Tag Archives: Whisky

Whisky Blind Tasting Log

I got some sample bottles from a good friend, labeled 1-9. So I will blind taste them and I was recommended to start with 1,2,3,5,8 (thats close to a Fibonnaci siries but I am quite sure that is a coincidence). #1 is supposed to be cask strength. Try them head to head, randomly first.

#2 vs #5: #2 is darker. #5 has a quite classic aroma, not so little bourbon and vanilla in it. Neither very peated or sweet. #2 is fruitier and if one would be sherry matured it is this one. #5 is a softer, more malty thing. #2 is a bit more raw (or that is how I experience the probably-sherry-character). I taste #2, yes it is very good, in my taste, much vanilla and oak, and not so soft in the mouth as I first thought: it both has a kick and is soft (I add a little water). #5 has a strong sherry character, but what a sherry character (!), it is fruity like raisins or cherries, rich and deep, soft and malty. Very good. I really like #5 (although it has a hint of surprising bitterness after #2), but the only reason to not let #2 win would be if I were an absolute sherry hater, and I am not. Victory to #2.

#1 vs #3: Quite similar in color, #1 is cask strength and #3 is perhaps slightly more red. These are not so obvious on the nose, classic almost subtle with no immediately dominating aromas. #3 is a bit more of oak and vanilla, #1 a light, somewhat fruity maltiness. I taste #1 (first without water) and it is an unusual whisky, I find coffee and stout (or porter) in it. Oh, #3 is nice, an elegant mix of classic malt and sherry, with a nicely lingering red fruitiness. Back to #1, I remain at this roasted somewhat sweet flavour. #3 wins.

So that leaves us with #2 and #3 winning, and #1 and #5 losing. Lets play the losers and winners before trying #4.

#1 vs #5: Similar color. A bit more vanilla and oak in the aroma of #5, #1 is harder to put words to. I like #1 now, classic but yes still with some coffee and stout. #5 is more soft, with more vanilla. I really like #5 and it wins.

#2 vs #3: #2 is darker. I ended up with the two sherry inspired whiskies in the final. Well, this is weird, #2 is a bit chlorine, like a swimming pool, but in a good way! #3 has a more rough sherry cask character. #2 has to me a close to perfect sherry whisky flavour, soft and well balanced, without the sherry dominating too much. #3 is good, but a bit more rough and raw, and perhaps with a hint of that sulphur (which I don’t find a trace of in #2). Victory to #2.

So at this point we have #2 in the top, followed by #3, #5 and #1. I pour up #8 and find it as dark as #2, and yes, it has a definite high quality sherry character. Lets play it against #3.

#3 vs #8: #8 is darker, and it has more powerful aroma. I think #8 may be a bit peated. On the nose I would think that #3 is the more safe choice, and #8 is the joker. Lets taste the joker. Not bad, it is definitely a sherry matured whisky, a but juicy – like fresh and sour. #3 is more malty, a bit more conservative, I prefer #3.

#5 vs #8: #5 is paler. On the nose, #5 is a much lighter, maltier more classic speyside-like whisky. #8 is more spectacular sherry. #5, very good soft bourbon flavour. #8 is more powerful, and obviously more sherry. I prefer #5.

#1 vs #8: #1 is paler, and cask strength. On the nose #8 is rich, sherry, peated (perhaps) and complex. #1 is rather anonymous and subtle. #1 starts with a quite classic malt flavour, ending with this coffee roast again. These are a bit different in character, yet similar in quality. I am not a sherry fan (although top 2 of 5 went to sherry so far), and there is some I don’t like about #8 and I find #1 more enjoyable.

Final list (best to worst – and with the actual names written out):

  1. #2 Bunnahabhain 1986-2010 Carn Mor
  2. #3 Bunnahabhain 28 Untold Riches
  3. #5 Bunnahabhain 1989-2016 Samaroli
  4. #1 Bunnahabhain 1979-2000
  5. #8 Bunnahabhain 28 Statement

More tasting against other whiskies

(#2) Bunnahabhain 1986-2010 Carn Mor vs Bunnahabhain 21 Königsmann Oloroso: Königsmann is darker, and it has a very powerful fruity aroma. #2 is more subtle, balanced, classic malt here. Königsmann has a distinctive sherry character, rich sweet and complex. #2 is more balanced, not exactly subtle sherry but less dominant sherry. I prefer #2.

(#8) Bunnahabhain 28 Statement vs Bunnahabhain 21 Königsmann Oloroso: Königsmann is darker, with more fruit and bourbon (! – who would have thought) on the nose. #8 a bit dull here. First two very small sips, Königsmann feels like the richer more powerful whisky. #8 tastes a hint of peat, not so much sherry, and some unfortunate sulphur that I can’t forget or forgive. Königsmann has a more straight sherry influence, more fruity. It is actually very close, but I prefer Königsmann.

Bunnahabhain 1989-2016 Samaroli vs Redbreast 15: Redbreast a bit darker. Not so little similarity in aroma, Redbreast has a little bit more raw bourbon character and Bunnahabhain seems slightly softer, fruitier. Bunnahabhain has a rich and complex flavour that lingers long, a bit salty, a bit bitter, not so little bourbon and oak. Redbreast is more immediately and powerful sweet bourbon, which is very nice, but then it fades quicker. These two dont quite improve each other, Bunnahabhain seems a bit dull and Redbreast a bit chemical. Bunnahabhain is definitely a more complex and complete whisky, with some unfortunate bitterness. Redbreast is much more simple, but it does its bourbon extremely well. I prefer Redbreast, but I understand if connaiseurs and enthusiasts find that crazy.

Bunnahabhain 1989-2016 Samaroli vs Bushmills 16: Bushmills clearly darker. Bunnahabhain has a saltier and maltier aroma (you can feel the Islay/Sea-character, without the peat). Bushmills is sweeter, more chemical. I taste Bushmills, at first sweet, then sweeter, caramel, very soft. Bunnahabhain is saltier, maltier, and more bitter. Thinking I have very cheap and sweet preference, I lean towards Bushmills. I find Bunnahabhain more interesting than pleasant.

Bunnahabhain 1989-2016 Samaroli vs Springbank 15 Rum PC#629: Springbank much paler to the eye, but to the nose much rougher. Bunnahabhain rather soft and balanced, Springbank actually a bit sulphur. Springbank tastes fantastic though, no sulphur really, salty and with a hidden sweetness from the rum. Bunnahabhain has a more dominant sweetness more in the front. Bunnahabhain is more complex, lingering nicer, and I prefer it.

Bunnahabhain 28 Statement vs Glengoyne 21: Very similar color, both rather dark. Glengoyne has a light, almost wine-like aroma, definitely dominated by a soft sherry character but I thought I found bourbon in there too (and reading the bottle I am wrong). Bunnahabhain not so different, a bit saltier, rougher and in-your-face sherry, but not so much. Bunnahabahin is the more sweet. Tasting Glengoyne, it is sweet, caramel, some dark fruits, soft nice and round. Bunnahabhain is saltier, rougher, and an unfortunate hint of sulphur. I add little water to it. Tasting both again, I prefer Glengoyne.

Bunnahabhain 28 Statement vs Longrow 13 Red: Both rather dark and reddish, Longrow stronger but adding water makes not so much difference. Not so different on the nose, Longrow is a bit rougher and saltier, perhaps more sulphur, and its “red” casks have given less sweetness than the sherry casks of Bunnahabhain. I take a small sip of both, Longrow has too much sulphur, like old margarine, and Bunnahabhain has more complexity and and variety. Bunnahabhain wins.

