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- Macallan 12 vs 18: Does the Price Make a Difference? - March 25, 2020
About Whiskey Watch
Table of Contents
What is more sophisticated than a glass of whiskey and a cigar on a cold winter’s night? Or more relaxing than a whisky on the rocks as you watch the ocean waves crash on the beach?
“Whisky” is the Old Irish word for “water of life.” I think they hit the nail on the head with that description, don’t you think?
Our Mission at Whisky Watch
To make the delights of whisky accessible to everyone, regardless of price range, taste, or experience.
Our goal is to unveil the secrets of whisky and dispel the myth that it’s a drink for only a select few. No matter where you are or what beverage you prefer, you can enjoy the delights of some of the finest alcohol in the world. You just have to know where to look.
Accessibility: Whisky is a drink that people either love or think they hate. Whether you love it or are just misinformed, it’s a confusing and dense beverage to understand. We want to make finding and enjoying new bottles as easy as possible. No matter your budget, palate, or history it’s all within reach!
Discovery: We want to take you on a journey with us. Learn and discover new whiskies, new facts, new recipes just as our contributors are doing every day! You can never know too much about the “water of life.”
Passion: Everyone who writes for us fell in love with whisky. We want to share our passion with you in each and every article you read.
Authenticity: Our team is dedicated to creating honest reviews and assessments of every bottle they try. You want to know what we really think of Jack Daniels? We’ll tell you.
What Makes Whisky Watch Stand Out?
We know there are so many whisky sites out there on the internet. That can make finding answers to your whisky questions particularly difficult. Whisky Watch is tailored specifically towards its audience…you!
You are inundated with sites that are either too vague or too specific. You’re bogged down by extraneous details you never wanted (C’mon, I just want to know what to get for the family Christmas party!).
Or you’re scrolling through sites with truncated bullet points that don’t actually answer your questions. (Can I substitute bourbon for rye?)
But here at Whisky Watch we cater to everyone. Our articles provide an in-depth look at any topic you want, but we also simplify our key points so you don’t have to read a novel every time you want a bottle to pair with your steak.
Not Just Reviews
Here at Whisky Watch we aren’t just reviewing assorted bottles you’ve never heard of and giving you opinions you’ll forget about as soon as you get to the store.
Of course, we have reviews. Our contributors will share personal stories and taste-testings about every bottle they try.
But we’ll also share
- Tidbits on history
- Details on whisky-making
- Excellent food pairing suggestions
- Bottle comparisons
- Cocktail recipes
- Price suggestions
- Even holiday gift ideas
The little details that make understanding whisky and enjoying your new favorite glass that much more immersive!
We’re Also Learning with You
Our contributors love their whisky, we can’t deny that.
But we chose our team very carefully. These are people who never stop learning about whisky. They don’t know every bottle, every technique, every tip.
But they are on a mission to learn as much as possible. And they’ll be sharing their own journeys with you.
Each article you read will be expertly researched and as our contributors try a new bottle for the first time, so will you! You’ll be gaining their experiences to help you in your search.
Some Tips on Finding the Whisky That’s Right for You
I’ve adopted a phrase “my new favorite.”
When I was just starting to get into whisky I thought Balvenie and Lagavulin where all I’d ever want.
A few years later someone gave me a Talisker 10 year and that became my “new favorite whisky ever.”
A few weeks ago, we re-tried an old bottle of Nikka and decided that was our “new favorite.”
Every few months I buy I new bottle and swear up and down that it’s “my new favorite!”
We all go through phases. We all have changing palates, changing moods. Even tastes that change with the seasons!
A whisky that is right for you one year may not be as exciting the next.
Whisky is about as broad a term as it gets. Under that umbrella you have everything from sweet and fruity to smoky and earthy to spicy and strong. Unfortunately, there is no clear indicator on most bottles. But the region it comes from will give you a clue about what how it probably tastes! Know your palate and you’ll be able to direct your sights.
Grain Content and Styles
Different grains make for different flavors. Corn (in Bourbons or Canadian Whiskey) usually makes for a sweeter drink. Rye is stronger and spicier. Barley tends to be earthier but can really morph depending on the techniques used.
