taste.

[John: Stephen, is Bill saying that cognac tastes like cognac?]

[Stephen: Yes, John, yes he is.]

Impressions of the second, and last, sip are: distilled cinnamon bark that was purified and purged before being rolled into a stick, the exultation of landing the starring role in a Quentin Tarantino movie, and a wisp of aged but unfermented winesap apple cider like the last vestige of a dream that lasted an entire lifetime before sunlight woke you.
      The finish is expanding ghost oranges and hologram peaches eaten by a hungry soldier in Shiloh. There’s a continued dialogue between the spectral fruits, ever more heatedly engaging, the whole way down my gullet. C’est extraordinaire! C’est formidable! C'est à la fois une machine de temps pour le passé et l’avenir! C'est l'usage et l'abus de Google Translate!
      Before the rating, imagine all the occasions this cognac may plausibly have been drunk to celebrate or mourn milestones in French history. The conquest of Europe by Napoleon, Waterloo, the restoration of the House of Bourbon, the Orleans monarchy, the birth of Impressionism, the premiere of Le Sacre du Printemps, the conclusion of the Great War, the eviction of the Germans from Paris in 1944, the bestowing of the Légion d’Honneur on Jerry Lewis…the mind boggles while considering that the private reserve of the House of Tiffon remained undrunk...until now!

--On the scale of time machines available to humanity--
The L’esprit de Tiffon is The Book--A book is a bridge from the author’s mind to yours. It is a distillation of the author's thoughts, the author’s passions made incarnate through our imaginations, immortal ideas captured in crystal, a mirror to see one’s self, a flame to ignite our sensibilities, and a portal from our time to the author's. Notwithstanding the internet, it is humanity’s greatest achievement; the locale of our greatest works, the bedrock of our civilizations, and the hope of our future. If only the L'esprit de Tiffon existed in time, if only I could make manifest a bottle: What a book I would write for future posterity!

   --Our thanks to Piotr Suchodolski and Wealth Solutions for the sample! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The NYC brunch launch of the Hudson Maple Cask Rye Whiskey

     Last Wednesday, Hudson held a killer brunch for journalists, bartenders, and other whiskey luminaries at Freemans Restaurant in the Lower East Side of New York City. How we ended up getting invited to it, I'm not sure. But it's no coincidence that we embrace our Impostordom, so I did what I could to make sure I could represent the site there.

     The huge table in the private room featured beautiful fall-themed decor, and the food was excellent, punctuated by a boozy chai, a Hudson Maple Cask Rye straight up, and an excellent Old Fashioned made with, you guessed it, Hudson Maple Cask Rye. The pancakes and the bacon were the stars of the show, in this reviewer's humble opinion, mostly because they were vehicles for the Wood's Bourbon Barrel Aged Vermont Pure Maple Syrup. Part of an inestimably virtuous circle, the Wood's maple syrup is aged in Hudson Bourbon barrels, then after it's aged, Hudson takes the maple-soaked barrels back and ages their rye whiskey in it to get the Hudson Maple Cask Rye. It takes the clever re-use of barrels to a whole new level.

     As I channeled my inner grad student and ate most everything that was put before me, some guy impressed with his own importance asked question after question of Gable Erenzo and new Hudson Brand Ambassador Han Shan and really left little room for others to ask any. But Gable and Han fielded the questions with grace and aplomb, and the food was excellent, as were the alcoholic accompaniments, so it was all good. 

     We've known Gable for many years, so the ease and charm with which he helped preside over the brunch came as little surprise to me. But this was my first time meeting Han, and I left feeling that Hudson would have been hard pressed to come up with a better person to succeed Gable as Hudson Brand Ambassador. So if you get a chance to attend a Hudson event and meet Han, you're well advised to jump on it. In the meantime, if you're interested in learning a little more about the man, keep an eye out for our upcoming interview with Han and Gable.

     And stay tuned for our review of the Hudson Maple Cask Rye Whiskey in the coming days. 

     Finally, our thanks to Danielle Katz and Exposure for a great event.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

An Open Cease and Desist Letter to Dogfish Head Brewery, LLC

Our legal department tells me that we get cease and desist letters all the time.  They even have a division dedicated to the legal imbroglios created by our maltgonewild site, which paralegals Rachel and Jerry over there like to call “the college savings plan” or “the early retirement fund,” for some reason.  I guess lawyers really have funny ways of talking about things.  But today we are writing our first cease and desist letter.  And for reasons not clear to me, no one in legal wanted to participate.  So I’m on my own.

