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? πŸ˜‰

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

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

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

Β 

    • 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 πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ˜€

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!