Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Whisk(e)y Explorers Club is once again new and improved

The newest iteration of the Whisk(e)y Explorers Club showed up on the front porch a little while back now, and we've finally had our chance to go through it together.  Now, we've been proponents of the WEC since Doug Stone came up with the idea and invited us to try it out and give our take on it.  Granted, we have a soft spot for minis, since we got our start reviewing them (it wasn't out of necessity: we just thought it was funnier to review minis), but we also love the idea of trying many whiskies (or whiskeys) we've never had before, and doing so all at one time.  In the years since creating the WEC, Doug and have continued to refine and improve the product, and this latest flight is no exception.  

One side note:  for a moment, we wondered if maybe there was supposed to be an apostrophe somewhere toward the end of "Explorers", but then we decided we were just glad this wasn't one of those instances where an apostrophe is inserted somewhere it doesn't belong.  After all, each of us has been known to go all Bob the Angry Flower in the past.

We won't reveal the contents of this flight, but we will note that Doug, et al. tried something new in this one, and we were a bit slow to catch on.  In part, that's because we avoid research (that is, much of any reading, including letters enclosed with the product that explain things) on any product we review, lest we inadvertently wander out of our Impostordom and into traffic.  Actually, reading the bottle carefully would've given us a clue on this one, but we missed that, too.  But this is what happens when you drink with great friends:  long overdue conversations take precedence over pesky things like reading.  

Speaking of finding reading burdensome, the Whisk(e)y IQ game is our least favorite part of the deal, but only because in the midst of the game, we're more like rats hitting the bar for another pellet of food than we are like connoisseurs who are trying to make fine distinctions.  But then again, as you may have noticed, we're not particularly good at taking things seriously.  Actually, the opportunity to guess which whisk(e)y we think it is (from four choices) and to guess its retail price are both parts of the game we really enjoy.  However, we get bogged down in trying the parts of the game that ask one to identify the elements of the nose, mouth, and finish.  But that may just be us: it's not like we know any of the terms typically employed for describing such things, as each and every one of our reviews can attest.
Finally, we're excited about this year's Whisk(e)y Explorers Club because...well, at the moment we can only say that there's something very interesting afoot with the Club and its future offerings.  Stay tuned for more on that front soon...

You can find more details on the Whisk(e)y Explorers Club and the various levels of membership available here:

And for more innovations on this same theme, check out the new Whisky Explorers Private Tasting Expeditions here:

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Key to the Clans: Macleod (50 ml tartan-clad mini)

Tasting notes:
There can be only one 50ml bottle!

That's just not so; there are many.

I am Connor Macleod of Clan Macleod, the Highlander, and I must cut off your head.

Actually, you're a nifty 50 ml bottle of whisky. And if you cut off my head, how could I savor the nose, which is like llama-leather boots greased with alpaca fat, worn by an intrepid Incan who, with help from aliens, created the first hydroponic garden in Lake Titicaca, and then tromped through it. There are green peppers, jicama stalks, plaintains, and alien grapes.

I am Connor Macleod of Clan Macleod!

The mouth is fiery, like your temper, with a quick finish. A second swirl, since my head is still attached to my neck, opens up a mahogany chest with polished silver and brass fittings. Inside are papayas and pickles, bananas and beef burgundy, crabapples and crawdads.

The finish is agile, evanescent, and gone—



--On the scale of iconic 70s detective shows starring Dennis Weaver--
The Key to the Clans (Macleod) is McCloud--Wait,what??? What happened to Connor Macleod and Highlander? It's gone, baby, gone. Just like my 50ml bottle.



Our thanks to Helen and ImpEx for the sample! 


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Lagavulin 21 Year 2012 Limited Edition (50 ml TLH* mini)

Tasting notes:
     So one Friday, I find myself on the couch in my therapist's office, free associating about a dream I had the night before.  I knew it was significant because I'd had it many times before, and you know what they say about recurring dreams.
     Once again, I'd dreamt of the elusive Lagavulin 21.

"So where are you in the dream?"

"Under a down blanket in front of a campfire.  Black swan down.  Blackhawk Down."

"Please don't start shouting for cover fire again."

