C: slightly lime green tinted, very faint yellow, clear. Sauvignon blanc.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, what’s YOUR world’s best whisky??
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!
(other examples of fruity: The Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Speyburn)
(other examples of floral: Tullabardine, The Balvenie)
(other examples of smokey: Bunnahabhain, Glenkinchie, Bruichladdich)
(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!)
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
NOSE: the spices have muted a bit
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!)
(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 ~
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!