Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Hazelburn 12 (100 ml alchemist's mini)

Tasting notes: 
The oenograph, Eric Asimov, recently called for reducing the wine critic’s lexicon to two words: sweet and savory.  Purple prose and precious predicates fail to convey information.  “Fixating on exactitude,” he wrote, “is a fool’s errand.”  This being written in the newspaper of record (and now the newspaper of pay wall) I was impressed, and  resolved to clarify my reviews by organizing everything in accordance with two categories; henceforth, malts will be classified either as “belonging to the Emperor” or “those that from a long way off look like flies.”  Initially, I felt I’d stumbled across the key.  The breakthrough was clear simply by noting my tremendous progress on my soon-to-be-contracted Grundlegung zur Maltephysik der Scotchen.  But a single pour from the Hazelburn 12 woke me from my reductivist slumbers.  The unmistakable colors of sherry maturation in the glass let loose a logorrhea for which there is no loperamide.  Nuts on the nose.  Cinnamon-dusted chestnuts eaten furtively in an attic rarely visited.  Is there butterscotch as well?  More like a peppermint-butterscotch Mento ejected from an Orangina bottle refilled with carbonated bong water and funny car fuel.  Smokey but without smoke, seawater without brine, perfectly pleasant and agar-reable.

--On the scale of fitting names for logophobic journalists--
The Hazelburn 12 is Coco Krumme--Like Asimov, she is suspicious of wine critics that pepper their prose with obscure OED terms.  But with a name like Coco Krumme, it’s obvious she’s carrying a lot of verbiage baggage.  Maybe Krumme and Asimov need to move from wine to the water of life, or kiss the Blarney Stone, or failing that, give up their jobs as critics and instead serve as magistrates. Then they may restrict their few words of judgment to "Guilty" or "Not Guilty" and let the rest of us enjoy our drams and our dreams, our poetry and our punditry.




--Thanks to Andrew Shand and Preiss Imports for the sample! Slàinte! 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The St. George Single Malt Whiskey [Lot 9] (750 ml tallboy mega mini)

Tasting notes: 
     What sort of relics, one wonders, accrue to St. George? Dragon scales? Sword shards? Singed singlets and armor gone agley, besmirched by flames and no longer coruscant? Certainly amongst such regalia the St. George Single Malt need not bow its (metaphoric) head.
     A nose laced with citrus and clove gives way to yoghurt and roses, a heady mixture of Sauvignon Blanc subtly tinged with botrytis, the noble rot of Eiswein, Tokay, Sauternes, and the whole family of dessert wines. It's like a humid summer night sitting out on the back porch of a dairy farm, tiki torches of citronella shooing away skeeters and dragons.
     Slashing down the face to the mouth, nothing so much as the boccino from a bocce set: smooth, round, and an alloy of metal, fine china, and pure esprit. If you can imagine a few million ball-bearings made of heather, honey, and the good intentions of Renaissance Faire participants rolling around in your mouth...you have a better imagination than I do.
     The mounting power of the finish accrues to the middle of the tongue with remarkable tenacity, like a bowling ball pushed down a lane by a li'l kid just learning the ancient art of keggling. (No, I did not mean "kegeling." Get your mind out of the gutter!) It's not complex, it doesn't modulate, but there's an enduring note of pine must tinged by hacky sack like the long, long oboe note picked up by the clarinet from Mozart's Serenade in No. 10 in B-flat as described by Salieri in Amadeus. This libation is dangerously drinkable, but you and St. George should both beware of guzzling it for fortitude before facing the Dragon: Chugging it is wasteful, and according to Stephen (the Gauche), doing so results in a searing sensation on the palate.  Besides, you'd probably just end up offering the Dragon a drink, and who knows where that might go?

--On the scale of things that are long-lasting and delicious when taken slowly (yes, Stephen, this is in direct response to your wanton disregard and heedless act of barbaric swilling)--
The St. George Single Malt is a soulful first kiss between a brave hero and a just-rescued maiden.  Hoovering this dram is like quickly sticking your sword into a dragon's heart, then pulling it out only to be sprayed with fiery searing blood.  Be heroic, don't be a Stephen.



