Monday, February 28, 2011

The Compass Box Spice Tree (50 ml holy water travel vial)

Tasting notes: 
Mmmm…  This smells so nice I don’t want to drink it.  Instead, I’d like to put it inside the Glade® PlugIn® I keep with my potpourri sachets in my man cave.  Now that I think of it, I think I’ll reserve some for the cranio-sacral massage I have scheduled next week, for this is the kind of aromatherapy I can endorse.  Pink pepper, honey, sage, bay leaves, whole wheat pastry flour, a simple syrup made from red grapefruits.  It’s like an ingredient list for a dessert served by some ancient people we know little about except that they regarded such things as treats.  In the mouth there is a renewed battle between the sweet and the savory.  Toasted biscuits smeared with ginger-chive butter.  Chestnut butter and currant jelly sandwiches cut into the shapes of elephants.  Imagine a pannetone made by dour, upper-latitude Swedes, but with no hint of fish.  Throughout it is extraordinarily balanced, as we have to come to expect from other Compass Box expressions.  But this one stands out for the subtlety of 
its invitation. The flavors rest on the palate like high-end shipwreck flotsam that you, bobbing along in an inner tube, survey at your leisure.

--On the scale of pairs of Crayola Magic Scent crayons, where the newer one replaced an earlier, controversial scent--
The Compass Box Spice Tree is the Peach-scented crayon being replaced by a crayon that smells like lumber--It seems that the scents were so alluring that children would eat them.  As for me, under the shade, as it were, of the Spice Tree, I’d eat the leather jacket crayon (replaced licorice) and the dirt crayon (replaced chocolate).  But the lumber crayon?  I’d keep shavings of it in a snuffbox for a discreet snort every now and again.




--Our thanks to Robin Robinson and the other good folks at Compass Box for the sample!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Maker's Mark Bourbon (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     Maker's Mark impresses out of the gate with its subtle smooth nose, clean legs, and the easy loping gait. Rounding the first curve, it's restrained, intent: not at all flighty in its forward drive. Coming around the second curve, the freshly cut melon and intensity is reminiscent of taking a visit to Fist City with Loretta Lynn, and getting a Kentucky punchbowl in the kisser.  The cornpone is hidden nicely among the other grains and its intense sweetness. Continuing down along the rail, it's no stretch to imagine mixing it up with a pecan pie served Derby morning, and savoring it with strawberry flavored popcorn that's been sprinkled with brewer's yeast. Coming down the home stretch, it's the Maker's Maaaaaaaarrrrrkkkkkkkkk at the finish! It's got an eight mile radius that's so easy to hit and so easy to drink.  In the winner's circle, garlanded with roses perfumed with nectarines, we have the world's greatest houseguest; the sort that is generous, quiet, appreciative, and stands a fine dinner by way of a 'thank you.' Steaming, sweaty, fiery, and proud: a thoroughbred whose ancestry is exceeded only by the present expression.

--On the scale of easy-listening songs--
The Maker's Mark is "Desperado" by the Eagles--The killer song of one of the top-ten selling albums of all time, a song sung or lip-synched to by drivers, guys with broken hearts, wanna be cowboys, jockeys; really anyone who lived in the 70s. Desperado. Why don't you come to your senses? You've been out ridin' fences for so long now.....

Join in anytime, and skoal, brother, skoal.



Friday, February 18, 2011

The Glenlivet 18 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     On the nose, a lemon studded with cloves that's just been removed from the cavity of a roasted turkey and is now clutched in the oven-mitted hand of a bedraggled housewife as she menaces her husband with said lemon, threatening to place it not-so-carefully into the least forgiving of his orifices, for having asked four times how long it would be before dinner would be ready.  However, just beneath that dramatic scene runs an enduring softness and sweetness, embodied in undercurrents of currants or sultanas or, on a bad day, just raisins.  But such are the complexities of long-term relationships and of good whisky.
     In the mouth, it's super nice, like a paper bag soaked in a slightly briny cough syrup. That doesn't sound particularly super nice, you say?  Well, what if I upped the ante and said that the cough syrup as well as the paper bag in question were both made for billionaires?  I thought so.  Of course, both the bedraggled housewife and her husband wonder at their good fortune at having such a high-end bag (soaked in such high-end cough syrup) resting upon their kitchen table.  At the same time, they wonder why their good fortune had to take such an atypical form.
     On through to the finish, this is just what the doctor ordered.  As for what exactly she ordered, this dram is much more morphine drip than colonoscopy, our sometimes happy couple is thrilled to find.  There is also a faint, refined woodiness here, as one might find in a master woodworker's shop in which someone acts as a scrub nurse in surgery, meticulously vacuuming up all of the excess sawdust as it's produced.  As the husband begins to fancy himself in the role of the master woodworker, his wife snaps him out of his reverie by snapping, "Just forget that right now.  No way in hell I'm going to be your scrub nurse, not even in a woodworker's shop."

--On the scale of classic sparring couples--
The Glenlivet 18 is Nick and Nora Charles of Thin Man fame--Ricky and Lucy achieved greater fame, but there's no matching the wit or the class of William Powell and Myrna Loy.  -Is he working on a case?  -A case of scotch!  Pitch in and help him!


