Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Bowmore 18 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes:  
The Bowmore 18 gives new meaning and depth to the concept of a marriage of opposites.  From beginning to end, this excellent dram draws one inextricably and inexplicably from one side of the palate to another.  Early on, the thread, it seems, is the faintest hint of smoke:  on the nose, vitiated confectionary sugar made into a dark roux in an odd choice by the chef; on the tongue, dryads dancing in a grove by torchlight, until the fête inevitably gives rise to a fight.  Through the finish, the heavy iodine and light fruit flavors recall chance meetings of the organic and the inorganic:  a three-day-old cranberry orange biscotti soaking up a Campho-phenique spill, bananas foster dripping flaming syrup onto the steel cabling of a modern trebuchet set to launch the dessert halfway across town and in the mayor’s pool, the steel of a hatchet blade insinuating itself into the melon-like skull of an unsuspecting passer-by.  And just in case that profile doesn’t weave together enough contrasts for one, those late phenols turn out to be hydrophobic:  adding a little water to this dram chases away the medicinal qualities altogether, leaving behind, appropriately enough, a hint of pineapple.  Ultimately, the Bowmore 18 is one of those apparently strange combinations that works out wonderfully, like when you decide to go with cyanide, and it turns out your intended victim just happens to love the smell of almonds.
  


Rating:
--On the scale of wildly different things that synthesize into an amazing new thing--
The Bowmore 18 is New Orleans-Style Shrimp and Grits-- it's not quite Groucho Marx glasses on a Glencairn glass containing the Talisker Distiller's Edition (though if you use Rosebank Gold Bohiket Grits, it's very close to a tie), and it's a world better than the spork, the European Union, or sexting.  
  
  
  
                                                                                     --Stephen


Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Tomintoul 27 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes: 
        Oily and woody like a pine-needle littered, cedar shake-shingle roof, home to a dead ferret, baking in noon-day summer sun. A little girl's plaintive licorice-like voice corkscrews up from the house, augmenting the tragedy, "Tony? Tony? Where are you? Time for your tea party, fudge brownies, and Turkey-Venison-Lamb pasty! Hurry, Mr. Pink is waiting for you."
     The mouthfeel is as marvellously chewy as heirloom corn stoneground into the non-ironically remarkable Rosebank Gold Bohiket Grits, and there's more wood in it than in George Washington's dentures combined with the log cabin Abraham Lincoln grew up in. Heck, there's more wood (and peat) (and industrial grade diamonds) in it than in the 80 million trees knocked over by the Tunguska meteorite in 1908.
     And 1908 is relatively close to 1905, Einstein's annus mirabilis. Similarly, 2009 is relatively close to 1982, which must go down in our annals as Tomintoul's anise mirabilis. It's so miraculous that it almost allows this taster to overlook the taste of tarry gravel embedded in a skateboard's urethane wheels.
     Who needs smoke or strong peat in your expression when instead it's been distilled to attain the incomparable ideal of a grimey handful of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans (Tar, Licorice, Bogey/Booger, Mouldering Old Cedar Closet)? Surprisingly, the finish has a hint of cherry, much like a zephyr wafting from Kyoto to a sampan floating offshore in Lake Biwa during late March.

   
  


Rating:
--On the scale of useful internet websites--
The Tomintoul 27 is maps.google.com.  It's handy, but there's always mapquest.com, Rand McNally Road Atlases, and the beloved AAA TripTiks.  It's always time to kick it old school, but rarely should one kick a 27-year-old school.  Unless you're wearing steel-toed boots, but still I wouldn't recommend it.
  
  
 
                                                                                     --Bill

  

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Aberfeldy 12 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes:   
Aberfeldy, with its iconic red squirrel and auspicious Pictland pedigree, holds out exceptional promise.  In Norse mythology, Ratatoskr the red squirrel runs up and down the world tree, conveying messages between an eagle soaring above and a worm, Nidhogg, below.  Not an enviable job, really.  Besides, what do eagle and worms have to say to each other?  No wonder the gossipy rodent is regarded with suspicion by all parties—it stands apart, and yet, at the same time, circumperegrinates all of nature.  The Aberfeldy 12 has a similar ambition and, naturally, its reach exceeds its grasp.  Day-old toaster waffles, desiccated, stuck to the plate in a hardened crescent of grade B Vermont maple syrup.  Chalk dusk on a horse saddle.  Vienna sausages in a pineapple-peppercorn brine.  Roasted skirret in an earthenware dish.  Tattoo ink pooling in untranslatable Ogham inscriptions.  A sip of too-hot green tea taken next to an open can of furniture stripper.  The Aberfeldy 12 has aspirations, all right.  Do you think that your chattering rebuke touches me, you provoker of eagles, you annoyer of worms?
   


