Monday, October 29, 2012

The Old Pulteney 17 (750 ml copper still imitator bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     We've reviewed Old Pulteney expressions before, and we know the story behind the name of the brand, and maybe it's the "17" after it, but we can't help thinking this one could be a colloquial name for an infectious disease.  Or better yet, for a rather particular sort of life turning point.
     She's gone.  She's been gone for a good while now.  You're done cryin' and mopin', and you stop for a moment on the precipice, ready to step off into a new stage of your life.  Standing there with several fingers' worth in your glass (as you should always have at such moments), you inhale the aromas blossoming from the elixir therein.  Ah yes, so nice.  Much like your feelings at that moment, the nose is not terribly complex, but it is nonetheless solid and warming and strong.  You pick up notes of mandarin orange oil--and not just because you've finally gotten around to cleaning the house again.  You take a healthy slug.  The oily viscosity hits you in all of its three dimensions, and there's a brief stale change from liquid to cotton candy made of flavored graphene.  Rather appropriately, it stiffens your upper lip, and you light the match in your hand. With a near effortless flick of your finger, the cedar chest that holds your wedding day tuxedo goes up in flames.  You stand there and breathe in the smoke, the finish ironically intermarried with the aromas of charred cummerbund, blistering patent leather, and smoldering suspenders.  The finish, like the blaze itself, is balanced and long and satisfying.  You step back from the tuxedo pyre and add some water to your glass.  Immediately, you're reminded of the dried boutonnières in the closet you'd meant to burn alongside the chest.  Amid the floral explosion on the nose now, you find yourself experiencing one of the possible futures that's just opened up to you:  pomegranates and jasmine in a sealed Ziploc™ tucked within your monk's robe while being re-screened by airport security.  Then for a moment you taste another possible future, but this one having just closed behind you:  a wedge of pecorino romano with grapefruit slices on it, made with haste during an unexpected and unwelcome visit from your in-laws.  You smile and pick up distinct notes of oiled sulfur toward the finish, and it's like you can smell the poorly maintained brakes from Satan's Edsel as he stops momentarily to pick up the last of your baggage and whisk it away to where it belongs.  If you've ever felt anything like this, you've experienced "The Old Pulteney 17."

--On the scale of idiosyncratic terms for pivotal life moments--
The Old Pulteney 17 Year-Old is the Seven Year Itch--It's a rating befitting this dram's finish, only things turn out better with the whisky.  Well, usually, anyway.



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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Old Pulteney 21 (750 ml copper still imitator bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     The Old Pulteney 21 noses its younger siblings, but only after the fumes have been blown (by a barnacle-encrusted ship propellor) through a tulle screen, exhalations of virgin breath, and a 7-layer phyllo dough Turkish delight laced with figs, pistachioes, and rosewater. More honey, more winesap apple, more refinement, and more willow pollen: An orotund quality with deep bass notes, like the portentous trombones from Inception. Apple parings rubbed on shellacked bowling alley maple.
     The mouth is pouring the best synthetic motor oil ever made into a centrifuge in a vain attempt to fuse it with citric acids, zests, and esters and thereby obtain federal funding for the creation of an Agrifuel specific to yellow Bentley convertibles. It adheres to the roof of the mouth and cycles intensity like a mammal in and out of estrus.
     The finish is a rising tide, inexorably lifting a fleet of cuttlefish boats and Venetian gondoliers. Will the canals flood? Will tourists be inconvenienced? Sitting in St. Mark's Square, it's hard to care. Adding actual, as opposed to imagist, water induces a large limestone obelisk in a fountain awash in organic lemonade. The legs are scalloped like potatoes, but not Ruffles® with Ridges; rather like Lays with, um, Ridges.

--On the scale of cities in the Rust Belt due for a Renaissance--
The Old Pulteney 21 Year-Old is Cleveland--The haters may hate, but it has world-class museums, a world-class orchestra, a world-class dance troupe, and a low cost of living. Bring the love for the Old Pulteney 21.



