ScotchVSScotch: 2019 Michters 10 Straight Bourbon VS M10 Straight Rye

Happy Friday friends!

Michter’s was kind enough to send me two new 2019 release bottles to review and sure enough, I got to reviewing! (Just a little full disclosure!)

According to the paperwork that shipped along with these bottles, the M10 Straight Rye will only be released once this year. That came as a surprise to me since I rarely see them on the shelves as it is. I had no idea they did multiple releases during the year. I also heard on a podcast that they keep quite a number of these at the distillery so if you’re looking for a tour where you can grab one at retail, voila.

Normally when I grab a Michter’s, I’m reaching for the incredibly underrated Sour Mash which just hits the spot for me. Between that and their barrel proof rye (a rye done in a style that traditional rye spice fans won’t like thanks to the sweetness), I’ve never been left wanting. Remember when SNS went to NYC to do the Michter’s lineup tasting? 😉

Anyways, on to the review!

COLOR
The rye looks a normal bourbon brown where the bourbon actually has a slight reddish tint to it. I tried to really capture that in photos but they look really similar to a camera!
NOSE
The bourbon reeks of typical caramel and vanilla notes where the rye is actually incredibly sweet smelling next to it, like rye spices and fresh vanilla beans.
Master Distiller Dan McKee in the red shirt.
PALATE
The bourbon carries burnt brownie crust and coffee notes pretty well in comparison to the buttercream and rye spice goodness happening in the straight rye glass. The rye also drips in vanilla quite a bit. It’s very nice. Both of these are miles above the 2016 M10 Bourbon that had notes of cucumber in it. No joke. It was the weirdest thing to figure out while tasting.
FINISH
The M10 Rye lets some spice show up on the finish but nothing offensive. Like a whiff of crushed pepper without the sneeze. The M10 Bourbon is a little less exciting with a less remarkable finish.
FINAL THOUGHTS
So they’re both good. Let’s get that out of the way. But for the $130 SRP, I personally wouldn’t grab the bourbon and would ironically grab the straight rye without even thinking. For the price and flavor profile, I wouldn’t be disappointed.
Have you tried either of these? Any from previous years? Let me know!
-Sniff

 

Scotch VS Scotch : Wilderness Trail Rye vs Rabbit Hole Four Grain Bourbon

In case you don’t follow me on Instagram, I’m a RABID fan of Wilderness Trail Rye (WTR). Something they’re doing in their process is yielding some really delicious flavors. Not a typical rye but I’ve never been one for dill and rye bread spices. I’ll leave that to the MWND fans…

Anyway…

Recently, Rabbit Hole sent me a bottle (gratis) and after cracking it and digging in a bit, I realized a bit of the same delicious and soft nature I get in the Wilderness Trail was also present in the Rabbit Hole Four Grain Bourbon (RH4GB). Interesting.

The WTR’s mashbill contains 56% rye, 33% corn, and 11% barley where the RH4GB is made up of 70% Corn, 10% Malted Wheat, 10% Honey Malted Barley, and 10% Malted Barley. They’re nothing alike and still I find their friendly nature enticing even at a warming 48.8% and 47.5% ABV, respectively.

If you’ve never side-by-sided whiskies, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s amazing how much a whisky changes when it’s directly compared to another. Some of the characteristics you might really enjoy could disappear or become accentuated depending on how the two whiskies play against and with each other. It’s really neat. So though these two pours really taste great on my palate alone, we’ll see what happens when they’re pitted against each other!

COLOR:
The WTR is a darkened burnished copper against the RH4GB that looks a gorgeous fresh copper.

NOSE:
The WTR brings a bit of rye spice to the surface with a bit of citrus zest but not in an offensive way. There’s a bit of mint that shines through that I’ve never noticed but the RH4GB really brought that to the forefront. The RH4GB noses quite a bit more mellow and has hints of black tea. Alone it was pretty vibrant but next to the WTR, it’s a bit more subdued.

PALATE:
Ooooh! I’ve always wondered what it was that I was tasting in the WTR that really got to my palate and thanks to this side-by-side, it’s VERY obvious! So there’s balanced sweeter rye spices over one of my favorite flavors in the world… OVER-RIPENED BANANA! Sheesh! It’s so apparent, I’m not sure how I ever missed its goodness! *drool!*. The RH4GB is an interesting mashup of orange and mint with rye spice on the edges of the palate. There’s a softness lingering behind it all but it’s not really more than a wallflower at this palate party! The RH4GB also carries quite a bit less heat compared to the WTR. Neither is Elijah Craig self-immolation type heat but it’s just nifty to see the contrast.

