Scotch VS Scotch : Macallan Classic Cut VS Macallan Cask Strength (red label)

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    • Two. Different. Boats.

A LOT of talk was happening on Instagram once the TTB released the label for the 2017 Classic Cut limited release from Macallan. Everyone was hoping the same thing I was hoping: “Please God, let this be a replacement for the Cask Strength and let it be awesome!” Well, the day finally came and the Classic Cut was finally released.

Below are the CNPF notes and my thoughts about these two bottles side by side πŸ˜‰

COLOR: The cask strength (CS) is a rich, burned and caramelized sugar. The classic cut (CC) is a shade darker than gold.

NOSE: The CS smells of rich, dark, dried fruits. Raisins. Apricot. Brown sugar. Nosed side by side, the CC is almost a powdered sugar sweet over a bit of oak, actually. Bourbon vanilla.

PALATE: The CS is strong 60.1% and viscous dark espresso adventure. It’s overpowering and obviously aged in a majority of EU sherry casks without a barrage of sherry spices. It’s interesting how that’s even happened. It’s not spicy at all. It is a bit tannic at this ABV though. The CC isn’t just lighter in color and nose, but it’s lighter on the palate too. The packaging says vanilla and ginger are the two primary flavors but being a big fan of ginger, it tastes like it’s 90% ginger and 10% vanilla at best. The AM oak casks used really shine through in the form of that ginger. With water though, the CC seems to calm its ginger forward agenda just a bit and the vanilla really shines through the finish. A pleasant surprise. The CS with a touch of water loses some of its tannic heat and picks up some more raw sugar. Oh yes. The finish is still a bit drying but definitely enjoyable.

Final thoughts:
So there you have it. It’s just a totally different boat. And honestly, it reminds me of the same Macallan dichotomy that exists between the sherry aged bottles and the fine oak series. One is very sherry forward and the other is all about the oak. So which would I recommend you seek out? Well that depends on what you’re looking for in your whisky, flavorwise. If you love either sherry or vanilla ginger there’s a bottle for you. Too bad only one of them is easy to find.. For now.

Slainte.

SVS : Highland Park Fire 15 versus Highland Park Ice 17

Fire versus Ice!

I purchased the HP Ice because my local spot called me and told me I needed to buy this “whisky in a really cool bottle”. The HP fire on the other hand, came in the mail via sample bottle from the Edrington group. Being the impartial reviewers that we are, I immediately called my local shop and asked them to order a bottle of fire for me. Sam (the owner) let me know it’d be two weeks before he got it in his hands. Awesome! Time to review these two beauties with no “bias guilt”!

UPDATE: I got my bottle of HP Fire 15 before publishing this review so no bias AND beautiful pictures for you!

COLOR
Right out of the bottles, it’s easy to see that the HP fire is a tone of dark gold versus the light (and almost clear) yellow appearance of the Ice. This makes perfect sense considering the Ice was aged primarily in exBourbon casks and the fire was aged “exclusively in refill port barrels” says the insert. The paper insert also says this is a first for HP, aging their distillate exclusively in port casks that is.

NOSE
Yessssss!!! My favorite noses are the ones that are so dissimilar that the differences jump at you like a wild cougar on a camping trip gone horribly wrong! The Ice is so heavy in the vanilla department when nosed next to the sweet nose of the port! If you’ve never had port (or Sherry for that matter, fortified wines unite!), go to your local store and pick up some delicious caramel oozing, toffee drenched, affordably priced port. Thank me later for introducing the two of you. πŸ™‚

PALATE
That’s what I’m talking about. The fire’s palate is no contradiction to its name. It starts a little soft sugary sweet and quickly evolves into cinnamon fire before it smooths into that familiar HP touch of peat and smokey note. It’s a challenge getting over the viscosity of the fire. I know it’s not motor oil but it’s coats the mouth like the best tasting motor oil I’ve ever ingested! With water though, the cinnamon spices break through that sweet port nose and snuff out the sugary goodness that makes the glass inviting. The palate though is the exact opposite. This is a nifty little glass! Water reverses the entire experience. From sweet nose and fire tongue to fire nose and sweet tongue. That’s very, very interesting.