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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The anCnoc 16 (750 ml commando flashbomb bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     A knock at the door.  What’s this?  A Glencairn glass is standing in the center of my welcome mat.  And no one in sight!  AnCnoc 16 in the glass.  I hold it up to the porch light.  It is lighter and clearer than an angel’s tear.  Pomegranate and wedding cake on the nose, but I’m not going to wait around to see what else is there.  I move inside and turn down the lights.  More than any tastes I'm struck by the weight in the mouth.  The unbearable lightness of AnCnoc, coupled with an almost Glenmo-like smoothness.  Sixteen years in a cask and it comes out this heavenly?  What, are there 500-thread count sheets and down pillows in there?  Or is it really just like Marisa Tomei, who gets more and more spectacular with every passing year?  (Note to Marisa’s agent: she can reach us at  Viscous on the mouth, too—if you can be both light and viscous.  I’m in Paula Deen’s kitchen basting a turkey with synthetic motor oil (10w30) and conventional motor oil (5w30) in equal measure.  The finish races to the spaces under the tongue where a team of AnCnoc commandos detonate an anise flashbomb.  They run in to grab me and pull me from dreams of 500-thread count sheets and Marisa Tomei, and I see that the wedding cake is half eaten by a clown with smeared makeup.  He’s got a contented grin underneath that makeup.  I can see it clearly now as he leans in on the high stool in the corner of the room.  He’s holding a video camera and an empty Glencairn glass in his hands.  It doesn't take me long to see that he also has my fate in his hands as well.  Can he be reasoned with?  What leverage can you apply to a man dressed as a clown?


--On the scale of great sloppy clowns--
The anCnoc 16 year old is Red Skelton's Freddie the Freeloader--Warm and welcoming while hiding a wonderful edge, Freddie also never hesitated to make someone sharing the stage with him bust out laughing--on live TV. 



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

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The 2012 SMWSA X-travaganza Boston--A Review

[After discussing trying to create a different sort of review for this event, Bill busted out this missive.  It summed up our collective thoughts so well, we decided to go with it as is--with the exception of a brief Editor's postscript... Let us know what you think in the Comments section!]

     After X-huming the keys from where Stephen's ferrets buried them, we jumped into the X-terra, our official X-otic X-travaganza X-country car. John brought an audio book; an X-pose of Malcolm X's X-ternal influence on Jimi HendriX's classic album AXis: Bold as Love. I dressed in character as Xsa Xsa Gabor; a debutante Xhosa ballroom dancer. Stephen and John took X-ception with my sequined gown, claiming it didn't X-actly match up with the color of my beard. "Can't they look beyond my X-terior?" I aXed myself in a Noo Joisey aXent.
MI Guys with Simon Brooking
     As X-pected, the panel before the main even was funny and informative, and the Aberfeldy 21 neatly X-tracted from the bottle by the Dewar's brand ambassador X-foliated the travel schmutz from my skin. [John: Bill! You were supposed to drink it!] 
     It was great to see again, for X-ample, the Most X-cellent, Least X-traneous, Altogether X-traordinary Gabby and Alan Shayne, Jerry (Zim the Great) Zimmerman, Simon (I know 10000 toasts for all occasions) Brooking, Craig Bridger from Glenlivet, Ricky Crawford pouring SMWS goodies, Jesse Knowles from Momentum, Emily Duffy from Kilbeggan, whisky writer Liza Weisstuch, Brian Johnson from InterBev, fellow blogger Bozzy from tire-bouchon, Randall Bird with Balvenie and his fellow Malt Man Charlie Tower. I was X-static to meet Stephanie Ridgway, the Pittsburghian South Hill Clan lass doubling as Highland Park brand ambassador: It was X-tra X-alted to finally meet you! [John:  Don't forget our friend X-Mini Cooper John and X-military Thom of WhiskyRI!]
With Stephanie Ridgway at the HP table
     The drams that stood out for me were...all of them? The greatest irony was that the one dram I had circled as a must-try, the Longmorn 16, was one that I never found in the kaleidoscope of awesomeness that is the X-travaganza. I loved the Balblair 1989 and Old Pulteney 30 year; the Highland Parks were, as always, X-emplars of luXorious elegance, the Classic Cask line, X-specially the 35-year Rare Scotch Whisky  [Stephen: X-pecially? Really?], and as usual, things start to blur, pleasantly. I recall trying the Dewar's offerings, having been impressed by the pre-panel pour. Ah yes! And I had–as best as I can recall, Officer–the full line of X-pressions the SMWSA brought. On the advice of counsel, I also recall (now) trying the delicious Balvenie 17 Doublewood,
and the smooth and elegant Balvenie 21. As I've written before, it's wonderful to have the opportunity to climb the vertical age ladder at these events, and for some brands, I love their younger bottlings–the unassailable Talisker 10, for X-ample, but these are really the opportunity to try X-pressions that would otherwise fall off the fiscal cliff of the Malt Budget. And dream and scheme how to furtively sell enough of Stephen's ferrets and John's antique rutabagas to buy me a boddle or three.


