...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Single Malt Report: "Island Distillery" 7 year old 2005 Exclusive Malts (K&L exclusive)

In December, I reviewed K&L's exclusive Bowmore 2002 from the Exclusive Malts series.
In January, I reviewed K&L's exclusive Aberlour 2000 from the Exclusive Malts series.

The Bowmore report came from my own personal bottle.  The whisky did not show well at the top of the bottle, but improved a measure or two with oxidation.  Due to my very positive experience with independently released ex-bourbon cask Bowmores, I had high expectations for the whisky.  It did not meet those expectations.  Ultimately, I wasn't that crazy about it, though it wasn't terrible.  I'd hoped for a B+/A- whisky but got a B- one instead.  Meanwhile the Aberlour report came from a 2oz sample received in a swap.  Though it was slightly better, it was just as aggressively oaky and unbalanced as the Bowmore.

That last point made me (and some others) wonder if this was a problem with all of K&L's exclusive Exclusive Malts from this round.  I've had a number of other single casks bottled by David Stirk's company and had never experienced this weird oak element in them.

Today, thanks again to Florin, I'll be taking a few extended sips and sniffs of the "Island Distillery" single cask.  I had heard unofficially that the mystery whisky was Ledaig, Tobermory's peated malt.  Having now consumed it on multiple occasions, I can confirm this "Island" whisky must be Ledaig.


Distillery: "Island" (probably Tobermory's peated Ledaig)
Independent Bottler: The Creative Whisky Co. Ltd.
Series: The Exclusive Malts
Retailer: K&L only
Age: November 2005 - 2013 (7 years)
Maturation: "Oak Casks" (no way!)
Cask number: 8
Bottle #:  ??? of 274
Region: Island, likely Isle of Mull
Alcohol by Volume: 57.2%
Chillfiltered: No
Colored: No

NEAT
It has my favorite whisky color: five-beer piss.  The nose starts with hearty dank peat, lead, seaweed, and hot city concrete.  Aw yeah, Ledaig weirdness.  There's some grassy Tobermory notes underneath the peat.  Then whole spices like nutmeg and cardamom, sharp salty cheddar, and anise.  Vanilla, white vinegar, along with a hint of tennis ball fuzz.  There's a moment of new oakiness, but it's smothered by the big spirit.  The palate is full of burnt hair, burnt paper, and charcoal.  Balancing that out is some brown sugar, hard tack candy, caramel sauce, and the spices from the nose.  There's also a subtle salty seaweed and smoked white fish thing going on.  The finish is tart and briny, sweet and ashy, all rolling along in one solid package.  Maybe some fish grilled over charcoals.

WITH WATER
The complexity is reduced in the nose, but so are the rough spots.  Vanilla, brine, salty cheese, sugars, and maybe some swimming pool notes remain.  The palate is barley-er, salty, and yeasty.  There's tart peat, beef jerky, and mild caramel sweetness.  Vanilla emerges over time.  The finish is yeasty as well, along with wood smoke, caramel, and more vanilla.

In case anyone thought that I am out to crap all over K&L's picks, may this be Exhibit B to disprove such nonsense.  (I also loved their Caperdonich single cask from last year, yummy.)  This is my kind of Ledaig.  I like it much better than the 2x-priced 2005 Blackadder Ledaig bottle I struggled through last year.  While I appreciated the Blackadder's scorched-earth approach, it was a mite too-poisonous at times.  This Exclusive Malts "Island Distillery" version doesn't hold anything back either but is deeper and much more balanced.

But it's still an infant whisky.  And it's Ledaig (er, "Island").  You read those notes in the neat section.......do those sorts of things gross you out?  If yes, then this ain't your game.  Water doesn't kill it, but does tame it a little.  This isn't an anytime malt, unless you're an ice fisher in the arctic.  It's a whisky you bust out when your loved ones have gone to bed because no one's going to want to kiss you after you drink it.  Well, maybe a sea lion would.  A cigar smoking sea lion.

"Darling, you've gotten into the Ledaig stash again, haven't you?"
Availability - K&L Wines
Pricing - $59.99
Rating - 87

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Single Malt Report: Glen Mhor 26 year old 1978 Scott's Selection

On Monday, I celebrated my half birthday, which is something all five-and-a-half year old grownups do.  On my actual birthdays, I sample a whisky my age alongside a whisky that was distilled during my birth year.  So yesterday, I thought I'd do half of that approach by opening up a sample of Glen Mhor 1978.

Thank you to Eric S. for another great sample and super great label!
There's a funny story about this whisky, a story that isn't actually funny so I'll keep it to a paragraph.

In September and October 2012, I attended two Scott's Selections tastings.  Both times Glen Mhor 1978 was part of the lineup.  Both times I liked it very much.  I had recently opened up my first official birthday whisky (Balblair 1978) and wasn't sure what the next one would be......until I tried the Glen Mhor.  It was the right year, it was delicious, it was $40 cheaper than my Balblair, and it was from a closed distillery!  My first dead distillery bottle!  So excited.  Then, despite what the distributor rep said, it was not in stock.  And despite what the distributor rep said later, it would not be available in a few weeks.  Three months later, I got an email that Glen Mhor was in stock.  I bought a bottle.  Fast forward to August 2013, I was (and am) still working on the Balblair Birthday Bottle, but I thought I'd admire the Glen Mhor bottle a bit.  I took out my tasting notes from ten months earlier to imagine what I'd be drinking on a future birthday.  That's when I noticed my notes said "Glen Mhor 1978-2001, 56.6% ABV".  The bottle I bought was 1978-2004, 56.0% ABV.  Though it's three years older, it ain't the same whisky.  Then I started hearing muted enthusiasm by the folks who had tried the 2004.  Though, I was happy to see My Annoying Opinions give it a positive review in December.

Ultimately, after the distributor put up two runaround/delays about the whisky, they then released a whisky that was different than the one they were providing at tastings.  I don't have buyer's remorse, but I am a little irked about this.  Going forward I will be even more cautious about my purchases.  And I'm very very thankful that reader Eric S. sent me a sample from his bottle so that could find out what my future whisky might actually taste like.

Distillery: Glen Mhor (pronounced "vor")
Former Owner: DCL (proto-Diageo)
Bottler: Scott's Selection
Age: 26-ish years (1978 - 2004)
Maturation: "Oakwood Casks" (how helpful!)
Region: Northern Highlands, right next to Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 56.0%

NEAT
The color is light gold.  My bottle pic on the right is looking a little dark.  The nose starts very simply: vanillas, caramels, mellow barley spirit, and Juicy Fruit gum.  But with a little bit of air the whisky starts to develop some Glenmorangie-ish citrus.  Orange, citron, and cardamom.  Then there's mint leaf.  A peach with pencil lead stuck in it.  Citronella meets vanilla.  Or does citron + vanilla = citronella?  After almost thirty minutes of air: lemon juice, hay, and butterscotch arise.  The palate is less exciting.  Hot cereal alternating with orange candy.  Vanilla and toffee meet orange, lemon, and lime peels.  And that fruit element grows with time.  Brown sugar starts peeking out later on.  There's a bit of alcohol heat that mellows after a while.  I keep feeling like there's something graceful lurking in the distance, but it never arrives.  At first, the finish alternates between sweet and butyric (like someone burped up that hot cereal), but then here comes the citrus oils, bubblegum, and a wee floral peep.  Rock candy and toffee as well.

