Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Balvenie 17 Year Old Madeira Cask (750 ml sepia-toned bottle of fond memories)

Tasting notes:
      Approaching the nose on this discontinued dram is like nosing half of a lemon skin holding caramel custard, candied oranges from Victorian era, orange oil from the Renaissance, and olive oil from 5th century Athens, all cryogenically preserved in the caramel custard until it was spooned into the lemon skin. There are also hints of plantain leaves crocheted into the ascot version of a Scardigan, the Scardscot, with palm fronds used as thread to lace them--in the color of apricot, of course. The person wearing the Scardscot is Julia Child, of course, and she's drinking the most exquisite orange pekoe tea you've ever encountered. And she's sitting on the back porch watching a scarecrow made of ever-so-slightly fermented clementine oranges that attracts ravens and leaves them drunk--and only when they get rowdy afterwards do they become an unkindness.

     The mouth is like melted ice cream you failed to eat in time because you found the perfect distraction from it. The middle is creamy and sophisticated, like a Twinkie made by a Michelin 3-star pastry chef.  The body of the whisky is simply perfect. I'd say it's like this or that beautiful celebrity, but then I'd have to issue a full-blown DISANALOGY ALERT, because you know damn well that were you to run into that person in real life, it wouldn't be as good as the airbrushed or well-lit version you're used to fantasizing about. By contrast, this is the real thing: no makeup required, no cellulite, no wrinkles, no egos, no looking down on the little people, just structured perfection. 
     The finish descends gently, like a perfectly programmed drone, landing delicately with a timely delivery of peppermint molasses. The finish stays for so so long. It creates a halo around the tongue that is transcendent enough that Bill decides to beatify himself.  Saint Bill pronounces, ex cathedra, that this is awesome.  It's a case of halo-tongued, auto-erotic-beatification.   

--On the scale of Bills who should be beatified (and will be sorely missed when they're gone)--
The Balvenie 17 Year Old Madeira Cask is Bill Murray--I mean, it's Bill Murray. Top choice here, hands down.  And I don't even want to think about what we'll all do once he's gone.


--Our thanks to David Laird and the Balvenie for the sample!


Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Wemyss "A Matter of Smoke" 15 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (50 ml White Russian replacement kit mini)

Tasting notes:
      A gardenia laurel placed in a Big Green Egg.  A Tour de France stage winner, clad entirely in merino wool “throw back” cycling attire, after peddling 200 km on a 39ºC day.  A cedar Adirondack chair that Colonel Sanders once sat in and, rumor has it, sketched out plans for the Double Down.  A garish ceremonial peace pipe smoked by Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan.

     On the mouth there’s the surprising taste of dill, as when you discover that your turkey sandwich rubbed shoulders with a pickle cut lengthwise.  If the nose is light, the mouth is stronger.  I want to say it’s feisty but smooth, and perhaps a little boozy up front.  It’s like a well-oiled body builder, gleaming with a sheen of rosemary-infused tea tree oil, right after the final pose-down.  He’s eager to drink a series white Russians since (1) he failed to place and he (2) doesn’t have to worry about his weight for a while.  Overall, the mouth is where the real strength of this dram reside.  There’s depth, there’s range, there’s the incredulity of “you sunk my battleship.”
     The finish is a weather balloon never mistaken for a UFO.  Not once.  It is now neglected, anchored to a large drum by a short tether.  The guy who inflated it spat a peppermint stick into it before sealing it.  I have the memorable sensation of having chewed pine tar gum, a performance-enhancing technique not yet banned in the community loogie-spitting contest.  My failure to place has me thinking about white Russians.


--On the scale of  mixed drinks with a well-deserved comeback--
The Wemyss "A Matter of Smoke" 15 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky is the White Russian--David Wondrich, the drinks correspondent for Esquire says it best: “When I first encountered it in the 1970s, the White Russian was something real alcoholics drank, or beginners.”  Now, ordering the drink is “the mark of the hipster,” he writes in The New York Times.  Now go get yourself some Wemyss.

--Our thanks to Karen Stewart and Wemyss for the sample!

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Glenrothes 18 Year 1996 from The Exclusive Malts (30 ml beef stew spice container)

Tasting notes:
      The Glenrothes 18 Year 1996 from The Exclusive Malts is a test of suggestiveness. Were I not to know that it were Glenrothes, would I still find a rich burgundy-drenched beef stew clotting my nostrils? It's impossible to say, given that we don't fly blind, but I imagine that it surely would be there, as we all know that Glenrothes eschews ex-Bourbon casks in lieu of Maillard-reaction deglazed fond-encrusted iron soup kettles. Don't they? Back me up here, guys! Guys? Fine. Anyways, on the nose is beef stew mixed with narcissus flowers, deck wood, beef stew, sourballs, caramelized grapefruit slices, and beef stew: The scene of an ill-fated Arkansas trailer-park wedding during tornado season. Oh, the humanity! But it doesn't stop there; we also got a hipster's heirloom quinoa food truck that runs on canola oil and irony that ran off the road into an embankment during an argument over the ethics of larding with black vs. white conflict truffles.