--On the scale of Persian emperors--
The SMWSA X-travaganza is rated X for Xerxes--
(You were expecting, "On the scale of copiers, the SMWSA X-travaganza is rated X for Xerox"? How...70's porn cliché of you...)



Hanging with Ricky Crawford at the SMWS table
Editor's postscript:  None of Bill's X-wives were harmed in the making of this review--despite Bill's mansplaining (thought I was going to go a different direction there, huh?) to us that the risk of incident was non-X-istent, if we would just X-tricate him from his harness (we didn't).  And I am pleased to report that this time around, I did not need to X-cise from Bill's original teXt several thousand X-traneous words to which many would likely take X-ception.  This is due to the X-cessive X-emptions Bill usually grants himself with respect to my editorial X-hortations.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Sullivans Cove Double Cask (50 ml Tasmanian handbell bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     The nose on this dram is woody, but in a slippery way, like a greased elm slide carved from a giant tree in one piece so you never have to go against the grain.  There are also hints of cheese here, though not just any cheese:  this is yak cheddar rennet, or maybe pepper jack where Thai chili are the peppers.  If the two seem too far apart, it's like it is with a lot of other things: one man's yak rennet is another man's pepper jack.  Whatever oiliness is present on the nose is replaced by a wateriness on the mouth.  But it's wateriness reminiscent of runny, yummy, rummy grog.  It's probably a product of the American and French Oak barrels combined, but it feels more to us like this dram came from a rum cask, but not just any rum cask:  this is the cask that the captain poured his special stash into as the mutinous uprising began, only to find later that the chef had also stored mangoes and bacon fat in the bottom of that particular barrel.  Hold it in your mouth, and the sugar that comes across first as rum transforms into marzipan, but not just any marzipan:  this is a marzipan koala bear--with small, beady, untrusting licorice eyes that stare into you like a Nietzschean abyss until you hear the voice echoing from the depths, "I'm a marsupial, not a bear, dammit."  On the finish, more fruit, but its exact quality is hard to pin down, much like the fruit our marzipan friend juggles as he makes his way along the tightrope stretched across the yawning chasm.  That's right:  we're talking languid, lethargic lobbing of limes, lychees, and lingonberries whilst whistling past the forboding depths of meaninglessness.  What could be better (I mean, after you've faced reality)?

--On the scale of animals with misleading names--
The Sullivans Cove Double Cask is the wombat--neither bat nor stand-alone womb, this muscular little Australian quadruped turns out to be incredibly adaptable when it comes to tolerance for different kinds of habitat.  That means it'll fare remarkably well in your liquor cabinet, even if it's in the northern hemisphere.

--Our thanks to Raj and Purple Valley Imports--and Sullivans Cove Whisky--for the sample!  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Arran 10 Year Old (750 ml Protestant Weapon of Mass Destruction (Protestant? 'Mass' destruction? Too soon, Pope Leo X?))

Tasting notes:
     The Unchill-filtered Arran Malt 10 year old's opening salvo is unripe pluot butter slathered on the holystoned-ammonia-decks and begrimed porcupine leather boots of French pirate Montbars the Exterminator. That, and melted Heath bar sieved through a stolen silk and beaver bowler into a djembe commandeered from a Spanish vendor of lemons and wormy crabapples. Dispatching Spaniards on the main is no longer a family tradition, so Montbars' lineal male descendent writes catalogue copy for hand cream, lemon butter, and candied persimmons for the Vermont Country Store® using an IBM Selectric™ typewriter and printer's ink. Roundness of oranges, oblateness of mangoes. Man's graves in mangroves with mangoes? I intuit an Inuit is in it?
     And bourbon casks, but not Louis Bourbon casks, half-filled, the Angel responsible for the share spending its time on a transatlantic love cloud before returning to heaven. Peccadilloes of the angels, armadillos of the devils, amontillados of the Venetians, vendettas of the papayas, peyote buttons of the Yaquis. [Stephen: 'Vendettas of the papayas'?!?] A honey vanilla Häagen Dazs sundae coated in pineapple topping with reduction of Windex™ base.
     The finish induces tinnitus or, better yet, tintinnabulations: Is it live or is it my memory? Hard cider jack, biltong hardtack, the vinyl off-gassing schmutz is scared from the concave interior of my windshield, wiper blades rasping uselessly in a sandstorm. Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into malterrific gold. Penelope weaving a tapestry to baffle the unwanted suitors. John knitting Amish afghans out of shed Angora fur collected by trained lemurs. Dew-drops on walnuts in a mezzotint executed by deceased Japanese National Living Treasure (when he was alive) Yozo Hamaguchi.


