Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Eades Speyside Small Batch Double Malt (750 ml long-range merriment missile)

Tasting notes
The nose of this dram is about as complex as one could ever imagine a nose to have:  trying to sort it out is akin to engaging in a full-blown rhinoplasty on Karl Malden, God rest his soul.  But here, forced to say something despite my conspicuous lack of anything approximating a medical license, I’ll dig in and tell you what I find, even if I have no clear sense of where the parts lie with respect to one another:  blood orange, guacamole, and honey-ham, sitting atop a maple dresser fitted with slots for storing horse medications; but it’s also spicy, really spicy—imagine the whole picture I just drew now drenched in the most delicious Cajun seafood gumbo you’ve ever had.  On the mouth, it’s another cornucopia of flavors:  spice again, stinging and half-numbing the tongue before introducing marshmallow, apple tart, raisins, and unmitigated yumminess,  It’s like the moment coming down the staircase to see an array of gifts St. Nick has left for you and not knowing where to direct your attention—and thoroughly forgetting that you wanted a Red Ryder BB gun more than anything in the world.  It’s a delicious seven-course meal distilled into a tiny pill designed for space travelers.  There’s so much going on here that it’s hard to tell if it contradicts itself at any point (though it does not seem to):  try to get your head around the Eades Speyside, and it will proudly sing out, “I am large, I contain multitudes.”  


On the scale of Walt Whitman poems—
The Eades Speyside Small Batch Double Malt is "Song of Myself"—long and lyrical, it’s probably got a bit more going on in there than it needs (Walt, do you really have to give us an inventory of every person you encounter or imagine in town?), but there’s so much good stuff in there, you want to believe Walt put those other bits in just to give you a break so you wouldn't end up completely overwhelmed.  Either that or he just couldn’t bring himself to edit enough.  Regardless, kids will be reading it for a long, long time.



Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza, Boston: A Review in Three Parts

Stephen:  This past Thursday, The Malt Impostor co-conspirator triumvirate was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza at the Taj Hotel in Boston.  It was an all-around extraordinary experience, one which is perhaps best captured by one particular moment in the evening that occurred well after the Extravaganza had concluded:  As we strolled leisurely along the streets of Boston in our tuxedos, smoking the cigars we’d scored in the Extravaganza, and fancying ourselves as members of the Rat Pack as we made our way back to our hotel, a group of college kids passed us, and one of them said to the others, “That looks like the start of ‘The Hangover’.”  Of course, our experience that evening was not nearly so raunchy, destructive, illegal, or memory-defying as the early (actual) chronology of the action in that film, but it was no less pleasurable and no less awe-inspiring in retrospect (and in real time).  Still, perhaps we were more wolf pack than rat pack...
     The event was well-attended, if not a little crowded, but Gabby Shayne and the rest of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society crew moved people through the registration process very efficiently.  The variety of whiskies for tasting was substantial, and though each of us could easily identify a brand not represented, there were more expressions available than we had time to try.  Now, it’s possible we could have had time to try more whiskies had we not taken the time to eat, but it would have been just plain stupid of us (and of anyone) to have skipped out on the excellent buffet.  Highlights on the whisky tasting front (for me, anyway) included the porcelain-jug-housed-top-of-the-line Usquaebach, the 21 year-old Glenlivet, the peated 17 year-old Balvenie, the Hibiki, the Bowmore 15, the Ardbeg Airigh Nam Biest, the Scapa, the Glenmorangie 18 Year Old Extremely Rare, and, of course, the Highland Park 30 (though I must say that it was disturbing how tired the HP pourer was when I encountered her:  it was close to the end of the Extravaganza when I did, which makes me think perhaps her condition was attributable to the decision to offer the HP 30 in the first place, as it’s too much to ask one person to handle all of the requests that are sure to come with that particular gem on offer).
     As whisky blog geeks, however, one of the best aspects of the night was getting a chance to meet Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society founder and blogger Joshua "Bright Eyes" Hatton (see pic, right) and to have a drink with him in the bar after the event.  In Joshua, we found a kindred spirit—he’s such a kindred spirit, in fact, that we’re thinking of bringing him in to do a guest post here!
     Overall, it was, again, an extraordinary experience, and our thanks and deepest appreciation go out to Gabby Shayne and the Society for being such gracious hosts and for putting on such a wonderful event. 

John:   The event was incredible; the selection of whiskies staggering.  Take the ages of all the whiskies I tried. Add them. Then subtract them from 2010. Now you're in the late Minoan period. And they don't know anything about distilling. But you're still enjoying the finish from the Ardbeg Biest, so you're not complaining.
      It was great to see so many old friends and make new ones.  Oh, and there were lots of nice people.

