Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Isle of Jura 16 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes: 
Consider the Scardigan.  It presents itself as a scarf like any other, but then it offers a pleasant surprise: three buttons and pockets like a waistcoat, and--what's this?--a top button to keep the neck warm like an ascot.  A woolen marvel, the Scardigan.  How shall I classify this sartorial platypus, this archaeopteryx of haberdashery?  And so it is with the Isle of Jura 16.  First, a caramel nose so pronounced that you feel it tugging at your fillings; a sweet, creamy-caramel suffusion, like Goetze’s candies plugged into your nostrils, or a still-warm crème brulee turkey-basted into your sinuses.  But this wonderful sweetness soon gives way to spices—high, bright, electric spices--like waking from buttery biscuit dreams into the cargo hold of the Happy Entrance returning from Masulipatam with raw silk, saltpetre, opium, and above all pepper.  Yes, this Isle of Jura 16 offers a wealth of surprises, not unlike that found in a successful sock puppet treatment of Der Ring des Niebelungen.  

--On the scale of quite misshapen contemporary British character actors--
The Isle of Jura is Pete Postlethwaite. This whisky stands apart, and if drinking it made one's cheekbones hillocked with acne scars and memories of schoolyard fights, well then, just pour me another anyway.   


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Announcing the Inaugural Malty Award

What would a blog with tasting notes be without its own (perhaps even name-branded) award?  Obviously, a blog with tasting notes that doesn't have its own award.  But we didn't want to be one of those sad blogs, so we're very happy to engage in this tried and true aspect of whisky-blogdom ourselves.  Though we suspect the category might vary over time, we are very pleased to announce that the winner of
The 2009 Malty for Best Unintentionally Parodic Marketing Materials for a Whisky Product:

The Compass Box Orangerie

     We love Compass Box and their products--in fact, we wish they would make airline miniatures.  But when we came across the write-up for their new infused whisky product called Orangerie, we were surprised to find that Compass Box had rendered our services, at least with respect to this product, unnecessary.  The Art Nouveau decorations on the packaging are very cool, but the write-up prompted us--nay, begged us--to give out this award.
     Our ideal date for giving out the Malty would be April 1st, but since we started this blog well after that date this year, we'll award the 2009 one now.  
     So Compass Box, we take our Groucho Marx glasses off to you--and kindly request that from now on you leave this kind of thing to us.

Please see for yourself:
and click on the "Orangerie" link at the top. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Oban 14 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes: 
Bottles are reflective, liquid is reflective, and people, under ideal conditions, are also reflective.  People who are holding bottles and drinking liquid may be particularly reflective, especially if that liquid is good whisky.  As such, when I broached my nip of the Oban 14, and the first swirls of balanced ambery smokey peaty melony liquid goodness began to eddy in my mouth, I was moved to soliloquize, "Will I write an Oban rave or an Oban pan?  Perhaps, like Brouwer and the Intuitionists of Mathematics, I can eschew the Law of the Excluded Middle, and write something between a pan and a rave.  Perhaps at some point very soon, I will stop soliloquizing, and start reviewing. Perhaps."

[painfully full beat]

The ghost of a departed quantity of tobacco, or maybe a candle snuffed out in a mahogany study, several rooms over in a renovated converted Victorian multifamily home.  Tantalizing hint of heat, but not enough to predict that spring has finally arrived.  Balanced, not like the 14-year-old Nadia Comaneci pwning the beam in the 1976 Olympics, but rather like a  diaper-clad 14-month-old toddler, who has barely enough mastery of her proprioceptive system to totter to-and-fro while screaming incoherently for low-fat vanilla yogurt.  In short, the blandest, most vanilla Wonder Bread™ of scotch.  Wonder Bread™ goes great with BBQ, PB&J, and Marmite.  Anyone should gladly receive their favorite sandwich made with Wonder Bread™, but if he were as ill-mannered as a sullen teenager, fretting at the house of a disliked relative, he'd demand slices of multigrain bread, or grilled panini, or crispy dark pumpernickel (with aioli, preferably).  Same with the Oban: It's delicious in its own right, but the character is toned down from the vibrancy of the raconteur to the inoffensiveness of good ol' Charlie Brown from Peanuts.


--On the scale of newspaper comic strips--
The Oban 14 rates as For Better or For Worse. Sure, you'll read it every day, and occasionally laugh; but somehow it's not funny, but every now and then, you might have cause to mention it when talking with an older relative who just doesn't get the whole interweb thingie. Oh, and even though it's in color on Sundays, so what? It's still only For Better or For Worse.


