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]

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]

Glenmorangie Milsean

Glenmorangie has done it again.

I’m not sure they set out to create a dessert scotch with the Nectar D’or but scotch lovers responded very well to the very sweet, finished-in-dessert-wine-casks offering. That was 2011.

Here we are five years later and Glenmorangie has just released its seventh annual private edition bottling, called the Milsean (pronounced “Meel-Shawn”, it’s Scot’s Gaelic for “sweet things”). This offering was “extra-finished” in re-toasted red wine casks and bottled to look like something out of a candy shop (or sweetshop as the bottle reads). The alternating red and white stripes of the box and bottle are reminiscent of peppermints and for good reason.

On to the tasting.

Color: Rich Honey.

Nose: Immediately your nose bombarded with a birthday-cake-icing level of sweetness with fruity overtones like those you’d take in smelling the syrup from a can of assorted fruit. (I’m quickly reminded of peach and plum sugar candies I ate as a kid in Korea.)  Re-toasting the former red wine casks to impart such a level of sweetness might have been genius on the part of Dr. Lumsden.

Palate: Immediately the spice of oak makes it’s way to the front of your tongue and you’re left with a barrage of mixed emotions. Like smelling simple syrup while popping a handful of cinnamon red hot candy into your mouth, so it’s quite a bit spicier than a typical red and white striped peppermint. With a bit of coaxing around the tongue, the spice subsides and gives way to very luscious fruits. These are absolutely decadent candied fruits. Or fruit candy like the kind you’d find in a grandmother’s candy dish that are just slightly stuck together and very obviously, pure sugar.

Finish: A handful of fruit flavors wash over the tongue with the texture of canned peach juice in this medium length finish.

After adding a spot of water…

Nose: The saccharine sweet intensifies and has become ridiculous. It smells like the overwhelming presence of sugar that one can smell when wafting the air over southern sweet tea. That dissolved-in-water sugar that you know is excellent for making rock candy. The natural fruit sugar smells are just a ghost behind this pure candy sugar.

Palate: The spice of cinnamon and oak have been tamed with just a small hint to remind you that  you’re not drinking candy. Just a touch of bitterness finds its way to your tongue like a ginger chew. Interesting.

Finish: The finish is just as tasty with delicate notes of tree fruits subtly making their way to your attention.

Wow. This expression, I have no doubt, will disappear from shelves as the Nectar D’Or does. People will fall in love with the sweetness and may forget their drinking scotch at all. It’s truly uncharacteristic of any typical highland scotches but that might not be a bad thing. Variety is indeed the spice of life. Or in this case, the sugar and spice of life.

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!!