Bergslagen Two Hearts vs Bunnahabhain 28 Statement: Very similar color. There is something thin, sweet, fruity and unnatural about Bergslagen, where Bunnahabhain smells of old quality. I taste Bergslagen, and it does have some quality: reasonable compexity, some softness, sweetness that is easy to enjoy and quite an absense of unwanted flavours. Bunnahabhain is saltier, but with some unfortunate sulphur. However, with that sulphur in mind, Bergslagen is not so flawless after all, and I think Bunnahabhain wins a narrow victory.

Bunnahabhain 28 Statement vs Johnny Walker 18: Similar color, JW probably slightly paler. JW quite light, something mint/hay about its aroma, otherwise classic scotch and perhaps a hint of peat. Bunnahabhain fresher, fruitier, saltier. I taste Johnny Walker, and it is flawlessly soft and balanced and it remains fairly long in the mouth. No bones. Bunnahabhain is much more sherry, and with that comes the sulphur: it has a lot of quality, but I am not forgiving with Sulphur. I prefer Johnny Walker 18.

Bunnahabhain 28 Untold Riches vs Glen Ord 18 (2019 Special Release): Much more color in Bunnahabhain. Glen Ord has a somewhat oily soily nose, but also fruity. Bunnahabhain strikes me as more sherry, those dark and red fruits. Glen Ord is classic, easy to enjoy, dry and a bit burnt in the mouth. Bunnahabhain has a more powerful aroma with an nice balance between sherry and malt. Glen Ord being a bit lighter, still has a comparable wealth of flavours. I have a simple flavour, not leaning towards sherry, and I prefer Glen Ord.

Bunnahabhain 28 Untold Riches vs Macallan 1993-2013: Very similar color. Macallan is lighter, more maltier, a bit more caramel and soft fruits on the nose. Bunnahabhain is saltier, rougher with more sherry. Macallan tastes good, very soft and balanced, slightly bitter. Bunnahabhain is a saltier more powerful experience. Back to Macallan, a bit dull, not quite up to this. Bunnahabhain wins.

Bunnahabhain 28 Untold Riches vs Highland Park 18 Viking Pride: Bunnahabhain perhaps slightly paler. Both has a bit salty and rough aroma, Highland Park a bit more oil, leather and peat (definitely), Bunnahabhain becomes a little in the shadow here, not quite matching HP in nose power. In the mouth the sherry of Bunnahabhain turns a bit sour, Highland park is very well balanced. I prefer Highland Park.

Bunnahabhain 28 Untold Riches vs Glenfiddich 15 Solera Reserve: Similar color. Bunnahabhain has a more rough and salty aroma, Glenfiddich fresher and fruitier and some maltyness comes through more as well. Tasting Glenfiddich it is very soft, honeylike, malty with some fruitiness. Bunnahabhain is more rare, exquisite in flavour, but also more of an aqcuired taste. I can really see myself and other people prefer Glenfiddich but there is something thin and somple to it side by side with this Bunnahabhain, so I will let Bunnahabhain win.

Bunnahabhain 1979-2000 vs Macallan 1993-2013: Bunnahabhain slightly paler. Macallan has a light fruitiness, with some maltiness. Bunnahabhain rougher, sweeter and saltier. Both have a sherry origin but quite different. Macallan is malty and nice, caramel, a bit nutty. Now there is much more raw sherry character to Bunnahabhain and I add water to it since it is cask strength. Bunnahabhain gets softer with water. Very similar quality, quite quite different character. Macallan is good but it is missing something to me, Bunnahabhain does its thing more straight. So it is a narrow victory to Bunnahabhain.

Ranking Whisky (theory)

I have been tasting whisky for a while, systematically, in order to make a (personal) ranking based on my preference and experience. How do I do it?

Head to head

I decided based on experience that tasting one whisky and giving it a score does not work for me. I can like something better one day and worse another day. And what I have eaten or drunk before matters much. The popular 1-100 scale (where 1-60 is rarely used at all) is not what I want to use.

Also based on experience, I find it very hard to compare 4-5 whiskies at the same time. I simply find it hard to keep them all in my head and make any sense of it.

So I decided that when I test whisky, and rank whisky, I drink them two and two, head to head. This is not so strange, it happens in many sports that two teams or players compete against each other, and in the end there is a ranking.

Many ranking systems (tennis) promote participation and punish absence. You can not be #1 in Tennis if you have not played a game in two years. However, for my purposes, if I find 5cl of an excellent whisky, it goes to the top and it should remain in the top. It is not supposed to get punished because I am out of it.

So I developed a ranking system based on the above principles and findings.

A strong assumption

Lets say I have three whiskies: Perth, Dundee and Stirling (I will use made up names for examples). I have tested twice:

  • Perth beats Dundee
  • Dundee beats Stirling

Is it then possible to make a third tasting and find that

  • Stirling beats Perth?
  • Dundee beats Perth?

In sports this can obviously happen. But I have decided that for my purposes this will never happen. How do I know? I simply never test two whiskies that already have a decided ranking order.

It is not obvious that this is a good (true) assumption. However, it is an assumption that has worked good for me – perhaps better than I expected from the beginning. However I have been making separate ranking lists for peated and unpeated whiskies.

Example

Perth beats Dundee, and we have:

  1. Perth
  2. Dundee

Dundee beats Stirling, and we have

  1. Perth
  2. Dundee
  3. Stirling

Glasgow beats Stirling and it gets more complicated

  1. Perth
  2. Dundee
  3. Glasgow (could have been #1 or #2, but keep close to Stirling)
  4. Stirling

Glasgow beats Perth, and we have

  1. Glasgow
  2. Perth
  3. Dundee
  4. Stirling

Glasgow beats Edinburgh, and Edinburgh beats Stirling, and we have

  1. Glasgow
  2. Perth
  3. Edinburgh (could have been – and can become – #2 or #4 – but keep it in the middle for now)
  4. Dundee
  5. Stirling

In principle, this is all there is to it. If I get a new cheap blend I probably try it against Stirling. If it loses to Stirling it is now #6. If it wins to Stirling I compare it against a better whisky “hoping” it will lose, and I get an interval. Lets say that Aberdeen beats Stirling and loses to Perth, I would get something like

  1. Glasgow
  2. Perth (could be anywhere from #2 to #4)
  3. Edinburgh (could be anywhere from #2 to #5)
  4. Dundee (could be anywhere from #3 to #5)
  5. Aberdeen (could be anywhere from #3 to #5)
  6. Stirling

This is a ranking based on the information I have. Aberdeen may beat Edinburgh, or not. At this point, this is far from obvious or trivial. If you look through the “tastings” above one by one you shall find that all the results are respected in the list. However, I have written a little computer program to help with the ranking.

Data and Code

The data of the above tastings is represented as JavaScript code as this (ignore price for now):

exports.whiskies = () => { return [{
   name  : 'Perth',  // 0
   win   : [1,5],
   price : 3.0
 },{
   name  : 'Dundee', // #1
   win   : [2],
   price : 2.0
 },{
   name  : 'Stirling', // #2
   win   : [],
   price : 2.5
 },{
   name  : 'Glasgow',  // #3
   win   : [0,2,4],
   price : 3.5
 },{
   name  : 'Edinburgh',  // #4
   win   : [2,5],
   price : 4.0
 },{
   name  : 'Aberdeen',  // #5
   win   : [2],
   price : 3.0
 }]};

This should be understood as (for example) Aberdeen is #5 in the list, it has beaten only one whisky, #2 Stirling. And if you browse through the data you can see that both Perth and Edinburgh has beaten #5 (Aberdeen). As I test more whiskies I just add them to the end of the list, and add more entries in the “win”-lists.

