...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, January 31, 2022

A few brief thoughts before I continue

Three months divorced, though separated at heart for nearly two years, I have come to the end of my first Covid spell and I have a few thoughts.

The American Brand is Sad™ and™ Horny™. I mean, I'm obviously projecting, but there are infinite ways we have communicated that brand over the years, from Wordle posts to Casablanca to Interpol. Speaking of which, about 16 years ago I lied to a work friend saying that I loved Turn On the Bright Lights. I hadn't listened to it even once, but my friend was so brilliant and beautiful and I didn't want to interrupt the reverie she was in, detailing how much that album meant to her. She died eight years later of cancer, survived by her husband and son. Taylor, I'm sorry I lied then, but you were right, I'm listening to it now, it is a great album. 

When one stops drinking, one suddenly gets a lot of one's night back, especially if Covid has stolen one's ability to sleep. I'd like to pat myself on the back for falling into very few internet rabbit holes, avoiding most cat videos, and ignoring all performative parenting social media posts.

I did watch some films (French New Wave stuff (Contempt, Elevator to the Gallows, etc.), Star Wars things, Pig, The Green Knight, Blade Runner 2049, etc.), read books (Middle Passage (holy shit) and a slew of baseball history tomes), and did some cooking because I can still smell and taste.

Five-word commentary:

Contempt - Makes much more sense now
Elevator to the Gallows - Jeanne + Miles + Louis = WANT MORE
The Force Awakened - Created with emotion, not thought
Pig - Rewatched Nicolas Cage's monologue thrice
The Green Knight - Improves as the journey progresses
Blade Runner 2049 - Earth needs more grownup SciFi

On that note: Before getting back into liquid reviews, I tested my senses to make sure that cognac tasted like cognac, Ardmore tasted like Ardmore, and bourbon tasted like shit. ZING! Those spirits did not change while I was gone. Pending no viral relapses, I'll post my 1500th review on Wednesday.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Covid-19 Pause

Mathilda, recently vaccinated, caught Da 'Rona one week, and rebounded within 48 hours. Beatrice, who is too young for a vaccine, caught it the next week. She is on day 9 and is finally recovering. Across those two weeks, I took four Covid antigen home tests, scoring a negative each time. But when I woke up this Saturday morning, the first thing I thought was, I have Covid. Sure enough, fifth time's the charm.

I welcomed the booster five weeks ago, so I think it's helping me avoid the scary stuff. Mostly, the virus has been a sinus fucker. It's been almost three years since I had a real head cold, so I'm a bit out of practice with this whole under-the-weather thing. Not sure if these symptoms have become the worst "cold" I've ever had, or if colds were always this gross. [Update: This ain't no cold.]

I had a very fun whisky post scheduled for today, but it's going to have to wait. My sense of taste (LOL, because Covid makes this so much funnier) hasn't abandoned me entirely, but I'm not going to poison my immune system since it's fighting the Battle of Stalingrad right now.

To everyone out there, please make good choices, not just for you and your family, but for everyone else. Not all of us will be so lucky to write a blog post about this.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Ballechin 15 year old 2005 WhiskySponge, The Spongetopia Trilogy 36C

Viewing one single malt from three angles is a cool idea, and I hope there are more Spongetopia Trilogies, even though this one didn't knock me over to the degree I'd thought it would. Perhaps your mileage may vary.

Ballechin 36A was from a first-fill bourbon barrel.
Ballechin 36B was from a refill fino butt.
Ballechin 36C, today's whisky, was from a second-fill sherry hogshead.

Distillery: Edradour
Malt: Ballechin
Ownership: Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky Co., Ltd.
Bottler: WhiskySponge
Region: Highlands (Central)
Age: 15 years (2005 - 2021)
Maturation: second-fill sherry hogshead
Outturn: 266 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 57.3%
(from a bottle split)


Nose - Like 36B, 36C has no generic sherried scotch notes in the nose. A variety of fresh herbs (mint, thyme and chives) mixes with a peat that's earthier than the other two trilogy members. I get baked fish rather than smoked fish. A hint of beef stock lingers. It reads bigger once reduced to 46%abv, becoming more of a dessert whisky, with almond extract, smoky toffee, earth, sandalwood incense and a little bit of brine.

