Bourbon Review : Pappy Van Winkle 23

[Scotch] and myself aren’t much into buying bottles to sell them in the future. It’s not that we aren’t into the idea of collecting artifacts but life is too short not to enjoy some of the finest things you come across. With that said, we were fortunate enough to grab a bottle of the infamous Pappy Van Winkle 23 from a local store. So today, much to the chagrin of my wallet, we bring you a real review about a bottle that most of us have dreamed of but none of us have wanted to pay the market price for. I’ve placed our personal reviews back to back below and do hope you enjoy them :)

Oh, and if you learn ANYTHING from our reviews… do NOT add water or ice to PVW23. That seems to be the death knell for this tasty tipple.


***** [Sniff]’s review *****

The unicorn.

The nose does take a solid few moments (minutes more like it) to open up, even in a glencairn glass. Neat, the nose is like eggnog. Think baking spices over custard and cream. There’s a bit of charred oak under the sweat cream.

It’s soft it hits the tongue, like the velvet bag that is home to the bottle. It quickly ramps up to a layer of fiery oak. As soon as the oak makes its bow, caramel and cream venture their way to the front of the stage. There is just a hint of charred oak and light cinnamon lingering behind them giving it all that eggnog appeal.

The finish is light with the most faint trails of astringency in the mouth. It’s REALLY good.

Let’s add water to the unicorn even though it is easily managed neat even at 47.8% ABV.

The nose changes a bit and reverses the palate without water. It becomes more oaky and the cream gets buried. This is interesting.

The palate becomes an oak monster. Again, the cream still hangs around in the background but it really gives way to some over-oaked notes.

For all of the folks who claim that the PVW23 is past its prime, I wonder how many of them poured it over ice or prematurely added water. There’s a reason you don’t pour water on a unicorn.

For the suggested retail price of $250, I can say this is a pretty great value, doubly so considering the age. For $500, as a birthday bottle, I wouldn’t be let down at all. It would be a solid winner. For the amount I paid? It’s solid. For the $2500+ that it’s going for online? No way. I’d say it tops out at a grand as a value. Beyond that, it’s hype. Really, tasty, buffalo trace hype. :P

Those are my two cents.



***** [Scotch]’s review *****
I wonder how many people who say that the Pappy 23yr is an oak monster have actually tried it. There are a lot of trolls out there and “Collectors” who gather up as many limited edition bottlings of something as they can, only to hoard it and never actually taste it. We here at scotchNsniff, think that is a travesty. To have whisky and not drink it is a crime and this crime shall not go unpunished. We shall CRACK open those bottles and CONSUME from the ELIXIR that has been hiding in those oak barrels and relay our reviews HERE!! On with the review =)

The color is a deep mahogany. It reminds me of making caramel but starting with brown sugar first and then going almost to being burnt but pulling it off the stove. Reddish hues dance in the glass. You can really see the red when it’s placed next to ordinary whisky.

On the nose, upon swirling the glass, that caramel that we were talking about, enrobes a red delicious apple. Vanilla whipped cream, piped on a custard pie. Brown sugar and a little oak resin mix with nutmeg and very very extremely light mint. There is oak, but it’s not the overwhelming oak monster that one would expect after 23 years of sitting in a barrel. The nose is so gentle, sweet and round. Shortbread cookies with a citrusy marmalade. As soon as the oak wafts in, the sweetness and spice and everything nice, pushes back and balances the bourbon.

My initial sip is slightly astringent, no alcohol bite even though its 47.8%, and then come the support team to bring happiness to the land. Creme brûlée all day baby. Buttered biscuits with citrus and vanilla double cream. If you haven’t had double cream in your life, it’s basically butter mixed with cream, creating an amazingly rich double cream that you spread on things like scones and biscuits. My second sip now starts off with the sweetness and vanilla that you nose in the glass. Swirling the mix in my mouth, that light mint comes forward with a rich spice on the front of the tongue. The oak shows it’s teeth along with some floral notes, like rose hips and creates a delicious sweet herbal mix. What a delicious bourbon.