Rating:
--On the scale of hapax legomena in the Hebrew Bible--
The Aberfeldy 12 is אֲנָקָה, found at Leviticus 11:30.  Like the inscrutable dram, this term has been interpreted quite variously, translated as "ferret", "gecko", "shrew", "hedgehog", "newt", "chameleon", "frog", or "groaning lizard" (on account of a suspected etymological link to the Hebrew word "to cry" אנק ).  But what is this pain or sadness if not the exasperation of the red squirrel failing to make himself understood? 
   
  
                                                                                     --John

   

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Dalmore 12 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes:




IsTheDalmore12Tasty.com






Rating:
--On the scale of single-serving websites--
The Dalmore 12 is AbeVigoda.com-- not nearly as exceptional as the now defunct IsAbeVigodaAlive.com (which read only--left justified at the top, in simple black and white--"Yes."), but much more informative than the jack-ass lame IsItChristmas.com, and much more solidly fun than the gimmicky, though wonderfully instant, InstantRimShot.com.

  
                                                                                     --Stephen


Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Bowmore Darkest 15 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     It's always dangerous to read marketing materials before assaying the tasting of an expression, and in this case, my trepidation was well-warranted. The cardboard tube housing the nip was proudly emblazoned, "Colour: Ruby red."  Now, this reviewer is color-blind between green and red, and before pouring the Bowmore, I was tantalized at the prospects of drinking emerald-green/ruby-red spirits. Once in the glass, it became clear that the marketers at Bowmore were considerably drunker than I; the color was beautifully golden, with perhaps a tint of chartreuse.  In fact, it was so richly amber that I half-expected to find a prehistoric insect embedded in my glass.
      If you are willing to indulge me in a story:

...this reminds me of a time when I was finishing college. I went to a bar near campus with a friend, and at the time, I preferred a snifter of cognac or a glass of Oregon Pinot Noir, as the former hadn't yet been discovered by rappers, and the latter hadn't yet become a flavor-of-the-month clarion call issued by those tastemakers who lead lemming-like yuppies around by the nose.  Cognac was unavailable, as were as yet undiscovered varietals such as Pinot Noir. As such, I settled on a single malt as a worthy substitute. The waitress seemed confused when I asked for scotch; perhaps she was more used to college kids ordering *shudder* pitchers of Michelob Lite or Old Milwaukee. At any rate, I eventually ascertained that my choices were Glenlivet or Glenfiddich. Based on nothing much, I selected The Glenlivet for me and my amiably agreeable friend.
     When our glasses came, they seemed somewhat dusty, as if it had been a long time since anyone had ordered a scotch. We clinked, sniffed, and sipped. We held up our glasses in the dark, dank, dingy neighborhood bar to see what colors could be discerned when backlit by neon tubes perkily twisted into beer logos. As expected, not much in the way of color emerged; however, my friend spotted several gnats or fruit flies floating in his glass! When the waitress came, sullenly, to ask how our drinks were, I asked, in mock anger, why my friend had flies in his glass, and I had none in mine. (My drollery was lost on her.) We chortled while she insipidly looked at his glass, at least what could be seen. At that moment, I discovered that I, too, was a Lord of the Flies; my glass also held some small number of specimens sloshing around. No offer of a replacement drink was forthcoming, so we toasted our mutual fortune and had our embalmed protein drinks. 

     Nothing of the character of that evening remains, save the anecdote relayed above. This, in sharp distinction with the Bowmore Darkest, whose nose held so much butterscotch I thought I was stuck  in a vat in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory that Roald Dahl neglected to mention. This, while being shaved by a Parkinson's-afflicted barber equipped with a straight-edge razor that had been dipped in a bizarre mixture of sherry and honeysuckle nectar.
     Whatever the scotch analogue of tannic structure is, the finish has it to spare. The intense peat, smoke, wood, dust, and hellfire inferno are wound tighter than the double helix of James Watson's DNA while he was visiting Three Mile Island. Especially if, rather than Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239, Three Mile Island burnt charcoal and old barnacle-encrusted oak staves from barrels salvaged from Spanish treasure galleons sunk in the Florida Keys.
      The Bowmore Darkest is like Harlan Ellison's classic short science fiction story, "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream".  The nose screams, "Drink me! (If you can get out of Willy Wonka's butterscotch vat.)" The finish screams, in a crowded movie theater, "Fire! (But enjoy The Wizard of Oz as the theater burns down.)" And yet there is not a mouth, and it is damn near as confusing as one's first encounter with Cubist paintings.

   


Rating:
--On the scale of brilliant wordsmiths whose native language is not English--
The Bowmore Darkest 15 rates a combined Joseph Conrad/Vladimir Nabokov, which is indeed high praise. The "Darkest" invokes Conrad's Heart of Darkness, one of the many great books that high school students complain about being assigned to read. Nabokov? Lolita, of course, a few years older than 12, but still delightful at 15. "Bow-More: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of two steps down the palate to tap, at two, on the teeth. Bow. More." (Note: Of course the tongue doesn't actually tap the teeth while saying "More," but fortunately despite repeated offenses of drunken deriving, my literary license hasn't yet been revoked.)
   
  
 
                                                                                     --Bill

  

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