Friday, April 29, 2011

The Dalmore 1263 King Alexander III (50 ml holy water travel vial)

Tasting notes:  
     The Dalmore 1263 King Alexander III (or as I like to call it, The Dalmore MCCLXIII King Alexander 3) has legs like rosewater running off a Jaguar XKE windshield that's been treated with Rainex.
On the nose, nothing so much as a tangelo flambeed in Tahitian vanilla served rolled in a Dominican tobacco leaf. Unless it's a fruit custard tart drenched in a farrago of liquers: Cointreau, Chambord, Sambucca, Gran Marnier.  It's surprisingly watery in the mouth, which in no way undermines the heat at the back end. (Maybe more akin to Scarlett Johanssen gas after she ate too many jalapeno poppers?) The finish is pleasantly evanescent, like a smoke 
ring wafted away by a summer zephyr at twilight. The flavor comes apart like a Japanese puzzle box, and the taste ripples away like five receivers running a spread pattern from the shotgun formation.  Is there a theme that ties this together? I think not, but it is a lovely dram that manages to harmonize its tesserae strengths and weakness to produce a mosaic of wonderment and joy.

--On the scale of complex entities put together from seemingly simple pieces to produce extraordinary epiphenomena--
The Dalmore MCCLXIII King Alexander 3 is Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine--It's just frickin' amazing.



--Our thanks to Lyz Nardo and Dalmore for the sample!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Four Roses 2011 Limited Edition Single Barrel (100ml maple syrup "recycler" bottle)

Tasting notes: 
I lean in carefully to nose this beautiful bourbon, and it’s like crushing a lily boutonniere against a pressure-treated wood fence post on a misty morning.  The herd of emus are long departed but the diffused sunlight dappling the field fills my morning coffee cup with torpor and ennui.  As so often in life, the fun begins on the mouth.  Scorching on the tongue like VapoRub™ Pop Rocks™, or an elfin Zeus raining down thunderbolts on my hubristic tastebuds.  My eyes tear up like the time I took the needle nose pliers to my ear hair.  But, but, but… but wow!  What gigantic flavor opens up in the wake of the attack!  Clover, straw, cedar shavings from a neglected Chinchilla cage, WD-40, and green peppers sautéed with kale and peanut oil on a propane grill with a balky bleed valve.  Oh, and the clover is covered in Africanized bees.  The finish unfolds like an absurdly long flag at some unpronounceable city’s soccer match.  And with it unfolds a bizarre reverie, an uncanny déjà vu over wholly new experiences.  First I’m parasailing in the Florida Keys behind a fan boat in the Everglades; I’m high enough to see the curvature of the earth, but not so high that I can’t attempt vainly to motion the boat away from the manatees. But then I’m inside
a saltwater taffy plant as the family’s disgruntled scion uses the third shift to infuse packing peanuts with sashikomi soy sauce.  Wait!  Now I’m in a Virginia meadow pulling a Union Colt .36 from a Confederate holster as black powder smoke swirls around me in a crackling cacophony.  Some jackass brays at me in self-important fury about “authenticity.”  I try to explain my position but the bulge of my supersoaker under my Gore-Tex anorak stops me.  Authenticity.  I may not have it, but Four Roses does.

--On the scale of surprising facts about emus--
The Four Roses 2011 Limited Edition Single Barrel is they lay British Racing Green eggs--Less surprising, then, is their non-monogamy, the fact that males can be distinguished by the sounds emitted from their inflatable neck sacks, and that their testicles double in size during mating season.  [Editor: yes, that’s inflatable neck sacks.]


