Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Dewar's 18 Blended Scotch Whisky (750 ml saddle bag mini)

Tasting notes:
     On the nose we found bourbon notes mixed with aromas from a sour caramel apple--or a caramel sour apple (both are in there).  We also wondered if maybe that pair of caramel apples hadn't been left for a day or two in my grandfather's study, next to the walnut stand cradling his Calabash pipe, its Meerschaum bowl still full of half-smoked Vanilla Black Cavendish tobacco.  But then John said no, that wasn't it, and that he had arrived at the proper read on the faint smoke on the nose:  it's the smoke, he said, being pulled through the ventilator of an airplane bathroom, as one examines the 9-volt battery terminals on the lavatory smoke detector, trying to ascertain which one is male and which is female.  Perhaps he's right, but Bill and I found the nose so beautifully balanced overall, we were reluctant to analyze any one aspect of it too closely, lest we lose the overall effect for the particulars.
     The mouth presented us with a variety of flavors:  there was a caramelly apple-ly cloying sweetness that tied the mouth and nose together nicely (figuratively, of course, as literally tying your mouth and nose together would not only be horribly painful, but doing so would also render you a repulsive freak fit only for circus work--worse yet, that would prevent you from nosing or drinking the whisky).  There were also distinct notes of lilac and heather soap (Scottish Spring™: Womanly, yes, but I like it, too!), Amway perfume, and an aged cheese made from the milk of an extra-mammalian species.
     The finish is not terribly long and resides almost entirely on the tongue.  And while we tend to prefer more itinerant finishes, we found this dram to be insanely drinkable.  In fact, Bill has suggested we fill our hydration bladders with this expression for the next time we participate in the Tour de Sots.

Rating:
--On the scale of apple varieties that are somewhat sour--
The Dewar's 18 is the Jonalicious--It's a relatively large red apple that stores well and is quite versatile.  And the name's fairly descriptive, too.
  
  
                                                                             --Stephen



--Our thanks to Andy Black and the good folks at Dewar's for the sample! 
   


Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Glen Garioch 12 (50 ml airline bottle)

Tasting notes: 
On the nose there are halved apricots folded into an omelette.  Salted caperberries, mascarpone cheese, and three bags of Tension Tamer herbal tea are the rest of the ingredients.  As I ready myself for this curious breakfast, the nose changes.  There’s no particular taste; rather, it’s like being inside a guitar left in an attic.  The musty miasma is countered by a mouldering orange, stuffed into the sound hole, it seems, but without ever touching the spalted maple rosette.  How could this be?  Ah, ha!  The guitar has been recently restrung with Phosphor Bronze strings but inverted, it seems, by our citrus-stuffing southpaw.  All of which is to say that this is an inviting and beguiling dram.  The mouth is smooth at first.  Think tangerine juice dusted with stevia and chilled by a pair of whisky stones cut into the shape of the Willendorf Venus.  But then the mouth turns into the shrill rictus of a diffident peacock.  “Stop it!  Stop…looking at me!” it seems to say.  But how can a peacock not be looked at?  I rather think that this peacock wishes it were something plainer, a house sparrow perhaps.  Is this true of the whisky as well?  On the finish we get the same battle between sweetness and devious intent.  Tracker jacker honey spread on a toasted roll.  White lies whispered in a wedding vow.  Deathbed promises made and promptly forgotten.


Rating:
--On the scale of Charles Mingus’ lesser-known contributions to the world--
The Glen Garioch 12 is the Charles Mingus Cat Toilet Training Program--Reading it, one can see that Mingus was a tremendous bandleader.  Firm, yet receptive.  Articulate, yet intuitive.  The Glen Garioch 12 hums the same tune.
  
  
                                                                             --John



--Our thanks to Kim Ross for the samples!  "Fit A Rare Dram", indeed!
   


Monday, May 21, 2012

The St. George Single Malt Whiskey [Lot 11] (200 ml apothe-carry-it-with-you bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     Holy Fourteen Holy Helpers, Batman! St. George, slayer of dragons, venerated in the Koran, patron saint of England, and (you guessed it) Georgia is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and was (is?) thought to be especially useful for the health of domestic animals. We decided to test this hypothesis in the Malt Cave, for we are nothing if not scientists in the holy pursuit of truth. We poured a dram for Stephen's prized ferret, Philofax, for John's beloved aardvark, Hymenoptera, and my enigmatic platypus, Perry. Here's what they had to say:

"It doesn't smell like whisky. But then again, I've never smelt nor drunk whisky before. Maybe like vodka or gin? Gin infused with peatberries? I always get my Peat-inis mixed up."

