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]

Scotch VS Scotch : Kirkland 18 Sherry versus Glenfiddich 18 versus Macallan 18

Value is a funny thing.
ˈvalyo͞o/
noun
noun: value; plural noun: values
  1. 1.
    the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
No matter how many reviews we write, I can never get the idea out of my head that the worth that anyone has for a bottle of whisk(e)y is always subjective. We try to give an idea of the value of a bottle based on its flavors divided by its price tag and it seems to be a solid way to give the most objective review that we can. There’s nothing worse than spending $200 (or more!) on a lack luster bottle that you purchased for a special event! And there are few better things that spending $60 on a bottle that brings joy to you and your friends.

All of that said, today’s Scotch versus Scotch is a three way battle between some 18 year old offerings. In one corner we have a bottle from Costco, the Kirkland Highland 18 Sherry. In the second corner we have a bottle of Glenfiddich 18. And in the third corner of our triangle shaped ring, we have the Macallan 18. Two of these offerings are finished in sherry and the Macallan is aged in sherry alone so this should be an interesting comparison. The price differential between these three bottles is also extreme so we’ll get a great idea of the value of each of these bottles.

 

COLOR
The Kirkland (bottled by Alexander Murray and Co) and the Macallan are almost identical in their slightly reddish golden hue. The Glenfiddich is noticeably a few shades lighter in color.

NOSE
The Kirkland 18 Sherry cask smells like barley! Sherry barrels generally impart a nutty and spice filled flavor into the distillate they cradle and the barrels that AM&Co happened to pick for Costco are a pleasant deviation from the norm. There are also toffee notes strewn about the barley but they’re quite a bit more subtle than any typical whisky. The Glenfiddich has the fruitiest nose of the three… but that should come as not surprise to any Glenfiddich fans. Freshly sliced apples are drowning in sherry (sherry apple pie O.O) and soft baked tree fruits are sprinkled in small dashes of sugar! This is heaven! Ahhh, the Macallan 18. World famous for scotch lovers, it reeks of Sherry with bits of toasted oak. I know this bottle far too well. [Scotch] gifted me my first bottle last Christmas and I’ve already got a second replacement bottle for the inevitable demise of this liquid gold. In case you’ve never tasted this sherry and chocolate concoction, I’ll just leave a link to its previous review here.

 

 

PALATE
The Kirkland is light on the tongue with Sherry and barley! If you’ve ever had Korean barley water (보리차), you’ll find yourself right at home! There’s a bit of light fruit which is no surprise considering the distillery chosen to source the 18 year old hooch. There may be some grapes that are also present in the mix. Water brings up some unpleasant oak notes so if you’d like to enjoy this, like the Pappy Van Winkle 23, skip the water! As I bring the Glenfiddich towards my face to sip it, I’m immediately greeted by a bowl of fruit sugar! This pour is the most classy rendition of an apple pie in liquid form. From the soft, luscious baked apples to the cinnamon spices, it does not disappoint. I’d like to pair this with Thanksgiving this year. 🙂  Whichever casks they chose for batch 3454 all deserve a medal! The richness of the Macallan 18s sherry and spices blast to the forefront of your tongue. It’s a small aria in Macallan’s opera of sherry (compared to the NAS cask strength) but along with sherry comes chocolate and oranges and even a touch of oak. Decadent.

 

 

FINISH
The Kirkland finish is sherry spicy with fruity notes. It’s definitely enjoyable as a sipper. The Glenfiddich finishes with oloroso spices and pepper… another solid offering from the valley of the deer. The Macallan lingers like an old friend just in from out of town. A best friend.

 

 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS
The Kirkland was $60 for the bottle, the Glenfiddich $80, and the Macallan $200. Not really a fair comparison when there’s more than a 300% difference in price between two of these bottles. That said, each of these bottles holds value for their respective audiences. The Macallan is something people can brag to their friends about trying. The Glenfiddich is something that can be shared with friends at home. And the Kirkland? Obviously a value at its price point and that’s more than admirable.

 

Which is your favorite? Which have you tried? Let us know. 🙂

 

Slainte

 

-[Sniff]

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]

The Balvenie 17 year DoubleWood

17yr DoubleWood

A great thing to remember when diving into your whisky journey is that everyone’s palate is different and unique. I might like something and give it magnificent praise, while you might think that it’s the worst whisky you’ve ever had in a cup. We here at scotchNsniff give you notes and reviews in hopes of shedding light about the whisky you buy, rather than the marketing campaigns built to sell the stuff to you. With that having been said, this next bottle for review is brilliant!!

A lot of people assume that the older a whisky is, the better it is and of course that means that it can and must command a higher price tag. [Sniff] and I definitely don’t mind paying for the good stuff but we love finding a deal even more. I [Scotch] have found that I really enjoy the 17 year mark. Hibiki 17 year, delicious. The Macallan 17 year fine oak, superb. And now this, the Balvenie 17 yr DoubleWood.