After adding a scant capful of water to the bourbon the nose goes cold. The blast of flavors that I initially smelled neat, mellowed, as well as the palate. I completely agree with Sniff that this is when the Oak monster rises from the depths of the earth and unleashes his earthen roots on us all. The astringency turns me off and I regret ever adding water to this. The sweetness has died down as well as roundness and becomes a tad harsh and sharp.

If there is anything you learn from this review, drink Pappy 23 year neat. Any addition of water, either through ice melting or by way of dropper, buries the good stuff and brings out the nasty side of things. Sniff brought up the mention of cost and worth. I would agree with him that $1000 should be the upper limit of what this stuff should be able to fetch, but I’ve recently seen auctions sell bottles into the $2000 range. All I know is, I could buy a lot of great bottles of whisky with $2000 or even $1000.

Scotch, Out.

Whisky Extraveganza Tasting Event

Whisky Extravaganzaaaa!! With a name like that, it HAS to be good, right?

Whisky Extravaganza was a paid event organized by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. If you’ve never heard of the SMWS, they are a Scotch enthusiast organization known for their single cask bottlings from distilleries all over Scotland. The most interesting detail about their bottlings, is the lack of distillery identification. Each of their bottles is labeled with a bottling number, age, and region instead of a more typical distillery, age, and other small details. They really have a penchant for putting the truth about taste first, forward.

Thanks to their efforts, there were more than 69 distilleries represented and easily over 200 bottles to sample from. The $150 ticket granted access to unlimited samples, excellent dinner and dessert, a free cigar, a tasting glass, and reading materials. If you signed up early enough, there was a master class that offered information and education about a handful of distilleries around Scotland. Those things were the gist of the event, but was it all worth the price of the ticket?

Right off of the bat, I’ve got to say, if you’re typically on the hunt for value, you can look to either expand your experience or decrease the costs to increase the value of your time at an event. Both can be achieved at the WE. Thanks to the internet (and google more specifically), finding discount codes to save 10% of the listed ticket price is pretty easy to do. If you’re as diligent about when you buy your ticket as you are about how you buy your tickets, you’ll get your tickets early enough to get offered a chance to sign up for the master tasting classes offered by Laphroaig and ImPex beverages group. #Winning. [Scotch] and I signed up for the ImPex master class and were able to sample offerings from Kilchoman, Arran, and Tamdhu. Fan-freakin-tastic.

Our master class was hosted by a Mr. Jared Card and he was hilarious. A down to earth gent (in a kilt no less) who really helped folks in the room feel a great connection to the distilleries he represented. He seems especially close to the family that runs the Kilchoman distillery and shared some scandalous stories that “aren’t to be repeated” in any capacity. :)  He walked us through the profiles of each of the samples we had and did a great job with information about how to acquire any of the samples, quickly and efficiently. The master class was slated to last and hour and we ran up to the 55 minute mark which was VERY good for us…

Thanks to the master class finishing early, we were able to enter the WE main tasting room a little early. [Scotch] had already screened instagram of past Whisky Extraveganza events for the most coveted samples available and we immediately made our way to the table offering the ever so rare Ladyburn 41. At $1900 a bottle, we were lucky enough to have no line, no wait and just a nice and quiet tasting of a wonderful dram. There was only one bottle to be sampled by every attendee who got there in time. Wowzers. As quickly as we were able to finish the Ladyburn, other attendees began to trickle into the room.

A day or two before we arrived at the venue, [Scotch] spoke with Allison Patel (the founder of cognac finished Brenne whiskey) about stopping by and saying hello and so we did. She was a peach! We caught her just as she was finishing the setup of her table and got to talk to her about a new offering she has, the Brenne 10. It was our second sample of the night and it was fantastic. Not as bubblegum as the original Brenne offering, the 10 is MUCH more complex. We exchanged a few more thoughts and words and then we were off for more samples! (I’m always amazed at how approachable most people who do amazing things are.)(We’ll have an interview with the founder coming up in future blog posts, so keep an eye out!)