     How about "Colin," the pseudonymous Russian mafioso trying to get us to the Liberty Hotel, where he and a bunch of strongarm vets from the Chechnyan (sp?) war would have found ways to separate us from our credit cards?  No?  We shouldn't mention him?

Bill:  As is so often the case when my colleagues here at the Malt Impostor take the high road, I find that other paths sing a siren song, irresistable to my senses. Yes, though it be bramble-choked, mud- and scum-blotched, and might wind up, down, all around through sudden chill mists and equally sudden tropic humidity: I must add my own review.
     Stephen, our inestimable Meister of Webs, might decontextualize some sentences from this paragraph which sum up some aspects of the evening for me. It's been a long time since I went to bed with the room spinning around me, but it's been significantly longer since I woke up with the room still spinning. Now I can point to 22 October 2010 as the latest in a series of nights/morns that stand as mileposts in one's drinking life: Pete Hamill, Kingsley Amis, and Ernest Hemingway:  I salute you, brothers. To this tale, I add only that as I drove home from work on Friday, pale, trembling, weak, vitiated, and worried that if I got pulled over, my blood alcohol percent would still be over the limit.
     As for my review proper, I'd also like to begin at the end, as Stephen did, but touch on a different aspect. He wrote of our long sashay down Newbury Street, dressed to the nines in tuxes, three sheets to the wind, three Monte Cristo cigars burning up the night, and one destination in mind. What he omitted was the following fact that continues to disturb me:  I cashed out our check at the Taj Hotel's bar at 11:15. Allegedly we left the Taj by, say, 11:30, maybe a bit later. Our hotel--c'mon, you don't think the Impostors could stay at the Taj, do you?--was a mere 2.4 miles away by foot. We were moving at a brisk clip, and I ground my cigar butt out on the sidewalk in front of our hotel. The time? 1:30 in the morning! Despite what John and Stephen might claim, we did not get lost:  I took the most scenic route, but still a direct one. What happened to that extra hour?! If I were by myself, it'd be easy to point to simple blackout, the fact that I was lost, a dalliance with a streetwalker, or anything. But there were three of us, the time worked out the same, and we didn't all dally with streetwalkers (did we?). The most logical explanation I have is that we were abducted by fastidious and prudent aliens, who after their quick medical exam of three specimens of homo whiskyium drunkus, they coolly and thoughtfully wiped our memories, relit our cigars, and put us back on Earth. That's all I got.  [John:  Bill got us so lost that we despaired of finding a cop, a taxi, or even a streetwalker.]
     Anyways, regarding the event, Gabby was warm and welcoming, a remarkable hostess for the show, and a delight altogether. Once inside: Kid in a candy shop? No, because I was able to have all that I could have. Bull in a china shop? No, because I may have been blundering and bellowing, but I broke nothing, and the brand ambassadors were gracious, informative, and a dab hand at quick yet generous pours. Although I longed to act like the many professionals clustering the tables, and after a swish and a micro-sip, dump my undrunk portions into the spittoons  [Stephen:  Spittoons? Spit buckets.], I found that inevitably the expression turned out to be so expressive that it would have been a veritable sacrilege to waste any of it. So, I propose a new phrase: Sots on Scotch, which perfectly captures my rollicking, ping-ponging, chaotic billiard ball path through the various rooms and tables (and under the tables) of the night. The food was excellent, by the way, and I feel conflicted the way I imagine the Duggars must when they ponder a favorite child.  It wasn't Sophie's Choice, with only two to pick between; there were so many different scotches that were so highlights, if I may, in no particular order, were the Usquaebach Flagon Grand Whisky, the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, the Glenlivet 21, the Laphroaig 25, the Highland Park 30 (did they actually pour that for us, guys?), the Yamazaki 18, the Hibiki 12, the Scapa, and the Classic Cask Rare 35. A joker in the deck, but I must be true to my drinking origins, was the de Fussigny XO Cognac.
     Besides Gabby, the other people who stood out were Joshua Hatton, the Jewish Singles Matchmaking Socializer [Stephen:  Sheesh. The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society.]  Noah from Usquaebach, the gentleman from Suntory, Jerry Zimmerman from the Classic Cask, the kilted and sporran-wearing ambassador from Glenlivet, the kind and lovely young woman pouring the Aberfeldy, the lovely young women pouring the Scapa, and Mr. Silvestri who was repping, among other delights, the de Fussigny XO.
     A magnificent evening, an epic evening, and a memorable evening (except for the missing hour).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Hudson Four Grain Bourbon (375 ml spud gun mortar round)