"Right.  Ahem.  Cherry flavored iodine.  A deep red peach whipped into a buttery balm.  A peach fuzzy balm.  A nuzzly balm.  Martha Nussbaum."

"Go on."

"Classic Lagavulin nose.  Faint smell of fish.  A bucket of fresh trout still alive in the bucket.  One pound fish.  One pound fish.  Very very good, very very cheap--"

"--Oh no, you don't!  I told you not to do that again in here."

"Right, right.  Really iodiney.  Iodiney Granger.  Wingardium leviosa.  Sherry and samosas.  One pound fish--"


"Just kidding! Just kidding!"

"Then move on."

"Right, to the mouth.  Hot, hot, hot!  Not smooth--HOT!  Drinking magma from horn spoons for caviar.  Magna Carta. Summa Magna Cum Laude."

"Yeah, please don't go on from that one."

"Good call.  On the finish, more heat, then deer skin gloves."

"Deer skin gloves?"

"Reindeer mittens?  Oh, okay, moving on...  Charcoal used as sandpaper on a redheaded baby's head."

"Wow.  Well, with imagery like that, you should keep me in business for a while all on your own.  Is that all?"

"No!  Add water, and fruit comes out on the nose.  Carmen Miranda on the nose."
"Carmen Miranda on the brain, apparently."

"Really?  That often?"

"Every frickin' session."

"Hmm.  Add lots of water, and it gets mankier and a bit off.  (Note: do not add lots of water.)  Compared to what I'd expect, it's still hotter.  Harry Potter.  Fly swatter."

"Yeah, we're done here."

"Ice water!  Welcome back, Kotter!"

--On the scale of more helpful therapy sessions--
The Lagavulin 21 is the one where the patient thinks everything is a phallus, to which Dr. Freud responds, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."--Artfully done without ever seeming to attack the patient--and without directly challenging his view of the world--it's so good, he probably never said it in therapy at all.



*--Therapist's Little Helper

Our thanks to Leah Eagel, Alex Conway and Diageo for the sample! 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Early Times Kentucky Whisky (750 ml no-roll picnic bottle)

Tasting notes: 
     On the nose, hamster bedding fresh from the bag.  Chicory coffee.  Cut Granny Smith apples encased in silly putty.  Vulcanized rubber.  What is this delicious stuff?  On the label it says—

--my God!  It’s a 36 month old!  Okay.  Deep breaths.  That’s got to be [fiddles with abacus], that’s 73.6 years!  Can American whiskey (or American whisky) even get that old?  What’s that, Bill? [plugs in numbers into Bill’s calculator], ahem, yes; just as I thought.  Three years old.  But then I see it’s not a Bourbon.  This is because the spirit is aged in new barrels as well as reused barrels and, I’m quite sure, several silly putty plastic egg containers.  Clearly, the used barrels are imparting a decidedly Bourbon flavor profile to the whiskey: A white chocolate Gumby dribbling a bison-leather basketball on a mahogany parquet floor.  A sun-filled musty attic filled with quilts and empty hat boxes.  A dish of brazil nuts.  It’s light on the mouth, but not quite like an angler fish.  On the finish, it's the acorns in a red squirrel’s nest conveniently placed near the nest of an exasperated, nut-collecting bowery bird. 


--On the scale of stylistic impasses--
The Early Times Kentucky Whisky is whether brazil nuts should be capitalized or not--The three of us were divided on the question, one saying yes, the other no, and Bill emptying the dish into his mouth and then trying to act natural. 


--Our thanks to Andrea Duvall and Brown-Forman for the sample!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Johnnie Walker Double Black (750 ml ash dash trim bottle*)