As we made our way around the room, we tried all kinds of bottles that we either had never tasted, seen in person, or even heard about. This kind of tasting is a great way to try bottlings you might be interested in, but might not want to spend money blindly on. The Jack Daniel’s Sinatra was a good example of this. I was hoping it would be a more complex rendition of the single barrel but the extra grooves in the barrel seem to have imparted a bit too much oak into the pour. $175 saved! But the Kavalan? Incredible!! Bravo Taiwan! Now where can I find some!?

(There were plenty of water bottles and “spit buckets” to rinse your tasting glass out between samples. The last thing you want is some peaty beast ruining the flavor of your speyside neighbor!)

At some point during the night we got to sit down and eat some of the great food and got to converse with a young couple about scotch. They were awesome. The conversation was a great reminder to us about the importance of what our goals are. We want to help make scotch more accessible to all people and get rid of some intimidating stigma. The demographic of the room was very obvious, but we really believe that the flavors and magic in scotch can be had and enjoy by all. The couple we spoke with, reminded us that we all want to avoid buyers remorse and the key to doing that is education. Increasing the amount of information we can get about a bottle before buying it is critical for everyone’s wallets! ;)

After dinner there were more tastings and then dessert and then more tastings lol. It was a ton of fun. It was worth the price of admission and definitely an educational experience. We left refreshed and ready to get some more reviews up to bring you value and save you the sadness of a bottle not enjoyed. I wish we could offer a discount to local stores for those who are champs and read through this entire post but we’re not quite there yet. We’ll get there! ;)




Scotch VS Scotch : Glenfiddich 19 Age of Discovery Bourbon Cask versus Glenfiddich 14 Bourbon Cask Reserve


Wait a minute…. Oh boy. A three way scotch battle! You’d think the 19 Age of Discovery Bourbon Cask (19AoDBC) would be a winner over the 14 Boubon Barrel Reserve (14BBR) but we’re throwing a ringer in the mix. The Glenfiddich Malt Master’s Edition (MME) had a nose that was similar despite it’s source barrels so it gets a shot.

[Full disclaimer: the 19AoDBC is my absolute favorite scotch. I have three bottles and will buy the rest that I can find! -Sniff sidenote]

COLOR: Surprisingly the 14BBR is the lightest of the three. It’s a lighter gold when compared to the orange hues in the MME and the darker brown 19AoDBC.

NOSE: The MME is only in this race because I can smell the oak influences that give it some bourbon-y notes on the nose that share a stage with sherry. Due to the sherry though, the MME also has typical dry sherry spices on the nose with some more-typical Glenfiddich fruits like apple and pear behind it. The 14BBR is lighter in comparison. Almost a ghost in strength compared to the aromatic MME. The 14BBR is also much more floral and fruity. Baked fruit, fruit sugar, and subtle sweetness like the smell of marshmallow but not the taste (vanilla?), all rise to the top. Very faint wisps of oak cut through the sweetness. The 19AoDBC has a faint astringent and medicinal alcohol that rises to the top just under a cloak of apple filled, charred oak barrels and figs. The oak is strong but not overpowering at all.

PALATE: The 19AoDBC is smoooth on the tongue like sateen sheets on skin. There is a ripe poached pear drizzled in cinnamon adventure that dances on the tongue. It’s sweet but not overbearing. The 14BBR isn’t as smooth, though it is tasty. It carries the typical overbearing burnt oak that many bourbons are known for. The MME, oy! The Sherry hits your tongue like a ton of bricks! What a different world compared to the 14 and 19!

FINISH: The 19AoDBC finish is medium in length, warm, and inviting. It is the best of what oak has to offer without the typical harsh edge that lives in many bourbons. The 14BBR finish is very woody but not sour. Oaky but not anywhere near as smooth as the 19AoDBC. The finish for the MME is strong and filled with dry sherry tones. It has a slight bit of sour, rubbery, Sherry to it but not enough to be a put off.

