Today we’ve taking a small video adventure with Macallan national brand ambassador Nicolas Villalon. I really hoped that this video would be educational, accessible, and not overwhelming to a beginner whisky enthusiast… let me know what you think in the comments below or on YouTube!
I know, it’s been hundreds of days since I updated you on the Scotland trip from May of 2017 but I’ve been busy with a lot of things including new youtube videos and tons of IG content so if you’re not following on YT and IG, you know what to do 😉
Day three in Scotland was Glenfiddich Day lol. A day spent at “Disney world” of distilleries. The pictures will do most of the talking but I’ll try to add as many interesting details as I can remember!
A view from the parking lot.
On the far side of the parking lot there’s a really nifty looking tree created from barrel staves. A lot of distilleries have pieces of art at their entrance but this was pretty unique in terms of size.
This mini-lake is actually warm due to its part in the distilling process…
Where I wanted to be 😉
The hustle and bustle of getting ready for visitors.
The entrance of the visitor center reeks of history and polish.
If every bar looked like this….
Ludo, the King of the Ambassadors, is our tour guide for our first stop at Kinninvie. Kinninvie, Balvenie, and Glenfiddich all sit on the same grounds separated by short distances.
Kinninvie is just a warehouse with stills in it at this time.
Back to the tasting room in Glenfiddich for a special tasting…
A mash tun as seen from the tasting room!
Ludo explaining what we’re tasting and why.
Lunch in the Malt Barn.
I ran over to the gift shop after lunch because I knew it’d be closed if we tried to visit the shop after the tour.
The Glenfiddich handfilling station where you can fill your own or have one of the kind employees fill one for you. This week was a part of the Spirit of Speyside week so Glenfiddich only had peated whisky on tap.
A little video about the distillery to start the tour.
Lorna, our tour guide, was an amazing wealth of knowledge.
There are malt mills… and then there are GIANT malt mills.
You can see the tasting room window on the left. This is just a closer view of the mash tun above.
Piping in real spring water!
Big, beautiful washbacks holding what is soon to be a 9% alcohol “beer”, essentially.
In most still rooms, the blue painted things mean “low wines” or “wash still” or the first distillings of that wash (beer) we spoke about earlier. Low wines clock in around 20-27% alcohol and are distillied a second time in spirit stills. Red painted things tend to mean that they’re coming from the spirit stills at anywhere from 70-80% alcohol. Finding the sweet spot of the spirit still’s output is the goal of every distillery.
The grounds are gorgeous.
Water from the Robbie Dhu spring if you’d like some!
The backside of the dunnages.
Heading into the Glenfiddich Solera vatting warehouse.
You’re not allowed to take pictures in the vatting room but I snapped a quick one as we were leaving.
The vent for the kiln styled malting floors of old.
Lorna giving us details about the bottling room.
Lorna walking us through the Solera 15 deconstruction and the process to blend our own 15 year 😀
Et voila. There were some things I left out
ScotchNSniff found themselves on a last minute adventure last week to the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital just down the street from the Capitol building in DC. This Balvenie master class was a fun tasting as always but the more interesting things that happened had little to do with whisky and everything to do with people. 🙂
As we do at most whisky events in DC, we ran into Jennifer Holm and her crew from Momentum Worldwide. Momentum is the branding agency that Balvenie uses in the DC area and they do a great job hosting events like this. The last event we enjoyed with them had Monkey Shoulder spiked hot apple cider and this time we were greeted through the doors with a small Balvenie 12 cocktail. [I don’t remember the specific cocktail but it was TASTY! -Sniff]
The hors d’oeuvres were also delicious. A specific standout was the miniature BLTs! Bacon and small pieces of greens inside of a cherry tomato! What genius!
We enjoyed these cocktails and finger foods with some local friends also! Peat from Whisky + Architecture was there and so was DCWhiskey!
(Scotch, DCWhiskey, and Peat)
The giant reason this class even existed (and the whole reason we went) was the new east coast brand ambassador for Balvenie! Gemma Paterson! Her and her husband have moved to the big apple all the way from their home in Scotland! She’s as geeky about whisky as David Laird was so though we’ll certainly miss David, we know he’ll be having even more fun on the west coast.
