World’s Best Whisky!!

I stayed up last night thinking a lot about this topic and how we’re kind of fooling ourselves. If you’re trying to find the worlds best whisky, sorry for the deceiving title, but you won’t find it here. What you will find, is the truth behind what will guide you, to find
the best whiskies of the world.

 

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Sniff’s Birthday Extravaganza!!!!

The three topics that kept me up last night were; Rating systems, Personal preference and Hype. I’ll soap box on each one of these separately.

Rating Systems: Rating systems are great aids for those who don’t know what they want and to potentially find the best versions of a certain whisky in a certain category. For example, using the 100 point scale that many reviews use, you could safely assume that a 95 point Islay whisky, like an Ardbeg Uigeadail, would be an exceptional example of a peated northern Islay whisky. What some may call a “Classic”. Without having tasted it, you can trust that the reviewers have or should have determined that the flavors present in the whisky should showcase that of an Islay whisky, to be at least 95% of the best of that style.

This may take into account the many factors of being a classic Islay whisky, BUT, what if you don’t like Islay whiskies?? What if peat makes you cringe? And even though this is one of the best peated Islay whiskies, you hate it. Then that 95 points means nothing to you.

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Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release

One way to get a better idea of if your taste buds are on par with a reviewers, is to drink a lot of the same whisky that they have reviewed, to see if you agree with them. But the thing about drinking a lot of whisky is; 1. You could develop a serious drinking problem, 2. A serious loss of money problem or even more seriously, 3. Be able to determine your own personal preference. The industry would like it if they could continue to think for you, aka “Influence” you.

The best thing I’ve learned about tasting and reviewing a lot of whisky, is that you become better at tasting and reviewing whisky. Just like anything else, practice makes perfect. Or a better saying in this situation would be, practice makes you more educated. But it doesn’t roll of the tongue as easily. The more whisky you taste, the better ability you have to determine what you like and dislike. After gaining the knowledge of knowing what you like and dislike, e.g. Personal Preference, then you can determine for yourself what is the best, for you!

Many people have this idea that they know what’s best for you. Not just random people, but companies. “Our soap is the best for your shower”, “these crackers will cure indigestion” and “our toilet paper will wipe better for you than any other”. When companies do this, it’s called marketing. When randos do this, it’s called hype.

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Glenfiddich 21 The Balvenie 21 The Glenlivet 21

Both marketing and hype are used to increase the perception of the value for things, often to ridiculous heights. Case in point, the 2013 Yamazaki Sherry cask which was named Best Whiskey in the World by Jim Murray (a whisky reviewer). This rocketed the Japanese whiskey scene, calling for thousands of dollars for the 2013 Yamazaki Sherry Cask and even raising the rest of the Yamazaki expressions to crazy inflated prices. The 12 year expression used to cost $65, now if you can find it, will run you $125. The 18 year expression used to cost around $200 and is now hovering between $399 – $450. Is the whisky good? Sure! But is it $400 good for the 18 year or $125 good for the 12 year? Maybe. It really depends upon how much you’re willing to spend for something that is hard to get and if you enjoy it. I love the Hibiki 21 year. I started purchasing bottles at $199 when I first saw it and I continue to purchase bottles when I find it for $350. When is my stopping point? My wife says, now.

Bottom line, use resources like this blog, other blogs and other reviewers to form a general idea of what it is you want to try. We try to use very easy to understand descriptions in order to appeal to the vast majority. Then, use online sites that sell samples of various bottles of whisky, or go to different bars to try different pours without committing to a full bottle. Determine whether you like sweet, peat, salty, medicinal or any other types of whisky and then continue down those lanes until you find your grail. That is the only way to determine what the best whisky in the world is, for you. And that’s why we love this whisky journey that we’re on.

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ScotchNSniff glass

So, what’s YOUR world’s best whisky??
[Scotch]

Macallan Edition No 1 VS Macallan Edition No 2

Greetings fellow scotch lovers! Let’s jump right into this, shall we? Odds are good if you’re here, you are already on the fence about purchasing the newly released “Macallan Edition No 2”. Let us help you make the right decision!

