Friday, December 30, 2011

Announcing The 2011 Malty Award

We failed to award The Malty in 2010 for reasons that remain opaque to the three of us to this day.  One thing we know for sure:  it wasn't for lack of material.  We were probably just focusing on our "serious" whisky reviews and lost sight of the need to consider this venerable and utterly useless blogger-contrived and blogger-awarded prize.  After awarding the first inaugural Malty to The Compass Box Orangerie way back in 2009, we're back here on the second to the last day of 2011 and very proud to announce that the winner of...
The 2011 Malty for Best Unintentionally Parodic Marketing Materials for a Whisky Product is:

The Southern Comfort Pepper
     We love the marketing here, but it's so far into over-the-top range, it's fired itself like a rocket over the shark into new and truly wild territory.  The box, the overt reference to the most common venereal diseases, the glowing shot glasses, the USB drive, the working smoke detector:  the combination is a thing of beauty and undeniably worthy of a Malty.  See for yourself.

The taste, you ask?  We haven't been bold enough yet to try it, but it does contain Tabasco, so it can't be that bad.  Plus, with this kind of packaging, does it matter?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Glenfiddich 50 yr at the Ultimate Whisky Experience Nth 2012 Show

Update on the Ultimate Whisky Experience in Las Vegas on March 2-3, 2012:

In case you weren't sure if the Ultimate Whisky Experience would be exclusive or elite enough for you, this has just come to us via the exclusive MaltLine:  There will be an exclusive private tasting of the original Glenfiddich 50 year-old, valued at $16,000-$20,000!!!!  Hosted by Ian Millar, Glenfiddich Global Brand Ambassador, this private tasting is part of the High Roller Dinner Reception on Saturday, March 3rd.  If you can afford it, it's a no-brainer.

You can find details on the High Roller ticket package here.
Details on other tickets are hereAnd use our exclusive discount code UWECT1 during checkout and receive a $100.00 off of a Connoiseur Ticket (normally priced at $525.00)! 

And let us know if we might see you there.  Slàinte!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Caol Ila 27 Year Old 1984 TWB Exclusive (3 cl TWB* mini)

Tasting notes: 
    I must confess, I'm cheating on my brethren Malt Impostors. I'm having a bromance with the Caol Ila 27:  everything about it, even the name, which I delight in mispronouncing as "Cool Island" is giving me the chills. Uncorking the bottle is like letting out a GGG-genie sporting a sherry-soaked violet velvet vest liberally doused with a briny, iodine "briodine" cologne. It's a platter of vegetables grilled over cedar coals, from bro-ccoli to dude-cchini. It's the (clean honest) sweaty bandanna of a lumberjack who's been swinging an axe in the Great North Woods, and over smouldering cedar bark he's smoking salmon that he caught by grizzly-like swatting them out of a stream.
     Redwood cinders containing 
the seeds of life, and szechuan peppercorns (thanks, Dr. Whisky!) on the fraternal kiss, with afterglow of burnt lambchop fat. (Even a vegetarian bro would love this lambchop.) In the substrate of fossilized cherry blossoms, there are flecks of shimmering sparkling sparrow liver pâté flavored shrapnel commingled with flint shards. This is a dram that drinks like a Roman banquet.  
      Finishing with pine needles left over after a forest fire; out of many smoking bro-chettes, one new mushrooming cloud of bro-ken hearts: a bro-haha over who gets the last drop. Who knew a one dimensional race to the tape could be so rich in  experiences? Well, bro me down, as Popeye might expostulate.

--On the scale of volcanoes that bro-up X-tremely large--
The Caol Ila 27 Year Old 1984 Exclusive is the 1883 Krakatoa eruption--Shockwaves traveled around the earth seven times, registering for five days afterwards. Clouds of smoke and particles wreaked havoc on the weather for five years afterwards. It was world-changing, and so is the Caol Ila 27. My, my, my Caol Ila!

Our thanks to Alastair and the good people at The Whisky Barrel for the samples!  