--On the scale of actor's real names--
The Unchill-filtered Arran Malt 10 year old is Herbert Lom--Best known for playing the tic-bespasmed police prefect nominally overseeing Inspector Clouseau, he was born in Prague of Austrian nobility, and his real name was Herbert Karel Angelo Kuchacevic ze Schlunderpacheru. The Arran is equally loaded for bear.



Our thanks to Sam Filmus and ImpEx for the sample! 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The SMWS 125.48 (30 ml emergency first aid kit bottle)

[If you've had your head in a hole, we're publishing shorter, (largely) linkless reviews on current Scotch Malt Whisky Society offerings--and employing Lo-Mob effects on the pics).  Check out the beginning of this other post for more on these reviews.  If you want to find out more about the SMWS or their bottlings, visit]

Tasting notes: 
     On the nose, it’s chestnuts soaked in apricot liquor, a pool of butterscotch syrup dotted with sultanas to form a smiley face, a clothesline-dried negligée blown into the yard of a choir director.   A Baptist choir director.   The mouth is delicious.  Superbly balanced, like Gabby Douglas on a balance beam during a category three hurricane.  Unperturbed, unflappable, and yet graceful.  But let’s talk about her hair.  No, let’s not.  
     This is a Mary Poppins whisky: practically perfect in every way.  The finish is soaring, emphatic, like a glider plane on a thermal updraft produced by an active volcano.  Or Icarus flying ever higher, this time with synthetic wax holding his wings fixed as he soars into the ionosphere.

--On the scale of mammals that “fly” but do not fly--
The SMWS 125.48 is a Groove-toothed flying squirrel--The so-called flying lemur is a parachute jumper.  Duh!  And did you see the patagium on these legs?


Friday, October 5, 2012

The SMWS 23.72 (30 ml PORTable pleasure bottle)

[This is one of many shorter reviews we're posting on current Scotch Malt Whisky Society offerings (with Lo-Mob effects on the pics).  Check out the beginning of this other post for more on these reviews.  If you want to find out more about the SMWS or their bottlings, visit]

Tasting notes: 
     Distinct notes of port and rum raisins greet me on the nose to this dram.  Porting a bottle of port to my porthole to look out on the port side whilst I cruise into port.  Yes, I know it's a refill sherry butt and not a port cask!  But I get PORT, okay?  Plus, I did the whole sherry thing already--yesterday!  OK, so moving on to the mouth, it's a little more sherry...but only the port parts you can pull out of sherry.  Now that I say it, how in the world did they do that?  I don't know, but I have it on good authority (not to mention personal experience) that the dude behind this operation has mad skillz, yo.  But I digress.  It's not nearly as hot on the mouth as its youth or 132.8 proof would lead one to believe.  Instead, it merely fires off a billowing explosion-- not unlike throwing an aerosol can in a campfire (What do you mean, I'm not supposed to do that?) --of spice laced with sweetness and ripe purple fruits across the back half of my tongue.  The finish has a distinct tang, neither acrid nor sour, just tang.  Like a porcelain bell ringing TANG!  What a spitfire this dram is, all without spitting any real fire.  At first, I was tempted to say it's one dimensional, but once I went back and chewed on it further, there are a number of distinct flavors here--and they make a difference.

--On the scale of medieval cool stuff--
The SMWS 23.72 is the portcullis--Not something I would have picked out when I was younger (that would have been the morning star, followed closely by chain mail armour), but pretty cool when, as a more mature person, I really stopped to think about it.  There's a lot of killer engineering going on here, especially for the time.



