Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Usquaebach Reserve (50 ml custom U-bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     I fought with the other Impostors in the Maltcave for the right to review this dram.  (It may be a while until more postings come up, as John is languishing in the ICU at our local veterinarian's hospital, while Stephen is buried up to his neck in the prairie in a red fireant hill. Every now and again, I go and pour some PBR on him and taunt him for being a hipster douchebag. I can't do the postings, because my job as the off-site Legal Consigliere to the Remote Information and Systems Consultant to the Special Assistant to the Third Secretary of the Icelandic Ambassador in Mali takes more time than you might imagine.)  I fought because it was this very dram, almost twenty years ago, that opened my eyes to the possibilities of Scotch.  I was a confirmed wine esthete, and lover (but rarely an afforder) of fine cognac.  It was at a party in Auburn, Alabama, and I'll say no more about that, except that drinking the Usquaebach Reserve then and there was revelatory.  (As was the porcupine leather corset the albino was wearing.) [John:  Bill!  That should be "person with albinism"!]
     Anyhoo, the nutty nose evokes a saltwater taffy inadvertently coated in piano wax from a Steinway recently played by Evgeny Kissin. That is, if Evgeny Kissin had been playing Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata with Dirk Nowitzki (shout out to our Deutscher Freund, and the World Champeen Dallas Mavericks), and if he'd brought along a honey-drenched leather basketball that'd been sitting in the sun in a cedar forest.  A marvelous melange of flowers, a nosegay for a beautiful young girl on the way to her first prom.
     Plummy (and I'm not Robert Parker, Jr. writing incognito---or AM I????), full-bodied: an inconceivable marriage of jasmine in the meadow and jazzmen at the Blue Note, circa 1955.  Spice: a crystallized sugar swill-stick, laced with cinnamon, rasping repeatedly against my soft palate.  If this be torture, I'll not talk.
     It's a full-frontal finish, with time-delayed black pepper wisps rising up the gullet.  It's a frickin' autumn sunset in the mouth, softly westering!  It's joy in a bottle!





Rating:
--On the scale of things that were wonderful in your youth, and are even better when you're older--
The Usquaebach Reserve is Gilligan's Island... No, wait, that's not what I meant to write! John? Stephen? Which one of you did that?! Excuse me a moment.

        *        *        *
Better now, let's try again. 

--On the scale of things that were wonderful in your pre-adolescent youth, and are even better when you're decades older--
The Usquaebach Reserve is riding a bicycle--Sure, it was a blast kicking your yellow banana-seat Schwinn all about town, but match that with winning your age class in the local cyclocross competition while mounted on your Carbon Team Ultegra steed.  Well, not that I've ever done that, but I'll bet it would be a wonderful feeling.
 


                                                                             --Bill


  

Our thanks to Noah Goldstein and Usquaebach for the sample!
  

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Old Pulteney 12 (750 ml copper still imitator bottle)

Tasting notes: 
The distinctive bottle calls attention to the squat pot stills where this wonderful whisky is made; the ship on the label reminds us that the distillery was once accessible only by sea, being the northern-most distillery on mainland Scotland.  But if you’re reading this, it’s a safe guess to say that you’re not looking for facts.  You’re waiting for me to tell you that the nose is unmistakably that of hazelnut-oil drenched seabirds being cleaned with a tobacco-leaf brush.  It’s after the herring boom, you see, and the sailors have more time on their hands.  They haul up the birds—eider mostly—and mutter curses at the hazelnut oil supertanker and its recklessness so near the coastline.  Before long, it’s apparent that the grateful sea ducks, fattened with dried cherries, salted butter, and rum-soaked hardtack, don’t want to leave.  What’s more, they’ve taken up pipe smoking and walking in slow, looping figure eights on the foredeck.  This amuses the younger fishermen who, naturally, have grown fond of the ducks (though after the Michaelmas party episode they are no longer allowed to take them below deck).  All concede that the eider have been imprinted to the ship’s captain, who is a Milton scholar of more than regional acclaim and who takes similar afternoon walks, pipe in hand, as he clears his head from a morning of work on what will later become his remarkable monograph, The Heretofore Unrecognized Wacky Comedy of Samson Agonistes.  The Old Pulteney 12 is all of this: tangy oyster liquor, smooth nut oil, dried fruit, and erudition.