*--The Whisky Barrel (Caol Ila 27 Year Old Exclusive)

You can also find The Whisky Barrel's Facebook page here and their Twitter feed here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Dalmore 14 Year Old 1996 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). Our thanks to Natalie and Master of Malt for the sample.]         

Tasting notes: 
On the nose, there's freshly soaked barley left to malt in a Highland field that was already overgrown with switchgrass.  There's also a sweetness, like a silo full of corn heated slowly to coax the sugars out without popping a kernel.  Some citrus notes come out on the palate, but then you realize they're really notes of raw sugar cane.  Lest you think that this expression is a biofuel wetdram, however, there's old tech here, too:  the mouth holds brininess that acts like a salt-bridge separator, allowing the free flow of ions, but not water molecules, and resulting in a serious drying effect.  And in the spirit of a good biofuel, the mouthfeel is decidedly free of oiliness or any other hints of fossil fuel action.  The finish brings vanilla and spice, but they're
both faint and slightly synthetic in character, like a Vanilla Spice Little Tree™ car air freshener that's been hanging from the rearview mirror of a Prius for three years.  At 55.5% abv, this dram could serve as a high test biofuel all by its lonesome.  And if you put this in your flex fuel car, it'd smell a whole hell of a lot better than french fries.

--On the scale of promising renewable energy sources--
The Dalmore 14 Year Old 1996 MoM Single Cask is landfill gas or "biogas"--While this is as viable a source for energy as any we have available to us, let's face it:  it's just not nearly as sexy as solar.



*--Master of Malt   (Dalmore 14 Year Old 1996 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.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Hakushu 12 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     Any time there are three actual literary sisters, such as the Brontës, or three fictional brothers, such as the Karamazov's, the three tend to fall into roles.  Being triplets from different mothers, the Malt Impostors stay true to type-casting: I am the serious, grounded brother, Stephen is the rainmaker, and John is the flibbertigibbet.  In this review, I seek to "live large," and try to become someone I am not, such as a combination of Bill Gates, Brad Pitt, or Robin Williams: Rich, handsome, and manically unfunny.
     Filling a glass with a dram of the Hakushu 12 is sitting on a whoopie cushion filled with an intoxicating blend of passion fruit body wash combined with Clive Christian Imperial Perfume.  It's spraying distillate of artisanal Fuji apples into one's nostrils in the reverse of spraying apple orchards with insecticides: I want the gently sweet acidity to inveigle fruit flies and aphids, as worlds are being created in my nose.  Those cloudy orbs are filled with swirling smoke and peat, drawn by Peter Max lounging in a field of alfalfa grown by the Findhorn Foundation.  And yet, so refined: A Roman Patrician nose; certainly not a honking middle European---read: Jewish---schnozz. [Note: The former sentence has been approved by Joshua (The Man) Hatton, President and Founder of the Jewish Single Malt Society.]
     This strikes me as almost a Zen koan: If a thing be perfectly balanced, doesn't that suggest that it can be unbalanced?  And if it may, in some possible world (filled with apples, perhaps) be unbalanced, how can it be perfectly balanced?  I am happy to report that it is impossible to conceive of the Hakushu 12 as unbalanced.  Therefore, it transcends balance: It is below the bedrock of the Platonic foundation of any eternal steady state non-entropic universe.  It is extraordinary.
     Oranges metamorphosing through estrous cycles on my tongue, and ultimately running long and plummy.  Bonsai wood used as flooring in Victorian dollhouses.  On the very back end, primal rack of lamb, grilled on an omega-3 cured iron shovel, along with scallions and ramps coated in large granules of sea salt, held on by the barest mistings of monkfish oil.  And long plums.  Very long plums.

--On the scale of almost perfectly balanced things (that aren't Platonic ideals)--
The Hakushu 12 is Nadia Comaneci at the 1976 Olympic games--She knocked down the first perfect 10 in Olympic history, and followed it up with six more perfect 10s.  Her only flaw?  She's not a triplet.