Let us say I get a great whisky, Port Ellen, I try it against the best of the list (Glasgow) and it wins. Then I add to the end of the list:

   name  : 'Port Ellen',  // #6
   win   : [3],
   price : 5.0

Get Ranking

I can run my program like this:

Documents/Programming/whisky$ node whisky.js example.js -r
   1   6-0      1-0       :2   100%  Port Ellen
   2   5-1      3-1      1:3   100%  Glasgow
   3   3-2      2-1      2:5    86%  Perth
   4   2-2      2-1      2:6    71%  Edinburgh
   5   1-3      1-1      3:7    71%  Dundee
   6   1-4      1-2      4:7    86%  Aberdeen
   7   0-6      0-4      6:    100%  Stirling

So the output columns are:

  1. Rank
  2. Extended won and lost tastings. Port Ellen has just beaten Glasgow. But Glasgow has beaten 5 whiskies (using the same extended logic), so Port Ellen is considered to have beaten all those 5 plus Glasgow, which makes it 6.
  3. Won and Lost tastings
  4. Nearest whiskies in the list that it has lost against and won against
  5. 100% means that it won and lost against it neighbors. A lower value means that the nearest winners and losers are more far away. So a low value is an indication that this whisky needs to be tested more.
  6. Name of whisky

Get Suggestions

The program can suggest what I should try next:

Documents/Programming/whisky$ node whisky.js example.js -s
Dundee     - Edinburgh   1 77%
Edinburgh  - Perth       1 66%
Aberdeen   - Dundee      1 66%

Without going into details, this indicates that testing Dundee vs Edinburgh will be the most useful thing to stabilize the list. As you see, even though Port Ellen is just tested once it gets no suggestions. It will remain like that until some (new, not on the list) whisky beats Glasgow. As long as I only test whiskies from this suggested list I will not end up with circles of A beats B beats C beats A.

Pricing

I do not consider price when I compare whiskies. Nevertheless it is interesting to compare value for money. How do you make sense of adding prices to a list of whiskies given different currencies, markets, stores, auction prices, bottling sizes and cask strength whiskies? Well, it is not going to be exact, but I came up with a Johnny Walker equivalent:

  1. Red Label
  2. Black Label
  3. Gold Label
  4. 18 YO (Platinum Label)
  5. Blue Label
  6. The most expensive whisky in my collection

So when set my price value (1.0 to 6.0) for any whisky, I try to compensate for ABV and bottle size, and then give it a price value from the table above. So if Black Label is $30 and Gold Label is $50, a $40 whisky will get a price of 2.5.

I can run my program:

Documents/Programming/whisky$ node whisky.js example.js -v
   1  1.303  3.500     75  Glasgow
   2  1.267  3.000     50  Perth
   3  1.167  2.000     30  Dundee
   4  1.143  5.000    200  Port Ellen
   5  0.917  4.000    100  Edinburgh
   6  0.767  3.000     50  Aberdeen
   7  0.667  2.500     40  Stirling

The columns are:

  1. Ranking in value for money
  2. A value for money quote
  3. The price value in JW-scale
  4. The price in $ based on the JS-scale
  5. Name of whisky

Finally I can do a price-quality-plot:

Documents/Programming/whisky$ node whisky.js example.js -c
 |                                         
 |                                         
 |                                        .
 |                                         
 |                                         
 |                    .                    
 |                                  .      
 |       .                   .             
 P .                                       
 R                                         
 I              .                          
 C                                         
 E                                         
 |                                         
 |                                         
  ===== QUALITY ==== correlation : 0.7373 ==================

This obviously makes more sense with more than 7 whiskies.

Code

For anyone interested in running this code themselves here are download links.

  • whisky.js (run this with node.js on the command line)
  • example.js (data file with above 7 fake whiskies)
  • peat.js (data file with my peated list 2021-05-01)
  • std.js (data file with my standard list 2021-05-01)

Do not expect my data files to be regularly updated. The price data is a quite new feature so some prices may be quite off and I am considering to remove prices entirely for whisky that can not be bought or where price is not known.

Final words

I keep working on the ranking (testing more whiskies) and sometimes improving the ranking program.

I am obviously thinking about making this available for other people (you) in a simple way. I am not sure how to do it though. I think it should be a web page. But I do not know if you should:

  • enter your tastings in my webpage and save it there
  • enter your tastings in an Excel-sheet or something, and upload it to my page just when you want to run it

Perhaps there is something even smarter?

Let me know if you would like me to make this available in some other way than just sharing the source code above (which obviously mostly appeals to programmers).

Tasting Jack Daniels

(also check out my full whisky tasting list)

I got a miniature kit with 5 different Jack Daniels whiskies that I decided to try head to head. This is what I arrived at, best to worst:

  1. Gentleman Jack
  2. Single Barrel Select
  3. Old No 7
  4. Honey (not a whiskey, but a liqeur)
  5. Fire (not a whiskey, but a liqeur)

First Round

In the first round i blind taste.

A (Tennessee Honey) vs B (Tennesse Fire)
Color: A is slighty darker and more reddish
Nose: B has a very funny aroma, cinnamon buns before they go into the oven, a lot of yeast. A is more elegant, also a bit like some pastry, some liquer. None have a very typical bourbon aroma.
Mouth: A is very sweet, soft, more like a punch than a whisky but nothing bad about it. B is perhaps even sweeter, with very much cinnamon.
Winner: I prefer A.

C (Gentalman Jack) vs D (Singel Barrel Select)
Color: D is darker, really dark, but also C is quite dark.
Nose: C has a quite typical bourbon aroma with some glue to it. D is quite similar, a bit more sharp on the nose.
Mouth: C also has a quite typical bourbon flavour, not very sweet or rich though. D tastes more glue than C. I find C has more flavour and a bit softer.
Winner: I prefer C

Second Round

Bronze match: Tennessee Fire vs Single Barrel Select
Color: Single Barrel Select is much darker
Nose: Fire smells cinnamon, Singel Barrel smells bourbon.
Mouth: Fire is mostly very sweet, now Single Barrel has a very nice bourbon flavour.
Winner: Single Barrel Select

Gold Match: Tennessee Honey vs Gentelman Jack
Color: Very similar, both rather dark amber.
Nose: Honey is much soft with a liqeur-like aroma, Gentleman Jack like try bourbon.
Mouth: A is very sweet, very soft, actually a bit like honey. Gentleman Jack is a quite easy to enjoy bourbon.
Winner: I prefer Gentelman Jack, but it is perhaps because I like bourbon and I am expecting a bourbon. Tennessee Honey is a bit ood and sweet to me.

Jack Daniels Old No 7

I also got a Jack Daniels Old No 7, lets see how it competes.

#7 vs Tennessee Honey
Color: Similar color, Honey slightly paler.
Nose: #7 a bit more bourbon, Honey softer.
Mouth: Well, #7 tastes just like a bourbon, Honeys is mostly sweet.
Winner: I prefer #7, it is more like whiskey and bourbon to me.

