Whisky Showdown! MacAllan Cask Strength vs. Glenfarclas 105

It’s a Christmas miracle! Another Whiskey Showdown just in time for the holidays.

On this festive occasion, I pit the MacAllan Cask Strength against the Glenfarclas 105.

My regular readers, if any, will remember from my initial review of the Glenfarclas 105 that, in 1968 George S. Grant, the grandfather of the current chairman, bottled a cask at 105 degrees British Proof for Christmas and thus gave birth to the product.  Thus, this Whiskey Showdown is as timely as it is special.

The MacAllan is aged in its famous sherry oak casks from Jerez, Spain and is a benchmark of quality in the world of whiskies.

The MacAllan is bottled at 60.1% abv and appears a beautiful mahogany red bordering on copper. The Glenfarclas is similarly bottled at 60% abv and is closer to a golden copper tone in appearance.

The nose of the MacAllan is ripe with dried fruits, vanilla, orange, and hints of fig. The nose of the Glenfarclas is more sweet, sharing some of the citrus in the form of orange peel, but mixing in apple, pear, caramel, and honey. This is starting off as an exercise in contrasts as the two whiskies put on entirely different experiences on the nose.

On the palate, the MacAllan is juicy and filled with dried fruits and figs, hinting of vanilla throughout. The Glenfarclas starts with spices and fruits, apples, figs, and honey. Surprisingly, it’s quite dry on the back end. Much like the nose, there’s a big difference in the tasting experience.

The finish on the MacAllan is long and spicy, filled with orange and oak. Some smoke fills in the gaps. The Glenfarclas is warm and gritty, with fruits making a final stand to a nicely balanced whisky.

Overall, these whiskies are both good and worth a taste. They aren’t what I would call every day drams, however. I hesitate to make a call, these are so different and will appeal differently depending on individual tastes. Personally, I find the MacAllan smoother and more agreeable, but the big bold impression of the Glenfarclas does have its merits. Whichever you choose, I hope the holidays find you well and wish a wonderful new year.


Whisky Showdown! Glenlivet 12 vs. Bruichladdich the Laddie 10

Last month, I reviewed Bruichladdich’s the Laddie 10 and revealed a tender but elegant Scotch. Today, I compare the Laddie 10 to the classic 12 from Glenlivet.

Both whiskies are a pale gold and are undistinguishable from one another. I had to ensure I kept tabs on each glass as I started the tasting to make sure I didn’t mix them up from the start! The legs run quick and thin on both, a sign of their youth according to some whisky experts.

The nose on the Glenlivet 12 does not betray its reputation for being soft and unassuming. I do however notice that the side by side tasting brings out the nose of the Laddie 10. The contrast in expressions allows me to notice the peat in the Laddie. Though I hadn’t noticed during my prior tasting, there is definitely a soft peaty background that accompanies the young fruity freshness of the Laddie 10. Overall, the Laddie 10 is stronger and more complex on the nose, making the Glenlivet 12 seem rather boring.

On the palate, the Glenlivet is pleasant, mild, and quite tasty with its nice apple notes. The Laddie 10 is a more deep concoction, keeping with a fruity contrasting the Glenlivet with shades of oak and peat, qualities I had not noted on my initial tasting. The Glenlivet is also more chewy against the Bruichladdich’s juicy texture. The higher alcohol content of 46% abv on the Laddie 10 is also quite obvious here, lending some punch to the overall flavour.

The finish of the Glenlivet is oddly similar to the Laddie 10, despite the differences in nose and palate between the two expressions. While the Glenlivet sticks to fruit, the Laddie one ups it with a twist of fig and compliments the rest of the experience very nicely.

Both are nice whiskies for everyday enjoyment and I’m sure will please most people. My personal preference is with the Laddie 10. Though a younger whisky, it is just a notch more complex than the Glenfiddich and makes for a more interesting experience.