"It's an evasive dram, like trying to pin Mitt Romney down on an important issue. Who is this Mitt Romney, anyways?"

"It's good in the mouth, like honeysuckle perfume worn by bees. Mmmmm. Honeysuckle. Mmmmmm. Bees."

"I've had Kool Aid before. This is like whisky-flavored Kool Aid that Joe Camel would offer to tweeners. By the way, what's a tweener?"

"It's lemon cello." (Do you mean "Limoncello," Perry?) "No, a lemon cello being played by Yo Yo Ma, playing Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 in G major. Whoever Yo Yo Ma is."

"It's got a Montrachet thing going; a bit oaky, a bit flinty, a bit French, a bit spectacular."

"It's a little hot, with a little bite, like being nipped by Joshua (Man)Hatton's puppy."

"It's dangerously drinkable. In fact, give me that bottle!" (Hymenoptera, give that back! Hymenoptera! That's probably poisonous to an aardvark! Dear God!)

"Glug, glug, glug."

*deeply satisfied aardvark belch*

The panel reports: Evidently St. George was watching out for these domesticated animals!




Rating:
--On the scale of successful scientific studies--
The St. George Single Malt, Lot 11, is the Michelson-Morley experiment (1887)--It put an end to Lord Kelvin's Vortex Theory, and pretty much said "good-bye" to the aether as an explanation for how light travels through space. It's still a mystery, but a good one, one to puzzle over with your domestic animal and a dram of the dangerously drinkable, damnably delicious and delightful St. George Single Malt.
  
  
                                                                             --Bill



--Our thanks to Ellie and Lance Winters and Dave Smith at St. George Spirits for the sample!
   


Thursday, May 17, 2012

The 2012 SMWSA Extravaganza New York--a solo review

     This was my first Extravaganza without my co-conspirators, and as sad as it was to have to go without Bill and John, it wasn't my fault that those two couldn't make it:  John had finally decided to give skeet shooting another chance (after years of eschewing the sport in the wake of the infamous "C-4 Pigeon" incident), but ended up Dick Cheney-ing Bill, resulting in a hospital stay and some light reconstructive surgery for both Bill and John (don't ask).  Bill showed surprising equanimity throughout the ordeal, but was most upset that he ended up missing the annual Ferret Grand National at Chatsworth.  So, alas, I flew solo on this one.
     For this event, I stayed in the hotel in which the Extravaganza took place, so as to obviate the need to brave the no-longer-so-mean streets of the Big Apple and to ensure that I didn't lose hours of my night in the process.  The Roosevelt Hotel is a grand old dame of a hotel that makes for a fine venue for an Extravaganza, offering ample room for the panel, the food, and, of course, for the whisky.  Speaking of the panel, it was, as it always is, a shouldn't-miss event:  brand ambassadors young and old telling stories, educating the audience, and generally cutting up.  Of particular note on this panel, however, were a couple of great stories from Evan Cattanach, Brand Ambassador and Master Distiller Emeritus for Diageo.
     As usual, the spread of food was excellent, with the pork tenderloin, the beef, and their respective gravies standing out in my memory as particularly impressive.  I hit the food first to provide a base layer (it's a common rookie mistake to wait too long to get around to the buffet--one John, Bill, and I learned the hard way).  Then, it was on to the whisky.
     Highlights for me in the main event included catching up with old friends Robin Robinson from Compass Box, L.J. Heffernan from Diageo, David Blackmore from Glenmorangie, Andrew Weir from Balvenie, Greenie D. McGee and Greenie's human, SMWSA President Alan Shayne, Malt Maniac Peter Silver, and whisky collector Matt Lurin.  Other high points 
included making a few new friends: Andy Black turning me on to the Dewar's 18, David Tabachnik walking me through the Laphroig range--right up to the 25 year-old, meeting Stephanie Ridgway and tasting the HP 15, and having an Aberlour 18 and chatting with Ross Graham.  Finally, I had a few other whisky revelations at the event:  the SMWS 27.96 is particularly fantastic, the taste I got of the Glenmo Artein makes me want to have some more, the Auchroisk 20 year has a nose like no other whisky I've ever had, and Compass Box's new box and label designs are tremendous.
     As I've noted elsewhere, it takes practice to do an Extravaganza right (that is, without trying too few whiskies or without ending up in a scene from The Hangover--or any possibility in between).  Look for one near you soon and practice.  Hard.  You'll be glad you did.
  

                                                                           --Stephen
   
 

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Bruichladdich Peat (50 ml airline bottle)

[This dram has been discontinued, leaving the Port Charlottes as the only peated whiskies coming out of Bruichladdich...] 
 
