Monday, June 28, 2010

The Balvenie Portwood 21 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes:
Upon decanting this tiny bottle into an absurdly tiny nosing glass (here at the Impostor, we try to do things to scale), one is struck by the dark color of this expression, which is reminiscent of a Whizzinator-less drug test after having three espressos and a beet salad.  On the nose and tongue, deep, rich aromas and flavors abound:  walnuts, dark chocolate Riesens, and an amaretto-laced cigarillo clenched firmly between the gleaming white teeth of the hottest bandida known to man, as she climbs into the saddle to start her day.  The finish yields hints of general nuttiness, but more than anything else, it's long and leathery:  a few weeks with this dram, and you'd talk with a voice sounding not unlike Sam Elliott.  This beautifully balanced whisky melts on the tongue and offers such a satisfying finish, the last of the liquid is liminal, luring one to look longingly at the lacing in the glass, which in turn leads one to wonder:  Why does it resemble seeping road rash?  And why am I so thoroughly undisturbed by that image at this moment?
 

    
Rating:

--On the scale of boating clichés--
The Balvenie Portwood 21 is far from being just any port in a storm--it's much more fitting here, to adapt a phrase of which Bill is particularly fond, to say that it's over the yardarm somewhere, especially if you'll be drinking this dram.

   

                                                                                     --Stephen
  
 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Edradour "Caledonia" 12 year (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes:
Dame Joan Sutherland was given the Order of Merit.  Charles Aznavour was esteemed National Hero of Armenia.  Sir Paul McCartney has an asteroid named in his honor.  And arabesque master Orhan Gencebay has been called Turkey’s Elvis.  However, none of them has enjoyed the privilege bestowed on Scotland’s national treasure, Dougie MacLean.  He is the only musician to have a hand in creating a whisky with the same name of his first album.  “Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia” produced at the Edradour Distillery is as smooth, graceful, and light as his justly praised music.  Smoothness like scalloped butter balls softening on a bread plate left untouched by a bride.  Gracefulness like the bride thanking the groom’s cousins (at tables 18 and 19) who look away, craning their heads to see the food being served.  Lightness like the wisps, more steam than smoke, encircling the tines of the long-handled biscuit prick easing a popover out of a cast iron pan.  This is a scotch fit for drinking in a glass elevator rising up slowly in a hotel lobby.  You look out at the rainforest of fake plastic trees, muzak playing inconspicuously until—your mind lurches to recognize a pattern.  And for a moment there is nothing and everything in the mind at once.  And then the pattern is established; the mind stills itself, drawing its concentration on the beautiful notes in perfect counterpoint with the whisky.

    
     
Rating:

--On the scale of devices that make things easier and augments enjoyment--
The Edradour Dougie MacLean Caledonia is the capo--It's much closer to the telescoping pocket back scratcher than it is to Pop-Tarts, and that's high praise indeed.
   

                                                                                     --John

 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Hudson Manhattan Rye (375 ml spud gun mortar round)

Tasting notes:
     It's awfully tempting for this reviewer to make Catcher in the Rye jokes about this lovely expression, but I'm Holden back on it `til later. Maybe when I finally receive my J. D. and am able to practice law? Anyways, itsa great whiskey and I sure like to let itsa-linger on my tongue.
     In all honesty, I took to the Manhattan Rye with some trepidation. My main experience with rye was pilfering from the bottles I was able to dilute at friends' houses when I was still a lad under the legal drinking age. Not to cast aspersions on the taste or social strata of my friends' parents, but the memories were not encouraging. In all fairness, my palate wasn't well developed then, either, as I mainly aspired to a dinner consisting of a half-pound of bacon.
     The wholesome nose is akin to the requisite sweet smell wafting from the corpse of a saint, or perhaps on a more quotidian level, like burying your face in your grandmother's sherry-splattered, starched, line-dried apron, while she's in the kitchen making chicken marsala and olallieberry pie for Sunday dinner.  In the mouth, improbable licorice brownies, lacing the air with tons of cocoa and anise-tons; maybe hot, crossed buns? A touch acidic, but that's a just a jolly red on litmus paper. Ho ho ho.  The 92 proof burn fades to a pleasant afterglow, settling over the palate like an encompassing eructation at the end of a dinner party after a fine meal prepared by David Chang at momofuku.
     

