Silver Barspoons… from scratch! (A Balvenie adventure!)

It’s been a minute since I went on an adventure with a whisky brand and lucky me, Balvenie had exactly the kind of trip I’d sign up for in mind. Balvenie gathered up a handful of bartenders and decided to take them on a field trip to the Baltimore Jewelry Center to create real .925 silver bar spoons… from scratch!

Balvenie swears by their five rare crafts and loves to embody the image of a brand that creates things from scratch, the old fashioned way. So they’ve got home grown barley and a traditional malting floor that make up a small percentage of their bottlings each year. Tack those two crafts in with their copper stills and on site barrel coopers to bump the number of crafts up to four. And the fifth of their rare crafts is their malt master whose title is currently rocked by the venerable David C. Stewart, MBE. So if you’re wondering why they’re even creating a trip like this, look no further than their core values.

We arrived at Baltimore Jewelry Center and got ready to do work! Our teacher walked us through the entire process from start to finish for creating the spoon and man-oh-man was there so much to learn!

The first part of the process was to cut out the bowl of the spoon which actually starts as a completely flat piece of silver. The basic shape of the bowl needs to be cut out and the edges need to be filed smooth.

Next up is straightening the handle and flattening the ends.

A quick lesson in playing with fire brought everyone on board with softening the silver and adding barspoon twists!

Annnnd cleaning up the silver a bit!

Now you’ve got your pieces ready to go!

With a little help, everything gets soldered up!

And voila! Here’s my ugly child!

Everyone made one that was unique and interesting!

So thank you to Balvenie and the Baltimore Jewelry Center!!! What a fun time!!

 

Scotch VS Scotch : Michter’s Sour Mash Toasted Barrel VS Rabbit Hole Heigold

I know this head-to-head doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense on the surface but let me explain why I’m reviewing these two bottles together. Reason number one? I received both of these bottles for free in the mail. Full disclosure, that’s what’s up. Reason number two? Low entry proofs. Both of these companies throw their hooch into the barrel well below the classic 125 proof. It’s a guideline, not a requirement. And reason number three? Convenience, really lol. Just kidding! Both of these have a classic rival (for the rabbit hole, there’s the four grain and for the sour mash toasted barrel, there’s the classic sour mash) that’s worth mentioning. I love the “classic rivals” as I just called them but every bottle really should be judged on its own merits.

It’s CNPF time! Let’s do this!!

Michter’s Sour Mash Toasted Barrel (MSMTB) at 43% ABV versus the Rabbit Hole Heigold (RHH) at 47.5% ABV.

The MSMTB is the classic sour mash, finished in toasted barrels.

The RHH is a new high rye mashbill out of Rabbit Hole to celebrate immigrant Christian Heigold.

COLOR
The RHH is a dirty, oiled gold versus the cleaner gold color of the MSMTB.

NOSE
Rich vanilla with a touch of cinnamon and a hint of oak rise from the MSMTB versus the more spearmint caramel I’m getting from the RHH. That’s an interesting smashup of flavors in the RHH. With water, the MSMTB has vanilla blasting forward and it’s smells rounder, softer, and sweeter. With that same water, the RHH nose becomes super subdued.

PALATE
The MSMTB is drier than the rich nose on the palate with a smattering of baking spices jumping to the front of the palate. With water, the palate gets softer and is not as sweet as the nose though the baking spice relaxes quite a bit. The RHH is made from a mashbill that includes 25% rye and really smacks a rye spice pie in your face with just a hint of dill hiding in the background. With water, the rye mellows a bit but really isn’t as strongly affected as the sweetness in the MSMTB.

FINISH
The MSMTB finishes with a handful of astringent mint and is light and a bit short. The RHH is a freshly baked loaf of rye bread and still finishes like toasted rye bread with water.

I was hoping the MSMTB would be a souped up version of the Sour Mash but the flavors added by the toasted barrel aren’t really so amazing that I’d seek it out over the classic Sour Mash. And the RHH isn’t really my jam. I’m not a heavy rye spice person and tend to love much sweeter ryes. This bottle will be fantastic for folks who love MWND and the like. In contrast, I tend to enjoy rye bottlings like Wilderness Trail Rye, High West Rendezvous Rye, and the Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye. Hopefully that gives you a better picture of where my palate is coming from.

So it looks like I’ll be sticking to the Rabbit Hole four grain and PX finish and the Michter’s Sour Mash.

What do you think? 🙂

Have a great weekend!!