The No 1 was an exercise in wood selections that brought Macallan’s Bob Delgarno’s ability to select tasty casks right to the forefront of our palates. Six first fill casks and two second fill casks have been chosen with seven woods from Europe and one from the states to showcase that classic Macallan taste. On the flip side, for the No 2, Bob Delgarno collaborated with three brothers who run a restaurant that has been the number one restaurant in the world… twice! Reading into the rich history of these three brothers, I feel like [Scotch] should be writing the back story on their restaurant: El Celler de Can Roca.

It’s nifty how the three Roca brothers close their restaurant every august to travel the world and bring experiences back to the kitchen together. That’s fascinating in a handful of ways and probably plays a great part in their cask selections. One of them is a sommelier so I’m sure that plays a huge part too. Along with the chef and patisssier, it makes more sense to look at their barrel selections knowing their roles in their restaurant. All of that said, it should be no surprise that a whisky maker known for it’s select woods, expensive offerings, and brand status would pick such a well known restaurant amongst the world’s biggest food lovers to collaborate in such an endeavor.

COLOR:
Light golden toast. The perfect color toast for warm PB&J sandwiches or perfectly golden grilled cheeses. The fact that the colors are identical for both of these offerings is just another testament to the truth that color really does not matter.

NOSE:
Side by side, the No 1 is much more oaky and sherry spice compare to the floral and fruit apple-y tree fruilty notes of the No 2. As a lover of Glenfiddich’s apple-y line, this dram smells like the best of both worlds! A Macallan sherried Glenfiddich!! Would that NOT be amazing??? Oh wait, that’s what this is!! This type of sweetness on the nose is uncharacteristic of Macallan but certainly not unwelcome. If you imagine that most Macallan tastes “dark”, this would be the “lighter” side of Mac! The No 1 on the other hand, has that sherry, orange-peel spice we’ve come to love from the Macallan.

PALATE:
The No 2 punches the palate with spices at 48.2% ABV but immediately rolls over into sweeter notes. Like a German shepherd that looks aggressive but immediately rolls onto his back for belly rubs! The No 2 has a silk mouthfeel and it slightly tannic. I’m getting ginger notes with something sweet lingering above them. The No 1 has a completely different feel than the No 2, and rolls on the tongue with a feel somewhere between water and milk. The taste of oak rises to the occasion but not in an unpleasant way. It’s like the oak chips that are consumed in a BBQ smoker so it’s more subtle and less like chewing a burnt toothpick. Dark spices like cinnamon and nutmeg present themselves slathered over quite a bit of toffee.

FINISH:
The finish of the No 2 brings some vanilla iced cookies to the surface along with spices. Maybe something like vanilla iced ginger snaps. Man, that’s good and I don’t even like gingersnaps! The finish on the No 1 is, again, okay when enjoyed side by side with the No 2.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Unfortunately, in my mind, this isn’t a competition at all. It all comes down to what you’re in the mood for. If you want nutmeg-cinnamon toffee served on an oak plate, grab the No 1. But if you want vanilla drizzled gingersnaps? I think you know what you need to grab. For $100 a bottle, you’re getting a LOT of Macallan. Based on the price of Macallan’s scrumptious 18, the No 2 is a definite value.

Slainte!

-[Sniff]

Something old, something… new?

ScotchNSniff… are… on… youtube🙂

This is something we’ve thought about doing for a long while now and thanks to a friend who lives in the video world, it’s become a reality. We’re hoping to bring a different perspective to the scotch and whisk(e)y world that might be a bit more relaxed than most people are used too. Then again, we think that everyone should be able to enjoy whisk(e)y without the pretensions that have been left at the quality spirit table.

Are there certain topics in the whisk(e)y world you’d like to hear about? Certain bottles you’d like to see reviewed? Leave us a comment here or on our new youtube channel and we’ll do our best to help you in your whisky journey😀

Rhino Whiskey

We need to address the Rhino in the room.

No, I don’t mean elephant. I’m talking about the Rhinovirus.

rhi·no·vi·rus
ˌrīnōˈvīrəs,ˈrīnōˌvī-/

noun

noun: rhinovirus; plural noun: rhinoviruses
  1. any of a group of picornaviruses, including those that cause some forms of the common cold.

Yes.

Sniff here.

I’ve caught a cold and it’s made tasting whisky impossible. I poured a wee dram of a new bottle of Ardbeg Dark Cove and it tasted more horrible than normal. (Which isn’t saying much for the peated taint of Scotland but it was especially horrible. I actually liked the flavors in the Dark Cove committee release…)  At first I blamed the Ardbeg but after some careful thought…

Nope! I just poured myself some of my favorite Glenfiddich (the 19 AoD BCR) and sure enough the flavors that I know and love are missing completely. Knowing that 90% of what you taste is based on what you smell, none of this should be a surprise, at all.

