Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Glenrothes Editor's Cask (100 ml bottle, 4 ml liquid)

[This whisky is a collaboration between The Glenrothes and Noah Rothbaum, Editor-in-Chief of Liquor.com.  You can find more of the details here.]

 Tasting notes: 
     In the bottle, this stuff looks like oxblood shoe polish dissolved in the tiniest splash of naphtha, but in the glass it looks a lot more like liquid heaven.  The nose offers notes of candy, but the most singular candy ever:  chocolate sherry paint drying on the walls of your harem room, redwood sap turned into a candy cane, and saffron threads encrusted in organic brown sugar.  
     On the mouth, though, you realize that this dram is truly special:  this could just as well be the marrow from the bones of Zeus mixed with liquified diamonds, with a dash of puréed rosemary pecans thrown in just to push the taste envelope a little further yet.  It’s like drinking a sour dough starter, but in the best possible way:  this dram is a quintessence of a quintessence.
     The mouthfeel is as extraordinary and complex as the taste:  it wraps your tongue in the silk scarf Grace Kelly wore in To Catch a Thief, and then continues with alternating layers of Christmas wrapping paper and mica.  This is ossobuco from a magical bull raised in a magical field and prepared in a magical pan by none other than Ferran Adrià.  You’ll want to take a couple of gold bars out of your safe to make room for this bottle.  What to do with the gold bars, you ask?  If you have a bottle of this, you won’t care.

--On the scale of drinks of the gods—
The Glenrothes Editor’s Cask is Dr. Pepper—It’s not appropriate for all occasions, and its chemical makeup must be mind-boggling.  But when the time is right—and maybe this is just my bias as a southern boy—there is absolutely nothing better.


Our thanks to Danielle Katz from Exposure and the good people at Glenrothes for  the sample

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Hibiki 12 Blended Whisky (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     The first thing that strikes this reviewer is that this dram has great gams, much like an anime version of red-headed toon-bomb Jessica Rabbit! "I'm not bad. I'm just distilled this way." Hai!  The second thing to strike this reviewer is Jessica Rabbit. [ba dump bump...chish]
     It is tempting, and completely wrongheaded, to attribute the legs to some sort of a molecular memory of the exquisitely fluted nip.  I counted 24 scalloped facets to the bottle, and an indeterminate number of legs.  Moving up the generous body to the nose, it's an atomizer filled with pheromones, the distillate of cherry blossoms, and the diaphonous play of light of the setting sun glinting off of a pair of twittering dragonflies' wings.
     Very light in the mouth, delicate and lovely like the ritualized movements of a geisha pouring tea for a group of Malt Impostors.  An undertone of something less feminine---perhaps the geisha is carrying a sandalwood dagger inlaid with nacre, ivory, and abalone shell in her obi? On the back end, candied mandarin orange slices and a dab of men's cologne behind her ears. She's...Jesse Rabbit?!?
     The finish goes on and on, like thick honey and fruit pouring slowly out of a cornucopia, or perhaps shincha being poured slowly, slowly, slowly from a ceramic Tokoname teapot. By anime geisha Jessica Rabbit.

--On the scale of improbable juxtapositions that are imbued with awesome possibilities (whisky and plum wine?)--
The Hibiki 12 Blended Whisky is MC Hammer and M. C. Escher--the most self-referential rapping/artist duo imaginable. That, or a Noh theater performance enacted by the juggling troupe The Flying Karamazov Brothers.



Our thanks to Yoshihiro Morita and the good people at Suntory for the samples! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Whisky Explorers Club is New and Improved