The ice reads like our previous review versus the Glenfarclas minus the blast of spice that surfaces when I forget to cleanse the palate before switching glasses! Wowsers! I’ll be back after some water… There we goooooo. Much, much sweeter and enjoyable. Mixing these two glasses would be an overpowering manifestation of way too many spices trying to drown themselves in vanilla.

FINISH
They’re both HP finishes. Smokey and light on peat but balanced so the peat doesn’t make you contemplate long walks off of short piers. The fire is enjoyable, for sure, and doubly so with water. The Ice is a bit more peat heavy and thanks to my anti-peat palate, it’s just as enjoyable as it was the last time I reviewed it…

FINAL THOUGHTS
I must say, the fire’s party trick is worth the bottle price alone (as long as the price is in the $200 range). Yes, it’s definitely expensive but compared to the $300 of the Ice, I think the fire is definitely more worth it. If my local spot tells me it’s $300, I’ll still be glad because of its rarity but I’m never glad shelling out more than $100 for a bottle unless it’s spectacular. This fire is pretty good though…

What do you think? Have you tried them both? Let us know your thoughts!

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!!

Scotch VS Scotch : Blasphemy Edition

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? πŸ˜‰ 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.

COLOR:
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.

NOSE:
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.

PALATE:
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.

FINISH:
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 πŸ˜›

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. πŸ™‚

Slainte to the first Ardbeg to be truly enjoyable to me!

-[Sniff]

Scotch VS Scotch : Glenfiddich 26 Excellence vs Glenfarclas 25

Hello there fellow scotch addict!

One of our primary goals here at ScotchNSniff is to bring you suggestions that are focused on value. We like the idea of bringing a suggestion to you that we can stand behind (and almost more importantly, one we can enjoy ourselves!).

Most people try to place scotch into two piles; one, for the rich and one for the rest of us… but in reality, value exists across the spectrum of scotches in spite of price and regardless of your budget. It’s the biggest reason we do a Christmas suggestion list each year, knowing that not everyone can afford to spend a grand on a bottle but almost anyone can come up with fifty bucks for a special occasion.

Today though, we’re going to pit a $500 bottle of Glenfiddich Excellence 26 year against the 25 year offering from Glenfarclas that carries a price tag of $225. At literally less than half of the price of the Glenfiddich, this might seem like a strange comparison but considering the whisky in the barrels took almost the same amount of time to age, it may be difficult to justify the difference in price.

Glenfiddich 26 Excellence VS Glenfarclas 25

 

In typical SnS fashion, it’s time to get on with the CNPF reviews!

COLOR: The Glenfarclas has a gorgeous wheat color where the Glenfiddich is a surprisingly light color, resembling white grape juice.

NOSE: The Glenfarclas smells strongly of spices commonly found in Sherry. Do yourself a favor, if you’ve never smelled Sherry and want to recognize it every time you smell it, grab a bottle of Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherry and enjoy! It pours like motor oil, looks like used motor oil, and tastes like heaven! (I’m a big port fan, so fortified wines are some of my closest friends!). Nosing the Glenfiddich, after the Glenfarclas sherry monster, you’ll notice a bit of smoke that ties the fruity and floral notes together. It’s definitely a sweeter nose versus the spicy Glenfarclas.

PALATE: Imagine a candy cane that’s had almost all of its mint removed but still retains that sugary candy cane sweet flavor. Now melt that flavor into a velvety butter and place it on your tongue. Now roll it around finding some smoke and some vanilla mixed into softly charred oak along the way. Now breathe in deep the spices and oak. If you read that with your imagination, you just tasted the Glenfiddich 26.

Now imagine a tannic sherry (really) with its slew of spices setting up base camp on your tongue. Christmas spices have found a place near the middle of your tongue. Pepper parked itself near the back of your tongue. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and Christmas have found their way to the tip of your tongue. Now imagine all of these camps suffered from a massive landslide into your gullet as you sip them down. I hope you love sherry because it’s your new best friend!

