Whisky Head to Head

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

  1. Glenlivet Archive 21
  2. Deanston 18
  3. Old Pulteney 18
  4. Springbank 9 Local Barley
  5. Longmorn 16
  6. Glendronach 18 Allardice
  7. Glenmorangie Signet
  8. Hibiki Harmony
  9. Longrow Red 13
  10. Longrow
  11. Highland Park 1998-2010
  12. Deanston 12
  13. Balcones
  14. Andalusia Tripled Destilled
  15. Macallan 2013 (20y)
  16. Hibiki Harmony
  17. Deanston Virgin Oak
  18. Deanston (Selected Malts Oloroso Finish 2009-2018)
  19. Glenmorangie 10
  20. Old Pulteney 12
  21. Bushmills Single Malt 12
  22. Makers Mark
  23. TX Texas Straight Bourbon
  24. Motörhead
  25. Jameson Black Barrel
  26. Ranger Creek Rimfire
  27. Johnny Walker White Walker
  28. Mackmyra Brukswhisky
  29. Storm
  30. J&B
  31. Jack Daniels
  32. Urquhart Castle 10 (Speyside single malt)


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. Ledaig 10
  4. Longrow (moderately peated)
  5. Hven Tychos Star
  6. Ardbeg Corrywreckan
  7. Mackmyra Svensk Rök
  8. 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


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).

Bushmill Single Malt 12 vs Glenmorangie 10: As expected the Irish triple-destilled whisky has a darker color, and a sweeter aroma. I was a bit surprised though to find that the Bushmill is rougher, more crude and bitter, less smooth. And sweeter of course. Glenmorangie is more on the winey side. Although different in character they are similar in taste quality. If I have to pick, I prefer Glenmorangie.

Deanston 18 vs Macallan 2013 (distilled 1993, cask strength): Very similar in color, and in aroma as well. Perhaps Macallan is a bit more fruity. Macallan obviusly needs to be watered down but this evening I don’t find it tastes particularly good. Deanston is richer, a bit saltier, and tastier.

Storm vs Urquhart Castle 10 (a souvenir single Speyside malt): The castle whisky is very pale. It has a light aroma, but I like it better than the more sweet and chemical Storm. I taste both and find Urquhart not very smooth, it actually has a bit of this burnt sawdust flavour that I usually find in very young whiskies. Storm taste bitter-sweet in a way I dont particularly like, but it is still more pleasant than Qrquhart castle.

Glenlivet Archive 21 vs Old Pulteney 18: Similar color but Glenlivet a bit more red and Old Pulteney a bit more pale. Glenlivet has a fantastic balanced aroma and Old Pulteney has a sligthly saltier smell (perhaps like sea); so far very good and quite as expected. Also when it comes to flavour the Glenlivet is really good, a bit sweeter than I expected, but very nice. Old Pulteney is saltier (iodine?) and less soft. And less perfect. There are different preferences, but so far Glenlivet Archive 21 is the most flawless whisky I have tried (in this list).

Ledaig 10 vs Longrow: Very similar color (Ledaig perhaps paler). Somewhat surprised I find that Ledaig has more aroma, richer and more peat, while Longrow is more reserved (but not bad at all). Longrow tastes great, with its dry salty flavour, but I add a little water to it. Ledaig has more flavour, especially more peat and sea. This is why it is hard to test more peated against less peated (and Longrow – no age – has surprisingly little peat). So, while Longrow is a perfect whisky, Ledaig has more of everything. So in the peated category, Ledaig wins.

Deanston 12 vs Ranger Creek Rimfire: Similar in color the Texan has a surprisingly sweet and nice aroma (it is Mesquite smoked so I expected it to be more sharp). When it comes to flavour though the Deanston wins (today I find Deanston 12 very good). I could be completely wrong, but the Texan reminds me a little of tequila and that is not to its advantage.

Ardbeg Corrywreckan vs Hven Tycho Star: The Ardbeg i paler, but not surprisingly has a thicker smell. Tycho Star has a good flavour with a nice burnt, short smoky finish. Ardbeg is, quite similar or very different? I got confused. Even after tasting the (powerful) Ardbeg, Tycho Star actually tastes really good! And getting back to Ardbeg, this is not so easy! Corrywreckan is not my favourite Ardbeg, it has its moments. And if you like more of everything you probably prefer Ardbeg, but tonight I find Hven to produce a more appealing whisky than Ardbeg.