So what happened here?? I brought these three bottles together thinking there would be some type of SvS comparison to be made but it looks like we all got had! The 14BBR is not a cheaper substitute for the 19AoDBC as I had hoped. That was my dream: discover the 14 to taste like the 19 and then buy a couple of cases of the 14! :D. But alas, the 19 is still in a realm of its own. The MME was good but after getting beyond the nose and really sitting down with it, I see it doesn’t really bear a resemblance to the other two bourbon based bottles buddied along in this bogus blog comparison. Go figure. The Sherry rose to the occasion!

If you’re looking for a younger oak taste with the nose of a fruit farm, go for the 14BBR. If you’re looking for refined taste with a handful of layers to appreciate and really enjoy while reading, grab the 19AoDBC. It’s heavenly and (unfortunately for my wallet) carries the value of its price quite well in a glass.


The 19 AoDBC spent all 19 years of it’s life in ex-bourbon casks with no finishing casks that have become quite popular.
The 14 BBR spent 14 years in ex-bourbon casks and then spent a bit of time being finished in “American New Oak”.
The MME spent an unknown time in ex-bourbon casks and then more unknown time maturing in sherry casks.

The Dalmore selected by Daniel Boulud

If you haven’t heard of Daniel Boulud, he’s a world class, Michelin starred, fine dining power house chef. If you don’t know what it means to be Michelin starred, it basically means that you’re at the top of your game and people aspire to create and present cuisine like yours. Dalmore states that this is the first time a single malt scotch whisky has ever worked in collaboration with a chef to create a limited edition whisky. After selecting whisky from ten different cask samples, working with Richard Paterson, was able to then create the final bottling consisting of whisky from Muscatel, Madeira and Port casks. Limited edition of 1000 bottles exclusively for the U.S. market. On with the review to see how this came together.


Color: The liquid in the bottle looks a dark red oak and in the glass it’s an amber grade syrup.

Nose: Upon opening the bottle of this rich looking whisky, I smell fresh berries like blueberries, strawberries and currants. An orange scent with a cigar note lingering behind the fresh berries is present. Very light caramel aromas with vanilla extract. Light cereal scents with heather. Classic Dalmore chocolate, raisins and toffee are definitely filling the glass.

Palate: The flavor of this whisky is very remarkable. The amount of layers are incredible and easily understandable how this whisky can and should pair with food well. The initial flavor is dark plums, raisins soaked with an orange liquer. Very savory spices like nutmeg, almost a cumin flavor and definitely 90% or higher dark chocolate. The sweetness on the tongue leaves relatively quickly and goes right towards the savory side of things with almost a smoked meat or a roasted duck a l’orange.

Finish: The finish is a lot more of the same with very complex flavors and layers of flavors. Caramelized sugars, and black cherries. A thick toffee pudding studded with figs, then doused in Ouzo and set on fire like Greek Saganaki. Breathing out always seems to unleash more flavors, causing me to reach for another sip.

At 44% abv, this is an extremely easy drinker and there is no heat whatsoever. There are so many layers of flavors ranging from sweet to savory that it will keep you coming back for more and keep you thinking about what you’re drinking. A lot of people like to relax with a dram over good company or a cigar. I feel like this whisky is more like reading a ‘choose your own adventure’ as you’ll find yourself going back through the pages to re-write your history. If you can find yourself a bottle, it’s more than well worth it.

Scotch, Out.

The Glenlivet 12 and 15 year



Which one is better?

The Glenlivet 12 year versus the Glenlivet 15 year, which one is better?…… Trick question, those who answered one or the other need to stick around to read why.

It’s commonly assumed that the older the whisky is, the more that it should cost and therefore means the better it is. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If there is anything that you should learn today, please let it be that, “Age ain’t nothin’ but a number”. Yes, the older a whisky is, the more expensive it should be, because after factoring in time and the angel’s share (evaporation of whisky from the barrel), less whisky is actually in the barrel, therefore the need to sell it at a higher price to make the same amount of profit from less liquid. But that doesn’t mean anything about it tasting better.