Gemma’s never met a scotch she doesn’t like and her favorite happens to be the Balvenie 12 thanks to some awesome childhood memories. Her backstory is as fun and interesting as David’s and should you get the chance, do ask her about it.
She came to teach a class knowing that everyone had already been to whisky tasting classes before so she didn’t waste any time talking about the basics. Instead we dove into the science of whisky creation and nosing and nose blindness and water! It was really refreshing to get such detail both about whisky and the ghost at Balvanie’s malting floor (lol!).
There were a few gifts on the table besides whisky.
As always, a good time was had by all 🙂
Go sign up for a class from a distiller you love and go enjoy life!!
(Peat, Gemma, Scotch)
I stayed up last night thinking a lot about this topic and how we’re kind of fooling ourselves. If you’re trying to find the worlds best whisky, sorry for the deceiving title, but you won’t find it here. What you will find, is the truth behind what will guide you, to find
the best whiskies of the world.
The three topics that kept me up last night were; Rating systems, Personal preference and Hype. I’ll soap box on each one of these separately.
Rating Systems: Rating systems are great aids for those who don’t know what they want and to potentially find the best versions of a certain whisky in a certain category. For example, using the 100 point scale that many reviews use, you could safely assume that a 95 point Islay whisky, like an Ardbeg Uigeadail, would be an exceptional example of a peated northern Islay whisky. What some may call a “Classic”. Without having tasted it, you can trust that the reviewers have or should have determined that the flavors present in the whisky should showcase that of an Islay whisky, to be at least 95% of the best of that style.
This may take into account the many factors of being a classic Islay whisky, BUT, what if you don’t like Islay whiskies?? What if peat makes you cringe? And even though this is one of the best peated Islay whiskies, you hate it. Then that 95 points means nothing to you.
One way to get a better idea of if your taste buds are on par with a reviewers, is to drink a lot of the same whisky that they have reviewed, to see if you agree with them. But the thing about drinking a lot of whisky is; 1. You could develop a serious drinking problem, 2. A serious loss of money problem or even more seriously, 3. Be able to determine your own personal preference. The industry would like it if they could continue to think for you, aka “Influence” you.
The best thing I’ve learned about tasting and reviewing a lot of whisky, is that you become better at tasting and reviewing whisky. Just like anything else, practice makes perfect. Or a better saying in this situation would be, practice makes you more educated. But it doesn’t roll of the tongue as easily. The more whisky you taste, the better ability you have to determine what you like and dislike. After gaining the knowledge of knowing what you like and dislike, e.g. Personal Preference, then you can determine for yourself what is the best, for you!
Many people have this idea that they know what’s best for you. Not just random people, but companies. “Our soap is the best for your shower”, “these crackers will cure indigestion” and “our toilet paper will wipe better for you than any other”. When companies do this, it’s called marketing. When randos do this, it’s called hype.
Both marketing and hype are used to increase the perception of the value for things, often to ridiculous heights. Case in point, the 2013 Yamazaki Sherry cask which was named Best Whiskey in the World by Jim Murray (a whisky reviewer). This rocketed the Japanese whiskey scene, calling for thousands of dollars for the 2013 Yamazaki Sherry Cask and even raising the rest of the Yamazaki expressions to crazy inflated prices. The 12 year expression used to cost $65, now if you can find it, will run you $125. The 18 year expression used to cost around $200 and is now hovering between $399 – $450. Is the whisky good? Sure! But is it $400 good for the 18 year or $125 good for the 12 year? Maybe. It really depends upon how much you’re willing to spend for something that is hard to get and if you enjoy it. I love the Hibiki 21 year. I started purchasing bottles at $199 when I first saw it and I continue to purchase bottles when I find it for $350. When is my stopping point? My wife says, now.
