Saturday, July 26, 2014

The The Macallan 15 Fine Oak (750 ml discreetly discrete bottle)

Tasting notes:
      “The nose is nothing if not Fuji apples sautéed in ghee on woodblocks once used by Hokusai for printmaking.  They are served with a tall glass of wheat grass juice, no ice.”  So said Bill within seconds of nosing this venerable spirit.  Naturally we urged him to be more specific. 

     But Bill is right.  The nose is beautiful and balanced, just as we’d expect.  A buttermilk biscuit cut open while still hot and slathered with an orange marmalade made sharp and tangy by the spirals of orange rind suspended in it like squiggly mitochondria.  A promise of sherry hovers in the air as well. 
     The mouth carries the impeccable balance of this whisky forward, like an eager porter taking your bags as if along a pre-programmed route across the floor of the hotel to the elevator.  Coin-purse leather, jonquil petals, and a popsicle stick unwisely used as a bookmark at the Beinecke.  The sherry settles in at the head of the table, to be sure, but generously passes all of the dishes before serving itself.
     The finish is a delight: contrails of vanilla in an azure sky, peppered greens, buttery bib lettuce, honey from crab apple shrubs.  It is graceful.  It is discreet.  But I’m tempted to register the complaint that the finish is brisk, though perhaps that’s just a measure of my enjoyment of it.  So perhaps I shall say that it’s a session whisky.  You want to keep drinking, and the whisky repays that desire with fascination and delight.

--On the scale of ascending Internet memes--
The The Macallan Fine Oak 15 is goats--Boy, I wish I’d used my Bitcoin hoard to buy those goat-meme futures back in 2011 when I had the chance.  Right now goats are blowing up the interwebs and threatening to dethrone the multi-year sinecure of cats.  There’s even dueling LOLgoats webpages.  All of which is to say, even the stately and venerable can ascend, and that is what we have here.  

--Our thanks to Jackie Connetti and the Edrington Group for the sample! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Balvenie 15 Single Barrel Sherry Cask (50 ml Broken Badly mini)

Tasting notes:
      The Balvenie Single Barrel 15 Sherry Cask is a dark ruby dram in an otherwise clear tumbler. If we click our glasses together three times, we'll go back to Speyside? There's no place like Speyside. There's no place like Speyside. There's no place like Speyside…damn, it didn't work. Cherry Sherry. Pitted bing cherries immersed for months in Sherry until the solid and the liquid form an evolved new state of matter.

     The mouth is meal-like, as if astronauts were compressing the repast from the Satyricon into a teflon-coated tangy capsule. (Thanks, NASA!) It's balanced like eating a Beard-award winning chef's seven-course meal on a teeter-totter with Gordon Ramsay. There's prime rib with garlic butter instead of horseradish sauce, and tannic peat underbite instead of a parsley garnish.
     The finish is long and smooth, a legato segue sliding into third base on what should have been a stand-up triple. It's so very very Sherry cherry sherry. I'd like to work in beriberi here, as in, "This dram has been beriberi good to me," but I fear the reference will be lost. John speculated that the barley was grown alongside the grapes in Jerez, while Frankie Valli crooned and Prince mugged and swooned under a cherry moon. Stephen adroitly refuted this farcical flight of fancy by pointing out we were drinking Scotch, dammit! Finishing the finish was doing long intense vertical push-ups head-first into a Dyson Airblade™. Yes, your head would have to be considerably smaller, but we're imagining this review is taking place in a "down the rabbit hole" Alice in Wonderland alternate space/time reality. 

--On the scale of diseases born of vitamin or mineral deficiencies--
The Balvenie 15 Single Barrel Sherry Cask is wait a second, this is a quandary. I…I…don't know how to proceed here: If the rating is a really bad disease born of a vitamin deficiency, like beriberi or goiters, does that mean that dram was very very good, or very very bad? It is an excellent dram, and it deserves a good rating. So let's go with a different rating: 

--On the scale of songs in the musical Jersey Boys--
The Balvenie 15 Single Barrel Sherry Cask is "My Eyes Adored You"--C'mon, you knew we couldn't end with "Sherry." Too obvious, and this is a subtle dram!  