The Glenlivet 12 (G12) and 15 (G15) are completely different whisky’s with very different flavor profiles and aromas. Don’t think of them as competing against each other but rather, another flavor within the family of Glenlivet to try.

Color: The Glenlivet 12 is close to a lightly toasted wheat and pale yellow. The Glenlivet 15 is more of a medium Oak color and lightly orange in the glass.

Nose: The G12’s nose is full of fruit flavors! You’re immediately blasted with a rainbow of aromas, pineapple, white grape, kiwi and gobs of tropical white fruit smells. The juice, most certainly, is loose. Then a light amount of white pepper, the fresh smell of a new wallet and light oak. Going in for another nose, an under-ripe granny smith apple and floral qualities appear.

The G15 is a completely different beast, but just as alive and layered. Opening the bottle I immediately smell fresh oak, round vanilla and sweet Sherry. There is a artificial peach aroma, like that of gummy peach rings, followed by molasses rich brown sugar and buttery toffee. Rich.

Palate: The G12’s mouth feel is light and not oily, like a racy sauvignon blanc. A light spice fills the mouth with a cereal breadiness. Vanilla, floral like a chamomile tea with dried orange peel in the background.

The G15 features toasted pecans and lime on the palate with a light oak bringing roundness. A honeyed licorice candy lengthens into a drying cocoa. Blonde coffee with vanilla and toffee flavor without the sweetness keeps me curious for another sip.

Finish: The G12 finishes a little sour and a tad tart, with a trailing light spice. The G15 finishes with spiced vanilla and toasted nuts and a hint of mint or menthol.

After reading this review you can see that these two scotches are completely different and can’t really be compared. If you’re looking for a tropical fruit sensation with a clean citrus nose and light spice and freshness, go for the Glenlivet 12. If you want more fall type spices, with rich vanilla and toasted nut flavors, then you would definitely go for the Glenlivet 15. Remember that a brand’s lineup isn’t always about getting better with age, but rather changing with age.

Scotch, Out.

The Balvenie 17 year DoubleWood

17yr DoubleWood

A great thing to remember when diving into your whisky journey is that everyone’s palate is different and unique. I might like something and give it magnificent praise, while you might think that it’s the worst whisky you’ve ever had in a cup. We here at scotchNsniff give you notes and reviews in hopes of shedding light about the whisky you buy, rather than the marketing campaigns built to sell the stuff to you. With that having been said, this next bottle for review is brilliant!!

A lot of people assume that the older a whisky is, the better it is and of course that means that it can and must command a higher price tag. [Sniff] and I definitely don’t mind paying for the good stuff but we love finding a deal even more. I [Scotch] have found that I really enjoy the 17 year mark. Hibiki 17 year, delicious. The Macallan 17 year fine oak, superb. And now this, the Balvenie 17 yr DoubleWood.

Color: Having spent the majority of the time maturing in traditional oak casks then the last couple months to a year in European Sherry casks, the color is A golden matte bronze with just the edge showing copper.

Nose: I’m initially greeted with the classic Balvenie oak, soft vanilla and honeyed richness. That leads into bing cherries macerated in a liquer, almost like a kirschwasser. There are layers of green apple and turbinado sugar (less molasses-ey). A slight waft of toasted cereal and malted barley are in there after swirling. The nose is inviting and all of the aromas are well married and yet still distinct but showing no edges.

Palate: The first sip of the whisky swirling around my mouth reveals a mexican cinnamon spice, not as harsh as McCormicks cassia cinnamon, along with green almond. Dried apple skins, red and green, coated in rich vanilla toffee. Throughout the entire taste, a very mellow but very pronounced Sherry surfboard carries all of these flavors down a great wave of fruit and spices. Awesome.

Finish: The finish, although awfully short, just keeps you wanting more. There is a light spice and vanilla sherry sweetness that remains but it is short.