FINISH:
The WTR lingers quite a while with a bit of citrus oil where the RH4GB finishes with mellow rye spice.

This was a review a long time coming as I can’t seem to stop buying WTR but I’m so glad I finally put my finger on that note I love so much.

I hope this review was as good for you as it was for me!

Have a great Friday! Cheers!

-Sniff

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 ❤

Scotch VS Scotch: Balvenie 12 American Oak vs 12 Doublewood

A little history before we jump into today’s SvS!

So the stories line from Balvenie include the new 12 year American Oak, 14 year Week of Peat, and 26 year Dark Barley, the first two being permanent editions to the Balvenie lineup. They all come with NFC/QR neck tags that will take you to a WEBSITE HERE so you can audibly hear some of the stories from the distillery from the Global Ambassador Gemma. (she’s literally a gem!)

The first in the stories lineup is one celebrating Kelsie McKechnie and the sweetness of American oak used in Balvenie’s bottlings. Kelsie is an up and coming blender at Balvenie currently absorbing all of the knowledge pouring out of David Stewart’s head (MBE, interview with him HERE). He’s been doing this for over 50 years now and is passing along his learnings to a capable young lady who, if this 12 AO is any indication, is going to be capable of great things,

All of that said, I actually purchased this bottle early from a store in Georgetown that put it on the shelf too early (lol!).

Enough talking, let’s get to tasting!

Color:
The American Oak (AO) is a light golden straw where the doublewood (DW) is actually a few brown tints darker. In the bottle the difference is even more apparent.

Nose:
The AO is all sweet cereal and barley on the nose! The malty character shines through very apparently! The DW next to it smells much darker and spicier in comparison with much lighter malt notes.

Palate:
The AO is a very friendly and soft mix of barley and yummy sweet fruit notes. The classic Balvenie honey character is there but it’s even lighter than usual. Side by side, the DW’s sherry sweetness shines well above the AO. It’s a very different dram. Like two kids from the same family. Yes, they’re obviously related but they’re both obviously into their own things!

Finish:
The AO’s finish smells like a beach house on a lake with vanilla and coconut notes but no salinity or seagulls. The DW’s finish is much more rounded with a spicy viscosity like the last fork of a rich meal at an Indian restaurant.

They’re both delectable and really, you can’t go wrong with either. If you’ve tried them both, which did you like better?

Happy Friday and Slainte!

-Sniff

Scotch VS Scotch: Highland Park 18 vs Highland Park 15 Cask Strength

Two posts into 2019 and I have yet to talk about whisky… is everything okay? Don’t worry, don’t worry. The format of SNS hasn’t changed! Thanks to the opportunity I was given to visit Orkney and the Highland Park distillery, I also got a chance to purchase a distillery exclusive single cask bottling. I was going to wait until later this year to dig into it but decided now seemed like a good time to jump into it! Let’s compare Cask #1938 15 year to the classic HP 18 year, shall we?

The COLOR of the 18 is a light straw gold where the 15 is more a caramel drenched golden nugget.

The NOSE of the 18 is much fruitier compared to this 15. This 15 is like rich fudge and both noses carry the typical heathery peat that HP is known for. With water, the 18 loses it’s fruit forward nose and leans into the more of the peat where as the 15 actually get more chocolaty. Very nice.

The PALATE on the 18 is heathery and light with a bit of fruit sugar sweetness, almost a honey drizzled tree fruit. It’s very enjoyable. The 15 actually has a touch of fruit rise to the surface but it’s much more toffee and espresso over a handful of spices. Normally I’d chalk these up to sherry spices but there are one or two very distinct spices in there that I couldn’t identify. I really need to buy a new spice rack. With water, the 18 doesn’t change much at all (which is actually a surprise). The 15 becomes a peated peach and apple mash that my tongue can definitely live with!

The FINISH on the 18 has a bit of cinnamon spice where the 15 at 60.3% is a raucous mess of heat! With water though, the 18 becomes soft and floral and the 15 really just carries the palate further and loses that cask strength edge.

This 15 makes me wish this flavor profile was available from HP more often. Chocolate, peaches, and apple aren’t typical flavors that they’re known for but it would be nice to see it mixed into other aged bottlings. (I can dream, can’t I?!) Have you tried this specific bottling? If you get a chance to head to the distillery soon, take an extra hundred and twenty pounds with you! You’ll be glad you did!

Slainte and have a great weekend!

-Sniff

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.