Palate - This is one of those second-fill sherry hoggies that reads like a first-fill, turning the palate into the nose's antithesis. Lots of dried vine fruits mix with tannins and peppery heat. A bitter-ish smoke joins the nose's sandalwood note. It gets nuttier at 46%abv, also picking up more salt and tangy citrus to go with the sandalwood.

Finish - I find pepper, salt, wood smoke, metal and raw cocoa here. At 46%abv, the finish matches the palate.


The nose tops the palate quite a bit, again, three for three. Water helps push the edgy tannins back, coaxing out the incense note that I like, bringing the palate into focus. Even though I tried the trilogy side-by-side-by-side, I'm not sure how to rank them as they all fit into the 84-86 point window. Perhaps I'd reach for the bourbon cask one first, but it doesn't topple the 10 year old I reviewed on Monday. If you've tried the whole Trilogy and have a different take on the whiskies, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85 (with water)

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Ballechin 17 year old 2004 WhiskySponge, The Spongetopia Trilogy 36B

Full disclosure: I know neither Mr. Whiskyfun nor The WhiskySponge personally, but I was William Teacher in a previous incarnation, which is why I absolutely cannot open up my Ardmore bottles and review them on this site.

With that out of the way, it's time for the second chapter of The Spongetopia Trilogy: Ballechin 36B. 36A was an Islay-ish thingy from a nonintrusive bourbon barrel. The "B" arrives via a refill fino sherry butt.

Distillery: Edradour
Malt: Ballechin
Ownership: Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky Co., Ltd.
Bottler: WhiskySponge
Region: Highlands (Central)
Age: 17 years (2004 - 2021)
Maturation: refill fino sherry butt
Outturn: 629 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 55.5%
(from a bottle split)


Nose - I get a lot of dry, nutty sherry at first. There are mustard, meat and tennis ball notes that might hint at sulfur, or just may be Ballechin's phenols tussling with the cask's. Smaller notes of melon and toasted seaweed stay in the background. The nose is more aromatic at 46%abv, full of baking spices and dried flowers. Kind of a salty cinnamon custard. Slightly less peaty as well.

Palate - Peat in the front, almonds in the middle, peppery heat in the back. It seems to get younger with each sip, getting sharper, peatier and bitterer with time. It stays spirity once it is reduced to 46%abv. Lots of soot, coal, salt and raw nuts.

Finish - The peatiest part, loaded with soot and salt. Maybe a hint of cassis. It gets bitterer as the whisky Benjamin Buttons. Diluted to 46%abv, the whisky finishes with bitter nuts, soot and barley.


While I appreciate the raw nuts, soot and bitterness, that combination may not be to everyone's liking, which makes this whisky more admirable than many contemporary wine-doped sherry cask releases. Still, the whisky's palate development is hampered by the same rawness. Once again, I enjoyed the nose (neat and diluted) more than the palate. Mr. Opinions found more going on with his pour (possibly from the same bottle), so please see his review for another take. It's tough to come up with a score for this thing.

Availability - It's probably sold out by now, but I'm not sure
Pricing - ???
Rating - 84

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Ballechin 17 year old 2004 WhiskySponge, The Spongetopia Trilogy 36A

I miss WhiskySponge's once-regular posts, but he appears to be doing well for himself, in business bottling casks, as well as contributing to the whisky review site that decides if whiskies live or die, a site that may want to consider not reviewing Sponge bottlings in the future, just to keep things "fun".

Recently, The Sponge was allowed to raid Andrew Symington's warehouses for three teenage Ballechins in order to assemble The Spongetopia Trilogy. 36A was a bourbon barrel, 36B was a fino butt, and 36C a sherry hoggie. After indulging in a bottle split of each, I begin with 'A'.

Distillery: Edradour
Malt: Ballechin
Ownership: Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky Co., Ltd.
Bottler: WhiskySponge
Region: Highlands (Central)
Age: 17 years (2004 - 2021)
Maturation: 1st fill bourbon barrel
Outturn: 188 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53.7%
(from a bottle split)


Nose - A spirit-forward Ballechin! It's big on the seaweed peat, like a muscular Bowmore. Apricots, roses, lemon tarts and coal roll through the background. It reads like a leaner Islay once it is reduced to 46%abv, with wet coastal stones, kiln, hay and smoked salmon.