I guess I’m stuck sipping on Robitussin CF from now until I’m over this bug. Wait… Will ‘tussin taste any better in a glencairn glass??

Ladies and gentlemen… the Robitussin CNPF!

Color: Ruby koolaid red

Nose: Medicinal, definitely medicinal.

Palate: I’m pretty sure this doesn’t have the pizzazz of their grape expression but their standard expression is nothing to scoff at! It’s super viscous, like Pappy Van Winkle 23 but with less complexity and obviously much less age! Again the medicinal notes from the nose are just dousing my tongue!

Finish: This dram has me feeling better already!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this fun post!

Happy Friday fellow scotch lovers!!

-[Sniff]

Scotch VS Scotch : Kirkland 18 Sherry versus Glenfiddich 18 versus Macallan 18

Value is a funny thing.
ˈvalyo͞o/
noun
noun: value; plural noun: values
  1. 1.
    the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
No matter how many reviews we write, I can never get the idea out of my head that the worth that anyone has for a bottle of whisk(e)y is always subjective. We try to give an idea of the value of a bottle based on its flavors divided by its price tag and it seems to be a solid way to give the most objective review that we can. There’s nothing worse than spending $200 (or more!) on a lack luster bottle that you purchased for a special event! And there are few better things that spending $60 on a bottle that brings joy to you and your friends.

All of that said, today’s Scotch versus Scotch is a three way battle between some 18 year old offerings. In one corner we have a bottle from Costco, the Kirkland Highland 18 Sherry. In the second corner we have a bottle of Glenfiddich 18. And in the third corner of our triangle shaped ring, we have the Macallan 18. Two of these offerings are finished in sherry and the Macallan is aged in sherry alone so this should be an interesting comparison. The price differential between these three bottles is also extreme so we’ll get a great idea of the value of each of these bottles.

 

COLOR
The Kirkland (bottled by Alexander Murray and Co) and the Macallan are almost identical in their slightly reddish golden hue. The Glenfiddich is noticeably a few shades lighter in color.

NOSE
The Kirkland 18 Sherry cask smells like barley! Sherry barrels generally impart a nutty and spice filled flavor into the distillate they cradle and the barrels that AM&Co happened to pick for Costco are a pleasant deviation from the norm. There are also toffee notes strewn about the barley but they’re quite a bit more subtle than any typical whisky. The Glenfiddich has the fruitiest nose of the three… but that should come as not surprise to any Glenfiddich fans. Freshly sliced apples are drowning in sherry (sherry apple pie O.O) and soft baked tree fruits are sprinkled in small dashes of sugar! This is heaven! Ahhh, the Macallan 18. World famous for scotch lovers, it reeks of Sherry with bits of toasted oak. I know this bottle far too well. [Scotch] gifted me my first bottle last Christmas and I’ve already got a second replacement bottle for the inevitable demise of this liquid gold. In case you’ve never tasted this sherry and chocolate concoction, I’ll just leave a link to its previous review here.

 

 

PALATE
The Kirkland is light on the tongue with Sherry and barley! If you’ve ever had Korean barley water (보리차), you’ll find yourself right at home! There’s a bit of light fruit which is no surprise considering the distillery chosen to source the 18 year old hooch. There may be some grapes that are also present in the mix. Water brings up some unpleasant oak notes so if you’d like to enjoy this, like the Pappy Van Winkle 23, skip the water! As I bring the Glenfiddich towards my face to sip it, I’m immediately greeted by a bowl of fruit sugar! This pour is the most classy rendition of an apple pie in liquid form. From the soft, luscious baked apples to the cinnamon spices, it does not disappoint. I’d like to pair this with Thanksgiving this year.🙂  Whichever casks they chose for batch 3454 all deserve a medal! The richness of the Macallan 18s sherry and spices blast to the forefront of your tongue. It’s a small aria in Macallan’s opera of sherry (compared to the NAS cask strength) but along with sherry comes chocolate and oranges and even a touch of oak. Decadent.

