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!

SVS : Highland Park Fire 15 versus Highland Park Ice 17

Fire versus Ice!

I purchased the HP Ice because my local spot called me and told me I needed to buy this “whisky in a really cool bottle”. The HP fire on the other hand, came in the mail via sample bottle from the Edrington group. Being the impartial reviewers that we are, I immediately called my local shop and asked them to order a bottle of fire for me. Sam (the owner) let me know it’d be two weeks before he got it in his hands. Awesome! Time to review these two beauties with no “bias guilt”!

UPDATE: I got my bottle of HP Fire 15 before publishing this review so no bias AND beautiful pictures for you!

COLOR
Right out of the bottles, it’s easy to see that the HP fire is a tone of dark gold versus the light (and almost clear) yellow appearance of the Ice. This makes perfect sense considering the Ice was aged primarily in exBourbon casks and the fire was aged “exclusively in refill port barrels” says the insert. The paper insert also says this is a first for HP, aging their distillate exclusively in port casks that is.

NOSE
Yessssss!!! My favorite noses are the ones that are so dissimilar that the differences jump at you like a wild cougar on a camping trip gone horribly wrong! The Ice is so heavy in the vanilla department when nosed next to the sweet nose of the port! If you’ve never had port (or Sherry for that matter, fortified wines unite!), go to your local store and pick up some delicious caramel oozing, toffee drenched, affordably priced port. Thank me later for introducing the two of you. πŸ™‚

PALATE
That’s what I’m talking about. The fire’s palate is no contradiction to its name. It starts a little soft sugary sweet and quickly evolves into cinnamon fire before it smooths into that familiar HP touch of peat and smokey note. It’s a challenge getting over the viscosity of the fire. I know it’s not motor oil but it’s coats the mouth like the best tasting motor oil I’ve ever ingested! With water though, the cinnamon spices break through that sweet port nose and snuff out the sugary goodness that makes the glass inviting. The palate though is the exact opposite. This is a nifty little glass! Water reverses the entire experience. From sweet nose and fire tongue to fire nose and sweet tongue. That’s very, very interesting.

The ice reads like our previous review versus the Glenfarclas minus the blast of spice that surfaces when I forget to cleanse the palate before switching glasses! Wowsers! I’ll be back after some water… There we goooooo. Much, much sweeter and enjoyable. Mixing these two glasses would be an overpowering manifestation of way too many spices trying to drown themselves in vanilla.

FINISH
They’re both HP finishes. Smokey and light on peat but balanced so the peat doesn’t make you contemplate long walks off of short piers. The fire is enjoyable, for sure, and doubly so with water. The Ice is a bit more peat heavy and thanks to my anti-peat palate, it’s just as enjoyable as it was the last time I reviewed it…

FINAL THOUGHTS
I must say, the fire’s party trick is worth the bottle price alone (as long as the price is in the $200 range). Yes, it’s definitely expensive but compared to the $300 of the Ice, I think the fire is definitely more worth it. If my local spot tells me it’s $300, I’ll still be glad because of its rarity but I’m never glad shelling out more than $100 for a bottle unless it’s spectacular. This fire is pretty good though…

What do you think? Have you tried them both? Let us know your thoughts!

Scotch VS Scotch : Highland Park 17 Ice Edition vs Glenfarclas 17

Back on the blog with another Scotch VS Scotch!

I picked these two contenders purely based on their age. Not that age means anything but it’s interesting to see how different two bottles of distillate, aged for the same amount of time in barrels, can taste. In one corner, we have the Glenfarclas 17. It hails from a family run distillery founded in 1865 (well purchased from Robert Hay who actually founded it in 1836 but it’s been owned by the Grants since). In the other corner, we have the Highland Park 17 Ice. From the Norse mythos that overrun Orkney, this Edrington owned distillery was the first to score a perfect 100 in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge (Highland Park 25 in 2013). All of their histories aside, we’ll see which one flat out tastes better!

COLOR
The Highland Park (HP) 17 Ice is just a shade off of white grape juice. The super light color outside of the blue bottle is just another call to the “Ice” name. The Glenfarclas 17 is a slightly darker shade of gold, almost like looking at a gold ring underwater.

NOSE
The Glenfarclas weighs quite a bit more on the nose than the HP. The Glenfarclas really hits you with sherry spices but with a touch of water a surprising bit of oak rises to your nose. The HP side-by-side with such a sherried monster is actually very, very sweet. More sweet than it is smokey and peaty which is a nice departure from typical HP offerings. Once again, I’m loving each of these offerings twice as much thanks to the contrast created by enjoying them side by side.

