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 : Glenfiddich 21 Rum Cask Reserve vs Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask

Happy Friday fellow scotch lovers!

It being Friday, I figure there are few things more fun than sharing some spirits with friends! What are you supposed to share with them though? Rum? Scotch? What If I told you, you could share BOTH with them at the same time? Welcome to today’s Scotch versus Scotch: the Glenfiddich 21 Rum Cask Reserve and the Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask.

COLOR
Their colors are almost identical with just a slight tint of extra darkness edging into the golden Glenfiddich glass. As it turns out, a seven year difference in casks doesn’t always mean a huge difference in color. There are so many factors that go into the impartation of color (e-150a aside) beyond age. Sherry usually imparts a dark redness to the spirit but rum, it seems, is all about golden hues.

NOSE
The Glenfiddich’s nose is filled with butter cookies with a touch of their signature tree fruits waiting in the wing. There are some ripe citrusy notes from what smell like orange peels (with just a small splash of chocolate) to a touch of refreshing lemony-lime notes. It’s a fruity mixed cocktail that instantly transports you to a warm spot on the sand!

The Balvenie in comparison is a glass of brown sugar and fudge warmed over honey. Some fruits begin to appear and I’m sure I can see Glenfiddich on the other side of the same rummy beach.

Going back to the glenfiddich, you can smell the difference in the richness of the nose of each pour. This is one of the best parts of doing a side by side comparison of such contrasting spirits: some of the commonalities melt away and the distinct idiosyncrasies of the whiskies rise to the surface.

PALATE
Initially on the palate the Glenfiddich is light and unassuming. It’s raw sugar cane over baking spices with a slightly tannic mouthfeel. The oak from 21 years of aging in two barrels is starting to show which (most likely) explains the tannins.

Taking the Balvenie to the nose again, I’m anticipating the fudge before I’ve even sipped it! The mouthfeel is a much lighter body than the Glenfiddich. Where the Glenfiddich’s mouthfeel was a Jaguar F-Type, the Balvenie is an Ariel Atom. An Ariel atom filled with creamy, buttery, honey and vanilla cookies! Luscious for something so light and an absolute joy to savor!

FINISH
The Glenfiddich finishes with a bit of spices rising to the surface alongside more citrus. The oak really draws attention to itself as the medium bodied finish dips its toes into the Caribbean sand one last time.

The finish in the Balvenie is a bit lacking (in length and intensity) compared to the Glenfiddich but I’m not sure I’d like an overbearing oak finish to end something so decadent.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Picking the winner for this rum battle is EASY. Do you love big hulking flavors and wine? The Glenfiddich is for you! The rich flavors over slightly tannic mouthfeel will bring the beach home with you. Do you love to gorge yourself on buttery fudge cookies? Then the Balvenie is for you! The decadent nose and palate will set up a rum bakery in your glass.

Do you love all of those things??

(If you do, odds are your wallet isn’t going to like you very soon! 🙂 )

Which is YOUR personal favorite?

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!!

Scotch VS Scotch: Oban 14 VS Oban Little Bay

Oban SVS0

Welcome back all you whisky fans to another exciting installment of #scotchvsscotch

In today’s battle royale, we pit a solid, smokey, 14 yr Oban (pronounced Oh-Bun) with its relatively new little brother, Oban (remember Oh-Bun) Little Bay. Which one will end up on top, which will we be running to the stores to grab another bottle of, or will we want to drink them at all after this review?

Color: Both of the contenders in this arena are very similar in color. A light toasted wheat or straw, with the Little Bay having a slightly deeper toasty color, probably from the time spent in smaller casks (a large or rather smaller, depending upon how you look at it, differentiating factor between the two).

Nose: Starting off with the Oban 14yr, I’m instantly transported to a sea coast with a little salinity in the air. A low fog of wood smoke rolls over the water, dissipating as it reaches land. I hear seagulls off in the distance. Orange blossom flowers, a rich honeyed stone fruit and white pepper are in the background behind the even layer of smoke. Sweet gentle smoke. Next up is the Little Bay. This nose is completely different from the standard 14yr. Incredibly sweet nose, like stuffing an un-toasted marshmallow in your nose and then inhaling through it. A golden syrup and sultana raisin is nestled in the nose along with mint and a fresh tobacco leaf, not dried and smoked, but a vegetal herbal hint. Going back and forth between the two I find that I enjoy nosing the 14yr a lot more after nosing the Little Bay. A certain kerosene/Sauternes component comes out in the Little Bay that I do enjoy, but find a little harsh.

Palate: First up is the Little Bay. Thank goodness the incredible sweetness was only in the nose and not on the palate. Herbal, minty and lemon peel, like you’d have with your morning espresso. A light whiff of smoke just in the tail end while breathing out. The flavor and mouth feel is rich and full and a little bit of wood sourness comes out with it swirling in my mouth. No need for water but a little does increase the floral qualities and lemon. Interesting. Now for the Oban 14! A sweet smokey arrival as it dances around my tongue. Bran biscuits with smoke, honey with smoke and a great creaminess….with smoke. The rolling fog of smoke I spoke about in the nose is ever present but always arriving with another sweet component. Don’t add water to either, just enjoy them neat. The smoke seems to be a delivery service bringing sweets door to door, like a 75 year old smoking-veteran-girl-scout delivering Somoas, Do-si-do’s and Rah-Rah raisins.

Finish: The finish on both of them seem to be relatively mid-length. The smoke on the 14 yr stays around for a while even when you brush your teeth before bed, but the spices and sweets leave relatively soon. Where as the Little Bay’s sweetness lingers with the whiffs of smoke near the tail end of the finish. I enjoy the whiffs with sweetness over London Fog.

You may be asking yourself, well who wins in the end [Scotch]? And my answer to you would be…. They’re both winners, because they individually cover different spectrums of the scotch rainbow. The 14yr is mellow and full bodied, and the smoke is gentle and welcoming. The Little Bay is sweet and bright with very very light smoke, just near the tail end of the finish. In my opinion the Little Bay is a perfect introduction into the smoke, that the Oban 14yr has to offer. Sometimes it’s not a competition and you should just enjoy both! Slainte!

Scotch Out!

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.

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley : The Classic Laddie

COLOR: lightly wheated yellow
NOSE: though there are some peaty overtones, the sweetness shines through, warm honey, granulated sugar, slight vanilla,
PALATE: immediate spices on the tongue, OMG honey, wow!!!, the sweet flavors mix perfectly with the peat
FINISH: smokey like a shirt that’s spent time around a campfire, smooth like room temperature butter,
~
 ADD WATER
 ~
NOSE: dang, now you can smell sugar outside of the glass, the water swallowed the peat, a little smoke lingers
PALATE: more fruit now on top of spices, like plum and currants,
FINISH: spicy smoke, smooth, creamy, yum
 ~
Surprisingly delicious and without burn for 50% alcohol content.
This… has replaced my daily sipper! (Glenfiddich 19). It’s so well balanced it’s hard NOT to like. It’s an amalgam of flavors from all parts of Scotland that entertains the tongue without wearing it out. Fan-freakin-tastic dram!