Scotch VS Scotch : Michter’s Sour Mash Toasted Barrel VS Rabbit Hole Heigold

I know this head-to-head doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense on the surface but let me explain why I’m reviewing these two bottles together. Reason number one? I received both of these bottles for free in the mail. Full disclosure, that’s what’s up. Reason number two? Low entry proofs. Both of these companies throw their hooch into the barrel well below the classic 125 proof. It’s a guideline, not a requirement. And reason number three? Convenience, really lol. Just kidding! Both of these have a classic rival (for the rabbit hole, there’s the four grain and for the sour mash toasted barrel, there’s the classic sour mash) that’s worth mentioning. I love the “classic rivals” as I just called them but every bottle really should be judged on its own merits.

It’s CNPF time! Let’s do this!!

Michter’s Sour Mash Toasted Barrel (MSMTB) at 43% ABV versus the Rabbit Hole Heigold (RHH) at 47.5% ABV.

The MSMTB is the classic sour mash, finished in toasted barrels.

The RHH is a new high rye mashbill out of Rabbit Hole to celebrate immigrant Christian Heigold.

COLOR
The RHH is a dirty, oiled gold versus the cleaner gold color of the MSMTB.

NOSE
Rich vanilla with a touch of cinnamon and a hint of oak rise from the MSMTB versus the more spearmint caramel I’m getting from the RHH. That’s an interesting smashup of flavors in the RHH. With water, the MSMTB has vanilla blasting forward and it’s smells rounder, softer, and sweeter. With that same water, the RHH nose becomes super subdued.

PALATE
The MSMTB is drier than the rich nose on the palate with a smattering of baking spices jumping to the front of the palate. With water, the palate gets softer and is not as sweet as the nose though the baking spice relaxes quite a bit. The RHH is made from a mashbill that includes 25% rye and really smacks a rye spice pie in your face with just a hint of dill hiding in the background. With water, the rye mellows a bit but really isn’t as strongly affected as the sweetness in the MSMTB.

FINISH
The MSMTB finishes with a handful of astringent mint and is light and a bit short. The RHH is a freshly baked loaf of rye bread and still finishes like toasted rye bread with water.

I was hoping the MSMTB would be a souped up version of the Sour Mash but the flavors added by the toasted barrel aren’t really so amazing that I’d seek it out over the classic Sour Mash. And the RHH isn’t really my jam. I’m not a heavy rye spice person and tend to love much sweeter ryes. This bottle will be fantastic for folks who love MWND and the like. In contrast, I tend to enjoy rye bottlings like Wilderness Trail Rye, High West Rendezvous Rye, and the Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye. Hopefully that gives you a better picture of where my palate is coming from.

So it looks like I’ll be sticking to the Rabbit Hole four grain and PX finish and the Michter’s Sour Mash.

What do you think? 🙂

Have a great weekend!!

-Sniff

Glenfiddich gets a redesign!

Alrighty. 🙂

Something we don’t talk about on ScotchNSniff all that much is design. There have been a ton of brands rebranding and changing up their bottle and packaging design lately and though this doesn’t always immediately affect the look of your local store, once old stock is gone, it definitely will. Macallan made their bottles more masculine by bringing the shoulders up and making them wider. Balblair ditched their “vintages” and moved to easy-to-read age statements. Old Pulteney added some gorgeous details to their already nautical designs. There are a bunch of new designs mixing up the look of the whisky market.

One of the redesigns I didn’t expect and was really anticipating was the Glenfiddich redesign. Granted, it’s not slated to come stateside for a few months still, it didn’t stop me from ordering one of the new bottles from The Whisky Exchange! I definitely suffered in shipping to get the bottle here but I’m glad I finally got to see the bottle in person. Glenfiddich re-hired HereDesign to create the new look for the line up and apparently the refresh will happen over a period of a couple of years starting with the 12, 15, and 18 year expressions. HereDesign is the same group responsible for the look of the Experimental series from Glenfiddich and the new Balvenie stories lineup.