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

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Glenrothes 1995-2011 (750 ml mondo grenade)

Tasting notes:
Glengarry Glenrothes.  Too obvious?  Do I care?  Let me tell you something.  This baby was bottled in twenty-ten.  Two-oh, one-oh.  So do the math.  That’s 15 years of waiting for this moment.  Waiting for YOU.  Waiting for THIS MOMENT.  And you’re sitting there like you’re holding a teacup?  Like your book club is about to start?  C’mon, you gotta remember how it goes.  It goes like this.  A-B-D.  A-Always, B-Be, D-Drinking.  Always be drinking, always be drinking.  I don’t care that you have a family, that little Timmy has a little game today, that you promised your wife you’d clean out the garage.  Forget that!  No, it’s you and this bottle and this moment.  So lean in and do it! 
     Okay, so it’s in your glass.  You and this glass and this moment.  And you’re getting extra virgin olive oil with a sachet of cardamom and flash dried daffodil petals.  It’s heavy on the nose like—I swear to god—my fist if you don’t get this done.  And now it’s this whisky and your mouth.  And it’s root vegetables and fingerling potatoes left to cool in a Mauviel copper pan.  A meaty mouth of Tournedos Rossini substituting the filet mignon for something gamey.  What’s that?  You say lamb?  Lamb?  What, are we still at book club with your Sleepytime Pamperpants Tea?  No this is closer to a mountain lion you took down with only the help of a Rolodex and a stapler.  You got strips of  mountain lion jerky cooking on the engine block of a Cadillac El Dorado in Death Valley National Park.  It’s August.  It’s hot.  And you put a cinder block on the accelerator so the heat just explodes out into the desert in shimmering waves that could almost ignite the air.  Yeah, there’s peppermint bark there, too, and anise seeds gently crackling open in slowly-browning pan of ghee.  So what?  Do you think this whisky cares what you think?  That it worries about you?  The signature of Glenrothes runs through this with the tenacity of your fear of failure.  It’s like prune caramels wrapped in little wax papers, each with a failed lead pressed onto it with the edge of a thumbnail.

--On the scale of first prizes in a sales contest--
The Glenrothes Vintage 1995 is a Cadillac El Dorado--Pre-modern dreams of a city of gold, awakened into the machine age, and set on a postmodern journey along a signless highway.  Second place is a set of steak knives.  Third place is you're fired.


Our thanks to Danielle Katz and Glenrothes for the sample--and for the wonderful roll-out event for this one! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Balvenie Tun 1401, Batch #2 (200 ml fill yer own bottle)

[Balvenie Distillery Ambassador David Mair was kind enough to provide Stephen with this sample and an amazing tour when Stephen visited The Balvenie Distillery in September of this year.  For more on Stephen's visit, check out his account here.]

Tasting notes: 
     In a search for maximum authenticity on this review, we thought we would try to capture the magic of letting things intermingle in a marrying tun by sequestering ourselves in an actual marrying tun (that’s right, all three of us at once) to generate our tasting notes.  The marrying tun we used is the full-sized one John constructed in (and for) the MaltCave during a recent (and particularly slow) overnight shift there, using up every last discarded plank of wood from the boat I’d made from my family Giving Tree.  While John claims he was just recycling, I think he was just trying to make me feel even guiltier than I already do (that’s the part Shel Silverstein left out:  in most families, anyway, you can’t get away with much of anything significant without getting seriously guilt-tripped). Bill affectionately named it eiπ = –1, claiming that it was as elegant and beautiful name as he could imagine.  John and I just call her “Mary.”
     At any rate, we spent the better part of a Friday night sitting in Mary, concocting the singular marriage of tasting notes that follow.  We would have taken pictures, but it was dark in there.  

     We should also note:  our esteem for this dram is so great that our transcription service uploaded the rough cut of the review on BitTorrent and WikiLeaks.  We decided to act quickly and just release the transcript ourselves.

Stephen:  The nose is round…

John:  It’s rummy.  Rummy, chummy, yummy.

Bill:  Oranges with underlying citrus

John:  Citrus underneath citrus, Bill?