     The assertive nose is translated down to the mouth via ad hoc translations of the Rosetta Stone's hieroglyphics, and no fruit was found: Only savories such as tea leaves, molasses, pepper oil, and Alfred Hitchcock movies. There's a gamey richness—not unlike beef stew—of a campfire meal made of a mélange of perhaps mythical animals trapped at the gloaming of the 7th day, spiced with rosemary hips, asparagus tips, and kitty nips. There's also prosciutto wrapped by figs, in a surprising twist, followed by a tingle of the static electricity produced by running a comb made of spiderweb silk through a thick mane of auburn hair.
     The finish is turning pirouettes in a spice shop in Assam, India. More flavor to savor, more nice spice; an elegant (Asian) elephant tap dancing at a cabaret. It's mace, like a knight's mace rather than a self-defensive mace.


--On the scale of great things about 1996--
The Glenrothes 18 Year 1996 from the Exclusive Malts is eating beef stew while sending and receiving email--Sure, beef stew has been around for a lot longer than 1996, and email was available to scientists and military personnel since the 1980s, but the first webmail site, Hotmail, for Pete's sake, launched in July 1996. I claim 1996 marked the year of the first perfect blend of email + beef stew for the first time. Game, set, match, Glenrothes. (And beef stew.)

--Our thanks to Sam Filmus and ImpEx for the sample!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Chieftain's Tobermory 18 Year 1995 (30 ml multidimensional prism of a dram mini)

Tasting notes:
      On the open, the nose is really funky: essence of Vienna Sausage tang, machine oil, slug trails, and masticated banana peel pinched from the maw of a yawning rhinoceros. Give it a second, and the Vienna Sausage note shifts more toward a rubber basketball bounced on your head by a bully. Give it a minute or two, and it goes floral: the bully is trying to force you to "eat them flowers." Actually, it's almost funereal: it's Baudelaire's lesser known Fleurs du morts. Then cherry blossom notes start to peek out and draw you in, not unlike a Scandinavian art film that starts out dull and awful and eventually pulls you in. It's Bergmanesque, but without the beret--and maybe a little of the genius.

     The mouth is just flat delicious. Not flat in terms of flavor, flat as in "flat-out" delicious. Imagine a boysenberry tart covered in treacle crafted in Julia Child's test kitchen. Now imagine caramelized caramel that's been caramelized back onto itself to create a caramel within a caramel within a caramel--and then placing a pristine, unwrapped caramel inside of a guy's mind. And that guy is Sir Toby Moore of Carmel (California). It's Inception, but on a scale you could have never imagined--nor ever salivated enough to handle.
     There's nice spice on the finish, or rolling hillocks of spice as Bill would say, even though that's really a word that should be reserved for use by hobbits. Imagine a hookah through which someone has smoked cardamom tobacco. Now imagine living in that hookah like you're the Turkish outcast cousin in I Dream of Jeannie. Now imagine a warming sense of satisfaction, and you're right on it.


--On the scale of canned meat products--
The Chieftain's Tobermory 18 Year 1995 is SPAM--Don't get me wrong, there's something a little weird about it at first, but once you have it out of the can and frying in a cast iron skillet, you'll be quite happy. And it's worlds better than Vienna Sausages. And light years better than Potted Meat.



--Our thanks to Sam Filmus and ImpEx for the sample!

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu The Peated 2013--53.5% abv (60 ml grooming mini)

Tasting notes:
      Ooh, I can smell the malt on this one!  Fresh and bright!  Like asparagus used to wrap bacon rather than the reverse.   I also want to say that the nose is wine casky.  Can I say that, wine casky?  Okay, there’s also peppermint, cinnamon shortbread cookies, and maraschino cherries. 

     Wow, this thing is big on the mouth.  B to the I to the G, y’all!  Boom!  I want to hose it down for fear of it blowing up!  But then it resolves into something peaceful and delicious.  I begin to feel like those Japanese macaques as they ease their way into the hot springs on a cold day.  Wellness overspreads me; a quilt of contentment wraps me.  And I feel an almost compulsive desire to groom Bill. 
 [Bill: “Hey!  Stop that!”]
     The finish is like the lingering smoke from a starting pistol fired at the beginning of an 800-metre race.  My entire gustatory apparatus stands to cheer as the finish works its way around the track to the finish line.  Salty ocean spray on flat shale rocks the color of whales.  Cream of tartar added to a roux.  Clear plastic packing tape.  I want to stay with this a while.  Bill, let me get that spot behind your ear…

--On the scale of Japanese baseball players better known in the US in their retirement--
Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu The Peated is Kaoru Betto--Sure, he won a Pacific League MVP and later managed the Hiroshima Carp, but Americans know him for his depiction as a bookish and almost surprised ball player on T-shirts worn by characters played by Jeff Bridges


--Our thanks to Marcin Miller and the Number One Drinks Company for the sample!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Talisker Storm (750 ml portable personal fuel tank)

Tasting notes:
      Before breaching the eye of the Storm, I'll note that recently we ran an intimate informal poll: Which distillery that we've never visited should we next visit? Talisker was number one for each of us! So get ready, Talisker, the Mayan prophecies and the Malt Impostors are coming.