There was a lot of attention paid to the recent iCloud theft of photos of Jennifer Lawrence and others.  We share their outrage and, I’m sorry to say, Stephen shares their pain.  You see, his 64mb Earthlink dial-up account was hacked, and it appears that the Dogfish Head art department had access to the unspeakable cache of photos on Reddit when designing the label to the Dogfish Head 75 minute IPA.  Oh, sure, they replaced the cat-o-nine-tails in his right hand with a wooden mallet.  And where now there is a wooden barrel, the original photo shows a [redacted] being [redacted] by a [redacted].  [Rachel: “Jerry, you see my redactions, right?”] [Jerry: “One step ahead of you, Rach.”]

So we, the members of Malt Impostor, urge you to immediately begin using the unaltered version of the image on your beer labels, and ask that you ship replacement labels to all residents in states in which the beer is sold so that--

--[Stephen: “No!  We are asking them to stop using the image altogether!”]. 

Ah, yes, we insist that you desist from use of this image on the label of your beer or anywhere else.  It is clearly recognizable as Stephen and thus constitutes a violation of his 4th Amendment rights and is tantamount, in its obscenity, to a Geneva War Crime.

Make no mistake.  We are the first to agree that the Dogfish Head 75 minute IPA tastes great.  It’s a winning blend of two tremendous beers, and the subtle kiss of maple syrup blesses their marriage.  And we appreciate the natural carbonation and the brilliant use of dry-hopped, whole-leaf Cascade hops.  We even wondered what this would be like if distilled into a whisky and then poured onto pancakes. 

But really, we can no longer abide the insult of Stephen’s boudoir shots from his barely-remembered trip to Club Clinch in Rotterdam to insult us from the shelves of our favorite victualists.  Bill thought that if we told you Stephen's safe word you would stop immediately, so for the love of all that is holy, I say [redacted].


Monday, October 13, 2014

The Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year Old "Lot B" 2012 edition (750ml Smokey Robinson Miracle Bottle)

[In anticipation of this fall's high-end bourbon releases, we dusted off this one Stephen had squirreled away in his locker in the Malt Cave.]

Tasting notes:
      A disclaimer before the review: Let's face it. The Van Winkle Special Reserve, 12 year old "Lot B" is an excellent bourbon, but it's not all that, and it's hard to find. For what it costs, there are plenty of equally good bourbons on the market—although some of them might be hard to find, too. So, stripped of hype forthwith follow our impressions.

     You can nose the Van Winkle Special Reserve, 12 year old "Lot B" from across the room, especially if the room you're in is a hot attic during a summer thunderstorm, and even more especially, if the attic is filled with wax fruit, vanilla candles, ripening prunes, and a Yankee candle storing up 15 years of angst and overly-critical self-disappointment. It's the smell you smell in an anxiety dream—You're naked at WhiskyFest, talking with John Hansell and Jim McEwan!—just before you wet the bed. That, and the efflorescences of freshly-ground cinnamon sticks and the sharp tang of pig micturations.
     On the mouth, it's yummy. Eating apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream, while sitting in a Greyhound Bus Station in Singapore. (In other words, it's a *very clean* Greyhound Bus Station.) Dark cherries being nibbled by Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on a rooftop in Dubai. A mutant sea urchin that's been crossed with bing cherries by a mad self-proclaimed Sushiologist. The tank is lit by a Japanese paper lantern liberally sprinkled with crushed garlic powder, bits of cheesecake, and crumbled Ming vases.
     The finish comes on more and more at the tip of the tongue, like a word you'd forgotten, now remembered, but are stuttering over, producing an ostinato in your mouth. It stays dusty, like the dust (not crop dust!) between the awns of wheat; a true hallmark of bourbon. 