Palate - Toasty in its early sips, the whisky gradually gathers fresh apricots, raw walnuts and coal. Metal, molasses and Underberg linger in the back. Diluted to 46%abv, it gets sweeter while also picking up more herbal bitterness, with quieter notes of roses and chile oil around the edges.

Finish - Lemon, coal smoke and a touch of bitterness. At 46%abv, it ends with coal smoke, smoked almonds and metal.


The nose wins here, even though I dig the reserved palate. My written notes throw around a lot of Islay distillery references that even I got tired of reading. To summarize, this Ballechin sits somewhere between Bowmore and Lagavulin in style. While that's some good company to keep, I'm not sure if this could actually compete with bourbon cask teenage versions of those sluggers. It's pretty good though, and I always appreciate an absence of splinters.

Availability - Probably sold out within seconds
Pricing - ???
Rating - 86

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Ballechin 16 year old 2003 Signatory, cask 186

I matched Monday's whisky with today's whisky for a little head-to-head. Both were sherry casks, have matching ABVs and were bottled by Signatory (which may be more relevant after the rest of this week's reviews). This one will be, temporarily, the oldest Ballechin I've ever tried. Also, its cask is "a Sherry Butt after Islay", which I think means that the sherry cask was employed to mature Islay single malt before it was utilized for this peated Edradour spirit. If not, can someone let me know what those words mean?

Distillery: Edradour
Malt: Ballechin
Ownership: Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky Co., Ltd.
Bottler: Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky Co., Ltd.
Region: Highlands (Central)
Age: 16 years (12 Apr 2003 - 4 Oct 2019)
Maturation: "a Sherry Butt after Islay"
Cask #: 186
Outturn: 620 bottles
Exclusive to: Whisky Club Luxembourg and Whisky-Elfen
Alcohol by Volume: 58.9%
(from a bottle split)


Nose - It has plenty of meatiness to it, like yesterday's whisky, but it also has some cherry syrup. Thankfully, some briny beachy stuff survived the maturation process. Smaller notes of pine and smoked almonds remain in the background. It all holds together pretty well. Once the whisky is diluted to 46%abv, the nose shifts towards male musk (it's not me, man!) and bonfire smoke, with apricot and pickle (heehee) brine in the back.

Palate - It's very intense, like Uigeadail on creatine. Huge peat & sweets, mint and jalapeños up front, with wool and good bitterness behind. It starts to shed its sherry cask when reduced to 46%abv. Lots of tangy citrus joins a familiar sooty peat.

Finish - Mostly Ardbeggish peat, with tangy pickled jalapeños and herbal bitterness on the side. It's all limes and soot at 46%abv.


There's no mystery about which Islay malt I think this cask housed previously. It's all very giant, though one rarely finds subtlety in Ballechin stuff. In fact, this butt is even more aggressive than yesterday's. Could have been the extra time. Could have been its Islay predecessor. Or both. To me, the nose works better when the whisky's neat, while the palate feels more balanced when diluted. Though I preferred the 10yo, this is my second favorite Ballechin single sherry cask at the moment.

Availability - Pretty scarce, if not sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Monday, January 17, 2022

Ballechin 10 year old 2010 Signatory, cask 195

I was feeling pretty burned out by full-power Ballechin when I wrote my last review of such creatures two-and-a-half years ago(!). But hey it's 2022! And if there's anything to be learned by this new year, it's that we can't run from......well, anything. So I will be reviewing FIVE single cask Ballechins this week.

First off, the baby of the bunch, a 10 year old first fill sherry butt. In what may be a first, this cask was split by seven different groups (see here and here). As you may see from the links, this whisky is nearly maroon in color, which is not my preferred whisky hue, but what the hell, engage.

Distillery: Edradour
Malt: Ballechin
Ownership: Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky Co., Ltd.
Bottler: Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky Co., Ltd. (hmmmm)
Region: Highlands (Central)
Age: 10 years (13 Aug 2010 - 15 Sep 2020)
Maturation: 1st fill sherry butt
Cask #: 195
Outturn: 675
Exclusive to: like, all of Benelux?
Alcohol by Volume: 58.9%
(from a bottle split)


Nose - More BBQ pork than BBQ pork (Tyrell's side hustle). Waves of dark chocolate, roasted almonds and roasted pecans. Elote! It shifts towards campfire and s'mores after 30 minutes. After being diluted to 46%abv, the whisky tilts more towards tri-tip. The roasted nuts and dark chocolate remain the same, but are joined by a big brininess.