--Our thanks to Ellie and Lance Winters at St. George Spirits for the "sample"!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

If you hadn't noticed, it's whisky event season...

Next up is Whisky Live NYC this upcoming Wednesday, April 6, with Chicago (June 18), San Francisco (September 3-4), and Beverly Hills (October 21) to follow.  As we noted before, each event offers a vast array of whiskies (150 different Scotch and Bourbon, as well as Irish, Japanese, Canadian, and American whiskies), whisky experts and industry professionals, a full buffet of fine food, and other forms of formidable entertainment. 
      Stephen and his intrepid photographer fiancée, Laurel, will be in attendance.  Bill is off in Venice now, investigating some rare forms of cognac (don't ask); when he returns, he has a seriously overdue appointment to take his turn cleaning the MaltCave.  And John can't make this event due to a prior commitment to attend a hybrid conference on shingles (including asphalt, wood, and the rash).
     But don't take Stephen's word for it (or Laurel's pictures) after the fact.  You should really experience Whisky Live for yourself.  And once again, we here at The Malt Impostor are here to help:  just use our promotional code good for a 10% discount on your ticket price to the New York event.  To get the discount, you must hit the red "Redeem Voucher" button on the Checkout page and type in the word "impostor" (without the quotes--and be careful, as the code is case-sensitive). 

Book your tickets for the New York event here:

You can find information on the other events taking place in the U.S. and around the world here:

Below is more info from the Whisky Live folks (check out the fancy car reference!).  Hope to see you there, and slàinte! 

       Sample and Experience over 150 of the Finest Scotches, Bourbons and Whiskies From Around the World
      Whisky Live brings you an incredible selection of Scotches, Bourbons and whiskeys, coupled with a full dinner buffet, live entertainment direct from Scotland, chocolate and scotch pairings, and a whiskey cocktail competition not to be missed!

VIP Ticket: 5 .30pm - 10pm $135    Standard Ticket: 6.30pm - 10pm $105

On the Door Ticket Prices: VIP ticket $150      Standard ticket $120

·        Whisky Cocktails !!!
·        Whisky Cocktail Competition
·        Premium Beers from Guinness, Belhaven and Innis and Gunn
·        Whisky Kiss – Scottish Jazz and pop band direct from Scotland!!
·        Win a FREE custom kilt from 21st Century Kilts.
·        Full Dinner Buffet
·        See the new Jaguar XF and Jaguar XJL on display
·        Chocolate and scotch pairings
·        Meet the distillers and producers
·        Get the true experts’ opinions
·        Master classes by The Glenlivet, Johnnie Walker and Glenmorangie
·        Cigars and cigar pairings
·        Hand Dipped Maker’s Mark glasses or Dip your own Whisky Live glass in the Maker’s wax!
·        A complete evening out !!
·        Special Whisky Live discounts from the sponsoring retailers
·        Live broadcast from WOR Radio onsite

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza, NY: Another Review in Three Parts

