Monday, April 14, 2014

The Old St. Andrews Clubhouse Blended Scotch (50 ml golf ball)

Tasting notes:
      After extricating the bottle from the memorial glass—surprisingly tricky—and twisting the top of the golf ball off, the nose hits. And "hits" is a pretty good verb, because I don't like to be hit, and I don't like the nose. It's kinda like the restaurant mop bucket that Justin Bieber micturated into, then dumped into a vat of pulp product at a paper mill. (Note: If you've never been by a paper mill, your olfactory sense should thank you.) Beyond a pervasive sense of despair causing my face to involuntarily recoil, giving me whiplash, there's not much. Just dread, like a ghoul's hand reaching from the grave.

     I fear to drink it. And yet, I have a duty to fulfill. Who is braver, the one who recklessly plunges ahead, blind to all cues, both internal and external, a beserker gone berserk, or the one who stands up to to tradition, to community, to ferrets, and John and Stephen, who can tap the grit and sense of self to cry, "Hold! Enough! This cannot go on!" becoming a lone voice of reason on an island of insanity? Oh, the hell with nobility; thanks peer pressure. And a happy surprise: while the nose might be a cubist nightmare haunting Phidias of Athens, the mouth—though watery—has some smoke, some anise, some slow burn, a good deal of white pepper, some wax bananas…no John, not those kind of wax bananas…Kee-rist, I forget where I was. Oh yes, the mouth tastes rather delightful, kind of a Johnnie Walker Lite, or maybe a Johnnie Toddler or Johnnie Teeterer. Mercifully, much better than the caustic pit of infernal and eternal torment I was imagining. A largish lightly cloying boysenberry syrup at SHOP, the Scottish House of Porridge.
     The finish is smooth, a light rasping of charcoal, marigold nectar, raw snow peas, copper vibraphones: the finish is long and (shockingly) complex. I'm warming to this much like I imagine Anna Nicole Smith, who had to have married J. Howard Marshall for his money, perhaps warmed to his acquired Texan twang and (presumably) weak 89 year old *maltgonewildmaltgonewild* when they were *maltgonewildmaltgonewild*.


--On the scale of things that go one way and then another--
The Old St. Andrews Clubhouse Scotch Whisky is a roundabout in the middle of a golf course. I had to get golf in somehow, and I'm tickled to imagine golf carts driven round and round and round looking for the 16th hole, the 3rd hole, and most importantly, the 19th hole.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Singleton of Dufftown 28 Year 2013 Limited Edition (50 ml patron saint mini)

Tasting notes:
      Open your nostrils, and you'll find yourself at a pancake kitchen on a Sunday morning, with juvenile delinquents milling about as they prepare for the feast of Saint Dominic Savio (it'll start on time, but they've fenced all the utensils). One of the pancakes is burned, but it's skillfully covered up with a delicious caramel made out of ox tallow. Smell it again, and you realize that it's not made out of ox tallow (turns out that was fenced, too).  The under note there is dark, wild: it's wildebeest marrow, scraped from the rock hard bones with a seeping ruby. What in the world have these kids been up to?

      Open your mouth and taste a bright high note, like a first chair English horn leading a squadron into battle. It's slightly reedy, grassy, but fruity, like Gregor Mendel's little known mango-bermuda grass hybrid (they're very skinny). It's like a fruit from an alternate dimension that is to oranges as oranges are to pencil erasers. Then come the low notes, the start of the burn that will become the finish. High citrus notes and low notes of a completely different sort, like regret or burning spite or perhaps lack of consummation. The combo is oddly bucolic and vitriolic, but much more aggressive than hateful.
     Start to finish, and you find it fires off on your palate in a beautifully lazy way. There's also a faint fishy note mixed with a caramel-ly tannic one: it's a pork and baby piranha consummé (which does not actually satisfy the lack of consummation from before), ladled over a perfect wheat crouton. Object to eating baby piranhas? But there's pork in there, and the wheat crouton is perfect!


--On the scale of great feelings--
The Singleton of Dufftown 28 Year 2013 Limited Edition is the feeling of just having cut down a dying tree on your property--You're filthy with phloem and zany from xylem, but it's quite the feeling of accomplishment. And for a while afterwards, there will be a hole where it used to be.