     The Whisky Explorers Club is back, and it's new and improved, as they say (though in this case, the saying is both particularly apt and true).  We were a bit disappointed in the first iteration of the WEC, as the whiskies in the little black bags turned out to be less sophisticated than we'd hoped.  As it turned out, though, Douglas Stone from ForScotchLovers, the man behind the concept, was also a bit disappointed (ok, he was more than a bit disappointed) in the WEC's first run.  In the process of getting the WEC off the ground, Doug ran into a number of unexpected bouts of bad luck, including ending up on the wrong side of some less than fully scrupulous government officials (we're not saying which government).  The result was less than optimal and certainly less than Doug had envisioned.
     As a student of history, Doug was keen to avoid being doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, so he set himself to learn from the past and then headed off in a somewhat new direction for the second version of the WEC.  He kept the basic concept in place--offer members small, blind tastes of a number of different whiskies--but turned away from miniatures.  At first, this made us a little sad, since we got our start on minis and still review them whenever possible, but then we heard what he was replacing them with:  MoM minis!  It was a brilliant move, to our minds.  As you likely all know, we're big fans of Master of Malt and their Drinks by the Dram offerings. 
     Well, this time around, Doug has partnered with Master of Malt to provide drams with their actual identities so well hidden that the blindness of the tastings are completely idiot-proof:  you couldn't ruin the blindness of the tasting if you tried.  OK, you could do so by obviating the whole point of the exercise, but if you're inclined that way (and that much of a tool), you might do better to buy a bottle of something cheap, drink half of it really quickly, then slap a blank label over your own eyes and then try to remember/guess what you're drinking.  
     ForScotchLovers Managing Editor Ian Buxton, who is the author of the top-selling 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die, personally selects the whiskies that go into each flight.  Each membership includes four flights with five whiskies in each.  And if you act now, you can receive a free signed copy of Ian's book, 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die--and yes, that's signed by the author!
     To receive your free signed copy of Ian's book, make sure you add the book to your shopping cart along with your Whisky Explorers Club membership and then enter promotional code "101ForMe" (without the quotation marks) in the coupon/promotion field in the shopping cart--and choose "FedEx Ground" for shipping.  
     But that last bit is the gravy, and there's still some potatoes and veg to tell you about:  Whisky Explorer Club memberships include a free Glencairn nosing glass, early access to hard to find/ limited production whiskies, and discounted tickets to whisky events like Whisky Live and Whiskies of the World!   You can purchase your WEC membership here:
     Hurry and order now before Black Friday consumes you and all you hold dear.  In other words, it seems to us that this deal would make for a great gift for the whisky lover in your life this holiday season.  

     And so you have a better idea what you'll be getting if you do purchase it, here's a brief set of our "tasting notes" (narrative elements omitted) on the drams in the sample flight we received:
Tasting notes: 
1) raisins, cinnamon...it's a distilled bear claw at the airport Cinnabon, ferret whiskers, and warm, spicy caramel...
    Dram #1 was the Glenfarclas 21 year-old!
2) saltiness, followed by butteriness, flavors from whisky aged in a Chardonnay cask.  We thought this dram was positively Balblairian, perhaps even rising to the level of Conan the Balblairian, but then we thought maybe it was a blend, like Mortbank or Springlach...
     Dram #2 was the Springbank 15!
3) pantyhose on the nose, orange zest, wonderful balance, something solventesque or solubilizing or something of that sort just under the surface, a finish that is both fast and satisfying as the follow-up to a 8:15 am weekday booty call...
     Dram #3 was the Compass Box Hedonism!
4) Lemon Pledge®-dusted antiques, a Tuffy scouring beef fond off of a stainless steel frying pan, chocolate, sherry, a leather humidor for Arte Cubano cigars (no products were hurt in these completely uncompensated product placements)...
     Dram #4 was the Hibiki 12!

So you can see, Mr. Buxton has chosen some serious quality for this deal, and we're very excited to see what's coming in the regular flights!  We find the site associated with the Whisky Explorers Club to be a bit less than completely straightforward, but we were very pleased with the overall experience, especially as compared with the first iteration of the WEC.   Our kudos to Doug for a wonderful revamping of the Club.  Stop by ForScotchLovers to check it out!

Enjoy and slàinte! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Compass Box Great King Street Artist's Blend (50 ml holy water travel vial)

Tasting notes: 

[Knock, knock!] 

Who is it?

[Knock, knock!]

Hold on, I'm coming. Who's there?

It's us, the King Street wedding caterers!