Bill:  As the St. Pauli Girl ad suggestively suggests, you never forget your first Single Malt and Scotch Whisky Extravaganza. However, as I detailed in our post from last October when the MI team "did" Boston, I actually did forget an hour of the evening, or was maybe kidnapped by aliens and probed...about NORAD SAM payload specifications.
     Upon arriving at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York last Wednesday, we enjoyed seeing the preserved corpses of Teddy, Eleanor, and FDR in their crystal tombs.  [John: Bill! That's Lenin's corpse in the Red Square in Moscow!]  Ambling up the spiral stairs to the mezzanine we were graciously met and eyed askance by Maddie Shayne, whose demeanor chilled just a wee bit when we asked to see Gabby (who turned out to be, naturally, her daughter). We've fooled Gabby now for close to a year; she responds to our emails, pretends to laugh at our jokes, and alleges to find us to be at least a small cut above the scum of humanity. We even got her to wear a pair of Impostor Glasses last October!  We were happy to see Gabby, she kept up her pretense of being happy to see us, and all left with their dignity intact. We met Alan Shayne, the President of the American branch of the Single Malt Whisky Society, and it became clear to us that Gabby inherited the best of all the many wonderful qualities from both her parents---although going to 18 years worth of Extravaganzas might have something to do with it, too.
     We ran into our occasional co-imbiber Joshua "ManHatton" of the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society, and delighted again in bending elbows, sozzling, and nattering about the minutiae of tasting with him.
     Gabby checked us into the pre-Extravaganza Whisky Panel of Droll and Mildly Buzzed Industry Insiders and Experts, who even deigned to answer two of our questions. My question wondered about the prospects of greater availability of 50 ml nips of top expressions, and it took all of three seconds before the panel collectively shot down the notion: Too expensive to bottle them, and nobody (other than we) would buy them. I maintained a brave face, but wept inside, a broken man, an outed Impostor.
     We next laid down a stomach-lining alcohol-absorbing layer of food, then descended on the Whisky! It was nice to see Jerry Zimmerman pouring the Classic Cask, but the table was already swarming with eager tipplers, sots, souses, lushes, swillers, and dipsomaniacs making it hard to say much more than a quick "hello." We met Aron Silverman (pictured above) pouring for the Society and succumbed to the blandishments of their bottlings. The Magnificent Drambersons they concoct!
     Besides the usual suspects, the Glenmorangie Finealta was the standout for me. My mouth was recovering from a salvo of peat explosions when I drank it, but as I continued to sip, the delicacy and charm of the expression gently asserted themselves. The rep pouring it told me that "Finealta" meant "Elegant" in Gaelic, but I prefer to think of it as "Fine High." But I am crass, base, and untutored in the ways of society.  Then I had a few desserts, then a final dram or six to close out the evening, and responsibly left the driving to Stephen.  Back to our undisclosed location, our secret bunker, our MaltCave, where we live alternate lives, waiting for the next MaltSignal.

John:  My take:  Took a neat train ride.  Then wow, look at all the tall buildings!  Wow, look at the beautiful hotel!  Wow, there's lots of whiskies here!  Lots of them taste good.  Nice people around.  Have to dash back to the train station.  Bye!  [Bill:  Some manage to say so much with so little.]