--On the scale of mammals almost never seen in the wild--
The Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 year old "Lot B", 2012 edition is the albino rhino--There just aren't many albino rhinos (unless you believe the urban dictionary definition). Good luck finding the Van Winkle Special Reserve, 12 year old "Lot B" (or any other Van Winkle expression) in the wild; but if you do, you'll know you're enjoying A Winkle in Time.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Gordon & MacPhail 1948 Glen Grant 66 Year Old (30 ml OMG vial)

You all know the classic statement of human solipsism masquerading as an epistemological question: If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? Well, reviewing a whisky that was sold out before it was ever released provokes similar, albeit less self-centered questions: Can you overpay for something that never went on sale? (Perhaps only if you pay in Bitcoins?) Does a review of such a whisky helpfully add to the store of knowledge out there on the whisky internets, or is it more like NASCAR? Does journalism fail to be journalism when no one can verify what is reported? And what is this "journalism," anyway? Not sure we've ever heard of it before.

At any rate, our friends at Wealth Solutions went to some extraordinary lengths to get us this sample, so we're going to set these niggling questions to the side and review it, so the world knows exactly what it is that this bottler of crazily exclusive whiskies produced, even if the actual supply of the whisky was gone before any of us even knew it existed.

Tasting notes:
      To begin, it's hard not to admire the whisky in the glass, given its incredible legs and the surpassingly incredible nose. There are deep dark secrets held in the woods. And there are nymphs dancing. It's like realizing there are little trees in the place of hair on a beast's legs. After a few moments, the wood vanishes to reveal rivulets of runny caramel. The whole experience is herbaceous in a non-spicy way, but instead of emanating this herbaceosity, it pulls like a singularity, drawing us in with its lack of ostentation. More notes waft up: walnut fudge; whale ambergris spread on a piece of hardtack, a freshly oiled butcher's block, and blowing tiny smoke rings with a tiny pipe. At 66 years old, in the United States one is advised to wait one year longer before taking Social Security payments. But here, it's hard to imagine that waiting any longer would do anything more for this dram.

     On the mouth, it's gingerbread without the ginger. OK, maybe with a little ginger. Imagine an orange lollipop that's been lovingly aged--by whoever it is that might do that. The citric notes are understated and wondrous, like a bag of clementine oranges held in the pouch of a kangaroo fleeing a fire. There's also smoke and wood and sherry-ish cloying loveliness. It's like vintage munitions fired at an airshow, and the crackle of surprise in the crowd as a biplane comes down. Overall, we decided that the mouth is what it must have been like to sit next to Cary Grant in first class as he reached for his cigarette case and explained coyly that of course there was no one who could hold a candle to Grace Kelly.
     The finish explodes into a menthol delight, but after it hooked up with an onion ring. The tactile effect on the palette as the finish blossoms is just glorious. Menthol hangs around at the edges of the palate, and the long smooth finish stretches out amazingly in front of you, like the Grateful Dead in its heyday playing "Dark Star" for 64 minutes. There's just so much crazy stuff here, it's hard to capture it all. The phoenix is reborn from the ashes, scatters the ashes, chewing on a banana, as golden globes and toasted marshmallows fly off its wings. Then the finish settles down to nectar, honey with perfumes suspended in it. It's an understated perfume from an understated flower, a small dark flower that captures insects and transforms them into something like a pearl. John proclaims it stupendous and nearly stupefying. We have a hard time saying anything in response.  

--On the scale of compliments that are improbably but arguably apt for a dram--
The Gordon & MacPhail's Glen Grant 1948 66 Year Old from Wealth Solutions is "You pretty, and you're not real, I'm real."--As the little boy says at around 1:05, I'm real. I have memories of this dram, but are they real? Was it real? It certainly was pretty...



--Our thanks to Piotr Suchodolski and Wealth Solutions for the sample!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Whisky Live Boston 2014 is Oct. 24--get a 20% discount code here!

After a very successful Boston debut in the fall of 2013 and a great event last year, Whisky Live, Whisky Magazine’s grand tasting event, returns to Boston on Friday, October 24 at the State Room, 60 State Street, 33rd Floor, Boston, from 5:30PM until 10PM, and it promises to be more extravagant than ever (look at the location! 33 floors up!).  They have also apparently done away with the VIP tickets this year, which is definitely more democratic (like ground balls). 

The generous timeframe (from 5:30-10PM) is, to our minds, is a huge part of the success of this event: it's wonderful to have so much time to stroll and chat and sample whiskies slowly and carefully.

Use the code boston14 at checkout for a 20% discount on tickets. And look for all three of us there--we'll be the ones in the Grouchos having a ball.

You can buy tickets at: 

And don't forget to use the code boston14 at checkout for a 20% discount. You can thank us later.  

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