Tasting notes:
     I'm all in and doubled down on the Johnnie Walker Double Black. Here's why: the nose is classic JW. Reedly, like the reed of an ebony clarinet with polished sterling keys being played by Ed Reed—yes, the Baltimore Ravens safety—after drinking Cuban café con leche, but without much leche. Anise being added to a steel smelter by a disgruntled Wobbly who'd had his head banged by a Pinkerton detective during an earlier union action. Faint lemon rind twisted slowly, slowly in the wind instrument. It's a distinctive nose, not superficially attractive, but laden with character, like that of an urbane Venetian doge ruling in the period before poison was commonly used as a tool of statecraft and revenge. Flecks of lilac honey dried on an alabaster kitchen counter, impervious to the batting paws of a catnip (Nepeta cataria) crazed kitten (Felis silvestris catus).
     On the mouth, smoothly insane, insanely smooth grainy grains. Smokey and charcoally, like Smokey the Bear presiding over Bambi's venison remains at the inquest on site at the ashes of a burnt-to-a-crisp climax forest.
     The finish suggests Tennessee, grilled sausages, the fatty and delicious burnt skin of chicken grilled over beech wood, cigar butts, and a middle-aged man's satisfaction at finally sky-diving. On the finish, Braeburn apples [Stephen: There he goes again with the Braeburn apples. Doesn't he ever eat any other kinds of apples?] baked en Croute with honeydew, a coke spoon's worth of crushed candy cane, and raclette cheese. It's rich, but not Warren Buffett rich. Maybe like Steve Wozniak? If I try to imagine what was in the mind of the Johnnie Walker master blender, it wasn't to mount a direct challenge to Islay whisky, but maybe to create a blend that would appeal to someone who is on a rigorous course of anti-aversion therapy to phenols. In other words, there's peat, smoke, a hint of koala breath and charcoal, but not so much that it would whiten the hair of a sherry-swilling aesthete.

--On the scale of weird Armenian meat pies…wait! We did that before!…sorry.

--On the scale of bold steps from a venerable giant--
The Johnnie Walker Double Black is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's exuberant youth joyously shouting, "Excelsior!" (Minus, of course, the impetuousness, the shocking conclusion, and the grim overtones limning the clash between wisdom and naïveté.)--Excelsior! Excelsior! Excelsior!



Our thanks to Leah Eagel, Alex Conway and Diageo for the sample! 

*--That's some sweet ash dash

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Whisky Live New York City is April 3rd! Use Our Discount Code!

It's here again, people:  Whisky Live in New York City!  Stephen attended two years ago, and all three Impostors attended the outstanding Whisky Live Boston last fall, so we can attest to its spectacularity and swank.

Alas, none of us here at The Malt Impostor can make it to Chelsea Piers on Wednesday, April 3rd for the event.  For out-of-towners like us, a Wednesday is tough (next time hold it on a Friday...please?!?).  In fact, we're going to do the right thing and show up for work that day (and the next), though we do plan to picket just outside the front doors of our respective places of employment for our collective rights to hang with master distillers, brand ambassadors, and industry experts as they pour over 250 whiskies from Scotland, the U.S., Ireland, India, France, Japan, and Sweden.  We'll also be threatening boycotts of our lunchrooms to make clear that, but for the shackles of "the man," we'd be able to enjoy the lavish bourbon-themed dinner on tap at Whisky Live NYC.  

Later in the day, we're planning on taking over the office supply rooms, mixing boxes of pens and pencils, regular paper and watermarked paper, yellow and orange sticky notes--you name it--to protest our God-given right to enjoy the newest component of Whisky Live:  Cocktails Live, where mixologists and bartenders from the best whisky bars in New York City will mix their original cocktails for all of those not completely downtrodden by their wage slavery.

So if you believe in our cause, meet down at the docks Chelsea Piers, at Pier Sixty, 23rd Street on the Hudson River.  Make sure you wear a black turtleneck.  (No, I don't know why, exactly--it's just what people like us do!)  The event starts at 5:00PM for VIP ticket holders, for whom tickets are $149.  Standard tickets are $119 and allow entry at 6:30PM.  The event ends at 10:00PM, with last pour approximately at 9:40PM.  Every guest receives a complimentary Glencairn crystal tasting glass.  

