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]

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!)

 

Balvenie Warehouse 24 @ Landmark Theater DC

What a ton of fun!!

[Scotch] and I received our invites from Balvenie (for Warehouse 24 members) to join David Laird and the hosting crew from Momentum (lead by the lovely Jennifer Holm) for a night of tasting at the Landmark Theater in DC and we obliged!

Having never been to a Landmark Cinema, I had no idea there would be a full bar just inside the doors. They had a really great selection for a small bar attached to a movie theater and it’s probably part of the reason this venue was chosen to host the tasting. (or perhaps it was the leather seats and stadium seating? 🙂  )

The tickets for the event were actually hand made on a letter press by a boutique called Salt and Cedar (link: saltandcedar.com/). Everyone who made the RSVP for the tasting received one when their name was taken at the movie theater box office.

After checking-in and receiving your ticket, you walked down a hallway barely illuminated by Edison bulbs to a table where you were greeted with a hot cider mix. If we heard the ladies correctly, the glass you were handed came from a warmer full of apple cider and two and a half bottles of monkey shoulder. It was tasty but you had to close your nostrils to drink it. The steam from the drink would drive the alcohol into your nose to singe your nose hairs! 🙂

Right next to the hot-scotch-cider table was a table full of tasty appetizers… YUM!

50 people were essentially smooshed into a hallway outside of the theater while our hosts prepared the theater for the killer tasting.

I’m going to let a few pictures do the talking here…

Each seat in the theater had the classic Balvenie tasting tray with a bag of popcorn on it. The cup holders each held a Balvenie branded water dropper.

Candy was passed around to be paired with the samples:

And of course the samples:

David gave a great presentation hitting on a few familiar points from other Balvenie events but of course bringing up quite a number of new stories that we hadn’t heard before.

It was great to have such a small group for the tasting event. At other events, groups are typically herded from location to location so people can taste, listen, and get out. In a theater, it was much more intimate. There were a few questions asked by other guests and very awesome answers were given. I think the level of detail was much better at such a small event. We watched a few (3) of the rare craft videos with Anthony Bourdain but in between David spoke about the five rare crafts that Balvenie holds true to (Barley, floor maltings, coppersmiths, coopers, and the Malt master).

We got to hear about the trick-of-the-trade that Balvenie uses to maintain consistency in bottles like the Rum cask expressions. We learned why the 17 DoubleWood has a purple label instead of the classic white label. We even got to hear about the history of cask finishing. At one point, I raised my camera and David even posed for a picture lol:

After all of the videos, speaking, tasting, learning, and fun, I think the best part of the entire event was being able to talk to David one on one and ask him questions related to other parts of the scotch world and his job like how he got his job and what his favorite scotch is outside of the Balvenie. It’s this level of personal attention at Balvenie events that keep us coming back. It’s what Macallan and Glenlivet have both missed the mark on. I’ve got theories as to why the tastings are so different (different brand goals, distillery sizes, etc) but it’s interesting to see the difference so obviously.

 Balvenie, David Laird, Jennifer Holm, thank you again for a wonderful night of stories and scotch.

Slainte mhath!
Go here to sign up for Balvenie’s Warehouse24!!

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. 🙂

15594806781_a606327186_o

14977399463_f9e24707d8_o

15573867306_b410ff0777_o

14976796964_9b77eacee2_o

 

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

The scotchNsniff tasting method!

scotchNsniff.com

First rule of fight club…I mean… the first rule of drinking scotch… there are no rules for drinking scotch. You drink it how you like it. With water, neat, on the rocks, in a mix. Let no one tell you how to drink your wares. Saying that though, there are techniques for tasting scotch which will help you find more flavors and aromas and help you to better experience the scotch.

Google “how to taste scotch” and you’ll get over 14 million hits. Everyone has an opinion about how to taste. 10 steps, 5 steps, rinsing the glass with the scotch first and throwing it out on the carpet(get out your stain remover). Speaking to the scotch, introducing yourself and even chewing it. Developing your own method will allow you to enjoy your scotch the way you like it.

Since you’re here, these are Scotch N Sniff’s ideas and techniques for tasting scotch:

Choosing your Scotch(maybe we’ll write another long post about choosing your scotch): Single Malt (In picture form)? Blend? Scottish? Japanese? Sherried? Peaty? Sweet? Cost? Advanced vs Novice scotches? Or maybe choose something from one of the descriptive reviews that we have in our blog to start you off. Hibiki 12 year, The Glenfiddich 12 year and The Bunnahabhain 12 year are great introduction scotches we’ve reviewed.

Choosing the right glass: A Glencairn glass and a Copita glass are specifically designed to concentrate the aromas into a tighter space and direct the smells into your nose. The bowl of these two glasses offer space for the scotch to be swirled, helping release the different aromas. If you don’t know how important nosing is, hit the link and read more.

