Monday, November 29, 2010

The Woodford Reserve (375 ml sportcoat pocket flask)

Tasting notes
Ah, we’ve got a classic bourbon nose on this one.  Is it the threshing floor on Mt. Olympus?  No, it’s more complex and surprising.  You’re in bed with Mrs. Redenbacher when, hearing the husband come home, you dive under the dirty laundry (mostly bowties) and beseech any deity that can intervene at this moment.  As the threat fades (could he really be microwaving popcorn after such a long day at the office?) and you sneak out the window, you are aware of other flavors.  Fiddle faddle balls sunk into a sundae from the 4 H Fair.  Chestnut-colored marzipan ponies with yellow corn silk manes (look at them prancing and bucking!).  Above all a pleasant lingering finish, like conversation about a good movie in a café before the rush of the world’s worries return.  There is bosomy softness here, and this realization prompts you to look back.  You see the window, now closed, through which your perfidy entered and your salvation exited.  Verily, some god has smiled upon you this night.  It’s time to go home.


On the scale of legends about whiskey I once believed to be true--
The Woodford Reserve is filling ice cube trays with bourbon and placing them in the freezer so that your drink will never become watered-down--I'm happy to say that I didn't learn the truth about this the hard way.  Moreover, we can all be happy that there exist Whisky Stones (tm) for meeting just such an aim. But the Woodford Reserve surely has stones, but the good, respect-inducing kind, unlike the fellow who once convinced me he kept fully frozen bourbon cubes at the ready.


--Thanks to Svend and the good folks at Woodford Reserve for the sample!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Mortlach 15 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes
With a name that could have been that of the cantankerous, long-lost second cousin of Albus Dumbledore, this whisky is a piece of interesting, if not impressive, alchemy:  on the nose, aromas of apricots and manchego cheese penetrate deep into the sinuses, as if via an enchanted neti pot.  The mouth is smooth and very balanced, with flavors of lemon tea and oak sawdust, alongside the distinct sensation of a team of house elves taking an orbital auto buffer to the inside of your mouth—as they smoke tiny amaretto cigarillos.  The finish is long and extremely pleasant, like the aftertaste of an apricot-flavored version of Dr. Ubbly’s Oblivious Unction taken upon finalizing a most welcome divorce.  And as the potion takes full effect, you can’t help but feel your mind moved to happier pastures, filled with manchego ewes, apricot gnus, poietikos nous and pathetikos nous, and stunning views.  

On the scale of great names for wizards
The Mortlach 15 is Tim—the hilarity of the brevity of his name is surpassed only by the centrality of his role in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:  if it weren’t for him, the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog might have taken out the entire Round Table.


--Thanks to our good friends at Loch Fyne for their support in getting us this dram!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Compass Box Hedonism Limited Release (100 ml "don't touch my junk" groin flask)

Tasting notes
      "Hedonism" has an unhealthy sin-drenched set of associations with it: one imagines lounging in a hot tub in the foothills, surrounded by nubile young androgynes and voluptuous, zaftig non-androgynes, nibbling on delectably ripe, pip-less raspberries, having the finest of drinks poured down your throat as the sun slowly sets over the Pacific (or Atlantic, should you be in France, or more improbably, Scotland).  Conversely, you could just picture drab economists gloating about hedon increases as they quantify human pleasure as a gauge of the frequency of and engine driving business transactions. Meh.

     Behold the Compass Box! Sledgehammer of the Gods, Revoker of Long-Held Associations and Insinuations, the Poetry-Maker of the Senses! Did the crafty mix-master DJ Compass Box have the name first and create a flavor profile to match, or did DJ CB alchemize this magical elixir first, and then realize that its husky, dusky sensuality, its Rubenesque rotundity, required the name "Hedonism"?
      Nosing the Hedonism Limited Release invites a journey to feudal Japan where a hibiscus-, narcissus- and jasmine-wearing geisha carefully minces to your table carrying a recently-lacquered serving platter adorned with slices of saguaro cacti wrapped in raw silk. Since this is your phantasmagoria, you manage to show no surprise when the scent of burning vinyl from Studio 54 wafts your way.
      On the mouth, you briefly wonder what possibly could have nipped you to Spain's clementine groves, where Anita Bryant (yes, that Anita Bryant) and Jose Carreras serenade you with the exuberant drinking duet from La Traviata, "Libiamo ne' lieti calici". You briefly ponder burying your face in either her breast or his, but opt instead for the crotch of one of the trees, home to a rat's nest, a mare's nest, or more probably a bird's nest of carefully gathered oak twigs and strands of musky fabric. Transported, you cry, "Bring me a whiskey sour! Without the sour! (and without that pesky 'e' tucked in between the 'k' and the 'y')." It is impossibly nectar-y, defying the laws of physics, because you are in the Garden of the Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
     A pecan/roast hazelnut mash-up on the back end is quickly overshadowed by grapefruit rinds soaked in Gran Marnier and smokey bacon, minus the bacon. Orange pekoe tea sips, without the pekoe, and sangria, without the 'sang' or the 'ria,' both polka and square-dance on your tongue accompanied by Microplane-zested lime angels.