The Compass Box Great King Street wedding caterers!

I don' t think I'm getting married today.

Well, maybe it's a suprise gift of a cinnamon roll honey fine-grain Madagascar-bourbon-and-Calvados-drenched vanilla-twig-inflected-butter-triple-layer-studded-with-Persian-sultana-raisins-sauteed-in-oloros0-sherry-(and a drop of port) wedding cake extravaganza special.

Excuse me?

Maybe someone loves you? Wants you to be happy? Has given you a delightful gift?

Is this a practical joke? Am I on Candid Camera or being Punk'd? Are you Ashton Kutcher?

No sir. And this comes with sculpted bison-shaped butter balls on a recently-polished sterling-silver platter, engraved with Islamic-inspired arabesques, sprinkled about (tastefully) with cleaned and sterilized, but not denatured, cherry blossoms.

Well, it certainly looks lovely. More to the point, it smells wonderful---are you sure this isn't a prank?

Yes sir.

Then what's that other smell rising up? Kind of like the, the, the, what was your word, the "denatured" musk of Rajah from the cartoon Aladdin?

That's me, sir. I'm a eunuch, and I've been baking all night.

Excuse me!?

Putting loaves in hot ovens, sir. So to speak.

I've had about enough of this!

Please sir, just try one bite. You've said yourself that it smells spectacularly delicious.

No, that was you who said that. But I must admit, it is one of the most savory smelling wedding cakes I've ever shared a doorway with.

Let me give you this lightly hazelnut-oiled teak fork to nip a bit off with...

Oh. My. Goodness. I need a second bite. A second layer. Let's drink two! (Editor's note: An homage to Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks) Er, eat two. Whatever.

You see sir? No joke.

My mouth is...is filled with sheaves of golden grain; grilled ghee and scalded cream poured with Chardonnay into a bowl of steel-cut organic oatmeal.

Of course, sir. And what else?

Anise, pimpinella anisum bursting with dense umbels. Festooned with an oblong dry schizocarp.

My word, sir! You're the first person ever to say that to me! And I'm a eunuch.


Hasenpfeffer, sir?

No, you knuck (lehead)! Pfeffernüsse............yum, yum, yum. I want to be dissolute. I want to be solubulized....

"Solubulized," sir?

Okay, I made that one up. Give me more, now! ---Much better. Much, much better. I want to be rendered, tendered, splendored.

A poet, are we sir? I like a wee bit of the Robert Burns.

It's peppery in my tummy. I feel like toasting a book contract, like eating an XXL chalupa, laughing at IRS agents, chasing after Jehovah's witnesses, talking with car mechanics...

I knew you were a poet, sir.

--On the scale of alchemists who failed to transmute lead to gold, but accomplished amazing things, such as being famous mathematicians, advisors, and spies (and are currently having operas written about them)--
The Compass Box Great King Street Artist's Blend is the founder of the Rosicrucian Order, translator of Euclid, navigator, astronomer, and Warden at Oxford: Dr. John Dee. 'Nuff said. Mum's the word, keep it on the QT.


Our thanks to Robin Robinson and Compass Box for the sample!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Glenrothes rolls out Vintage 1995 and Editor's Cask at New York event

A week ago today, I was lucky enough to attend a journalists-only event to celebrate the roll out of Glenrothes' Vintage 1995 and Editor's Cask.  That's right, we were invited to a journalists-only event.  Since I'm the only member of our little triumverate who is both childless and unmarried, I was the only one who could attend the easy choice to be the one to represent The Malt Impostor there.  So I made my way to Mary Queen of Scots, a very cool bar on the Lower East Side of New York City, for the event.  To make sure I did all I could to play the part, I bought a little flip-style notebook, a ballpoint pen (we Impostors prefer to write with fountain pens, of course), and a bottle of Reportage by Mennen™.  I considered a bottle of Journaliste by Yves Saint-Laurent™, but I am an Impostor--and have you seen how much that stuff costs?  I also managed to sit across from a real journalist at the event (Hi, Alexandra!), and that counts, right?  But seriously, I have received shipments to The Malt Impostor that actually say "Journalist" on the shipping labels, and I know that whenever I see something in print, it must be true, so I knew I was in the clear.