How much to pour: ½ oz to ounce and a half. No need to go overboard, you’re tasting, not drinking….yet =)
(Sniff says: if you’re looking to measure an ounce but don’t have a measuring cup for it, use a cough syrup cup at the 30ml mark for about an ounce!)

scotchNsniff.com

CNPF

(color, nose, palate, finish)

Color. What color does it look like to you? Be as descriptive as you want to be. Golden, pale honey, toasted barley with a light glint of auburn sunset. Just don’t say that it looks brown…they’re all kinda brownish.

Nose. What does it smell like to you? After pouring yourself a small amount in the glass, lightly swirl the glass to move the scotch up the sides of the glass to increase the surface area of the liquid. This increased surface area with the slight agitation will make it easier to nose. Now don’t go jamming your nose down in the glass and inhaling really deeply. You’re liable to pass out depending on the alcohol content. Take light sniffs initially. Just like your muscles need a good stretch before pumping iron, your nose needs a couple light whiffs before going all in. What do you smell? Leather? Oak? Vanilla? Gasoline? If you don’t smell much of anything, take a deeper whiff. Stick your nose in the glass and find out what’s in the glass.
(Sniff says: A nifty trick if your sense of smell is terrible, pretend you’re going to drink the scotch from the glass but stop short of actually letting it exit the glass. This really helps you to breathe in everything the scotch has to offer!)

Palate. Now that you’ve nosed the scotch, it’s time for the best part. Tasting! Slowly pour the golden nectar into your mouth BUT WAIT, DON’T SWALLOW YET! Let it roll around in your mouth, coating your tongue on all sides, even underneath. Think about how it’s affecting your taste buds. What do you taste? Fruit? Tobacco? Spice? Now swallow it down and breathe out. What do you taste now? Has the flavor changed? Did you find another flavor? Go write it down before you forget….We’ll wait for you. Scotch has a way of creeping up on you later on, even when you’re at work and you smell something. “OH THAT’S WHAT IT WAS!! My co-workers wife’s rum raisin bread!”, Nailed it.
(Sniff says: I like to keep the scotch rolling around for a REALLY long time. Think 20-30 seconds on the tongue!)

Finish. How long did the flavor last on your tongue? Are you still tasting it? Did it change while you were breathing in and out? Did it burn or was it smooth with no bite? The CNPF method is a chance for you to get to know the scotch and to explore what it’s made of and why the distillery wants you to drink it. If all scotch tasted the same it wouldn’t be fun to drink. Reading the back of some bottles might help guide you to look for certain aromas and flavors associated with it.

Keep a journal. Write it down. This will help you reference what you liked and disliked. It will help you remember what flavors and aromas you found. Possibly help you compare different bottles and years from the same distillery.

This is just one way to taste scotch. But the whole point is to go out and try some, and use this post as a guide. Get out there and grab yourself a Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or, a Dalmore 15 or even a Macallan Sienna and start tasting! Slainte Mhath(cheers in gaelic)!

~ Scotch n Sniff ~

*************************************************
Sniff’s TLDR;
Pour an ounce in a tulip shaped glass.
1. Sniff it.
2. Taste it for 30 seconds.
3. Drink it.
4. Take notes…
Add a few drops of water and repeat steps 1-4!
*************************************************

What’s in a nose?

A nose by any other name smells just as well!

Sorry in advance that this post will be very wordy and without pictures. Actually, let’s add a picture for fun. He’s a quick picture from our instagram of our last home tasting:

Scotch Bourbon All Whisky and WhiskeyYes. It was VERY tasty 🙂

Anyways, after reading a number of scientific articles, it would seem that the human body is always a mystery unfolding. It turns out 90% of what we taste is actually attributed to what we smell. Have you ever tried the childhood experiment of drinking seltzer water while smelling lemons only to find it tastes like sprite?

Very interesting, right? Let’s add to the complexity of taste…

All of our lives (until recently) we’ve been told the tongue is segmented into four distinct tasting areas (salt, sweet, bitter, sour) but it turns out the taste buds are spread all over the tongue and there are more than four. The fifth (Umamai) was recently discovered and it looks like there may be plenty more taste receptors we haven’t yet named.

EXCITING, right?? One more twist!

To top all of that new found knowledge off, it turns out the cells in our body that sense taste and smell are replaced every 7-10 days. Do you have any idea what kind of implications can be made about our palates when they are constantly adapting and changing? 😀

This is the very reason we start beginning scotch drinkers with speyside and highland scotches. They are near void of noob-off-putting smoke and peat. Instead we ease people in with vanilla, oak, and honey. Alright, I’m getting long winded.

I think the next educational post will be about the SnS tasting method (which is really a pretty common way to go about tasting scotch and whisk(e)y in general).

Until then, Happy Whisky Wednesday and Slaite Mhath!!!