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

Macallan Edition No 1 VS Macallan Edition No 2

Greetings fellow scotch lovers! Let’s jump right into this, shall we? Odds are good if you’re here, you are already on the fence about purchasing the newly released “Macallan Edition No 2”. Let us help you make the right decision!

The No 1 was an exercise in wood selections that brought Macallan’s Bob Delgarno’s ability to select tasty casks right to the forefront of our palates. Six first fill casks and two second fill casks have been chosen with seven woods from Europe and one from the states to showcase that classic Macallan taste. On the flip side, for the No 2, Bob Delgarno collaborated with three brothers who run a restaurant that has been the number one restaurant in the world… twice! Reading into the rich history of these three brothers, I feel like [Scotch] should be writing the back story on their restaurant: El Celler de Can Roca.

It’s nifty how the three Roca brothers close their restaurant every august to travel the world and bring experiences back to the kitchen together. That’s fascinating in a handful of ways and probably plays a great part in their cask selections. One of them is a sommelier so I’m sure that plays a huge part too. Along with the chef and patisssier, it makes more sense to look at their barrel selections knowing their roles in their restaurant. All of that said, it should be no surprise that a whisky maker known for it’s select woods, expensive offerings, and brand status would pick such a well known restaurant amongst the world’s biggest food lovers to collaborate in such an endeavor.

COLOR:
Light golden toast. The perfect color toast for warm PB&J sandwiches or perfectly golden grilled cheeses. The fact that the colors are identical for both of these offerings is just another testament to the truth that color really does not matter.

NOSE:
Side by side, the No 1 is much more oaky and sherry spice compare to the floral and fruit apple-y tree fruilty notes of the No 2. As a lover of Glenfiddich’s apple-y line, this dram smells like the best of both worlds! A Macallan sherried Glenfiddich!! Would that NOT be amazing??? Oh wait, that’s what this is!! This type of sweetness on the nose is uncharacteristic of Macallan but certainly not unwelcome. If you imagine that most Macallan tastes “dark”, this would be the “lighter” side of Mac! The No 1 on the other hand, has that sherry, orange-peel spice we’ve come to love from the Macallan.

PALATE:
The No 2 punches the palate with spices at 48.2% ABV but immediately rolls over into sweeter notes. Like a German shepherd that looks aggressive but immediately rolls onto his back for belly rubs! The No 2 has a silk mouthfeel and it slightly tannic. I’m getting ginger notes with something sweet lingering above them. The No 1 has a completely different feel than the No 2, and rolls on the tongue with a feel somewhere between water and milk. The taste of oak rises to the occasion but not in an unpleasant way. It’s like the oak chips that are consumed in a BBQ smoker so it’s more subtle and less like chewing a burnt toothpick. Dark spices like cinnamon and nutmeg present themselves slathered over quite a bit of toffee.

FINISH:
The finish of the No 2 brings some vanilla iced cookies to the surface along with spices. Maybe something like vanilla iced ginger snaps. Man, that’s good and I don’t even like gingersnaps! The finish on the No 1 is, again, okay when enjoyed side by side with the No 2.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Unfortunately, in my mind, this isn’t a competition at all. It all comes down to what you’re in the mood for. If you want nutmeg-cinnamon toffee served on an oak plate, grab the No 1. But if you want vanilla drizzled gingersnaps? I think you know what you need to grab. For $100 a bottle, you’re getting a LOT of Macallan. Based on the price of Macallan’s scrumptious 18, the No 2 is a definite value.

Slainte!

-[Sniff]

Scotch VS Scotch : Kirkland 18 Sherry versus Glenfiddich 18 versus Macallan 18

Value is a funny thing.
ˈvalyo͞o/
noun
noun: value; plural noun: values
  1. 1.
    the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
No matter how many reviews we write, I can never get the idea out of my head that the worth that anyone has for a bottle of whisk(e)y is always subjective. We try to give an idea of the value of a bottle based on its flavors divided by its price tag and it seems to be a solid way to give the most objective review that we can. There’s nothing worse than spending $200 (or more!) on a lack luster bottle that you purchased for a special event! And there are few better things that spending $60 on a bottle that brings joy to you and your friends.

All of that said, today’s Scotch versus Scotch is a three way battle between some 18 year old offerings. In one corner we have a bottle from Costco, the Kirkland Highland 18 Sherry. In the second corner we have a bottle of Glenfiddich 18. And in the third corner of our triangle shaped ring, we have the Macallan 18. Two of these offerings are finished in sherry and the Macallan is aged in sherry alone so this should be an interesting comparison. The price differential between these three bottles is also extreme so we’ll get a great idea of the value of each of these bottles.

 

COLOR
The Kirkland (bottled by Alexander Murray and Co) and the Macallan are almost identical in their slightly reddish golden hue. The Glenfiddich is noticeably a few shades lighter in color.

