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

The solution to broken corks

FINALLY.

There are so many “solutions” out there for broken corks that it boggles my mind. For removing the cork, there’s a regular corkscrew or the “ah-so” but what do you do once you remove the broken cork?

Many people say they keep a drawer full of old corks from older bottles but how does that fix the problem? You’ll just end up with some dried out cork causing the same issue and you’ll be right back where you started.

Let’s stop that.

I’ve been talking to a Czech company about a product that will replace the cork and here it is.

Boom. The glass cork. Complete with DuPont patented seal to keep your whisky from leaking. When I came across this solution, I realized there was another problem that needed to be solved: not every bottle has the same size neck.

In talking with the company that makes these glass corks, they said they make them in four sizes. Looking through my own bottles, I’ve only found a small handful that don’t fit one of the four sizes and they’re pretty much oddballs anyways.

So. SO!

I’m planning to sell these in four packs for $25 shipped (CONUS). I’ll put one of each size in the four pack and to save costs, it’ll just arrive in a small shipping bag. I looked into clamshell packaging and fancy info cards but all of that adds up to more cost to you.

No thanks.

Maybe I’ll get some vista print cards and create a link so it’s easier for people to reach me but until I see what kind of demand there actually is for this product, I’m going to take orders via DMs on IG.

So if you’re looking for a real solution to broken corks, let me know. I apologize that it’ll take the extra effort of reaching me on Instagram but this will only be until I can gauge what people want.

Well, we want a solution, of course.

Have a great Friday and I look forward to your DM!

-Sniff

 

The elevator, the blender, and the bathrobe (Balvenie at the Lotte Palace NYC)

It’s not everyday you get invited to a tasting event hosted in a three floor suite that books for $30,000 a night but hey, when in Rome, amiright?

I know that from a marketing perspective, going all out in ridiculous ways to show off your brand is definitely a way to make memorable experiences (and this was VERY memorable) but what made it the most remarkable to me was the ability to sit down with Balvenie’s new blender Kelsey McKechnie. (That’s Mih-KECK-nee.)

I snapped the above picture of her in the living room of the second floor of this three floor suite. As you can see, there’s a throw pillow that has been customized with Balvenie’s logo but I had no idea how much effort was poured into creating this space until I broke out my camera.

Kelsey is ridiculously pleasant. Her responsibilities include blending all day (by sampling whiskies), asking “silly” questions of her mentor David C Stewart, MBE, and fooling me into believing that Monkey Shoulder is made of Glenfiddich, Kinninvie, and Balvenie… which it used to be but since no one noticed the proprietary blend now used, you can thank Kelsey’s killer palate.

I brought the tin from my Balvenie 12 American Oak bottle to have her sign it because I know if she’s studying to take DCSMBE’s place, she must be a giant whisky nerd. The kind of enthusiast that goes beyond getting excited about a bottle. The kind of person in the whisky industry that can speak eloquently about new make yields based on different strains of barley. The kind of person who’s ready and willing to answer questions about the direction of the distillery and exudes excitement for the future experiments with the variables that make whisky so versatile. And she is!

I could go on about how amazing she is but I’m sure you’ll get to see that over time as she grows as a blender and develops her own unique expressions for the Balvenie. She may not be a Star Wars fan but she certainly pulls notes from the whiskies we’re sipping like a beast!

Okay. Enough about the real reason why I said yes to a last minute invite to try the Balvenie stories lineup. Wait. Have I mentioned that yet? 😀  The reason Balvenie rented this incredible space was to launch (read: show off) their three newest releases. The 12 American Oak and 14 Week of Peat will both be core offerings from Balvenie this point forward. (They should be 60 and 100 usd respectively). The third offering is a one off and will be as limited a release as can be. France is only getting 64 bottles in total. I’m not sure why France’s consumption is relevant but I’m just repeating what I was told lol.

The third release…

Is the 26 year Day of Dark Barley. It’s essentially the rest of the 14 Roasted Barley from back in the day that was moved to ExBourbon barrels and revealed 12 years later to be a formidable dram. It’s SRP is wild (799 usd) but I’ve heard rumors that it will be found for a bit less than that. I can’t say who said that but I trust that person and hope they’re right.