WITH WATER
Something almost phenolic (Band-Aids?) appears in the nose, though the distillers did not peat their malt.  Then coconut and vanilla, as if this was a single grain.  But with time, it straightens out.  Caramel sauce, the oranges and cardamom, saline nasal spray, cucumber, fresh apples, and lemon peel.  The palate is a sweetie.  Tart too.  Orange pixie stix, vanilla frosting, apple juice, and some fresh cut grass.  The finish is intensely sweet.  Straight white sugar.  The tart citrus rolls in later on.

Scott's labeling says "Matured in Oakwood casks".  They should add "Bottled in glass".  I'm a little confused about what sort of "Oakwood" was utilized.  MAO found some sherry notes when reviewing this whisky.  Meanwhile I'm finding all sorts of vanillas, butterscotch, coconut, and caramels.  Could this have been a refill sherry cask fashioned from American oak?  We do both find loads of citrus all over the whisky, and we both prefer the nose over the palate.

I wasn't particularly disappointed by the whisky.  It's a very drinkable sweetie that proves to be another boldly citric Highlander.  But it doesn't establish itself as unique in anyway, thus if I were to add emphasis in the previous sentence I'd say it's another boldly citric Highlander.  Despite this, I am glad Scott's salvaged a cask or two of Glen Mhor, bottled it for us all, and gave it a decent price (in the current market, at least).

My notes for the 2001 bottling say "graceful, mellow, and malty".  I still would have preferred that version since I was and am loathe to spend this sort of money on a single bottle.  I'm going to leave my bottle of this 2004 closed for a few more years.

Availability - A few liquor shops in the US
Pricing - $140-$180
Rating - 85

Monday, February 24, 2014

3 Beams (aka The 4, 6, and 8 year old Beam Bourbon Taste Off)

This past week, Diving for Pearls received some very generous recognition by The Savory.  Thank you, Ross.  To quote Jack Benny, "I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don't deserve that either."

And how do I respond to an honoring of this Scotch blog?  By posting about bourbon, of course.  Ah, bourbon: the whisk(e)y with which I have the second least experience.  (Canadian whisky, don't you get comfortable either.)



A couple weeks ago, I reviewed a Beam-era Old Taylor 6 year old bottled in 1996.  Since then I picked up minis (always the best representation of a whisky <---sarcasm) of Jim Beam White Label and Jim Beam Black Label.  I was going to do this Taste Off in May, but I was much too excited to wait...

Sorry, I'll stop the sarcasm.  I get very little pleasure out of Beam's American whiskey products.  Beam produces some of the best single malts in Scotland, but I have considerable difficulty unearthing joy while drinking their bourbons.

But I did sort of like the Beam-era Old Taylor 6 year old, so it raised my hopes.  Was I warming up to Beam?  Or is Beam's current bourbon different than their older stuff?  As mentioned, the Old Taylor was bottled in 1996, thus the youngest bourbon in its mix was distilled in 1990.  The White Label was bottled in October 2013 (per the bottle code), so its youngest ingredient was distilled in 2009.  The Black Label was also bottled in October 2013 (per the bottle code), its youngest ingredient would have been distilled in 2005.


Preconceptions:
Jim Beam White Label (4 years old) - I'm going to shift keys for a moment.  Twelve years ago, someone very close to me died younger than he should have and I have considerable reason to believe that Jim Beam White Label was one of the lead culprits.  So, I have a very primal reaction when I see handles of JB White Label on sale for $19.99.  Whether this has influenced my own very negative opinion of the bourbon itself can be debated.  But it has been a long time since I've tried the stuff.

Old Taylor 6 years old (bottled 1996) - Here's my post from February.  I liked the bourbon.  Had it had any sort of finish, I would have liked it even more and would've felt comfortable recommending it to you all.  Yet, at $4 for a 200mL (if you can find this particular bottling) it's not a stressful expenditure.

Jim Beam Black Label (8 years old) - This is what I drink on planes.  Seriously, United Airlines seems to have this in their carts all the time.  But due to the heavy vibrations, air pressure changes, and low humidity, air travel has kept me from fully experiencing the whiskey.  This is my first time drinking it at sea level.

Here are the fighters:


Owner: Beam, Inc
Brand: Jim Beam White Label
Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery
Location: Clermont, Kentucky
Mash Bill: Standard 15% rye (probably)
Age: minimum 4 years old
ABV: 40% ABV
Bottle year: 2013





Owner: Beam, Inc. at time of bottling, but now owned by Sazerac
Brand: Old Taylor
Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery
Location: Clermont, Kentucky
Mash Bill: Standard 15% rye (probably)
Age: minimum 6 years old
ABV: 40% ABV
Bottle year: 1996



Owner: Beam, Inc
Brand: Jim Beam Black Label
Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery
Location: Clermont, Kentucky
Mash Bill: Standard 15% rye (probably)
Age: minimum 8 years old
ABV: 43% ABV
Bottle year: 2013



All of these were sampled neatly in Glencairns glasses.  As a change of pace, the notes are shown list-style to allow for easier comparison.

JIM BEAM WHITE LABEL (2013)
Color - Light gold
Nose - Wet clay hits first, then a lot of rye spice.  Then charred oak, tree bark, Bit O'Honey, and stale peanuts.  Gave it some time......minty candy canes and an odd farmy note.
Palate - The clay, stale peanuts, and Bit O'Honey carry right over.  There's a lot of yeast in here.  Then creamed corn, rye seeds, more of that bland peanut thing, and charred corn on the cob.
Finish - Very drying.  Generic barrel char, polenta, and a hint of the Bit O'Honey.  Salty and tart.

OLD TAYLOR 6 YEAR OLD (1996)
Color - Medium gold
Nose - Candied nail polish at first.  Then it recovers with vanilla extract, corn, baked bananas, and young rum.  Then there's butterscotch, caramel chews, pencil shavings, and a hint of maple syrup.  The vanilla and caramel explodes over time.
Palate - Mellow.  Toffee, corn syrup (but not sweet), vanilla, taffy, caramel, and white bread toast.  Some barley too, strong enough to make it seem like there's some blended Scotch in the mix.  That ABV leaves the texture a little on the thin side.  But it's very drinkable.
Finish - Sweetness kicks in more here.  Hint of sea salt, a little of the taffy.  But overall, brief.