Balcones vs Deanston 12: Balcones being much darker in colour, Deanston still has more aroma. While Deanston has an aroma of whisky and wine Balcones is more raisins or rum. When it comes to the flavour Balcones is very sweet, yet a bit sharp (I did add water to the 53% Texan). Deanston is much more balanced, has more flavour to offer and is milder. Conclusion: while a more peaty whisky tends to beat a less peaty whisky head to head, the same is not true for a sweet whisky.

Deanston 12 vs Longmorn 16: Very similar in colour and not that different aroma. Deanston smells more caramel and Longmorn is more deep and subtle on the nose. I like the taste of both of them and I think they both represent good Scotish single malt that are neither peated nor particularly sweet (sherry). In the end, I think Longmorn is the better one, but not by much, and Deaston is both classic and a bit particular, while Longmorn is more anonymous.

Balcones vs Bushmill 12: Balcones is slightly more red in color, and more raisin aroma while Bushmill has more oak aroma. Quite similar though. At first taste, none of them is perfect: Balcones too sharp and sweet, Bushmill a bit bitter and dull (perhaps), lacking something. Balcones improves with water and even though it is sweeter than I prefer, it is the better of the two.

Deanston 12 vs Deanston Oloroso Finish (Selected Malts 2009-2018): The Oloroso whisky is slightly darker in color as expected. When it comes to aroma there is some difference: 12 YO is more caramel, Oloroso is sweeter, quite as expected. First impression of Oloroso is that it has a lot of flavour but fades away quickly (not so strange given its young age). I add water (its just above 50%) and find that not much remain. Oloroso is young and thin compared to 12 YO which is richer, deeper and tastier.

Deanston 12 vs Old Pulteney 12: I can see no difference in color. Not very different on the nose either, Old Pulteney is more sea, medicinal, while Deanston is more oak and a bit sweeter. Tasting Old Pulteney it is a little burnt, slightly bitter. Deanston tastes sweeter and more bourbon. Back to Old Pulteney it is a bit thinner, there is something (chemical) about it reminding me of a blend. I like Old Pulteney but I like Deanston more.

Longmorn 16 vs Old Pulteney 18: Very similar traditional whisky color. When it comes to aroma, Longmorn has a softer wine and fruit speyside character while Old Pulteney reminds of the and is a bit peaty. The differences in the mouth matches the differences on the nose. No immediate winner. Very close race actually, and it is even harder to pick a winner because they are quite different. In the end Old Pulteney wins. I don’t think its because it has more sea and peat, but because it is more rich and Longmorn is somehow a little thin and bitter. Both are good.

Bushmills 12 vs Old Pulteney 12: Old Pulteney quite paler as expected. On the nose Bushmill is more sweet and nice, while Old Pulteney comes of quite chemical. First taste of Old Pulteney is satisfying though. Tasting Bushmills it got difficult, Bushmills tasting sherry and little more. In the end Old Pulteney has more to offer, but it is really close.

Deanston Oloroso Finish vs Makers Mark: not surprisingly the bourbon is a bit more golden, but not so much. On the nose Deaston is much more elegant and subtle, the bourbon obviously sweet and oaky. Tasting Makers Mark: it is not bad at all, perhaps everything I want in a bourbon however a little sharp. Deanston, again, more elegant, and I add water to both. Tonight, I find this Deanston excellent, and better than Makers Mark.

Hven Tychos Star vs Kilchoman Machir Bay: To the eye Kilchoman is very pale compared to Hven. On the nose they both have a quite burnt peaty smell (more fire than sea), Kilchoman a bit more powerful. When it comes to taste, Hven is more sweet (although not very sweet) while Kilchoman is more sour. With a bit of water Kilchoman develops a bit and it has a deeper flavour, not entirely better, but in the end I prefer Kilchoman. Although this is a surprisingly close race.

Glenmorangie Signet vs Longmorn 16: Both quite deep and similar in color. On aroma, Longmorn is very classical speyside on my nose. I expected Signet to be more sweet and powerful, but I think Longmorn matches it very good. First taste impression of Signet is simply excellent; rich and tasty and not too sweet. Longmorn also very strong first impression, perhaps a bit more soft yet dryer. Not so little oak in Signet I realise on the second sip. This is a close match, Longmorn is richer and more complex, yet Signet does its thing very well (perhaps more flawless but less interesting). I will pick Longmorn as the winner, but if you are more into sherry casks you would perhaps disagree.

