One Minute Whiskies, Random Thoughts, and Stranger Things 2

Happy Whisky Wednesday fellow scotch lovers!!

I have to admit, I didn’t expect to write this entry today but with so many small things happening all at once, I definitely feel compelled to type up some magic for you.

***** EDIT: ScotchNSniff glasses are NOW available on SIPDARK.com!!!!! *****

Right off the bat, I need you to know that ScotchNSniff finished recording 25 new videos for the youtube channel. Nineteen of them are One Minute Whiskies and the other six are typical ScotchNSniff videos but they’ll be hosted by myself and Tim and Brian from The Whisky Library DC. Hopefully you’ll find them all entertaining as we covered a gamut of topics and even had one wild rant video. Here’s the newest of the OMW videos:

For everyone who’s been following along, remember, the OMWs are lighter reviews meant to give you a quick overview of a whisky while you’re out and about. It’s not an in depth set of notes. 🙂

In terms of random thoughts, you guys might have noticed that the end of this year has been an absolute barrage of new whiskies from a number of distilleries everywhere around the world and though I hope I can review most of them, I know it’ll be super difficult so expect everything coming to be in the Scotch Versus Scotch type format.

The last thing I wanted to throw out there in this post are a few pictures that I’m excited about related to Stranger Things 2. Yes, these pictures include a set of toys from the show. No, I have no intention of doing what ScotchTrooper does. He’s a freight train when it comes to Star Wars toys pictures but these are just my own excitement for a TV show manifest in the form of some images. Enjoy!! Happy Whisky Wednesday!!

(Okay, I’ll add some other ones in there too!)

I might start selling prints of this one:

Balvenie 50 year? Pinch me, I must be dreaming.

A few weeks ago I got an opportunity to indulge in some of the most expensive whiskies available from The Macallan. It was a dram come true for many a whisky lover. The No 6. The M. The dream. Just when I thought I had woken up, like the movie Inception, I must have been subject to a dream within a dream. Even with the first kick of leaving the Macallan event, just a few short weeks later, I found myself drinking one of the most expensive whiskies to have ever existed.


[The Balvenie 50 Year Cask 191.]

I don’t know what you’re thinking but I know what I was thinking… did it taste like $40,000?

Some would argue that no whisky is worth that price of admission but for something distilled in 1952 only to be disturbed again in 2002, it’s hard to say that the cost per bottle wouldn’t be astronomically high considering the years of storage, care, and the angel’s share.

The color was a dark red. So dark red that it looked black any time you were looking at the edges of the dram in direct light. It was impossible to see through the bottle.

The nose had hints of fruit sweetness and actually made me believe that the pour would be on the lighter side of the palate. I was expecting something more typical of Balvenie’s signature profile but I am so glad I was wrong.

Uncharacteristic of Balvenie, the palate was an explosion of flavor. It’s typical of older whiskies that they can lose a lot of vibrancy and life from so many years in the cask but this 50 year old was alive and kicking! David Stewart, MBE., continued to try and assure me of the sweetness that I was tasting but my palate disagreed quite a bit. Yes, about 25% of what I was tasting was similar to raw sugar but the other 75% of the palate was definitely filled with spices. It wasn’t over whelming but it was definitely in your face. Amazing.

The finish was soft and unassuming, not too short and not too long.

I’m not sure what my brain was expecting beyond the honeyed and softer notes we’ve come to expect from Balvenie as of late but I definitely didn’t mind being surprised. This was bold. This was borderline brash. This was brilliant.

I’m so thankful that I had an opportunity to try it. It was certainly once in a life time and lately I’ve felt like I’ve been living enough to last a few.

Without further ado, my video interview of David Stewart, MBE. is below along with pictures from the event.

Enjoy! Slainte!


[The setup for the interview]


[@TheScotchFather and @theScotchWhisperer talking]


[Aaron of @whisky.arch interviewing DCS MBE]


[David C. Stewart, MBE.]


[A little group picture action! (thanks Jason for snapping this)]


[Tracie from Glenfiddich (@glenfiddichtf) with DCS MBE]


[Tim of @Whiskey_Library_DC speaking with Jack Rose owner @Mashbill_Thomas]


[Eric of @ScotchAndTime being ridiculous :P]


[Signature Time!]


[Tim of @Whiskey_Library_DC with DCS MBE]


[Raising a toast to @theScotchFather]


[Tracie (@GlenfiddichTF) exchanging a glance with Jen H. of Momentum who handles the marketing for WMG&S in the DC area!]


[All eyes on David]

Lost Ark Distillery Visit

It takes a village to make some whiskey!

There’s a new local distillery in Maryland that’s now open to the public! Introducing Lost Ark Distillery in Montgomery county! Who’s not excited about a new source for local hooch??

Lost Ark was started by and is run by Brad and Andy. They’re two local guys who work in IT that got the crazy idea in their head to start a distillery. To get started they took a class offered by a small distillery in Idaho that walks you through the process of creating whiskey from grain to bottle. Thank goodness Brad’s mother-in-law works for a major airline and was able to get them tickets to fly out there for free! One business plan and loan later and voila, here we are.

I showed up at their release party for the Lady Anne white rum that they’ve created and had fun with their mini-tour and Q&A. They also had bottles for sale and samples of the rum on site but no cocktails as a different type of alcohol related license is required for that, they said. I asked them about their future offerings plan and they hope to have some spiced rum out before Christmas, a one year bourbon, and a two year straight bourbon.

Another interesting tidbit is their drive to source their ingredients locally. From the corn and wheat they’ve purchased from local farms to the sugar that they purchased from Domino sugar up the road, they’re trying their best to keep it craft. They’re running all of these ingredients through their single four plate column still making batches one thousand gallons at a time. Thanks to the small size of these batches, it should be interesting to see what they churn out.

All of that said, I still haven’t written up a formal review on the bottle of Lady Ann white rum that I purchased. I’m not sure if it was aged in plain oak casks or their stainless tanks but it had those “young” distillate notes along with a bit of that molasses they sourced from Domino sugar. I think it’d be fine for mixing but I imagine it’ll be better with age in a charred barrel. I guess we’ll soon see.

We’ll try to keep on top of the local distilleries and their offerings!

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. 🙂

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 🙂

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. 😉 )

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? 🙂  )

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! 🙂

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.

 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 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! 😉

Slainte!!

-ScotchNSniff