Silver Barspoons… from scratch! (A Balvenie adventure!)

It’s been a minute since I went on an adventure with a whisky brand and lucky me, Balvenie had exactly the kind of trip I’d sign up for in mind. Balvenie gathered up a handful of bartenders and decided to take them on a field trip to the Baltimore Jewelry Center to create real .925 silver bar spoons… from scratch!

Balvenie swears by their five rare crafts and loves to embody the image of a brand that creates things from scratch, the old fashioned way. So they’ve got home grown barley and a traditional malting floor that make up a small percentage of their bottlings each year. Tack those two crafts in with their copper stills and on site barrel coopers to bump the number of crafts up to four. And the fifth of their rare crafts is their malt master whose title is currently rocked by the venerable David C. Stewart, MBE. So if you’re wondering why they’re even creating a trip like this, look no further than their core values.

We arrived at Baltimore Jewelry Center and got ready to do work! Our teacher walked us through the entire process from start to finish for creating the spoon and man-oh-man was there so much to learn!

The first part of the process was to cut out the bowl of the spoon which actually starts as a completely flat piece of silver. The basic shape of the bowl needs to be cut out and the edges need to be filed smooth.

Next up is straightening the handle and flattening the ends.

A quick lesson in playing with fire brought everyone on board with softening the silver and adding barspoon twists!

Annnnd cleaning up the silver a bit!

Now you’ve got your pieces ready to go!

With a little help, everything gets soldered up!

And voila! Here’s my ugly child!

Everyone made one that was unique and interesting!

So thank you to Balvenie and the Baltimore Jewelry Center!!! What a fun time!!

 

The elevator, the blender, and the bathrobe (Balvenie at the Lotte Palace NYC)

It’s not everyday you get invited to a tasting event hosted in a three floor suite that books for $30,000 a night but hey, when in Rome, amiright?

I know that from a marketing perspective, going all out in ridiculous ways to show off your brand is definitely a way to make memorable experiences (and this was VERY memorable) but what made it the most remarkable to me was the ability to sit down with Balvenie’s new blender Kelsey McKechnie. (That’s Mih-KECK-nee.)

I snapped the above picture of her in the living room of the second floor of this three floor suite. As you can see, there’s a throw pillow that has been customized with Balvenie’s logo but I had no idea how much effort was poured into creating this space until I broke out my camera.

Kelsey is ridiculously pleasant. Her responsibilities include blending all day (by sampling whiskies), asking “silly” questions of her mentor David C Stewart, MBE, and fooling me into believing that Monkey Shoulder is made of Glenfiddich, Kinninvie, and Balvenie… which it used to be but since no one noticed the proprietary blend now used, you can thank Kelsey’s killer palate.

I brought the tin from my Balvenie 12 American Oak bottle to have her sign it because I know if she’s studying to take DCSMBE’s place, she must be a giant whisky nerd. The kind of enthusiast that goes beyond getting excited about a bottle. The kind of person in the whisky industry that can speak eloquently about new make yields based on different strains of barley. The kind of person who’s ready and willing to answer questions about the direction of the distillery and exudes excitement for the future experiments with the variables that make whisky so versatile. And she is!

I could go on about how amazing she is but I’m sure you’ll get to see that over time as she grows as a blender and develops her own unique expressions for the Balvenie. She may not be a Star Wars fan but she certainly pulls notes from the whiskies we’re sipping like a beast!

Okay. Enough about the real reason why I said yes to a last minute invite to try the Balvenie stories lineup. Wait. Have I mentioned that yet? 😀  The reason Balvenie rented this incredible space was to launch (read: show off) their three newest releases. The 12 American Oak and 14 Week of Peat will both be core offerings from Balvenie this point forward. (They should be 60 and 100 usd respectively). The third offering is a one off and will be as limited a release as can be. France is only getting 64 bottles in total. I’m not sure why France’s consumption is relevant but I’m just repeating what I was told lol.

