ScotchNSniff @ Balvenie Master Class Hill Center DC (2016)

Sweet!!

ScotchNSniff found themselves on a last minute adventure last week to the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital just down the street from the Capitol building in DC. This Balvenie master class was a fun tasting as always but the more interesting things that happened had little to do with whisky and everything to do with people. πŸ™‚

As we do at most whisky events in DC, we ran into Jennifer Holm and her crew from Momentum Worldwide. Momentum is the branding agency that Balvenie uses in the DC area and they do a great job hosting events like this. The last event we enjoyed with them had Monkey Shoulder spiked hot apple cider and this time we were greeted through the doors with a small Balvenie 12 cocktail. [I don’t remember the specific cocktail but it was TASTY! -Sniff]

The hors d’oeuvres were also delicious. A specific standout was the miniature BLTs! Bacon and small pieces of greens inside of a cherry tomato! What genius!

We enjoyed these cocktails and finger foods with some local friends also! Peat from Whisky + Architecture was there and so was DCWhiskey!


(Scotch, DCWhiskey, and Peat)

The giant reason this class even existed (and the whole reason we went) was the new east coast brand ambassador for Balvenie! Gemma Paterson! Her and her husband have moved to the big apple all the way from their home in Scotland! She’s as geeky about whisky as David Laird was so though we’ll certainly miss David, we know he’ll be having even more fun on the west coast.

Gemma’s never met a scotch she doesn’t like and her favorite happens to be the Balvenie 12 thanks to some awesome childhood memories. Her backstory is as fun and interesting as David’s and should you get the chance, do ask her about it.

She came to teach a class knowing that everyone had already been to whisky tasting classes before so she didn’t waste any time talking about the basics. Instead we dove into the science of whisky creation and nosing and nose blindness and water! It was really refreshing to get such detail both about whisky and the ghost at Balvanie’s malting floor (lol!).

There were a few gifts on the table besides whisky.

As always, a good time was had by all πŸ™‚

Go sign up for a class from a distiller you love and go enjoy life!!

Slainte!!


(Peat, Gemma, Scotch)

Event Review: Macallan’s RaiseTheMacallan

( A combination of checking dead links on our review page and perusing through my personal emails yielded a free post! Granted this post is three months delayed but it’s still relevant and fun to read, I promise. πŸ˜‰ )

Hello there fellow scotch lovers!

Sniff here giving his own report on the Macallan tasting and how it compares to other tastings that SnS has attended. I think it’s pretty impossible to write about these tastings without comparing them to each other because of obvious differences and similarities. Let’s start with the good, shall we?

Solid location. Carnegie Library is a gorgeous little spot but these well known brands seem to really pick gorgeous spots (Balvenie @ the Carnegie Institute for Science, Glenlivet @ the Longview Gallery). The layout had three main spaces, a waiting space downstairs for those who arrive early, a pre-tasting space, and the actual tasting room space.

The early-arrival space was just a pipe and draped room downstairs with no accouterments shy of some bathrooms. Once you got checked in via the QR code on your phone, you headed up to the “pre-tasting” space. After walking through an archway made to mimic the macallan estate building, there was an open area with lighted glass floor that was translucent with a mapped layout of the District. Pretty schnazzy but I’m sure that floor came with the library. lol. Going around the room there was a copper still (full size? probably not), a date chart for recording important dates from Macallan or via your phone for personal dates, a photo booth with Macallan backdrop, a colored light display that included a case containing five bottles of Macallan, a nosing station, a bar, and a giant bottle (able to be customized) between two bragging display cases containing some very rare bottles.

[Scotch] at the nosing station
The tasting room was set up almost identically to the way Glenlivet had theirs done by Pernod Ricard, in layers of seats that accommodated small groups from 4 – 6 very easily. It had the Macallan logo on a well lit back wall flanked by two giant screens for short video displays and close-up camera views of two demonstrations.

So there are the parts of the tasting you could observe from pictures but let’s take a look at was good, bad, and ugly, shall we?

The good. The choice of bottles was great: 10 Fine Oak (meh), 12 Sherry (great daily), 15 Fine Oak (nice), Rare Cask (pretty tasty). Not great because they’re the greatest bottles but because they’re a great selection to someone who doesn’t want to spend a bit over $500 to try something they might not even like. The greatest bottle is always the one you love enough to make your daily dram, quote me on it! The pre-tasting area was a little crowded but most of the displays were interactive so that made it a lot of fun. The actual tasting area was well laid out and had a fun presentation by Mr. Craig Bridger, Macallan brand ambassador. Overall the night, like the bottles, flowed pretty smoothly.