JIM BEAM BLACK LABEL (2013)
Color - Dark(ish) gold
Nose - Bit O'Honey again.  Fresh peanuts this time.  Cherry syrup and corn syrup.  Minty and piney rye notes give way to burnt oak.  A hint of molasses.  The farmy note is more pleasant here than it is in the White Label.
Palate -  A lot of that minty rye.  Bit O'Honey, again.  A little salt, vanilla, hint of lemon, and peanut dust left at the bottom of the bag.  Thoroughly inoffensive.  It's denser than the previous two, perhaps thanks to those extra three ABV points.
Finish - Shortish, though longer than the 6yo.  Oak shows up the most here as char and bark.  Subtle notes of corn, caramel, and vanilla.

But then, a twist...

I fashioned each of these into mini highballs.  Southern California never had a winter after an extensive summer, so I'm always on the lookout for a good bourbon & soda.

As highballs:

JB White Label
Nose - Clay, Bit O'Honey, peanuts. Again.
Palate - Peanuts in caramel.......but then something unpleasant.  Rotten peanuts and plaster?
Finish - Very aggressive, unfortunately.

OT 6 year old
Nose - Maple syrup.  Oloroso?!  Elmer's glue.
Palate - Toffee and caramel.  Vanilla with a hint of citrus.
Finish - Stays plain, but doesn't offend. Though there's something kind of phenolic floating around.

JB Black Label
Nose - Baby powder, sawdust, peanut brittle, and creamed corn.
Palate - Nice and even.  Lightly sweet.  Creamiest of the three.  Vanillas and caramels.  So this is what I'm not tasting on the plane!
Finish - A little peppery spice creeps in to meet the vanilla.

Whew.


Firstly, the two current Beams are definitely related.  The rye is so much louder in them than the '90ish Old Taylor.  The Black and White have those oft-repeated peanut and Bit O'Honey notes, which are totally absent from the Old Taylor.  Is this due to a change in mashbill?  Beam certainly doesn't leak this sort of information easily, so if anyone knows more, please share.

Next, White Label wasn't as bad as I'd anticipated.  I was ready to exercise the expanse of my 100 point rating system, but that won't be needed, yet.  I'm not a fan of it, but it's still a step better (less sweet, less unbalanced, less stomach turning) than Jack Daniel's.  But it does get rather ugly when hit with club soda.

So then it becomes a battle between Old Taylor 6 and Jim Beam 8.  They are different bourbons, which made this Taste Off more fun.  Once aired out, Old Taylor has the better nose.  The palate is a fight to a draw.  But JBBL wins the finish scrum, because it actually has a finish.  AND, Jim Beam Black Label makes for a decent bourbon and soda.

Overall, I'll give Jim Beam Black Label the edge because of its flexibility and that extra texture in the mouth.  I can't really recommend any of these whole heartedly in a 750mL bottle, but if you can find a 200mL bottle of Jim Beam Black Label for $5-$7 it'll be a good test to see if you want to spend $16-$20 on a 750mL.

If you feel strongly in favor of or against my findings, let me know.  Some of you folks have a longer relationship to Jim B than I.  Has he treated you right?

JIM BEAM WHITE LABEL
Availability - Freaking everywhere
Pricing - $12-$18 (750mL)
Rating - 73

OLD TAYLOR 6 YEAR OLD (BEAM-ERA)
Availability - More so in the Midwest, less so in the East and West
Pricing - $4-$5 for 200mL; for the current Sazerac version $12-$15 (750mL), $18-20 (1L)
Rating - 80  (if it had any sort of finish it would be at least an 83)

JIM BEAM BLACK LABEL
Availability - Everywhere
Pricing - $16-$25
Rating - 81

Back to the single malts tomorrow...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Single Malt Report: The Arran Malt, Single Sherry Cask #391

Last year, I briefly mentioned that I was exploring sherry more deeply in order to sort out my sherried whisky issues.  In the thirteen months since, my tolerance and enjoyment of those whiskies has grown.  But I've also discovered that I really Really REALLY do not like sherry.  From the tart prunes and stale raisins in the palate, to the consistently off-putting finish that makes me want to slap myself in the face until the aftertaste falls out, there's nothing I actually enjoy about the process of drinking sherry (whether it's a $5 bottle or a $25 bottle).  Comparatively, sherried whisky is a pleasure.

With that in mind, today I'll follow up yesterday's Arran Single Bourbon Cask post with a review of one of their Single Sherry Casks.  Here it is matched up with a glass of sherry.


The sherry is an Oloroso from Lustau.  It's described as a nuttier, drier Oloroso.  Perhaps, but after choking down half the bottle's contents over the last two weeks, I'm dumping the rest down the sink.  Life's too short, plus the bottle took up valuable space in the fridge.

Next to the sherry, the Arran Single Sherry Cask whisky was subtle and nuanced.  Thank you to Jordan for this sample as well.  (Also, see Jordan's post about this same whisky.)  This was a fun swap.


DistilleryIsle of Arran Distillery
Type: Single Malt
Ownership: Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd.
Region: Isle of Arran, Scotland
Age: March 19, 1997 to June 16, 2008 (11 years)
Maturation: ex-sherry cask
Cask: 391
Alcohol by Volume: 55.4%
Bottle: 64 out of 276

NEAT
The color is light gold, lighter than many bourbon cask whiskies its age.  The nose starts with a little more alcohol prickle than yesterday's whisky had.  Beneath the heat, a nuts-to-cheese-to-malt progression evolves.  Maybe some fresh fruit in the distance.  At first there's a hint of milk chocolate, but after some time it expands and expands until there's a wall of soft Milk Duds and 3 Musketeers.  The palate is salty and nutty.  Thought it's not sweet, the chocolate bar notes from the nose are present here as well.  Chocolate malt too.  Maybe a hint of oloroso.  And a nice bit of tangerine juice.  That citrus note turns into something more like orange peel in the moderate, but tangy finish.  Chocolate and toffee.  Then, Rolos!

WITH WATER
Just a few droplets here.  Brighter peppery spices develop in the nose.  Vanilla bean, coriander, cardamom, caramel, and lime peel.  The palate is sweeter and malty with toffee and oranges (juice and peel).  More orange peel in the finish.  Then chocolate and caramel, dusted with chili powder.

This is Exhibit #5437 in the case against Macallan's "Darker = Higher Quality" marketing malarkey.  This whisky is better than many mahogany-shaded "luxury" drams.  Similar to Jordan's thoughts in his post, I think this particular single cask was an refill.  And with all of the caramel and vanilla things going on, I wouldn't doubt if the barrel had been fashioned from American oak.

While I found more complexity and enjoyment in the bourbon cask sample, I really did enjoy all of the sherry cask's chocolatey notes.  I also think it would stand up pretty well if matched up against GlenDronach's regular (non-CS) range.  That's impressive considering the Arran distillery's youth.

As far as recommendations go, consider your palate.  Mine prefers ex-bourbon casks, but it still enjoys this whisky.  If you require a first-fill sherry blast, then this isn't quite that.  But all the milk chocolate notes will likely appeal.