#7 vs Single Barrel Select
Color: Single Barrel Select slightly darker.
Nose: #7 a bit richer and softer, Single Barrel Select a little bit more kick and perhaps less like glue.
Mouth: Quite similar, Single Barrel Select has a more dry, natural and delicate flavour: #7 is more powerful but with more odd chemical notes.
Winner: I prefer Single Barrel Select.

Other Whiskies

Gentleman Jack vs Knob Creek
Color: Knob Creek is darker.
Nose: Gentleman Jack is more soft.
Mouth: Know Creek is a more raw and rough experience. Gentleman Jack is really a Gentleman, surprisingly soft and balanced for a bourbon.
Winner: I prefer Gentleman Jack.

Single Barrel Select vs Knob Creek
Color: Similar
Nose: Similar, very similar.
Mouth: Similar, Single Barrel Select is softer and more elegant, Know Creek more raw.
Winner: Singel Barrel Select

Gentleman Jack vs Buffalo Trace
Color: Gentleman Jack perhaps a bit darker. Or not.
Nose: Both have a classic nice bourbon aroma. Buffalo Trace slightly softer and sweeter.
Mouth: Buffalo Trace has an elegant easy to enjoy bourbon flavour. Gentleman Jack a bit more bitter and raw.
Winner: Buffalo Trace wins.

Gentleman Jack vs Jameson Black Barrel
Color: Similar.
Nose: Gentleman Jack has a spicy bourbon aroma. Black Barrel is a bit thick.
Mouth: A small sip of Black Barrel is nice, fruity and soft. A small sip of Gentleman Jack is a bit rougher and more dry. I finish Gentleman Jack and it is a nice bourbon experience, not very sweet a and a little sour. I finish Jameson and it is a more fruity experience.
Winner: Jameson wins.

Testing Paul John whisky

First check out my general whisky tasting list.

I got a Paul John whisky tasting kit. There are five whiskies, one is peated, so I will start with the other four, here listed in preference order

  1. Edited
  2. Bold
  3. Classic Select (cask strength)
  4. Brilliance

Brilliance vs Edited
Color: Edited is darker, I would say both are quite pale
Nose: I like brilliance, fresh and malty perhaps with sweet citrus to it. Edited is a different story: leather, oil and dirt, not bad at all, but more challenging.
Mouth: Brilliance tastes very young, a bit raw wood and strange sweetness. Also Edited tastes quite much wood, quite light compared to what I expected after smelling it.
Winner: Very comparable quality, I pick Edited.

Bold vs Classic Select
Color: Classic Select is darker, also after being diluted
Nose: Bold is a bit leather, sweet, quite subtle, somthing perhaps tropical about it. Classic select, at first I was confused but it has a more classic bourbon aroma, with something young/sour about it.
Mouth: Bold taste as it smells, young wood and leather. It has a long lingering woody/metallic taste. Classic select is clearly sour in the mouth (I cant write fresh).
Winner: Bold wins.

Edited vs Bold (for Gold)
Color: Very similar
Nose: Bold is heavier, young wood, not necessarily a good thing. Edited is more classic (scotch). Quite similar.
Mouth: Both tastes decent but quite immature, Edited is the more soft and sophisticated one.
Winner: Edited.

Brilliance vs Classic Select (for Bronze)
Color: Classic Select is darker.
Nose: Brilliance very light, fruity like citrus with something unusual tropical about it. Classic Select more sweet, and back to Brilliance it is more raw/wood.
Mouth: Quite much bourbon in Classic Select now, Brilliance is unrefined wood and fruit.
Winner: Classic Select

Paul John vs Other Whisky

Bold vs Johnny Walker Gold
Color: JW darker
Nose: JW is more mellow and oily, Bold more tropical/raw wood and spicy
Mouth: Bold is more rough, young, fruity. JW sweeter, richer, softer and more complex.
Winner: JW wins.

Brilliance vs Mackmyra Brukswhisky
Color: Brilliance is darker
Nose: Brilliance has a woody, sour aroma (with good intentions some citrus fruit). Mackmyra is a little sweeter, more honey, and less agressively woody.
Mouth: Brilliance is really sour, with a dry wood lingering. Mackmyra a bit softer but also more bitter.
Winner: These are bad in different ways, with a bit of doubt, I prefer Paul John Brillance.

Edited vs Johnny Walker Gold
Color: JW is darker
Nose: JW is more oily, leather and dirt. Paul John is lighter, more sour (not writing fresh) and raw wood.
Mouth: Edited is quite classic malt whisky, a bit raw. JW a bit chemical and odd-tasting.
Winner: With little margin, Paul John Edited wins.

Edited vs Glenfiddich 12
Color: Same color
Nose: Glenfiddich is more dry, salty and malty. Edited is more sour raw wood.
Mouth: Glenfiddich is more soft and mature. Edited is more rough, unrefined.
Winner: Glenfiddich 12.

Classic Select vs Motörhead
Color: Motörhead is darker
Nose: Both a bit on the fruity and sweet side. Motörhead more soft and subtle, John Paul more raw wood.
Mouth: Motörhead quite sweet, soft and gentle in flavour, John Paul a little bit more kick, and more odd and woody. I add more water to it.
Winner: I prefer Motörhead: more classic and soft.

Brilliance vs Bushmills Original
Color: Similar, both pale
Nose: Bushmills lighter, Brilliance more terpentine.
Mouth: Bushmills more delicate and complex. Brilliance more sour and raw.
Winner: I prefer Bushmills.

Bold vs Makers Mark
Color: Markers Mark much darker
Nose: Makers Mark is sweeter, perhaps even lighter. Bold is a bit dirtier and oilier.
Mouth: Makers Mark has a strong bourbon character and at least I need water with it. Bold is quite classic in comparison. Back to Makers mark it is softer with water but still this strong bourbon flavour is an aqcuired taste (and it tastes like glue).
Winner: Bold is better.

Classic Select vs Crown Royal Rye
Color: Same
Nose: Crown Royal has a sweet fruity aroma with some flowers. Classic select is a dirtier, woodier experience.
Mouth: Crown Royal definitely has a bourbon flavour, spiced with flowers and fruits. Paul John is rougher and more tropical wood.
Winner: Crown Royal

Bold vs Jim Beam Rye
Color: Jim Beam slightly darker.
Nose: Paul John has a classic, somewhat oily, almost peated aroma. Jim Beam is bourbon, vanilla.
Mouth: Paul John has a quite classic flavour as well, a bit thin, sharp and raw. Jim Beam is very spicy in its bourbon way. In comparison Paul John is rather soft.
Winner: Paul John wins.

Bold vs Bushmills 10
Color: Bushmills a little paler
Nose: Bushmills is light fruits, like green pears. Paul John really smells heavy and solid.
Mouth: Bushmills light and soft in flavour, flawless but without much of an impression. Paul John is heavier, more of an acquired taste.
Winner: Paul John

Edited vs Chivas Regal 12
Color: Similar
Nose: Chivas Regal is lighter, best thing I can write is classic. Edited dominated by young wood, a bit tropical.
Mouth: Chivas is very classic and balanced. Edited has a little bit more kick, more dry young wood and more character. After Edited, there is something cheap blend about Chivas.
Winner: Chivas Regal (Paul John is too odd to me)

Edited vs Glenallachie 10 (Murray McDavid)
Color: Glenallachie much darker
Nose: Glenallachie is soft and like wine. Edited is dirtier, more leather and oil.
Mouth: Glenallachie tastes like it has a strong sherry origin, Paul John is more raw wood with a tropical touch.
Winner: I prefer Glenallachie

Edited vs Glen Moray
Color: Similar, Glen Moray slightly paler
Nose: Glen Moray quite light, fruity with some hay. PJ is heavier, more leather and tropical notes.
Mouth: Glen Moray is fresh, light, with some green fruits and a bit of maltiness. Edited is more powerful, with this quite raw woody flavour.
Winner: Difficult, I could argue both ways. Edited is more powerful, more interesting, but I don’t quite like it very much. Glen Moray is more plain and boring, but it does its simple light single malt very nicely. I’d rather have a Glen Moray.