The third release…

Is the 26 year Day of Dark Barley. It’s essentially the rest of the 14 Roasted Barley from back in the day that was moved to ExBourbon barrels and revealed 12 years later to be a formidable dram. It’s SRP is wild (799 usd) but I’ve heard rumors that it will be found for a bit less than that. I can’t say who said that but I trust that person and hope they’re right.

I did a mini review on my Instagram stories about the Dark Barley specifically because I went to NYC hoping I’d hate it. With it’s price point, I figured there’s no way it could actually be as good as the price implies. I was pleasantly (not to my wallet) surprised. On the palate it started with a fruit sugar compote type jam that opened up to notes of coffee and a gallon of cocoa powder being spilled on your head. The finish was absolutely vibrant and alive in a way that isn’t typical for Balvenie. Not for their core range anyway…

As blown away as I was by the dark barley, I was just as blown away by the venue so let’s do a quick walk through before my sleep deprived brain forgets!

The picture above is the first thing you see when you walk through the door to suite 5311 of the Lotte Palace. The second thing you see?

A vaulted ceiling living room with handblown glass art piece on the ceiling. Outside you can see the Burberry building and to the left, from the middle of the room, the Chrysler building can be seen tucked between a few other sky scrapers.

Further to your left, the two story tall wallpaper drenched in the artwork of Andy Lovell can be seen. He’s the same artist that designed the artwork for the three new whisky tubes and bottles.

It’s a lot to take in all at once. Walking across the “living room”, the view towards the entrance is just as gorgeous.

The small details of the Balvenie logo being vinyled onto the black glass wall in the wine storage space to the left, the oil diffusers pumping out the most pleasant smells, the barley and packaging on the counter near the barrel that contains a balvenie story, everything added up to something incredible.

Before I even move to the second or third floor, let me explain why JP Bourbon is in a bathrobe lol. Upon entering the space (and putting down my photo bag), I was greeted by a Balvenie liason who quickly escorted me over to a young lady who was hand embroidering bath robes.

Alexandra: “What name would you like on it? Wally or ScotchNSniff?”
Me: “ScotchNSniff, I think lol”
Alexandra: “And what color would you like it in?”
Me: “Maybe… green or blue?”
Alexandra: “Great!”

And not 20 minutes later did I have a bathrobe with “ScotchNSniff” embroidered on it, in my hands. Bonkers. I had come to NYC to get the scoop on the new blender in town and left with a bespoke bathrobe. #Wild


(sorry for the iPhone pic of the robe. I want to take some legitimate pictures of it soon!)

Oh, and the food was good 😉

I didn’t really take many pictures on the second floor because I was caught up taking a few pictures of people on the second floor… and all of the ridiculous details that Balvenie added to the space. Less talky-talky, more pictures!


Kelsey on the couch in the second floor living room (next to the second floor dining room).


New York City Balvenie Brand ambassador Naomi Leslie enjoying a dram by the window against the city skyline.

 


Balvenie hand towel and soap

 


Balvenie throw pillow and blanket

 


Balvenie embossed picture album

 


Balvenie chocolates, note paper, and pens

 

And yes… even Balvenie toilet paper stays O.O

Absolutely impeccable attention to details. It was overwhelming as I started to notice all of the “easter eggs” appearing in plain sight.

I’m sad I didn’t take any pictures of the elevator on the second floor but it takes you to the third floor where you step out into a third living room and more importantly… the roof. Complete with hot tub and killer view.


Naomi and JP Bourbon exchanging stories on the rooftop.

 


The new Balvenie 12 American Oak on the edge of a hot tub with the Chrysler building in the background.

I can’t speak highly enough about the experience. It was weird to have such a decadent experience coming from Balvenie as opposed to Macallan or Glenmorangie as they tend to be very intentional about the luxuriousness of their brand. Balvenie has always felt more like home and I hope crazy launch events like this aren’t they only type of event they continue to use to share their whisky with the world. That’s not to say I’m not eternally grateful for this experience but I don’t want them to forget why I fell in love with them in the first place… their nice ambassadors and honey drenched whisky notes.

Slainte.