When I first saw the new Glenfiddich bottle my immediate thought was “OH NO. The chevron is already used heavily by Macallan!”. Personally, I love the chevron design in Macallan glasses and was really afraid of the Glenfiddich bottle carrying the same marque but Glenfiddich says it’s to represent the Valley of the deer (which is embossed in the glass just above the bottle neckline). And I get it… but I wonder if other people will notice the same detail.

Also, due to the optical illusion created by the chevron shape, I thought the bottom of the bottle below the chevron would be wider than the upper portion but it’s not. It’s amazing how some light on a shape can create spatial ideas in our mind that aren’t always rooted in physical reality but the reality of what our mind is capable of generating!

Another interesting design detail is the red banner at the very top of the bottle. It’s weird because I’ve never noticed red details on Glenfiddich bottles until this one but going back and looking at older bottlings, it IS a common occurrence. It occurs on the newest bottling with the year, a stag, and the “1887” representing the year Glenfiddich was established.

The 12 year statement is huge now and the words about the actual bottling’s makeup are now pretty snazzily printed right across it. In really gorgeous script below is “From the valley of  the deer”, also.

So there you have it! A walk around of the new Glenfiddich bottle that’ll soon be in stores! A number of my friends on IG have asked if I’m being paid for this or if this is all a part of an ad but I’m just a giant GF fan boy that wanted to be first in having a bottle here to talk about. I got a DM from a brand ambassador saying they didn’t even have a bottle yet and that made my life. 🙂

What do you think of the new design? Did they do it well? Poorly? Let me know!

Slainte!

-Sniff

 

SMWS 93.114 “BBQ in Fish Nets”

If you’re on your whisky journey and you’ve never explored some of the independent bottlings available in the market, I encourage you to give them all a try. From Duncan Taylor to Classic Casks to Black Adder, many of these independent bottlers (IBs) have the incredible goal of offering something unique and exceptionally good to the public from distilleries that might not normally bottle in the style that the IB has chosen. Picking a single cask to showcase a distillery is part of the magic that IBs bring to the table since most distilleries actually vat or “marry” a number of barrels to consistently create a specific house style.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a membership based IB that essentially pools resources from its membership base to pick and purchase hundreds and hundreds of unique single casks from well known (and lesser known) distilleries all over the world. Recently they decided to release a single cask pick (chosen by the infamous Ben Diedrich) to celebrate America’s independence. The bottle was only offered in America and I was lucky enough to grab one before they sold out. Almost everything from Glen Scotia seems to sell out really quickly as the distillery has some rabid fans!

I’m not one who typically enjoys whiskies from Campbeltown but one of the most endearing traits about single barrels is their ability to breakaway from the norms of a region. This bottling is no exception. A 13 year expression aged in a first fill port cask makes for a truly unique scotch whisky. Let’s dig into it!

COLOR
A rose hued toasted straw in the glass. It’s quite gorgeous.

NOSE
Sweetened light peat with quite a bit of salinity. There’s a shortbread buttery sweetness I keep finding with a touch of milk chocolate. With water, the nose turns into the caramel sweet of port and a bit of dark fruit. What a way to build anticipation!

PALATE
Initial notes of plum and leather are interesting on the palate and they last until you take a breath where the finish starts it’s process. Oh man. With water, this gem shines! Fresh pan fried bacon drizzled in just a bit of plain maple syrup! Whoa… delicious bacon without the normal offenses of a peated whisky! This is magic!

FINISH
The finish carries all of the heat, neat. A bit of water destroys the hot edge of the meat finish and replaces it with a bit of peppered bacon grease.

I love the sweet bacon without the typically accompanying flavors of tongue destruction. THIS is what peated whiskies should strive to provide more often! This easy to love and balanced dram is a fantastic example of the goodness that an IB can offer to the world of whisky. It makes me glad to be a member of the SMWS! (We’ll see if I renew lol)

Have you tried this? Are you a member of SMWSA? Let me know and let’s talk about it!

Slainte!

-Sniff

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