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

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Port Ellen 34 Year 2013 Limited Edition (50 ml sprinkle on John's grave mini)

Tasting notes:
      That this is one of the best five spirits I have ever drunk.   In the history of ever.  Accordingly, I hereby request that, upon my death, my soul be conveyed to the harbor in Port Ellen so that it might be anointed with this brilliant, brilliant whisky.  (“Stephen, where’s Janice from legal?  I want this to be binding!”). 

     For me the greatest whiskies have a certain note.  Whatever precisely the note is, the note of a great whisky has a clarity, persistence, and confidence that simply cuts through the nonsense, misfortune, sorrow, and petty grievances of ordinary life to deliver you to place of transcendent beauty and grace.  In the Port Ellen 34 that note is perfectly resplendent, offering spine-tingling, hair-raising chills, like the chime produced by tapping the Hope Diamond with the Gachala Emerald.  Though it goes unregistered by my merely mortal ears, it subtly recalibrates the harmony of the spheres.  It might be better, then, to compare it to the cascading notes of Louis Armstrong that open 1928’s recording of “West End Blues.”  Here is a stunning shower of sounds so modern and forward-looking they redefine the possibilities of music.  Gabriel’s trumpet never sounded this good.  It is the sound of angels poured from a pitcher into magical pool of everlasting life.  Yes, that is the note that this expression of Port Ellen achieves, which is to say that it is a note that contains a multitude of notes, their interconnection, and entire horizons of possibility for new notes and new interconnections.

--On the scale of --

[Bill: “Psst. John! Maybe a few words about the nose and mouth?”] 

[Stephen: “Yeah, or like anything, really.”]


>Heavy sigh<

     Okay, the nose is a dark pomegranate syrup, crushed in a walnut mortar with a crystal pestle, then reduced over low, low heat in a compounding pharmacy run by Wiccans.  Orange rinds used to make a football in toddler prison.  The nose is perfectly Parthenonic with a Goldie Locks-approved levels of peat (not too much, not too little, but just right).  The peat gathers itself up into a beautiful crescendo.  Think of peat compressed by the earth to the point that it turns into a jeweled anise seed, and is subsequently worshiped by druids.  As the mouth unfolds we have a non-creamy stout pulled with three swift jerks from a firkin: a dry, substantial, iron and flint pour.  Though there’s more peat now, it doesn’t dominate; the balance here is so exceptional it could resolve the crisis in Crimea, the tensions in the Middle East, and win a 93% approval for Obamacare all before being seated at the restaurant table.  And yet still the mouth unfolds!  A brilliant note of liquefied sapphires and sprayed with diamond gas served in Heaven’s juice bar.  The chains have fallen away, and you stand on your feet and turn to see see the peat fire behind you, and all of the other whiskies you drank were just shadows on the cave of your palate.  The finish reverberates so long that you wish the word “reverberate” had more syllables.  “Reverberverberverberverberate.”  Yes, that’s more like it.  The finish compresses the whole nature of the world and its story into jewel-like, countlessly faceted concision.  Imagine that you commissioned Terrence Malick to direct and film the moment your life passes before your eyes.  Farro pancakes, smoked apples in a cast iron pan, a gorp for a volcanologist exploring calderas.  Candied orange slices cut to look like wings on a smoked salmon.  The kind of sweets you’d find in the Halloween bag of a child in a Park Avenue hotel after you scared her with your Wookiee costume. This is truly spectacular and unique.  It rinses the soul of sins with more expedience than a sacrament. 


--On the scale of appreciations of Sachmo’s opening cadenza in “West End Blues”--
The Port Ellen 34 Year 2013 Limited Edition is fellow trumpeter, Max Kaminsky, saying: "I felt as if I had stared into the sun's eye."--He wasn't alone, and you won't be, either.  You'll be one with the universe.

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

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Lost Distillery Gerston Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (750 ml Series No. 3 bottle)

Tasting notes:
The nose of the Lost Distillery's Gerston 46% abv begins by singing Roberta Flack's (not the Fugee cover) Killing Me Softly With Your Peaty Hands (an ode to the Boston Strangler?). Or maybe Slapping Me Silly With Your Flippers Clutching Mermaid Purses and Seaweed? Well, Monty Hall, I'm going to ignore those two doors and instead go with Fermenting My Apples in a Winepress (Illegal in Canada Remix). It feels like being in Tuscany with cheap lithographs of Provence decorating the walls while cheese adorns the table; rich Asiago, (surreally) imported Vermont Sharp Cheddar, and Dull Gruyère: Salvador Dulli's piece "Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate (and Asiago and Sharp Cheddar) a Second Before Awakening (in Tuscany, Thinking Momentarily that You're in Provence)."