On the scale of improbable yet remarkable accomplishments--
The Compass Box Hedonism Limited Release is the Dionysius 11 moonshot--Okay, we all know that it was Apollo 11, but it should have been Dionysius, igniting all manner of revelry and romping with Artemis, Armstrong, and Aldrin, the AAA of Amazing. 



Monday, November 15, 2010

The Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (50ml airliine bottle)

Tasting notes
Honored members of the Academy!  You have done me the honor of inviting me to give your Academy an account of the life I formerly led as an ape...Er... [shuffles papers] that, an account of the taste of the Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky:

Produced in Dufftown, where Homer Simpson would get a dram if he were a Scot, the Monkey Shoulder is exceedingly pleasant.  A great veranda whisky—don’t keep this one tucked away in the wood-paneled library in dusty, lead crystal decanters.  Go ahead and drink this in life’s myriad intervals.  Waiting for the UPS guy?  Sip.  Seeing the kids off on the bus?  Sip.  Figuring out ways to put off dealing with the crab grass?  Sip.  How am I ever going to flavor this block of tofu?  Sip.  See how easy it is?  The spicy mouth reminds of the time you put bamboo chopsticks in your nose to imitate a walrus.  Then there are more spices in an indeterminate swirl of exotic sensuality like being trapped on the loading dock of Pier One overnight, swaddled in scented red velvet in a botched bachelor party prank that everyone quickly disavows.  The white pepper finish and its high grassy notes disappear quickly.  That’s okay, though.  Take another.  Sip.

As I look back over my development and survey what I have achieved so far, I do not complain, but I am not complacent either.  With my hands in my trouser pockets, my bottle of Monkey Shoulder on the table, I half lie and half sit in my rocking chair and gaze out the window….  I am not appealing for any man’s verdict, I am only imparting knowledge, I am only making a report.  To you also, honored Members of the Academy, I have only made a report.


On the scale of auctorial descriptives--
The Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky is "Kafkaesque"--Now let me be clear:  one feels no alienation when drinking the Monkey Shoulder.  Nor does one confront the meaninglessness and uncaring of the world when swirling the glass; if anything, the reverse is true.  It’s just that among auctorial descriptives the term "Kafkaesque" is outstanding, having an almost onomatopoetic splendor.  It’s far better than Woolfian and Byronic.



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Bunnahabhain 12 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes
Don’t let the mariner on the label fool you:  this expression is Bunnahabhain’s tribute to the Scots Pine, or perhaps to the medicinal qualities of its xylem (but definitely not of its phloem—that would just be nasty).  On the nose, dominant notes of Pinus sylvestris, Pine Sol, and, for some, the olfactory memory of a particularly bad moment of acid reflux.  Give it a minute to open up, and it fills the nostrils like pine resin nose plugs dipped in vanilla.  On the mouth, it begins quite nicely, with a classic one-two punch of flavors:  astringent followed by children’s cold medicine.  At this beginning stage, the Bunnahabhain 12 is a veritable speculum for the taste buds.  Now fully awake and on the job, taste buds pick up hints of fermented molasses and an overly herbed salad dressing (not together, though—that would just be nasty).  Cruising down the gullet, toward the finish, one recalls the youthful fun of sucking an olive oil and peat slurry through a hollowed-out pine branch (all of you did that, too, right?  right?).  The finish generates a cloying sensation not unlike a hamster eating peanut butter, and leaves you with a medicinal, but not palliative, sensation.  This dram could be accurately described at once as a paean to the medicinal and as a medicine itself (which, you have to admit, is just meta-nasty—and here I’m using the positive sense of the term, as in devilishly clever or something akin to “wicked good”):  one could easily believe that researchers at Bunnahabhain University developed this expression as a cure for neurasthenia.  In other words, just as it does with taste buds, it tells you in no uncertain terms to get your ass out of bed.