Please note that this Single Cask belongs to that earlier stage of SCs bottled between 2007 and 2011, not the current more premium Single Cask bottlings with the fancier packaging.  This reviewed Single Cask whisky is a few years younger than the current versions, but also $30-$50 cheaper.

Availability - Disappearing, though may be at some specialty retailers
Pricing - $80-$100
Rating - 86

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Single Malt Report: The Arran Malt, Single Bourbon Cask #77

Between 2007 and 2011, the Isle of Arran Distillery bottled individual ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks.  The single cask releases helped fill out the still very young distillery's product range, which included an NAS starter malt, a 10 year old, and some NAS wine-finished whiskies.  The prices of the SCs were relatively reasonable and widely distributed which allowed non-insider whisky fans to try Arran's whisky at full strength.

Arran ascends my Top Distilleries list each time I try another one of their products.  Their 10 year old is very good.  I'm crazy about their 14 year old (which I'll review at some point before the century is over).  And I found their wine-finishes to be better integrated than Glenmorangie's.  To my great glee, I obtained a pair of samples of the aforementioned single Bourbon and Sherry casks via a swap with Mr. Chemistry of the Cocktail.

Today, I'm writing about the Bourbon cask.  Tomorrow(?), I'll have a post about the Sherry cask.  I stupidly discarded the Bourbon cask sample's label before getting picture of it.  In its place, here's a photo of two-row barley:

(source)
DistilleryIsle of Arran Distillery
Type: Single Malt
Ownership: Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd.
Region: Isle of Arran, Scotland
Age: July 19, 1999 to November 19, 2010 (11 years)
Maturation: ex-Bourbon cask
Cask: 77  (Please note:  There is another cask #77 that has been bottled by Arran.  That one was a nine year old single Sherry cask release.  Here's a link to that one for more information.)
Alcohol by Volume: 57.0%
Bottle: 123 out of 206

NEAT
The color is amber waves of (barley) grain.  The nose starts with a lot of grain goodness:  porridge, oats, and hot barley cereal.  There's a little bit of oak swimming around in there too, think buttered white bread along with hints of caramel and vanilla.  Then there's lime peel, fresh milk, and sweaty skin (if you need me to specify "in a good way" then what kind of hedonist are you?!).  After 20 minutes, more oak spice starts to show up.  After 30 minutes, fresh peaches and fresh cucumber.  Lots of barley in the palate too.  Some yeast and mint.  A hint of something Tobermory-ish (yes, "in a good way" if you're a fan of the current Tobermory 10).  Lemony with a light spicy zip.  Meanwhile, the alcohol heat is mild considering the ABV.  The sweetness is reserved.  But lots of toasty grains, which continue into the finish.  Some anise, fresh mushrooms, slightly salty and savory, and then tropical fruit juices slip in at the end.  But it's mostly malt malt malt.

WITH WATER
A little more oak appears in the nose, in the form of unburned barbecue wood chips, though there is a hint of char as well.  Lots of citrus, cardamom, and peach yogurt.  The fruits roll over into the palate.  There's also black peppercorn, sweet cream, chocolate malt, and lemon cream pie.  The finish is sweeter with more of that chocolate malt, along with orange candy.

This whisky falls into one of my favorite categories: nearly naked malt.  Arran makes some great spirit; they're clearly not afraid of it standing so far upstage that it's almost in the crowd.  It doesn't need water, but if you want the whisky to unleash more oak and sweetness, a few drops is the way to go. Personally, I'd keep it neat in order to revel in the barley-ness.  (Also, as per Jordan, be careful not to add too much water because it makes the whisky go a little weird.)

There are a number of other official Arran single bourbon casks out there and I've been told good stuff about them as well.  If you can find this at its original price ($70-$80), I'd be hard-pressed to tell you a better non-peated cask strength whisky at its age in this price point.

Here are the caveats:
-- This ain't no sherry cask.  In fact, there's even very little American oak influence showing up on the nose and palate.
-- There's lots of barley.
-- Though there are no ugly spirit notes, it is a young malt.

If you find any of the above troublesome, then I'd recommend you try it before you buy it.  On the other hand, I'm keeping an eye out for this whisky if the price is right.

Availability - Disappearing, though may be at some specialty retailers
Pricing - $70-$100
Rating - 89

Friday, February 14, 2014

Single Malt Report: Ardbeg Alligator

(Sorry for the weird timing of my posts this week.  Hopefully next week will be back to normal.  And Happy Valentine's Day!)

Thanks again to Tim for the whisky!
Good news:  Ardbeg Alligator is much more enjoyable than Ardbeg Galileo, better woven, better integrated, and tastier.

Bad news:  Ardbeg Alligator done sold out two years ago.

Ugly news:  I'm going to review it anyway.

Ardbeg Alligator was first sold only to Ardbeg Committee members, then was later released in a limited fashion to the public in 2011.  Like the majority of Ardbeg's limited releases, it does not have an age statement.  Most descriptions of it say it's "similar to the 10 year", which I think means that the majority of the whisky in the bottle was aged in ex-bourbon casks.  The part that makes it different and "Alligator" is the char levels on some of the rest of the whisky in the mix.  Ardbeg used new Missouri oak and gave it (I think) a level 4 char, which is a deep charring of the cask interior that leaves the oak looking like scaly alligator skin.  In Dominic Roskrow's 1001 Whiskies book, he quotes Bill Lumsden as saying this sort of oak experimentation was underway in 1998-2000 after the distillery was up and running under Glenmorangie's control.  So perhaps the whisky is in the 10 year old age range.  But we don't know that due to the lack of age statement.  But Alligator was released at a higher ABV than the Ten, a 51.2% versus 46%.  And now you know all I know about it!


Distillery: Ardbeg
Owner: LVMH
Age: NAS
Maturation: ex-bourbon casks + heavily charred virgin American oak
Region: Islay
Alcohol by Volume: 51.2%
Release Year: 2011
Limited Bottling: possibly 10,000

NEAT
The color is dark amber.  The nose begins with vanilla beans, piney peat, and salty cheese.  Then there are hazelnuts, an Asian sauce heavy on the sesame oil, and caramel sauce.  After some time, a very strong cinnamon and cracked pepper note emerges which is very reminiscent of new make rye.  The palate is intensely ashy, but sugary around the edges.  There's cinnamon, smoked cocoa powder, brown sugar shisha, and a bit of barley.  It finishes on orange peel and cinders.  Sweet + peat.  Cocoa and lot of drying tannins.

WITH WATER
The pine recedes in the nose, replaced by mango and papaya.  Lots of burnt notes.  The vanilla remains strong.  There are some band aids in the mix along with black pepper and grilled beef.  Gets more candied with time.  The palate reminds me of Ardbeg Ten but with more bitter oak, though the bitterness isn't offputting.  It's less sweet now, though the brown sugar is still intact.  Some peat moss, then a lot of lemon tartness.  More of the tartness in the finish, along with the moss, and a light sweetness.