PALATE
The Glenfarclas is like butter on the tongue with sherry, cinnamon, and Glenfarclas’ famous Christmassy spices. It’s got such a rich texture on the palate that it’s hard not to like. There’s a wonderful balance of oak and sherry. The HP on the other hand is slightly tannic, starts a bit soft and sweet, but explodes quickly into a peat bomb. Chewing it to find flavors, it’s a bottle of peat, wood, and spices. The spices are so edgy over the woodiness, it’s almost like… well… Ice. WHOA. With a bit of water tossed into that 53.9% ABV, the Ice explodes into a vanilla laden comet headed straight for your tongues orbit! Now THAT is a nice change of character!!

FINISH
The finish on the Glenfarclas is a bit of apples over spices all burned and served over smoking oak. The finish on the HP is oily and peaty which is not much of a surprise. Unfortuantely, even after the water drew out the awesome sweetness, the HP still finishes like a fireball of peat. Pity.

So there you have it. To my palate, personally, I’d pick the Glenfarclas every day. I don’t like peat. My pocket isn’t a fan of spending $300 on the HP either compared to the $100 I spent on the Glenfarclas. It’s not often that I’d claim I have a definite winner in my book but there are too many factors that push the scale in one solid direction… for me. But everyone’s palate is different. Which do you prefer? Have you tried both? Let us know!!

Scotch VS Scotch : Blasphemy Edition

Let me start by saying that the Dark Cove from Ardbeg in both it’s forms are peated.

Let me also say that my disdain for peat, though it has been waning, still burns like the fire of a thousand suns.

Let me finally say that the Dark Cove is an olive branch from these sadistic lovers of peat to the speyside sweet lovers of the whisky world.

Now that I’ve cleared the air, let me muddle it a bit with that new offering from Ardbeg.

Today’s SVS will be a comparison between two of the same bottles but at different ABVs and for different demographics. The first demographic are the members of the Ardbeg committee. You can join online but with all of the peat that Ardbegs are known for, why would you really want to? πŸ˜‰ The second demographic is your normal scotch buying person.

The Dark Cover committee release was released earlier then the standard release and at a higher ABV which does some interesting things to the CNPF of the pour. Let’s get right into this.

COLOR:
Ardbeg claims this to be the darkest Ardbeg ever but the color isn’t all that dark. The standard release (SR) is an inviting banana yellow and the committee release (CR) is a shade of brown darker, like a banana that’s been left out almost too long.

NOSE:
The SR smells of a sweeter version of the typical Ardbeg distillate that seems to have been calmed quite a bit by the sherry. It’s so much more inviting than your typical Ardbeg leather/smoke/peat/squid ink/sandwich meat/rubber band grossness. Side by side with the CR, the SR is much more obviously sweet. Where the CR has a more medicinal and astringent notes that border iodine, the SR is much lighter with a touch of fruit sugar (which is much more suble than say… raw sugar or candy sugar). The added alcohol in the CR seems to mute and mask even more of the peat (eight thumbs up!!!). It’s allows more of the cinnamon, smokey character to rise from the glass.

PALATE:
The SR is a glass of apple and sherry mixed into a pile of tobacco, ash, peat, and leather. The CR starts with a bit of spice towards the edge of the tongue but it’s quickly drowned in some of the softer flavors. That slightly tannic, spiced start gives way to oak and an almost orange citrust flavor that’s surprisingly enjoyable.

FINISH:
The SR is light and not absolutely horrible which is a pleasant surprise from a Speyside sweets lover. The CR is quite a bit warmer for obvious reasons and still a reminder that you’re drinking Ardbeg. On the plus side, it doesn’t seem like these flavors will linger like the Ten or Corryvreckan so it’s not like trying to kiss your significant other after a cigar πŸ˜›

I really started this SVS with the idea that I’d be comparing apples to apples but as you can read from the palate, it’s more like apples and oranges which isn’t a bad thing. πŸ™‚

Slainte to the first Ardbeg to be truly enjoyable to me!

-[Sniff]

Scotch VS Scotch : Macallan 12 Double Cask vs Macallan 12 Sherry

So you’re walking around your favorite liquor store and lo’ and behold you spot the newest offering from The Macallan. In it’s pretty blue box, it’s hard to miss.

The Macallan 12 Year Double Cask

You pick it up and read that although the casks used are both sherry seasoned, it comes from a mix of European casks AND American casks. “How will that affect the flavor?” you think to yourself. “Will it taste all that different from the standard twelve year in euro sherry casks?” you wonder. “Did I leave the stove on?!” you ask yourself in a panic and rush home to make sure your home is still standing. Now that you’re home, you can’t stop wondering if you’ve made a giant mistake by not picking up that new bottle and you begin to cry yourself into a corner…

Annnnnd SCENE.

No, the Macallan 12 Double Cask isn’t something to cry over unless it’s slipping out of your hands onto a concrete surface! It is pretty tasty and at $60 it’s a solid 12 year bottle from Macallan. It’s also a great representation of how important the wood selection of barrels actually is. Enough with the talking, let’s get to the review!