-Sniff

Whisky + Misinformation = The Internet

Here we are in the golden age of information. Insane amounts of knowledge from mankind all uploaded to a digital medium that we can all access from wherever we are. It definitely has it’s ups. The rate that people can learn information and hear about new technologies is incredible but have you ever thought about the downsides? Just as good information can make its way around the world faster than ever, so can wrong information.

There was an article posted on Wine Enthusiast just four days ago called “Why Ultra-Aged Spirits Are Ripping You Off” and it’s been making its way around the whisky communities that I frequent. Unfortunately for the author, it’s full of the most ignorant perspective about whisky that I’ve ever read. The basic premise of the article can be summed up in a sentence from the first paragraph: “If you sip a 40-year-old Bourbon or 50-year-old Scotch, you’re basically sipping on oak tannins, bragging rights, a sense of history and little else.

This might sound fantastic to someone who’s looking to have an opinion on whisky they’ll never be able to afford but it doesn’t make it true. This wine writer makes a few claims throughout the article with out making any real distinctions to relevant nuances. Let’s dig in.

(Full Disclosure: The article makes my blood boil.)

Claim: “every barrel-aged spirit has a sweet spot in terms of the maturity where it tastes best.

This is true. Unfortunately, it’s effect is compounded in bourbon where the type of cask is specifically limited by law. Fortunately for scotch whisky, there are no limitations and specific woods that are known for being less active over time can be used to age spirits that will move the sweet spot of the spirits age well into the 50s that I’ve personally tasted (can we talk about the vibrancy of the Balvenie 50 cask 191?!) and I’m sure into even older ranges. To ignore the fact that every barrel is truly different is to ignore the entire idea of an older whisky that doesn’t taste like “sipping oak tannins”.

Claim: “Here’s a guide, informed by input from the experts

Based on the reference in her article, it looks like the writer did little to ask any “experts” outside of the bourbon industry. Of course there will be age limitations to American whisky casks that must be aged in charred virgin oak barrels. The difference between the first time use of a barrel and the second is vast and the difference between a first time use and a fourth time use as some of the distilleries in Scotland do, is astronomical. The spirit interaction with the cask as that point may require decades upon decades to develop any great flavors at all! (I have a glenfarclas 1981 that was aged in fourth use sherry casks and it’s beyond mild for a 36 year old whisky.)

Claim: “He deems a Scotch too old when the wood notes overtake the distillery character and flavor compounds that have developed over time. In other words, “the whisky loses its cohesiveness,” he says.

A quote from the man, John Glasser himself! But with NO reference to a specific time period because he knows as well as we all do that every cask is different. It’s funny that she chose Glasser because he specifically sources whiskies to blend into compass box and creates a product based purely on flavor profiles. The price for him to get an exceptional cask at 40+ years wouldn’t be financially wise considering the CB fan base. But who knows, Tobias and Angel went for $700 a bottle and people scooped them up like hotcakes for a chance to sip a 30+ year old Caol Ila and 24 year old Clynelish blend. Too old you say? These old casks don’t speak “broke”.

The end of the article props up Armagnac as the go to spirit for over 50 years of age but isn’t this a WINE magazine?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

Getting through the article for the fifth time, I’m still convinced that the writer is trolling for brands to send them expensive, ridiculously aged whisky samples… and I hope none of them fall for it. If this article was actually meant to be a troll, it’s fantastic. It’s perpetuating false information in the spirits community and confusing the heck out of beginners just jumping into the whisky pool. And the worst part about the internet? All of that misinformation is here forever.

*facepalm*

Peated whiskies for people who don’t like peat

I’ve been thinking about doing a video specifically on peated whiskies that aren’t obnoxiously offensive to folks who prefer the sweeter side of scotch and here it is! I teamed up with Steve (@TheWhiskyWatch) to get a new set of videos for your optical and audio pleasure.

Let me know what you think! Where do you stand on peated whisky? How do you like the new second camera angle?

-Sniff

Glenfiddich gets a redesign!

Alrighty. 🙂

Something we don’t talk about on ScotchNSniff all that much is design. There have been a ton of brands rebranding and changing up their bottle and packaging design lately and though this doesn’t always immediately affect the look of your local store, once old stock is gone, it definitely will. Macallan made their bottles more masculine by bringing the shoulders up and making them wider. Balblair ditched their “vintages” and moved to easy-to-read age statements. Old Pulteney added some gorgeous details to their already nautical designs. There are a bunch of new designs mixing up the look of the whisky market.