Anyhow, the event was held in the back room of Mary Queen of Scots, the entrance to which is, appropriately enough, a large, black wrought iron prison door.  Ronnie Cox, the ever smooth and affable Brand Ambassador for the Glenrothes, conducted the tasting, which included the Select Reserve, the new Vintage 1995, the 1994 (which the 1995 will replace), the 1988 (which is replacing the 1985), and the frankly unbelievable Editor's Cask.   I won't go through them in detail here, as we'll be reviewing the 1995 and the Editor's Cask each in our typical idiosyncratic detail on these pages in the coming days.  But I will say this:  the Editor's Cask is the product of a careful selection process not by the Glenrothes distillery team, but by Noah Rothbaum (whom I also had the pleasure of meeting at the event),  Editor-in-Chief of Liquor.com, who visited Glenrothes in May of 2011 and selected a Spanish oak hogshead with 16 year-old spirit in it.  It is simply amazing.  If you don't believe me, just look at the damn picture.  That says it all!  At any rate, there are only 120 bottles of the Editor's Cask available, and they price out at $375 a bottle.  If there's anyone out there who really, really loves me and wants to be my friend forever, get me a bottle of this as a present, and I'm yours.

There's more I could say here, like how cool the bartenders were or how killer the assortment of grilled cheeses were that the staff served to us throughout, but the important thing here is the whisky.  The 1995 is a great addition to the Glenrothes line, in my opinion, and more details on that presently.  The Editor's Cask...well, more on that later, too, because I could keep going on and on and on here.

Our thanks to Danielle from Exposure for the invite and for making us feel like maybe we aren't Impostors after all.  Of course, when I managed to stumble out of Mary Queen of Scots to my train, I realized otherwise, as we inevitably seem to do before the night's out...

But stay tuned for more details on some very exciting new whiskies!  Slàinte!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ultimate Whisky Experience Discount Code!

We've managed to secure for our readers a discount code for The Nth 2012 Ultimate Whisky Experience in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 2-3, 2012.  It's a seriously high-end whisky festival that features some ridiculously rare whiskies on taste for those who attend.  And Stephen's actually going to make it, albeit solo, to the 2012 event--so look for the Groucho Marx glasses at the event and say hello!

Here's the deal:  use our exclusive discount code UWECT1 when you sign up and receive a $100.00 off of a Connoiseur Ticket (normal priced at $525.00).  You can find tickets here:


Now, you may say to yourself, $425 after the discount?!?  That's really expensive!  Is it worth it?
Our response:  Well, first of all, talking to yourself is, as they say, a sure sign of madness.  But second of all, if you're into some super exclusive whiskies, then the answer is definitely "Yes!":  the Connoiseur Ticket gets you 2--count 'em, 2!--Super Pours, each valued at over $300 each!  Do the math, it works out.  Now, if you're not into super exclusive whiskies and you have no way to get to Las Vegas in March, then this may not be the event for you.  But for the rest of you, click on the link and check it out:  Stephen's going this year to check it out for himself and report back, but you can join him there at a discount--just use the code!

Hurry, as this is a limited time offer!  How limited is the time on this offer?  We have no idea!  So don't delay!  Get in there before it's too late!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Glenfarclas Movember 2011 Master of Malt Bottling (3 cl MoM* mini)

[This is one Master of Malt sent us to celebrate Movember (see our Disclaimer about Master of Malt samples here). After our abject failure on getting the Cragganmore 21 tasting notes out on time, we thought we'd get ourselves in gear and get this one out before it was too much later in Movember.]        