-Sniff

P.S. Here are a few more images for fun lol


Views for days


Ely (TheScotchWhisperer) snapping a few iPhone pics


Kelsey answering ALL of the questions


More details


Thank you  Balvenie ❤

Haggis, a hundred times, haggis!

Being American, I have come to realize that a number of laws we have were created based on hyperbolic (and often unfounded) fear. America’s founding is littered in the “live and let live” or “don’t tread on me” type mindset but as of late, it seems everyone is trying to tell everyone else how to live, specifically through legislation. With all of this in mind, I’m here to talk about one of the most heinous food bans we have in America…

Haggis.

Banned from import into America in 1971 because it contains sheep lung, haggis is little more than a leftover-sheep-meat-mashup that I’d affectionately compare to scrapple. It has a very similar texture to scrapple but is (in)famous for being served encased in a sheep’s stomach. Once removed from it’s stomach-y packaging, it’s very often prepared in a myriad of ways. Let’s explore some of those ways!

Below, we have haggis making an appearance on nachos in a nifty little pub called “Scotch & Rye” in Inverness.

They also have popcorn haggis…

At this point you’re hopefully thinking “man, oh man, I need some haggis in my life!” but I’m afraid you’re probably thinking “This guy’s gone of the deep end about some Scottish scrapple!” Either way, this haggis inspired train ain’t stoppin’! Let’s head up to Helgi’s in Orkney and see how many more ways we can have it!

Below we’ve got some haggis fondue!

And what’s this? Haggis mac and cheese? I think so!

This next sandwich is known as a Haggis and Whiskey Rarebit Sandwich.

Rarebit (which rightly sounds like rabbit) doesn’t actually contain any rabbit. It’s just a fancy name for a savory melted cheese sauce over bread. The only thing that makes the above sandwich different from a normal rarebit sandwich? You guessed it: HAGGIS. ❤

Continuing the haggis mashup below is a haggis grilled cheese from a tiny coffee shop called Square root café in Keith!

You might be thinking “Grilled cheeses are okay but I only love pizza.” Well you’re in luck! That’s right, at Black Isle Bar in Inverness, you can get HAGGIS PIZZA Y’ALL.

This haggis train is slowing and I’m sad to see that but I only spent a week in Scotland this time around so there was only so much time for haggis lol. Below is the most classic way to enjoy haggis. It’s “Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties” which is haggis, rutabaga, and potatoes. Thanks to the Kirkwall hotel in Orkney for the beautiful table setting.

And last but certainly not least, just plain haggis. I actually had planned to have a scotch egg at this spot (The Classroom in Nairn) but alas, they had just taken it off the menu. So a side of haggis had to do.

And there you have it. Hopefully my rabid enthusiasm for this delicious delicacy drives deep the dedication to find good food and enjoy it as many ways as you can. Like whisky, food can be just as interesting and thanks to laws that don’t inhibit the way it’s made, it can be even more interesting than whisky. Wait, there are laws that can inhibit the way it’s made? Ah, welcome back to America.

Distilleries from above…

Annnnndddddd BACK from Scotland! For the second time, I’m sitting at home unpacking my luggage and reminiscing about all of the memories that were just created. From the distillery visits to the friends made to the whiskies shared to the haggis devoured, Scotland was an incredible (but short) time! Luckily, this time around, I ended up taking a drone to Scotland to compliment the slew of pictures I took and I just wanted to share those here before I post them anywhere else. (Granted, if you follow ScotchNSniff on IG, you’ve no doubt seen these in my stories AND the video footage)

The first distillery visited this time around was Highland Park and due to a number of technical difficulties (read: fear of breaking the law), I actually didn’t get any pictures of the distillery from above. Just one lack luster video of the distillery and it’s dunnages before I quickly brought the drone down.

The second distillery visited was Glenrothes. Unfortunately, Glenrothes isn’t open to the public so getting the tour was a hookup but I made sure to take a ton of pictures that can’t usually be taken. Here’s that drone shot:

Gorgeous isn’t it? You can see the still house on the left of the pagoda and the dunnages on the right side in different colored roofs.