Monday, October 12, 2009

The Cragganmore 12 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes:  
On the nose, this malt offers aromas of rotting magnolia blossoms with a substratum of festering dead crab.  This is not to say, however, that this malt smells rotten, but rather that its aroma profile includes, among other things, something playfully rank.  The first taste obliterates the nose, both literally and figuratively:  the initial burn hits as high on the palate as one of those metal hooks the Egyptians used to extract the brains from a soon-to-be mummy.  This is not to say, however, that this malt does violence to the senses, but rather that it just hits that high on the palate, so high that such luminaries as Britney Spears or Russell Brand wouldn’t notice it all, save for the faint sounds of air moving.  Then comes a surprising set of flavors:  canned fruit salad decanted and slurped from an empty box of Marlboros.  This is not to say, however, that this malt is syrupy sweet or smoky in a bad way, but rather that the hints of fruit and sugar are watered down so as to be inconspicuous, especially up against the smoke—and that just about all smoke found in whisky is good.  Finally, the finish is ridiculously long, more than long enough to allow one to pick up the mummy theme again and make morbid comments about staying power despite being dead three thousand years.  This is not to say, however, that I will compare the finish to a Pharoah who has somehow escaped being disinterred, but rather that I’m tempted, but I don’t see how to fit in the third reference to Egypt or mummies required of comedic writing, so I’ll just leave it there.

--On the scale of movies in The Mummy series (got the third one in!)—
The Cragganmore 12 is The Mummy Returns:  not nearly as good as the original, sad excuse for an Indiana Jones ripoff, but a world better than the incoherent The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and probably two worlds better than the upcoming The Mummy 4:  Rise of the Aztec.  Plus, The Mummy Returns features an early performance from The Rock!


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Speyside 10 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes: 
Some criticize this distillery for naming itself and one of its expressions after an entire region in Scotland.  But when you consider its onomastically-challenged sister expressions, "Cu Dhub" or "Drumguish," you no longer begrudge them the lack of creativity.  And what is "drumguish" if not the grip of dread one would feel in Miami's first Gaelic-speaking dance club, Cu Dhub?  In fact, the Speyside 10 would not be out of place there:  a nervous sweatiness, rayon and cigarette smoke, lemongrass consommé eaten under a hyacinth trellis.  But mostly there is a vast undifferentiatedness.  Does the Tromie River issue forth from the Lethe's waters?  This is the dram for lives of quiet desperation, men who are liked but not well liked, measuring out their lives with coffee spoons, young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.  To them I raise my glass of, of...  What is this again?

--On the scale of unusual conditions following upon a traumatic brain injury--the Speyside 10 is anterograde amnesia, on account of...  Hey, this whisky shares its name with a region in Scotland! 


Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Penderyn (50 ml airline bottle)*

Tasting notes:
As a rule, you shouldn't look a gift horse--or in this case, a gift mule--in the mouth.  But what if that mule has been eating sushi?  You'd get a whiff of the breath of that brawny beast of burden, scented with seaweed, sea urchin, and wasabi, and you'd want to know what the hell is going on in there.  Upon first nosing and then tasting the Penderyn, one finds the same aromas and flavors:  mule mouth infused with masticated uni rolls, and maybe a hint of Ponzu sauce just for good measure.  But the heat is paired with--though not at all balanced by--sweetness:  honey laced with poblano or even piquin peppers.  And though this malt bears no mention of years on its label, a lack of age here should not be confused with timelessness--there is a definite time and place for the Penderyn, and it's early in the morning, perched on a cliff overlooking a pair of beached carcasses being picked over by surreptitious scrimshaw seekers ("Here's to you, Wales!").  The most interesting aspect of this malt, however, shows up on the side of its very cool presentation box.  Exceptionally balanced?  Only if by exceptional here one means when examining a host of balanced malts, this one is the exception.  Aroma of cream toffee?  Only if by that one means curdled cream.  Fleetingly of fresh new leather?  Only if that fleeting hint emanates from the crack of a whip driving onward the aforementioned mule.  Who's been drinking too much Penderyn?  Clearly the marketers.  

--On the scale of cool stylistic devices--
The Penderyn is the simile--it's better than the pun (see the awful one above), but unlike alliteration, it lacks subtlety; in the end it's a lot like...well, "like":  teenagers overuse it, and "as" is much cooler.


*--special thanks to our friend Matt "The Mule" for this malt

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