On the scale of rough ways to wake up in the morning—
The Bunnahabhain 12 is your spouse’s smacking an insect as it crawls across your forehead—stinging and bracing, but once you are able to get your wits about you again, you’re very likely to be thankful.



Friday, November 5, 2010

The Woodford Reserve Maple Wood Finish (appropriately, 100 ml maple syrup "recycler" bottle)

Tasting notes
Imagine eating buckwheat pancakes topped with a quarter cup of last night’s bourbon instead of the syrup sitting next to it.  The expectation of maplely-smooth goodness is enough to convey its real presence.  At least until the early morning mule kick (47.2%!) finds you blubbering nostalgically about the days of yore.  And so it is with this I-wish-I-could-be-moose-hunting-even-though-it’s-out-of-season whiskey.  As the profile settles and you wipe yesteryear from your eyes, you can appraise this richly-hued whiskey on its own merits.  Though it’s not like when the dish ran off with the spoon, there is an odd, shotgun wedding of flavors.  Unlikely and yet connubially blissful.  
A rehearsal dinner of quiche made from apricots, swiss chard, and maple-plank grilled scrod.  Then imagine an experimental dessert of candied white asparagus with a few drops of the short-lived Cran-Rasp-Blueberry Tabasco sauce, abandoned at the second-to-the-last minute by the caterer, only to be replaced, to the delight of the already showing bride, with honey-cured ham in sweet potato biscuit sandwiches run through a Krispy Kreme glazing machine.  The finish is smooth as cold metal or finished wood, or both, much like the sensation the father of the bride feels as he sits on the perimeter of the festivities, mindlessly stroking the maple stock and steel hammer of his shotgun.   

On the scale of popular music tunes featuring gratuitous prepositions--
The Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Maple Wood Finish is “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings--“In this ever-changing world in which we live in…” makes a grammarian give in and cry.  But the more equanimous bourbon drinker will welcome this happy addition to her collection, to be sure.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Ardbeg Supernova 2010 (3 cl MoM* mini)

Tasting notes:
The physical instantiations of the Malt Impostor serve as an Oasis of Calm from the freneticism of the rigors of life, and I was sure that the Ardbeg Supernova would prove superior to a Champagne Supernova (in the sky).  Little did I dream of what was in store for me, beginning with a nose like Pinocchio's when he was a liar: woody, long, shapely, and vaguely smacking of the charms and barnyards of the Old World.  A swirl in the tasting glass revealed a bazillion (note: not a technical term from mathematics) legs; truly, it beaded up like amber bindis, and partitioned the elegant swell of my glass like a Riemann sum, with δ rapidly converging to 0. (Note: these are technical math terms.  Emergency exits are conveniently located in your browser toolbar.  Thank you for flying Air Impostor.)

     Back to the nose: It's a massive banyan tree pumping briny sap through it, roots digging deep in the dank dark earth. In the mouth, the anise flavor is what a permafrost licorice stick honed to an ice pick would do to your soft palate in the hands of a drunken soccer yob who'd eaten a jicama salad. If it's possible to imagine Tolkien's tree-shepherd Fangorn belching after an orgy of sambuca and Longbottom leaf tobacco, then welcome to the taste sensations in the Supernova. Gandalf preserve us. 
     The finish is a record-setting 32-inning baseball game, and inspires discourse on a bizarro-world Hegelian Phenolmenology of Spirits. My spirit is the starstuff that will one epoch become planets--I contain worlds--I contain multitudes--though I am not Legion. My lips are numbed and unsealed.

On the scale of world-shattering revelations (literally)—
The Ardbeg Supernova is the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Seriously, is there a cooler, more cataclysmic way to begin the ending of earthly life? A neutrino storm sounds depressing, and the implacable increase of entropy is for the neurotic.

*--Master of Malt  
(in this case, the Ardbeg Supernova 2010 (SN2010) 2nd release)

Check out other Master of Malt Drinks by the Dram here.

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