Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Compass Box Eleuthera (50 ml airline bottle)

[Our apologies, but this one is no longer being produced.  However, there are a few bottles floating around out there and there are a few minis more than that out there...]
Tasting notes: 
Okay.  You’re going to get the wrong impression.  I’m going to talk about fruit and spice and everything nice, and you’re going to think that this is a Robert Parker Fruit Bomb™ at best.  Or a silly perfume from a mall kiosk hoping to separate tweenage girls from their allowance money.  But the Eleuthera is neither of these things.  Let me explain.  First, it’s light and lemony on the nose.  A stick of Irish butter, curried orange, and dried apricots in a box of Jimmy Choo shoes, size eight, cradled by a finicky shoplifter.  Or a tin of mandarin oranges, quince, and persimmon purchased in a strange country that saw fit to can such things together.  We also found faint hints of peat in the background on the nose and even a sandalwood essence—think of a hemp vest worn by a hippie at a shop full of crystals.  We found all these things and more.  Truly, it was a horn o' plenty but with 
exotic fruits pouring out.  But it wasn’t a random assortment, but rather an exceptional balance.  The fruit and spice all pulls in the same direction, not at all like a tug-o-war set up across a condominium pool replayed on America’s Funniest Videos.  A really lovely finish but not so long lasting that you wouldn’t finish your glass quickly and seek to pour another.  In the beer world, they’d call this sessionable.  We call it delicious.

--On the scale of fragments by the early Greek philosopher, Heraclitus--
The Compass Box Eleuthera is fr. 7 (DK): “If all things were turned to smoke, the nostrils would distinguish them.”--In such a world, pray that you are near the Eleuthera and far from Stephen after a session of IPAs from the Pacific North West. 


--Our thanks to Robin Robinson from Compass Box for the mini and for the tip on where to find the full-sized bottles--at least this one last time!


Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza 2011 Fall Schedule...encore une fois!

The three of us are planning to attend the Boston event--the only issue remaining is convincing John that we should all wear our tuxedos to this event, as we did last year.  Look for us there!

Tickets to the Extravaganza are $120 each for Members and $135 each for Non-member guests.  If you are not a member, don't fret:  use the promotional code “TMI2011” (that's an acronym for The Malt Impostor, rather than Too Much Information) and you will receive your first two tickets at the Member price ($120 each).  Purchase tickets directly online:

or by calling (800) 990-1991.  Once again, use the special Malt Impostor promotional code “TMI2011” to receive your first two tickets at the Member rate.  Cheers!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Highland Stag Premium Blended Scotch Whisky (50ml Zim the Great* potion bottle)

Tasting notes: 
On the nose, this dram offers a delicate but definite distillate note, which some might confuse at first with that of a solvent, but with some concentration, other, more interesting notes come through.  Hot dogs fished out of the reservoir of a vendor's rolling cart--only that reservoir is filled with steaming, perfectly sterile rubbing alcohol.  Institutional honey.  Lemon curd (not to be confused with "Lemond turd") mixed with fake banana flavoring, or GMO fruit in which the mad scientists introduced turpentine genes.  Then on the mouth, tons of licorice dancing with Good-n-Plentys (in what is apparently--aside from the candy coating on one part of the population--a high school hurting for some of that tasty diversity stuff you find in all the better candy shops).  In broad strokes, the combo is like jumping off a cliff into the unknown, only to find that the air is actually licorice.  Overall, this dram is not complex, but it is surprisingly tasty and smooth:  there are hints of pencil shavings on the mouth--but really, really, good pencil shavings--perhaps mixed with a little pine resin by a mischievous sous chef to make a compote for pork chops to be served to overly snooty foodies [beware: link here perhaps more appropriate for...] In a lot of ways, and as odd as it is to say, this dram reminded us of a young Barbara Streisand:  it has an off-putting nose, but has a mouth (or in Barbara's case, a voice) that's so much better than you would have expected given the nose.  Oh, and the finish leaves a slight bitter taste in the mouth, much as did The Way We Were.  The three of us agreed that this is a real hangover dram (and that's actually a good thing):  the nose will act as a slightly milder version of smelling salts, rousing one abruptly, but not as harshly as one could imagine, much like a huge, affectionate dog jumping on your chest and licking you awake (and let's be honest:  if your'e waking up hungover, the process will not be wholly pleasant)--but then it offers you unexpected and uncomplicated tastiness that can serve as the hair of the dog that bit you (assuredly a different dog from the one who just awoke you with his exuberance and slobber).

--On the scale of great movies for hangovers--
The Highland Stag is Monsters, Inc. (couldn't go with Barbara here, just couldn't)--Caveday is onto something here.  The original Toy Story is the better film overall, but with a more sophisticated story line, not to mention Billy Crystal and John Goodman, it'll get you through in style.  