The third distillery visited was Macallan and though I had mixed emotions about seeing the new distillery, I’ve come to grips with what it is they’re trying to do as a brand. That’s all I’m going to say about that for now.

The concept of a distillery that matched the rolling hills was accomplished by the design of same people who designed terminal 5 at heathrow in London (and 140 million pounds). It’s definitely overwhelming and a dauting distillery to visit. If you’ve never visited the old distillery, I think you might like this one. Definitely let me know if you’ve visited and how you feel about it.

Next up was anCnoc in the charming area of Knockdhu. It’s a small but fierce distillery. Churning out good tasting whisky with just a few guys running the entire operation. Plus, the distillery manager Gordon is an hilarious human being.

The last distillery visited this time was Balblair! What a ton of fun John McDonald can be when he’s sharing the history of the distillery and where they’re headed now that they’ve switched up their bottlings from vintages to the age statements (less confusing for the customer to calculate ages). Here’s a gorgeous shot of Balblair from the sky.

They’ve got a ton of storage for barrels!

So there you have it! Scotland was a great time and I hope to share more from the trip but for now? Just these few aerial images for your eyes to feast on.

Slainte.

-Sniff

 

A walkthrough of the Macallan 1824 Master’s Series

Today we’ve taking a small video adventure with Macallan national brand ambassador Nicolas Villalon. I really hoped that this video would be educational, accessible, and not overwhelming to a beginner whisky enthusiast… let me know what you think in the comments below or on YouTube!

SNS in Scotland (Day 3)

Day three.

I know, it’s been hundreds of days since I updated you on the Scotland trip from May of 2017 but I’ve been busy with a lot of things including new youtube videos and tons of IG content so if you’re not following on YT and IG, you know what to do 😉

Day three in Scotland was Glenfiddich Day lol. A day spent at “Disney world” of distilleries. The pictures will do most of the talking but I’ll try to add as many interesting details as I can remember!


A view from the parking lot.


On the far side of the parking lot there’s a really nifty looking tree created from barrel staves. A lot of distilleries have pieces of art at their entrance but this was pretty unique in terms of size.


This mini-lake is actually warm due to its part in the distilling process…


Where I wanted to be 😉


The hustle and bustle of getting ready for visitors.


The entrance of the visitor center reeks of history and polish.


If every bar looked like this….


Ludo, the King of the Ambassadors, is our tour guide for our first stop at Kinninvie. Kinninvie, Balvenie, and Glenfiddich all sit on the same grounds separated by short distances.


Kinninvie is just a warehouse with stills in it at this time.


Back to the tasting room in Glenfiddich for a special tasting…


A mash tun as seen from the tasting room!


Ludo explaining what we’re tasting and why.


Lunch in the Malt Barn.


I ran over to the gift shop after lunch because I knew it’d be closed if we tried to visit the shop after the tour.


The Glenfiddich handfilling station where you can fill your own or have one of the kind employees fill one for you. This week was a part of the Spirit of Speyside week so Glenfiddich only had peated whisky on tap.


A little video about the distillery to start the tour.


Lorna, our tour guide, was an amazing wealth of knowledge.


There are malt mills… and then there are GIANT malt mills.


You can see the tasting room window on the left. This is just a closer view of the mash tun above.


Piping in real spring water!


Big, beautiful washbacks holding what is soon to be a 9% alcohol “beer”, essentially.



In most still rooms, the blue painted things mean “low wines” or “wash still” or the first distillings of that wash (beer) we spoke about earlier. Low wines clock in around 20-27% alcohol and are distillied a second time in spirit stills. Red painted things tend to mean that they’re coming from the spirit stills at anywhere from 70-80% alcohol. Finding the sweet spot of the spirit still’s output is the goal of every distillery.


The grounds are gorgeous.


Water from the Robbie Dhu spring if you’d like some!


The backside of the dunnages.


Heading into the Glenfiddich Solera vatting warehouse.


You’re not allowed to take pictures in the vatting room but I snapped a quick one as we were leaving.


The vent for the kiln styled malting floors of old.


Nifty flowers.


Lorna giving us details about the bottling room.


