On the nose is sugarcane caramelized on the stalk due to a massive convex lens catching moonbeams at the whim of an evil scientist. An international personal defense concern (so as not to reveal them, I’ll call them “Schwartzwaßer” for the purposes of this review) burns Kevlar and spices with the intention of making a new pepper spray. But they arrive instead at culinary grade foam for glossing inarizushi, which is then picked up secretly by the chef at Craigie on Main for his remarkable dishes made of invertebrate marrow. Bill offers that the nose is “pear nectar through a smoke rinkers.” Believing I had not heard him correctly, I ask him to repeat the point, and he says “pear nectar through a smoke rinkers,” whereupon I wonder whether I am having a stroke. Stephen assures me that I passed the smile test but I wasn’t so sure. [Bill: John! That was "pear nectar through a smoke wringer!"] I was retreating into myself, like I’d been rolled flat onto blotter paper and slipped under Sylvia Plath’s bell jar. For as I took the Port Ellen into my mouth I wanted to crawl into a clear crystal orb and never come out, appearing for eternity like a tiny flaw in the otherwise perfect sphere. Then I could vaguely hear Stephen chortle about how a glass of Port Ellen put in front of a hamster wheel would prompt him to get his best time in the 35-K walk run fundraiser. Bill conjured up the image from a Far Side cartoon of an angler fish for drunks, the fish safely hidden in a dark alley but the healthy measure of Port Ellen dangling out to tempt the unsuspecting drinker. But I was in another plane by this point, seeing the world—or perhaps I should say, their world—as if through Gilbert Gottfried’s squinted eyes but without the impulse to tweet insensitive tsunami jokes. And then my eyes are shut, my consciousness folds in on itself like my fifth-grade attempt to represent nothingness on clear sheets of tiny origami paper, and I disappear.
This is about all I can say of the mouth. I remember creaminess but after my psychic subluxion I can only recall the finish. Which was what hard-boiled eggs would taste like in a perfect world. Sulfur-free, tiny spheres of the lightest lemon cheesecake for the yokes, wrapped in brilliant shiny and lightly buttery custard, and then encased in pearly porcelain shells gilded in platinum leaf (with a tiny enamel infant figurine inside the yoke if you’re lucky). It is, then, a wonderfully euphoric flavor. And it has the effect of calling into question, again, the prudence of connoisseurship in what we might dub the hedonist’s paradox. How can pleasure rationally be sought if, in the very seeking of it, the goalposts are moved and you must keep striving?
The Port Ellen is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s "Isle of the Dead, Op. 29", performed in 1932 with the Philadelphia Orchestra--It is the sound of our pleasure at its height, which is to say at the selfsame moment that pure pleasure drains away and is replaced by the yawning dread of new striving made necessary.
--JohnOur thanks to Leah Eagel, Alex Conway and Diageo for the sample!