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 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!!

Smoke on the sea water….

This new expression was released to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Lagavulin Distillery. The story goes, that an 1880’s whisky writer Englishman, by the name of Alfred Barnard, tasted an 8 year old Lagavulin and said that it was “exceptionally fine” and that it should be “held in high repute.” Let’s give this “exceptionally fine” whisky a review and see how it holds up to those claims.
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C: slightly lime green tinted, very faint yellow, clear. Sauvignon blanc.

N: When you open a bag of chocolate chips, there’s a cornstarch coated chocolate chip smell. Sweet chicory and mocha. Deep within the nose I smell lemon rind, with the wax covering it, muted, but lemon. This is of course, after moving past the wall of smoke, bonfire smoke, with a slight salinity in the air, as if you’re in a salt mine. But you should probably never make a bonfire in a mine, short supply of oxygen in small spaces seems dangerous. A lightly sweet malt hits you as soon as your nose enters the glass. You could literally nose the glass for a very long while, picking out new smells. For an 8 year old single malt, the depth within the nose is pretty incredible.
P: At 48% it’s pretty easy to drink. It’s a sweet, smoky arrival, that seems to build and increase in smoke as it sits in your mouth. As you swallow, it tastes as though a bonfire gets started in your mouth while you’re near the ocean, dried twigs, leaves and all. Taking another sip, the sweetness ends relatively abruptly, but the smoke continues and billows.
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F: The finish is smoke, for days. As I’m drinking this, my wife says,”That’s a smoky one”. Very very big understatement. There is a sweet, malty finish and very light smoked spice, like smoked paprika and charred mesquite charcoal. I just rummaged through my spices cabinet and it’s a mix of smoked paprika and 1 year old ground coriander. The finish has now lasted over 15min and I’m still breathing fire and spices.
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I have to say that my favorite of the Lagavulin bunch is the 12 year old, specifically the one released in 2014. I enjoyed the sweeter, herbal and more salty sea air of the 12 year to the 8 year. And I enjoy both the 12 year and the 8 year over the 16 year. The Distillers Edition is a completely different beast that combines sweet with smoke and peat, and if you know me, you know I hate sweet and salty foods so it easily translates to my whisky drinking as well.
If you like bonfire smoke, ocean spray and not kissing your spouse until after you brush your teeth, you’ll love this and you’ll definitely consider this “exceptionally fine.” This is the kind of scotch you sit by a fire with and tell stories, Nay!, telling tales of forgotten riches, valiant knights and journeying hobbits’s.
Let us know in the comments if this whisky is your style or a pass, we’d love to hear from you. Slainte!
Scotch

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

World’s Best Whisky!!

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.

 

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Sniff’s Birthday Extravaganza!!!!

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.

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Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release

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.

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Glenfiddich 21 The Balvenie 21 The Glenlivet 21

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.

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ScotchNSniff glass

So, what’s YOUR world’s best whisky??
[Scotch]

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]