Lorna walking us through the Solera 15 deconstruction and the process to blend our own 15 year 😀

Et voila. There were some things I left out

Happy Repeal Day?!

Good day whisky lovers!!!

Last night was an incredible time at the legendary Jack Rose Dining Saloon in DC where the entire bar celebrated the repeal of prohibition a short 84 years ago! The entire ordeal of prohibition (and really the current secondary whisk(e)y market) is a great demonstration of the futility of laws against free will but that philosophical conversation should be saved for another time. 😉

Jack Rose was looking as incredible as ever even with a Christmas tree obstructing the bottle view. It only looks empty because being the NERD that I am, I love being first to events like this. Getting to soak the atmosphere in from pin drop quiet to across the table yelling about the effects of wood on the spirit of whiskey absolutely cracks me up inside.

Here is the motley crew that I was seated with tonight. Two friends and a handful of friends-of-friends that were all here to drink whiskey and learn new things. Lucky for us, the wealth of knowledge in JR surprises me EVERY TIME. I mean, yes, I carry around a lot of whiskey information in my head but holy moly do some people carry even more!

(Being a scotch lover, I couldn’t help but order a scotch egg appetizer. It wasn’t as good as haggis covered goodness I had at The Classroom in Nairn, but it wasn’t bad considering haggis is banned in the states.)

My buddy Sean really wanted to try a Willett flight so he could figure out which Willett he’d like to find and buy so I suggested that he talk to the owner, Bill Thomas, who is a rabid Willett fan. So we did!

Bill, who introduced himself as “just an employee” dropped giant knowledge bombs on us about the history of Willett, single barrel picks, and even some details about the preprohibition whiskey that he had acquired for the night. It was humbling to hang with another enthusiast who is just as excited about whiskey but with ten times the knowledge!

I had this boring flight above so I could answer the questions that I get all the time on instagram about the Basil Hayden Dark Rye and the Joseph Magnus Cigar Malt Blend. The Van Winkle 12 Lot B was on sale and ironically, I’d never tried it… so I got that too!

The Basil Hayden Dark Rye actually contains a portion of port wine in it and that seems to translate into a cough syrup-y thick mess of sweetness shrouded in a touch of rye. Some of the folks who’d never had whisky in this capacity loved it. It was just too sweet for my palate. It was like a speysider on sugar steroids even with the rye spice finish. The Van Winkle 12 Lot B was a pleasant noser but is so far from the 15 and 23 mark that it was hard to take it seriously. The fact that it fetches more than four times it’s SRP on the secondary is mind boggling.

Our Whiskey Somm made some great suggestions and did a great job of helping folks pick the directions of their flights. I was impressed with all of his suggestions but one… but it’s amazing that our palates were even that closely aligned when it came to picking whiskies for the noobs in the group. The best recommendation he made was the try the Monticello PreProhibition Maryland Rye…

I surprised a few of the friends at the table when I told them to look for the smell of cream when they nosed it… I wasn’t trying to autosuggest flavors but it was so rich in cream on the nose and the palate that I was blown away. Something about a hundred year old whiskey being so vibrant was so impossible and so amazing at the same time.

The exact notes I typed into my phone read: “Notes of cream on the nose. The rye is subtle and veiled behind strong caramel. The palate is incredibly soft. Holy soft vanilla hiding behind the lightest spices. It’s still creamy. The rye spices bring up the rear in a light and inoffensive way. A second sip and that candied sugar center is ridiculous. The finish lingers for dayyyyyys.”

The raw sugar and cream blend kept making me think of how awesome coffee would be if it could have its bitterness balanced by this incredible hooch. *drool*. At $40 a pour, it’s pricey but it’s worth it to try at least once in your life!

There was ONE more bottle that got brought to the table by Bill but we’ll save my feelings on it for another blog post. Let’s just say the current version of this companies offerings and their offerings from 30 years ago are miles apart. Which is great if you were alive to enjoy the better version 30 years ago…

So Slainte! Cheers! Kanpai!

Have a great day and remember… prohibition is bad, mmmmkay.