Whisky Showdown! Yamazaki 12 vs. Nikka Taketsuru 12

Ever had choose between two Japanese whiskies and couldn’t decide? Well today is your lucky day if your alternatives were the Yamazaki 12 or the Nikka Taketsuru 12! I’ll be putting these two whiskies to a head to head taste test so that you never have to face such a dilemma again!

The Yamazaki is bottled at 43% abv and is a single malt whereas the Taketsuru is a blend bottled at 40% abv. Both are aged at least 12 years prior to bottling at their respective locations. The Yamazaki is usually about $10 to $20 less expensive around these parts.

In appearance, the Yamazaki is lighter gold than the Taketsuru which tends more towards amber.

The nose on the Yamazaki is sweeter, with honey and melon contrasting against the Taketsuru’s deeper notes of lemon and aging apple. When considering these two back to back, I notice more oak and some smoke on the nose of the Taketsuru, something that I did not notice during my initial review.

The palate of the Yamazaki is juicy, with an explosion of pineapple quickly overwhelming the sense and adding honey and vanilla to the experience. Compared to the Taketsuru’s oak permeated mix of apple and cinnamon, the former is a party in my mouth. However, the Taketsuru gives off a more mature impression, in no small part due to the unmistakable presence of oak and a hint of smoke. Once again, I note that I didn’t tune in to just how much oak was present in the Taketsuru during my initial tasting and I missed the boat on the smoke altogether.

The Yamazaki 12 finishes nicely, with fruits continuing into the finish. Pineapple is still strong and the finish lasts a decent length, though I wouldn’t call it long. The Nikka Taketsuru 12 is sweet on the finish but not quite as much as the Yamazaki. The Taketsuru seals the deal with more oak and smoke. Both are quite satisfying.

Overall, these are two distinct whiskies and I am surprised at how much they contrast. In fact, I believe the Taketsuru would be a more interesting candidate against a Macallan 12 due to the oak and smoke. Perhaps Takesturu was attempting to emulate the classic elements of a Macallan whereas Yamazaki was aiming at creating something a bit more uniquely Japanese. I will give my vote to the Yamazaki for creating something a bit different. Of course, if your preference is for something more oaky, smokey, and subdued, then you will no doubt disagree. The pineapple in the Yamazaki is enjoyable, refreshing, and distinct from most whiskies I have tried to date. I will keep my eyes open for more expressions from these two distilleries as they consistently win international whisky awards, outranking even some of the best Scotch whiskies.

Whisky Showdown! Macallan Select Oak vs. Macallan Cask Strength

A hot summer’s day is not usually a time I steal away to sip my favourite whiskies, but the cooling effect of the light rain falling as I sit under the eaves on the deck has motivated me to try a couple of Macallan products head to head. This evening’s pugilists are none other than the Macallan Select Oak from Macallan’s 1824 series and the Macallan Cask Strength, reviewed in this pages not too long ago. My review of these two Macallans should take place with the usual disclaimer that water was added to the 60% abv Macallan Cask Strength to reduce the alcohol proportion, though only a drop or two was added to the travel retail exclusive Select Oak.

The colour on the Select Oak is more pale than the deep shade of the Cask Strength. The elegance of the gold colour on the Select Oak is contrasted with the bold if not aggressive amber of the Cask Strength.

The softer nose on the Select Oak asks for recognition of its light fruits, honey, and gentle cinnamon and spice. The nose on the Cask Strength calls to attention a bold statement of oak, strong fruits, including orange, chocolate, and caramel. No nonsense on the Cask Strength, this is a whisky that is looking for trouble, and in my case has found it!

The palate on the Select Oak, with its grainy texture and butty core, requests notice of sweet fruits and cinnamon. The Select Oak demands immediate notice of its oak, apple, fruit, honey, noix de grenoble, caramel, cinnamon swirls, and strength. This Cask Strength is a heavyweight contender and is not shy about its intentions.

