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!)

 

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!!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Lagavulin 16

Lagavulin 16

Lagavulin 16

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COLOR: The color of the bottle is lovely, a vintage look to it with awesome font…Oh the whisky, it’s a rusty bronze with hints of dirty fallout water.
NOSE: Who’s on fire? I smell a camp fire, with the spit of meat still turning over the barely lit embers. Beef jerky is drying on the side with a soy based glaze. Ash, tobacco and cigar box are very present, like just stepping out of a cigar store but never smoking. There is a light sherry aspect and a mineral like seashell with a light whiff of mint. Water brings out an amazing red fruit that was hiding being the fire pit somewhere, cherry and raspberry. Do I like? I like =)
PALATE: My taste buds were surely tested over this scotch but look deep and you’ll find walnut shell, charred oak and fresh pine. Oh and leather. It is sweet, an enjoyable sweet that offsets the massive smoke bomb. A menthol note carries through to the palate like having licked a friends menthol cigarette (it had to have been a friend, why would I go around licking other peoples cigarettes?).
FINISH: The campfire feel carries all the way through to the end. The embers are now all charred ash, wood smoke abounds and oddly enough there’s a light spearmint. What an interesting flavor to get a mint note through the entire tasting. I really enjoyed the mint.
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All packaging aside, I’m not very much a fan of this scotch. People love it and swear by it. Those are probably the same people who love blowing up the price of Ardbeg and Oban. If you like intensely smokey and peaty scotches, these are your winners. If you don’t, please continue with us as we pull away from these smoke bombs and get back to tasting the wonderful caramel, honeyed and toffee scotches that we love so dearly.
Scotch Out.
Slainte Mhath!