Lhéraud 1973 Cognac Petite Champagne (Cognac) – Forcefully classy. Like drinking fine pastries, with a boozy core. Is it as complex as an Armagnac of similar age? No, but it’s silkier. There’s your tradeoff. (11/12)
Darroze “Domaine de Rieston” 1990 Bas-Armagnac (Southwest France) – Armagnac turned up to 11, or maybe even 12, in darkly-oaked intensity laden with succulent dried fruit. Showy and rather fantastic. It is not, I think, designed to appeal to lovers of older, more reticent and well-matured spirits, but it’s impossible to ignore and, frankly, very difficult not to like. (4/11)
Laphroaig 10 Year Scotch Whisky (Islay) – What the ten-year lacks in complexity vs. its older brethren, it makes up for in lashes. Not eyelashes, the kind involving whips and Russian women wearing leather caps. There’s a fulsome, smoky/peaty/gravelly whisky present, but there’s a persistent flagellation one must accept to reach it. I like having this around, but it’s not a whisky I want to spend too much time contemplating…no matter how many tails the cat has. (7/12)
Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch Whisky “The Lasanta” 12 Year (Scotland) – Barrel tomfoolery is something I dislike in most wines, but in Scotch whisky it’s more or less part of the deal. Still, I prefer my differences to be less wood-derived. Those caveats aside, it’s hard to deny the exotica of this bottling, which is practically lurid with both sweet and dried spices – both from the baking and Indian sections of the rack – and really almost laughably appealing. The counterpoint, of course, is that it’s hard to take all that seriously, either. (6/12)
Tempier 1998 Marc de Provence (Provence) – France is rife – one might legitimately say littered – with distillates that almost no one knows. Of all the European spirits that have been aggressively, relentlessly exported, the micro-marcs are so far down the queue that there’s little hope of ever seeing them out-of-region.
And thus, one must drink them in situ. Or at least in restaurant. I have, I admit, a bit of a fetish for asking after such spirits, but it’s all too often the case that the obvious liquids are so obvious to my interlocutor that they don’t arise in conversation. And when they do, it’s often in the negative: “oh, that’s…rough” as the declination goes. I was turned away from spirits like this very one countless times, in hotel and restaurant bars.
I don’t brag to say that I’m no ordinary drinker; I’ve learned to like the chaos of the private distillation, and I don’t discredit those who would, looking after my well-being, try to dissuade me for cogenerative reasons. But – barring the next-morning hangover from a poorly-distilled spirit – I just don’t mind the weirdness that often results. And so there’s cajoling, and sometimes a measure of begging, but eventually the spirit arises. So to speak.
At Tempier, where I acquire this particular example, the problem isn’t existence – there’s a bottle of this prominently displayed in their foyer – so much as saleability. Where’s the capsule? What’s the price? Can we sell it? Which “vintage”? And so forth. No importer’s last-second demands have caused as much frenetic trauma as my request for a bottle of this spirit, while chez Tempier.
And, so? It’s…majestic. As would, admittedly, be expected from Tempier. Gravels and sands, rocks and earthquakes, bronzed plums and ambered figs. It’s breathtakingly great. (5/12)
Scotch Malt Whisky Society 53.130 “Explosion of Coal Dust and Flying Saucers” (Scotland) – One of the best Scotches I’ve ever tasted, including extravagantly-aged micro-botttlings from the négociant firms. Not that this is exactly mass-market. An explosion of spices, powdery minerals, dried leaves, and precious metals are just the beginning of the story, which comes to a climax in a churn of bronzed apples and then fades – slowly – away into a vibrant autumnal sunset full of fire and spectacle. (1/12)
Zaya 12 Year Rum (Trinidad) – Luxuriant in its tropical spiciness. Sweet, even for rum, but there’s a dark concentration to it that excuses the sucrosity. Quite appealing. (1/12)
Evan Williams 2001 Bourbon (Kentucky) – Straightforward stuff, slickly treated, with a fiery edge and a fair bit of backpalate spice burn. (12/11)
Auchroisk “Battlehill” 10 Year Scotch (Scotland) – Single-malt just doesn’t get any more innocuous than this. (12/11)
Jan Becker Becherovka (Czech Republic) – Texturally Chartreuse-like but aromatically more like a spice accident. Cinnamon, for certain, and I’m pretty sure about cloves, and there’s a supporting role played by anise. Sweet, but cut with some bitterness, it’s less akin to actual bitters than it is to the sort of herbal quasi-liqueurs found all over Europe but rarely far afield from their region of production. (This bottle, in fact, was smuggled back…though it seems that it’s legally available in the States these days.) Fun. (10/11)