I have to admit, I didn’t expect to write this entry today but with so many small things happening all at once, I definitely feel compelled to type up some magic for you.
***** EDIT: ScotchNSniff glasses are NOW available on SIPDARK.com!!!!! *****
Right off the bat, I need you to know that ScotchNSniff finished recording 25 new videos for the youtube channel. Nineteen of them are One Minute Whiskies and the other six are typical ScotchNSniff videos but they’ll be hosted by myself and Tim and Brian from The Whisky Library DC. Hopefully you’ll find them all entertaining as we covered a gamut of topics and even had one wild rant video. Here’s the newest of the OMW videos:
For everyone who’s been following along, remember, the OMWs are lighter reviews meant to give you a quick overview of a whisky while you’re out and about. It’s not an in depth set of notes. 🙂
In terms of random thoughts, you guys might have noticed that the end of this year has been an absolute barrage of new whiskies from a number of distilleries everywhere around the world and though I hope I can review most of them, I know it’ll be super difficult so expect everything coming to be in the Scotch Versus Scotch type format.
The last thing I wanted to throw out there in this post are a few pictures that I’m excited about related to Stranger Things 2. Yes, these pictures include a set of toys from the show. No, I have no intention of doing what ScotchTrooper does. He’s a freight train when it comes to Star Wars toys pictures but these are just my own excitement for a TV show manifest in the form of some images. Enjoy!! Happy Whisky Wednesday!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
No, I don’t mean elephant. I’m talking about the Rhinovirus.
noun: rhinovirus; plural noun: rhinoviruses
any of a group of picornaviruses, including those that cause some forms of the common cold.
I’ve caught a cold and it’s made tasting whisky impossible. I poured a wee dram of a new bottle of Ardbeg Dark Cove and it tasted more horrible than normal. (Which isn’t saying much for the peated taint of Scotland but it was especially horrible. I actually liked the flavors in the Dark Cove committee release…) At first I blamed the Ardbeg but after some careful thought…
Nope! I just poured myself some of my favorite Glenfiddich (the 19 AoD BCR) and sure enough the flavors that I know and love are missing completely. Knowing that 90% of what you taste is based on what you smell, none of this should be a surprise, at all.
I guess I’m stuck sipping on Robitussin CF from now until I’m over this bug. Wait… Will ‘tussin taste any better in a glencairn glass??
Ladies and gentlemen… the Robitussin CNPF!
Color: Ruby koolaid red
Nose: Medicinal, definitely medicinal.
Palate: I’m pretty sure this doesn’t have the pizzazz of their grape expression but their standard expression is nothing to scoff at! It’s super viscous, like Pappy Van Winkle 23 but with less complexity and obviously much less age! Again the medicinal notes from the nose are just dousing my tongue!
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!
Fruity: Glenfiddich 12. The Glenfiddich line REEKS of apples, pears, oranges and plenty of other fruits! Darned tasty examples of what the Speyside region of Scotland has to offer.
(other examples of fruity: The Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Speyburn)
Floral: Hibiki 12. Yes… I know. This is a whiskey from Japan, so what gives?? The Japanese have really cornered the market on the floral notes but don’t worry, we’ll get you back to Scotland!
(other examples of floral: Tullabardine, The Balvenie)
Smokey: Oban 14. The Oban line does a fantastic job of bringing smoke to your nose and tongue. Many times there will be some sweet or salty notes accompanying them but always with smoke.
(other examples of smokey: Bunnahabhain, Glenkinchie, Bruichladdich)
Peaty: Ardbeg 10. Personally, I can’t say I enjoy the peat of Ardbeg. I’m pretty sure [Scotch] would agree to a point. I do enjoy Laphroaig (strangely enough) but peat is a real divider of scotch drinkers. You either love it or you hate it.
(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 😉
Scotch’s 2014 Christmas Scotch Gift idea list Extravaganza!!Hello all and Happy Holidays!!!!!
Even though I have a huge new love for lightly peated and smokey scotches, I think I’m sticking to my “Always delicious, Every time is right” type scotches for this list. As Sniff was saying, saving a couple dollars a month quickly equates to a lot of money down the road. So if you’re trying to spring for that dream bottle, cut back on the starbucks or dunkin donuts and save for the green for something nice.
…Okay, I will throw a peated smoke bomb in there for the ridiculous few who have throats of steel and cast iron stomachs! On with the list!!
Dalwhinnie 15 ($57)
I have to echo what Sniff said, as this is an awesome go to and a definite winner. The flavors of banana and bright green apple supplemented with notes of caramel and vanilla ending in light smoke is everything you can dream of in a scotch. Also, the mouth feel of this scotch is wonderful. Syrupy and coating. Very inviting.