 
Rating:

--On the scale of frisky three year-olds--
The Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey is Alydar--Goddamn if he couldn't beat Affirmed when it mattered most, but he placed second to Affirmed in all three of the Triple Crown races in 1978.  Although 11 horses have won the Triple Crown, Alydar's Triple Sec(ond) is a feat never seen before or since.  Oh, and who was the jokey [sic] Holden
the reins for Affirmed?  Stephen Caulfield.  Er, I mean, the jockey was Steve Cauthen.

  
  
                                                                                     --Bill
  

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Hudson Single Malt (375 ml spud gun mortar round)

Tasting notes:
This single malt whiskey, made from 100% barley malt, packs a potent 1-2 punch to the proboscis, punctuating plum perfume with earthy undertones followed by herbaceously floral (or maybe "florally herbaceous"…no, it’s definitely "herbaceously floral") tendrils that climb into the front of your brain and signal that this is definitely not your father’s single malt…and it’s certainly not the “morning courage” your father buys in 1.5 liter plastic bottles and hides under the kitchen sink behind the scouring pads and the Krud Kutter.  On the tongue, one realizes that the hints of clover on the nose constitute nothing more than a head fake, since the sticky sweetness in the mouth is darker and deeper than mere honey:  it’s sweet sassy molassey.  There is no seaweed here, no brine, no peat--this dram is wholly land-locked.  Nonetheless, it offers a satisfying warmth and brings the iodine, the two together recalling a high school nurse’s office.  The finish is uncomplicated, but long and fiery, much like a kids’ luge ride down a lava tube.  But as it wanes, one tastes something older, something more complex, like titrated amber on the back of the throat, only without the bugs.  Were Tuthilltown able to sell this expression for only $20 a bottle, this reviewer would wear a bandolier full of them at all times—and would doubtless make countless new friends whenever he went out.  At the more typical $40-$50, however, this reviewer is much more likely to enjoy it in a manner befitting a fine single malt:  seated alone in a leather chair in his Meerschaum pipe library, reading an Umberto Eco novel with his feet up on his “servant ottoman.”
     

 
Rating:

--On the scale of great independent films--
The Hudson Single Malt Whiskey is Mean Streets--early Scorcese, with a lot of fire and personality and love evident in every frame.  It's still a little rough, but portends the amazing things yet to come.  It's no Taxi Driver, but it's a film that shows the director is ready for the big time (and wider distribution) that lies just ahead.

  
  
                                                                                     --Stephen

 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Malt Impostor's visit to the Tuthilltown Distillery

Recently, the three of us embarked on our first official distillery tour as Malt Impostors to the acclaimed Tuthilltown Distillery.  We arrived just days after Tuthilltown had agreed to affiliate with W. Grant & Sons on distribution of their Hudson Whiskey line and, and as chance was shining brighter on us than a supernova viewed through a snifter of Glenfiddich, we happened to show up as Mr. Charles Gordon, grandson of Mr. William Grant himself, was leaving, and Gable Erenzo of Tuthilltown was kind enough to introduce us.  After that frankly dumbfounding and dumbstriking beginning, our visit got better and better, as improbable as that might seem, thanks entirely to Gable's generosity of spirit and spirits.
    Tuthilltown is a small, innovative distillery that utilizes mostly local crops to produce varietal libations: two different kinds of bourbon, rye whiskey, single malt barley whiskey, rum, two kinds of vodka made from apples plucked from trees down the road, and for those who fancy pretending that it's still Prohibition, a smooth-drinking "white dog" corn whiskey.  A significant proportion of the spirits they produce is aged in very small (2, 3, and 5 gallon) charred new oak barrels, imparting massive flavor and color to their expressions in a relatively short period of time.

    We highly recommend both the tour and tasting room at Tuthilltown.  The stills are impressive, and the tasting room features etched Hudson Glencairn glasses (you get one free with the tour) and a special "system" for introducing the tiniest bit of water to certain expressions to ensure that they open up properly.  Below please find a preliminary review to wet your whistle for the tasting notes of Tuthilltown products that will follow over the next several days.
 

