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]

Macallan 18 vs Glenmorangie Signet

From two power houses with two very different offerings, we bring you one of the best tasting ScotchVSScotch tastings to date. The idea of comparing two chocolatey scotches had crossed my mind a few times but I was really craving some chocolate recently and decided to enjoy that cocoa-y sugar the best way we I know how.

The Signet is made with a blend of some of Glenmorangie’s older whisky (30+ years according to their website) and some younger whisky made from roasted “chocolate” barley malt. It’s called chocolate malt but it gets its nickname from the flavors brought out of the barley not so much the method by which its roasted and dried (which is the real defining factor for making chocolate malt).

Not to be a bore but the the Macallan 18 is made in typical Macallan fashion. Pour a spirit into some magically delicious Spanish oak and voila! Er, something like that. 🙂

The colors are an extremely similar shade of medium roasted caramel but the Mac 18 is ever so slightly darker. It’s almost like comparing two oranges in a bunch. They might differ slightly but they’re both orange! Let’s move onto the nose…

Wow. This is just another reason I’ve fallen in love with comparison tasting and really a reason I think tasting events are more enjoyable (sometimes) than just sitting down with a single glass at home. Both of these pours are rich with velvety chocolate when enjoyed alone but side by side the subtle nuances of flavor really rise to the top. The Macallan reeks of espresso and sherry. No surprise there! The Signet changes from its normally-chocolate-self to a refreshing orange and fruit medley with a mint and ginger overlay.

On the palate, the Signet is spice laden and packs a flavorful punch. Cinnamon and black pepper take the stage with fruit sugar waiting in the wing but never getting the spotlight. It finishes just as fresh as the nose. Minty, light,and refreshing.

The Mac 18 is velvet on the tongue and almost the polar opposite of the Signet on the tongue. Sherry spices usher almost-mandarin-sweet oranges to the front of your attention. The spices that commonly accompany sherry aged scotches are extremely well balanced against splashes of milk chocolate, apples, and just a bit of oak. The 18 finish seems to last and last. Fantastic!

So there you have it!! Have you tried either of these or both of these wonderful offerings? Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

Slainte,

-[Sniff]

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!!

Whisky Extraveganza Tasting Event

Whisky Extravaganzaaaa!! With a name like that, it HAS to be good, right?

Whisky Extravaganza was a paid event organized by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. If you’ve never heard of the SMWS, they are a Scotch enthusiast organization known for their single cask bottlings from distilleries all over Scotland. The most interesting detail about their bottlings, is the lack of distillery identification. Each of their bottles is labeled with a bottling number, age, and region instead of a more typical distillery, age, and other small details. They really have a penchant for putting the truth about taste first, forward.

Thanks to their efforts, there were more than 69 distilleries represented and easily over 200 bottles to sample from. The $150 ticket granted access to unlimited samples, excellent dinner and dessert, a free cigar, a tasting glass, and reading materials. If you signed up early enough, there was a master class that offered information and education about a handful of distilleries around Scotland. Those things were the gist of the event, but was it all worth the price of the ticket?

Right off of the bat, I’ve got to say, if you’re typically on the hunt for value, you can look to either expand your experience or decrease the costs to increase the value of your time at an event. Both can be achieved at the WE. Thanks to the internet (and google more specifically), finding discount codes to save 10% of the listed ticket price is pretty easy to do. If you’re as diligent about when you buy your ticket as you are about how you buy your tickets, you’ll get your tickets early enough to get offered a chance to sign up for the master tasting classes offered by Laphroaig and ImPex beverages group. #Winning. [Scotch] and I signed up for the ImPex master class and were able to sample offerings from Kilchoman, Arran, and Tamdhu. Fan-freakin-tastic.

Our master class was hosted by a Mr. Jared Card and he was hilarious. A down to earth gent (in a kilt no less) who really helped folks in the room feel a great connection to the distilleries he represented. He seems especially close to the family that runs the Kilchoman distillery and shared some scandalous stories that “aren’t to be repeated” in any capacity. 🙂  He walked us through the profiles of each of the samples we had and did a great job with information about how to acquire any of the samples, quickly and efficiently. The master class was slated to last and hour and we ran up to the 55 minute mark which was VERY good for us…

Thanks to the master class finishing early, we were able to enter the WE main tasting room a little early. [Scotch] had already screened instagram of past Whisky Extraveganza events for the most coveted samples available and we immediately made our way to the table offering the ever so rare Ladyburn 41. At $1900 a bottle, we were lucky enough to have no line, no wait and just a nice and quiet tasting of a wonderful dram. There was only one bottle to be sampled by every attendee who got there in time. Wowzers. As quickly as we were able to finish the Ladyburn, other attendees began to trickle into the room.

A day or two before we arrived at the venue, [Scotch] spoke with Allison Patel (the founder of cognac finished Brenne whiskey) about stopping by and saying hello and so we did. She was a peach! We caught her just as she was finishing the setup of her table and got to talk to her about a new offering she has, the Brenne 10. It was our second sample of the night and it was fantastic. Not as bubblegum as the original Brenne offering, the 10 is MUCH more complex. We exchanged a few more thoughts and words and then we were off for more samples! (I’m always amazed at how approachable most people who do amazing things are.)(We’ll have an interview with the founder coming up in future blog posts, so keep an eye out!)

As we made our way around the room, we tried all kinds of bottles that we either had never tasted, seen in person, or even heard about. This kind of tasting is a great way to try bottlings you might be interested in, but might not want to spend money blindly on. The Jack Daniel’s Sinatra was a good example of this. I was hoping it would be a more complex rendition of the single barrel but the extra grooves in the barrel seem to have imparted a bit too much oak into the pour. $175 saved! But the Kavalan? Incredible!! Bravo Taiwan! Now where can I find some!?

(There were plenty of water bottles and “spit buckets” to rinse your tasting glass out between samples. The last thing you want is some peaty beast ruining the flavor of your speyside neighbor!)

At some point during the night we got to sit down and eat some of the great food and got to converse with a young couple about scotch. They were awesome. The conversation was a great reminder to us about the importance of what our goals are. We want to help make scotch more accessible to all people and get rid of some intimidating stigma. The demographic of the room was very obvious, but we really believe that the flavors and magic in scotch can be had and enjoy by all. The couple we spoke with, reminded us that we all want to avoid buyers remorse and the key to doing that is education. Increasing the amount of information we can get about a bottle before buying it is critical for everyone’s wallets! 😉

After dinner there were more tastings and then dessert and then more tastings lol. It was a ton of fun. It was worth the price of admission and definitely an educational experience. We left refreshed and ready to get some more reviews up to bring you value and save you the sadness of a bottle not enjoyed. I wish we could offer a discount to local stores for those who are champs and read through this entire post but we’re not quite there yet. We’ll get there! 😉

Slainte!!

-ScotchNSniff

 

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.