Thursday, October 4, 2012

The SMWS 2.81 (30 ml GET ME MORE SHERRY BOMBS! bottle)

[This is one of many shorter reviews we're posting on current Scotch Malt Whisky Society offerings (featuring various Lo-Mob effects on the pics).  Check out the beginning of this other post for more on these posts.  If you want to find out more about the SMWS or their bottlings, visit]

Tasting notes: 
     Why don't I adore sherry?  Why don't I drink it at every meal?  Why do people bottle bad sherry for cooking?  I ask because damn if I don't freakin' love me a good sherry bomb.  And the SMWS 2.81 is a lovely little sherry bomb.  More cherry bomb or even M80 than hand grenade or artillery shell, mind you, but that's a good thing.  The nose presents refined, rarified, reified orange essence distilled and distilled into a rare, beautiful red wine poured over a bowl of golden raisins.  With a honkin' big snifter of brandy sitting next to that bowl, slowly dispersing (via evaporation) into the room.  The wine sneaks onto the mouth as well, but then coats the tongue in warm spiced cream, leaving cinnamon to conduct an afterparty on the palate and the throat.  As this dram goes down, it warms my toes and dark corners of my soul.  The dark, gorgeous liquid disappears from my glass, and I find myself with unprecedented (for me) thoughts and dreams:  I want to be a grandmother, I want doilies, I want more cats and acid-etched sherry glasses in a glass-doored cabinet.  I want to take a bath with Pedro Ximénez and wear a rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls and embrace the innuendo of both and worry about the fact that I'm a heterosexual male another day.

--On the scale of overdone quotes from books that few people ever manage to read--
The SMWS 2.81 is Molly's soliliquy in the last chapter of James Joyce's Ulysses--I was a Flower of the mountain yes and I put the doily on the newly polished table yes and I put the sherry glass on the doily yes and fill that glass to the brim yes and dream that it's from the cask that then goes to age this whisky yes yes and my heart is going like mad and yes and I drink it yes and I order a bottle of the 2.81 yes and then another yes I said yes I will Yes.



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The SMWS G1.8 (30 ml self-evaluation booster bottle)

[This is one of many shorter reviews we're posting on current Scotch Malt Whisky Society offerings (sporting Lo-Mob effects on the pics).  Check out the beginning of this other post for more on what we're up to with these posts.  If you want to find out more about the SMWS or their bottlings, you should visit]

Tasting notes: 
     The color of the SMWS G1.8 is akin to mahogany stain on an oak table: a curious match, but one that works and begs for closer inspection. Swirling the dram in my glass leaves a bubbly sort of rim at the top, a bit like the spume a wave deposits on shore before retreating back to the ocean, suggesting that now that it's managed to escape, it WILL NEVER GO BACK to the liquid hellfire 125.8 proof motherlode.
     On the nose, new red potatoes, still flecked with moist soil, doused in key lime juice, extract of orange, fresh cilantro, and distilled essence of a newly-paroled prisoner, waiting at the gates for release. Clean linens and Walla Walla onions hashed with veal piccata (heavy on the capers) into an alchemical mixture with gin. It's a Thanksgiving cornucopia of riches on the table, if the Pilgrims were led by the oddly Mormonesque love triangle of Julia Child, Margaret Thatcher, and Elvis Costello.

     (I'm…afraid to pour 125.8 proof whisky into my mouth. Give me a second.) After rubbing aloe vera on my hand, I can type again: the flame erupting from my maw burnt my paw. Rich flavors, like the heavily-trod floor of the Musée du Louvre on "National Take an Ostler to the Musée Day." The mouth screams "Beeswax!" and "Unripe Mango!" and "Leather-bound Family Bible!" so I recommend plugging your ears when you sip it. The finish extends down the gullet, through the stomach, into the GI tract, and exits my tingling toes. Autumn leaves, glow-in-the-dark 5-inch stiletto heels, Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi) bark, and fuzzy puppy jostle together.
      After ascertaining that my tongue still exists, I add a (perhaps overly) generous dollop of water. The nose loses fruit and gains in juniper berries. It's insistent now: had I been earlier unwilling to ascribe a fine-grained origin to the G1.8, I could no longer deny it. It's fascinating, but most definitely not malted barley. I am shocked that subtlety is lost–after all, we here at MI Central are nothing if not Masters of Subtlety–but there you have it, as the King said in Amadeus. Too many notes.
     The watered mouth is like a parched lawn, grasses and even weeds begging for rain to fall, and greening themselves up after their prayers are answered. By Pan, they'll never go thirsty again! The flavors are smoothed out, fantastic; sledding down Cinnamint Mountain on Grandpa's iron-shod teak Wünder-Wagen of Wonders. Finishing with molasses, tongue thrum, and Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Götterdämmerung: The Twilight of My Tastebuds as they enter Heaven's side door via epiphany.

--On the scale of Oscar™ nominated films directed by Ben Affleck (of all people!)--
The SMWS G1.8 is Gone, Baby, Gone. (Get it? G1 = G one = Gone)--Great movie, great cast, great moral reckoning, great dram.


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