Though I like it better neat, Alligator swims well (sorry).  The finish sticks around for a long time; that's good.  Enough to keep my wife away from me for a while; that's bad.

The new makey notes in the nose made me wonder if the "Alligator" part of the mix was in fact very young.  Clearly there's a lot of oak swimming around in this whisky, so if you're not a fan of that then this isn't for you.  But I like it.  It's a darn shame it's now selling at "collectors'" prices.  At $80-90, I'd consider it a one-time enjoyable Autumn malt.  It doesn't surpass the heights scaled by Corryvreckan and Uigeadail (and older versions of the Ten), but it may have made for an interesting addition to Ardbeg's regular range.

Availability - Specialty liquor retailers
Pricing - was $90-$100, but is now $250-$500, yep
Rating - 88

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Single Malt Report: Ardbeg Galileo 1999

This post will wind up being as much about the whisky as its creator because, in this case, Ardbeg Galileo is indicative of the current stage of Dr. Bill Lumsden's whisky path.

Dr. Bill is the head of whisky creation (and/or director of distillation, whisky creation, and whisky stocks) for both of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy's distilleries, Glenmorangie and Ardbeg.  Under his supervision, annual (or semi-annual) limited releases are produced by each distillery.  For Glenmorangie, what at first started out as malt and peat experiments (Signet and Finealta) has since become a focus on wine and oak (Sonnalta, Artein, Ealanta, and Companta).  Ardbeg's limited releases started out as experiments with aging and peating levels (Almost There, Rollercoaster, and Supernova), but has since followed Glenmorangie down the wine cask path (Day, Galileo, and Ardbog).

The story (and there always has to be a story with LVMH) behind Ardbeg Galileo is that it was released to commemorate the fact that Ardbeg samples had been sent into outer space for scientific study.  But, with at least 15,000 bottles in this release that means there were a hell of a lot of casks involved in the whisky that turned out to be "Galileo", so the stuff was going to have be released at some point in some form, or else it would have been a financial liability.  Because really, how the heck does sweet Marsala wine casks mixed with bourbon casks have anything to do with space or Mr. Galilei?

I know plenty of retailers (and one particular reviewer) who trumpet Glenmorangie's limited wined-up releases, but I haven't found too many whisky fans who actually enjoy the stuff.  Perhaps there's a market for wineskis (as Serge calls them) that I don't know about.  And perhaps Lumsden's palate prefers this whisky category.  If it doesn't, then the reasons behind continuing the wine-biased limited releases are mostly financial.  These releases do continue to sell and they are backed by the most aggressive single malt marketing department in existence.  There's the money.  But expanding a brand's product range does not equal improving its products.

Of all of Ardbeg's releases, this one is the most Glenmorangie-esque, with those sweet Marsala wine casks mixed in.  And I'll tell you up front, this one makes no sense to me.  The wine is not at all integrated with the malt, which is similar to my issue with Glenmorangies Lasanta and Quinta Ruban.  My first pour from the bottle seemed like someone has swished equal parts whisky and wine in the glass like a 2am drunken disaster of a cocktail.  Over time the contents of the bottle got better but...



many many thanks to Tim!!!
Distillery: Ardbeg
Owner: LVMH
Age: 1999 - 2012 (around 12 years)
Maturation: ex-bourbon casks (approx. 60%-70%) and sweet Marsala wine casks (30-40%)
Region: Islay
Alcohol by Volume: 49%
Limited Bottling: 15,000

NEAT
The color is a peachy gold.  The nose holds orange juice, cantaloupe, cardamom, and lots of rich peat.  At times there's some spoiled Half-n-Half, other times regular Coffee Mate.  Then tropical fruit Skittles, butterscotch, and a vague farmy note chased by overripe mango.  Lots of sweet wine.  The palate leads with ashes and moss, then a half-step later here comes sticky sugars and tangerine juice.  Considerable heat framed by tartness.  After a while, there's a burst of that curious too-old-cream thing.  It finishes with peat smoke and orange/tangerine peel.  It grows very tart, followed by a nutrasweet-like aftertaste.

WITH WATER
The peat recedes in the nose.  Lots of apricots and peaches covered in sugar and left out overnight.  That must be why a fly dive-bombed my Glencairn glass.  Orange peels and peach ice cream.  Odd intense jabs of tartness shoot through the palate, followed by cigarette smoke, more orange peel, and a little bit of peat moss.  The finish?  Bleh.  Very bitter, reminiscent of the time I chewed non-chewable aspirin when I was a kid.  The rotten cream thing.  Orange Tang.  Interminable.

HEAVILY OXIDIZED SECOND SAMPLE
On the nose the peat and fruit sugars are a little better integrated.  Nondescript stone fruit.  Milky coffee.  Flower kiss candy.  Elephant poop.  The palate hasn't changed.  Maybe more espresso bitterness and tart grapefruit.  The finish is oh so tart.  And buttery.  With sea salt and wet cigarettes.

Um......so water makes the nose better but harshes up the finish.  Air is nice for the nose too, but doesn't do much positive stuff otherwise.  A better bet is to try it neat.  The best bet is forgo the Galileo for some Corryvreckan instead.

If Beam did a madeira finish with their Connemara brand, like they did with Tyrconnell, it would likely be very similar to Ardbeg Galileo.

This is not a complete whisky failure, but I'm not sure where it succeeds.  Nor do I know for whom this was made.  It won't appeal to peatheads.  It won't appeal to Glenmorangie fans.  Nor will it appeal to fans of old fashioned whisky.  That might be why there are still bottles of Galileo (and Ardbog, for that matter) still sitting on retailers' shelves.  And, may I add, more people turned down my offers for a Galileo sample than those who accepted.



To be fair, Dr. Bill hasn't produced a series of horror shows like Jim McEwan.  But with so much money riding on his decisions, one has to wonder how much room Lumsden has to err.  In my experience, and to my nose and palate, this is the furthest thing from a success that Ardbeg has released.  This is a mashup wherein the songs don't merge, line up, or connect in any way.

What if he had sat on this and instead released some cask strength Ten?  It wouldn't have been as sexy, but his customer base would have enjoyed it greatly, and LVMH marketing would have spun some tale about stratospheric ABV levels.

As a loyal Ardbegger, I hope Lumsden ditches the wine casks in future releases and instead focuses on the barley, yeast, and peat.  That's IF he must continue the yearly releases, which of course he will until they or he is/are decided to be less than fiscally necessary.  Just maybe lighten up on all the cask focus next time, oh wait, too late.