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

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve (100 ml disguise-your-whisky-stash-as-cough-medicine bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     What this country needs is a good $5 glass of Cigar Malt Reserve.  Into the breach leaps Dalmore, et voila!, such a thing appears. (Assuming, that is, that one can find a glass of it at the local pub for $5.)  The nose is comfortingly Dalmore at first, and then an olfactory susurration wafting off Winston Churchill's dinner jacket, slung over the macramé antimacassar draped on his black walnut and red velour overstuffed lounge chair.  Yes, as he dictates to his secretary in the nude, while reclining in his scented bath. (And thanks for THAT image, Stephen. Jesus.) [Stephen:  Not my fault Churchill was known to do that...]
     And the dram has nice legs, pointedly unlike Winston Churchill's.
     The mouth is, unsurprisingly, like a mélange of 18 cigars smoked throughout a particularly contentious day at a Parliament function--unlike the 18 spliffs smoked during a particularly consensuous [John:  Bill! "consensuous" isn't a word!  Hey, wait!  Did you take remedy?] day at a Parliament Funkadelic concert. We (the Royal "We") expected the mouth to explode, but it is more of a Prime Minister's dram as opposed to a, say, Bill Clintonesque dram.  There are, somewhat unexpectedly, also grilled lemons drizzled in molasses, a tad carmelized, a tad smokey, and tad toddy or teddy.
     The Maltpanel concluded that despite the elegant hints of tobacco, this dram would better compliment a cigar ("Oh, aren't you the smokey one?!") or complement a cigar than supplant a cigar.

--On the scale of great things that Sigmund Freud never said--
The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve is "Sometimes a Cigar Malt is just a Cigar Malt."--Well not said, Sigmund, well not said.


--Our thanks to Laura Baddish and the good folks at Dalmore for the sample--and to the inimitable Richard Paterson, whom Bill and Stephen had the pleasure of meeting recently, for blending it!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Lark Cask Strength Tasmanian Whisky, Cask #658 (50 ml holy water travel vial--58% abv)

Tasting notes: 
We like Lark.  And part of what we like about it is how it defies generalization.  The bottling of distinct casks means that slight variations in the distilling process are magnified during maturation.  In Scotland it’s common to refer to the yearly loss of volume as "the angel’s share".  With the Lark, though, we must assume that demons are making furtive deposits into the casks.  How else to explain the taste of butterscotch that's been run through an alchemical apparatus by a 14th C. mad scientist, adding lemon, sour orange, and spoiled Gran Marnier?  This is then poured onto great drums of bubbling beef tallow, causing it to caramelize into an exquisite taffy.  But the taffy is decidedly not the sort you’d buy on the boardwalk.  To get this one, you’d have to go under the boardwalk and look around for a rangy guy named Seth.  He’s the one parceling it out in his mother’s Ziploc bags while looking compulsively to his left and right during the exchange—not that you heard any of this from me, mind you.  All of this is to get at the taste, but we have to say, the heat compressed into this winning dram is intense enough to turn charcoal briquettes into lustrous cubic zirconia.  It peels back the upper palate like a sardine can, but the can contains alternating layers of hearts of palm, whole Guntur chilis, and 3” pilchard.  Remarkably the dram is even hotter with a few drops of water added.  Think of how a scirocco blowing onto a motel patio 
in El Centro, CA, intensifies the afternoon heat.  But it's an oddly welcome intensifying heat, as when you've just set your hand-lacquered ceramic pink flamingos out on said patio to dry (and then, once dry, to make the place feel more like home).  In sum, this is emphatically a whisky for everyone.  But especially someone with a Southern Hemisphere shelf in her whisky cabinet.

--On the scale of local names for the scirocco [Italy]--
The Lark Cask Strength (Cask #658) is xlokk [Malta]--Similar to xaloc [Catalan] and shluq [Lebanon], we find that xlokk captures far better the bracing complexity of the Lark Cask Strength than does la calima [Canary Islands] or leveche [Spain], and it has more substance than the descriptively-challenged jugo [Macedonia] (it comes from the Slavic word, jug, meaning “south”).  In fact, we were sorely tempted to say that the Lark Cask Strength rates on this scale as ghibli [Libya] but the word makes Bill giggle.  The Lark Cask Strength does not.


--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!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Whyte & Mackay Special Blended Whisky (700 ml double-barreled action)

Tasting notes: 
     We received this whisky a while back now, along with a couple of copies of Richard Paterson's book, Goodness Nose, all generously lavished upon us for having entered a caption contest on the Honorable Mr. Paterson's blog.  If I remember correctly, there was a Lech Walesa reference.  Anywho, while the swag was put into the post fairly quickly, the post decided to chew on it and attempt for a time to digest it, and several months later, the box finally appeared in the MaltCave mailroom.  With bradypepsia not terribly dissimilar to that of the Scottish post on that occasion, here we are, several months later yet, with these our "tasting notes."
     Once John dusted off the tattered remains of the Derveni Papyrus that was his set of handwritten notes from our group tasting of the Whyte & Mackay, we realized that we had something as engrossing as an ancient commentary on a previously lost Orphic poem that had a lot you couldn't very well discuss in polite mixed company--or in polite company at all.  So close the doors, you uninitiated, and let's get down to it.
     On the nose, there's sherry, but a mutated sherry:  Cheri, perhaps?  This cheri was used as a lubricant for a mechanical separator, then poured into a flex fuel vehicle.  In other words, the horsepower here has some kick.  The mouth is wine-like, with the tannins from the barrel playing prominently.  Fairly smooth and rather woody.  Here we also find the faintest hints of vodka distilled in a water heater by a potato-faced Russian.  A shortish finish, as after a 50-yard dash, but with less heart-thumping and no impulse to retch onto the track.  But then again, in this context, that's preferable to the inordinately long finish attributed to Uranus in the poem.


--On the scale of ancient documents that touch on both Plato's philosophy and erotic love--
The Whyte and Mackay is Lysis--While Hippothales initally tries to woo young Lysis by singing eulogies to him--and who in the hell does that?--he does come around in the end to asking the right questions.  And in Plato's world, an elenctic victory is the only kind to have.


--Our thanks to Craig McGill, Richard Paterson and the good people at Whyte & Mackay for the swag!  Slàinte!

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