This is a fantastic whisky that really shows how deliciously, both the Sherry and the Oak casks, can work together to form a great whisky. The price range seems to fluctuate between $99 to around $130, and for any price within that range, would be a great deal. For a price comparison to an equally great whisky, the Macallan 17 year Fine Oak is $190, but definitely not $70 better.

Scotch, Out.

Scotch VS Scotch : Glenfiddich 26 Excellence vs Glenfarclas 25

Hello there fellow scotch addict!

One of our primary goals here at ScotchNSniff is to bring you suggestions that are focused on value. We like the idea of bringing a suggestion to you that we can stand behind (and almost more importantly, one we can enjoy ourselves!).

Most people try to place scotch into two piles; one, for the rich and one for the rest of us… but in reality, value exists across the spectrum of scotches in spite of price and regardless of your budget. It’s the biggest reason we do a Christmas suggestion list each year, knowing that not everyone can afford to spend a grand on a bottle but almost anyone can come up with fifty bucks for a special occasion.

Today though, we’re going to pit a $500 bottle of Glenfiddich Excellence 26 year against the 25 year offering from Glenfarclas that carries a price tag of $225. At literally less than half of the price of the Glenfiddich, this might seem like a strange comparison but considering the whisky in the barrels took almost the same amount of time to age, it may be difficult to justify the difference in price.

Glenfiddich 26 Excellence VS Glenfarclas 25


In typical SnS fashion, it’s time to get on with the CNPF reviews!

COLOR: The Glenfarclas has a gorgeous wheat color where the Glenfiddich is a surprisingly light color, resembling white grape juice.

NOSE: The Glenfarclas smells strongly of spices commonly found in Sherry. Do yourself a favor, if you’ve never smelled Sherry and want to recognize it every time you smell it, grab a bottle of Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherry and enjoy! It pours like motor oil, looks like used motor oil, and tastes like heaven! (I’m a big port fan, so fortified wines are some of my closest friends!). Nosing the Glenfiddich, after the Glenfarclas sherry monster, you’ll notice a bit of smoke that ties the fruity and floral notes together. It’s definitely a sweeter nose versus the spicy Glenfarclas.

PALATE: Imagine a candy cane that’s had almost all of its mint removed but still retains that sugary candy cane sweet flavor. Now melt that flavor into a velvety butter and place it on your tongue. Now roll it around finding some smoke and some vanilla mixed into softly charred oak along the way. Now breathe in deep the spices and oak. If you read that with your imagination, you just tasted the Glenfiddich 26.

Now imagine a tannic sherry (really) with its slew of spices setting up base camp on your tongue. Christmas spices have found a place near the middle of your tongue. Pepper parked itself near the back of your tongue. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and Christmas have found their way to the tip of your tongue. Now imagine all of these camps suffered from a massive landslide into your gullet as you sip them down. I hope you love sherry because it’s your new best friend!

FINISH: The Glenfarclas 25 finishes with hints of fresh chocolate, like you’d smell at the Hershey factory… and that chocolate just melted into a bowl of sherry. This is wonderful. The Glenfiddich 26 has a wonderful finish that starts with spice and oak, but slowly and linearly gives way to fruit sugar. Quite tasty.

So who wins out? Who wins this installment of SvsS? As I’ve said with other SvsSs, you can’t actually go wrong with either of these bottles. It’s a matter of personal choice when you’re looking for a specific flavor to enjoy when you sit down with a dram. If you’re looking for value though, it’s difficult to say the extra year in oak bourbon barrels is worth the $275 price difference. If you love sherry and Christmas spices, you can pick up two bottles of the Glenfarclas AND a bottle of Glenfiddich’s fruit-bomb-that-is-its 12 year for the same price as the 26 excellence. Again though, we’re talking a very different set of flavors. The Glenfiddich 12 isn’t in the same league when it comes to complexity of flavors though it is very good. It’s just different and in a different world of value.

So which would you choose? What do you think about this comparison?