[Stephen: Bill! It's Salvador Dali!]

Hey, thank goodness for editors. Anyways, on the mouth, there's wonderful sculpted smoke, a sailor's pipe dream of smoke rings of smoke rings puffing out of whale blowholes. On the tongue, it's like a perfect 10 fireworks show ending with snatching long kisses in tall meadow grass. Sadly for you, the romantic picture turns out to be a fever dream, and in fact you've been burying your face in the mossy exigency of the north side of a banyan tree.

[John: Exigency? Exigency? I don't think that word means what Bill thinks it means.]

John, stop being so peat-ulant. Anyways, the finish is Gina Gershon wearing a wasp's nest bikini bottom made from tiny reeds. It's the hot appetizer at a prominent Asian (Con)Fusion restaurant. It's peat transmuted into a leather-banded torpeat-o cigar—and while some cigars are only cigars, this cigar (like Magritte's infamous pipe) is NOT a cigar. It is, in fact, not a cigarillo smoked by a dry iguana; it's peat formed from palm fronds from a green roof on a white adobe house in Arizona that collapsed under the weight of Sting's Dream of the Blue Turtles.


--On the scale of TV show exploitation flick art-house Oscar-bait mash-ups that we're begging for--
The Lost Distillery's Gerston is Spring Breaker's Lost Requiem for the Dream of Gerston Gone Wild--Sure, it runs long, the plot's confusing, and the script is R-rated, but the cinematography is smooth and elegant, and the Smoke Monster is peat-tastic.

--Our thanks to Jeffrey Karlovitz and the Lost Distillery for the sample!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Glen McKenna 50 (750 ml How I Met Your Mother bottle)

[The grainy shot we have here is of the Glen McKenna 30 Year Old.  Its 50 Year Old sibling is rarely seen in the wild--or anywhere else for that matter--and is the stuff of legend (or at least wedding inn legend).  We were lucky enough to get a sample, and just at the ideal moment, right as How I Met Your Mother was airing its series finale.]

Tasting notes:
      This whisky, like the show it appeared on, is bright and vibrant on the open and quite accessible.  As it goes along, you find yourself more and more attached to what you find there--you become more schtuck to the schtick, as it were.  On the nose, there's fudge, Big Fudge, or marshmallows, if you prefer, and lilypads.  A lovely combination of aromas there.  Inhale as deeply as you can, and for a moment, you can see Sparkles.  It's not unlike a well-placed self-five.

     The mouth is a muddled mélange of magician miscellany and the muffler from a MacLaren.  There's also the distinct flavor of an altar left half-attended.  Strippers, dopplegängers, and expensive italian suits round out the mouth.  As the mouthfeel dissolves into the finish, it's a blue french horn that no one will ever play again.
     The finish is schmaltzy and draws itself out a good deal longer than it has any right to.  Near the end here, a new note pops up from the background, and attractive as it is, it disappears quickly--maybe too quickly--almost making you want to say, "Hey there, bass player, we hardly knew ye!" The overall effect is quite satisfying nonetheless, though far from the anticipated legen...wait for it...wait for it...well, you'll be waiting forever, 'cause it just ain't that.


--On the scale of great things this whisky is not--
The Glen McKenna 50 Year Old is not Slapsgiving--But then again, there is nothing as great as Slapsgiving.  Nothing.



Monday, March 31, 2014

The 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (750 ml small batch bottle)

Tasting notes:

Classic, gorgeous, corny, round.

What are my first impressions of the nose of the 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, Alex?

Yes, that’s correct!  Go again.

Okay, I’ll take “there’s more vanilla and cinnamon here than in a middle school girl’s locker” for $400.   

Answer: A mechanic shop, but a nice one: there’s leather banquette seats, cracked with age; some grease wafting in from the service door; just-opened cans of STP; yellowed promotional literature.

What is rest of the nose of the 1792 Ridgemont Reserve?