For tickets, please visit:

But you'll also want to remember the password discount code we have for you:  

Use the code "wlmedia" (without the quotation marks, and it's case-sensitive) for 15% off of your ticket price. 
And here you thought collective action wouldn't ever get you anything.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Wemyss The Hive 12 Years Old (50 ml beekeeper suit mini)

Tasting notes:
     We at The Malt Impostor do not operate as a hive.  There is no queen.  There are no drones, only independent contractors, as in unconstrained capitalism, yielding an unfocused and unconstrained sham of an economy pulled in countless different directions at once by the unfettered and uninformed egoism of each participant.  But I digress.  My point was that at The Malt Impostor, we all have our own opinions.  But you know what opinions are like.  Especially Bill's.
     On the nose, John and I noted honey butterscotch, artificial cherry flavoring, and floral notes muddled with a slightly astringent note.  Bill found the nose off-putting and after a moment set his nose down and walked out.
     On the mouth, John and I thought the light mouthfeel belied a rich flavor profile that's limber like an Olympic gymnast one of us has obsessed about for a little too long now.  On the back of the palate on the way to the finish, we also detected a note of peppery, dark red zinfandel wine.  Then Bill came back and announced that the nose was like honeysuckle in a field of poppies in which the Cowardly Lion falls fast into an apnea- and flying monkeys-interrupted sleep.  We let him finish, then told him we were already on to the mouth.  He said, "Fine," then likened it to drinking bad Calvados.  John misheard this last bit as "bad Calvinist", and immediately made a snide comment about the Synod of Dort, which sparked the usual recriminations ("You don't even believe in what's predestined for you!"), despite the fact that John is a Presbyterian.  Once I pried John's thumbs from Bill's eye sockets, we all took a breather after which we got back to work.
     Bill began by snarking that the finish was sort of Balblairian but without being remarkable.  As if every Balblair were remarkable (#LogicFail).  John responded by deeming Bill himself to be, at that moment, unresnarkable.  John and I then went on to note that we found the finish light with a hint of bitterness like you would come across when accidentally chewing on a banana peel.  We also found lovely honey spice and pepper as the medium length finish burned itself out.  By this point, Bill was ignoring us and had moved on to nosh on a bit of trail mix.  Oh, to be a queen bee!

--On the scale of hive-like collectives--
The Wemyss The Hive is a beehive--It's internally harmonious, but unable to force assimilation on others as more advanced collectives, like the Borg, can.  Actually, it's also apparently liable to be disrupted, as we all are, by a strong-willed child exercising its power willy nilly on an unsuspecting and undeserving world (i.e., whacking it with a stick).



--Our thanks to Karen Stewart and The Wemyss Malts for the sample! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Highland Park launches Loki

     Last week, I had the good fortune to attend a crazy event in NYC for the launch of Highland Park's newest limited release, Loki.  My girlfriend said it was like something out of Sex and the City.  I stared at her blankly, thankful that I had no idea what she was talking about.  I am still waiting for her to read Eat, Pray, Love, though--you know, so we can talk about it.
      The event, like the Norse demi-god and apparently the eponymous whisky, was filled with wild and mysterious themes, as the pics here attest.  A trickster god who shifted allegiances as they suited him, Loki was basically as mischievous as trickster gods came.  While the theme of the event came across beautifully, I couldn't help but think how fun it would've been to have had some real mischief on display, like trap doors in the main floor opening up at random so that at any point--POOF!--your conversant might disappear, leaving you to move on, for better or worse.  Oh well.  At least they didn't try to use one of Loki's other names from Norse mythology (I, for one, wouldn't have wanted to have had to try to say Loptr or Hveðrungr).
      Don't get me wrong:  it was a beautiful and singular event, awe-inspiring in conception as well as execution.  Hats off to Steph Ridgway for her role in putting it together.  And hats off to Martin Daraz, who presented the attendees to Loki in a special room just off of the main one.  Amidst dry ice smoke and big flames in the background, Martin stepped up and commanded the room with tremendous dramatic effect.  You see, the handlers for the event handed each person a card as she checked in, and that card they later used to call about a third of the attendees at a time into the side room to be introduced to Loki.  My card had "Cunning" and "Complex" on it, which I was glad to think was perfectly appropriate (either that, or Steph is remarkably good at knowing how to stroke my ego). 
     They also had stations with different Highland Park expressions, including the 12 year-old, the 15, and the 18, along with mineral water stations for opening up one's whisky, and a hot toddy bar on an outside balcony.  The event was impressive all around, and a killer way to roll out a limited edition whisky.
     I was thrilled to get a chance to meet and chat with Ken Grier, the Edrington Group Director of Malts, at the event and to have him talk me through the whisky a bit as well.  Other friends and acquaintances were in attendance as well, and it was nice to catch up with Marlon Paltoo from Park Avenue Liquor, Mark Gillespie from WhiskyCast, Noah Rothbaum from, as well as Steph Ridgway and Martin Daraz from HP.
     How was the whisky, you say?  Ah, right.  The idea is that this second whisky in Highland Park's Valhalla Collection would reflect the character of the demigod from whom it takes its name, especially in contrast to the Highland Park Thor, its predecessor in the series.  Thor is true of heart, yet also a rather blunt instrument of a character (his signature weapon is as much a metaphor for his relative level of mental dexterity as an armament), and the HP Thor was a bit of a straight arrow, if I may mix my metaphors.  The HP Loki, by contrast, is elusive, cunning even, dancing around your palate offering you different notes at different times.  It is, appropriately enough, something of a shapeshifter.  It's a 15 year old whisky that's multi-layered and fun to try to get a read on, rather like engaging with a quick-witted interlocutor.  There's a load of spice, some high, clear fruit, and smoke.  There are clearly some sherry casks in there, as well as some peated whisky.  
     I really enjoyed the Loki.  But really, that's not much of a surprise:  I love Highland Park's standard offerings, and I tend to be partial to sherry casks and spicy flavor profiles.  
     But once again, kudos to Steph Ridgway and the whole Highland Park team in attendance.  It was an amazing event, and it left me wanting more Loki.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Bushmills Black Bush (750 ml flash mob enabler bottle)