Stephen:  I defer to Bill on the evening's details, but I will say this much:
As the one who was stupid enough to volunteer to drive the three of us back from the Extravaganza, I eat heartily, tasted very selectively, and mournfully dumped out more of each 1/4 ounce pour than I drank. Looking back on it, I willingly disposed of a collection of whiskies that would have married well into a world-class dump dram (I prefer that term, though our good friend Joshua Hatton has earned some renown for his "dregs drams"). Ah, lost opportunities and, even worse, wasted whisky...
     But the pleasures of this Extravaganza extended well beyond the tastes: as Bill mentioned, we were very happy to see Gabby Shayne again, but also to have the chance to meet SMWSA President Alan Shayne and his wife Maddie--and to find that that fruit didn't fall far from the tree.  It was great catching up with fellow blogger and soon-to-be master blender Joshua Hatton [watch this site for more on this in coming days], Jerry "Zim the Great" Zimmerman, and the clutch Noah Goldstein from Usquaebach (you know what I'm talking about here, Noah--and thanks!).
And we had the distinct pleasure of meeting and getting pictures with SMWSA Ambassador Aron Silverman and Spike McClure (pictured right) from Atlantic Wine & Spirits, who will doubtless end up writing a guest post for us some day, or at least collaborating on one.  Spike was so excited to be photographed with us, he didn't realize that the mustache had fallen off of the Groucho Marx glasses we'd given him (and by that point, mysteriously, John's mustache appears to have turned gray). Other notable meetings included Yoshi Morita from Suntory,  Nathalie Phillips from Skyy, Julia Rogers from Moët Hennessy USA, Ross Hendry from BB&R, Simon Brooking from Laphroaig, and Peter Silver from the incomparable Malt Maniacs.  In other words, at the Extravaganza, as in just about every other setting, the whiskey drinking experience was heightened significantly by the presence of friends--but I've made that point before.
     All in all, it had little of the reckless abandon or feckless perambulation characteristic of our first Extravaganza, but we all agreed that we got more out of this one.  For those of you contemplating attending one of these events, my advice would be to do so soon and often. With the overwhelming array of choices the Extravaganza lays out before you, you need to practice making the most of it. So get out there and practice...hard. It's sooo worth it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Greenore 18 Single Irish Grain Whiskey (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes: 
On the nose, apricots fading slowly to Dale Evans' saddle...on Eeyore of Winnie-the-Pooh fame.  Actually, therein lies the seed of the best comprehensive metaphor for this dram:  Greenore is Eeyore's dark, handsome, older and much less depressive Irish cousin.  (And no, he doesn't have a leprechaun hat, nor does he have a four-leaf clover tatooed on his shoulder--he's just older, a darker shade of gray, and Irish.)  Leave it to open up for a few minutes, and it seems that perhaps Greenore spent some time maturing in a former sherry cask, perhaps at the direction of a cruel and impatient master ("Greenore!  I told you to stop sniffing around my workshop!  Into the barrel with you again!").  The mouth gives hints of the peonies from his former master's garden, peonies that Greenore gleefully ate just before running away.  As it moves toward the finish, one gets the clearest sense of Greenore's dark side, doubtless formed during his travels as a poor, transient, underaged cartoon donkey:  there is something bitter and a bit forboding on the tongue, like the memory of a missed appointment or slightly misspent youth.  However, that bit of bitterness is porpoise-like, appearing and reappearing, and it gives Greenore an interesting, mysterious edge (think Colin Farrell, but as a Disney donkey--fortunately, when you're soft and apparently hoof-less, it's much more difficult to trash a hotel room).  
On the finish, there is also a hint of the distinct flavor of the brine and the anticipation characteristic of Sea World (did he stop there during his travels?  We may never know...).  But overall, the finish is tough to get a good read on, almost as if his tail keeps falling off.

--On the scale of Winnie-the-Pooh characters who could use some psychotropic medication--
The Greenore 18 Single Irish Grain Whiskey is Tigger--Eeyore might benefit from antidepressants, but he may just be a glass half empty kind of guy.  But a tiger with a spring for a tail?  Ritalin, anyone? 



Our thanks to Rachel Quinn and the good folks at Cooley for the sample. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Yamazaki 12 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes: 
Perhaps the first thing to say is that this whisky looks great even before you pour it out.  The seductively-shaped dark brown bottle, the black tea stained label, the large "Yamazaki" in lovely kanji—all of it induces a reverent state of anticipation.  The nose is equally inviting.  At first I think it’s the Queen of England’s silk gloves after arranging flowers; some sweet earth and vermiculite mixed with salty perspiration and pluck.  But it’s a younger queen, or perhaps Kate Middleton in silk gloves so long and yet so sheer they work in vain to conceal the dimple in her triceps. [I think I’m getting aroused.]  In the mouth there is a swirl of spices and slow-burning heat.  It’s like a curry made on a Rosetta stone mortar with a unicorn pestle now bubbling in yak ghee.  [Yup, that’s it; I am aroused.]  The finish is exceptionally long and replete with the sensation of dipping a still-warm piece of sourdough bread in rosemary-infused olive oil with cracked black pepper.  And now you sit back to savor the delightful spectacle of gustatory pleasures turning, kaleidoscopically, from vibrant, oversaturated technicolor to washed-out, hipstamatic sepia.  It is as if you are caught in the on-rushing whoosh of being restored to oneself, of returning to normal.  And there’s some plum molasses in the finish, too.