 

 

FINISH
The Kirkland finish is sherry spicy with fruity notes. It’s definitely enjoyable as a sipper. The Glenfiddich finishes with oloroso spices and pepper… another solid offering from the valley of the deer. The Macallan lingers like an old friend just in from out of town. A best friend.

 

 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS
The Kirkland was $60 for the bottle, the Glenfiddich $80, and the Macallan $200. Not really a fair comparison when there’s more than a 300% difference in price between two of these bottles. That said, each of these bottles holds value for their respective audiences. The Macallan is something people can brag to their friends about trying. The Glenfiddich is something that can be shared with friends at home. And the Kirkland? Obviously a value at its price point and that’s more than admirable.

 

Which is your favorite? Which have you tried? Let us know.🙂

 

Slainte

 

-[Sniff]

Scotch VS Scotch : Glenfiddich 21 Rum Cask Reserve vs Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask

Happy Friday fellow scotch lovers!

It being Friday, I figure there are few things more fun than sharing some spirits with friends! What are you supposed to share with them though? Rum? Scotch? What If I told you, you could share BOTH with them at the same time? Welcome to today’s Scotch versus Scotch: the Glenfiddich 21 Rum Cask Reserve and the Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask.

COLOR
Their colors are almost identical with just a slight tint of extra darkness edging into the golden Glenfiddich glass. As it turns out, a seven year difference in casks doesn’t always mean a huge difference in color. There are so many factors that go into the impartation of color (e-150a aside) beyond age. Sherry usually imparts a dark redness to the spirit but rum, it seems, is all about golden hues.

NOSE
The Glenfiddich’s nose is filled with butter cookies with a touch of their signature tree fruits waiting in the wing. There are some ripe citrusy notes from what smell like orange peels (with just a small splash of chocolate) to a touch of refreshing lemony-lime notes. It’s a fruity mixed cocktail that instantly transports you to a warm spot on the sand!

The Balvenie in comparison is a glass of brown sugar and fudge warmed over honey. Some fruits begin to appear and I’m sure I can see Glenfiddich on the other side of the same rummy beach.

Going back to the glenfiddich, you can smell the difference in the richness of the nose of each pour. This is one of the best parts of doing a side by side comparison of such contrasting spirits: some of the commonalities melt away and the distinct idiosyncrasies of the whiskies rise to the surface.

PALATE
Initially on the palate the Glenfiddich is light and unassuming. It’s raw sugar cane over baking spices with a slightly tannic mouthfeel. The oak from 21 years of aging in two barrels is starting to show which (most likely) explains the tannins.

Taking the Balvenie to the nose again, I’m anticipating the fudge before I’ve even sipped it! The mouthfeel is a much lighter body than the Glenfiddich. Where the Glenfiddich’s mouthfeel was a Jaguar F-Type, the Balvenie is an Ariel Atom. An Ariel atom filled with creamy, buttery, honey and vanilla cookies! Luscious for something so light and an absolute joy to savor!

FINISH
The Glenfiddich finishes with a bit of spices rising to the surface alongside more citrus. The oak really draws attention to itself as the medium bodied finish dips its toes into the Caribbean sand one last time.

The finish in the Balvenie is a bit lacking (in length and intensity) compared to the Glenfiddich but I’m not sure I’d like an overbearing oak finish to end something so decadent.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Picking the winner for this rum battle is EASY. Do you love big hulking flavors and wine? The Glenfiddich is for you! The rich flavors over slightly tannic mouthfeel will bring the beach home with you. Do you love to gorge yourself on buttery fudge cookies? Then the Balvenie is for you! The decadent nose and palate will set up a rum bakery in your glass.

Do you love all of those things??

(If you do, odds are your wallet isn’t going to like you very soon!🙂 )

Which is YOUR personal favorite?

Slainte!

-[Sniff]

What’s in a name?

Good day readers, the topic of today is one that is constantly asked about by co-workers, friends and even some people in the beverage industry. Why is a Single Malt called a Single Malt or a Blended Malt, a Blended Malt? What’s the difference between Whisky without an ‘E’ and Whiskey with? And does Bourbon have to be made in Kentucky to be called a Bourbon? These and a few more questions will be sorted out with some definitions and meanings that can be referenced whenever you wish. Enjoy!

Bourbon Whiskey (Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits):

  1. Produced in the United States. 2. Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn. 3. Aged in new, charred oak barrels. 4. Distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume), Entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume). 5. Bourbon does not have to come from Kentucky, just the US.
A portion of a barrel and a seared french oak stave used in the barrels for flavor.