Tasting notes, this time in the form of a short short story (bear with me, the flavor profile is in there):

Emmett Korn, a taciturn man still years away from middle age, surveyed his farm from the porch of the house.  Despite his roots in Germany, Korn was born and bred in the fields of upstate New York and had left the land of his birth just once, and that was to find a wife.  His search had led him to Kentucky, where he had met and courted his young wife, Barlee McCoy, the daughter of two Scottish immigrants.  In the three years that followed, they had added two lovely children to the mix:  first a daughter, Rye, who surprised everyone with her sharpness and her tendency to bite; and then came a son, Weet, a spry boy who quickly became an indispensable part of everyday life on the farm, even though he chafed at having to do his chores.
     Korn dug his pipe out of his coat pocket and looked around for his tobacco.  He found it where he’d left it, the package open and sitting out next to his rocking chair.  Even though it was a little dried out, its savoriness and complexity sang as his lighter circled the bowl to light the pipe.  Burn, burn, you little burning ring of fire, he thought, presaging the Johnny Cash song by some ninety-eight years.
     After a time, he went back inside and was met with an overpowering aroma, like having fallen face-down in a recently fertilized herb garden.  The flavors in the air were the product of Barlee’s having thought, earlier in the day, when she had started cooking, Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme—presaging the Simon and Garfunkel song by over a hundred years, or perhaps just recalling a distant family memory of the ballad upon which that song would be based.
     Korn sat at the kitchen table and pulled off his boots.  He was struck by the smoothness of the leather.  I could be a drill instructor with boots like these, he thought, presaging the surprisingly long and varied career for R. Lee Ermey, without being at all aware of doing so.
     “Do you have to do that at the table?” Barlee asked, extracting the roasting pan from the oven and placing it on the table, which was already set for dinner.
     “No barbeque tonight?” he replied with a whine.
     “No, it’s pork tenderloin in a ginger-thyme reduction.”
     “Smells wonderful.  Yeah, barbeque would have been all wrong.”
     “What were you doing just now out on the porch?” Barlee asked, in an attempt to make sure their short conversation continued along its decidedly non-linear path.
     “I had thoughts of plotting world domination, but, for some reason, that seemed like it would have been all wrong, too.  Seemed much more fitting to ponder how I might settle the score with those damn Hatfields down the road.”
     “I appreciate your giving that so much of your energy, dear.  It seems like my family’s been fighting with them forever.”
      “Of course, dear.  I just wish I could figure out why they moved all the way up here.  Are they seriously that committed to fighting this thing out to the bitter end?” he asked, unknowingly presaging another interstate war by only a few years.


--On the scale of debut novels—
The Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey is Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated (didn’t think I would actually go with V., did you?)—edgy and innovative, this one features multiple narrators who couldn’t be more different but somehow work really well together.  It ranges from laugh-out-loud funny to tragically sad without being twee.  Even though it has some rough edges, it’s stunning, especially for one so young.



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Laphroaig Quarter Cask (50 ml airline bottle)*

This one goes out to our good friend Ricardo...

Tasting notes: 
Nosing the Laphroaig Quarter Cask is about the same as downing wasabi-less, nori-wrapped bacon sushi that's been dipped in liquid smoke, or, if you are opposed to fusion food, kind of like wearing charred bacon noseplugs in a vain attempt to protect your sinuses as you scuba dive a coral reef in the Caribbean.  Or, if you choose to forego the noseplugs, it would work well to cauterize the sinuses as they hemorrhage an intoxicating mix of blood and raw heather.  If your tongue is adroit enough to evade the trident of the Shiva of Scotch, Destroyer of Palates, then you'll note that after you're done licking the tatami mat, it's time to start in nibbling on a saki-drenched 250 year-old Hinoki Cypress bonsai tree while Sensei has his back turned.  Move on to the pulled-pork particle-board burritos wrapped in birch bark, then finish your walk through the Epcot Center of the senses by having your throat gripped by the Boston Strangler as if he actually happened to be a shiatsu masseuse.  Adding water to this delight allows it to open like Aristotle's Lantern in the stomach of a street urchin. This dram makes it clear that there's always a need for emergency dill pickles!

--On the scale of crossword puzzle constructors--
The Laphroaig Quarter Cask is Brendan Emmett Quigley--His puzzles are witty, exuberant, break the rules, yet are still steeped in tradition, and like the Quarter Casky, they serve as a bracing tonic for the spirit when life isn't as orderly as desired.  He's virtually in the area, he won't admit an adit; he says "ptui" to an etui, "no" to an anoa, and he eschews the olio of arias, oleos, et al's, and oreos, et al. that are leaned on by other puzzlemakers. Besides, one word out of three for both this malt expression and for his name each start with a "Q."

