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

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]

Happy New Year!!!

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 😉

 

 

Happy New Year and Slainte Mhath!!!

(Cheers! Kanpai! Salut! Prost!)

 

The Glenlivet 12 and 15 year

 

 

Which one is better?

The Glenlivet 12 year versus the Glenlivet 15 year, which one is better?…… Trick question, those who answered one or the other need to stick around to read why.

It’s commonly assumed that the older the whisky is, the more that it should cost and therefore means the better it is. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If there is anything that you should learn today, please let it be that, “Age ain’t nothin’ but a number”. Yes, the older a whisky is, the more expensive it should be, because after factoring in time and the angel’s share (evaporation of whisky from the barrel), less whisky is actually in the barrel, therefore the need to sell it at a higher price to make the same amount of profit from less liquid. But that doesn’t mean anything about it tasting better.

The Glenlivet 12 (G12) and 15 (G15) are completely different whisky’s with very different flavor profiles and aromas. Don’t think of them as competing against each other but rather, another flavor within the family of Glenlivet to try.

Color: The Glenlivet 12 is close to a lightly toasted wheat and pale yellow. The Glenlivet 15 is more of a medium Oak color and lightly orange in the glass.

Nose: The G12’s nose is full of fruit flavors! You’re immediately blasted with a rainbow of aromas, pineapple, white grape, kiwi and gobs of tropical white fruit smells. The juice, most certainly, is loose. Then a light amount of white pepper, the fresh smell of a new wallet and light oak. Going in for another nose, an under-ripe granny smith apple and floral qualities appear.

The G15 is a completely different beast, but just as alive and layered. Opening the bottle I immediately smell fresh oak, round vanilla and sweet Sherry. There is a artificial peach aroma, like that of gummy peach rings, followed by molasses rich brown sugar and buttery toffee. Rich.

Palate: The G12’s mouth feel is light and not oily, like a racy sauvignon blanc. A light spice fills the mouth with a cereal breadiness. Vanilla, floral like a chamomile tea with dried orange peel in the background.

The G15 features toasted pecans and lime on the palate with a light oak bringing roundness. A honeyed licorice candy lengthens into a drying cocoa. Blonde coffee with vanilla and toffee flavor without the sweetness keeps me curious for another sip.

Finish: The G12 finishes a little sour and a tad tart, with a trailing light spice. The G15 finishes with spiced vanilla and toasted nuts and a hint of mint or menthol.

After reading this review you can see that these two scotches are completely different and can’t really be compared. If you’re looking for a tropical fruit sensation with a clean citrus nose and light spice and freshness, go for the Glenlivet 12. If you want more fall type spices, with rich vanilla and toasted nut flavors, then you would definitely go for the Glenlivet 15. Remember that a brand’s lineup isn’t always about getting better with age, but rather changing with age.

Scotch, Out.

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley : The Classic Laddie

COLOR: lightly wheated yellow
NOSE: though there are some peaty overtones, the sweetness shines through, warm honey, granulated sugar, slight vanilla,
PALATE: immediate spices on the tongue, OMG honey, wow!!!, the sweet flavors mix perfectly with the peat
FINISH: smokey like a shirt that’s spent time around a campfire, smooth like room temperature butter,
~
 ADD WATER
 ~
NOSE: dang, now you can smell sugar outside of the glass, the water swallowed the peat, a little smoke lingers
PALATE: more fruit now on top of spices, like plum and currants,
FINISH: spicy smoke, smooth, creamy, yum
 ~
Surprisingly delicious and without burn for 50% alcohol content.
This… has replaced my daily sipper! (Glenfiddich 19). It’s so well balanced it’s hard NOT to like. It’s an amalgam of flavors from all parts of Scotland that entertains the tongue without wearing it out. Fan-freakin-tastic dram!

The Glenlivet Adventure in DC!!

Greetings fellow Scotch lovers! Sniff here (yes, I know, I’ve been absent quite a bit lately), and I’d just like to recap the adventure that Scotch and Sniff enjoyed a couple of weeks ago at the Glenlivet Guardian’s tasting. A LOT of people have been asking how we find out about these events. Simply put, most alcohol distilling or bottling companies host events to get people excited about their brand(s). Many of them require little more than signing up for an exclusive club online. The best part? Most of them are FREE. Yes. Absolutely free. You’d be nuts NOT to sign up. They keep you up to date on new bottlings and you… spend all of your money on delicious hooch!

Moving on!

Upon arrival, we couldn’t help but compare this event to the Maker’s Mark event and the Balvenie event that we went to earlier this year.

Greeted by the beautiful ladies of Glenlivet. (Actually this event was sponsored by Pernot Ricard. It's always interesting to talk to these ladies about how they got to host such an event.)
Greeted by the beautiful ladies of Glenlivet. (Actually this event was sponsored by Pernot Ricard. It’s always interesting to talk to these ladies about how they got to host such an event.)

 

 

Ahh, heritage.
Ahh, heritage.

 

 

They had plenty of samples out to help you taste and this was all before the tasting class.
They had plenty of samples out to help you taste and this was all before the tasting class.