Availability - Specialty liquor retailers
Pricing - $90-$110 (original pricing) or $150-$200 for those who deem this a collectible
Rating - 78 (neat only)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

NOT Single Malt Report: Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond Straight Rye Whisky

Does this ever happen to you?  One of your friends recommends a newly released film.  And you think, "Hmm, that sounds interesting."  Then another friend recommends it.  Then another.  Then your dad recommends it.  And your mom.  And your second cousin, two coworkers, your landlord, and all of your exes.  Then a waitress recommends it to you, then a cab driver, the dude who bags your groceries, your dentist, your proctologist, a talking squirrel, the cop who arrests you for indecent exposure, and James Franco.
"Mmm, yes. The director's use of mise-en-scène for the
interiors was reminiscent of early Renoir.
More La Règle du Jeu than La Chienne, really."
(pic source)
Yet the more times you're told the film is great, the less and less you actually want to see it.

Then three years later you watch it, and everyone was right.  The film is excellent.  But you don't tell them about it because you recognize how late to the party you are due to the fact that you're such a stubborn sh*t.

Are you that guy?  I'm that guy.

I cannot count how many people have recommended Rittenhouse Rye BIB.  It got to the point where I was like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's great. Whatever."  And I never tried it.  Then two months ago I purchased a bottle.  And holy crap.


Brand: Rittenhouse
Owner: Heaven Hill
Type: Straight Rye Whisky (no 'e'!)
Region: Distillery - Louisville, Kentucky; Warehouse - Bardstown, Kentucky
Maturation: new American white oak
Mash bill: 65% Rye (I think) 51% Rye (per Cowdery here and here)
Age: minimum 4 years, though some batches are said to be 6-8 years
Bottle Year: 2011
Alcohol by Volume: 50%

Its color is an orangey maple syrup.  The dense nose holds chocolate cake, flower blossoms, orange zest, cardamom, nutmeg, whole wheat bread, toasted rye bread, and damp tobacco.  There's something Scotch-ish about it too.  Perhaps it's a combo of toasted grains, salty air, and a hint of smoke?  With some time, the whisky develops notes of earthy molasses, fresh apples, licorice, and carob.  Rye seeds, black pepper, and brown sugar lead the palate.  There's an umami note in the center too; maybe savory herbs?  Lots of toasty grains all wrapped in silky sweetness.  It finishes with vanilla custard and caramel.  Lots of rich caramel sauce, all dark and syrupy.  Then the rye brings in a spicy twist of cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and mint.

This stuff is very good served neatly.  It is very good on ice.  It is very good in cocktails.  It is very good to fill a tub with to plant your ass in.  Though I've never had a problem finding it in California, there have been known to be scarcity issues with this rye.  Must be from all those overflowing tubs.

Despite the 50% ABV, it's not hot at all.  Instead, it is creamy and very drinkable.  Wild Turkey 101 used to be my favorite rye for cocktails, but Rittenhouse BIB just zoomed ahead.  Oh yes, one more thing: the quality-price-ratio is outstanding.

So, my stubborn rye-loving friend, I recommend this Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond Straight Rye Whisky to you.

Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - $20-$28
Rating - 90

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

NOT Single Malt Report: Knob Creek Rye

Transitioning now from one of the smaller players to one of the biggest players in the American whiskey game...

Beam Inc's Knob Creek Rye.



Yes, you're not imagining things; there have been a lot of Beam products in my reports so far this year.  Aside from maybe one more, I have no plans to review additional Beam whiskies over the next two months.  Though I can't promise the same silence for their parent company's, Suntory's, goodies...

Oh, and may I just mention the news that Mila Kunis has been hired as the face of Jim Beam?  And a nice face it is.  Here she is going for the Marion Cotillard look:


So there you have it, a Ukrainian Jewish woman representing an American whiskey producer owned by a Japanese company.  Globalization does birth something pleasant from time to time.



Anyway, back to Knob Creek Rye.  Wow, everything is downhill after her.  Knob Creek.  It's technically made from the same mash bill (51% rye) as Jim Beam Rye, Old Overholt, and the discontinued (rî)1.  Interestingly, with (rî)1's demise, Knob Creek Rye was introduced into the market at the same price point, with no age statement but a higher proof (100).

words words words words words words pink elephant bumblebee carrots.  You're not even reading this, are you?  You're looking at her pictures.  Okay, you can catch up when you're ready.

My experience with the Beam ryes is limited to Old Overholt, which I've found inoffensive on its own and serviceable in a cocktail.  This is an unusual moment wherein I know a company's bourbons better than their ryes.  This is an attempt to correct that.

Here's the mini, which is in fact a miniature version of the regular bottle.


Brand: Knob Creek
Owner: Beam, Inc.
Type: Straight Rye Whiskey
Region: Clermont, Kentucky, U.S.A.
Maturation: new American white oak
Age: NAS
Release Year: the mini was bottled in August 2012
Alcohol by Volume: 50%

NEAT
The color is bronze.  The nose starts with indoor swimming pools and ham.  Then stewed prunes and wood varnish.  It's a little sugary, and seems cornier than rye-ish.  "Orange chicken" sauce (must be the corn syrup) with hazelnuts.  The palate is very dry and hot.  Oats and cream of wheat.  Toasted almonds and hints of rye seeds.  Then clay, yeast, and stale dried herbs.  Finally something...let's call it hazelnut turpentine.  The rye notes show up stronger in the finish as sweet baking spices.  Then toffee and vanilla.  Then the yeast.  Then polenta.  And it all fades abruptly.

That was weird.

WITH WATER (approx 43% ABV)
The nose sort of straightens itself out.  Floral perfume notes meet cut wood.  Then cotton candy; actually lots of sugary candy.  Play-Doh and something acrylic.  With some air: overripe strawberries starting to go rank.  Lots of hot cereal in the palate, again.  Hot Old Overholt.  Hot plain rye.  Slightly savory and a little salt.  Oooh, here comes the Play-Doh.  Pepper notes grow with time.  Some of that pepper carries over into the short finish, topped by a hint of fruity sugars.

This is not a thinker's rye.  This is not a rye to be analyzed.  And I'm trying to figure out if this is a rye to be drunk.  Served neat, the nose is schizophrenic, the palate is somehow both young and plain, and the finish is almost interesting and then it disappears.  With some water, the nose improves but the palate and finish do not.

I had a difficult time finishing my 50mL of this rye and it wasn't because I was too busy searching for Mila Kunis pics.  At the $40-$45 range this stuff is competing with Willett and High West, a matchup that ends more lopsided than Sunday's Super Bowl.  Honestly, I now have little interest in exploring Beam's ryes further.

Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - $30-$50
Rating - 72

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

High West Rye Taste Off! Rendezvous Rye versus Double Rye

And now back to your regularly scheduled whisk(e)y reviews...

This week I'm going to rye it up a little bit.  All of these ryes should be easily available, despite some retailer outcries of scarcity.  Their prices can range between $20 and $50, so none of them should bust a budget too badly.  My palate prefers rye over bourbon probably 80% of the time, but I know that other palates feel otherwise, so I'll try to remember that in my reviews and ratings.

Today it's a Taste Off!

HIGH WEST RENDEZVOUS RYE
vs.
HIGH WEST DOUBLE RYE

I reviewed Rendezvous Rye last year (last February actually) from my own bottle and was very pleased by it.  Before that one was emptied, I stashed away a Taste Off Only sample for further studies like this one.