Color: Having spent the majority of the time maturing in traditional oak casks then the last couple months to a year in European Sherry casks, the color is A golden matte bronze with just the edge showing copper.

Nose: I’m initially greeted with the classic Balvenie oak, soft vanilla and honeyed richness. That leads into bing cherries macerated in a liquer, almost like a kirschwasser. There are layers of green apple and turbinado sugar (less molasses-ey). A slight waft of toasted cereal and malted barley are in there after swirling. The nose is inviting and all of the aromas are well married and yet still distinct but showing no edges.

Palate: The first sip of the whisky swirling around my mouth reveals a mexican cinnamon spice, not as harsh as McCormicks cassia cinnamon, along with green almond. Dried apple skins, red and green, coated in rich vanilla toffee. Throughout the entire taste, a very mellow but very pronounced Sherry surfboard carries all of these flavors down a great wave of fruit and spices. Awesome.

Finish: The finish, although awfully short, just keeps you wanting more. There is a light spice and vanilla sherry sweetness that remains but it is short.

This is a fantastic whisky that really shows how deliciously, both the Sherry and the Oak casks, can work together to form a great whisky. The price range seems to fluctuate between $99 to around $130, and for any price within that range, would be a great deal. For a price comparison to an equally great whisky, the Macallan 17 year Fine Oak is $190, but definitely not $70 better.

Scotch, Out.

Scotch VS Scotch : Glenfiddich 26 Excellence vs Glenfarclas 25

Hello there fellow scotch addict!

One of our primary goals here at ScotchNSniff is to bring you suggestions that are focused on value. We like the idea of bringing a suggestion to you that we can stand behind (and almost more importantly, one we can enjoy ourselves!).

Most people try to place scotch into two piles; one, for the rich and one for the rest of us… but in reality, value exists across the spectrum of scotches in spite of price and regardless of your budget. It’s the biggest reason we do a Christmas suggestion list each year, knowing that not everyone can afford to spend a grand on a bottle but almost anyone can come up with fifty bucks for a special occasion.

Today though, we’re going to pit a $500 bottle of Glenfiddich Excellence 26 year against the 25 year offering from Glenfarclas that carries a price tag of $225. At literally less than half of the price of the Glenfiddich, this might seem like a strange comparison but considering the whisky in the barrels took almost the same amount of time to age, it may be difficult to justify the difference in price.

Glenfiddich 26 Excellence VS Glenfarclas 25

 

In typical SnS fashion, it’s time to get on with the CNPF reviews!

COLOR: The Glenfarclas has a gorgeous wheat color where the Glenfiddich is a surprisingly light color, resembling white grape juice.

NOSE: The Glenfarclas smells strongly of spices commonly found in Sherry. Do yourself a favor, if you’ve never smelled Sherry and want to recognize it every time you smell it, grab a bottle of Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherry and enjoy! It pours like motor oil, looks like used motor oil, and tastes like heaven! (I’m a big port fan, so fortified wines are some of my closest friends!). Nosing the Glenfiddich, after the Glenfarclas sherry monster, you’ll notice a bit of smoke that ties the fruity and floral notes together. It’s definitely a sweeter nose versus the spicy Glenfarclas.

PALATE: Imagine a candy cane that’s had almost all of its mint removed but still retains that sugary candy cane sweet flavor. Now melt that flavor into a velvety butter and place it on your tongue. Now roll it around finding some smoke and some vanilla mixed into softly charred oak along the way. Now breathe in deep the spices and oak. If you read that with your imagination, you just tasted the Glenfiddich 26.

Now imagine a tannic sherry (really) with its slew of spices setting up base camp on your tongue. Christmas spices have found a place near the middle of your tongue. Pepper parked itself near the back of your tongue. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and Christmas have found their way to the tip of your tongue. Now imagine all of these camps suffered from a massive landslide into your gullet as you sip them down. I hope you love sherry because it’s your new best friend!

FINISH: The Glenfarclas 25 finishes with hints of fresh chocolate, like you’d smell at the Hershey factory… and that chocolate just melted into a bowl of sherry. This is wonderful. The Glenfiddich 26 has a wonderful finish that starts with spice and oak, but slowly and linearly gives way to fruit sugar. Quite tasty.

So who wins out? Who wins this installment of SvsS? As I’ve said with other SvsSs, you can’t actually go wrong with either of these bottles. It’s a matter of personal choice when you’re looking for a specific flavor to enjoy when you sit down with a dram. If you’re looking for value though, it’s difficult to say the extra year in oak bourbon barrels is worth the $275 price difference. If you love sherry and Christmas spices, you can pick up two bottles of the Glenfarclas AND a bottle of Glenfiddich’s fruit-bomb-that-is-its 12 year for the same price as the 26 excellence. Again though, we’re talking a very different set of flavors. The Glenfiddich 12 isn’t in the same league when it comes to complexity of flavors though it is very good. It’s just different and in a different world of value.

So which would you choose? What do you think about this comparison?