One of the redesigns I didn’t expect and was really anticipating was the Glenfiddich redesign. Granted, it’s not slated to come stateside for a few months still, it didn’t stop me from ordering one of the new bottles from The Whisky Exchange! I definitely suffered in shipping to get the bottle here but I’m glad I finally got to see the bottle in person. Glenfiddich re-hired HereDesign to create the new look for the line up and apparently the refresh will happen over a period of a couple of years starting with the 12, 15, and 18 year expressions. HereDesign is the same group responsible for the look of the Experimental series from Glenfiddich and the new Balvenie stories lineup.

When I first saw the new Glenfiddich bottle my immediate thought was “OH NO. The chevron is already used heavily by Macallan!”. Personally, I love the chevron design in Macallan glasses and was really afraid of the Glenfiddich bottle carrying the same marque but Glenfiddich says it’s to represent the Valley of the deer (which is embossed in the glass just above the bottle neckline). And I get it… but I wonder if other people will notice the same detail.

Also, due to the optical illusion created by the chevron shape, I thought the bottom of the bottle below the chevron would be wider than the upper portion but it’s not. It’s amazing how some light on a shape can create spatial ideas in our mind that aren’t always rooted in physical reality but the reality of what our mind is capable of generating!

Another interesting design detail is the red banner at the very top of the bottle. It’s weird because I’ve never noticed red details on Glenfiddich bottles until this one but going back and looking at older bottlings, it IS a common occurrence. It occurs on the newest bottling with the year, a stag, and the “1887” representing the year Glenfiddich was established.

The 12 year statement is huge now and the words about the actual bottling’s makeup are now pretty snazzily printed right across it. In really gorgeous script below is “From the valley of  the deer”, also.

So there you have it! A walk around of the new Glenfiddich bottle that’ll soon be in stores! A number of my friends on IG have asked if I’m being paid for this or if this is all a part of an ad but I’m just a giant GF fan boy that wanted to be first in having a bottle here to talk about. I got a DM from a brand ambassador saying they didn’t even have a bottle yet and that made my life. 🙂

What do you think of the new design? Did they do it well? Poorly? Let me know!

Slainte!

-Sniff

 

SMWS 93.114 “BBQ in Fish Nets”

If you’re on your whisky journey and you’ve never explored some of the independent bottlings available in the market, I encourage you to give them all a try. From Duncan Taylor to Classic Casks to Black Adder, many of these independent bottlers (IBs) have the incredible goal of offering something unique and exceptionally good to the public from distilleries that might not normally bottle in the style that the IB has chosen. Picking a single cask to showcase a distillery is part of the magic that IBs bring to the table since most distilleries actually vat or “marry” a number of barrels to consistently create a specific house style.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a membership based IB that essentially pools resources from its membership base to pick and purchase hundreds and hundreds of unique single casks from well known (and lesser known) distilleries all over the world. Recently they decided to release a single cask pick (chosen by the infamous Ben Diedrich) to celebrate America’s independence. The bottle was only offered in America and I was lucky enough to grab one before they sold out. Almost everything from Glen Scotia seems to sell out really quickly as the distillery has some rabid fans!

I’m not one who typically enjoys whiskies from Campbeltown but one of the most endearing traits about single barrels is their ability to breakaway from the norms of a region. This bottling is no exception. A 13 year expression aged in a first fill port cask makes for a truly unique scotch whisky. Let’s dig into it!

COLOR
A rose hued toasted straw in the glass. It’s quite gorgeous.

NOSE
Sweetened light peat with quite a bit of salinity. There’s a shortbread buttery sweetness I keep finding with a touch of milk chocolate. With water, the nose turns into the caramel sweet of port and a bit of dark fruit. What a way to build anticipation!

PALATE
Initial notes of plum and leather are interesting on the palate and they last until you take a breath where the finish starts it’s process. Oh man. With water, this gem shines! Fresh pan fried bacon drizzled in just a bit of plain maple syrup! Whoa… delicious bacon without the normal offenses of a peated whisky! This is magic!

FINISH
The finish carries all of the heat, neat. A bit of water destroys the hot edge of the meat finish and replaces it with a bit of peppered bacon grease.

I love the sweet bacon without the typically accompanying flavors of tongue destruction. THIS is what peated whiskies should strive to provide more often! This easy to love and balanced dram is a fantastic example of the goodness that an IB can offer to the world of whisky. It makes me glad to be a member of the SMWS! (We’ll see if I renew lol)

Have you tried this? Are you a member of SMWSA? Let me know and let’s talk about it!

Slainte!

-Sniff

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? 😉

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