Bottom line, use resources like this blog, other blogs and other reviewers to form a general idea of what it is you want to try. We try to use very easy to understand descriptions in order to appeal to the vast majority. Then, use online sites that sell samples of various bottles of whisky, or go to different bars to try different pours without committing to a full bottle. Determine whether you like sweet, peat, salty, medicinal or any other types of whisky and then continue down those lanes until you find your grail. That is the only way to determine what the best whisky in the world is, for you. And that’s why we love this whisky journey that we’re on.
So, what’s YOUR world’s best whisky??
( A combination of checking dead links on our review page and perusing through my personal emails yielded a free post! Granted this post is three months delayed but it’s still relevant and fun to read, I promise. 😉 )
Hello there fellow scotch lovers!
Sniff here giving his own report on the Macallan tasting and how it compares to other tastings that SnS has attended. I think it’s pretty impossible to write about these tastings without comparing them to each other because of obvious differences and similarities. Let’s start with the good, shall we?
Solid location. Carnegie Library is a gorgeous little spot but these well known brands seem to really pick gorgeous spots (Balvenie @ the Carnegie Institute for Science, Glenlivet @ the Longview Gallery). The layout had three main spaces, a waiting space downstairs for those who arrive early, a pre-tasting space, and the actual tasting room space.
The early-arrival space was just a pipe and draped room downstairs with no accouterments shy of some bathrooms. Once you got checked in via the QR code on your phone, you headed up to the “pre-tasting” space. After walking through an archway made to mimic the macallan estate building, there was an open area with lighted glass floor that was translucent with a mapped layout of the District. Pretty schnazzy but I’m sure that floor came with the library. lol. Going around the room there was a copper still (full size? probably not), a date chart for recording important dates from Macallan or via your phone for personal dates, a photo booth with Macallan backdrop, a colored light display that included a case containing five bottles of Macallan, a nosing station, a bar, and a giant bottle (able to be customized) between two bragging display cases containing some very rare bottles.
The tasting room was set up almost identically to the way Glenlivet had theirs done by Pernod Ricard, in layers of seats that accommodated small groups from 4 – 6 very easily. It had the Macallan logo on a well lit back wall flanked by two giant screens for short video displays and close-up camera views of two demonstrations.
So there are the parts of the tasting you could observe from pictures but let’s take a look at was good, bad, and ugly, shall we?
The good. The choice of bottles was great: 10 Fine Oak (meh), 12 Sherry (great daily), 15 Fine Oak (nice), Rare Cask (pretty tasty). Not great because they’re the greatest bottles but because they’re a great selection to someone who doesn’t want to spend a bit over $500 to try something they might not even like. The greatest bottle is always the one you love enough to make your daily dram, quote me on it! The pre-tasting area was a little crowded but most of the displays were interactive so that made it a lot of fun. The actual tasting area was well laid out and had a fun presentation by Mr. Craig Bridger, Macallan brand ambassador. Overall the night, like the bottles, flowed pretty smoothly.
The bad. The pre-tasting area was a bit cramped for the number of people they hosted. Maneuvering some of the displays was difficult with the number of people but that’s generally preferable to an empty room, isn’t it? There was some serious misdirection when someone announced that everyone needed to head to the hallway to finally move to the tasting room. I feel like myself and the photographer who immediately started moving that way, were the only one’s who heard the announcement. The presentation initially started with the sales=pitch feel that Glenlivet owned so heartily but quickly evolved into a good time.
The ugly. There was no ugly. This was a free tasting event held directly by the Macallan!
Overall it was fun and well worth the cost of free. If you’re not signed up to receive invitations to Macallan’s events, I must encourage you to do so at Macallan’s website.
So you’ve resolved to educate yourself about scotch this year and you’re not sure where to start?
Welcome! You’re in the right place!
We are [Scotch] and [Sniff] and we are here to help with your scotch education. 🙂
(In case you don’t know what scotch whisky IS (or why it’s spelled without an ‘e’), check out this earlier blog post about just that.)
This post is here to give you an idea of which whiskys you need to try to begin finding your own flavor profile which in turn, will help you to buy more scotch that you’ll enjoy and less you’ll give away to your friends.