Palate - Starts out very smoky and savory, with a just a little bit of sweet dried fruit. It gains very dark chocolate, pipe tobacco and Underberg with time. It gets outrageously smoky at 46%abv, with hazelnuts, burlap, incense and charred beef in the background.

Finish - Underberg, pork, pipe tobacco and bonfire smoke. At 46%abv, the finish matches the palate, though slightly bitterer.


The cask is pretty ridiculous here, but I love this stuff. Despite or Because? I don't know. It's loud, but much more interesting and enjoyable than Ardbeg's tinkerings. Also, we're getting a good snowin' today, and this whisky feels tailor-made for this sort of weather. I commend all the responsible parties for getting this bottled at ten years because it would have been nigh undrinkable at 12-15, though it would have been dark as coffee and sold for twice as much then. To small victories!

Availability - I think it's still around
Pricing - €85-€100
Rating - 89

Friday, January 14, 2022

Ben Nevis 9 year old 2011 Signatory, cask 142 for SoCal Wine & Spirits

You may look at this whisky's ABV and say, "Diving for Pearls, why are you doing this to yourself again?" I have three answers:

1. Because I love you.
2. Because Wednesday's Ben Nevis needed a sparring partner.
3. Because some old whisky buddies of mine helped pick the cask, and I missed out on a bottle because I live out here in *uckeye country.

And this whisky is 50% older than Wednesday's creature. And Signatory. And it is 7% (or 4.4 alcohol percentage points) lighter. And And And.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Age: 9 years old (4 May 2011 to 15 May 2020)
Maturation: bourbon barrel
Cask #: 142
Outturn: 229 bottles
Exclusive to: SoCal Wine & Spirits
Alcohol by Volume: 63.2%
(from a bottle split)


Once again I'm starting with a diluted version because I value my tastebuds, somewhat.

At first, the 50%abv version is all malt and alcohol on the nose, but after a few minutes some anise and savory broth notes appear. Then comes dessert: marshmallows and caramel sauce. It smells quite a bit different at full strength. It's mostly pears, peach skin and lots of flowers, with hints of bread and caramel in the background.

At 50%abv, the palate registers simply, with barley, salt, sugar, tart apples and champagne vinegar. There's more complexity at full strength. Sweet apples meet tart lemon juice; malt merges with a gentle herbal bitterness.

The finish matches the palate at 50%abv, while at cask strength the finish gets a little bit sweeter and maltier.


While this Ben Nevis does come across as a young whisky, it's no stunt release. Its cask plays less violently than Wednesday's, even though it was much smaller, so we're getting a nice close glimpse at a very polite Ben Nevis spirit. I still would've loved to have tried this at twice its age to see if it turned into one of those lovely fruity Nevii I do adore.

Much like the 6yo, this 9yo was much better when neat. All of the high proof baby whiskies I've tried recently have struggled once diluted, which makes them feel even more undercooked. As per my spreadsheet I have only 3 more scotch samples that are over 63%abv. I think I'll get them all out of the way this year.

Availability - Sold out, I think...
Pricing - ???
Rating - 81 (neat only)

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Ben Nevis 6 year old 2013 Single Cask Nation, 67.6%ABV

Monday: a Ben Nevis that I totally get and adore.
Today: not Monday's whisky

Six years in a first fill amontillado butt resulted in 754 bottles of 67.6%abv Ben Nevis. Those aren't typos.

I am not a high-ABV fan when it comes to scotch, and this is the second-strongest single malt I've ever tried. I wouldn't have given it a go had it not been Ben Nevis. But it is and so I did. I coated my esophagus with lard beforehand so the poison could safely slide right down.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Single Cask Nation
Age: 6 years old (Dec 2013 to Sep 2020)
Maturation: first fill amontillado butt
Cask #: 1278
Outturn: 754 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 67.6%
(from a bottle split)


I'm starting with a diluted version because.

The nose is extra dirty at a diluted 50%abv, and I love dirty sherry casks, but this is something else. It's like a mix of burnt bark, hot rubber and urine. It's almost peaty. Somewhere behind the filth awaits a spoonful of raspberry jam. It's similar at full strength, though more closed. Burnt rubber, piss and pears up front, wet sand and marzipan in the back.