Paul John Peated Select Cask

I think what I have experienced as raw wood in a bad way for unpeated Paul Johns work out better with the peated one.

PJ vs Bowmore 12
Color: PJ a little paler, and also cask strength.
Nose: PJ has a soft, fruity peated aroma, quite pleasant. Bowmore a bit more oily and malty.
Mouth: I try PJ first at cask strength and it is distinctively peated. I try Bowmore and there is something unatural chemical about it, and I simply dont find it very tasty. Paul John is more fresh and coherent.
Winner: Paul John.

PJ vs Laphroaig 10
Color: Similar, Laphroaig perhaps slightly darker.
Nose: Laphroaig is more dry, PJ more fruity.
Mouth: Laphroaig has a rather smooth and dry, obviously dominated by peatiness. PJ is less integrated, it has a sweet – not bad – experience which kind of competes with the peat. PJ is interesting and not bad, but Laphroaig is more rich, complex and lingering.
Winner: Laphroaig

PJ vs Mackmyra Reserve Svensk Ek Extra Rök
Color: Mackmyra is much darker
Nose: Mackmyra is more deep, rich and powerful. Paul John is more fruity. Both smells a bit like a dry piece of wood getting burnt in a machine saw. Mackmyra reminds more of a sweet wine and Paul John is more odd.
Mouth: PJ (almost at cask strength) is rather raw with some peat. Mackmyra also raw, perhaps more smoke than peat, and a bit sweeter. PJ is lighter and its flavour disappears a bit in comparison with Mackmyra. Mackmyra on the other hand keeps needing more water. With more water Paul John has a more burnt (rather than raw) flavour, a quite straight experience but not too impressive. Mackmyra is more rich, complex, with more woody notes and it lingers longer.
Winner: Mackmyra

PJ vs Hven Tychos Star
Color: Hven is darker
Nose: Hven is a bit softer, PJ is a bit more woody in a sweet burnt way
Mouth: Hven is a bit classic, with some sour peat and some bitterness. Paul John is sweeter and fresher.
Winner: Paul John

PJ vs Bunnahabhain 8 Heavily Peated
Color: Similar
Nose: Very different, Bunnahabhain smells old closet and Paul John like a freshly built piece of furniture.
Mouth: Bunnahabhain is smoth, rich, a bit salty and lingering. Paul John is rather raw and thin.
Winner: Bunnahabhain

PJ vs Kilchoman UK Small Batch
Color: Paul John a little darker.
Nose: Kilchoman has a very classic Islay aroma, perhaps with some extra sweetness (from its sherry and madeira maturing). Paul John is more different, definitely less peated, a bit tropical… something I can’t quite define almost like plastic or something.
Mouth: Quite fine peated aroma in Paul John, a bit sour and odd. Kilchoman is softer, a bit more sweet, with more classic peat flavour.
Winner: Kilchoman.

PJ vs Bowmore 15
Color: Bowmore 15 (Darkest) is darker.
Nose: Paul John is richer, mostly this tropical odd aroma being dominant. None is more peated than the other.
Mouth: Bowmore is quite classic, slightly peated. Paul John a bit fresher, and in the mouth this tropical note is not so dominant (although on a final, second bigger mouth, it is there). Bowmore has a less rich, more classic aroma, but there is something unsatisfying about the sulphur finish.
Winner: Paul John

Benromach: 7 wood finishes

I got the opportunity to try 7 different Benromach, all quite young, matured (finished) on different types of wood and casks. This is the result, from best to worst.

  1. PX Wood: 2002-2010
  2. Port Wood: 2000-2012
  3. Madeira Wood: -2008 (7YO+)
  4. Sassicaria Wood: 2002-2009
  5. Hermitage Wood: 2001-2010
  6. Pago Capellanes Picay Wood: 2002-2009
  7. Tokaji Wood: -2006 (5YO+)

In conclusion I can say I am quite unimpressed. All were quite thin in flavour and many had a significant taste of sulphur. There was little classic malty character overall. I also note that the commonly used casks/finishes ended up winning, and the more odd woods failing.

I actually blind tested these whiskies.

First round

In the first round I randomly picked 3 pairs of whisky (the last 7th bottle did not participate in the first round). This is the quarter finals.

Hermitage vs Port
Color: Same color.
Nose: Hermitage is more sweet and like desert wine. Port is less sweet and not peaty, but a hint in that direction. Mouth: Both tastes a bit of sulphur. Hermitage is thin, not very nice. The Port could pass as a light sherry matured whisky, it is richer.
Winner: Port.

Madeira vs Tokaji
Color: Madeira little darker.
Nose: Madeira is sweet classic sherry, a bit thin. Tokaji is thin, a bit fruity and a bit sour.
Mouth: Madeira is sweet, soft with a bit of caramel. Tokaji has much sulphur, quite dry wood and sour.
Winner: Madeira.

Sassicaria vs Pago Capellanes Picay
Color: Pago C a little darker.
Nose: Sassicaria smells wine in an elegant way, a little malty. Pago C has a woody sour smell.
Taste: Sassicaria is soft, balanced with a hint of sulphur. Pago C has much sulphur and is a bit rough wood.
Winner: Sassicaria.

Round 2

In the second round I let the 3 winners and the untested (PX Wood, by chance) whisky compete in semi finals. I randomly picked the two matches and blind tested.

PX vs Sassicaria
Color: Perhaps PX is slightly more pale.
Nose: PX has a wine/fruit aroma with a hint of sulphur. Sassicaria a bit sweeter and a bit malty.
Mouth: Both have some sulphur. I find PX a little fruity and salty, while Sassicaria is more dull.
Winner: PX

Madeira vs Port
Color: Port is darker
Nose: Both have an elegant wine and fruit aroma. Madeira a bit softer.
Mouth: Port is balanced with raisin and caramels, hint of sulphur. Madeira is lighter, more balanced and a little bit more rough.
Winner: Port.

I also randomly picked 2 of the 3 losers from round 1 and did a blind test between them.

Hermitage vs Pago Capellanes Picay
Color: Hermitage a bit paler.
Nose: Hermitage has en elegant wine aroma. Pago C is rougher with much sulphur.
Mouth: Hermitage has somewhat malty and balanced flavour, with some sulphur. With water it becomes quite decent but rather dull. Pago C has much sulphur and tastes immature. It is softer with more water, but still not good.
Winner: Hermitage.

Round 3

In round 3 we have the final, the game for 3rd place, and the game for (avoiding) last place.