     Today, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, The Malt Impostor and a host of fine (serious) whisky blogs have conspired to create a Bushmills Flash Mob Blog.  Basically, it entails all of the sites involved posting a review of the Bushmills Black Bush today and then tweeting about it under the hashtag: #BushmillsMB.
     But since ours is as much a humor site as a whisky one, we couldn't resist the innuendo that comes with this Irish whiskey's name.  But in light of that innuendo (tastefully done, to our minds, anyway), we decided it'd be perhaps more appropriate for our raunchy redheaded (for today, anyway) sister site, Malt Gone Wild.
      So check out our St. Patrick's Day tasting note on this Bushmills whiskey by clicking on the link below, and please forgive us in advance.  And if you like the post, please tweet about it using the hashtag: #BushmillsMB !!! 


Friday, March 15, 2013

The Nth 2013 Universal Whisky Experience: Stephen's review

     A couple of weekends ago now, I had the ridiculously indulgent pleasure of attending the Nth 2013 Ultimate Whisky Experience in Las Vegas.  I detailed my experience of the first Nth in these pages as well, and did so then still in the thrall of having had the chance to partake of some ungodly expensive and high end whiskies.  I came away from this year's Experience feeling much the same way, but not exactly the same way.  For me, the Nth 2013 Universal Whisky Experience was a lot like The Godfather Part II:  slightly better than the first one (my first one, last year, which was amazing in its own right), even if it's just plain hard to say that about sequels because the initial introduction to the characters and plot lines is so exhilarating, the second one faces a near insurmountable obstacle in trying to live up.  But in this case, the sequel was just a little better, but the first one is still one of the better movies of all time.  In other ways, though, both events were a lot like The Cannonball Run, a seemingly crazy pretense for assembling a cast of outrageous characters that actually works in the end (especially if you watch the outtakes at the end).  All of those in attendance know what I mean by both of these comparisons.
     But for those of you who weren't there, let me put it this way: the Nth is a place where much of the whisky world comes to put out its very best, perhaps even to the point of trying to one-up each other.  For the whisky geek and collector alike, this feature of the show is very attractive, if not intoxicating.  The list of "super pours" is truly ridonkulous.  For the more thoughtful side of my whisky geek, however, that feature of the show is less important than is the amount of time you have at the show (3+ hours) and the quality of the whisky people present.  My case in point on that front was my interaction with Ichiro Akuto, President of Venture Whisky Ltd., the folks behind Chichibu Distillery and Ichiro's Malt.  Marcin Miller from Number One Drinks Company (the importer in this case) was kind enough to introduce me to Mr. Akuto, famous to whisky enthusiasts as simply Ichiro.  Mr. Akuto took the time to talk me and only me through the Chichibu the First as well as Ichiro's Malt the Five of Diamonds.  What an amazing treat!
     And another thing that helps make possible the time with whisky luminaries is the fact that it isn't crazy crowded--or really that crowded at all--in the main event.  There are plenty of people there, of course, and at times it feels like you have to wait a bit to get to a particular brand ambassador to chat.  But if you simply come back a bit later rather than wait, it's not that hard to find a time when that person is freed up.  And that is luxurious in my book. Other highlights for me included the Glenmorangie Pride (modeled here by David Blackmore), the HP 30, Rosebank 21 and Talisker 25, Jura 30, Yamazaki 25, Hakushu Heavily Peated, the Bruichladdich 22, and some stellar single cask bottlings from Glenfiddich that Ian Millar was kind enough to pour for me.  Master of Malt's That Boutique-y Whisky Invergordon single grain whisky was also pretty wild and special.  