The palate reads cleaner than the nose at 50%abv. There are apples, black raisins, balsamic vinegar and plenty of woody bitterness. It develops notes of vinyl and earth with time. It is surprisingly drinkable at full strength, though quite hot, of course. Tart and tangy notes take up most of the space, with touches of salt and raisins in the background.

At 50%abv, the finish is all tannins, rubber and black raisins. It's a little sweeter and less tannic at cask strength, with a little bit of tart apples in the way back.


Though I have avoided do thus so far, I am now going to use a word that makes some men uncomfortable. Sulfur. This is a sulfurous whisky, especially on the nose. Element S is not a dealbreaker for me, but a whisky has to have something to join S, counter it, frame it, or offset it. The nose does not have that. The palate has Aggro Cask going on, but that's not a plus. This did work better at full strength, where the tartness shines (or burns), but I'm not sure how much of this can be consumed comfortably in one sitting. I don't know. It's difficult to see a 754-bottle, 67.6%abv, sulfurous 6-year-old as anything but a stunt release. It did sell through though. What an age we live in.

Availability - Sold out (USA)
Pricing - maybe around $90
Rating - 72 (neat only)

Monday, January 10, 2022

Ben Nevis 19 year old 1996, private cask 1424

Private cask of Ben Nevis?!?!?! #lifegoals. But a private cask of Ben Nevis now probably requires $100K of extra walkin' around money. Also #lifegoals. I'm not sure to whom cask 1424 belonged, but its contents seemed to have travelled all over the world: to Serge, to a few dozen whiskybase members, and The Whisky Show 2021. Though 1990s Ben Nevis sherry casks are the rage (for good reason), #1424 seems to have been a former bourbon vessel...

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Age: at least 19 years old (1996 - ????)
Maturation: ???
Cask #: 1424
Outturn: ??? bottles
Cask Owner: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 51.8%
(from a bottle split)


The nose has chalk, wax, citronella and something coastal up front. Then comes the barley, apple skins, lychee and pineapple. Diluting the whisky to 46%abv tightens the nose's focus to lychee, pineapple, chalk and peaches.

Great mouthfeel here. Pineapple, guava and lemongrass arrive first in the palate. After 30 minutes minerals and herbal bitterness provide excellent dimension and balance. But 46%abv is where it's at. It becomes herbal, leafy, mineral, very tart, and almost smoky. Limes, peaches and lemongrass ripple beneath.

It finishes with bitter herbs smothered in wax. Limes and lemongrass hold on endlessly. At 46%abv, it finishes with minerals, limes and lemongrass. It's gloriously tart.


I can tell why certain wax-loving enthusiasts have befouled their britches over this whisky. It may be waxier than any modern Clynelish I've had. The merging of the wax with the minerals, herbs and fruits elevates it for me. This must have been a lovely bottle (let alone cask!) to have. Enjoy and share, all you lucky ducks out there!

Availability - Secondary market, maybe
Pricing - I don't want to know
Rating - 90

Friday, January 7, 2022

Things I Really Drink: Dewar's 21 year old Double Double

Welcome to this year's new blog edition addition: Things I Really Drink. As a wee offset to all of my sample reviews, each month I'll post about an actual bottle of whisky I purchased, opened and drank. Though I'm not sure how many clusters 2022 will hold, there should be plenty of TIRDs.

I can't stand the standard Dewar's products. The 12yo nauseates me (literally), the Mizunara Cask thing seems like it was never tried by anyone before it was put on the market, and White Label is Cutty's only real competitor for the worst major blend. So it surprises me even more than you to see a Dewar's blend leading off this series. Yes, I bought a bottle of Dewar's 21 year old Double Double, and I finished it very quickly, only partly because it was 375mL.

As expected, I did not take a photo of the bottle. Though I did take a pic of the packaging. Because.

The whole "Double Double" thing is certainly a shtick. But it does seem sort of like a shtick devised by a blender.

Step 1: Age the grain whisky and malt whisky. (The most subversive step!)

Step 2: Blend and vat the grain whiskies with the grain whiskies, and the malts with the malts. Age some more.

Step 3: Blend the vatted grain whiskies with the vatted malt whiskies. More aging.

Step 4: Finish the blend in _____ casks.