Tasting notes: 
    This Glenfarclas 9 year old is part of “Movember,” an initiative that invites men to show their support for men’s health by growing moustaches during the month of November.  What a great idea!  For years, women have had all the fun.  They have the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure to support breast cancer research.  But that’s where the key difference lies.  A 5k race or fitness walk requires both organization and effort.  Movember, by contrast, is my kind of movement.  The genius is that by doing nothing, you mark your solidarity with a good cause.  I think I’ll start leaving toilet seats up to show support for Parkinson’s research, or refrain from making the bed until we have a cure for Restless Leg Syndrome.  You lookin’ at my untucked shirt?  That, my friend, is me standing up for my brothers with erectile dysfunction.
      The only problem is that I could grow a moustache about as fast as your average nine-year-old.  By Thanksgiving my family would notice a vague shadow under my nose, as if I’d been sketching a charcoal still life during allergy season.  But I think the Glenfarclas is actually looking out for me.  Let me explain.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was nosing bourbon.  There’s a distinctive note of charred corn and caramel in an already ruby-red dram.  And on the mouth there’s an almost   

newmake aggressiveness on the top note, like the whisky is looking at itself in the mirror with menace and ill intention.  So why do I think this Movember is looking out for me?  The 53% dram presses itself in on me with such assertiveness it puts hair on my chest and upper lip.  Think of wrapping a huge, newly dried tobacco leaf around a red onion and then eating it like an éclair.  Or imagine using Benamin Moore's anise-scented primer when painting an outhouse behind a pit barbecue joint; the splintered toilet seat will man you up as fast as one bracing slug from this dram.  Life is all about first impressions, and what I’m taking away from this is not unlike the experience of being kissed by mustachioed great-aunt after a breakfast of radishes and instant coffee.  Believe me, at this moment I am all about men’s health.  What keeps me in the game is water.  A few drops alter this dram as lastingly as the wicked witch of the West.  There is a garland of flowers and I look down to see tobacco barn-dried hay rubbed on the hind quarters of a Derby winner.  (No Derby winners were harmed in the making of these notes.)  A finish of mild corn tortilla chased with a room temperature glass of rocky mountain oyster-flavored Meat Water.  Mmmm….  Delicious.  Now I need only to wax my ‘tache with parade gloss shoe polish and I’m ready for anything.
--On the scale of great 19th Century mustaches--
The Glenfarclas Movember 2011 Master of Malt bottling is Friedrich Nietzsche’s--It's big.  It's bold.  It's punchy.  It's a danger to all who end up standing close enough to it (and by that, I mean the whisky is dangerously tasty).  It's something any philosopher would envy.  And it has its own Facebook page.



*--Master of Malt   (Glenfarclas Movember 2011)
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.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Cragganmore 20 Year Old 1991 Single Cask (3 cl MoM* mini)

[This is one Master of Malt sent us just to get us to review it for them (see our Disclaimer here). We took so long getting to this one for review that it is now sold out. To Natalie and the good folks at Master of Malt, please accept our apologies--we just flat blew it on this one, as we did with the Cambus 18. Back then, we promised to do better on future posts, and we still blew it.  But damn, they sold out of this one really quickly! As such, we take our failure to be as much a positive comment on Master of Malt's ability to move product as it is an indictment of our tardiness.  We hope you enjoy the review nonetheless.]        

Tasting notes: 
    Before opening the Master of Malt mini-Me vial, my first impression of the Cragganmore 20 is that if it were a test I was grading, it would be a fail: 54.2% is an F-. (Stephen:  Bill! That's the abv: It means that it's 108.3 proof!)  Oh, well, thanks guys. I guess that it's an A+. Was there extra credit on the test?
     Speaking of tests, I just had a major blood draw to check up on if my malaria is likely to recur, so I am feeling vitiated and anemic. And grippe-y and ague-y. You'll pardon me in advance if this review veers off topic, yes?
     In the glass, the legs are like soda straw stalactites, slow dripping down the sides. I wonder if we left the Cragganmore in the glass for a long epoch if it would calcify, seep through the glass, and resemble an upside-down pincushion--but I digress.
    Apricot, peaches, and marzipan peeps are ground in a marble mortar with a walnut pestle, and poured into a full-bodied sweet lassie. (John:  Bill! That's supposed to be "sweet lassi," the Indian drink, not "sweet lassie," the 20-year old, red-haired, *maltgonewild*!) This must be what top-shelf cough syrup is flavored with for children of Brahmans in Mumbai, especially if a pinch of quince were minced on top, since it evinces minced quince. That, and peyote buttons. (John: Have you been into the peyote buttons again?!? East Indian! East Indian!)
     This is eminently guzzable--is it bad to drink drink drink while bleeding bleeding bleeding?--light on the tongue, exceptionally well-balanced like Jacques-Louis David's masterpiece, The Oath of the Horatii, and light, like kirschwasser-flavored eggwhites in a cherry soufflé. Improbably, the soufflé is topped with cockles, dripping with butter and Neptune's tears.

