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.

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. 😀

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. 🙂

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!!

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2015 vs 2016

Old Forester has an annual release called Birthday Bourbon which is a limited-edition expression created to pay homage to founder George Garvin Brown’s birthday. Up for our comparison today we have the 2015 versus the 2016. You’re often times met with a decision when you go to the liquor store to choose one bottle. Hopefully after this tasting review, you’ll be able to decide which one to grab if you’re ever presented with the option.

The 2015 expression is offered at 100 Proof, while the 2016 is bottled at 97 proof. So if you’re a proof chaser, go ahead and pick the 2015, but if you want to take into consideration Color, Nose, Palate and Finish, let’s continue!

C: They are nearly identical with a medium rich mahogany color, with the 2016 variety slightly more red toned. Tie!

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Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2015 vs 2016

 

N: The 2015 has a fair amount of heat on the nose, accidentally singeing my hairs as I take mini whiffs. Wood sour notes but round oak with whipped cream and toasted marshmallow sweetness. Green grapes, kiwi skins and unripe strawberries floating in a lake of golden corn syrup. The 2016 is more vanilla orange creamsicle, honeyed oak, similar to that of the Balvenie house style. The 2016 seems lighter, very light caramel draped over a tart pear. Werthers Original candies with leather and oak bits dotted throughout. Both are solid winners but the 2015 edges out the nose with more toasted oak, toasted marshmallow and breakfast pastries.

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Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2016

 

P: Both of these have the obvious bourbon flavors of oak, vanilla, sour toffee/caramel  flavors but these are the nuances that I can edge out in the tasting. The 2016 is a bright, fresh bourbon. Not too sweet on the palate with just enough caramel covered grape flavors, ending with a fresh cherry covered in dark cocoa powder, slightly mouth drying. The 2015 has a sweeter, hotter entry, hazelnuts and orange peel. There’s a grown up root beer flavor ending in a bitter but enjoyable sweet vermouth. Going back and forth a couple times with tasting them the 2016 just edges out the win.

F: The 2015 has a dusty nutmeg infused cocoa finish. Light rye spices linger midpalate, while a slightly drying oak, readies you for your next sip. The 2016 finishes with spice but with less of a pronounced Zip, Bang and Ptchanggg! The vanilla creeps back up near the end with the cocoa powder, but more flat than the 2015 finishes. 2015 wins, hands down for the finish.

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Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2015

 

Both of these bourbons are really nice, and we’re splitting hairs here. The fact that they’re relatively hard to get and that the secondary market lifts the price, really sucks. If it were up to us, we would make it available to everyone, but that’s just impossible. The quantities to appear to have increased from last year, so availability might not be that bad. I enjoy the 2015 more than the 2016, but that’s only by the slightest margin. Both are a solid buy for a very solid bourbon. Comment down below and let us know which one you grab or if you pick both up. Slainte!

[Scotch]

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? 😉 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 😛

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. 🙂

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