-[Sniff]

A Tale of Three Cities : Michel Couvreur Whisky

Michel was a Belgian man, who purchased barrels of whisky from several different distilleries in Scotland. He then traveled to Spain to find the very best Sherry butts from Andalusia. Then finally, he assembled the two and housed the Scottish whisky filled Sherry casks in his caves dug out from a mountainside in Burgundy, France. Sadly Michel Couvreur passed away in 2013 but his well-known whisky’s will live on. His apprentice Jean-Arnaud, who had trained under him for a decade, carries on his legacy of blending spirits and the flavor continues.

We have for sample Michel Couvreur’s Overaged Malt Whisky, which is a single malt blend composed of whisky aged 12-27 years. The second offering is a Grain whisky, named Clearach, from malted barley matured in sherry completely. On to the tasting!

Color: Clearach is of a lighter color than the Overaged, but both exhibit a dark walnut color, with the Overaged leaning towards a dark oak color.

Nose: Clearach immediately explodes with a nose full of cereal, grains and nougat. Very light low-grade honey, as if it was pulled right out of the comb, raw. There’s a hint of white grape juice and a sour grassiness that comes out as well. A multilayered nose. The Overaged whisky is far more along the lines of what I love to drink when it comes to Scotch. Full of rich milk chocolate notes, caramel and toffee. Burnt sugars and sweet vanilla. I pick up the freshness of stone fruits like apricots and plums with a slight sourness that isn’t a bad thing.

Palate: Beginning with the Clearach the palate is full blown grain, barley and cereal rich. Biscuits come to mind with bran and saw dust. A lot of oak but not overpowering oak. And although there is a sawdust-like component, it’s not an astringent wood, just a little wood sour. Nutmeg is a predominant spice in the Clearach with a vanilla undertone. The Overage is nice and sweet. Coating, thick and rich as it rolls into your mouth. There’s an initial tobacco entry, but not like someone smoking next to you in the train station, but more like walking through a field in South Carolina growing tobacco. A sweet almost herbal tobacco without the smoke…Oh wait, I spoke too soon. There is a whiff of smoke but very light and near the end as I breathe out after I swallow. The flavor is full and rich and creamy. Both are 43% abv and perfectly suited to be sipped neat. Both have a very sweet syrupy texture and feel sticky on the lips.

Finish: The Clearach finishes lightly spiced, slightly floral with minuscule amounts of woody sweetness. Reminiscent of an Irish whisky to me. Good, but not Scotch. The Overaged on the other hand is a treasure. Although the finish is far too short, the ability to pour another glass more than makes up for it.

I purchased both of these bottles on sale for a low low price. The Overaged was $35 and the Clearach was $30. I spoke with the owner of the shop and he said that no one knew about “Michel Couvreur” so no one purchased them, hence the sale. I think the going rate for the Overaged is $75, well worth the price and could easily compete with, and beat, Glenfiddich 18, Glenlivet 15 and Dalmore 12. The Clearach on the other hand, I wouldn’t purchase again, not even for $30. Until next time.

Scotch Out.

One Eight Distillery: Untitled Whiskey No. 1 review

One Eight Distillery

One Eight Distillery: Untitled Whiskey No. 1

A little bit of history about the distillery, One Eight Distillery is a newcomer to the beverage scene in DC located in the rough parts of Ivy City. A mostly industrial and very poor part of the city, has seen some resurgence through gentrification and some brave new businesses. One Eight’s first foray into aged whiskey is called “Untitled Whiskey No. 1” and it comes from 9 year old rye distilled by the MGPI distillery in Indiana, which has been around since 1847 by way of various owners. There are many companies that have used the hooch created by MGPI, High West, Willett and Templeton Rye to name a few tasty ones. One Eight Distillery then takes that 9-year rye and ages it for another 3 months in 30-year-old Oloroso Sherry casks. Then they bottle it up and slap a label on it. How is it, you ask?

Color:

A reddish tint to a very medium grade honey. You could very easily pick up the bottle and think it was a very thin maple syrup

Nose:

It has a prominent blast of rye spice right up front. Vanilla and caramel creep up lightly behind the spice, along with sweet tobacco. The addition of water brought out a beautiful caramel and vanilla flower perfume and reduced the spice notes.

Palate:

The rye spice fills the mouth and is then met with dried orange peel, slightly peppery and cooling menthol tobacco. A very hearty whiskey at a very well controlled 52.5%. The sweetness no doubt brought into play by the Sherry cask finishing. The addition of water didn’t really make a positive difference to the whiskey. It seemed to water it down and thin its flavor.

Finish:

After tasting while nosing, I can feel that my lips are sticky and noticeably sweet. It doesn’t have a sweet finish but rather a sustained mellow sweetness. The rye spice continues for a good while. The combination of the sweetness, spice and heat make a pretty darn good whiskey. I’ve tried a lot of the beers, breads, and booze that have come out of DC and claimed the district as their home but this has to be the best representative I’ve had. The interesting rye spice and Sherry finish make this a bottle to look out for if you ever see it at your local stores.

Scotch Out.

Slainte Mhath!