The finish on both are long, smooth, and flattering. The Select Oak ends as it started, softer than the Cask Strength and fading into memory of sweet fruits. The Cask Strength is more durable, keeping up the fight with spice, orange, and oak.

Overall, the winner is the Cask Strength. Though price points are higher on the Cask Strength, the whisky is fuller, more complete, complex, and flexible.


Whisky Showdown! Macallan 12 vs. Macallan Cask Strength

A fantastic matchup today, the Macallan 12 goes up against the Macallan Cask Strength. I normally pit cask strengths against like products, but given the two products eminate from the same distillery, I am curious as to how these whiskies compare.

Both products look similar with the only difference being a slightly deeper shade of red on the cask strength. The legs run a tad slower and thicker on the Macallan 12.

On the nose, the Macallan 12 is softer than the Macallan Cask Strength. The latter is less fruity than the former and more of the wood and smoke comes through. Otherwise, there is little difference between the two.

On the palate, the differences are more readily identified. The Macallan 12 is softer, less obviously fruity, stronger in vanilla, and lighter in texture. The Macallan Cask Strength pulls no punches. The fruit is powerful, the texture is deeper, it is bolder in bringing out the wood from the cask, sweeter overall, and stronger with the smoke.

The finishes on both are satisfying and complex. The cask strength is nuttier and a bit longer. The 12 is somewhat more bitter on the finish.

Overall, these are two nice whiskies. However, there is a clear winner in this showdown and I am at ease in declaring the Macallan Cask Strength the victor. The cask strength is a more complex experience. The stronger flavours are coupled with a degree of variety seldom experienced with whiskies so young. It is more malleable as well, allowing the drinker to experiment with the alcohol quotient and arrive at a level most suitable for his taste.

Therefore, budgets allowing, I strongly recommend the Macallan Cask Strength over the 12. If you buy it during a promotional period, as I did, you can have it for a bargain. It is currently available in ample quantities in Quebec and New Hampshire. However, Ontario has limited quantities of a different batch than the one I have reviewed in these pages.


Whisky Showdown! Glenlivet 12 vs. Yamazaki 12

People often ask me what I think about one whisky or another. Far be it for me to deprive the world of my opinion, I often comply with these requests. Comparing and contrasting one whisky versus another aids in these discussions. Many of these conversations find their genesis in the person’s desire to choose their next bottle carefully. Giving a reference point facilitates the decision-making process. Most of these discussions revolve around Scotch but I like to point out that Japanese whisky is a worthy contender. This brings me to today’s Showdown! The popular Glenlivet 12 goes up against a strong contender, the Yamazaki 12.

I added but a few drops of water prior to tasting the two whiskies bottled at 40% abv for the Glenlivet and 43% for the Yamazaki.

In appearance, one is challenged to tell them apart. Nearly identical in colour and consistency, the two can most likely only be told apart at the point of pouring.

The nose on the Glenlivet is soft and smooth against a slightly stronger Yamazaki. Side by side, I would say the biggest difference between the two is that the Glenlivet is more lemony while the Yamazaki is stronger on caramel.

The palate on the Glenlivet is soft and silky while the Yamazaki is spicy and bold. The Glenlivets fruits and honey and softer than the similar notes on the Yamazaki. The Yamazaki proves to be richer on the palate.

The finish on the Glenlivet is again smooth and silky and contrasts with the Yamazaki, whose spice and bold flavour continue into a long and satisfying conclusion. Honey and melon continue long after consuming the Yamazaki and transform into sweet spice.

Overall, the Yamazaki delivers a bolder, richer, more complex and more intense experience than the Glenlivet. The Glenlivet is still a nice whisky and versatile as a whisky for all occasions, but the Yamazaki is the clear winner for the traists menitoned above. If you can find it, the Yamazaki is a bit more expensive that the Glenlivet. However, the quality of the product merits its price point. I believe I picked up my bottle for about $65 at the SAQ in Quebec. I have not seen it in Ontario or New Hampshire recently. The Glenlivet 12 is commonly found at any store that sells fine spirits.