--On the scale of tools in the toolkit for impact sounds--
The Yamazaki 12 is “shwop,” which is used for a drop sounds--It’s more decisive than “schaa” (hit body) and more subtle than “shwud” (slap).  And it might just be the sound of my inhibitions hitting the floor as I get up to pour some more.



Our thanks to Yoshihiro Morita and the good people at Suntory for the samples.  And our thoughts, prayers, and best wishes are with the people of Japan in the aftermath of the recent earthquake and tsunami.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Highland Park 16 Old Calvados Finish (3 cl MoM* mini)

[This is another dram the good folks at Master of Malt sent us.  They asked for an honest review and little else in return.  See our disclaimer on this here.  Thanks again, Natalie!]

Tasting notes: 
     The nose is like the best frosting ever:  real unpasteurized Irish butter made from the cream of cows that ate only green, green grass in a light mist, their bovine eyes blithely trained on a perfect double rainbow over the distant hills, where pot-distilled liquid gold was being drunk by merry, merry leprechauns. Sugar refined from cane grown by a co-op of luscious vestal virgins residing on an unlisted island known only as being in the Tropic of Capricorn. The blending of the softened butter and the sugar performed by the clarified ghosts of Julia Child and M. F. K. Fisher using a large shiny copper bowl and an adamantine whisk. 
     It's brilliant in the mouth: transubstantiated, super-lubricated, fermenting prize-winning orchids turning you into a mastadon. [John:  Bill! A mastadon?!?] It's canned sweetness, but not treacle, not goo, and not the last three minutes of any Stephen Spielberg movie. It's bobbing for apples in a vat of Calvados. It's hay harvested from the amber waves of grain of yesteryear, when we all still believed in magic. It's a panda bear bower hidden in a fold of the mountainous regions of southwest China, lined witha woven mesh of (imported) eucalyptus and bay leaves. It's like sucking jasmine nectar through a straw made of straw while gently masticating a piece of the most-loaded pound cake imaginable
     If I hadn't just tried to write about it, I'd say that the Highland Park 16 Old Calvados Finish was beyond words. And since words are at best a pale shadow of reality projected upon the screen of our neuronal networks by our central scrutinizer, I'd say to go get a dram immediately.

--On the scale of things that never had their finish adequately described (or in the case of this review, described at all)--
The Highland Park 16 is indeed a full-on double rainbow all the way across the sky--What does it mean? Why can't we reach the end? Does it even matter?



*--Master of Malt   (Highland Park 16 Old Calvados Finish)
Check out other Master of Malt Drinks by the Dram here
Check out Master of Malt's Facebook page here and their Twitter feed here.
Happy International Women's Day and Happy Mardi Gras!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Jura Superstition (100 ml magic glass bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     On the nose, this dram is throwing salt over one's shoulder, if by throwing salt over one's shoulder you mean lemongrass in a surreptitious mélange with lemon Cheetos® or perhaps with a wedge of Mini Babybel® cheese dried on a vinyl car seat.
     The mouth offers the liveliness of a rabbit's foot (still attached and kicking) but also the inorganic sting of that same rabbit's foot later preserved in liquid benzene, with a few tablespoons of molasses fermented in tobacco barrels added in for good measure.  The accumulated effect is loamy and gloamy, but it doesn't blow me...away.
     The finish brings a mix of brewer's yeast, pixie stix, and angst activating in  your mouth, not at all unlike the sensation of a hole opening up and draining an entire lake.  Or, to put it another way, the finish is like a penny found standing noncommittally on its edge, a horseshoe with no laces whatsoever, or a black cat that can't be bothered to get off the sofa to cross your path.

--On the scale of things upon which custom holds one should make a wish--
The Jura Superstition is seeing a shooting star--Your wish likely won't come true (though, alas, the same is true of all things in this category), but at least you just got to see a meteoroid burn across the sky as it became a meteor.  It's not quite blowing out candles on a birthday cake (in that case, you get cake!  And it's your birthday!), but it's light years better than blowing an eyelash to the wind.




--Our thanks to Lyz Nardo and the good folks at Jura for the sample!

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