Tokaji vs Pago Capellanes Picay (the two worst)
Color: Tokaji slightly paler
Nose: Tokaji sour and sulphur. Pago C more mellow.
Mouth: Tokaji mostly tastes sulphur and is disgusting. Pago C is somewhat softer, also mostly sulphur.
Winner: Pago C (I wasted most of both in the sink after deciding the winner)

Sassicaria vs Madeira (for the Bronze – I thought, see below)
Color: Similar
Nose: Sassicaria is like dry wine. Madeira is more fruity and sweet.
Mouth: Sassicaria has much sulphur, also some malty caramel. Madeira is more balanced with less sulphur.
Winner: Madeira

Port vs PX (for the Gold)
Color: Port is darker
Nose: Port smells raisins and little caramel. PX more balanced wine.
Mouth: Port is thin, with a hint of sulphur, but quite good. PX is caramel, little malt, and a hint of sulphur.
Winner: PX (with small margin)

Extra Round

I had to settle position 3 and 4. I blind tasted these two.

Madeira vs Hermitage
Color: Hermitage slightly darker
Nose: Some more fruitiness in Madeira, Hermitage more powerful, not necessarily a good thing.
Mouth: Madeira is with some reservatation a decently tasty whisky. Hermitage is a sulphur stinking rought mess.
Winner: Madeira (as already predicted in the original Bronze match).

Other Whisky

I will compare these 7 whiskies to other whisky. Check out my full head to head whisky list.

Benromach PX vs Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban
Color: Glenmorangie is darker.
Nose: Glenmorangie is fruitier, like peach or something sweet, and more rich and soft. Benromach more like a sherry whisky and with a hint of sulphur.
Mouth: Benromach is not exactly soft and rich, but somewhat balanced, with a hint of sulphur. Glenmorangie is more sweet, more soft, less sulphur. However, they are quite similar.
Winner: Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban.

Benromach Madeira vs Bushmills Banyuls
Color: Banyuls is darker.
Nose: Banyuls is sweeter, more bourbon. Benromach is more wine and sour.
Mouth: Bushmills richer, sweeter and more powerful. Benromach rather thin and dry in comparison. Bushmills, with more flavour, also has more of a lingering sulphur.
Winner: Bushmills Banyuls

Benromach Tokaji vs Grants
Color: Tokaji darker
Nose: Grants smells light malt and vanilla, Benromach something more undefined.
Mouth: Grants tastes light malt and vanilla. Benromach richer, more sweet/sour. Grants is softer, more chemical.
Winner: Grants (never appreciated Grants so much before, but it was quite close)

Benromach Hermitage vs Grants
Color: Hermitage is darker
Nose: Grants more vanilla and malt, Benromach more like sour desert wine.
Mouth: Grants kind of synthetic, Benromach somewhat balanced sweet and fruity.
Winner: Benromach (for more flavour and more interesting, Grants would have been the safe choice if I was offered a drink).

Benromach Tokaji vs J&B:
Color: J&B paler.
Nose: Benromach some undefined sherry fruity character, J&B mostly synthetic.
Mouth: Both tastes like cleaning products. J&B more soft and sweet. Benromach more acid.
Winner: Benromach (there is some interesting whisky flavour in it, but J&B is the safe choice).

Benromach Port vs Bushmills Banyuls
Color: Same (quite dark)
Nose: Benromach quite light fresh wine, after a while a bit more oily. Bushmills caramel and vanilla sweet, more powerful.
Mouth: Benromach quite sweet, a bit rough but also with some quality fruity flavour and sweetness, and a hint of sulphur lingering. Bushmills more sour, rougher, less flavour and more sulphur.
Winner: Benromach

Benromach Port vs Dalmore 10 Vintage:
Color: Very similar (dark)
Nose: Both quite thin, Benromach more raw cask sulphur and fruity, Dalmore more classic but something odd synthetical about it.
Mouth: Dalmore has a thin, sweet classic flavour. Benromach seems raw and unrefined.
Winner: Dalmore

Benromach PX vs Dalmore 10 Vintage
Color: Dalmore slightly darker
Nose: Benromach a bit more raw and fruity, Dalmore more classic yet synthetic
Mouth: Benromach rougher, Dalmore softer. The synthetic thing in Dalmore is probably some funny wood remains.
Winner: Dalmore

Tokaji vs Johnny Walker Red Label
Color: Very similar
Nose: Red Label very light, a bit ethanol. Tokaji more sour (and some sulphur I would say)
Mouth: Red Label soft, not very much flavour, a bit honey. Tokaji is sour, rough and with a significant sulphur lingering.
WInner: I prefer Red Label.

Port vs Paul John Brilliance
Color: Paul John is paler.
Nose: Paul John is quite light, a bit fruity, and not so little raw wood. Benromach Port is more oily and heavy.
Mouth: Paul John is a bit dry in the mouth, yet sweet, some bitterness. Benromach is heavier, more flavour, perhpaps softer but also more sulphur. I add water to both, Benromach gets softer but Paul John gets thinner with more wood.
Winner: Benromach Wins

PX vs Paul John Classic Select
Color: Benromach a little darker
Nose: There is more sherry character (with a hint of sulphur) to PX, and a more woody character to Paul John.
Mouth: Classic Select is more soft (classic even), PX rather rough immature sherry.
Winner: Paul John.

Sassicaria vs Johnny Walker Red Label
Color: JW a little paler, or at least less reddish.
Nose: JW is light, a bit chemical. Sassicaria a bit fruit and a hint of sulphur.
Mouth: JW is soft and tastes reasonably good. Sassicaria has much sulphur.
Winner: JW Red Label.

Conclusion

This are all thin, immature whiskies mostly with sweet flavour. They are not particularly soft, and unfortunately sulphur is the common theme here.

Tasting Johnny Walker

For a while I have been trying whisky head to head, all kinds of whisky, writing notes and making a ranking.

I came to wonder, why is blended whisky not as good as single malt? For the same money of course. I mean, a master blender can make a whisky from all the destilleries he wants following fewer rules, than someone making a single malt. The master blender should be able to produce a better product for the same money.

Is single malt really better? Better value?

I decided to buy a range of Johnny Walker blends: Red, Black, Gold, 18YO and Blue. I will try them head to head against single malts in the same price range (except for JW Red).

Here follows my head to head tasting notes. For the ranking, I am including Johnny Walker in my regular list (linked above).

JW Red Label vs J&B: I do a blind tasting. B is paler than A. B smells just lika a blend and very little of what I appreciate with whisky. A is marginally better, or I am just fooled by the darker color. I taste A, and I dont find it that bad. Over to B, it is worse, definitely. Back to A, it is not good, but it has something. A wins, and i guess it is JW (and it was).

JW Red Label vs Grants: Very similar color, perhaps Red being slightly darker. On the nose, very similar, perhaps Grants smells more like a real whisky. Also, in the mouth, there is something about Grants that convinces me more. Yes, Grants is more like the real thing, and I like it better.

JW Red Label vs Talisman: JW much darker in color. There is something about the aroma that makes me prefer the slightly softer and less chemical RW. Yes, it is the same with taste, JW is somewhat richer and softer and less chemical.

JW Black Label vs Old Pulteney 12: If I buy these today in my store they are exactly the same price. They are both 12YO. I blind taste. One (B) is more dark and red in color, the other (A) a bit more pale and brown. Not so much difference. Putting both to my nose I was sure both were Black Label! So it is not that easy to pick out the single malt. A, the slightly more pale whisky, has a richer, more complex and more soft creamy caramel aroma. B smells more alcohol and I find it harder to identify anything particular. I taste B, it is a bit salty, quite soft, a some bitterness lingering. I taste A, and it has a much more particular flavour: nutty and creamy, less balanced and subtle. Over to B again, it strikes me as somewhat peated and smoked.