Rating:
--On the scale of interjections that ought to have wider usage--
The Old Pulteney 12 year-old is “waesucks”--  We like to think it captures well the pity felt toward the oil soaked birds, or the collapse of the herring industry, or even our estimation of anyone who fails to give the Old Pulteney 12 a try.

 

                                                                             --John


  

Our thanks to Brian Johnson and InterBev Group for the sample!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Balblair 1991-2009 (750 ml hot water bottle bottle, in folding display case)

Tasting notes: 
     A surprisingly light color, like polished oak floors in the ballroom of a European chapeau. [Stephen:  Bill, please tell me that was supposed to be "château"!]  It noses like gunpowder from the opening salvo at Shiloh on a spring day in April of 1862, or maybe like walking into a kitchen at Martinmas, where Martinshörnchen and toffee-flavored meringues are being cooked (or perhaps where an over-zealous and somewhat neurotic hausfrau has already begun baking fruitcakes, well in advance of the need for the alcohol and fruit to commence their alchemically magical dance).  It's like being in Erda's [maltgonewild.com]{this little bit of censoring brought to you by our new Adult Only Site, Malt Gone Wild}
     A perfect mouth, like shifting into 2nd gear in my Dad's 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa.  It's rich, like the chiaroscuro in Rembrandt's paintings are rich, like the texture of the teak trim on Santana, Humphrey Bogart's yacht.  Or, nearer to our income bracket--but still unattainable--like a 1957 mahogany Lyman motorboat, plying the eastern side's calm summer waters of Lake Michigan.
     A glorious finish, starting with low arioso-like undertones like the cello bass notes in the first movement of Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem. Or more like an elephant singing "Old Man River" in a subsonic register. By the time it's in my gullet, I've forgotten I'm drinking whisky; it's more like a harem of succubi making sweet, crunchy, syrupy [maltgonewild.com], and then [maltgonewild.com]ing my esophagus for seven eternities. Oatmeal cookies, Honeycomb cereal, raw honeycomb, all ground in a red marble pestle with a brass and mahogany mortar by a coven of Wiccans. Gold-thread tapestries stained by sorghum. And just when it seems there's nothing more to express, a hidden tobacco peat bomb explodes (mutedly) and resounds all the way down. All. The. Way. Down.



Rating:
--On the scale of things that begin amazing, and just get better and better and better--
The 1991-2009 Balblair is being divorced from my ex-wife--She was an alcoholic, but not the good kind. [John: Bill! No other reader was married to your ex-wife! Where's the universality?
Ok...
*Ahem*
On the scale of things that begin amazing, and just get better and better and better--
The 1991-2009 Balblair is dinner with Werner Herzog--I doubt that most of you have had this pleasure, but it's unique, rich, memorable, and altogether extraordinary.
  


                                                                             --Bill
 

  

Our thanks to Brian Johnson and InterBev Group for the sample!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Lark Single Cask Tasmanian Whisky, Cask #648 (50ml holy water travel vial--43% abv)