The bad. The pre-tasting area was a bit cramped for the number of people they hosted. Maneuvering some of the displays was difficult with the number of people but that’s generally preferable to an empty room, isn’t it? There was some serious misdirection when someone announced that everyone needed to head to the hallway to finally move to the tasting room. I feel like myself and the photographer who immediately started moving that way, were the only one’s who heard the announcement. The presentation initially started with the sales=pitch feel that Glenlivet owned so heartily but quickly evolved into a good time.

The ugly. There was no ugly. This was a free tasting event held directly by the Macallan!

Overall it was fun and well worth the cost of free. If you’re not signed up to receive invitations to Macallan’s events, I must encourage you to do so at Macallan’s website.

Slainte!

-Sniff

Balvenie Warehouse 24 @ Landmark Theater DC

What a ton of fun!!

[Scotch] and I received our invites from Balvenie (for Warehouse 24 members) to join David Laird and the hosting crew from Momentum (lead by the lovely Jennifer Holm) for a night of tasting at the Landmark Theater in DC and we obliged!

Having never been to a Landmark Cinema, I had no idea there would be a full bar just inside the doors. They had a really great selection for a small bar attached to a movie theater and it’s probably part of the reason this venue was chosen to host the tasting. (or perhaps it was the leather seats and stadium seating? πŸ™‚Β  )

The tickets for the event were actually hand made on a letter press by a boutique called Salt and Cedar (link: saltandcedar.com/). Everyone who made the RSVP for the tasting received one when their name was taken at the movie theater box office.

After checking-in and receiving your ticket, you walked down a hallway barely illuminated by Edison bulbs to a table where you were greeted with a hot cider mix. If we heard the ladies correctly, the glass you were handed came from a warmer full of apple cider and two and a half bottles of monkey shoulder. It was tasty but you had to close your nostrils to drink it. The steam from the drink would drive the alcohol into your nose to singe your nose hairs! πŸ™‚

Right next to the hot-scotch-cider table was a table full of tasty appetizers… YUM!

50 people were essentially smooshed into a hallway outside of the theater while our hosts prepared the theater for the killer tasting.

I’m going to let a few pictures do the talking here…

Each seat in the theater had the classic Balvenie tasting tray with a bag of popcorn on it. The cup holders each held a Balvenie branded water dropper.

Candy was passed around to be paired with the samples:

And of course the samples:

David gave a great presentation hitting on a few familiar points from other Balvenie events but of course bringing up quite a number of new stories that we hadn’t heard before.

It was great to have such a small group for the tasting event. At other events, groups are typically herded from location to location so people can taste, listen, and get out. In a theater, it was much more intimate. There were a few questions asked by other guests and very awesome answers were given. I think the level of detail was much better at such a small event. We watched a few (3) of the rare craft videos with Anthony Bourdain but in between David spoke about the five rare crafts that Balvenie holds true to (Barley, floor maltings, coppersmiths, coopers, and the Malt master).

We got to hear about the trick-of-the-trade that Balvenie uses to maintain consistency in bottles like the Rum cask expressions. We learned why the 17 DoubleWood has a purple label instead of the classic white label. We even got to hear about the history of cask finishing. At one point, I raised my camera and David even posed for a picture lol:

After all of the videos, speaking, tasting, learning, and fun, I think the best part of the entire event was being able to talk to David one on one and ask him questions related to other parts of the scotch world and his job like how he got his job and what his favorite scotch is outside of the Balvenie. It’s this level of personal attention at Balvenie events that keep us coming back. It’s what Macallan and Glenlivet have both missed the mark on. I’ve got theories as to why the tastings are so different (different brand goals, distillery sizes, etc) but it’s interesting to see the difference so obviously.

Β Balvenie, David Laird, Jennifer Holm, thank you again for a wonderful night of stories and scotch.

Slainte mhath!
Go here to sign up for Balvenie’s Warehouse24!!

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 aboutΒ whenΒ you buy your ticket as you are aboutΒ 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. πŸ™‚Β  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.Β 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! πŸ˜‰

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! πŸ˜‰

Slainte!!

-ScotchNSniff

 

The Glenlivet Adventure in DC!!