--Our thanks to The Balvenie for the sample!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Wemyss "Winter Larder" 20 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky (50 ml spice pantry bottle)

Tasting notes:
      On the nose, it's nice ripe melon, the smell of a dragonfly beating its wings against the sides of an oak barrel--no, a woven rush basket. The rest of the nose is a salted raincoat whose wearer holds prunes in her armpits.
Under the Raincoat? Under the Armpits?
     Behold the deep, rich, Sherry power on the mouth! Then the power shifts from Sherry to charcoal and then to a cherrywood-smoked loofah (unused, of course). During the momentary power vacuums, really ambitious prunes assert themselves and try to stage a coup. And they have some badass in them. The Wolves of the Supermarket.
     The finish is drool-inducing. It draws us out like a foreboding scream in the woods does teenagers in horror movies. Or like a non-herbaceous spit poultice that replaces the liquid it removes with melted caramel. Actually, what it leaves behind is richer than that: it's cantaloupe cognac with bacon. By "with bacon" here, I mean in the mash and as a side dish. And that's a side dish of three--count 'em, three--pieces (or rashers). That cuts down this dram's Bacon number dramatically.


--On the scale of possible meanings of "Winter Larder"--
The Wemyss "Winter Larder" 20 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky is the target of my summer workouts--Fortunately, by this point in the summer, it's gone from "Winter Lardass" to this kinder, gentler term. OK, you might've preferred not to hear about that, but you have to admit that it's much wittier than "cold weather pantry."


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

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Ardbeg Uigeadail (750 ml psychic balm bottle)

Tasting notes:
      The nose has grain and cereal notes, like dough balls retrieved after a bakery fire.  White pepper cracked open with lasers during some down time at the CERN accelerator.  I’m too excited to study the nose anymore.  Down the hatch!

     Wow, the mouth is a battlefield in the aftermath of war.  It’s the Second Battle of Grape Run, pitting sultanas vs. raisins; there are surprisingly intractable doctrinal differences between them.  Then, everywhere, the ashes of the fire of Alexandria.  They even burned the books on tape!  It mugs my tongue, but I should have known it would: the dark alley, the barking dog, the quickly closed curtains and darkened shades in the overlooking windows.  Too late I see that the ABV is nearly 55%.  This is what it feels like after a dragon breathes fire.  The desolation of smug; the thwarting of earnestness.  I need to step back.
     But then I say, “Cut me, Mick,” because I want back in there.  Chastened, I add a few drops of water.  I step over the raisin carcasses, deflated cases whose pulp extrudes and becomes clotted and jellied with ash.  Occasionally rivulets of grape juice come together in pools, and some drain into sorrowful streams like the earth itself is weeping.  On the open it’s smoother and nuttier.  The round and very sherried peat finds me muttering “Red wine licorice, but smoked.”  I think I have tamed the lion, but in this dream it is now no longer a lion.  It is a balm for psychic wounds.  The finish requires the word that completes this series: long, longer, longest, __________.”  Something more superlative than superlative. 


--On the scale of of what character would this be if it were in the whisky-AMC mashup entitled, Breaking Beg--
The Ardbeg Uigeadail would be Sherried Peat--Like his counterpart in Breaking Bad, Skinny Pete, this whisky leads with menace but yields soon enough to tender loyalty, couch-surfing laziness, and occasional gnomic utterances of stoner wit and wisdom.

--Our thanks to David Blackmore and Ardbeg for the sample!

--And John thanks Mike C. for an earlier gift of this whisky, and he encourages other friends--and complete strangers--to send such gifts of whisky at any time.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Wemyss "Heathery Smoke" 30 year old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (50 ml performance art piece)

Tasting notes:
      The nose of the Wemyss "Heathery Smoke" 30 yo Islay opens with lavender in a steel bottle in a time capsule set down by your great, great spinster aunt Heather of whom many stories are told. It's like a thermometer loaded with ricin and mercurochrome: Breaking it would be Bad, but you get a vicarious thrill from popping it in your little sister's mouth, ostensibly to take her temperature. It's akin to a bully shoving a potpourri sachet up your snout (if you were a dog) and even more akin to your coarse-grained sandpaper bursting into flames while you were sanding down your ebony baseball bat. [John: This really needs to be edited out.] Sorry, John, this is my review. Sweetness and fruits explode after a time, like throwing a banana instead of a bone in the opening scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey (and then watching in stupefied awe as it turns into a mango that rockets into space).

     On the mouth, it's clover filling a cleft palate while eating a cloven-hoofed demon. (Are there any other kinds? Angels dancing on pin heads disagreed.) Anise on the tongue, burning autumn leaves, smoldering rosemary sprigs, and the Peatman Cometh. It's ninja peat that crept up on you, but rather than an assassin, this ninja is simply networking and giving out business cards. Much more ominous is the Romulan Peat Vessel decloaking in Federation Palate Space outside of the neutral zone. Down-shifting bathetically, we got peat made from lavender-leaf sarongs worn by Pict mimes who perished in a hypothetical mirth quake during the Stoned Age of Mythic Giros.
     The finish goes on and on, dropping peat references like a person with an eidetic memory seeking to impress an English teacher by giving the Merriam-Webster definitions for all irregular intransitive verbs over 15 letters. An epic fail for the nerd, but an epic success for the Weymss. The finish is actually a refined Peat who prefers to be called Pyiotr. The finish finishes with elote heavy on the Cotija cheese and tajin spices. Spectacular.  