Balcones vs Glenmorangie Signet: With the above tasting ongoing, I decided to try Signet against Balcones and just as I expected Balcones has no chance (it lacks the balance and elegance).

Old Pulteney 12 vs Springbank 9 Local Barley: Quite similar color, Springbank slightly paler and also cask strength. Ahh, Springbank is fanstastic on the nose, a bit peaty, dry, and in comparison Old Pulteney smells perfume (admittedly, I like Springbank and this is clearly a subjective opinion). Starting to taste Old Pulteney I have nothing to complain about really, it is good. But the Springbank (with a splash of water), so much flavour in just 9 years! Tasting Old Pulteney again, still not much to complain with it is still decent after Springbank. Adding a bit more water to Springbank and there is no doubt it is the better whisky: not a hint of sweetness and quite perfectly peated.

Longrow vs Springbank 9 Local Barley: Not surprisingly similar and pale color. On the nose Longrow has more peat (yes, it should, but I actually was not sure after previously tasting both of them against different whiskies), and the Springbank is richer otherwise, saltier and more barley. Tasting them, Springbank is fresh, salty, tasty, interesting and very good (and excellent for its young age). Longrow, unfortunately, is lacking both what I expect in a whisky from Springbank and is also not particularly peaty. It feels a bit closed and dead.

Jura Superstition vs Storm: Jura is really golden while Storm is pale, almost greenish. Storm is light on the nose, almost like a wine. Jura is deeper and a bit peated, not unpleasant. Storm tastes quite sharp, thin and chemical (perhaps just like a decent blend). Jura, it has a good island-whisky-component, but also a chemical unbalanced side that is not pleasant. Adding water to Storm it both smells and tastes of pear. Adding water to Jura, it just tastes bitter. I think Storm can have its moments and its fans, but Jura Superstition simply does not cut it.

Bushmill 12 vs Motörhead: These are two whiskies I had better thoughts about before they ended up in the bottom of my list. Similar in color, Motörhead is a bit more red. Motörhead smells nice, quite sweet reminding of Glögg (Gluhwein). Bushmill has quite little aroma and is more like traditional whisky. First taste of Bushmill is fine, quite thin but not bad. Motörhead is not traditional in its taste, it is more like a whisky, than a whisky. Bushmill is the better whisky.

J&B vs Storm: Both blends are quite pale, not golden at all. Storm has quite little aroma, but it is not sligthly disgusting as J&B. Tasting J&B is perhaps better than smelling it, but it leaves a sharp sour taste in the mouth. Storm tastes better, but not completely pleasant. J&B loses against Storm.

Motörhead vs Storm: Motörhead is much darker to the eye, and much richer to the nose, than Storm. Motörhead, with its flaws is mostly pleasant while Storm is not.

Glenmorangie 10 vs Hibiki Harmony: Very similar color, none particlarly dark. I also find them very similar on the nose; Glenmorangie slightly more oak, Hibiki slighly more fruit, but this is subtle. Well, they both smell good. First taste impression of Hibiki is decent: elegant, light, tasty and quite much what I would expect of a good blend. First taste of Glemorangie is not as elegent and tasty actually, something chemical I dont quite like. After a little break trying them Glenmorangie first. Hibiki is better: richer, more spicy, more balanced, more elegant and more flawless.

Mackmyra Brukswhisky vs Storm: These are both very pale, Mackmyra slightly more pale than Storm. First impression on the nose is not too bad for Mackmyra, the pear is clearly there though. Storm is richer on the nose, but a bit chemical and not necessarily more pleasant. Tasting Mackmyra, it is young, a bit sharp but not too bad. Well, that is quite true of Storm too it turns out. None of these are particularly amazing but Mackmyra has its particular charm and personality, while Storm lacks any of that. Mackmyra is more pleasant and interesting.

Makers Mark vs TX Texas Straight Bourbon: Both bourbons very similar dark amber color. On the nose Makers Mark is sweet raisin and oak as expected. The Texan has a less sweet and perhaps less pleasant smell, a but thick and undefined. First taste of Makers Mark is quite what I expect of a bourbon; oak and vanilla. The Texan tastes younger, a bit sharper. I think Makers Mark is better.