*--thanks again to our good friends at Loch Fyne Whiskies 


Monday, October 11, 2010

The Whisky Explorers Club Flight #4 has arrived

Late last week, Whisky Explorers Club Flight #4 showed up on our doorstep, thanks to Doug at For Scotch Lovers.  Now, we're more excited about whisky miniatures than most people are, but we love the concept here and are looking forward to finding a time when the three of us can meet and blind taste the latest set of little bad boys.  We revealed the contents of Flight #1, with Doug's permission of course, but as we pondered revealing Flights #2 and #3, we began to feel like party-poopers, tools (maybe even power tools), or obnoxious curtain puller-backers.  As a result, we've decided not to undermine the mystery, the mystique, the joy of surprise, or the Whisky IQ game that's part of the deal--at least not any more than we already have.  But we can, are, and will continue to alert our readers to the mini-richness (that's miniature-richness, not tiny or miniscule richness) of the Whisky Explorers Club.
     And once again, we want to remind our readers that they will receive a 10% discount on memberships to the Whisky Explorers Club, but only if they write "The Malt Impostor sent me" in the Special Instructions box--or in the Fax box.  Please note that readers will receive the discount in the form of a 10% refund after paying the full price.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Wemyss Spice King 8 (200 ml mini jug o' love*)

Tasting notes: 
In the glass a wonderful copper color, like your uncle’s collection of Indian head pennies rapidly transforming from the highly collectable grade of AU 58 to unacceptable smoothed shims in an acid bath.  Not-quite-ripe cantaloupe balls wrapped in prosciutto, dried cherries with the pits replaced with cloves, herring filets sizzling on a cedar plank amidst the outraged cries of Lew Zealand.  In a word, the balance and complexity of this 8 year old is striking.  With more vim and braggadocio than a pack of teenage tombstone topplers, this remarkable whisky is an ideal college entrant: well-rounded, amply-credentialed, and, despite lacking some depth, ready to take on the world.  And as she surveys the resplendent grounds of the University, she strides purposely away from the nagging, summer doubts over a scribbled high school yearbook pledge not fully understood by its recipient ("By 'love ya,' is she saying she loves me?") or by its writer ("Was Raymond the guy in Trigonometry?").


--On the scale of unforgettable, early-career motion picture moments--
The Wemyss Spice King is Uma Thurman in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen--Transcendent symmetry, yes, and hints of the leavening graces time brings. “Hello,” indeed!


*Special thanks to Susan Colville, Cameron and Wilma for sharing the love with us.  Slàinte!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Compass Box Asyla (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes: 
While the singular evokes images of the House of Ratched, the eponymous plural appears in such divergent realms as whisky and pugilism (little known fact: the rematch between Ali and Foreman, had it taken place, would have been the Asyla from Islay).  Though we miss seeing Ali dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee and we often recall fondly the days before George started hawking a greaseless grill, we here at the Malt Impostor share the opinion that, even factoring what might have been in the Hebrides, Compass Box has clearly made the more important and lasting contribution to this singular plural term (and, I should note, without any apparent reference or connection to Islay per se).  The Compass Box Asyla is a true sobriquet, providing the drinker with a host of delightful places to retreat and effectively evade the authorities of everyday life.  On the nose, nasturtiums soaked in twice-dried plum juice (a.k.a.--a prune juice reduction).  In the mouth, chocolate candies mixed with knish, alongside Sweet Tarts™, fruity Pop-Tarts®, Beaux-Arts, upstarts, but definitely not fish parts.  The sweetness here is perfectly balanced—it’s sweet, but really nice, like your great aunt’s bosom when she gives you a hug for a good report card.  On the finish, the vanilla and American oak come to the fore, hiding a hint of tart fruit behind them, as though they were trying—implausibly—to keep you from noticing it there:  imagine George Washington chopped down the cherry tree, licked the sap from the stump, then tried to evade detection by keeping his lips tightly pursed over his wooden teeth.  But the finish keeps going, slightly sweet and thrumming just beneath the surface, threatening to break through at any moment with a trilling crescendo reminiscent of a Wagnerian Opera.  Fortunately for all involved, in this one, Zarathustra never speaks.


--On the scale of sweet treats--
The Compass Box Asyla is a top-notch cannoli--It's a sophisticated choice and one that won't make your teeth hurt.  If you prefer birthday cake or gobstoppers instead, just grow up.



*Our thanks to Robin Robinson and Compass Box for the samples.  Robin, we raise a glass to you.  Slàinte!


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