Whisky Head to Head

Based on my notes below I have ranked the whiskies I have tasted:

  1. Deanston 18
  2. Old Pulteney 18
  3. Balcones
  4. Andalusia Tripled Destilled
  5. Deanston Virgin Oak
  6. Glenmorangie 10
  7. Makers Mark
  8. Motörhead
  9. Jameson Black Barrel
  10. Johnny Walker White Walker
  11. Storm

Peated

Usually peated whiskies win on raw power compared to unpeated whiskies. However, that does not mean that a peated whisky is generally preferable on a given occation. But I made a separate list.

  1. Caol Ila 12
  2. Kilchoman Machir Bay
  3. Longrow (moderately peated)
  4. Hven Tychos Star
  5. Mackmyra Svensk Rök
  6. Jura Superstition (slightly peated)

Background and Idea

The idea is to drink two different whiskies and make a few comments. I usually do this alone, in the evening, with two small drams, a glas of water and some salty snacks (like crisps).

To me the way I experience a whisky can change from time to time. Not the least, it depends on what I have eaten and drunk before I taste the whisky. I find it very hard to drink one whisky one day, and another the next day, and compare them. I also find it hard to try many whiskies, because my senses quickly change. So two whiskies, head to head, should be the most fair way I can compare and rate whisky.

It is not my intention to rate value-for-money. I will mostly try standard whiskies that are produced and available, and expected to have somewhat consistent quality. I think it is more interesting to find good affordable available whiskies, than to seek the ultimate bottle from a lost distillery. Occasionally I will however try a more unique, rare and expensive bottle, to see how it compares.

General Findings

I am beginning to identify categories that work for me:

  • Standard
  • Sweet
  • Peat

Notes

Deanston 18 vs Old Pulteney 18: Color very similar, Old Pulteney somewhat darker. On the nose Old Pulteney is more pleasant; sweeter and richer. Deanston is dryer and slightly more chemical. Old Pulteney tastes perfectly balanced with a clear (but not overwhelming) hint of its Spanish oak casks, nice after taste. Deanston also very nicely balanced, with (to my taste) a more dry traditional single malt character. Both are very stable representatives of 18 year old Scotch single malt, but neither is very brave. If I have to choose I prefer the Deanston, I find it more interesting.

Jameson Black Barrel vs White Walker: Jameson has a deep sweet characteristic scent while White Walker is more subtle, a bit chemical to me. Taste impressions are quite the same; White Walker has a quite thin, somewhat sweet taste (perhaps the best I can say is that its not too bad considering its a blend). Jameson tastes caramel, very good, but a bit too much of something. I prefer Jameson, even without considering it is both cheaper an generally available. The reason I tried these two is that I found White Walker ice cold quite nice. I froze another blend (J&B) and it was not at all as good, and not as sweet. So I thought perhaps White Walker had a sweetness like Jameson Black Barrel, but it wasn’t so. I will try Black Barrel frozen some day (since White Walker is limited edition).

Glenmorangie 10 vs Storm: Both rather pale color, and light fruity on the nose. The Storm may actually have a slightly richer aroma. Glenmorangie tastes excellent in its light simplicity, although some bitterness remains. Storm is heavier, more flavour, less fruity, a bit chemical and more bitterness: I lack a defined character. After a while, I clearly prefer Glenmorangie, despite it is lighter (usually a more heavy whisky wins head to head, is my experience). Later, Glenmorange remains flawless in its simplicity, while there is something unpleasant about Storm.

Makers Mark vs Motörhead: Unsurprisingly they are both nice dark amber in color, very similar. Makers Mark has a much sweeter (raisin, vanilla) aroma while Motörhead is much more subtle. Same is true for the taste; Makers Mark has a fine Bourbon flavour also after drinking the drier and lighter Motörhead. They are both good. For those who like Bourbon Makers Mark is clearly the winner. Motörhead is still a good oakflavoured whisky, perhaps too sweet and Bourbon-like to those who don’t like that. Considering price, or not, I must say Makers Mark is the better whisk(e)y. Although, there are situations when I could prefer Motörhead.

Caol Ila 12 vs Kilchoman Machir Bay: As I expected quite similar color and aroma. Kilchoman slightly paler. On the nose they are clearly different, but I have a hard time putting words on it. Caol Ila is heavier, more oily. Starting tasting Kilchoman is like a sparkling firework in the mouth, very good. Caol Ila is, even when it comes to flavour heavier, more oily and more smooth. Sometimes I love heavily peated whisky and sometimes I think it is too much. This time I like them both. Ultimately, Caol Ila comes out slightly better for being richer and more smooth, but it is very close.

Kilchoman Machir Bay vs Longrow (no age): Longrow is clearly a bit darker in color, while Kilchoman is clearly is more peaty on the nose. Longrow needs water and has a balanced, somewhat dry, bitter and pale flavour (not so salty though). Kilchoman is richer in flavour and has an Islay and island character not present in Longrow (despite it is a bit peated). These two whiskies are a bit too different to compare head to head, and neither of them really benefit from being compared to each other (they both smell funny, a bit like soap, after a while). While (the young) Longrow is very good and perhaps more easy to enjoy, head to head Kilchoman is much more interesting.

Deanston Virgin Oak vs Glenmorangie 10: Deanston is a bit more amber colored while Glenmorangie is not that pale. Glenmorangie is light, almost like a wine on the nose, Deanston has a distinct oak and dried fruit aroma. These impressions are well reflected in a first tasting round. Deaston is a bit more rough and raw and Glenmorangie remains subtle and sophisticated. Both are rather young single malts in the lower price segment, both are very good, but lack perfection. I do prefer Deanston.

Jura Superstition vs Longrow: The Jura is more golden in color but quite similar. Both have a pleasant aroma, Longrow more peaty. Tasting both head to head is a clear win to Longrow: the Jura is hardly pleasant and Longrow is quite perfect.

Andalusia Triple Destilled vs Glenmorangie 10: The Texan is much darker in color, but to the nose they are very similar: Andalusia a bit more raisins perhaps, and Glenmorangie slightly lighter. The difference in taste is more significant: Andalusia focuses on the sweet oak flavour which is not bad at all (but a bit simple), while Glenmorangie has wider palette of flavours (but a little bitter). I realise that Andalusia, being triple destilled, should be compared to an Irish whisky rathern than Scotch. Head to head, Andalusia is the more pleasant whisky.

Hven Tychos Star vs Mackmyra Svensk Rök: two Swedish peated (well, at least smoky) whiskies. Hven has a somewhat darker color. They smell rather different. Mackmyra has a very clear dry smoke smell, like burnt, almost fire, and not much else. First impression of Hven is that it has a more traditional peat aroma, but after a while I don’t know; it smells sweet. Starting to taste Macmyra it is surprisingly good – not very much flavour (just like its color and aroma) but not bad. I immediately add water. Hven has a much richer flavour, also surprisingly good and balanced. Mackmyra softens with some water but there is not much to discover. I prefer Hven, but it was more even than I thought, and I had lower expectations and was surprised.

Andalusia Triple Destilled vs Balcones: Both from Texas, pretty amber in color, Balcones even more so (but perhaps because it is stronger at 53%). Andalusia has a deep fruity aroma, very similar to Balcones it seems. Both need water, and they turn out to be very similar, for a while indistinguishable. Somewhat to my surpise I find Balcones to taste better (there are some unpleasant notes in Andalusia after a while, and head to head).

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