--On the scale of well-balanced scales (and self-referential ratings)--
The Cragganmore 20 is Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier--(Am I running a temperature? Well? Is the Cragganmore a well whisky? Decidedly not.) Music today wouldn't sound the way it does without Bach's Meisterwerk, which reconciled accidentals, grace notes, wolf notes, mash notes, Lotus notes, post-it notes, and the diabolus in musica.



*--Master of Malt   (Cragganmore 20 Year Old 1991 Single Cask)
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.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mackinlay's Rare Highland Malt, a.k.a. The Shackleton (2 cl smelling salts vial)

When the three of us tried this dram, there was as much intense disagreement about this whisky as a dram has ever generated amongst the three of us.  But we wouldn’t let a replica of a 100+ year-old whisky come between us, even if it was Richard “The Nose” Paterson who created it.  I took on the yoke for this one, because I had more good to say about it than did John or Bill (but then again, I’d tasted it before, during a Twitter event with other journalists and The Nose himself).  But I must be true to my compatriots as well as to my own views here, so please forgive the schizophrenic character of what follows:
 Tasting notes:
     Imagine an arctic—or, in this case, Antarctic—dystopia:  you’ve been moving for a long time now, and your Tauntaun is tired.  While it’s really cool to be on a Tauntaun, toting a lightsaber, Tauntauns smell…about as you’d imagine.  It’s quiet out—too quiet—and you sense a tremor in the Force, but there’s really nothing there [this is analogous to the part where I explained to John and Bill that the absence of good does not equal evil].  Next thing you know, the probes are plummeting into the snow all around you, and as they rise out of their crashed pods, you smell something akin to snowmobile exhaust.  You take off, pushing your beast as hard as he’ll go, but then he falls over, exhausted, near a highly anomalous and gnarled tree—or what’s left of one.  So you do the whole lightsaber-turns-Tauntaun-into-sleeping bag-trick [and no, despite what John and Bill might want to say here, there is no awful smell nor the “intestinal turmoil” characteristic of getting into an animal’s body cavity].  You pull open your face mask, and the cold hits you like the Shackleton does (at least to Bill’s and John’s minds, like the bracing slap from a Whyte & Mackay blendor from Richard Paterson himself).
You make a small fire from the gnarled tree, and you realize as it burns that it’s an almond tree, oddly enough, and the flavors of almond, wood, and charcoal fill your palate with intoxicating effect:  so much so, that you soon think you can see—and even taste—marzipan.  But this is no normal marzipan:  this is marzipan in the shape of a buffalo—a whole herd of them!—quietly approaching your position and rooting around in the snow, digging up bits of black licorice and blackstrap molasses [in the spirit of giving even time, one of my co-conspirators thought the term jockstrap molasses more appropriate].  As you fall asleep, there’s lingering pepper on your tongue, but the sensation is a bit thin and completely lacking the flavors you’d expect:  seal blubber, ambergris, and penguin feet.

--On the scale of stories that leave you hanging—
The Shackleton is the strange and surreal story you just read, above—but don’t fret:  it ends well.  You wake up to the warmth of a room inside an Imperial cruiser (the probes, and not a Wampa, found you), your hands and feet shackled to a block of carbonite.  But hey, you’re going to get to see your father soon!


--Our thanks to Jennifer Butler and the good folks at Weber Shandwick for the sample--and to the inimitable Richard Paterson for blending it!   

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