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

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Collingwood Blended Canadian Whisky (750 ml Drakkar Maple™ bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     Since there is no such thing as a characteristically Canadian whiskey bottle type, it's hard to say that the Collingwood Blended Canadian Whisky goes against type in that respect.  Otherwise, however, it's safe to say that the Collingwood is essentially Canadian.  On the nose, the maple plays prominently, but there are strong pecan notes as well.  Nose it for a moment more, and you get much deeper into the heart of the country:  there are hints of rotting icebergs (and yes, that is different from merely melting ones), of maple fermenting in the sap bucket after being left on the ground and forgotten at the sight of another human being, and of very lost penguin feet.  
     The mouthfeel is watery at first, but then enticingly sweet, and then you get the kick in the uvula--an experience I suspect is not unlike bending down to drink from a pure, clear, remote Canadian stream, just before realizing that you're standing behind a full-grown bull moose, who then proceeds to donkey kick (or would that be "moose kick"?) you in the face, sending you flying across to the opposite bank.  But that description is meant to connote more about the uniqueness of the Collingwood rather than the relative pleasure associated with drinking it:  it'll catch you by surprise in some ways, and you're not likely to forget it anytime soon.  
     Add a little water, and the nascent sweetness from before comes into full bloom:  initially notes of re-hydrating dried out, but hardly chewed, bubble gum, followed by the subtle perfume of those flowers in a steeping pot of tea.  Even with some water, the sugars in this dram are evident, leaving legs in the glass reminiscent of Braille--or Her Majesty's gams sans hosiery.  And if the preceding comment hasn't made it clear already, this dram also has an ancillary and unexpected effect as it cruises toward the finish: it has our moral compasses spinning, as if we were nearing the Arctic Circle.  On the finish, the Collingwood is a deep, rich syrupy mouthful.  If honey aged, it would feel like this in the mouth.

--On the scale of classic mounted Canadian characters--
The Collingwood Blended Canadian Whisky is the Royal Kilted Yaksmen--so much edgier than Dudley Do-Right or Klondike Kat, these guys capture the full panoply of Canadian splendor...or at least they refer to it (even if only disparagingly in places).  They're in the neighborhood of the chorus of "I'm a Lumberjack, and I'm OK".  Maybe not exactly on a par with the chorus, but in the neighborhood of such greatness, and that's saying something.



--Our thanks to Svend Jansen and Brown-Forman for the sample!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Our Blogger's Blend Envy

Recently, Master of Malt sent ten bloggers/magazine writers/website and podcast producers/whisky professionals whisky blending kits and asked each to come up with his or her own blend, which Master of Malt would then produce in their signature Drinks by the Dram sample sized bottles.  Then they will let the drinkers vote as to which one they think is best, and the winner will be produced and bottled in full-sized bottles as a special Master of Malt bottling.  More details of this tremendous idea for a retail exercise can be found at our good friend Joshua Hatton's Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society page.

Well, needless to say, not being invited to be one of the chosen ten stung a little at first.  But then we reminded ourselves that not only are we nominally and eponymously impostors, but we are actually impostors, so maybe Master of Malt should be commended on their intelligence and their overall marketing savoir faire.  Nevertheless, that has not stopped us from being envious of those who received blending kits.

But as we wallowed in our petty jealousy and banal covetousness, we considered some of the possible names we could appropriately give our blend, had Master of Malt been kind enough (but also perhaps foolish enough) to have sent us a blending kit.  They broke down into two categories, full titles and subtitles.  And we assumed, of course, that ours would have to have been a dram only and could never be a bottle, lest we violate our own carefully cultivated site aesthetic.

Full titles:
  • The Malt Impostor "life in your own hands" Blended dram
  • The Malt Impostor D.P.   (..."Distiller's Preference?"  "No, Drain Pour.")
  • The Malt Impostor "it's cheap for a reason" Blended dram
  • The Malt Impostor "ya takes yer chances" Blended dram
  • The Malt Impostor "when you want a whisky real bad, this is a real bad" Blended dram
  • The Malt Impostor "at least it should be over quick" Blended dram
  • or maybe just The Malt Impostor "dump" dram (not to be confused with a "dregs dram", per the GlenHatton)