Tasting notes: 
The Bruichladdich Peat, which replaced Bruichladdich's famed 3D_ line, but is now itself discontinued, is clearly the result of a mad scientist moment on the part of Master Distiller Jim McEwan.  Ok, a madder-than-most scientist moment for Jim. (The man has been known to experiment.  A lot.)  We Impostors sipped this fine whisky and tried to ascertain the exact madness involved here, and if we don't have it just right, we're certainly very, very close:  on the nose, there are clean, high peat notes, but there's also smoked mackerel here--mackerel that the Laddie team bred especially as a background note here, raising them on a diet of star fruit and grilled peaches.  And there are also notes of grilled pastries, but not just any pastry:  these are specially developed bear claws, based upon a centuries old recipe discovered in the home of a tremendous Dane, and made with sugar refined from dried Valencia orange syrup and free trade organic almonds from Damascus. And like the mackerel, these items are not simply smoked, they're convected in a special oven fired by compressed peat and the bitter tears of English commoners with whom few of us have anything in common, but with whom none of us have any real problem or issue.  But it's on the mouth--and this dram doesn't just have a smooth mouth, it has smooth lips as well--that one realizes that the compressed peat involved is no common peat:  this peat is distinguished and aristocratic; it has blood lines, blue blood lines.  And on the finish, you realize that enjoying this peat is like catching any other noble person in public:  it's a bit short-lived, but the exit is graceful--it slips into its Rolls before the end of the opera to beat the crowds and steals away, leaving a lingering, and lingual, loss of luxury behind.  But before it departs, the finish is nearly tactile, with sherry hints in it--at least before it peats out entirely.  This last effect we surmised must have been achieved by interbreeding the moss (maybe Kate + Randy?) that will eventually make up the peat so that it is uncommonly pale and awkward--and thus much more likely to shy away from the spotlight.  Even if we're not exactly right on that last point, we're pretty sure we're damn close on the rest, because especially in light of  the young whisky that almost assuredly makes up a good proportion of this dram, it is clearly a mad work of genius. 
  

Rating:
--On the scale of awesome monsters resulting from the efforts of mad scientists--
The Bruichladdich Peat is Peter Boyle's version of Frankenstein's Monster--Just watch the clip of "Putting on the Ritz".  You'll see what I mean.


    
  
                                                                            --Stephen
  
  

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Bunnahabhain Jubilee Malt II 21 Year Old TWB Exclusive (3 cl TWB* mini)


Tasting notes: 
     I just went to a malt singles bar hoping to pick up a few drinks. There was a barely legal 21 year old Bunny there, habin' a good time. (hic!) I don't know who was responsible for letting such a hot, well-rounded gal with great drams into the place, but I'd like to thank him. [Stephen: Bill!  You know it was Alastair from TheWhiskyBarrel.com who's responsible this one!] I sauntered over, enticed by the way her perfume, which I took to be Eau de Citron Lard aux Oignons Caramélisés, merged with the wafting scent of well-worn oak bar. She said her name was Julie, er Jubilee---hic!---and she looked full up to the neck when I met her. When I got closer, she smelled like Kate Middleton---not an old friend---smells like when she burps after pecking at an arugula salad dotted with caper berries and boss, er, bosc pear slices. (hic!) 
     I liked the look of her, was hoping to get some mouth feel from her, too. After raising a glass, it was…Heaven. Like being in the old beloved sauna on the estate of Greve Lennart Torstenson (in the county of Ortala) with Queen Christina's noble steed, drinking a palliative of honey, ground up amber (for conspicuous luxury), distilled safflower oil, all mixed in the crystal flask of regret over The Road Not Taken.
     Her mouth was like fire, like early onset dementia (hic!), and my tongue throbbed and modulated under the----am I dreaming? No, and it turned out she was a brand ambassador, so I asked her if she had dispomaniac immunity. (hic!) She said she'd take me there, but there is no there there. She's a real nowhere (wo)man, and I'm alone with my memories.

Rating:
--On the scale of 3D movies about cave art at least 25,000 years old--
The Bunnahabhain Jubilee 21 TWB Exclusive #3 is Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams-- Chico Marx interrupts to say, "Hey, you no canna fool me! There's only one 3D movie about cave art at least 25,000 years old!" Guilty as charged: The movie is unique, as is the Bunny. Speaking of regrets, though, why did Stephen split this into thirds?! I want the whole thing!

    
  
                                                                            --Bill



Our thanks to Alastair and the good people at The Whisky Barrel for the sample!  This one is the whisky of the week there!


*--The Whisky Barrel (Bunnahabhain Jubilee Malt II 21 Year Old 1990 TheWhiskyBarrel.com Exclusive)

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