NOSE
The Kirkland 18 Sherry cask smells like barley! Sherry barrels generally impart a nutty and spice filled flavor into the distillate they cradle and the barrels that AM&Co happened to pick for Costco are a pleasant deviation from the norm. There are also toffee notes strewn about the barley but they’re quite a bit more subtle than any typical whisky. The Glenfiddich has the fruitiest nose of the three… but that should come as not surprise to any Glenfiddich fans. Freshly sliced apples are drowning in sherry (sherry apple pie O.O) and soft baked tree fruits are sprinkled in small dashes of sugar! This is heaven! Ahhh, the Macallan 18. World famous for scotch lovers, it reeks of Sherry with bits of toasted oak. I know this bottle far too well. [Scotch] gifted me my first bottle last Christmas and I’ve already got a second replacement bottle for the inevitable demise of this liquid gold. In case you’ve never tasted this sherry and chocolate concoction, I’ll just leave a link to its previous review here.

 

 

PALATE
The Kirkland is light on the tongue with Sherry and barley! If you’ve ever had Korean barley water (보리차), you’ll find yourself right at home! There’s a bit of light fruit which is no surprise considering the distillery chosen to source the 18 year old hooch. There may be some grapes that are also present in the mix. Water brings up some unpleasant oak notes so if you’d like to enjoy this, like the Pappy Van Winkle 23, skip the water! As I bring the Glenfiddich towards my face to sip it, I’m immediately greeted by a bowl of fruit sugar! This pour is the most classy rendition of an apple pie in liquid form. From the soft, luscious baked apples to the cinnamon spices, it does not disappoint. I’d like to pair this with Thanksgiving this year. 🙂  Whichever casks they chose for batch 3454 all deserve a medal! The richness of the Macallan 18s sherry and spices blast to the forefront of your tongue. It’s a small aria in Macallan’s opera of sherry (compared to the NAS cask strength) but along with sherry comes chocolate and oranges and even a touch of oak. Decadent.

 

 

FINISH
The Kirkland finish is sherry spicy with fruity notes. It’s definitely enjoyable as a sipper. The Glenfiddich finishes with oloroso spices and pepper… another solid offering from the valley of the deer. The Macallan lingers like an old friend just in from out of town. A best friend.

 

 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS
The Kirkland was $60 for the bottle, the Glenfiddich $80, and the Macallan $200. Not really a fair comparison when there’s more than a 300% difference in price between two of these bottles. That said, each of these bottles holds value for their respective audiences. The Macallan is something people can brag to their friends about trying. The Glenfiddich is something that can be shared with friends at home. And the Kirkland? Obviously a value at its price point and that’s more than admirable.

 

Which is your favorite? Which have you tried? Let us know. 🙂

 

Slainte

 

-[Sniff]

Scotch VS Scotch : Glenfiddich 21 Rum Cask Reserve vs Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask

Happy Friday fellow scotch lovers!

It being Friday, I figure there are few things more fun than sharing some spirits with friends! What are you supposed to share with them though? Rum? Scotch? What If I told you, you could share BOTH with them at the same time? Welcome to today’s Scotch versus Scotch: the Glenfiddich 21 Rum Cask Reserve and the Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask.

COLOR
Their colors are almost identical with just a slight tint of extra darkness edging into the golden Glenfiddich glass. As it turns out, a seven year difference in casks doesn’t always mean a huge difference in color. There are so many factors that go into the impartation of color (e-150a aside) beyond age. Sherry usually imparts a dark redness to the spirit but rum, it seems, is all about golden hues.

NOSE
The Glenfiddich’s nose is filled with butter cookies with a touch of their signature tree fruits waiting in the wing. There are some ripe citrusy notes from what smell like orange peels (with just a small splash of chocolate) to a touch of refreshing lemony-lime notes. It’s a fruity mixed cocktail that instantly transports you to a warm spot on the sand!

The Balvenie in comparison is a glass of brown sugar and fudge warmed over honey. Some fruits begin to appear and I’m sure I can see Glenfiddich on the other side of the same rummy beach.

Going back to the glenfiddich, you can smell the difference in the richness of the nose of each pour. This is one of the best parts of doing a side by side comparison of such contrasting spirits: some of the commonalities melt away and the distinct idiosyncrasies of the whiskies rise to the surface.

PALATE
Initially on the palate the Glenfiddich is light and unassuming. It’s raw sugar cane over baking spices with a slightly tannic mouthfeel. The oak from 21 years of aging in two barrels is starting to show which (most likely) explains the tannins.

Taking the Balvenie to the nose again, I’m anticipating the fudge before I’ve even sipped it! The mouthfeel is a much lighter body than the Glenfiddich. Where the Glenfiddich’s mouthfeel was a Jaguar F-Type, the Balvenie is an Ariel Atom. An Ariel atom filled with creamy, buttery, honey and vanilla cookies! Luscious for something so light and an absolute joy to savor!

FINISH
The Glenfiddich finishes with a bit of spices rising to the surface alongside more citrus. The oak really draws attention to itself as the medium bodied finish dips its toes into the Caribbean sand one last time.

The finish in the Balvenie is a bit lacking (in length and intensity) compared to the Glenfiddich but I’m not sure I’d like an overbearing oak finish to end something so decadent.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Picking the winner for this rum battle is EASY. Do you love big hulking flavors and wine? The Glenfiddich is for you! The rich flavors over slightly tannic mouthfeel will bring the beach home with you. Do you love to gorge yourself on buttery fudge cookies? Then the Balvenie is for you! The decadent nose and palate will set up a rum bakery in your glass.

Do you love all of those things??

(If you do, odds are your wallet isn’t going to like you very soon! 🙂 )

Which is YOUR personal favorite?

Slainte!

-[Sniff]