Greetings fellow Scotch lovers! Sniff here (yes, I know, I’ve been absent quite a bit lately), and I’d just like to recap the adventure that Scotch and Sniff enjoyed a couple of weeks ago at the Glenlivet Guardian’s tasting. A LOT of people have been asking how we find out about these events. Simply put, most alcohol distilling or bottling companies host events to get people excited about their brand(s). Many of them require little more than signing up for an exclusive club online. The best part? Most of them are FREE. Yes. Absolutely free. You’d be nuts NOT to sign up. They keep you up to date on new bottlings and you… spend all of your money on delicious hooch!

Moving on!

Upon arrival, we couldn’t help but compare this event to the Maker’s Mark event and the Balvenie event that we went to earlier this year.

Greeted by the beautiful ladies of Glenlivet. (Actually this event was sponsored by Pernot Ricard. It's always interesting to talk to these ladies about how they got to host such an event.)
Greeted by the beautiful ladies of Glenlivet. (Actually this event was sponsored by Pernot Ricard. It’s always interesting to talk to these ladies about how they got to host such an event.)

 

 

Ahh, heritage.
Ahh, heritage.

 

 

They had plenty of samples out to help you taste and this was all before the tasting class.
They had plenty of samples out to help you taste and this was all before the tasting class.

 

 

A preview (now realized) of their Naddura Oloroso bottling.
A preview (now realized) of their Naddura Oloroso bottling.

 

 

The tasting room setup was pretty killer. Very intimate and simultaneously group friendly.
The tasting room setup was pretty killer. Very intimate and simultaneously group friendly.

 

 

Each table had three glasses (where are the glencairn glasses??) with Glenlivet covers.
Each table had three glasses (where are the glencairn glasses??) with Glenlivet covers.

 

 

Near the glasses were four labeled canisters containing
Near the glasses were four labeled canisters containing “fruity”, “spicy”, “flowery”, and “smokey” flavors. If you like the smell of canister IV (peat/smoke), you’ll love ardbeg. If you’re normal, well, you’ll heave a little lol.

 

 

Our host, who, to be honest, felt like a salesman and much less like a connoisseur. Glenlivet (or Pernot Ricard) and Maker's should take some notes from how Balvenie presents their product.  If you're going to take the time to organize friends, take the time to teach and treat them like family.
Our host, who to be honest, felt like a salesman and much less like a connoisseur. Glenlivet (or Pernot Ricard) and Maker’s should take some notes from how Balvenie presents their product. If you’re going to take the time to organize friends, take the time to teach and treat them like family.

 

 

A random couple seated behind us, enjoying a dram!
A random couple seated behind us, enjoying a dram!

 

 

Overall the event was a good time but it lacked the family feel of the Balvenie event where you were introduced to pictures of people and told rich stories behind those people before sharing in a “family” drink. This Glenlivet event was much more of a “here, try some scotch ya noobs, go buy some”. Which, ironically, was still more organized than the Maker’s event where we had to yank information out of our hosts.

So if you decide you’re going to visit some of these events, keep an open mind as they all seem to have their own feel.

Now go open a bottle of your favorite sipper and enjoy!

Slainte mhath!

Sniff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scotch ‘n’ Sniff at the The Balvenie Rare Craft Collection

Greetings and Salutations!!!

Sniff, here. Totally been slacking in reviews due to a myriad of factors but I’ll be writing today’s recap of the Balvenie Rare Craft Collection (RCC).

First thing’s first. A lot of people really get caught up in things like how to dress at events like this. Scotch went dressed in a button up with nice jeans and shoes. I went dressed in a zippered hooded sweat shirt, jeans, and slip on Vans shoes. Like this blog, we’re doing all of this for the common man, not the guy who shows up in a three piece suit. Alright, pretensions out of the way…

The DC event took place at the Carnegie Institution of Science in DC at 1530 P Street NW. When you arrived downstairs, you were greeted by a few ladies to verify your tickets (free to folks to RSVP to Balvenie’s “loyalty program” dubbed Warehouse 24). Once your tickets were verified, this smiling lady gave you a booklet explaining the Rare Craft event, three sample drink tokens, and a custom RCC Glencairn glass.

 

BalvenieRCC entrance
Smile for Scotch!

 

Upon walking up the steps, the first thing you notice is this door… which will look familiar if you’re a member of the Warehouse 24 program.