Like grain, aging casks can have a huge effect on flavor. Sherry casks will add a sweeter hint. Rum casks tend to add a thicker, spicier, molasses flavor. Charred oak casks add smoke and caramel.
Peated or non-peated (smoke). Chill filtration or no chill filtration (clarity). It’s easy to get caught up in all of the minor details of a particular bottle. But remember that whiskies from one region generally all have similar profiles. The added techniques are just a cherry on top for those who want to hunt for subtle differences.
Just like wine, different locations create different flavors. Islay creates the classic peated Scotch. A non-peated single malt will likely come from Speyside. Irish and Canadian whiskies are deliciously smooth. American bourbon will be sweeter than an American rye. And Japanese whisky is so varied you bound to find something in your palate and price range.
Alcohol content can vary among whiskies. However, if you’re trying to avoid a strong alcoholic flavor, stick with Scotch or Bourbon as the subtle flavors and sweetness will mask those heavy notes.
If You’re New to Whisky
I envy you. You’re about to start on the most decadent journey of your life.
You’re going to get to experience the rich spice of a Japanese whisky, the campfire vibes of an Islay, the kick of an American Rye, the smooth sip of a bourbon, the sweet notes of a Speyside…all for the first time.
I’m sure you’re wondering where to start.
1. Know thyself
The best person to judge what kind of whisky you like is you.
Your local liquor store owner can give you suggestions, but you know exactly what you like.
Don’t be afraid to say you don’t want to start with a Rye if you know you hate strong liquors. But don’t feel like you have to start on the sweeter end either!
2. Know your palate
There are a few categories that will encompass almost any whisky you find.
Most Bourbons and some Tennessee and even Canadian whiskies are noted for sweet flavors. If the base grain is corn, it’s likely to be sweeter.
- A safe place to start: A Bourbon like Four Roses or Wild Turkey
Full of notes of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. These usually come from sherried casks.
- A safe place to start: Yamazaki 12 Year, Teeling Single Malt, Macallan most years
Dried orchard fruits or even fresh apples and pears are the key notes in these whiskies!
- A safe place to start: A light Speyside like Glennfiddich, A Japanese Whisky like Nikka
A Scotch! They are full of earth, wood, leather, even notes of fire and grass. Combine all of that with some fruit and spice…absolutely divine.
- A safe place to start: Glenlivet or Macallen
Both Irish and Canadian whiskies are known for being particularly smooth, easy to drink, and perfect for sipping.
Strong Spice with a Kick
Most Rye’s are considered strong and very spicy. I have them separated from “spice” since you shouldn’t go in expecting nutmeg or vanilla. This is a strong grainy flavor.
- A safe place to start: Rittenhouse Rye
Smoke flavor can be polarizing. But it’s something everyone needs to try at least once in their life!
You’ll really only get smoke in a peated-Scotch, usually from Islay. These are whiskies that have been dried over a fire made from peat, blocks of soft earth and plant matter. It adds a lovely campfire-aroma to whisky.
But there are a few Bourbons or other whiskies aged in charred barrels that have just the faintest hint of smoke.
There are a few versions to try (according to Whisky Advocate)
Maritime flavors like salt and seaweed
- A safe place to start: Laphroaig 10 Year
Pepper, Dried Apples/Pears, Cinnamon
- A safe place to start: Talisker 10 Year
Sweeter notes like honey or toffee and notes of fruit
- A safe place to start: Highland Park 10 Year
Me? I’m a spice-girl. (No puns intended.) I love rich, fall flavors like nutmeg, cinnamon, and drying orchard fruits.
My boyfriend really prefers the medicinal flavors. (I guess there is no accounting for taste?)
But you don’t have to stick to just one.
I’ve been known to enjoy a sweet, fruity Speyside on occasion. It all depends on my mood. And whether or not it’s bathing suit weather!
3. Be willing to experiment
Once you find your favorite palate, test around and see if you can find what distilleries or flavor profiles you are most drawn to.
I can guarantee you’ll find at least one “go-to” whisky you can always ask for at a bar.
But after that, shop around!
Try something you normally would never imagine liking. After all, there’s really only one way to know for your that you don’t like something.
And who knows, you may discover that you’re secretly a lover or all things Rye. Or maybe Bourbon is more your style.
You’ll never know if you don’t branch out!