Each of the Double Double releases has its own Step 4 closer; with the 21, it's Oloroso. If Dewar's decides to add another member to the Double Double team (after the 21, 27, 32 and 36), I hope they consider using refill hogsheads to finish the job.

In any case, the result of this maturation approach is pretty good at 21 years. Though I think the success is more due to its grownup presentation:

As mentioned, the contents of my bottle vanished quickly. Luckily I set aside 60mL for this review.


The nose starts off very nutty, of both the raw and roasted sort. It also has a light brininess to go with a nori flake note. The color is quite dark, but it's not a contemporary-style sherry bomb in the sniffer. Small touches of toffee, toasted oak and vanilla bean are its lone modern notes.

The palate has some bite to it, and luckily only a little bit of tannin. It's mostly dried raspberries in semi-sweet chocolate, with a little bit of honey in the background.

It finishes with tart blackberries and limes. Some honey and Cabernet Sauvignon.


Here it reads more like a familiar sherried malt, with more dried stone fruits and simple sweetness. But it drinks very well without being too smoooooooooth.


A friend (Dr. Springbank) and I recently tried to figure out what Dewar's gets so wrong with its basic blends, because Bacardi owns either very good or neutral single malts. And until recently they weren't in the single malt game. I wondered if the grain was the problem. Dr. Springbank put it better, "Whatever they're using is terrible."

The Double Double 21 not only leaps over that issue, but is (to my palate) better than Bacardi's Aberfeldy 21, possibly even maltier. Kudos to the company for following the proper presentations of the Aultmore and Craigellachie single malts with this 46abv/NCF/NC blend. I look forward to buying another bottle this year.

Availability - It's around, though not in Ohio anymore (damn it)
Pricing - $50ish for a 375mL bottle
Rating - 85

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Randy Brandy and Michael Kravitz drink five 30+ year old French brandies

MK: Randy, I apologize.

RB: Good.

MK: I had thought Malört had a brandy base.

RB: I'm glad you're comfortable with saying that out loud.

MK: We should probably start this thing. Hi everybody!

RB: Kravitz and I are tasting some properly aged brandies today.

MK: Via Zoom.

RB: I can't believe adults walk around saying words like zoom, tweet, tiktok and google. We're a nation of children.

MK: So says the pro wrestling expert.


MK: I'm just saying--

RB: YOU DO NOT BESMIRCH THE SPORT. Pro Wrestling is America's opera.



MK: Today we're drinking three cognacs, one armagnac and a mystery pour.

RB: "We"? The fifth one clearly spells out who it's for. So you can sit and watch, Cucky.

MK: Today's three cognacs were all from Vallein Tercinier, the highly esteemed producer located in Saintonge, right on the edges of the Fins Bois and...Bon...Bois...règions......What's that face?

RB: Listening to your French is worse than reading your notes. Your French "R"s sounds like someone force-feeding a Japanese "L" to a suffocating cat.

MK: Isn't that how they say "R"s in France?

RB: Yeah, sure. Make sure you say them just like that to the locals.

MK: Behold the first cognac:

Vallein Tercinier 33 year old Lot 86 (1986-2019), Maltbarn #120, 49%abv

Per your request, Barracuda, start it off.


Here are my notes: Old leather shoes, new American car, pineapples and mothballs.

I get lime peel, hazelnuts and toasted oak up front. Then white peaches and roses, with tar and leather in the background.

You're wrong about all of those except the leather part.


I like the heat. Cognac at 49% has some hair on it. It's also sweet. Fresh ginger, some oranges, leaves.

Are they fresh leaves or dead leaves or--


Mmmm, it's very fruity. I'm thinking guavas and grapefruits. Some whole grain crackers. And it is sweet, Randy's right.

Always am.


Strong finish. Leaves. Leaves. Menthol and fruit.

It's less sweet than the palate. Earthy and tangy. And yeah, menthol.

RANDY RATING: It's good. B
Michael Rating: Yeah, B.

RB: Good let's keep it moving. Your readers shouldn't have to scroll for the content. This isn't some cooking blog where the author overshares about her 13 ex-boyfriends, two abortions, and persistent asphyxiation night terrors before listing Five Ways to Spice Up Your Mac 'n Cheese.

MK: Okay. Next we--

RB: Actually I'd read the shit out of that.

Vallein Tercinier 32 year old Lot 86 (1986-2018), Maltbarn #137, 44.5%abv


You first.