I did a mini review on my Instagram stories about the Dark Barley specifically because I went to NYC hoping I’d hate it. With it’s price point, I figured there’s no way it could actually be as good as the price implies. I was pleasantly (not to my wallet) surprised. On the palate it started with a fruit sugar compote type jam that opened up to notes of coffee and a gallon of cocoa powder being spilled on your head. The finish was absolutely vibrant and alive in a way that isn’t typical for Balvenie. Not for their core range anyway…

As blown away as I was by the dark barley, I was just as blown away by the venue so let’s do a quick walk through before my sleep deprived brain forgets!

The picture above is the first thing you see when you walk through the door to suite 5311 of the Lotte Palace. The second thing you see?

A vaulted ceiling living room with handblown glass art piece on the ceiling. Outside you can see the Burberry building and to the left, from the middle of the room, the Chrysler building can be seen tucked between a few other sky scrapers.

Further to your left, the two story tall wallpaper drenched in the artwork of Andy Lovell can be seen. He’s the same artist that designed the artwork for the three new whisky tubes and bottles.

It’s a lot to take in all at once. Walking across the “living room”, the view towards the entrance is just as gorgeous.

The small details of the Balvenie logo being vinyled onto the black glass wall in the wine storage space to the left, the oil diffusers pumping out the most pleasant smells, the barley and packaging on the counter near the barrel that contains a balvenie story, everything added up to something incredible.

Before I even move to the second or third floor, let me explain why JP Bourbon is in a bathrobe lol. Upon entering the space (and putting down my photo bag), I was greeted by a Balvenie liason who quickly escorted me over to a young lady who was hand embroidering bath robes.

Alexandra: “What name would you like on it? Wally or ScotchNSniff?”
Me: “ScotchNSniff, I think lol”
Alexandra: “And what color would you like it in?”
Me: “Maybe… green or blue?”
Alexandra: “Great!”

And not 20 minutes later did I have a bathrobe with “ScotchNSniff” embroidered on it, in my hands. Bonkers. I had come to NYC to get the scoop on the new blender in town and left with a bespoke bathrobe. #Wild


(sorry for the iPhone pic of the robe. I want to take some legitimate pictures of it soon!)

Oh, and the food was good 😉

I didn’t really take many pictures on the second floor because I was caught up taking a few pictures of people on the second floor… and all of the ridiculous details that Balvenie added to the space. Less talky-talky, more pictures!


Kelsey on the couch in the second floor living room (next to the second floor dining room).


New York City Balvenie Brand ambassador Naomi Leslie enjoying a dram by the window against the city skyline.

 


Balvenie hand towel and soap

 


Balvenie throw pillow and blanket

 


Balvenie embossed picture album

 


Balvenie chocolates, note paper, and pens

 

And yes… even Balvenie toilet paper stays O.O

Absolutely impeccable attention to details. It was overwhelming as I started to notice all of the “easter eggs” appearing in plain sight.

I’m sad I didn’t take any pictures of the elevator on the second floor but it takes you to the third floor where you step out into a third living room and more importantly… the roof. Complete with hot tub and killer view.


Naomi and JP Bourbon exchanging stories on the rooftop.

 


The new Balvenie 12 American Oak on the edge of a hot tub with the Chrysler building in the background.

I can’t speak highly enough about the experience. It was weird to have such a decadent experience coming from Balvenie as opposed to Macallan or Glenmorangie as they tend to be very intentional about the luxuriousness of their brand. Balvenie has always felt more like home and I hope crazy launch events like this aren’t they only type of event they continue to use to share their whisky with the world. That’s not to say I’m not eternally grateful for this experience but I don’t want them to forget why I fell in love with them in the first place… their nice ambassadors and honey drenched whisky notes.

Slainte.

-Sniff

P.S. Here are a few more images for fun lol


Views for days


Ely (TheScotchWhisperer) snapping a few iPhone pics


Kelsey answering ALL of the questions


More details


Thank you  Balvenie ❤

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

Haggis, a hundred times, haggis!

Being American, I have come to realize that a number of laws we have were created based on hyperbolic (and often unfounded) fear. America’s founding is littered in the “live and let live” or “don’t tread on me” type mindset but as of late, it seems everyone is trying to tell everyone else how to live, specifically through legislation. With all of this in mind, I’m here to talk about one of the most heinous food bans we have in America…

Haggis.

Banned from import into America in 1971 because it contains sheep lung, haggis is little more than a leftover-sheep-meat-mashup that I’d affectionately compare to scrapple. It has a very similar texture to scrapple but is (in)famous for being served encased in a sheep’s stomach. Once removed from it’s stomach-y packaging, it’s very often prepared in a myriad of ways. Let’s explore some of those ways!