Almost any major-brand-label tasting even you attend will include a time when you’ll smell some objects that will help you to differentiate between the four major nosing smells of whisk(e)y: fruity, floral, smokey, peaty. Here at ScotchNSniff, we’ve decided to follow suit and use those four major areas of smell and taste to help you find your own flavor profile. To actually taste these flavors that you’re smelling, don’t forget to taste scotch the proper way!
(other examples of fruity: The Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Speyburn)
(other examples of floral: Tullabardine, The Balvenie)
(other examples of smokey: Bunnahabhain, Glenkinchie, Bruichladdich)
(other examples of peaty: Caol Ila, Laphroig, Lagavulin)
Between those four samples, you should be able to get a great idea of which direction you need to head in your adventures for good scotch. That way, when your friends ask you, “What type of scotch do you enjoy the most?” or “What’s your flavor profile when it comes to whisky?” you can confidently answer with whatever you enjoy the most!
We try to keep most of what review around here under a hundred dollars. We understand that $100 is a lot of money for almost everyone so sticking to scotches that are easy to find on local shelves is always a plus. We do indulge from time to time 😉
Happy New Year and Slainte Mhath!!!
(Cheers! Kanpai! Salut! Prost!)
What a ton of fun!!
[Scotch] and I received our invites from Balvenie (for Warehouse 24 members) to join David Laird and the hosting crew from Momentum (lead by the lovely Jennifer Holm) for a night of tasting at the Landmark Theater in DC and we obliged!
Having never been to a Landmark Cinema, I had no idea there would be a full bar just inside the doors. They had a really great selection for a small bar attached to a movie theater and it’s probably part of the reason this venue was chosen to host the tasting. (or perhaps it was the leather seats and stadium seating? 🙂 )
The tickets for the event were actually hand made on a letter press by a boutique called Salt and Cedar (link: saltandcedar.com/). Everyone who made the RSVP for the tasting received one when their name was taken at the movie theater box office.
After checking-in and receiving your ticket, you walked down a hallway barely illuminated by Edison bulbs to a table where you were greeted with a hot cider mix. If we heard the ladies correctly, the glass you were handed came from a warmer full of apple cider and two and a half bottles of monkey shoulder. It was tasty but you had to close your nostrils to drink it. The steam from the drink would drive the alcohol into your nose to singe your nose hairs! 🙂
Right next to the hot-scotch-cider table was a table full of tasty appetizers… YUM!
50 people were essentially smooshed into a hallway outside of the theater while our hosts prepared the theater for the killer tasting.
I’m going to let a few pictures do the talking here…
Each seat in the theater had the classic Balvenie tasting tray with a bag of popcorn on it. The cup holders each held a Balvenie branded water dropper.
Candy was passed around to be paired with the samples:
And of course the samples:
David gave a great presentation hitting on a few familiar points from other Balvenie events but of course bringing up quite a number of new stories that we hadn’t heard before.
It was great to have such a small group for the tasting event. At other events, groups are typically herded from location to location so people can taste, listen, and get out. In a theater, it was much more intimate. There were a few questions asked by other guests and very awesome answers were given. I think the level of detail was much better at such a small event. We watched a few (3) of the rare craft videos with Anthony Bourdain but in between David spoke about the five rare crafts that Balvenie holds true to (Barley, floor maltings, coppersmiths, coopers, and the Malt master).
We got to hear about the trick-of-the-trade that Balvenie uses to maintain consistency in bottles like the Rum cask expressions. We learned why the 17 DoubleWood has a purple label instead of the classic white label. We even got to hear about the history of cask finishing. At one point, I raised my camera and David even posed for a picture lol:
After all of the videos, speaking, tasting, learning, and fun, I think the best part of the entire event was being able to talk to David one on one and ask him questions related to other parts of the scotch world and his job like how he got his job and what his favorite scotch is outside of the Balvenie. It’s this level of personal attention at Balvenie events that keep us coming back. It’s what Macallan and Glenlivet have both missed the mark on. I’ve got theories as to why the tastings are so different (different brand goals, distillery sizes, etc) but it’s interesting to see the difference so obviously.