    The Malt Impostor Blended Dram:
  • ...if you can get past that initial heavy off note, you should be fine
  • ...keeping your drain lines clean since 2011
  • they're making stuff up on the front end
  • ...we did the best we could, but that doesn't mean it's good
  • ...we aimed for a flavor profile of John Barrymore (aka, the Great Profile), but ended up with Andre the Giant's instead
  • ...Socrates drank hemlock--how bad could this be?
  • ...the notes of struck matches you detect are actual struck matches...covering up flatulence
  • ...first we wrote the "tasting notes", then we mixed the malts to achieve it
  • ...on the scale of great whiskies, odds are that this one isn't

Readers:  we're rarely interactive here on The Malt Impostor, but we'd love to hear from you on this subject!  What do you think would be the best/most appropriate name for our blend-that-never-was?  Please let us know in a comment below! 

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban (100 ml mondo mini)

Tasting notes: 
    Here at the Malt Impostor, we're not above--or below--the occasional pithy, direct, shot from a bow, sprung from a trap, lightning strike of an impression.  Upon the pouring of the dram into our Glencairn glasses, after the eddying swirl to volatilize the esters (Stephen:  Bill!  That's for wine!), it was agreed by all that the Quinta Ruban "smells so nice."
     After having our olfactory analytic circuits blown, we tilted, tippled, and tasted: a totalizing tang at the tip of the tongue.  A finish of maraschino oranges.  It indisputably was aged in port casks, and although we knew that going in, it became clear in a different way exactly what that meant: a veritable double consciousness of knowing something, but sort of not knowing, but simultaneously relishing it.  Confusing?  Well, I suppose so; after all, even single consciousness is confusing enough!
     Breaking the finish down more, it's like having your pet ferret Sally dipping into a plethora of different niches and slots, then including your sinuses on her grand tour of orifices.  The flavors are served up on a pine-needle dish, hand-painted by Seurat, who used a palette of pure awesomeness and a brush whose bristles are also pine needles.  It's the redolent aroma of a purified turpentine one would use in the restoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (and that the Chianti-sodden janitor would mistakenly use to clean the floor and lavs, too.)

--On the scale of painterly artistic masterpieces--
The Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban is Picasso's "Family of Acrobats with Monkey"--It's sad, it's transcendent, it's from his Rose period, it's complicated, it evokes the Renaissance birth of Christ genre of sacred images, and it's got a monkey.  Here at the Malt Impostor, that's all we look for. Monkeys.