I feel very confident that B is Johnny Walker. And I was correct.

Apart from the taste itself, Johnny Walker is a different experience to drink. It is first peated on the nose, it then comes softly into the mouth, grows and fades away. It is all very orchestrated. Old Pulteney is more raw and unrefined, yet soft, but perhaps not so balanced. If someone told me: they are the same price because they are equally good, that would be a bit of a relief actually.

But my rules are; there has to be a winner. And I choose Johnny Walker. First the elegant experience from the first smell to the final lingering taste. But it is also a very solid whisky with character: salty and a hint of peat, not a sweet sellout. Old Pulteney is tasty – definitely, but there is something experimental about it compared to the confidence of Johnny Walker.

I sometimes write “as blend” as a negative about aroma or taste. Whatever that is, Johnny Walker Black Label did not have (much) more of it than Old Pulteney 12.

JW Black Label vs Deanston Kentucky Cask Matured: JW much darker. Deanston has a soft vanilla and bourbon aroma, and JW is a bit thin, on the dry peated side. Deanston also has a soft vanilla and bourbon flavour. Black Label is, not sweet but not so much else. I find this Deanston delicate but thin, and yet the salty/peaty JW is even thinner. I enjoy Deanston more, in every way.

JW Black Label vs JW 18YO: Similar color. Both rather subtle on the nose, Black Label a bit more sour and salty, 18YO a bit more sweet. Same goes for the taste, and first impression is that they are equally complex and rich in flavour. I could say that these are equally good: Black Label is for those who prefer rough salt and peat, and 18YO is for those who prefer sweet flavours. But I think 18YO is better – unless you are looking for peat and roughness.

JW Black Label vs Glenlossie 9YO General Custard: JW very much darker. JW has a salty, slightly peated dry aroma. Glenlossie, light, malty vanilla and a bit pear. Tasting Glenlossie it balanced, a bit subtle, with not so dominant flavours. JW is surprisingly peated, very soft, oily and rich. I think I prefer Black Label.

JW Black Label vs Longrow 13 Red: Very similar color. Longrow has a rough aroma, salt and sea. Over to JW it is a bit candy and kind of sweet. Tasting Longrow a bit peated in a sour way, rich also a little margarine. JW is a bit dull and not quite up to it. Longrow wins.

JW Black Label vs Highland Park 10 Viking Scars: JW darker in color. HP is malty, fresh, light and a bit peated on the nose. JW is more heavy but more subtle. HP tastes good, quite light, dry in the mouth, with some sweetness. JW is soft with distinct peat flavour, but it is more anonymous and uninteresting. HP wins.

JW Black Label vs Nevis Dew Deluxe 12: JW is darker. Nevis Dew is very light and elegant, it requires some time and the nose deep in the glas, but what I find is classic and sweet in a sublte way. Black Label is more powerful, and not so little peat or at least leather, soil or dirt. JW smells more like a blend to me. I taste Nevis and it is not so subtle as I first thought, this is a blend with great balance and a soft caramel flavour. Black Label is a different beast and after they caramel Nevis, it almost tastes like an Islay whisky. This is very even. I almost decided for Nevis Dew, and tasted JW to be quite impressed. After a final big mouth of both it is victory to Black Label.

JW Black Label vs Super Nikka: Very similar color. Surprisingly similar aroma, I remember JW as more peated than I experience it tonight and without that peat the difference is little. Super Nikka slightly sweeter, and JW slightly more peated, salty and sour. Tasting JW it is malty, a bit burnt, slightly peated and a bit thin. Super Nikka is more caramel, vanilla (now I really feel the Nikka Coffey Malt in it), but also a bit bitter. Back to JW, it is a bit flat and uncharming, and sour – probably a side effect of the peat. I appreciate Super Nikka more.

JW Black Label vs Glenlivet 16 Nadurra: Glenlivet much paler. On the nose Glenlivet is fresh, dry, somewhat fruity but not very sweet. Black Label is more oily, slightly peated, more powerful. Glenlivet has a quite flawless, quite malty but quite thin and light flavour. Black Label is softer, richer, but a bit more odd-tasting. I add more and more water the to cask strength Glenlivet, but it kind of does not really open up. You may like superdry and not much flavour or Glenlivet, or you may dislike the oily peated character of JW, then Glenlivet is your pick. But I actually find JW the overall more interesting and tasty whisky.

JW Gold Label vs Glenfiddich 15 Solera Reserve: Again, these are exactly the same price in my store, and I am doing blind tasting. Color is probably identical, perhaps (A) is somewhat darker. A has a soft, sweet aroma, but B perhaps even more so. They are quite similar. Very similar. Well, I find B more fruity and fresh. A is a bit thicker – that could be more Sherry – which someone else could prefer while I dont. From smell and prejudice only, I would guess JW is A. Lets taste. A is surprisingly dry, perhaps not salted but a littler bitter – I would have expected a sweeter flavour. B is more of an explosion of flavours in the mouth, also some lingering bitterness. Back to A, I am not so impressed, a bit metallic in my mouth. And over to B, it is rather soft and fruity. Yes, I am quite confident now, that A has quite much blend character and that it is JW, and B is Glenfiddich. B wins in any case.

And it turns out I was right. Glenfiddich wins.

JW Gold Label vs Balvenie 12 Double Wood: Again, exactly the same price, but no blind test this time. Very similar color. Balvenie has a soft, kind of nutty and malty aroma, while JW has something alcohol/blend and sharp about it. Tasting both, I definitely find Balvenie easier to enjoy. Balvenie is more malty and full in the mouth, JW is a more sour, bitter and closed experience.

JW Gold Label vs Jameson Black Barrel: JW slightly paler. Jameson has a sweet smooth caramel-bourbon aroma. JW is more subtle, and more dry. It is the same when it comes to flavour, and the difference in character is so massive that it is hard to compare. In the end, there is something sweet and naive about Jameson and the more sophisticated JW wins, a narrow victory.

JW Gold Label vs Glenmorangie 10: JW much darker. JW is also heavier and more oily on the nose. Glenmorangie is more vanilla and caramel. They taste surprisingly similar. JW has a bit more of leather/oil flavour and also some more bitternes. Glenmorangie is softer and richer in flavour, and it wins (and it kind of wins the soft/sweet game of blended gold label).

JW Gold Label vs Balvenie 14 Caribbean: JW is slightly darker. Balvenie has more bourbon aroma, JW is more leather and oil. It is kind of the same when tasting them, Balvenie is the sweeter and softer, Gold Label has more character. Unless all you want is soft and sweet, JW is the better and more interesting whisky.

JW Gold Label vs Glenfiddich 12: Isn’t this the comparision of giants? Glenfiddich is a little paler. First impression is that Gold label has a thicker and more oily aroma, Glenfiddich is more subtle dry malty aroma. Glenfiddich is simple yet excellent in the mouth. JW has that oily, leathery, dirty kick (like Loch Lomond) – it is a surprisingly dominant characteristic for a blend like this. This is very close. JW is sweeter, thicker, richer. Glenfiddich is fresher, saltier and more complex. I personally prefer Glenfiddich, but I somehow have a feeling that I fail to appreciate why JW is the better whisky. But I like fresh and salt, so Glenfiddich it is.

