Dewar’s 30 Year review

A buddy of mine from work went on a weekend trip and ended up going through a London Duty Free Store. Before leaving on the trip, he did what any awesome guy would do for a friend and asked me if I wanted anything in particular from the DFS. I said, “As a matter of fact I do!” and then proceeded to ask him for a Ballantine’s 30 year blend. The next time I see him, I’m anxious for the bottle to taste and review it. He says, “[Scotch] I had to pull an audible..” Okay okay, he didn’t call me [Scotch], but that’d be awesome! Anyhow, He continued and said, “The duty free guy said that this would be better, cost a little more, but you’d like it more.” I could see the worry in his face and being the awesome guy that he is, he’d already figured out a plan to split the bottle with me to cover the extra cost. I said, “Naw man, anything for our readers!!” Without any further ado, and anymore lengthening of this post, let’s see how it goes!

fullsizerender

C: Our regular readers will know how we feel about color, but this is a Cherry Wood with darker edges.

fullsizerender_1

N: The nose is incredible. I poured a glass and was occupied doing other things before I could try it, so it sat around for 5-10 minutes opening up. The air around the glass is filled with the scent of raw walnuts and thick toffee pudding. The Pedro Ximenez influence is easily recognizable in just the nose alone. It’s dusty, like an attic, and fairly smoky in the nose for a non-Islay variety. There’s dark chocolate candy bar as well as cocoa powder, dried figs and it’s like sticking your face into a bag of dried prunes, just sticky all over. A kola smell comes forward and near the end of my nosing a faint lemon smell, as if someone spritzed a lemon over a cocktail. This nose is layered and rich. My mouth is water because the nose is giving every indication that it’s going to be delicious. Cinnamon raisin bread covered in a smoked prune jam. I don’t even think smoked prune jam is a thing but this is it. Bitter orange marmalade. Okay I think I’m done. Quince paste. Done.

P: First sip is creamy, mouth coating and very savory. Almost a bready savory. Immediately I wish that the ABV would have been pumped up from the very basic 40%. But saying that, it does carry a lot of flavor. Second sip, everything continues to remain enjoyable. There’s a wonderful savory spice that undulates with spicy, then savory, then dried sweet flavors. Again and again layers of bran muffin, including the raisins, hearty grains covered in a sweetener that isn’t too sweet. You know how some people say that scallops can be sweet or milk added to your coffee can be sweet. Sweet like that. A very savory sweet. Rich malt, black strap molasses. Going in for another sip maple syrup covered French toast, with too much cinnamon (still good though). The dustiness from the nose carries over to the palate a little, you can definitely taste the age, not a bad thing, just apparent.

fullsizerender_4

F: The finish is mouth watering, no dryness whatsoever. The bready, wheat filled flavor lingers, like you just bit into a piece of wholegrain bread. A very faint soft smoke lingers in the background. The spices are subdued in the finish but very rich and not watered down. This whisky just drinks so easily.

With single malts, you sometimes have specific characteristics that you particularly enjoy. Tamdhu has an amazing sherry flavor, Laphroaig will smoke you out with peat and Glenfarclas will spice you up like Christmas morning. The thing with these older blends is that there are no peaks or specific characteristics, that’s the essence of blending. Like the Hibiki 30 year, this Dewars 30 year is an exceptional blend, and drinks like water. The nose is rich with individual layers. The palate is round, well blended and just plain delicious.

[Scotch]

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.
fullsizerender

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.
FullSizeRender(3)
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.
FullSizeRender(1)
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.

 

image
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.

image
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.

image
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.

image
ScotchNSniff glass

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

Auchentoshan Three Wood vs Kavalan Classic

Wait.

A scotch versus a Taiwanese whisky? Granted their both single malts, this review exists because of the magic that is sherry. 🙂

The three wood NAS offering from Auchentoshan is a dark molasses brown in the bottle and pours just a touch lighter, no doubt the color imbued by two different types of sherry casks. Im sure we’ll see how much the ex bourbon casks add to the bottle on the palate.

The Kavalan Classic (also a no-age-statement) is just a shade closer to gold than the three wood but packs the same type of bold sherry influence that is easy to love. Doubly so if you’re a Macallan fan.