     On the nose, the Talisker Storm is caramel melting on the sticky hands of a delighted eight-year old; a child stowaway on a cargo ship departing North Carolina's Cape Hatteras hoping to track down his father, whom his mother said "went out for a pack of cigarettes" three months ago. The crew finds him and makes him a cabin boy, but the good kind, under the protection of the exceedingly ferocious woman pirate, Jacquotte Delahaye. Note: She probably didn't dress like this. [Stephen: Bill, your scene sounds like it takes place in the 1930s, but Jaquotte Delahaye flourished in the mid-1600's!] Oh, Stephen, you always worry so much about dramatic versimilitude. Just go with your feelings, okay? We also got banana creamsicles run through wood chippers that had lately been processing burnt ash stakes used to kill vampires and the notorious crazy gangster Lars "Bananas" Foster. The overwhelming sensation is that of being Rip Van Winkle—alas, not his Pappy—and falling asleep at the base of an oak tree, and being enveloped by the cool, cool bark.
     On the mouth it's sweet and syrupy; verily nectarilicious. If your backyard fairy rode a mini moped, it would probably serve as excellent fuel for it. (Mine drives a mini Tesla, so I don't know what she'd pour into her mini tank.) It's like going to the bathroom at a five-star hotel; it's luxurious, the toilet paper is recycled Egyptian papyrus stolen from museums around the world, but it feels like you should be doing something else, too. In other words, you're deeply satisfied, but feel a tinge of something amiss, like Neo at the outset of The Matrix
     The finish is not a storm at all—it's sailing on a peat sea onto the shores of a safe harbor of lemon curd on your pie-serving schooner that's carrying a shipment of hoppy trellises designed for producing premium Weizenstarkbier. The native women are clotted and clustering around: Land ho, indeed!

--On the scale of oddly-anatomically-named weather phenomena--
The Talisker Storm is the eye of the storm--The eye is the calm hole at the center of all the action. [John: Watch him, Stephen, he might be taking this into maltgonewild territory...]  Relax, John. I like to imagine myself sipping my Talisker Storm in a serene cabana while all around me, all hell is breaking loose, and the storm just passes me by, and I just keep on sipping my dram.

--Our thanks to Hunter PR and Diageo for the sample!

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Benromach 10 (30 ml smiling Cheshire mini)

Tasting notes:
      This dram opens with the smell of a chocolate mouse in a barn. A marzipan barn. Filled with grass that's been cut to look just like the green plastic grass from an Easter basket. There's also a note of particle board made from old growth cedar that once held rare owls. And snail darters swam in its shade. And the people who cut it down were rolling coal at the time.  (OK, last bit is just to complete the humorous picture, it's not meant to describe an aroma in this whisky--though thankfully we haven't experienced the smells that dubious activity produces). Finally, the nose offers lovely low notes, like those of a caramel soap for a horse--or even a caramel horse for a soap. Mmm...

     On the mouth, it's somewhere between brilliant and just short of it, depending on which of us you ask. Imagine a wood lathe operated by a potter's wheel in an attempt to produce an earthy and woody but nonetheless attenuated Rube Goldberg contraption (that you then decide to name after Rube's less famous and uselessly silly younger brother, Gube). Is there peat in there? If so, it's like chewing on a velvet robe with peat lapels that's sewn together with kangaroo leather. Everything's better together with kangaroo leather. But there are also notes of furniture polish lacquering a balloon and weighing it down so that it gets hit with high-end, all-natural floor cleaner as the (brand new) mop passes by. To say this much, of course, is not to do the mouth justice. In other words, it's much better than some of this may sound.
The old branding
      The finish is like sitting in a chair woven from cotton candy and grass under which someone has left a peat cigarette lit. Damn hipsters. But this is one helluva chair.  There's also the dust of peanuts--or, if you prefer, the dust of Peanuts, which is to say, Pigpen's unfortunately omnipresent aura--but think of the character's charm, not his dirt. The finish fades like the Cheshire Cat, leaving only the mouth--and a smile on the face.


The new branding
--On the scale of Rube Goldberg's lesser known siblings--
The Benromach 10 is Lube Goldberg--Unlike the uselessly silly Gube and the circuitous Rube, Lube always greased the wheels to get stuff done.





--Our thanks to Chris Riesbeck and Benromach for the sample!

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