NOSE
The 12 year Sherry Cask (SC) reeks of sherry soaked raisins versus the Double Cask (DC) that drowns yours senses in honey. The SC is rich like fudge in the nose while the DC is a field of sugary honey. The contrast between the two noses is awesome! A tale of two noses!

PALATE
The DC has a bit of spice on the tongue but it quickly opens up to spiced apples and more honey with a touch of citrus. Lemon citrus though, not orange type citrus notes that other Macallans are known for. It’s very light on the tongue and more like water than oil. The SC is less spicy on the tongue and smooooooth. A touch more viscous than the DC, the SC very obviously tastes of sherry, light peppery spices, and the raisins from the nose.

FINISH
The DC finish is light and warm and lingers but not in any obtrusive way. More of the sherry, floral, and almost lemon zest citrus notes make their rounds in your mouth. The finish of the SC is a bit oaky and enjoyable and only lingers for a small while.

They’re both well balanced and solid offerings from Macallan and they really make you wonder if Macallan will take this double oak approach to other age statements. (18 Double Cask? 21 Double Cask? Cask Strength Double Cask??!) I also wonder why they decided to create a double cask line in the first place when the fine oak series exists (three types of oak, including ex-bourbon).

Have you picked up the 12 Double Cask?? Do you like it?? Let us know what you think!!

Slainte!!

-Sniff

The Macallan Reflexion : Thoughts and a Review

This blog post has been nine months in the making! It’s a whisky-blog baby! [Scotch] and I were raised to make a big deal out of birthdays. Not necessarily in terms of parties and extravagance but we were raised to spend birthdays as a celebration of family. Because of that, we generally tend to plan for birthdays way too far in advance. Where am I going with this?

Rewind to Christmas of LAST YEAR. Just before Christmas, I found a bottle of Macallan Reflexion at a local DC Costco and knew I had to have it. Not for Christmas but for my 35th birthday so with some saved up cash (and few “benjamins” from the ‘rents) I purchased it as a future birthday gift knowing I wanted to do something crazy for my own birthday (for once, it’s rare that I celebrate myself and as you’ll see in a minute, I still managed to avoid it!)

Fast forward to the second to last weekend in August! I invited a handful of friends to join me in celebrating another year on this planet by sipping whisky with me! (Four of us have August birthdays!) We had a handful of bottles to sample that I’ve been collecting for the last two and a half years (including Pappy Van Winkle 23, Macallan Reflexion, Macallan 21 Fine Oak, Macallan Rare Cask, Michters 10 Bourbon, Glenfiddich 26, Bookers Rye, Highland Park Ice, and Jeffersons 25 year rye). I wanted to share them all with some of my friends.

We blind taste tested the three Macallan’s, which was a hoot, and everyone brought some food (pot luck style) so we were all stuffed and loving life. Getting the opportunity and having the ability to share such wonderful hooch with friends is the whole point of drinking in the first place. I was hoping to create a once in a life time experience that we could all enjoy. πŸ™‚

Anywho, let’s move on to the review we’ve all been waiting for πŸ˜€

**************************************************************
Hopefully you’re able to find your dream bottle
and enjoy it one day be it thousands of dollars
or tens of dollars.
All that matters is spending time with friends and family πŸ™‚
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COLOR: Reddish brownish gold, like lightly used motor oil or toasted cinnamon sticks.

NOSE: SHERRY, the nose reeks of a candied vanilla caramel mixed in with tons of Macallan’s signature sherry bomb.

PALATE: Ridiculously smooth and viscous, it has an ever so slight edge of burn, orange sweet-vanilla marmalade, subdued Sherry spices. You’re rewarded for chewing this delectable dram. It’s like the best of bourbon and sherry melded together with the velvety mouthfeel of some of my favorite pours.

Finish: The Sherry spices are revisited ten fold blossoming into freshly cracked white pepper, sherry, and light touches of oak. It’s just slightly tannic but not unpleasant in any way.

If you love sherry, you probably already love Macallan. This citrus-y vanilla mix is no exception to their family of tasty offerings. The signature notes that Macallan is famous for are all here but in a formula that exudes softness and elegance. The bottle is a metaphor, really.

Is it worth it?

I wonder if it IS worth it. It can be found for $979 on master of malt, $1250 at Costco, and $1900 at total wine. It’s amazing how wide the range of prices are for the same bottle but as always, a bottle is worth as much as you’re willing to pay (see: secondary whisky market). At the end of the day, getting to share such a beautiful presentation of whisky for friends while celebrating a birthday, well, that’s priceless. Even if your buddy’s wife throws back half of her Reflexion pour while trying to “catch up” during the blind taste testing. πŸ˜›