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

GlenDronach 21 Parliament

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GlenDronach 21 Parliament

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COLOR: The color is a dark amber or medium grade B maple syrup

NOSE: 21 years of sitting in Oloroso and PX casks have done wonders for this single malt. Who knew something so dark could smell and taste so fruity, rich and spicy. Brown sugar blasts through, dragging sugar in the raw with it, caramelizing on your tongue to a rich and crunchy English toffee. The brightness of Pink lady apples and tart dark cherries snaps like a SlimJim in your nose. And this is all before you even take a sip. Take a moment to let the spirit breathe and fill the room and no doubt you’ll nose the heather off in the distance and the whiffs of tobacco leaves being dried, not smoked. Add a few drops of water and the red fruits get accentuated and then coated with sticky caramel and toffee pudding. If you don’t understand what I mean, It’s rich, rich, rich in the nose.

PALATE: The first thing I taste is the delicious fruitiness and the roundness of the two sherries. A slight smokiness or old wood flavor pushes its way through, possibly from the Pedro Ximenez influence. Even at 48% abv, I could drink this neat all day…I would be passed out with possibly less clothes on, but it’s definitely a slow easy drinker. There’s a lot of nuttiness and baking spices, like someone just baked a “fresh out of the oven” minced meat pie but added toasted hazelnuts, just because. The addition of a few drops of water increases the sweetness on the tongue and boosts the nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom spices deliciously.

FINISH: The finish is long and lasting and utterly balanced. I did experience some mid-palate astringency, but that was easily forgotten with another delicious sip.

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Many of the 21 year old single malts that I’ve tasted felt light on the tongue and aren’t as rich as I’d like them to be. Enter GlenDronach 21. This single malt maintains the heavyweight feel and richness that I have looked for, all while balancing toasty oak, baking spices and sweetness. Definitely one to look out for or order, if you can find it for less than $150.

Scotch Out.
Slainte Mhath!

Glenfiddich 21

Glenfiddich 21

Glenfiddich 21

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It’s October! Do you know where your kids are?? Anyways, the weather is changing away from the shorts and surf boards and going towards the cardigans and fireplaces. It’s always a good time of year to partake in a delicious dram, but now more than ever. Bundle up, light the fire (or flashlight) and let’s get to tasting!

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COLOR: Dark caramel, mahogany with edges of fired wood
NOSE: The nose is extremely full of ripe stewed fruit with bright fresh red berries. I say again very sweet on the nose. For its age it has a lot of bright aroma characteristics such as Florida orange, light floral honey and red delicious apples. Water accentuates the vanilla, toffee and caramel notes. There’s also a really unique and delicious smelling Vanilla cream caramel.
PALATE: It always surprises me how soft and light older single malts can be. The process of aging has such wild effects. The nose was so bright and fruit forward while the palate is light, subtle and easy going. The wood is present but not overwhelming. A light rubbed leather and soft spice with cigar box notes warm the perimeter of my tongue.
FINISH: The finish is definitely woody and full of aged rum flavor, with a slight menthol end.
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This was definitely a delicious tipple and I’m not just saying that because I wrote it in my scotch journal. This is definitely one of the times that I would ask for a higher alcohol by volume because it lacks mouth feel and weight. Although this is a great scotch I would rather go for the competing brand of Glenlivet 21 archive, which you can read the review. The syrupy mouth-feel and the increased spice and toffee flavor knock me off my feet.
Scotch Out.
Slainte Mhath!

Ardbeg Ten

Ardbeg 10

Ardbeg Ten

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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.
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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.
Scotch Out.
Slainte Mhath!

Tomatin 15

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Tomatin 15

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COLOR: Pale straw yellow
NOSE: The nose is much sweeter than the 12 year old Tomatin that we’d reviewed. Gobs of sweet vanilla caramel, brown sugar, candied red apple and sour apple. I’d written the word “lace” in my review…to be honest I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s lacy in the nose =)
PALATE: This flavor is completely different than the 12 year old and full of tropical fruit like pineapple, papaya and tangerine. Light lemon oil comes out with bright citrus notes.
FINISH: The finish ends with a woodsy core of pineapple, dry and quite lengthy.
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This Tomatin 15 year along with the 12 year are both quite delicious. And for the price, $25 and $18 at my local store, it’s hard to pass up a new scotch to try. I enjoyed the 12 year old more, because I’m more into the darker, nuttier scotches. But if you like a lighter, fruitier scotch, definitely go for the 15.
Slainte Mhath!