 

 

A preview (now realized) of their Naddura Oloroso bottling.
A preview (now realized) of their Naddura Oloroso bottling.

 

 

The tasting room setup was pretty killer. Very intimate and simultaneously group friendly.
The tasting room setup was pretty killer. Very intimate and simultaneously group friendly.

 

 

Each table had three glasses (where are the glencairn glasses??) with Glenlivet covers.
Each table had three glasses (where are the glencairn glasses??) with Glenlivet covers.

 

 

Near the glasses were four labeled canisters containing
Near the glasses were four labeled canisters containing “fruity”, “spicy”, “flowery”, and “smokey” flavors. If you like the smell of canister IV (peat/smoke), you’ll love ardbeg. If you’re normal, well, you’ll heave a little lol.

 

 

Our host, who, to be honest, felt like a salesman and much less like a connoisseur. Glenlivet (or Pernot Ricard) and Maker's should take some notes from how Balvenie presents their product.  If you're going to take the time to organize friends, take the time to teach and treat them like family.
Our host, who to be honest, felt like a salesman and much less like a connoisseur. Glenlivet (or Pernot Ricard) and Maker’s should take some notes from how Balvenie presents their product. If you’re going to take the time to organize friends, take the time to teach and treat them like family.

 

 

A random couple seated behind us, enjoying a dram!
A random couple seated behind us, enjoying a dram!

 

 

Overall the event was a good time but it lacked the family feel of the Balvenie event where you were introduced to pictures of people and told rich stories behind those people before sharing in a “family” drink. This Glenlivet event was much more of a “here, try some scotch ya noobs, go buy some”. Which, ironically, was still more organized than the Maker’s event where we had to yank information out of our hosts.

So if you decide you’re going to visit some of these events, keep an open mind as they all seem to have their own feel.

Now go open a bottle of your favorite sipper and enjoy!

Slainte mhath!

Sniff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scotch ‘n’ Sniff at the The Balvenie Rare Craft Collection

Greetings and Salutations!!!

Sniff, here. Totally been slacking in reviews due to a myriad of factors but I’ll be writing today’s recap of the Balvenie Rare Craft Collection (RCC).

First thing’s first. A lot of people really get caught up in things like how to dress at events like this. Scotch went dressed in a button up with nice jeans and shoes. I went dressed in a zippered hooded sweat shirt, jeans, and slip on Vans shoes. Like this blog, we’re doing all of this for the common man, not the guy who shows up in a three piece suit. Alright, pretensions out of the way…

The DC event took place at the Carnegie Institution of Science in DC at 1530 P Street NW. When you arrived downstairs, you were greeted by a few ladies to verify your tickets (free to folks to RSVP to Balvenie’s “loyalty program” dubbed Warehouse 24). Once your tickets were verified, this smiling lady gave you a booklet explaining the Rare Craft event, three sample drink tokens, and a custom RCC Glencairn glass.

 

BalvenieRCC entrance
Smile for Scotch!

 

Upon walking up the steps, the first thing you notice is this door… which will look familiar if you’re a member of the Warehouse 24 program.

Warehouse 24 door
Warehouse 24 door

 

Balvenie’s goal for the night was to draw awareness to craftsmen who still practiced traditional methods of work be it to build guitars, saddles, engines, and even ping pong tables and associate that with their own method of crafting single malt scotch.

A hand crafted guitar
A hand crafted guitar

 

A handcrafted ping pong table.
A handcrafted ping pong table.

 

A hand crafted Morgan :)
A hand crafted Morgan 🙂

 

So that’s all good and well. Let’s get onto the SCOTCH. In the main area, there were two tables providing samples. The Doublewood 12 was being served at one and on the other end of the room, the Caribbean Cask 14 on the other.

Ah, the caribbean. Didn't we already do a review on you?
Ah, the caribbean. Didn’t we already do a review on you?

 

Neither of these is what I was personally looking for (since we have both and have done reviews on both). I was looking for the Portwood 21. After asking a rep, I was informed that one had to sign up for the “Master class” to get access to it. The rep then pointed me in the direction of a young lady with an iPad who could sign both Scotch and Sniff up for the class. BINGO!

Let's take the Master Class!
Let’s take the Master Class!

 

Have a seat!
Have a seat!

 

What have we here!?
What have we here!?

 

Slainte Mhath!
Slainte Mhath!

 

David Laird, brand ambassador for Balvenie US
David Laird, brand ambassador for Balvenie US

 

The class was taught by David Laird, a Balvenie US brand ambassador. Nice guy and very knowledgeable about scotch in general and the process used at the Balvenie distillery. From “Whiskey Dogs” to coopers to wood choice, he left no part of the process unturned. 95% of what we taught, we have available in blog posts here so it’s nice to know we weren’t far off of the general knowledge in the scotch world. 🙂

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Overall the event was fun and educational. Scotchucational. 🙂

Thanks to Balvenie for hosting this good time! It looks like William Grant and Sons will be hosting another via Glenlivet in November, also in DC… will we see you there??

 

-Sniff

 

 

#BalvenieRCC