--On the scale of  tweakable adages from the late 1960s--
The Wemyss "Heathery Smoke" 30 year-old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky is "Never trust anything over 30—thank goodness that the Weymss 'Heathery Smoke' is not over 30!"--And I think that about sums it up! Yum.

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

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Lost Distillery Gerston Vintage Blended Scotch Malt Whisky (100 ml Breakfast of Champions bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     On the nose, it's cherries ad vodka. Cheerios and vodka--also known as John's pre-Malt Impostor Breakfast of Champions. Good Bless You, Mr. Rosewater--without the rosewater, but with an ozone-infused flan. Billy Pilgrim juggling a banana, a pineapple, and a mango a little too long.  The Nobel Prize that should've been.
     The mouth is really nice, like no South of the Border in South Carolina ever is. It's like running into a waiter in Paris who is friendly to tourists. There's oil and cream on the mouth, too, but then ignition occurs, and the next thing you know the train bound to North Dakota blows up. (OK, tanker cars blowing up isn't really funny, but they seem to do that a lot these days.  I mean, what the frack?) The heat that explodes as the mouth ends and the finish begins is intense and awesome, not unlike the feeling in your cheeks after realizing your fly was open the whole time you were chatting with an unbelievably gorgeous woman. 

     As the heat of the mouth dissipates, the finish is long and satisfying, like eating truffle oil tater tots right out of the oven, only they were made with heirloom potatoes cultivated by heirs putting on airs. There's also a smoky overnote and undernote that conspire to form a vice grip of delight on the palate. Add a little water, and the nose is pineappled pork ribs sizzling in a stone bibimbap bowl. Then there's Thai curry on the mouth, with eggplant, yellow curry but without the military coup. Water cuts the highs, opens the lows, like Beats by Dr. Dre--or like a one-armed guy at the fat end of a marimba.

--On the scale of great Vonnegut novels--
The Lost Distillery Gerston Vintage is Cat's Cradle--Religion, technology, and the arms race all fall under the satirical ambit of this one, and one could even go so far as to say hell freezes over.  A Vonnegut tour de force.


--Our thanks to Jeffery Karlovitch and the Lost Distillery for the sample!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Highland Park Freya (100 ml shield maiden potion bottle)

Tasting notes:
      We’re big fans of HP and have really enjoyed these special releases.  And this offering makes quite an impression.  The nose is exceptionally light.  A ragout of wren marrow.  Pin feathers and meringue cookies dropped from the Tower of Pisa in a test of gravity.  A marshmallow crowded into a canvas bag with die packs and banded stacks of cash after a bank robbery. 

     If I were nosing this blind, I’d say it was Highland Parky.  Mermaid-bacon smoke [Bill: Wouldn't that make it Highland Porky?], Sherry Butt staves, but above all, floral.  Grapefruit tree flower in full bloom, from which high-end mixed drinks with housemade bitters can be made.  Make it a wet-hopped bespoke cocktail, with the bartender squeezing the last drips from a sachet she found at the back of Oscar Wilde’s silk ruffle drawer. 
     The mouth is delicious.  Beautiful Fig Newtons made with kirsch-soaked dried plums and angel-sifted pastry flour.  An ethnic minority of plaintains militating for revolution in a banana republic.  A fireworks show viewed by a drone and then replayed backwards.
     The finish is the sensation of sucking spring water through a straw made of gardenia petals.  Sugar cookies in the shape of gingerbread men: lemon drop eyes, cream cheese mutton chops, and a rakish ascot from mascarpone cheese.  On the open it’s candy candy candy candy.  Fruit salad.  Slight bitterness, like dandelion leaves in a large salad with shaved arugula.  If the goal was to create a brilliant whisky that says, “I am a fantastic Highland Park,” then you have done well.  I shall be applying forthwith to be Freya’s shield maiden. 


--On the scale of super old national parliaments--
The Highland Park Freya is the Althing of Iceland--Founded in 930 AD, you could argue a case in the Lögberg rationally…or you could bring a bunch of bad-ass Norsemen with big-ass swords and spears and win that way. I'd bring a case of the Highland Park Freya: Case opened, case closed! 


--Our thanks to Steph Ridgway and Highland Park for the sample!

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