There were many others I had that were also great, but I won't bore you with the whole list here.  But I must note that I never made it to four or five different tables that I had really meant to visit, and that was just fine, even if a bit sad, because the quality time I spent at the other tables more than made up for what I might have missed.
     I spent a good bit of time hanging out with incredibly knowledgeable collector and connoisseur Matthew Lurin, both at the event and afterwards.  Hanging out with people who know their stuff is a must at these events.  It was also great seeing Tim Puett from the Ardbeg Project, as well as members of the Malt Maniacs and the PLOWED Society.  Having fellow bloggers/whisky enthusiasts there, especially after first meeting them at other events, adds appreciably to the experience.  Plus, Tim introduced me to Marcin Miller (who, as I noted above, then introduced me to Ichiro Akuto), and I'm terribly grateful for that.
  And I had the opportunity to catch up with a number of wonderful brand folks, from Gregor Cattanach from Diageo (pictured above) to former fellow blogger-turned-Global Brand Ambassador Sam Simmons to Yoshi Morita from Suntory to Ian Millar and Mitch Bechard from Glenfiddich to Scott Tallon with Bruichladdich to Richard Patterson and Chris Watt from Dalmore.  And I was particularly pleased to be able to get our first ever interviewee, David King from Anchor Distilling (pictured just below), to pose in the Grouchos with me. 
     My focus to this point has been on the main show.  I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't mention the seminars before the event and the master classes the next day.  I attended great seminars last year and attended another great one this year.  Due to jetlag issues and some overlap in seminars from last year, I skipped the first seminar time slot and showed up for one on Johnnie Walker's unbelievable bottling created to celebrate the Queen of England's Diamond Jubilee.  The craftsmanship that goes into every aspect of that particular product is simply stunning.  And it was a bit surreal to start my Nth 2013 experience by getting quite close to a $156,000 bottle of whisky and having a chance to nose the liquid from the 100ml bottle that comes with it (in its own crystal sampler bottle, of course).  
     For master classes, I attended a tremendous Bruichladdich one and an eye-opening one on whiskies of the world led by Purple Valley Imports' Jonathan Bray.  Ironically enough, the latter was eye-opening in large part because it was a blind tasting.  Go figure.  But two bits of advice for those who intend to attend next year:  1) buy your tickets for master classes early, as some sell out very quickly; and 2) be aware that for many, it is quite difficult to get in there and do a good job of drinking through 6-8 whiskies in a master class after spending all night at the main show, especially if you're not somewhat careful while you're at the main show.

     OK, so that's the rundown.  As I noted last year, I think that despite its price tag, the event is well worth it.  And given what you get for the price of the Connoisseur ticket, it's arguably even cheap.  But of course, the value of things (and money, for that matter) is at least somewhat relative, so don't just take my word for it: do your research, make your judgments, as rational critters do.  But as mind-blowing whisky experiences go, this is a really nice one.  
     See more photos of whisky highlights below.



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