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.

Scotch VS Scotch : Macallan Classic Cut VS Macallan Cask Strength (red label)

 

    • Two. Different. Boats.

A LOT of talk was happening on Instagram once the TTB released the label for the 2017 Classic Cut limited release from Macallan. Everyone was hoping the same thing I was hoping: “Please God, let this be a replacement for the Cask Strength and let it be awesome!” Well, the day finally came and the Classic Cut was finally released.

Below are the CNPF notes and my thoughts about these two bottles side by side 😉

COLOR: The cask strength (CS) is a rich, burned and caramelized sugar. The classic cut (CC) is a shade darker than gold.

NOSE: The CS smells of rich, dark, dried fruits. Raisins. Apricot. Brown sugar. Nosed side by side, the CC is almost a powdered sugar sweet over a bit of oak, actually. Bourbon vanilla.

PALATE: The CS is strong 60.1% and viscous dark espresso adventure. It’s overpowering and obviously aged in a majority of EU sherry casks without a barrage of sherry spices. It’s interesting how that’s even happened. It’s not spicy at all. It is a bit tannic at this ABV though. The CC isn’t just lighter in color and nose, but it’s lighter on the palate too. The packaging says vanilla and ginger are the two primary flavors but being a big fan of ginger, it tastes like it’s 90% ginger and 10% vanilla at best. The AM oak casks used really shine through in the form of that ginger. With water though, the CC seems to calm its ginger forward agenda just a bit and the vanilla really shines through the finish. A pleasant surprise. The CS with a touch of water loses some of its tannic heat and picks up some more raw sugar. Oh yes. The finish is still a bit drying but definitely enjoyable.

Final thoughts:
So there you have it. It’s just a totally different boat. And honestly, it reminds me of the same Macallan dichotomy that exists between the sherry aged bottles and the fine oak series. One is very sherry forward and the other is all about the oak. So which would I recommend you seek out? Well that depends on what you’re looking for in your whisky, flavorwise. If you love either sherry or vanilla ginger there’s a bottle for you. Too bad only one of them is easy to find.. For now.

Slainte.

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]

SVS: Sagamore Rye vs Sagamore Rye Cask Strength

Wait, a rye from Baltimore?

There are a handful of articles out there about this new local hooch and how it’s sourced from MGP but the water used to bring it to proof is actually retrieved from a spring at the actual Sagamore Farm but that’s not what we’re going to talk about today. As usual, we’re about helping you to save a few bucks on a dram that you might not enjoy or encourage you to drop your wallet on a bottle that you definitely will love.

The biggest surprise about this bottle are the number of reviews out there that don’t talk about the vegetal notes that are RIPE throughout this bottle. If you’ve ever had the Brenne Ten year, this bottle will instantly bring back some memories for you as it boasts (suffers from?) those same vegetal notes that make you wonder if you’re not actually eating grass and weed clippings from a yard. We’re not even joking. But NO ONE ELSE is talking about these notes on the nose and flavors on the palate.

That said, let’s get to the review and maybe (if you’ve had it) you can comment and let us know if you get the same flavors going on in your bottle.

COLOR
If the Sagamore Rye Standard (SRS) is a tarnished brass color, the Sagamore Rye Cask Strength (SRCS) is a shade of brown darker of the same tarnished brass.

NOSE
The SRS is noticeably more vegetal than the SRCS. Where the SRS smells like peppery grass and rides an earthy wave all of the way into the ground, the SRCS actually shares a healthy hint of those notes but envelopes them in layers of rye spice (like the bread, not like dill) and sweeter notes typically found in whisky aged in American oak barrels. If you’re a fan of the dill rye flavors in Midwinter’s night dram, you might like the flavors in these brother bottles. If you’re not a fan of the MWND, you might need to cleanse your palate with Pikesville Rye (6) or Michter’s Barrel Proof rye. Both of which exude awesome rye flavors with no dill and no grass clippings.

PALATE
The SRCS rolls onto the tongue with heated authority and washes the tongue in more rye bread spices with just a touch of vanilla. The vegetal notes from the nose bowed out of the palate which is a pleasant surprise. The SRS on the other hand tastes muted against the SRCS and is not much more than the vegetal notes from the nose on your tongue. Everyone can appreciate a dram that delivers a palate in line with the nose but in this case, the SRCS abandoning the nose might be the more enjoyable way to sip this. With water the SRS is even weaker in terms of flavor and does little to mute the sharp grassy notes that soak the pour. A bit of water on the SRCS and the palate gets drenched in tannic dryness and exposes an almost candy sweetness subtly lingering around waiting for you to notice. A very interesting palate trick!

FINISH
Where the SRCS leaves the tongue awake and alive, the SR is its weaker sibling that suffers from sheer laziness. With water, the SRS is even weaker of a finish but the SRCS finds a bit more interesting complexity.

Well there you have it. Oddly enough, if we HAD to choose a bottle to have between the two, the SRCS would get the nod. Not because “whiskey at cask strength is better” but because the whiskey actually tastes better.

Have you tried either of these? Both? Let us know what you think so we can think we’re a little less crazy than we might be. 😀

Another video? Well, at least it’s about Glenmorangie…

So we’ve definitely been working on more posts but haven’t had a chance to publish them yet. Until we get around to that, enjoy this video!

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