 The Hudson Whiskey Tuthilltown 1fl.oz. micro-mini “eyedropper” 
By far the best value in the redoubtable Hudson Whiskey lineup can be found in the arresting cobalt blue bottle nestled, appropriately, in the center of the stocking shelves.  Presumably the small size of the bottle prevents the makers from applying a label large enough to contain a fuller description of the spirit inside and its attributes, but we were delighted by the challenge this put to us and immediately
set to work.  Remarkably, the nose blended seamlessly with the happy aromas in the tasting room.  It was as if the twice- and thrice-distilled apple vodkas and various whiskeys contributed their quintessence to this exciting dram, like wise men bowed in prayer before a newborn king.  The clarity and lightness of this mysterious spirit is unmatched by anything we have ever tried.  To call it light-bodied is, in fact, to weigh it down.  After all, what need has such an angelic fluid for such leaden description as provided by mere words?  No, I can only conclude that this ambrosial delight is meant for a Tuthilltown Emperor, resplendent in his new robes knitted from leprechaun beards, rolling in a unicorn-drawn carriage on a forking rainbow path.  

At only $1.99, be sure to stock up!
           
Rating:
--On the scale of early Greek natural philosophers--
The Hudson Whiskey micro-mini "eyedropper" is Thales--As Thales was the first of his kind in Miletus, so Tuthilltown is the first bourbon distillery in New York.  What is more, the Hudson Whiskey micro-mini eyedropper consists, fundamentally, of nothing other than water.

                                                                                     --John

    

For a different look at Gable and his father, check out this video.
   
 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Whisky Explorers Club Bottle #4 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes:
The Whisky Explorers Club's Mystery Dram #4 is light in the glass, a pale yellow swallowtail of an expression.  A beehive of honey nestled in the hollow of a pine tree infused with the pollen of tobacco plants. Brandy-dipped cigarillos smoked by Clint Eastwood, glinty, glowering, grim in the gloaming.  On the tongue, flaming bananas foster liberally, and unorthodoxly, peppered with maraschino cherries.  Like finding an old friend, or perhaps rediscovering one's faith after the long dark night of the soul.  A homecoming after years at sea and discovering that while everything is different, it's still the same.  Mystery Dram #4 is the doorway to True Belief:  Glenmorangie Original 10 (in a nice glass bottle)!

           
Rating:
--On the scale of translations of the Odyssey--
The Glenmorangie 10 is Robert Fagles' renditionJoyce's Ulysses is a close second, but we envision ourselves as Odysseus slaying 50 salacious suitors and then cozying up to faithful Penelope, not Leopold Bloom, desires derailed by a 50-page blastgush of consciousness cataract welling from wife Molly, bedroom all hungabout with micturated drabgloom not piquant starglobes of destiny.

                                                                                     --Bill
 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Whisky Explorers Club Bottle #3 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes:
The Whisky Explorers Club's Mystery Dram #3 is an oak tree that somehow skipped the whole acorn thing.  Deep, chewy and infused with enough tannin to cure a buckskin jacket.  Somehow, though, a tiny lilac bush, Syringa vulgaris, has rooted next to the mighty oak and asserted itself like a fringe religious cult challenging the mainstream.  (I'm looking at you, Theo Epstein, for believing that small ball can defeat the mighty Yankees.)  The mouth is like a visit from the in-laws; pleasant at first, but after a while, it lingers and makes me want to take a vacation from my own tongue, throat, and gastrointestinal system.  
 Mystery Dram #3 is trekking to a remote mountaintop on a vision quest only to find a shopping mall standing there: Dewar's!  
          
Rating:
--On the scale of Fess Parker roles--
The Dewar's is Davy Crockett.  Remember the Alamo. 

                                                                                     --Bill
 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Whisky Explorers Club Bottle #2 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes: 
Mystery Dram #2 from the Whisky Explorers Club opens with a cognac-y smell invested with the cornful of a Kentucky bourbon--fortunately not a Louis Bourbon. ("Cornful?" quoth the other Impostors, scornful.) Fire in the Belly is not just a cliché used to denote manliness, it's a torture worthy of the 3rd circle of hell, or, after a moment, a delightful way to pretend that hypothermia is not setting in. Loads of color, and a taste that never grew beyond its Terrible Twos (although it turned out to be aged 6-8 years). Rough and rusted, a saw blade that nevertheless plays beautiful music. A Pentecostal dram, because drinking it made me speak in tongues. Mystery Dram #2 is the virgin thrown into the volcano; the volcano may be placated, but the virgin? not so much: Booker's Bourbon!
     

Rating:
--On the scale of Talking Heads albums--
The Booker's Bourbon isn't Speaking in Tongues---that'd be too easy.  It's Stop Making Sense, because a glass or two of it, you'll be singing "Psycho Killer" while dancing in an oddly-fitting suit and jacket.  Hopefully not a straitjacket, unless you're Houdini.

                                                                                     --Bill
  

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