Whisky Showdown! Glenlivet 12 vs. anCnoc 12

Having just reviewed a whisky whose flavour profile was surprisingly pleasant and rich at 12 years, I decided a comparison against a popular whisky of the same age was in order. The Glenlivet 12 is not just a popular whisky, it is a good everyday dram. The question I have is whether this popularity is well deserved against a lesser known rival.

Both whiskies are bottled at 40% abv and are at the starting point of their range.

In appearance, both whiskies are identical in colour and consistency. They both have a yellow colour, bordering gold. The the anCnoc may, and I stress the “may”, be slightly more pale.

On the nose, the Glenlivet is light and sweet. Apple and vanilla with a hint of cinnamon are the order of the day. The fruitiness of the Glenlivet easily is contrasted against the lemon and honey of the anCnoc. Concentrate on the nose for a while and with the proper amount of water (very little to both), and you will be able to find their common trait: vanilla.

One the palate, the soft and silky Glenlivet provides gentle apple, wood, and pear. The anCnoc is very similar, but the flavours much stronger. There’s apple and pear to the anCnon, like the Glenlivet, but the flavours are more easily identified. The anCnoc adds honey but less wood, making for a sweeter profile.

The finish on the Glenlivet is pleasant, with wood and milk chocolate. I notice a slight oily texture on my tongue as well. The anCnon 12 provides deep malts and sweet notes. The finish on the anCnon is longer, but not very long either.

I’ll give an edge to the anCnoc here, it’s a more complex whisky with interesting points throughout the tasting.


Whisky Showdown! Macallan 12 vs. The Arran Bourbon Single Cask 12

A whisky with a reputation such as Macallan 12 must be tried against a variety of competitors in order to appreciate how singular the product is. By the same token, one may also discover a wonderful alternative during such a tasting. In today’s showdown, I hope a pleasant surprise is at hand as a wonderful whisky from my collection, the Arran Bourbon Single Cask at cask strength goes up against the Macallan 12. This bottle of Arran is a rare treat, no longer available in these parts. The bottle in my collection is just one of 178 produced in 2011 (bottle number 60 to be precise). It was bottled at 55.5% abv from cask number 115.

Prior to commencing, I poured both through my Vinturi Spirit and added a few drops of water to the Macallan and significantly more to the Arran. I figure I dropped the alcohol content to about 46% abv in so doing.

Their respective colours could not be more different. The bold, rich golden/amber hues of the Macallan contrast significantly from the pale yellow colour of the Arran. No surprise, however, as the bournon casks don’t quite give the same colour as sherry casks.

The sherry nose on the Macallan with its oak and smokey character also contrast neatly from the slightly peated, sugary nose of the Arran. Strangely, both share a pleasant impression of orange on the nose.

The palate of the Macallan exudes sherry, lays down oak, leather, and dark chocoate with orange. The Arran gently introduces peat, smoke, vanilla, banana liqueur, orange peel, and other sweet fruits. Again, a common expression of orange is apparant on both, even though they differ in many other respects.

The finish on the Macallan is longer than the Arran, invoking memories raisin and bitters. The Arran on the other hand is no slouch in the length of the finish and leaves gentle hints of vanilla, juicy figs, orange, and a hint of smoke.

Overall, the Arran is a fine competitor and criminally overlooked by most whisky amateurs. Both these whiskies are fine, complex examples of what their respective distillers wished to accomplish. I highly recommend both and struggle with recommending a winner. If pushed to decide, I will give my nod to the Arran for being the easier on the palate and fuller on the finish and the nose, despite the shorter length of its finish.

