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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Distill Wars Episode II: Whisky vs Whiskey

So they think the original way to spell the name of the spirit in question was Whiskey. Then the Scots dropped the E and started calling theirs Whisky just to be different from the Irish. You know, to be unique. Like when somebody names their kid Jordyn, forever burdening them with a lifetime of correcting people.

I love, and always have loved, Scotch whisky. The problem with great Scotch is it's too fucking expensive. Back in my early-to-mid-twenties, for reasons lost in time, I had a tradition of doing shots of Jameson Irish Whiskey in massive quantities during winter storms before I braved the cold and started shoveling. I can't handle that kind of shenanigans anymore while remaining a responsible adult and still expecting myself to get up in the morning, so these days it's a taste of Porto or Australian sticky that keeps me warm instead.

But really, the last 6 years or so I've mostly consumed wine, with beer a distant second. And, as explained in Distill Wars Episode I: Crap vs Cognac, if I'm going to become a CSS I should probably do some comparing and contrasting.

I bought nips of a popular Scotch Whisky and the most popular Irish Whiskey on the planet and put them in a pit with one spear to watch them fight to the death. Jameson vs Glenlivet 15 in a TRIAL BY COMBAT!

Jameson vs Glenlivet 15

Jameson Irish Whiskey: $3.99
The Glenlivet 15 year old French Oak Reserve Single Malt Whisky: $3.55

So when pouring I noticed they are exactly the same color. There's literally no difference. Actually, the only difference was that there was a bit more liquid in the Jameson bottle. Give one point to the Irish.

Vanilla Wafers
And take that point away because I immediately thought of gasoline when smelling it. Upon further forced inhalation there's actually a pretty pleasant, very apparent aroma of vanilla wafers and sugar cookies. The nose actually won me over after its initial crudeness. It tastes pretty sweet and it's really smooth. I can see how it would be good for mixing and serviceable neat with options limited, so I do understand why it's so popular. But it's straight forward. There's no complexity there.

First thing I thought of when smelling the Glenlivet is honey, then orange in the middle, and then licorice at the end. So already there's more to this than the Jameson. It's immediately spicy and smokey on the mouth, with some banana flavor as well. The finish is burnt rubber, vanilla, and hot cinnamon. The body is much more round, it's heavier, and the alcohol comes across as a character in the flavor and not just as burn.

When I went back to the Jameson after analyzing the Glenlivet it became pretty clear who wins this. It's not even a contest.


Yeah totally. I mean, for the purpose of getting drunk Jameson is super efficient. It's smooth, goes down easy, and it's sweet so you can keep doing shots without making that face.

But this is a wine blog. And the best whiskies, like wine, aren't all about getting intoxicated. It's about savoring the experience, appreciating the art of crafting whatever is in your glass. You sip it, don't shoot it. The Glenlivet has more layers and you can cradle it longer, enjoying every sip. If you try to do that with the Jameson, at some point you're gonna be like "screw this" and knock it back.

Glenlivet 15 isn't the best Scotch I've ever had, not by a long shot, but it just beat the living fuck out of Jameson. And it's fucking cheaper.

Anchorman Ron Burgundy
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