Stephen:  The nose is soft, but really stands up.  Would that make it “perky”?

John:  On the mouth, I’m getting gun smoke…

Stephen:  …from an execution!

John:  Yeah, blue steel, flint, graphite…

Bill:  There are definitely notes of a War of 1812 re-enactment here, but in this one, all the boats actually sank…

Stephen:  …because Somali pirates came upon the re-enactment…

John:  …and ruined the authenticity of it altogether.  But in a very enjoyable way.

Stephen:  It’s bitter like myrrh…

John:  But it’s also smooth and honeyed, unctuous and pleasing all at once....

Bill:  It’s a Hegelian blend of thesis and antithesis.

Stephen:  That would be a synthesis, Bill.

Bill:  The finish is long, like ringing the changes at Big Ben.

Stephen:  Leaden circles dissolve in the air…

John:  There’s an indistinct umami on the back half of the tongue…

Bill:  Yeah, a phantom relish fermented like kimchi.

[After fumbling around in the dark for fifteen or twenty minutes, we finally found the water dropper.]

Bill:  With water, wine or maybe sherry comes through more…

Stephen:  Orange oil, bitter, maybe cat medicine…

John:  We’ve used “cat medicine” before.  I think you suggest it for every other whisky we try.

Bill:  It’s oilier, smoother with water—really removes the sting…Do you think we could have brought in the dropper of lidocaine by accident?

Stephen:  Apples dipped in caramel…

John:  I’m getting the cigar residue in your mouth when you wake up after a night of stogies and whisky.

Bill:  Did someone say “cigar”?

Stephen:  Hey, we’re not finished with these notes, Bill!

John:  Let him go.  Just leaves more for us.

Stephen:  Ooh.  Good call.

-->--On the scale of great marriages—The Balvenie Tun 1401, Batch #2 is Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio—Ok, so it didn’t last that long (but neither will this whisky—after all, it is a consumable, and a really good one at that).  But by all accounts, they really loved each other, they both understood well the price of fame, and there may never be a classier, more beautiful married couple than they were.     


Our thanks to David Mair and Balvenie for the sample--and for the wonderful reception at the distillery! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Yamazaki 18 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     The Yamazaki 18 opens with picnic lunch in a dappled grassy meadow, with you passed out full frontal on top of a fruit salad.  As the sun beats down harder from the heavens, you stir, and roll over face first into a not-yet-dressed salad heavy on the arugula, sprinkled liberally with bamboo shoots and indifferently masticated eucalyptus leaves, lovingly regurgitated by a pregnant koala suffering morning sickness.  There's dust, but not the outdoor pollen-dense dust, but rather the dust that's accumulated in odd nooks in a Venetian palazzo.  Or maybe old-growth mahogany dust, wafting off of a table leg being worked on slowly and precisely by a Ningen Kokuhō, a Living National Treasure of Japan.  That is, if a Ningen Kokuhō swigged sherry and whistled whilst he worked.  Hai ho, hai ho, it's off to the mouth we go! 
     Smooth, balanced, light.  A concerned orthodontic surgeon at a teaching hospital working with a talented hygienist who is secretly lusting for romance, who dreams of plucking harps strung with golden and silver strands, making Merrie Melodies as bards of yore were wont to do, the both of them working a kind of novacaine magic in your mouth.  A slight heat, as of a low-hung westering sun poking through the branches surrounding the meadow.  (You may wonder how you went from the meadow to the dentist, and back to the meadow. I wonder also, but am so enamored of the gentle,yet authoritative, pond-ripplings of the dram, that I allow it to take me where it will.)  Boysenberry syrup, angelic effluences, flower nectar, delightful diminishings of the dust, as of putting your nose to the f-hole of an Amati violin.  Feel the Cremona resin!

--On the scale of movements of string quartets to listen to during a twilit summer picnic dinner in Tuolumne Meadows--
The Yamazaki 18 is, of course, the first movement of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik--Bum, bum bum, bum-bum-bum-bum-bum Bum! Bum! Bum bum! Bum bum bum bum-bum-bum. Bum bum, bee ah dee doo dee bum bum!