FINISH: The Glenfarclas 25 finishes with hints of fresh chocolate, like you’d smell at the Hershey factory… and that chocolate just melted into a bowl of sherry. This is wonderful. The Glenfiddich 26 has a wonderful finish that starts with spice and oak, but slowly and linearly gives way to fruit sugar. Quite tasty.

So who wins out? Who wins this installment of SvsS? As I’ve said with other SvsSs, you can’t actually go wrong with either of these bottles. It’s a matter of personal choice when you’re looking for a specific flavor to enjoy when you sit down with a dram. If you’re looking for value though, it’s difficult to say the extra year in oak bourbon barrels is worth the $275 price difference. If you love sherry and Christmas spices, you can pick up two bottles of the Glenfarclas AND a bottle of Glenfiddich’s fruit-bomb-that-is-its 12 year for the same price as the 26 excellence. Again though, we’re talking a very different set of flavors. The Glenfiddich 12 isn’t in the same league when it comes to complexity of flavors though it is very good. It’s just different and in a different world of value.

So which would you choose? What do you think about this comparison?

-[Sniff]

Scotch VS Scotch : Aberlour A’bunadh versus The Macallan Rare Cask

We’re comparing a $90 cask strength Aberlour to a $300 macallan. Is there a $210 difference in these bottles? Let me just say off the bat, the packaging, bottle, and bottle topper for the rare cask are worth the first hundred dollars. The bottle is beautifully cut and angled with feminine shoulders donning a low necked top. The topper is one solid piece of metal with a checkered pattern holding the cork. The packaging is magnetically held closed and wonderfully compliments the bottle. So with that very expensive but effective marketing aside, the bottles don’t compare in the presentation category.

Nose:
Considering the Rare Cask from Macallan and the A’bunadh from Aberlour are both aged in magical Sherry casks, it’s no surprise that their noses are similar but the Abunadh immediately stands out… as its almost-20%-higher-alcohol-content train wrecks it’s way into your nostrils. The Rare Cask reeks of sherry and sweetened vanilla and more… The Abunadh is much more of a sherry with mouth watering orange marmalade and classic sun dried raisins. So though they both scream Sherry, they both have pretty obvious differences in the nose.

Palate:
The Abunadh at full strength is tannic and heavy handed. Holding it for a while on the tongue may be more dangerous than helpful to analyzing the flavors in the juice. The raisins reappear and pepper finds its way to the middle of the tongue. The alcohol is overwhelming though. Considering cask strengths like this (60%) can be cut in half, you’ve essentially bought two bottles of tastiness. That alone doubles the value of the Abunadh! So it’s really a $180 bottle vs a $300 bottle now! Minus the Rare Cask packaging, this has quickly become a fair fight!! The Rare Cask is much more kind to the palate… soft sherry gives rise to spices and pepper. They’re forward but not overwhelming.

And now we add water!

The Rare Cask was already mellow and the dilution only brings a touch of sweetness to the forefront but it’s still very much a spicy sherry bomb. Macallan knows their fans very well.
The A’bunadh isn’t any less tannic. It rushes to pull the water from your mouth but hold out for the sugar and spice of the Sherry. It might be the side by side reviews of two sherry bombs that’s hurting my objective… I’m betting on that… or the A’bunadh really did just shed its sugar.

Finish:
The Rare Cask is only slightly oily and lingers like sweet sugar cooking over a fire. A hint of caramelized sugar with a touch of smoke. Burnt sugar edges if you’ve ever had sugar fried into a pancake (like they do on the streets in Korea). The A’bunadh’s finish is manageable and not nearly as lingering. Surprising.

So how do they compare? The Macallan finds sugar and the A’bunadh finds spice. They both find sherry and they both taste amazing! They’re both worth their cost but the A’bunadh makes a great substitute for the Rare Cask as long as you’re not hunting for that extra sugary sweet over smoke over sherry.

Macallan Rare Cask vs Aberlour A'bunadh
Macallan Rare Cask vs Aberlour A’bunadh