Saturday, April 9, 2011

Whisky Live NYC 2011--A Review

Stephen ended up attending this event without John and Bill--and without intrepid photographer and all-around ass-kicker Laurel, who had planned on attending before discovering that it sucks being a manager at your day job when a significant number of underlings quit on short notice.  Fortunately for Stephen, good friend Joshua Hatton of the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society was willing to attend a masterclass and otherwise pal around with Stephen, even if doing so called into question his reputation as a serious whisky blogger.  But in the process, Joshua only further cemented his status as an honorary Impostor--despite the fact that he is a budding whisky expert/superstar.
Stephen:  To start with, the event was in a lovely space within the Chelsea Piers:  one huge rectangular room filled with whisky tables and distillers and brand ambassadors that spilled into another huge rectangular room, running perpendicular to the first, filled with tables, food stations, and band space.  In the space where the two rooms overlapped, there were two (at least) brand new Jaguars on display and there was a table with whisky and chocolate pairings.  Tastes of whisky and of whisky and chocolate pairings would cost you a ticket or two (you get six with the price of admission and can buy more for $2 each).  The variety of whiskies and brands on display was dizzying, and I had to be selective.  While Yossi (Joshua Hatton) hit a number of the smaller distillery tables, I visited fewer of them, just so I could focus more on fewer drams.  But then again, as noted above, Yossi is an expert, and I am but a humble impostor.
     Early in the night, Yossi and I stepped out of the main room to attend a masterclass with Ricky Crawford from The Glenlivet.  Tasting the entire line, from the 12 to the 15 French Oak to the Nadurra to the 18 to the 21 and the 25 year-old, was thoroughly enjoyable, and Ricky was an entertaining and knowledgeable guide through it.  John, Bill, and I had tried the 18, 21 and the 25 all together at once before, and we all preferred the 21 (even over the 25).  This time around, I still found myself most strongly drawn to the nose on the 21, but Yossi just about convinced me that the more subtle and complex 25 was actually the best of the bunch, though I'm not willing to commit to that yet--nor does it matter a whit if I do.
Revelations from the night included, in no particular order:  the Compass Box Peat Monster Reserve (in a mondo 1.75L bottle), the Lark Tasmanian whisky at the Speyside/Scott's Selection table, the whisky made with oats (and really everything else) at the High West table [see the incomparable David Perkins hawking his wares, pictured to the left], the Amrut, the Glengassaugh 26, the Black Adder Raw Cask Caol Ila bottling with charcoal dregs plainly visible in the bottle, the new limited edition Single Barrel Four Roses Bourbon (more on that one in the coming days), the Tomatin soon-to-be released Decades limited edition and the Tomatin 30 year old, and I couldn't help but taste the Glenmorangie Extremely Rare 18 Year-Old again, as it's one of my favorites.
     Another highlight for me was having the chance to meet in person some friends from the whisky community whom I'd only conversed with online, in particular Robin Robinson from Compass Box, Douglas Stone from For Scotch Lovers and The Whisky Explorers Club, and Ewan Morgan from Diageo.  And, of course, I made many new acquaintances and had the tremendous pleasure of meeting a few folks who were real fans of The Malt Impostor.  Here, I'll be brief for the sake of other readers, but I can't move on without giving a tip of the Groucho Marx glasses to David Perkins, Peter Zimmerman, David Blackmore, Master Distiller Douglas Campbell, Brian Johnson, Ellie and Greenie, Jonathan Bray, Raj Sabharwal, Karen Kushner, Daniel Eckman, Stephen Yorsz, and Brian Dvoret from the Speyside/Scott's Selection 
[pictured just below to the right].  Very pleased to meet all of you!  And look for an email from me soon.
     The food I had at the event was quite good, and it was plentiful and easily accessible.  I did one whisky/chocolate pairing--a Laphroaig 10 with a dark chocolate raspberry truffle--and it was truly amazing.  Should've done more of those...
     One thing I did not end up doing was entering the Oban "tasting room", which was really a bunch of Oban poster/screens bordering a space with some sectional sofa pieces on which to lounge, within which Ewan Morgan conducted a serial Oban flight tasting (that is, one after another, with folks waiting outside until the current tasting finished).  An amazing bevvy of beautiful women worked with Ewan to conduct the tastings and to keep the salivating people (ok, salivating men) outside at bay.  I considered taking on the phalanx of super models to see if I could gain entry, but ultimately, I directed my energies elsewhere.  Ah, choices....
     Overall, Whisky Live is a tremendous event.  The choices were amazing, the live band gave a rich background ambiance to the rooms, and I think that the ticket system allowed everyone a little more space than they might have had otherwise to talk to the folks behind the whisky tables and to learn more about the drams at hand.  I feel like I'm leaving out a lot here, and I am, but such is the nature of reviews.  If you want to know more, you'll have to find a Whisky Live event near you.  And I recommend you do so, and do so soon.

See more pics from the event on The Malt Impostor's Facebook page.  If you're not a friend of The Malt Impostor yet....well, why the hell aren't you?