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

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Glenmorangie 25 Year/Quarter Century (350 ml thing o' beauty)

Tasting notes: 
     Ben Franklin said that beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.  What, then, might he say of the distillation of beer into whisky?  Is this proof not only of God’s love and providential concern, but also of God’s invitation to us to become gods ourselves?  What we have, after all, is not so much the water of life as the self-apotheosizing elixir of immortality.  Who among us hasn’t felt that kiss of divinity on her lips?  Who has not concluded, with the warmth of a wonderful dram overspreading the breast, that any other god is superfluous, like a vestigial organ, or an over-crowded Elysian dance hall?  It’s thoughts like these that my enjoyment of the Glenmorangie 25 yr brought out. As I nose it—
     --No, wait.  That’s not where the first impressions of this whisky are formed, and you know it.  Look at the beautiful bottle, the impeccable label and even the booklet inside the presentation box.  I’ll be damned if the whole Glenmorangie line isn’t simply exquisite.  It stirs in me the same reverence and expectation as the sight of a Tiffany box might stir in a young woman hoping to be affianced.
     But there is also a tug in the opposite direction, if I’m going to tell the truth.  The Glenmorangie is not only too pretty; it’s too tasty.  No right-thinking Brooklyn hipster will wrap his angsty fingers around a glass of this as he struggles to say something original about the latest album from M83 or deliver a contrarian bon mot about Occupy Wall Street, all while his skinny jeans are turning his compacted scrotum into a FryDaddy® for his sperm.  It is fortunate for me, however, that the invitation to enjoy a great whisky overstrains whatever hipster impulses in me might manifest themselves.  To the nose we go.
      The first note is grassy, to my great surprise, and then the expected resonances of wood surface.  I hear the Modern Jazz Quartet during Milt Jackson’s solo.  No, actually it’s a vibraphone quartet where all four vibe players are wedged into a cedar-lined master closet.  Quickly enough, the wood and grass notes settle out and I survey a plate of petit fours, along with tiny pineapple custards in rice paper cups and coconut sorbet scooped into walnut shells (smaller than a coconut half, you see).  On the mouth there are more confections: Ghirardelli dark chocolate caramels with sea salt, and several rhomboidal cuts of penuche—the kind with maple syrup, and the only candy of which I am aware that was named after a Boston Bruin hockey player.  Throughout there is the unmistakable signature of Glenmorangie.  My admiration for the stunning consistency of the master blender quickly shifts when I lean in and see that the signature is in fact my name written by Satan’s hand in a strange vellum book of indeterminate provenance.  The dram, you see, has taken hold of me.  It is a confidence man whose manipulations I was fully aware of but unwilling to resist for their stupendous charm.  I’m moving now along a dark current, less sweet now but deep and rich.  It's a simple syrup of lamb splanchna and I'm caught in a tub drain-spiral and sucked down into a siren of mermaids in a vast aquapolis.  Not mermaids at all, in point of fact, but people in fancy clothes gathered in a vestibule.  They are waiting to get into a ball, and I suppose I am, too.  As I rise up on my tiptoes to see better a pickpocket brushes against me.  No, it’s a tailor making measurements for my own bespoke attire so that I might match the members of this party as they wait.  As I add a few drops of water to the dram, the nose and mouth become more distinguished, and I learn the final truth.  It is not I who have become god, after all.  And I shall be waiting in this hall for a very, very long time.

--On the scale of disappointments occasioned by research--
The Glenmorangie 25 Year/Quarter Century is my great chagrin at discovering that Ben Franklin was talking about wine, not beer--Dammit!  The only consolation is the Franklin turns a wonderful phrase here in his 1779 letter to André Morellet:

We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy. The miracle in question was only performed to hasten the operation, under circumstances of present necessity, which required it.

Do also read the postscript of the letter, as Franklin finds proof in the anatomy of our elbow that we are fit for raising glasses to our lips.  Slàinte!



Our thanks to David Blackmore and the good people at Glenmorangie for the sample

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