Tomatin 12

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Tomatin 12

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COLOR: Golden wheat
NOSE: Tomatin brought grains and bread to mind on first sniff. Heavy in the malt and wheat bread smells. Then figs and juicy pear sweetness. With the addition of spring water toffee and vanilla caramels and a stronger pear fragrance arrived. For being 12 years old, it has developed a very complex nose.
PALATE: At first sip the pear comes right out, along with granny smith apples without the tartness. Spice and oak develop on the tongue while swirling it around. Freshly grated nutmeg and sweet salt-water taffy.
FINISH: The finish here is much longer than expected, but single noted with an interesting cigar box like finish. Spicy and drying.
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I’d seen this scotch at my liquor store forever and it was always on sale for $25. Since it was always on sale I never wanted to pick it up. And then it went on sale for $18 dollars and I said I have to have it. Even if it’s bad, I’ll still feel good about trying it. Who knew that it would be far more complex then I ever thought it would be. Why is no one buying this?? My guess is, it’s the perception of price to quality. No one wants to buy something that’s always on sale because they assume it’s of poor quality. This is still a Scottish single malt, aged for 12 years and spending time in expensive sherry casks. This is a nice neat drinker and probably solid in your Rob Roys or Bloody sand cocktails.
Reach outside of your norm and enjoy!
Slainte Mhath!

Aberlour A’Bunadh


A'Bunadh

Aberlour A’Bunadh

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COLOR: Dark caramel
NOSE: I immediately get dark dried fruits like dark raisins, dried figs and dried apple skins. Then baking spices like nutmeg, hints of cinnamon and orange rind. It smells very sweet of brown sugar and un-refined low grade honey.
PALATE: Spicy and smooth oak finish. Breathe in gently because the 60.4% alcohol by volume will burn the hairs out of your nose. A little spring water quiets down the bite and brings out an AWESOME SWEET ROUNDNESS. The baking spices intensify and then bourbon characteristics arise. Delicious.
FINISH: The finish is deliciously lengthy and stays in your mouth and nose for a while before needing to take another sip. It’s got nice body and weight on the tongue. Reminds me of some fine cognacs in nose and palate.
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A’Bunadh seems to be the go to for the Aberlour brand and I can see why people rave about it. If you didn’t know what scotch tasted like, but you know you like a good bourbon, A’Bunadh is your go to. A great place to start and a great place to finish your night.
Slainte Mhath!

The Glenlivet 21 Archive

The Glenlivet 21The Glenlivet 21 Archive

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COLOR: Brown toast
NOSE: At first nosing it has characteristics from the 40 but drowning over powered by spices. It has sweet fruit overtones. The spices from the oak shine through but the oak itself isn’t crazy. Tangerine.
PALATE: VERY smooth, more tangerines, dang nice, soft, velvety,
FINISH: All the spice from the nose come barreling forward for a light finish. Citrusy hints. Pleasant, nothing too crazy.
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The poor man’s 40 (that’s still expensive lol)
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ADD WATER
NOSE: the spices have muted a bit
PALATE: wow, sour fruit rises to the occasion with tons the spices front and center
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FINISH: it’s all business with water. Oak. Spices.Overall it’s a fantastic scotch that does a great job of being the affordable version ($170) of the 40 year ($1400/$700 costco bottled). It’s priced to be much more of a gift than a daily sipper.  Still, I wouldn’t kick it out of my booze cabinet.-Sniff

Hibiki 17

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Hibiki 17 year old

What?! Another Blend??!! That’s correct ladies and gentlemen. The Hibiki 12 year old’s older brother shows up and definitely brings its “A” game.

COLOR: Orange amber with red edges
NOSE: Deeper oak right off the bat, then gobs of caramelized sugar and stewed red fruit like plums, raspberries and fuji apples. Even with all those heavier aromas you can still dive through and find the light floral and vanilla accents. The addition of water brings a slight rubbing alcohol nose but the sweet freshly baked sticky buns brings you back for more.
PALATE: Much more woody than the 12 year old, astringent around the extremities of the tongue. Hold onto the glorious liquid for 17 seconds before swallowing and you’ll be rewarded with plums, vanilla, spice and candied orange peel.
FINISH: Beautiful length to this spirit. It’s a wonderful blend, tasting like you just bit into a red delicious apple

There aren’t many distributors of the Hibiki 17, but going through Master of Malt will bypass any issues of not being able to find it in your area…unless you can’t have spirits delivered to your state…sorry. This is a great blend and if you like the Hibiki line then you should definitely add it to your cabinet.

The Balvenie Triple Cask

The Balvenie Triple CaskThe Balvenie Triple Cask 16

This bottle is a little… lacking? Disappointing? Awkward?

COLOR: medium brown gold
NOSE: Granny Smith apples up front, sweet vanilla
PALATE: lacking and too smooth, more like scotch flavored water than a 16 year old three cask specimen 😦
FINISH: delicious and amazingly fruity, buttery on the tongue

ADD WATER

NOSE: a little less sweet, a little more spice
PALATE: almost like a scotch that forgot to be a scotch, the spice and flavor is almost invisible
FINISH: is full of spice this time and still buttery

It’s kind of a strange dram. Doubly so when compared to the Caribbean Cask and the Doublewood we’ll be reviewing soon.
The palate wasn’t smooth like the blended Hibiki which is smooth but full of subtle flavors worth deciphering.
And it’s certainly not as friendly as the Balvenie Caribbean Cask and it’s brown sugar bubble gum handshake with your tongue.
This Balvenie is just an oddball.