It's fruitier than the 33, especially grape skins and figs. Honeyed confections [What does that mean] and leather.

Mothballs, candy canes, dryer sheets and raspberry fig newtons.


I like the bitterness [good for you]. Like a bitter aperitif. Some papaya and menthol too.

Not sweet, some tannins. I haven't had all the tropical fruits that this guy claims to have had. So "tropical fruits".


There's the menthol again. And the aperitif. Tangy fruit too, maybe guava.

It finishes like it starts.

Michael Rating:  B+

RB: Your score makes no sense. I'll start the next one.

Vallein Tercinier 30 year old 1989 Grande Champagne, 48.4%abv


Mango, toffee, Chips Ahoy, dirt and romano cheese.

First up: lemon zest, the beach and a good dose of milk chocolate. Then a little bit of toffee and, yeah, mango.

That is correct.


Tropical fruit gummy bears, some flowers and bitterness.

Holy moley, it's over-the-top fruity. Mangoes and papayas, white stone fruits and kabosu juice [what]. Something nice and sharp underneath.


Fruit and flowers.

Those tropical fruits and just the right amount of salt.

Michael Rating:  A-

MK: Wow.

RB: A little short on words there, Fruitcake?

MK: That was...

RB: Bet you wish you got that MFA degree now dontcha?

MK: Actually I don't--

RB: Good. Universities are a scam.

MK: So you approve of one of my life choices?

RB: **Chokes**

RB: **Falls out of his chair**

RB: **Struggles back into his seat, gasping for air**

RB: Are you trying to kill me?

MK: Gradually.

L'Encantada (Domain de Laoue) 34 year old 1985-2019 for Antioch Fine Wines, 48.1%abv

RB: You couldn't resist bringing out The Orange Wax, you big Bater. That's a portmanteau for brandy and tater--

MK: Yes, I know--

RB: --because you take away the "t" and replace it with the "b"--

MK: I know--

RB: --and that makes "bater"--

MK: I know--

RB: --which makes you a jerkoff.

MK: It's not my bottle.

RB: Bater.


Dark chocolate, dijon mustard and a red from Burgundy. Change my mind.

I see the red wine, but it's more like a California syrah. [You're making that up.] It's oaky, slightly gluey. Very dark chocolatey, yes, but there are also hints of applejack and flowers.


It's sweeter than I thought. Grapes, berries and bourbon.

It's such a different creature than the cognacs. There's the silky old bourbon thing, but without bitter oak. So it keeps the good stuff and loses the bad stuff. Lots of tangy citrus in the back.


Tangy and sweet and bourbon.

Citrus and bourbon, yeah.

RANDY RATING: It's whiskey brandy.  B-/B
Michael Rating:  B

Mystery Brandy, courtesy of LV33 (thank you!)

MK: Finally the mystery brandy!

RB: How do YOU have a pour?

MK: I kept ten milliliters for me.

RB: That your name on the bottle, Monsieur ʁ?

MK: So glad we're stopping at five drinks.

RB: Why?

MK: Because you're this close to slurring your words.

RB: But I like slurs.


It's fancy. Tropical fruit, rye seeds, brownies and bananas with caramel.

I'm getting guavas, grapefruits and pears. Some milk chocolate and roses, maybe.


I dunno, it's NOT BOURBON. Fruits and flowers and no tannins.

I still get that whiskey thing, but also tart citrus, green plums and Christmas pudding.


It's long. Flowers and grapefruits.

Christmas pudding with lots of tart dried fruit.

RANDY RATING: My favorite of the bunch.  B+
Michael Rating:  B+

MK: How are you feeling?

RB: When are we going to start the tasting already ever'body?

MK: Need a moment or do you want to guess what the mystery brandy is?

RB: Huh? I dunno, sure. It's armagnac.

MK: Correct.

RB: It's dark like Orange Wax, but ain't no orange wax.

MK: Correct again.

RB: I'd say it's 40 years old.

MK: Um. Yes.

RB: From a 1981 harvest.

MK: ...uh....

RB: A dry cellar.

MK: How on earth--

RB: I mean, I'm just guessing here, but it's Dartigalongue's 40 year old 1981, bottled at 42%abv in 2021.

MK: What the f--

RB: There were my notes. Good night, kiddo. Ah yes, the Leave button--