Before he can answer me, my Jeopardy dream shifts and I’m in the waiting area of the shop that Alex painted for me.  The handsome mechanic comes in wearing 650-count selvage denim coveralls holding hand-forged tools and a sweat-stained hemp kerchief and I brace myself for a bill so large it will require a rubber check and a hasty move to Mexico.  To my great relief, he explains that it was simply the loose gas cap that triggered the indicator light, and hands me my keys with the words “no charge.”

The alluring nose continues into the mouth with corn husks and pepper.  Now that I think of it, it’s tamales with Armenian meat pie stuffing in it.  Mouth is tannic and bites; it dries like keyboard cleaner aerosol sprayed at altitude in defiance of good sense and TSA regulations.  This is rich, like undercooked pecan pie batter, but a whole lot smoother than that.  Macaroons covered in a thin coating of pan-melted Vicks® cough drops.

The finish is Nana’s leathery lips on my cheek after a huge slug of sherry (hers) and an excellent report card (mine).  The wood is most pronounced on the finish but on the open, I get larch sap.  A smooth finish that makes me want to treat this like a session bourbon.


--On the scale of words that it is simply delightful to say--
The 1792 Ridgemont Reserve is “larch”--Go ahead.  Say it.  Now say it three times.  You are happier now than you were moments ago.  Go pour yourself some of this good bourbon and spread the word.

--Our thanks to Jobie Smith and Sazerac for the sample!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Convalmore 36 Year 2013 Limited Edition (50 ml Manna from Heaven nip)

Tasting notes:
      The Convalmore 36 nose opens like a sultan's leather-hooded peregrin falcon with little clove cigarettes in its beak, clutching six-shooters in its talons, opens its eyes as it springs after its prey. Its body is a carmelized Buddha belly or, really, just a fine Bollywood caramelly-booty-shaking, or dare I say, the laughing Buddha's booty twerking off a surfeit of pimento-cheese blintzes drizzled with grapefruit juice reduction. (You got that, too, didn't you?) The nose is, even after opening, one note only: but what a note. Organs, tubas, trumpets, and pan pipes all playing the same note as the tolling temple bell.

     The mouth is savory and deep, belying the Buddha belly note. Without water, it's got anise seeds dipped in prussic acid melting into mouth, searing my tongue, branding my soul, irrevocably, immaculately. Conceive this, then, too: Pumpernickel croutons put into a little boy's school snack sack instead of the pretzels he was expecting. He wept at first, chagrined, crying out against Fate and Mommy (and really, aren't the two the same?) until the sour tang and fluffed-crunch worked its way deep into his imagination, planting seeds that would one day grow into artisinal pumpernickel asiago pretzels twisted into Klein bottles and Projective planes.

[John: Bill! You swore you'd never mock me for sharing with you that story from when I was little!]

John, I use that image as a sign of my abiding love for you and my disappointment that you haven't recently given me any pretzels. The mouthfeel is delicious; bright and filled with the essence of fatty tuna belly, illuminated by ultraviolet light in a tanning salon until cooked to a splendid medium rare, bedecked with rain-speckled clover leaves, and finished with a honey barbecue sauce. Giant sequoias so large they need lightning rods arrayed in their upper registers like a King's crown.

     The finish brings white chocolate truffles mixed into cake batter morels, all rooted up by trained pig in a Godiva store. I can see clearly now—the rain is gone—and everything was well-explained to me by my optometrist who figuratively plucked the scales from my eyes.
     With water, it all opens up. First off is a banana-powered hybrid Ugli fruit: very low carbon footprint, very green. We'd recommend giving it to your favorite nephew in a juice box. There's a pre-formed perfumed smokey aftertaste, like the delectation of a quick lick of a maple sap tap. The musk of the American Ballet Theater's laundry bin after a performance of Swan Lake. Or a revisionist Paris Opera Ballet performance of Swann's Way Lakeside Cabin (music by Vinteuil).

[Stephen: Bill, no one will get that joke.]

Not even Dr. Whisky? Well, everyone can enjoy the non-sweet spicy Thai Cheese fusion, like lint from a dryer used solely for royal merkins.


--On the scale of wonderfully lascivious names of world-class women athletes--
The Convalmore 36 Year 2013 LE is the double-eagle of Paula Creamer and Coco Ho--I always think of golfing and surfing whilst drinking whisky; doesn't everyone? Keep it tight and keep it bright, Coco, and keep gripping the shaft with both hands, Paula. Mahalo! 

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

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