A portion of a barrel and a seared french oak stave used in the barrels for flavor.

Irish Whiskey (Irish Whiskey Act of 1980):

  1. Irish whiskey must be distilled and aged on the island of Ireland; that is, either in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. 2. The contained spirits must be distilled to an alcohol by volume level of less than 94.8% from a yeast-fermented mash of cereal grains (saccharified by the diastase of malt contained therein, with or without other natural diastases) in such a way that the distillate has an aroma and flavor derived from the materials used. 3. The product must be aged for at least three years in wooden casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 liters (185 US gal; 154 imp gal). 4. If the spirits comprise a blend of two or more such distillates, the product is referred to as a “blended” Irish whiskey

Tennessee Whiskey (House Bill 1084):

  1. A straight Bourbon Whiskey authorized to be produced only in the State of Tennessee. 2. Maple charcoal filtering. 3. Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn. 4. Aged in new, charred oak barrels. 5. Distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume), Entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume).

Scotch Whisky (Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009):

  1. Produced at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added). 2. Distilled at an alcoholic strength by volume of less than 94.8%. 3. Matured in a warehouse in Scotland in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 liters for at least 3 years. 4. Containing no added substances, other than water and caramel coloring (E150A). 5. Minimum alcoholic strength by volume of 40%

17yr DoubleWood

Single Malt:

Single malt Scotch whisky means a Scotch whisky produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery by batch distillation in pot stills.

Single Grain:

Single grain Scotch whisky means a Scotch whisky distilled at a single distillery but, in addition to water and malted barley, may involve whole grains of other malted or unmalted cereals.

Blended malt Scotch whisky:

A blend of two or more single malt Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.

Blended grain Scotch whisky:

A blend of two or more single grain Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.

Blended Scotch whisky:

A blend of one or more single malt Scotch whiskies with one or more single grain Scotch whiskies.

Blended Malt (Formerly named Vatted malt/Pure malt but legally prohibited since SWR 2009):

A blend of single malts from more than one distillery (possibly with differing ages). Blended malts contain only malt whiskies—no grain whiskies—and are usually distinguished from other types of whisky by the absence of the word “single” before “malt” on the bottle, and the absence of a distillery name. The age of the vat is that of the youngest of the original ingredients. e.g. Johnnie Walker Green

Blended:

Blended Scotch whiskies contain both malt whisky and grain whisky. Producers combine the various malts and grain whiskies to produce a consistent brand style. e.g. Ballantine’s

Independent bottling:

Many malt distilleries sell whisky by the cask for blending, and sometimes to private buyers. Whisky from such casks are sometimes bottled as a single malt by independent bottling firms such as Signatory, Alexander Murray & Co. and Gordan and Macphail.

Kirkland Glenlivet 40 Year Single Malt Scotch bottled by Alexander Murray and Co

Brandy:

A spirit produced by distilling grapes or other fruit. In the European Union, there are regulations that require products labelled as brandy, except “grain brandy”, to be produced exclusively from the distillation or redistillation of grape-based wine or grape-based “wine fortified for distillation” and aged a minimum of six months in oak. In the US, brandy that has been produced from other than grape wine must be labelled with a clarifying description of the type of brandy production such as “peach brandy”, “fruit brandy”, “dried fruit brandy”, or “pomace brandy”, and brandy that has not been aged in oak for at least two years must be labelled as “immature”.

Cognac:

Named after the town of Cognac in France, is a variety of brandy. In order for it to be considered a true cru, the wine must be at least 90% Ugni blanc, Folle blanche and Colombard, while up to 10% of the grapes used can be Folignan, Jurançon blanc, Meslier St-François, Sélect, Montils or Sémillon. Cognacs which are not to carry the name of a cru are freer in the allowed grape varieties, needing at least 90% Colombard, Folle blanche, Jurançon blanc, Meslier Saint-François, Montils, Sémillon, or Ugni blanc, and up to 10% Folignan or Sélect. Grades of V.S. (at least 2 years of age), V.S.O.P./Reserve (At least 4 years of age), XO/ Napoleon/Hors d’Age (at least 6 years of age) signify the age of the spirit.

We hope that clears things up a little bit. And as always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us via email or any of our social media platforms for answers. Slainte!