Then in July, while doing my usual snooping around Costco's liquor shelves, I found to my great surprise bottles of Double Rye selling at an excellent price.  So I availed myself of one.  In November, I stashed away a Taste Off Only sample of this one too.  Like the Rendezvous, the sample comes from mid-bottle.


To be clear, High West Distillery did not distill these ryes.  These are created from barrels David Perkins purchased as his distillery was being built.  Selling these bottles, Perkins picks up some revenue to help finance his company's distilling future.  Right now their stills are up and running.  High West has released some white whiskies, perhaps we'll see some aged ones before too long.  Here's the makeup of today's two ryes:

Rendezvous Rye -- 16yo (80% rye mashbill) Barton Distillery + 6yo (95% rye mashbill) LDI
Double Rye -- 16yo (53% rye mashbill) Barton Distillery + 2yo (95% rye mashbill) LDI

So technically Rendezvous is the older brother with a higher rye content.  Let's see how this turns out.



RENDEZVOUS RYE

Product: Rendezvous Rye
Distillery: Barton/Tom Moore and LDI distilleries
Producer: High West
Type: Straight Rye Whisky
Region: Utah (High West), Indiana (LDI), Barton (Kentucky)
Age / Mashbill: 16 years, 80% rye 10% corn 10% malted barley (Barton) + 6 years, 95% rye 5% malted barley (LDI)
Maturation: charred white oak barrels
Batch: 12E03
Bottle: 4024
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
(many thanks to LA Whisk(e)y Society for the distillery and mashbill data)

NEAT
The color is a medium gold, though slightly darker than the Double.  Four Ps on the nose: Pears, (nail) Polish, (black) Pepper, and Pickle brine.  Then fresh cut wood, vanilla beans, coriander, and heated oregano.  The palate has less of the Ps, but is instead very rich and sugary.  Brown sugar, rum, vanilla, and lots of caramel.  Some pipe tobacco as well, along with a little salt and a mild green leafy note.  It's warm in a pepper sauce sort of fashion.  It finishes sweetly too, and much bigger than Double's finale.  Rum and tobacco.  Baking spices, cream, and mild cheese, along with that peppery heat.

WITH WATER
Some tropical fruit notes arise in the nose.  The water also brings out more charred oak weight, more sawdust, and more sugars.  A curious note of smoked celery too.  The palate gets drier and blander.  Some toasted grains, white and black pepper, and green leafy veg are up front.  Sweet rum and caramel in the rear.  Pepper in the finish, some more oaky residue, caramel, and a hint of raisins.

I really recommend this one neat.  You can add water if you wish, but I think it kills the best parts of the Rendezvous.  I'm glad Perkins released it at 46% ABV.




DOUBLE RYE

Product: Double Rye
Distillery: Barton/Tom Moore and LDI distilleries
Producer: High West
Type: Straight Rye Whisky
Region: Utah (High West), Indiana (LDI), Barton (Kentucky)
Age / Mashbill: 16 years, 53% rye 37% corn 10% malted barley (Barton) + 2 years, 95% rye 5% malted barley (LDI)
Maturation: charred white oak barrels
Batch: 13C07
Bottle: 2309
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
(thanks again to LA Whisk(e)y Society for the distillery and mashbill data)

NEAT
Gold again, color-wise.  On the nose, it has a similar Four P (pears, polish, pepper, and pickle) pop but it's infused inside vodka.  Good rye vodka, but vodka nonetheless.  Then there's applesauce, tapioca pudding, mango, and corn whiskey.  These latter notes are nice, but sometimes the new make note overwhelms the rest.  There are more fruits in the palate, but they're very brief.  Some citrus, some tropical.  Makes me wish they'd develop more.  Some earthy molasses.  It's sharp on the tongue in a youthful way.  The fruits carryover into the finish, briefer, brighter, and lighter.  But I'm still getting a lot of sharp vodka stuff.

WITH WATER
Oak recedes almost entirely on the nose, leaving behind, well, rye vodka again.  Some vanilla and baking spice from time to time.  The palate is nice and sweet.  Edges dulled.  Sugary baked pears, cinnamon, mild cheese, and fresh grass.  The finish is short, sweet, and spicy.

Water plays better with the palate than the nose but, overall, a few drops won't hurt it.



I was surprised by the significant difference between the two: much more age and richness in the Rendezvous, and a hell of a lot more spirit in the Double.  In fact, it felt like they went very easy on the old stuff in the Double.  Apologies for my repeated use of the word "sharp" but that's the one word that kept running through my mind every time I had a pour from the Double bottle.

There are some folks out there who like the Double Rye more.  And I'm wondering if there might be some batch variation involved here.  A question arises: If you're a smaller whisky producer sending an entire batch to be sold at Costco, are you giving them a great batch or a lesser batch?  Would you save your best stuff for well-respected specialty liquor retailers that may buy at a higher price then turn around and sell your product to bigger spenders?  Or do you send a great batch to a bulk buyer like Costco, sacrificing price for winning over a different demographic?

Okay, maybe that was three questions.  Because my bottle of Double Rye was decent but not at all impressive, I've been wondering if a lower quality batch was sent to Costco (who can underbid but sell in bulk).  At $27.99, it was a good deal, but I haven't seen the return of a single High West product to Costco since then.

Now back to the Rendezvous, you may notice my notes vary a little bit from last year's review.  That may be due to the sample bottle decanting or perhaps my senses read it a little differently.  Either way, I still recommend it just as highly.  I will caution that there may be some batch variation in this rye as well, but I haven't had a less than good experience with the Rendezvous yet.

A final note on pricing.  Rendezvous used to be easily available at $45 around here.  Recently, I've noticed the price heading towards $50-$55.  As good as it is, I don't think I'd buy it at $55 or higher.  Double Rye can still be found in the low $30s.  I hope it doesn't go up into the $40s because I don't think it can compete at that price level.

RENDEZVOUS RYE
Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - $45-$60
Rating - 88 (but neat only!)

DOUBLE RYE
Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - $30-$40
Rating - 79

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Live Bowling the Super Blog

Welcome to the first and final Annual Super Bowl Post.  There may will be profanity and a severe lack of proofreding.  I'm not sure how fast or furious the updates will come, but I will need to take breaks for food prep and bathrooming and marveling at the spectacle (often all at the same time).

As mentioned on Friday, "I'm rooting for Denver. But if I were a betting man, I would be taking Seattle (+2.5) and the over."  I just quoted and linked myself right there.  With that out of the way, here we go:

7:05pm PST - Thanks for checking in!  Now go watch something exciting!

7:02pm PST - Had I actually placed my planned parlay bet, I would have won have been have myself a payout of 13/5.  But I didn't.  Anyway, somehow Chevy Silverado had the ad of the night, mostly because I really wanted to make fun of their ad campaign, but they beat me to it.  Go 'Merica cars!