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Wemyss Smooth Gentleman 8 (200 ml mini jug o' love*)

Tasting notes: 
    Here at Malt Impostor Central, it's often the case that our reviews riff on the name of the expression under consideration.  But "Smooth Gentleman" is almost like waving a bright orange mantilla at a bored nanny goat.  Or firing crossbow bolts at paramecia on laboratory slides.  Fortunately, as a guest taster, we imbibed with Joshua Hatton, who is the Founder, President for Life, and Grand Poobah of the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society.  He's a Society Guy, we're Impostors, and we average out to being within one standard deviation from the mythical John Doe/Joe Sixpack/Eòsaph An t-Americanach mean.
     The nose evokes nothing so much as drunken merry men reveling in a damp wood, broiling butter-slathered venison slabs using twig-shaped bacon for kindling. Moustache wax, vintage spats stored in a cedar hope chest (along with a mothballed beaver tophat and a walrus-tusk-ivory-handled ebony swagger stick), Aveda Men Pure-formance Pomade™, and a tinge of talc round it out.
     A much-used Iron Chef bamboo ginger rasp works its "magic" on the tongue. Fortunately, the Wemyss thoughtfully also coats the tongue in Saran Wrap™, muffling the Kansas City Burnt Ends Wonderbread™ sandwich.  The finish features nag champa cones and a clove cigarette rerolled in a reproduction of the Magna Carta.  If the Smooth Gentleman's dram was a 2-vector, it's natural home would be the Complex Plane.

--On the scale of lost and much-lamented concepts from earlier ages--
The Wemyss Smooth Gentleman is...the Gentleman--Whither Beau Brummel? Fred Astaire? Hell, where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you, and to Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. Jeepers H. Christmas, there's even a Wikihow on the lost art of being a gentleman! "Don't tell a girl how hot you find other girls." Great advice, Wikihow. Stay classy.



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

Friday, April 1, 2011

The MacCutcheon 127 1/3 (50 ml Oceanic Airlines bottle)

     Last April 1, we posted a set of tasting notes on an expression we thought most appropriate to April Fools' Day:  The MacCutcheon 60.  The MacCutcheon 60 is a fictional dram from the now completed ABC television series Lost.  Little did we expect that the MacCutcheon 60 post would become our most popular post of all time (measured in page hits).  Now, we're well aware that the post's popularity is not due to the huge number of Lost fans among whisky aficionados, but rather due to the rather rabid, über-interested Lost fans out there on the internets researching every last random detail of a series that, frankly, didn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense.  John and I began as fans, and watched it through to the end, but by the end, we'd both tired of being played much more like a one-stringed box guitar than like a Stradivarius.  At any rate, I'm not sure what makes fans search and search for meaning in every last feature of what is otherwise a meandering and meaningless series, but I suspect it's somehow analogous to finding Jesus in toast or the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese.  That said, on to the review:

Tasting notes: 
The back of the label of this $590,000 mini notes this dram's status as the biggest damn age statement on any whisky or whiskey ever produced by man:  "We know it's easily twice as good as the MacCutcheon 60 because it's easily twice as old as the MacCutcheon 60."  I assume that the 1/3 in the age statement cinches that fact for those who weren't so strong in basic mathematics.  On the nose, this dram lacks the black smoke of the 60, but replaces it--and boldly--with unadulterated polar bear droppings (see the label).  No doubt a nod to the locally grown movement, it's important to note that this nod would not be possible without the powers of time travel found in the hatch--or the cave, or the orchid or whatever it was (I forget now, and can't be bothered to care any more--or look it up).  The mouth is overpowered by the nose, as one might expect, and the finish will make every distiller, professional and otherwise, thankful that no one had to watch over this barrel for its entire aging period.  A dram this old should have mellowed much more than this one did, but making arctic animal droppings such a central ingredient apparently overwhelmed any carbon filtering the inside of the barrel (first fill two buck chuck butt, by the way) could provide.  In a word:  dreadful.

--On the scale of fakes--
The MacCutcheon 127 1/3 is Han van Meegeren's Christ with the Adulteress--It fetched one of the highest prices at auction ever for a forgery, even though it got him in a lot of trouble in the end.  We're hoping we can avoid the trouble.  And yes, we think this fake is that good. 




Happy April Fools' Day!


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