ScotchNSniff’s Christmas Gift Idea List Extravaganza 2015

Welcome once again to Scotch’s ScotchNSniff Christmas Scotch Gift idea list Extravaganza 2015 Edition!!!! We need to shorten that name.

Hello and Happy Holidays to all of you scotch loving friends! I’m sure you’re in a food coma right about now after eating your fill during turkey day, but stick with me and find out what my picks are for this holiday season. On with the list!


First off, with an average price of $53 per bottle, I’ve chosen Laphroaig Quarter Cask. The rich, oily and viscous body of this scotch shares characteristics of much older whisky. A little salinity in the nose, mixed with toffee and fig ice cream. The initial sweetness blends well with biscuit notes, easing into smoke and peat and ending with a nice bit of fruit and spice.

Sadly, Hibiki 12 had to be taken off my list for around $50. The Japanese boom has pushed many brands into and past the $100 price range.  So instead, I’ve opted for Dalmore 12 year, right at an average of $50. Toasty oak, vanilla and citrus on the nose, followed by baking spices and malt awesome-ness. The palate is spice rich, medium long and full of citrus and spiced cake batter.

Last but not least in this price range, coming in at an average price of $37, The Glenlivet 12 year. The 12 year’s nose dances around showing tons of fruit flavors. The tropical fruits of kiwi and white grape and pineapple are so vibrant and apparent. The 12 is clean and racy, leaving a floral tea and dried orange peel lingering on the palate.


The first up in the “around $100” section still holds a spot from last year, The Glenlivet 18. Priced at an average $88, this dram feels luxurious and the price seems to match the quality and character better than more expensive whisky. Brown sugar, freshly grated nutmeg and sweet sherry fill the nostrils. Rum soaked raisins and figs, baking spices and tannic apple skins drape over the tongue. Delicious.

Second up isn’t even a Scotch, it’s a Bourbon. Coming in at $72 and only available to the European market, Blanton’s Gold Edition. The nose is full of raspberries, sweet vanilla and orange zest. Apricots and dried fruits are the first thing you’ll taste, layered with vanilla cream and then matched with rich spices. The oak is perfectly toasted, lifting notes of cocoa and more sweetness. This bourbon, at this price, knocked it out of the park for me.


The first one on this expensive list has everything I look for in a Scotch whisky. The Macallan 17 Fine Oak. With an average price of $204, I believe that this is the definition of a Speyside single malt Scotch whisky. Sweet honey, cotton candy and marshmallow Fluff on the nose. The mouth feel has incredible creaminess, bold oak spices and vanilla. Finishing off with a little nuttiness, dried fruits and nicely dry.

Here’s the issue…. This is also a bottle that I believe is the very definition of a Speyside single malt Scotch, The Balvenie 17 DoubleWood at a more affordable average price of $138. The nose, expressive with cider, floral heather and red fruits mixed with malt. The palate is rich of sherry and oaky spice and vanilla sweetness with a slight walnut nuttiness. Delicious.

I think it’s easy to realize that I love Japanese whisky. I enjoy a sweeter whisky and a lot of the Japanese varieties do a great job nailing it. These don’t really fit in the price categories but I really enjoy coming back and tasting these….a lot! The Hibiki 17 ($176) and the Hibiki 21 ($436), both are floral, complex and heavy weight on the palate, literally and figuratively. The 17 is sweet and slightly smokey, holding onto the plum flavors of the 12 year but incorporating mizunara oak tannins and spice. The 21 smooths out all the tannins and becomes dangerously drinkable (for your wallet at least). The darker dried fruits come out, but with the fresh fruity flavors as if plucked from the tree. Wisps of smoke swirl in the glass as toasty vanilla, cognac flavors of rancio create a whirlpool. Epic.  


Dream Bottle:

There are many ways online to get samples of really hard to find and hard to purchase bottles. If I had unlimited funds, this would be my pick. The Hibiki 30yr coming in at a 401k crushing average price of $2601 per bottle. I purchased a sample bottle for $77/ounce. Smooth is an understatement and I generally hate to use the word smooth, as it usually describes a surface and not a whisky. The spices and layers of flavors are immediate, but very subtle. But that subtlety is as concrete as the foundation of a house, Lasting from the first drop that hits your tongue, all the way to the coating of your throat and into your belly. There is no burn. This could be a serious cause of alcoholism….for a very wealthy alcoholic. Spice…the spice. fresh plums and spiced cakes dance around your palate while a slight smoke appears at the back of your throat. All too quickly, the ounce is gone and a page full of notes appear.

Remember, if you have any questions email us. Enjoy your holidays and may your selections be well thought out. Sainte!

Scotch, Out.

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. 😛

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! 😉