7:00pm PST - Kristen and I were so involved in this game, that we're already discussing laundry.  At least Downton Abbey's coming up in two hours.

6:55pm PST - The over/under for bathroom runs was 4.5.  If you took the under you won.  This game was just too riveting.  Or I didn't have enough to drink.

Russell Wilson isn't even sweating during the post-game interview.  I don't think he and his team even had to work for today's victory.  Complete dominance.

6:49pm PST - For all I've complained about Denver, Seattle was excellent.

6:47pm PST - Peyton didn't even get a fuck during that fumble.  I think I saw him texting Eli while his line scrambled for the ball.

6:45pm PST - Not even a pass, Peyton?  You're going to keep making your backfield suffer for what's not their fault?

6:41pm PST - This game isn't worth the dusty bourbon.  I've switched to Miller Lite.

6:37pm PST - So Fox's big surprise teasey commercial reveal was a new season of 24?  This is the shruggiest Super Bowl telecast I've seen.

6:31pm PST - Refs doing okay.  Play-by-play not annoying.  I'm so confused.

6:23pm PST - For those who follow football next year, you'll probably start hearing this Talking Piehole talking point: Can the AFC compete against the NFC?  Similar to the NBA's, "can the East compete against the West?"

6:05pm PST - The only thing that Bob did right in that commercial is shave that Vincent Price moustache.

6:02pm PST - WHY CAN'T YOU FUCKING TACKLE?  "Just terrible defense," says Aikman.  I actually agree.

Okay, I'm so bored/ashamed by the Broncos that I'm going to start rooting for the refs.

5:58pm PST - In more important news, my wife and I are feasting on Turkey Meatballs and Pastry Bites from Trader Joe's, both very awesome.  I'm still working on that bottle of stout.  And the Broncos' coaches are still working on selecting a play that works outside of practice.

5:57pm PST - Apparently Bruce Willis felt the same.

5:55pm PST - A total lack of violence, misogyny, and homophobia in the commercials.  This is the Super Bowl, right?

5:49pm PST - How terrible are the Broncos?  I'd rather listen to Joe Buck speak than watch them play.  Sadly, I have to do both if this is to continue.

5:41pm PST - DEMARYIUS THOMAS STOP RUNNING BACKWARDS!

5:34pm PST - I'm going to say this right now, even the Giants could beat these Broncos tonight.

5:31pm PST - Halftime over aaaaaaand Seattle already scored.  They are going to get the over on their own.

5:23pm PST - Mandy the puppy just dropped the ball faster than Demaryius Th---

Okay, I'll stop.

5:19pm PST - Wife just brought vegetables into the television room.  I've been told they qualify as food.  I'll take her word for it.

5:18pm PST - Enough Broncos jokes?

5:15pm PST - Loren will be joining the Denver backfield in the second half.

5:14pm PST - So far, the baby pups have shit the field less than the Broncos' special teams.

5:07pm PST - Lots of growth over the years with Puppy Bowl.  They now use the Fox Sports theme and the aforementioned deceased Muppets are advertising on the show.

And Michelle Obama.

Frankly, I'm seeing better defensive execution from the pups right now.  I hope the Broncos' secondary is watching this.

5:01pm PST - Keyboard Cat looked a little disgusted.  Was it because he's a Broncos fan?  Or because they were forcing him to playing Bruno Mars crap?

4:58pm PST - May I recommend the Kitty Halftime show from Puppy, brought to you by my former employers.  It the most watched public-access-quality content in the history of television.  Enjoy.

4:55pm PST - It's official.  Disney has somehow ruined the Muppets.  That takes some doing, but leave it to Disney to get it done.  Best wishes with Star Wars, y'all.

4:53pm PST - Go for it, John Fox, 22-3 is disgusting.

4:49pm PST - Coca-Cola, why are you exploiting American pride for your ads?  You're bigger than America, you don't need us.

4:38pm PST - Blowout alert.  Serious Serious Blowout alert.  While Seattle's defense is playing very well, Denver is playing very poorly.

What's making this bloggery most difficult is the limpness of the ads.  They're neither great nor terrible.  In fact they're quite normal.

4:33pm PST - Halfway through the second quarter and Peyton completes his first real pass.

And, yyyyyyeah, that was a burly first down.  Monte Ball, Badger alum, well done.

4:32pm PST - "Demaryius"?

4:31pm PST - The first time I shout at the television.

4:24pm PST - So, let me get this straight Bud Light is advertising screw tops and aluminum cans?  That's almost as bad as Coors Light advertising that their beer is cold.

And yes, there will be dragons and Mark Wahlberg in your next Transformers experience.  That film series has to be the most aggressive mediocrity in the history of cinema.  What alarms me is that in ten years we'll look back at the Transformers films as the peak of their genre, Big Robots Punching Each Other and Destroying Cities.

4:15pm PST - If you bet the over, you're probably contemplating something you never thought you would......will Denver actually score?

4:08pm PST - As a big U2 fan, I say "Meh".  I hope the rest of "Invisible" or "Invincible" sounds better......I'm already forgetting the song.

4:01pm PST - Opened up the stout.  Anderson Valley took their Oatmeal Stout and aged it former Wild Turkey barrels for three months.  It's good stuff, I hope they do another batch of it this year.

On the football side of things, Denver is doing well defending the run but look very shaky against the pass.

3:57pm PST - My sincere condolences to those whom put their money on Denver covering the spread.

3:48pm PST - Thank you Chevy Silverado.  That was awesome.

3:44pm PST - Good to see Maserati speaking for the little guy now.

3:41pm PST - Regarding the previous two notes.  Denver's special teams, offense, and defense looked weak all within the first five minutes (of actual time, not game time).

3:37pm PST - Wow, Denver.  Looking good.

3:34pm PST - Wow, Denver.  Looking good.

3:32pm PST - It's official, James Franco is everywhere.  He's the attendant in our guest bathroom right now.

3:28pm PST - Joe Namath wearing Suzy Kolber's fur coat?

3:23pm PST - I think I speak for many when I say, I'm glad they went with a professional singer over a pop star.

And get ready for some skull-crushing axe battles in the new "Noah" movie.  Because the End of Mankind does not provide nearly enough of a challenge for the protagonist.

3:10pm PST - I will not mock singing children.  Yet.

Robert Redford is in the new Captain America movie.  Apparently, "All is Lost" doesn't pay the bills.

These are the two beverages for today.  Got yer Old Taylor from the National Distillers era and my one of my...

Oh man, people at the stadium have to listen to Joe Buck's voice too?  I thought one of the perks behind the inflated ticket prices was that one didn't have to hear him at all.

...anyway, one of my favorite beers Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout will make an appearance too.

Also, am I the only one not understanding why Kurt Russell is playing emcee for the two teams' video introduction.  Why Kurt Russell?  Why both teams?  Why a video introduction, I mean we'll be seeing and hearing about these guys all night?