Tasting notes: 
The nose on this dram is extraordinary:  it smells like whisky that’s been poured into an abused wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano, then topped with beech nuts.  But it also smells like chewing on a blade of Bermuda grass tastes.  Beyond that, there are hints of molasses, moldy lemons, peppermint licorice, and authentic wood bark burritos grilled in a panini press.  After a moment of nosing it, I found myself salivating quite a lot, though I was unsure if that was due to anticipation or to an autonomic defense mechanism (though if it were the latter, it would be because the nose on this whisky is so wild, and not in any way a threat to my well-being).  On the nose and in the mouth, the wildness of this dram clearly derives from the wood used to make the barrels.  The accompanying literature reveals that it’s oak from Australian sherry and port casks.  But rather than research particular quercus species indigenous to that region, John, Bill, and I preferred to remain ignorant of the specifics of that wood and let our imaginations run wild, steered only by the notes the expression presented us.  We concluded nearly immediately that the wood in question was neither coniferous nor deciduous (and we’re glad the pioneers at Lark didn’t let that stop them).  This particular cask, we imagined, was composed of porous, even hole-riddled, staves (perhaps patched with Laughing Kookaburra poo), staves that just as easily could have been made from eucalyptus wood—and perhaps sprinkled with a dash of ground-up koala before introducing the spirit into the barrel.  The finish evokes a salty, tidal flat in a sulfur pool peopled with one-legged starfishes—simply extraordinary.  With a little water, the nose changes almost visibly, like   
the aggressive bamboo shoots growing along my neighbor’s fence, perceptibly overgrowing that one side of my yard—and faintly hissing at me as they do.  Along the continuum that is the full range of whisky flavor profiles, this expression creates its own vector and forges an altogether new direction.  That is to say, it’s orthogonal to the subspace of all other whiskies.  Any discerning malt fiend will absolutely have to try it.



Rating:
--On the scale of inappropriate Tasmania references worthy of our adults only site, Malt Gone Wild
The Lark Tasmanian Whisky, Cask #648 is the Amanda Palmer song “Map of Tasmania”—Watch the video.  ‘Nuff said.
   

 
                                                                                     --Stephen
  

--Our thanks to Rob Imperial and the Marsalle Company for the sample--and to Brian Dvoret for leading us through a tasting of the whole Lark line on the Boston Whisky Cruise!
 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Mackmyra Swedish Whisky (1.0 Liter inverted lobster buoy)

Tasting notes: 
     Here at the Maltcave, we're not much given to discussing our fetishes; we save that for our Mature Audiences Only site maltgonewild.com.  But the cat will out of the bag, or, as we like to say, the cork will out of the bottle.  There have been a number of posts of late comparing noses to women's shoes--on this site:  that would be far too tame for maltgonewild.  I am afraid, but secretly overjoyed, that this post is going to continue in that fine, fine tradition.
     The nose is an exquisitely tooled elk leather, alder-soled clog worn by the young Ingmar Bergman [Stephen: Bill! I hope to the heavens that you meant "Ingrid"!!!] while dancing a traditional Swedish Hambopolkett under the stars on a crisp early summer night, trampling an Emeril spice rub mix that tasted awful with Lutefisk.  The clogs were then carefully wrapped in crinoline, and stored in a brass-bound oaken chest.  Dried flowers are there, but they yield pride of place to the leather and wood.  More time in the glass reveals a tinge of hopefulness, like an abandoned slum being bulldozed to make way for urban renewal.  Last, a whiff of dried fish that was an extra on the set of Babette's Feast (many animals were harmed in the making of this movie, especially when they were eaten--yum).
     The mouth feel is, as so many synesthetic experiences are for me, more visual than tactile: the precise corrugations of a Fresnel-lens on a lighthouse lantern, intensely focusing the flavors, or the ripples in a still, carp-stocked pond actuated by a thrown currant scone.  The "Finnish" is sledding down the saddle between Mount Storsylen (in Norway) and Mount Lillsylen (the second highest peak in Jämtland, just missing the blue ribbon by a mere 24 meters) on a lovely old varnished Flexible Flyer: the descent is steep, the track is luge-like, and Alpine huts and lodges spackle the base, or so I'd like to imagine.  As long as I'm imagining that, I'm going to add two large, friendly, drooling St. Bernards with small oaken casks of Mackmyra slung around their necks.  With water, say some glacial summer melting run-off, the Mackmyra opens considerably, like the re-hydration of Sea Monkees. Or Sea Beatles. 
     It's the Pinot Grigio of whisky: Perfect to drink on hot summer day, especially if you're an enervated apricot.