Below, we have haggis making an appearance on nachos in a nifty little pub called “Scotch & Rye” in Inverness.

They also have popcorn haggis…

At this point you’re hopefully thinking “man, oh man, I need some haggis in my life!” but I’m afraid you’re probably thinking “This guy’s gone of the deep end about some Scottish scrapple!” Either way, this haggis inspired train ain’t stoppin’! Let’s head up to Helgi’s in Orkney and see how many more ways we can have it!

Below we’ve got some haggis fondue!

And what’s this? Haggis mac and cheese? I think so!

This next sandwich is known as a Haggis and Whiskey Rarebit Sandwich.

Rarebit (which rightly sounds like rabbit) doesn’t actually contain any rabbit. It’s just a fancy name for a savory melted cheese sauce over bread. The only thing that makes the above sandwich different from a normal rarebit sandwich? You guessed it: HAGGIS. ❤

Continuing the haggis mashup below is a haggis grilled cheese from a tiny coffee shop called Square root café in Keith!

You might be thinking “Grilled cheeses are okay but I only love pizza.” Well you’re in luck! That’s right, at Black Isle Bar in Inverness, you can get HAGGIS PIZZA Y’ALL.

This haggis train is slowing and I’m sad to see that but I only spent a week in Scotland this time around so there was only so much time for haggis lol. Below is the most classic way to enjoy haggis. It’s “Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties” which is haggis, rutabaga, and potatoes. Thanks to the Kirkwall hotel in Orkney for the beautiful table setting.

And last but certainly not least, just plain haggis. I actually had planned to have a scotch egg at this spot (The Classroom in Nairn) but alas, they had just taken it off the menu. So a side of haggis had to do.

And there you have it. Hopefully my rabid enthusiasm for this delicious delicacy drives deep the dedication to find good food and enjoy it as many ways as you can. Like whisky, food can be just as interesting and thanks to laws that don’t inhibit the way it’s made, it can be even more interesting than whisky. Wait, there are laws that can inhibit the way it’s made? Ah, welcome back to America.

Distilleries from above…

Annnnndddddd BACK from Scotland! For the second time, I’m sitting at home unpacking my luggage and reminiscing about all of the memories that were just created. From the distillery visits to the friends made to the whiskies shared to the haggis devoured, Scotland was an incredible (but short) time! Luckily, this time around, I ended up taking a drone to Scotland to compliment the slew of pictures I took and I just wanted to share those here before I post them anywhere else. (Granted, if you follow ScotchNSniff on IG, you’ve no doubt seen these in my stories AND the video footage)

The first distillery visited this time around was Highland Park and due to a number of technical difficulties (read: fear of breaking the law), I actually didn’t get any pictures of the distillery from above. Just one lack luster video of the distillery and it’s dunnages before I quickly brought the drone down.

The second distillery visited was Glenrothes. Unfortunately, Glenrothes isn’t open to the public so getting the tour was a hookup but I made sure to take a ton of pictures that can’t usually be taken. Here’s that drone shot:

Gorgeous isn’t it? You can see the still house on the left of the pagoda and the dunnages on the right side in different colored roofs.

The third distillery visited was Macallan and though I had mixed emotions about seeing the new distillery, I’ve come to grips with what it is they’re trying to do as a brand. That’s all I’m going to say about that for now.

The concept of a distillery that matched the rolling hills was accomplished by the design of same people who designed terminal 5 at heathrow in London (and 140 million pounds). It’s definitely overwhelming and a dauting distillery to visit. If you’ve never visited the old distillery, I think you might like this one. Definitely let me know if you’ve visited and how you feel about it.

Next up was anCnoc in the charming area of Knockdhu. It’s a small but fierce distillery. Churning out good tasting whisky with just a few guys running the entire operation. Plus, the distillery manager Gordon is an hilarious human being.

The last distillery visited this time was Balblair! What a ton of fun John McDonald can be when he’s sharing the history of the distillery and where they’re headed now that they’ve switched up their bottlings from vintages to the age statements (less confusing for the customer to calculate ages). Here’s a gorgeous shot of Balblair from the sky.

They’ve got a ton of storage for barrels!

So there you have it! Scotland was a great time and I hope to share more from the trip but for now? Just these few aerial images for your eyes to feast on.

Slainte.

-Sniff