Glendronach 18 Allardice vs Longmorn 16: Glendronach clearly more dark amber while Longmorn slightly to the green (although not that pale). On the nose, Glondronach is sweeter and heavier while Longmorn is lighter and fruitier. First taste impression of Longmorn is good; fruity and balanced with a clear malt character. Glondronach tastes surprisingly salty and powerful, not as much sherry character as i expected (feared). In the end Longmorn is very elegant and classy, and I prefer it to Glendronach.

Highland Park 1998-2010 vs Old Pulteney 18: Color very similar and both looks good, HP slightly darker. When it comes to aroma Highland Park is clearly peaty and Old Pulteney is quite pale. Tasting Old Pulteney it is very balanced, smooth, complex a bit salty and a touch of sea. Highland Park is clearly more peaty, powerful but less elegant. This is one of those cases where peat beats no-peat and in a way I am inclined to prefer HP, but I think in the end I prefer the old Old Pulteney anyway.

Jack Daniels vs TX Texas Straight Bourbon: On a short note TX is preferable to Jack Daniels (which smells glue and candy).

Jack Daniels vs Urquhart Castle: I prefer Jack Daniels, but not by far.

Highland Park 1998-2010 vs Longrow 13 Red: On a short note, Longrow 13 is quite superior (although part of it may be that it is more heavily peated).

Longrow vs Ranger Creek Rimfire: Similar, quite pale in color. Rimfire has a fine aroma, I had expected a little more smoke. Longrow is clearly peaty on the nose though. Rimfire tastes fine, a hint of desert. Longrow has a much more powerful taste, and that is not entirely a good thing. Rimfire again, yes, it has that hint of tequila. Adding some water to Longrow brings out much flavour but this Longrow (without age indication) lacks something. This should have been an obvious win for Longrow, but it comes down to preference and perhaps power, and I do pick Longrow. But I am not impressed.

Mackmyra Brukswhisky vs Ranger Creek Rimfire: Mackmyra is clearly paler. The Texan smells quite fine, Mackmyra not too different but more fruity. First taste of Mackmyra is decent, mot much flavour or depth though. Ranger Creek has not so much more to offer. I add a dash or water to both and I imagine that improved the Rimfire a bit. Mackmyra, not so much, the water rather brought out flavours I would have prefered not to be there. Rimfire wins.

Macallan 2013 (20y) vs Hibiki Harmony: Macallan is significantly darker (but also stronger). Hibiki has a pleasant spicy aroma. Macallan is sweeter on the nose, also pleasant. I taste Hibiki and find it flawless but a little thin. I find the cast strength Macallan strong and add a bit of water and the flavours come out. Also quite flawless it has sweet sherry notes, classic speyside flavour and it also tastes like an old whisky in a pleasant way. Back to Hibiki it now is clearly saltier and more dry than Macallan, still flawless which is good for a blend after an old Macallan! This perhaps comes down to preference, or watering, or what I eat with it. But this evening I do prefer Hibiki. It is a very nice whisky.

Highland Park 1998-2010 vs Longrow: Highland Park is much darker in color, and quite peaty on the nose. Switchin to Longrow it is almost fruity and not peaty at all. Tasting Longrow it is quite sharp and and a bit burnt (with a clear Springbank character of course). Tasting HP it gets tricky, it is sweet, a bit peaty, but there is something not quite perfect. This HP bottle is 40%, it has been open a few years and I think it lost its edge. Instead it is slightly chemical. I though HP was going to beat this Longrow (which is perhaps the worst Longrow I have had), but in the end Longrow wins if it is up to me.

Deanston Virgin Oak vs Macallan 2013 (20y): Similar color (Macallan is slightly darker but also stronger). The aroma of Deanston is dominated by dry fruits and oak. Switchin to Macallan it is more subtle and elegant, switching back I find Deanston a bit crude. Macallan tastes very good, I had added some water from the beginning but add more. Deanston is suprisingly fresh, there is much oak but there is more to it. This is not the hands down win for Macallan that I could have thought. I find sourness and sharpness in Macallan and I add even more water. In the end Macallan wins for being more balanced. Deanston has its Virgin Oak charm, but this time that is a bit too much and not enough.

Old Pulteney 12 vs Johnny Walker White Walker: The blend has a strange sweet flavour (reminds me of Swedish Punch) that is meant to be nice when ice cold, but room temperate head to head with a single malt it is not enough.

Glenmorangie 10 vs Mackmyra Brukswhisky: Glenmorangie is richer and more balanced to the eye, the nose and the mouth. Johnny Walker White Walker comes in between.

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