JW Gold Label vs Glen Moray: JW a bit darker, and on the nose a bit oily, dirty, and almost peated. Glen Moray lighter, fruitier, a classic malt aroma. Tasting Glen Moray, it is rather dry and it lingers quite nicely. But it is rather sublte and very balanced. JW a bit peated, a little bitter and very balanced. I think I prefer Glen Moray, it is simple and good, and JW simply does not impress and I don’t like the flavour too much.

JW Gold Label vs Nevis Dew Deluxe 12YO: JW is darker. Nevis Dew has a light thin aroma. JW is richer, more oily and more sweet. Nevis Dew tastes surprisingly fresh, sweet and soft (although thin). JW is heavier, dirtier and more bitter in flavour. I prefer Nevis Dew.

JW Gold Label vs Chivas Regal 12: JW darker. Chivas has a soft aroma, mostly vanilla (with caramel and bourbon). JW more powerful, more oily and dirty. I taste Chivas and it is just like smelling it, vanilla and caramel, soft, not much to either like or dislike. But it is easy to drink. Drinking JW more happens, it is actually slightly peated and there are more flavours. It leaves me with an aftertaste of blended whisky alcohol, and I quite don’t like the flavour of it. I prefer Chivas.

JW Gold Label vs Glenallachie 10 Murray McDavid: JW is darker, with a distinctive leather aroma. Glenallachie is a little softer, on the fruity side, and also lighter. I taste JW and I find it soft and quite complex, the problem is that it does not taste so good. Glenallachie is lighter, less rich, also not quite so tasty. This is quite close, but I prefer Glenallachie.

JW Gold Label vs Highland Park 1998-2010: Similar color. Highland park a bit peated and leather, JW also a bit leather but more to honey. I taste Gold Label and it is a bit fruity at first, with a soft flavour. Highland park is more to old storage roam, seaside and fish. Back to Gold Label, the problem with it is that it is so balanced that no flavours stand out in an interesting way, and it is simply not so tasty. There is something odd with this HP that I dont quite like, so I think I would prefer JW in most cases.

JW 18YO vs Glenlivet 18YO: Again I blind taste, and JW is a bit more expensive. Very similar color. A has a smooth, rich, malty caramel aroma, very nice. After that, B strikes me as a blend: thin and much alcohol smell. I try more with B, and there is a nice subtle sweetness, sure there is. I taste B, it is softly everywhere in the mount, nothing bad at all, and very typical scotch (speyside) malt whisky. I taste A, it is saltier, rougher, less sweet, yet soft. My honest conclusion must be that A is the better whisky. If you just want light, smooth and slightly more sweet you might prefer B. I am quite sure B is JW (and it was).

JW 18YO vs Glenmorangie 10: JW is darker. Glenmorangie is a bit lighter and fresher on the nose, JW is more sweet and deep. Tasting JW I find it quite subtle and delicate (not heavy/rich), but it tastes very very good. Over to Glenmorangie, it is as complex and rich as JW, but JW simply tastes better. It makes Glenmorangie bitter. JW wins.

JW 18YO vs Glenfiddich 18: Same color. Glenfiddich has a more dry (like hay) aroma, and JW is more sweet (like sweet wine). They taste very different (in line with the aroma). JW has a very elegant sweetness and balance. Glenfiddich is like a rebel, tasting artichokes and salt, yet very soft. I prefer Glenfiddich: it makes JW taste bitter and boring.

JW 18YO vs Macallan Fine Oak: JW darker in color and stronger aroma, but more like a blend. Taste is quite similar, but Macallan is rich and soft enough to win.

JW 18YO vs Deanston Kentucky Cask: Deanston is much paler, but it has more aroma: a somewhat spicy and fruity vanilla aroma. JW is more subtle, it comes after a while, mostly elegantly sweet. JW has a soft, malty sweet flavour, very little bitterness and a hint of sweetness. Deanston is more like bourbon, caramel and vanilla, but it is a little bit strange in flavour. Deanston lacks the balance and sofistication of JW, and JW wins.

JW 18YO vs Aberfeldy 16: JW a little bit darker, very similar. JW has a very classic whisky aroma, very little surprises. Aberfeldy a little more fruit and wine. JW perhaps a hint of peat, and a hint of mint, and not so little character. Aberfeldy tastes good, creamy and caramel. JW a little more dry, very soft and balanced. A hint of mint, and JW is more dry and malty than Aberfeldy. These whiskies are rather similar. JW is a bit more oily and heavy, Aberfeldy a little bit more fresh. Very narrow victory to JW.

JW 18YO vs Super Nikka: Very similar color, JW perhaps more red but not darker. Super Nikka quite light on the nose, very balanced and soft. JW a bit more powerful but also a something is more off: a hint of mint or hay that I did not quite expect (although I should have remembered from my Aberfeldy 16 test above). Super Nikka is more elegant, more dark caramel. I taste JW, it is nice, classic and balanced. Nikka is a bit more bitter, metallic even, but also classic. Back to JW it is somewhat fresh, quite dry, not fruity. Back to Nikka, not bad, but not quite up to it. JW wins.

JW Blue Label vs Glenlivet 21YO Archive: I blind taste, and JW is a bit more expensive. Very similar color, A is probably slightly paler, and its aroma is actually dominated by smooth peat. B has more the aroma of malt, honey and caramel. I taste B and it is rich, full of flavour, and very well balanced. I taste A, it is softly dominated by peat, but it is more thin and it fades away. Well, anyone who simply prefers more peat will prefer A, but then there are more peated whiskies to find. I really appreciate both, and they are both very tasty, but by an criteria I can argue for, B is the better whisky. And I am quite sure B is Glenlivet (I was right).

JW Blue Label vs Highland Park 18: JW is about twice the price, and I blind taste. Very similar color, both are beautiful kind of dark brown, if I had to make a difference, A is darker. A has a thick aroma of leather and oil. B is surprisingly light and thin after A. There is some peat in B, and there is some bourbon, even fruitiness in A.

I taste B and find it very soft and easy to enjoy, with hints of peat, salt and Island whisky. I taste A and also find it soft, but it more raw and salty, yet less peated. There is also some sourness to A (that could be a hint of peat). Over to be, is is more soft and refined, and more openly peated.

I am happy to compare these two whiskies, they are similar enough, yet different.

I come back after a while and in A I feel more fruity aroma, almost like sherry. B more clearly has peat and island character. Tasting both, back and forth, A is much sweeter, in a sherry way, and more powerful, while B remains the softer (yet peated) whisky.

After trying different positions, arguing with myself, and getting back to them i different order I must decide that A is better than B. And I am very sure A is Highland Park (and it was).

JW Blue Label vs Longrow: JW is darker. On the nose JW is softer and Longrow saltier (and perhaps more peated). Tasting both, my first impression is that Longrow is thinner, more sour, and more peated. Yes, the very balanced, soft, rich and complex JW tastes better than Longrow (which is very unrefined and raw in comparison).

JW Blue Label vs Dufftown 18: Same quite dark color. Dufftown is very balanced, rich and elegant on the nose. JW clearly peated compared to Dufftown. JW kind of richer (and peated) in flavour, but it fades quite quickly, Dufftown a bit sweeter and more lingering, but lighter. I could argue both ways here, Dufftown is more elegant and easy to enjoy and JW is a bit heavier and both have more and less quality in different ways. I will give JW a narrow victory.