Warehouse 24 door
Warehouse 24 door

 

Balvenie’s goal for the night was to draw awareness to craftsmen who still practiced traditional methods of work be it to build guitars, saddles, engines, and even ping pong tables and associate that with their own method of crafting single malt scotch.

A hand crafted guitar
A hand crafted guitar

 

A handcrafted ping pong table.
A handcrafted ping pong table.

 

A hand crafted Morgan :)
A hand crafted Morgan πŸ™‚

 

So that’s all good and well. Let’s get onto the SCOTCH. In the main area, there were two tables providing samples. The Doublewood 12 was being served at one and on the other end of the room, the Caribbean Cask 14 on the other.

Ah, the caribbean. Didn't we already do a review on you?
Ah, the caribbean. Didn’t we already do a review on you?

 

Neither of these is what I was personally looking for (since we have both and have done reviews on both). I was looking for the Portwood 21. After asking a rep, I was informed that one had to sign up for the “Master class” to get access to it. The rep then pointed me in the direction of a young lady with an iPad who could sign both Scotch and Sniff up for the class. BINGO!

Let's take the Master Class!
Let’s take the Master Class!

 

Have a seat!
Have a seat!

 

What have we here!?
What have we here!?

 

Slainte Mhath!
Slainte Mhath!

 

David Laird, brand ambassador for Balvenie US
David Laird, brand ambassador for Balvenie US

 

The class was taught by David Laird, a Balvenie US brand ambassador. Nice guy and very knowledgeable about scotch in general and the process used at the Balvenie distillery. From “Whiskey Dogs” to coopers to wood choice, he left no part of the process unturned. 95% of what we taught, we have available in blog posts here so it’s nice to know we weren’t far off of the general knowledge in the scotch world. πŸ™‚

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Overall the event was fun and educational. Scotchucational. πŸ™‚

Thanks to Balvenie for hosting this good time! It looks like William Grant and Sons will be hosting another via Glenlivet in November, also in DC… will we see you there??

 

-Sniff

 

 

#BalvenieRCC

A whisky by any other name… might not be whiskey!

As we’ve discussed before, “Whiskey” with an ‘e’ is not the same as “Whisky” without the ‘e’. Yes, the spirit may be distilled in the same fashion, but the ingredients (barley vs corn/rye/wheat) and the location of distillation (Scotland vs US/Japan/Ireland) are very different. That said… last night Scotch and Sniff headed out to Harry Brownes in Annapolis for a private tasting event held by two gents from Maker’s Mark. It’s free to sign up to be an ambassador on the Maker’s Mark website and it comes with a few interesting perks you can read about there. Basically, it’s an engaging program that helps to fuel some zeal in people who enjoy Maker’s. I think the rest of this story is best told with pictures.

 

Ryan Miles of Maker's Mark introducing people to the event.
Ryan Miles of Maker’s Mark introducing people to the event.

 

Mr. Ryan Miles pours Maker's Mark 46 samples for the MM Ambassadors
Mr. Ryan Miles pours Maker’s Mark 46 samples for the MM Ambassadors

 

Beautiful layout of Maker's Mark 46 samples and mini barrel.
Beautiful layout of Maker’s Mark 46 samples and mini barrel.

 

Ambassadors enjoying their time in the tasting room, adjacent to the bar.
Ambassadors enjoying their time in the tasting room, adjacent to the bar.

 

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 for 9 weeks in the barrels for flavor.

 

A veiw of the Maker's Mark 46 barrel through the mini barrel.
A veiw of the Maker’s Mark 46 barrel through the mini barrel.

 

They fed us with pulled pork cole slaw sliders covered in a Maker's flavored sauce! Delicious!
They fed us with pulled pork coleslaw sliders covered in a Maker’s flavored sauce! Delicious!

 

Overall the event was a lot of fun with friends and as with most things in the world of alcohol, “seek and you will find”. We inquired about the types of barrels used, the types of wood, the aging process, the warehouse conditions, and a myriad of other questions; all that they were willing to answer. This makes us doubly excited to plan our trip to Scotland in 2015!! Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this adventurous post. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and we’ll be sure to answer them!

I almost forgot to add the big announcement that Maker’s has! They’re releasing a cask strength (barrel proof for the bourbon lovers) expression of Maker’s soon! They had a listing of local bars in the DC/Baltimore/Annapolis area that would have it first and Jack Rose is on that list! Who’s excited for a Jack Rose Adventure Part Two!?