The SNS Trip to Scotland (part 1)

Six days in Scotland

Sniff here. And oh yes… it’s finally time to talk about the legendary trip to Scotland. Before I really dig into the trip, I have to warn you that the story will not end in any way you are probably imagining. Obviously we didn’t die in a plane crash to or from Scotland but a trip like this really reveals interesting idiosyncrasies and even invokes some curious paradigm shifts in the way life operates.

To be completely transparent, I think it’s important to disclose how we went about booking this trip in the first place. We had planned (for quite some time) on visiting Scotland sooner, but due to our nutty schedules, it couldn’t have happen any sooner than it did. Luckily for us, the week we happened to be free to go overlapped with the end of the Spirit of Speyside Festival. This is a weeklong shindig in Scotland when the distilleries, industry folks, and locals, join together to create an amazing week of whisky inspired adventures. From whisky paired dinners to distillery tours to train rides with whisky tastings, this is definitely a week that any enthusiast would want to visit!

Originally, I had drawn up an itinerary for the entire week that incorporated much of the festival activities but [Scotch] thought it would be an awesome time to heed the advice of the brand ambassadors: “if you’re planning a trip to Scotland, talk to me first!”. Credit that quote to a handful of ambassador friends we’ve made in whisky industry (Gemma, Miles, Nicola, Cam, Matthew, and everyone else I’m unintentionally forgetting!).

After reaching out to them, our itinerary got thrown out and replaced by a dream trip. There’s no way we would have had the time and energy to organize the amazing visits the way that these friends came together to create, and for that, we’re eternally grateful.

We went from a speyside focused trip to a crazy whirlwind adventure that included 700 miles of driving, spanning from Wick to Inverness to Knockdhu and everywhere in between.

We visited Tomatin, Old Pulteney, Balblair, Glenfiddich, anCnoc, Glenfarclas, Glenlivet, Cardhu, and Macallan between Tuesday and Sunday! There was so much to see, learn, and do in just a few short days!

From a driving perspective, it’s important to note that Scotland has a zero tolerance for driving and alcohol. I’ve read that the limits are so low that most distilleries won’t risk giving a driver samples even by accident. Take sample bottles with you if you plan on driving! Some distilleries DO have “driver packs” which are just ziplock styled bags with samples bottles inside them but you really should bring your own if you plan on driving. If you’re staying in speyside the whole time it might be possible to taxi back and forth from your hotel the whole time but there is no uber out in the middle of what is essentially the Podunk of the UK. 🙂

Also of note, many of the roads your GPS will take you on to get into and out of speyside are single lane or single and a half lane roads. Negotiating with cars headed in your opposite direction is sometimes a chore. The speed limit on many of the roads is 60mph but there are plenty of places where 60mph is impossible to do so give yourself extra time to get where you’re going. Driving on the left is always fun but you definitely have to keep your wits about you if you’re used to driving on the right. Oh, and the signs are in MPH and there are speed cameras (and average speed cameras) up and down the highway.

From a regular ol’ tourist’s perspective, the landscaping is beautiful and covered in what locals call “Whin bush”. Wiki says it’s actually called “Ulex” but it’s a strange and brightly orange colored bush that litters the areas around the ocean side roads. It’s visible from planes flying into Inverness so if you see it, that’s what you’re looking at. Also near Inverness, if you’re into the magical story of the Loch Ness monster, you’re not far from the actual Loch when you hop off of the plane. There are castles around the country side too but we didn’t have any time for castles, unfortunately. Some of them did look beautiful from a distance. The food was good too. 🙂

The rest of the Scotland trip will be posted in separate parts after this one since they’ll be much more focused on specific distilleries and the details of those distilleries. Here’s to a handful of posts after this one!

Slainte!

SVS: Sagamore Rye vs Sagamore Rye Cask Strength

Wait, a rye from Baltimore?

There are a handful of articles out there about this new local hooch and how it’s sourced from MGP but the water used to bring it to proof is actually retrieved from a spring at the actual Sagamore Farm but that’s not what we’re going to talk about today. As usual, we’re about helping you to save a few bucks on a dram that you might not enjoy or encourage you to drop your wallet on a bottle that you definitely will love.

The biggest surprise about this bottle are the number of reviews out there that don’t talk about the vegetal notes that are RIPE throughout this bottle. If you’ve ever had the Brenne Ten year, this bottle will instantly bring back some memories for you as it boasts (suffers from?) those same vegetal notes that make you wonder if you’re not actually eating grass and weed clippings from a yard. We’re not even joking. But NO ONE ELSE is talking about these notes on the nose and flavors on the palate.

That said, let’s get to the review and maybe (if you’ve had it) you can comment and let us know if you get the same flavors going on in your bottle.