Whisky Showdown! Glenfiddich 15 vs. Bowmore Darkest 15

Today’s edition provides some much needed distraction from a long day who’s end is near. I can think of no better way to celebrate the occasion than by tasting two fine 15-year-old whiskies, the Glenfiddich 15 and the Bowmore Darkest.

In appearance, the Bowmore is darker and richer. The Glenfiddich is no slouch though and looks tempting on its own. The legs on both run slow and thick.

On the nose, the Glenfiddich is more sweet and smooth, with gentle honey and apple tickling the sense. The Bowmore’s peaty and slightly smoky introduction reveals its Islay roots and, despite some sweet undertones of melon, honey, and pear, distinguishes it from the Glenfiddich.

On the palate, the Glenfiddich is sweet and smooth, apple, pear, nuts, caramel, light smoke…nice. The Bowmore is also smooth, but there’s some grit in the consistency at first before it eases into something more delicate. The Bowmore’s sweet spices and peat contrast neatly from the Glenfiddic. Surprisingly, the Bowmore is more sweet despite its peat and smoke. The wood, sherry, and apple pie are made more intense when tasted alongside the Bowmore.

The finish on the Bowmore is sweeter and more satisfying than the Glenfiddich’s wood and vanilla. Both whiskies provide a nice, long finish though and won’t disappoint.

Overall, my preference is for the Bowmore. The Darkest is a more complex whisky for one. Its easy drinking profile and sweet flavours, especially on the finish, earn it high marks with me and will quickly earn your appreciation as well.


Whisky Showdown! Johnnie Walker Gold Label vs. Cutty Sark 25

Another cold winter’s day and one of the pleasures of such times is setting a nice fire and enjoying a day at home with few commitments. As the fire warms the house and I find myself drawn to the fireplace to enjoy the heat, I realize that there is something missing from the experience. My thoughts turn to my readers, and what better way to complete the moment than by enjoying whisky and sharing my thoughts.

My recent tasting of Cutty Sark 25 has inspired me to try it against the closest blend I have in terms of number of years aged. Johnnie Walker Gold Label is an 18-year-old of good repute and could prove a worthy challenger.

The Cutty Sark has already proven to benefit from the addition of more than just a little water andI have added a few drops to the Johnnie Walker. The benefit of having more than 45% abv to the Cutty Sark 25 is the flexibility in adding water without diluting the drink too much. The Johnnie Walker demands attention in this respect so as not to weaken it too much due to its alcohol content of 40% abv.

The colour on the Johnnie Walker Gold is lighter gold than that of the Cutty Sark. The contrast is stark, as the Cutty Sark 25 makes the Johnnie Walker seem almost yellow next to it.

The legs are satisfyingly thick and slow on both.

The nose of the Gold is lighter and less smokey than the Cutty Sark, both blend with the light smoke from the fireplace perfectly. The Cutty Sark is more oak than the Johnnie Walker. The younger fruit of the Gold and the deeper orange of the Cutty Sark work well together. These two whiskies appear to be complimenting each other rather than competing at this level.

The palate on the gold is lighter and smoother. The Cutty Sark comes on bold and deep, with stronger oak flavours and smoke. Contrasting the sweet fruitiness of the Gold against the pepper of the Cutty Sark is quite interesting and I find myself going back and forth several times to appreciate this obvious difference. The sherry of the Cutty Sark also comes out in stark contast against the Johnnie Walker’s honey.

The finish on the Cutty Sark 25 is richer as well. Its spicy finish is longer, more complex, and more interesting as it leaves behind an oily texture that the Gold has difficulty matching.

Overall, the Cutty Sark is a richer product with enough complexity and character to satisfy most whisky lovers. The Gold has its appeal and is most certainly meant for a broader variety of drinkers and would probably add quality to mixed drinks as well. The palate and finish of the Cutty Sark is just too much for the Gold to compete against however. As I throw another log on the fire, I listen to the sounds of the kids playing, watch the dog sleeping next to me, and remind myself that there is something to say for lazy Sundays at home.