Rating:
--On the scale of movies with names similar to the name of this delightful dram--
The Mackmyra is the remake of "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," starring Dolph Lundgren, wearing Ingrid Bergman's clogs--No, wait, that's the rating at maltgonewild.com! 
*Ahem* 
On the scale of Swedish writers--
The Mackmyra is Hans Christian Andersen [John: Bill! He's Danish!]--His fairytales are beloved by children, and adults, upon re-reading them, discover many rich layers, well worthy of pondering.
    
  

                                                                                     --Bill
  
 

*--Our thanks to Jonathan Luks and the good folks at Mackmyra for the sample!
 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Big Peat Islay Malt (50 ml Zim the Great* potion bottle)

Tasting notes: 
This is remarkably clear in the glass.  Like a blanco tequila poured into a Riedel stemware and swirled under a photo tent.  But it soon becomes clear that the lack of color is due to the fact that the whisky has burned away the entire visible spectrum, sending the rays of light to the ground like tear-gassed bar patrons.  Wave after wave of smoke characterizes the nose.  Think of three dozen white roses left spitefully in a Big Green Egg smoker overnight.  Or bandages soaked with hydrogen peroxide applied to the wounds of a hell-spawned demon.  Or Savonarola's burning in Florence of oil paintings, cosmetics, books, and lutes.  Especially the lutes.  The Big Peat stands astride all of my speculations and says, “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”  And yet on the mouth there’s a glimmer of sweetness, like a match made out of a sweet potato fry struck on the tongue of a kitten.  The spark of sweetness glows brightly over the deeper notes of caramelized pig’s blood.  All of it gives rise to a counter-factual fable in vain imitation of Paul Bunyan.  In this fable, Big Peat tugs at the reins of “Saffron,” his bright yellow musk ox pal, and carries a gigantic purple pool noodle.  They have many adventures but none more memorable than the one where Big Peat saves the day with a series of baked bean-can mortars fired upon a faceless enemy.  The finish, after all, is the smoking chamber of the watermelon cannon strapped to Saffron’s back.  The smell in the air is that of victory secured through unconditional surrender.



Rating:
--On the scale of France's most embarrassing military defeats--
The Big Peat Islay Malt is The Battle of Courtrai in 1302--Not quite Agincourt in 1415 or Sedan in 1870.  But losing to a Flemish peasant militia armed with goedendags? 

  
  

                                                                                     --John
  
  
  

*--Our thanks to Jerry Zimmerman and Aron Silverman for the samples!
 

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Highland Park 13 yr old Single Cask Master of Malt (3 cl MoM* mini)

Tasting notes: 
This dram could have been one of the Inglourious Basterds:  it comes right at you on the nose—or in the nose, I should say—like a nose speculum-wielding military doctor who never bothered to develop a soft touch.  There are distinct aromas of lemon, punky ear wax, and half-rotten honeycomb (the last of which wanes wonderfully with water), but overall, the nose is even more complex than that description suggests:  this is the Enigma Code of Scotch, but it’s punching you in the face, trying to get you not to go down the Nazi road.  On the mouth, it features exploding mustard gas canisters that have been re-purposed to hold coq au vin MREs.  Then come hints of pistachio nut buds and pine tree stock—imagine Donny the Bear Jew smashing you in the face with a solid pine bat while you snack on pistachios, just without all the blood.  The finish goes on and on, seemingly forever, as it eschews the quick kill in favor of a non-anthropomorphized iron maiden on my uvula and a Little Ease on my tonsils.  My mouth confesses.
    


 
Rating:
--On the scale of ways to handle freshly killed Nazis—
The Highland Park 13 Year Old Single Cask
Master of Malt is scalping them—A bit shocking at first, but it’s just so satisfying in the end.  Plus, this way, you end up with a souvenir.  Or your boss does.
 

 

                                                                             --Stephen
 
 




*--Master of Malt   (Highland Park 13 Yr Old Single Cask Master of Malt)
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