--Our thanks to Ryan Caswell and the good folks at Glenlivet for the sample!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Four Roses 2010 LE Small Batch Barrel Strength 769/3732 (750 ml jumbo-sized hot water bottle nip)

Tasting notes: 
This wonderful expression from the good people at Four Roses clocks in at 110.2 proof and let me tell you—that 0.2 proof makes all the difference.  This’ll hold up real well against a fistful of ice cubes on a hot summer night.  This bourbon means business.  And by business, I’m thinking of the kind of business a gangster runs out of a florist shop (God rest Pete Postlethwaite's soul).  The nose is a massive bouquet of flowers—lilac and day lily is what I can discern, though I suspect nightshade and mandrake have their place here, too—stuffed into a 32 oz. pickle jar with plenty of briny, peppery liquid still swirling around in chartreuse splendor.  Think of crushed up ammonia capsules in a Glencairn glass, or a Nose Tork™ votive candle.  There is precision in the ferocity, however, just as one would find in a neurosurgeon’s laser.  Each sip cornholes my amygdala, bridging neurons on opposite hemispheres and lighting up a PET scan with a riot of color.  The finish recalls nothing if not maple syrup blasted from a fire extinguisher in a home kitchen grease fire.  You'll lose the whole house, but God, what a spectacle.

--On the scale of statistically improbable phrases in A Man in Full--
The Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Barrel Strength is "shanks akimbo"--The term denotes sitting with one’s knees set wide apart, and one might do precisely this in a lawn chair on the aforementioned hot summer night.  But there is also a curious sexual connotation that hovers in the phrase like alcohol vapors chasing off the better angels of our nature.  Mostly, though, it’s easy to picture Mr. Wolfe sipping this in his white suit as he writes ribald rap lyrics. 

--Our thanks to Nick and the folks at Four Roses for the sample!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Tomatin 1994 Classic Cask (50 ml Zim the Great* potion bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     Noses like a box of Good 'n' Plenty that's been laced with cloves and clover, and sprinkled with anthracite. The legs on the glass remind of nothing so much as colorful lines on the output of a mass spectrometer. And yet, it is angelic; round as a Christmas ornament, bobbing gently on the limb of the tree from the wafts of cherubim wings flitting about the house, lighting beeswax candles, humming songs like Brad Mehldau's version of Paranoid Android.
     Sipping it inflames the senses; it's a veritable flamethrower spewing fiery gauntlets of love. Or is it more like the heat blast of walking into a sauna in Iceland after gamboling about with the elves amongst the glaciers, geysers, and moraine? Since the fire ultimately becomes more rainbows, it can be nothing other than...



...Dante's representation at the end of the Paradiso of the Holy Trinity as interlocking rings of light that are colored beyond color. At any rate, that's the way the tongue and mouth feel, and I'm sticking to my story. And Dante's. 

     Finishing, it's a combustible colonic for the tongue, a cherub flatulating scents of lemon groves, thick honey, and sage perfumes. Heavens above, it's the condensation of an ambrosial feast distilled by a wonderfully mad chemist. After a minute, nothing more and nothing less than a sponge just out of the cellophane, but in a good way, like a super nice sponge in a gleaming stainless steel kitchen cleaning up a few drippings from the bacon souffle and hazelnut torte. The finish of this dram leaves the drinker morally improved and sensually depraved: Another sign of a beneficent Lord. It's the Forrest Gump of Classic Casks; it keeps on running and it won six Oscars™.

--On the scale of little-known classics--
The Tomatin 1994 Classic Cask is the 肉蒲团, The Carnal Prayer Mat, written in 1657 by 李渔, aka Li Yu--Yes, it's an erotic novel, yes, the protagonist ends up equipped with a part of a horse for reasons best not gone into right now, but it's bawdy, lively, hilarious, and been around for 337 more years than the Tomatin 1994. Your tongue is the Carnal Prayer Mat. Go forth and pray.


*--Our thanks to Jerry Zimmerman for kindly passing on this sample to us.  In our book, that makes him Great.  Slàinte, Jerry, and we'll see you at an Extravaganza soon!   

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Bushmills 12 (700 ml distillery exclusive mega-mini)

Tasting notes: 
This beautiful bottle pours out a perfectly lovely measure of the water of life.  Knowing its provenance perhaps predisposes me to think that the nose is quintessentially Irish: sweet, grassy, even upturned and freckled.  Delicious lemons with their bumpy rinds marked in chalk numbers as if readied for a race.  Remarkably light and thin on the mouth.  No cloying or attention seeking here.  Instead, consider the quiet, self-effacing labor of a platoon of little angels supplied with leather-handled pine needles performing acupuncture on my tongue, then dabbing the tiny wounds with blood orange juice.  The finish is long.  Cherry pie?  No, a Hostess Dolly Madison pie whose wax paper wrapper is soaked in palm oil and vegetable shortening.  This gives way to bamboo whispers and juniper berries.  Remarkably, a few drops of water prompts more fruitiness—a fermented fruit salad left with FARC-supporting green peppers, who march it into a rainforest.  Or fruitcake fruit picked out and discarded by crows, blended in a Cuisinart, and whipped into a meringue in a copper mixing bowl.  Clearly, it is a triumph.

--On the scale of quotations in which an Irishman likens words to food--
The Bushmills 12 is Malachy McCourt's remark: "I love the sound of words.  They have in my mouth almost the texture of nuts."--That's what she said?
--John thanks Tom for his generous gift and praises his ingenuity at customs.   Slàinte!   

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