Hibiki 12 ($59)
Japan has been all the rage this year when it comes to whisky and this bottle is a perfect example of the Japanese style, and a blend at that. The floral nose, filled with plums and rose hips match perfectly with the light spice of the Mizunara (Japanese oak). A medium long finish leaves you with melon fruit, light spice and mouth coating honey.
Tomatin 12 ($25)
This single malt seemed too good to be true and I held off for quite a while before I took the leap to purchase it. Don’t wait. For $25 you get a deliciously complex dram full of spicier nutty notes, juicy pear and granny smith apple tartness. With the addition of water you get an explosion of caramel and vanilla toffee and baking spices. The finish is quite long and drying. For $25 you get a crazy amount of twists and turns in this scotch. And even though it’s the cheapest in our list, it’s definitely a contender in the sub $50 range.
Glenlivet 18 ($95)
This is and has been my favorite single malt scotch since I first took a sip. This is the first one I go to when I feel like drinking a scotch. The nose is full of brown sugar, baking spices, nutmeg and sweet sherry. This has a great bready toasted nose. The palate is full of vanilla rum soaked raisins, a mix of apple skins and more baking spice. A great daily sipper, special occasion drinker, anytime bottle.
BenRiach 16 Sauternes ($110)
Let this one sit out for about 30min to an hour and you will be greatly rewarded with apricots soaked in cognac, drizzled with cinnamon icing sugar. And just when you think you’ve had too much sweetness, nutty baking spies and a firm handshake from oak come through and say hello. How are you? Such a gentleman.
Ardbeg Uigeadail ($83)
I told you I’d throw in a peaty smoke bomb. This one is not for the faint of heart…let alone faint of stomach. Brace yourself for a sweet, salty, bbq, smoked and peat filled journey. Try and escape the smokey grips of this dram and you will FAIL. The sea salty, green apple taffy is just bait for the barbecued meats that you will endure along your way. Fight past the tobacco drag~…..If you like how this is going, disregard all other bottles and pick this one up. Enjoy.
Dream Bottle (what’s money, my accountant handles that?)
Unlike Sniff, I will choose one.
Glenlivet 21 ($159)
This is a spicey, sherried and oaky scotch smoothed out by the viscosity, caramel and vanilla flavors. A scotch where the depth and complexity are felt by the weight of it on the tongue and the essence carried by the nose. Around $60 more expensive than the 18 but around $500 less than the 40 bottled by Kirkland, I wish this could be my daily sipper. Delicious and a perfect example of a Scottish Whisky.
COLOR: Don’t let the dark bottle fool you! The inner liquid is bright watered down yellow. A well hydrated person, you could say.
NOSE: The nose, oh the nose. The first written notes in my journal are, “This is aweful”. Immediately smoked peat, meat, briney and you can smell the alcohol(like vodka) in this. Slowly continuing to fight my urge to purge, I find lemon concentrate(like from the dish washing liquid), Rubber ball(like from the dodgeball that smashes into your face and you just get a taste because your tongue was out) and also new leather. Easing into it again I smell beach house, a mix of salty brine-filled BBQ on the weekend. I’m finding that this is similar to the other Ardbegs I’ve tried but not as good, less refined and larger. Like an uncut diamond, or chewed food starting the journey leading to the porcelain end. (double entendre for all you word nerds)
PALATE: The taste is sweet, and definitely sweeter than I had imagined. The smoke creeps in like a low fog over a dew covered golf course while peat bogs are being farmed for more Ardbeg. The peat is light though which is nice. No intense meatiness here. The alcohol is a little hot on the tongue, add water.
Water opens up an amazing smell of creamy vanilla, and sweet nougat. The peat and smoke almost disappear and it’s mostly heavy vanilla. (My nose could be shot from smelling this all night as well)
The palate changes to a more sweet light cream taste with a nice spice and wood coming through. (I think my taste buds have given in)
FINISH: The finish, the finish is….long. The smoke and peat linger until I wake up in the morning and find that the toothpaste isn’t what tastes of smoke, it’s my scotch covered tongue. My cat wouldn’t come near me for fear I was carrying an open flame and was trying to burn her. Oh Ardbeg and Ardbeg, how we try to enjoy thee.
This is why I love tasting scotch and reviewing all different kinds. I know I don’t like Ardbeg, but I never know when I might find one that I do like. Through this smokey, meaty and peaty journey, not only do I expand my palate, but I have a chance to let everyone else who reads this blog either heed my warning or welcome the demise. I recently tried another smoke bomb and actually enjoyed it, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, a review to come soon.