On the nose the three wood immediately brings caramel chews to mind but carries a handful of oddly paired background notes including citrus zest and raisins. Yes, caramel raisins sound awesome but the citrusy, slightly vegetal smells might divide some noses. It’s a bit refreshing and a bit odd at the same time. This is all in contrast to the rich honey and syrupy sugar nose of the Kavalan. The sherry also shows its face but not in the same round fashion the three wood displays. My memory of each bottle definitely had the word “BOLD” written on them but side by side, it’s interesting to see the sherry take a back seat to their subtleties and nuances. Let’s get to tastin’!

The Kavalan is smooth on the tongue. Just a touch of alcoholic bite but it’s hard to drive attention from the sherry spices mixed in over light fruit syrup. It’s luscious on the tongue and borderline velvety with just a touch of fig. It finishes wonderfully with more sherry spices and a slightly oaky flavor. Man oh man. I knew there was a reason I bought two bottles after getting a taste at whiskey extravaganza last year. It’s hard NOT to like this dram! Let’s move on!

Ah, the three wood is sweet to start but finds itself sharing in the same vegetal notes that were hiding in the nose. It’s thinner on the tongue than the velvet blanket of Kavalan. It also has a bit of smoke on the finish. Alone, this isn’t a half bad pour but side by side with the Kavalan, its flaws really make their way to the forefront. This was a pretty terrible matchup but considering these bottles are within $15 of each other, it’s not too crazy to pit them against each other.

So there we have it.

Maybe it’s the third round of distillation at Auchentoshan… or maybe Taiwan really is onto something but this was a knockout by Kavalan.

If I were you though? I’d pick up at least one bottle of the Kavalan Classic. There’s a reason their “Solist” offering took Whiskey of the Year last year.

Slainte 🙂

-[Sniff]

Glenmorangie Milsean

Glenmorangie has done it again.

I’m not sure they set out to create a dessert scotch with the Nectar D’or but scotch lovers responded very well to the very sweet, finished-in-dessert-wine-casks offering. That was 2011.

Here we are five years later and Glenmorangie has just released its seventh annual private edition bottling, called the Milsean (pronounced “Meel-Shawn”, it’s Scot’s Gaelic for “sweet things”). This offering was “extra-finished” in re-toasted red wine casks and bottled to look like something out of a candy shop (or sweetshop as the bottle reads). The alternating red and white stripes of the box and bottle are reminiscent of peppermints and for good reason.

On to the tasting.

Color: Rich Honey.

Nose: Immediately your nose bombarded with a birthday-cake-icing level of sweetness with fruity overtones like those you’d take in smelling the syrup from a can of assorted fruit. (I’m quickly reminded of peach and plum sugar candies I ate as a kid in Korea.)  Re-toasting the former red wine casks to impart such a level of sweetness might have been genius on the part of Dr. Lumsden.

Palate: Immediately the spice of oak makes it’s way to the front of your tongue and you’re left with a barrage of mixed emotions. Like smelling simple syrup while popping a handful of cinnamon red hot candy into your mouth, so it’s quite a bit spicier than a typical red and white striped peppermint. With a bit of coaxing around the tongue, the spice subsides and gives way to very luscious fruits. These are absolutely decadent candied fruits. Or fruit candy like the kind you’d find in a grandmother’s candy dish that are just slightly stuck together and very obviously, pure sugar.

Finish: A handful of fruit flavors wash over the tongue with the texture of canned peach juice in this medium length finish.

After adding a spot of water…

Nose: The saccharine sweet intensifies and has become ridiculous. It smells like the overwhelming presence of sugar that one can smell when wafting the air over southern sweet tea. That dissolved-in-water sugar that you know is excellent for making rock candy. The natural fruit sugar smells are just a ghost behind this pure candy sugar.

Palate: The spice of cinnamon and oak have been tamed with just a small hint to remind you that  you’re not drinking candy. Just a touch of bitterness finds its way to your tongue like a ginger chew. Interesting.

Finish: The finish is just as tasty with delicate notes of tree fruits subtly making their way to your attention.

Wow. This expression, I have no doubt, will disappear from shelves as the Nectar D’Or does. People will fall in love with the sweetness and may forget their drinking scotch at all. It’s truly uncharacteristic of any typical highland scotches but that might not be a bad thing. Variety is indeed the spice of life. Or in this case, the sugar and spice of life.

Slainte.

-Sniff

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!)

 

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!