COLOR
If the Sagamore Rye Standard (SRS) is a tarnished brass color, the Sagamore Rye Cask Strength (SRCS) is a shade of brown darker of the same tarnished brass.

NOSE
The SRS is noticeably more vegetal than the SRCS. Where the SRS smells like peppery grass and rides an earthy wave all of the way into the ground, the SRCS actually shares a healthy hint of those notes but envelopes them in layers of rye spice (like the bread, not like dill) and sweeter notes typically found in whisky aged in American oak barrels. If you’re a fan of the dill rye flavors in Midwinter’s night dram, you might like the flavors in these brother bottles. If you’re not a fan of the MWND, you might need to cleanse your palate with Pikesville Rye (6) or Michter’s Barrel Proof rye. Both of which exude awesome rye flavors with no dill and no grass clippings.

PALATE
The SRCS rolls onto the tongue with heated authority and washes the tongue in more rye bread spices with just a touch of vanilla. The vegetal notes from the nose bowed out of the palate which is a pleasant surprise. The SRS on the other hand tastes muted against the SRCS and is not much more than the vegetal notes from the nose on your tongue. Everyone can appreciate a dram that delivers a palate in line with the nose but in this case, the SRCS abandoning the nose might be the more enjoyable way to sip this. With water the SRS is even weaker in terms of flavor and does little to mute the sharp grassy notes that soak the pour. A bit of water on the SRCS and the palate gets drenched in tannic dryness and exposes an almost candy sweetness subtly lingering around waiting for you to notice. A very interesting palate trick!

FINISH
Where the SRCS leaves the tongue awake and alive, the SR is its weaker sibling that suffers from sheer laziness. With water, the SRS is even weaker of a finish but the SRCS finds a bit more interesting complexity.

Well there you have it. Oddly enough, if we HAD to choose a bottle to have between the two, the SRCS would get the nod. Not because “whiskey at cask strength is better” but because the whiskey actually tastes better.

Have you tried either of these? Both? Let us know what you think so we can think we’re a little less crazy than we might be. 😀

Video Review of the Kavalan Vinho Barrique!!

Salutations fellow scotch lovers! We’ve been busy recording a whole new set of videos for your ears and eyes to enjoy so we’ll go ahead and post about a new one here. It’s on the Vinho Barrique from Kavalan which seems to have knocked the Hibiki 21 from the top of [Scotch]’s favorite list!

We’re also working a few new written reviews on some newer offerings from Glenfiddich (the XX from the experimental collection) and Glenmorangie (the letdown that is the Bacalta) and maybe a few others. 🙂

Until we get that posted, here’s that promised video. Slainte!

Japanese whisky under $100? Let’s!

We’ve got a new video for you! It’s about Japanese whisky in everyone’s favorite price range! (We had a problem with the microphone on the next THIRTEEN videos we recorded but we’re working on a permanent fix for next time so it doesn’t happen so please excuse the camera mic audio!)  Let us know what you think!

Stagg Jr. 65%

Stagg Jr has the name junior because its big daddy is George T. Stagg of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. While George T. Stagg is generally aged anywhere from 15-17 years, Stagg Jr is aged 8-9yrs and released a few times throughout the year. The bottle I have is from 2016 and 130 proof.

bottle-front
C: The color is a dark brown with even darker edges, yet still see-through.
N: Be careful, at 130 proof it will burn all the hair that you have in your nostrils. Once you get passed the high proof, you’re greeted with rum or white wine soaked raisins, vanilla beans have been scraped into the same vessel adding rich depth. Charred wood takes it’s place on the podium with the other flavors like milk chocolate and baking spices. Every now and then an astringent bite of the alcohol reminds me I’m too close to the fire.

bottle-in-hand
P: The first flavor I get before my mouth is bombarded with saliva, are the rummy/winey raisins. As my mouth tingles, cantaloupe flavors come forward met with charred toothpicks and dusty spice. Black pepper joins the cocoa powder and what I would imagine leather glove treatment tastes like. Not necessarily a bad thing.
F: The finish is vanilla sweetened black pepper and wood char and slight wood sour. This bourbon isn’t for the faint of heart. I feel like this is the bourbon that people used to drink in western movies, aka “fire water”, coming from a jug labeled with three X’s and possibly a skull and bones logo. I would drink this next to a camp fire in a heart beat. I love the tongue numbing heat that it brings and the genuine “my way or the highway” attitude.

bottle-window

There are other easily drinkable bourbons out there with more sweetness or more gentle caramel and vanilla flavors that make you feel good. But sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you want a kick in the pants and this Stagg Jr. is here to
deliver the business.
Scotch. Out.