I've been pretty bored since all of my weddings have been canceled with COVID-19 looming, I decided to go through my entire Scotch collection and rate the bottles 1-10 with some notable details. I understand they aren't all true SCOTCH but I kept them all in to give you a sense of ranking. I try to buy at least one new bottle every month that I've never tried before so here's the last 4 years or so of my efforts.
Ardbeg 10 - 4/10 average, watery peat taste, short finish
Balvenie 12 - good 6/10
I see a lot of grooms and groomsmen drinking Balvenie, especially the 14 year or Caribbean Cask variant. This bottle is okay, nothing that blows my mind.
Bushmills black bush - 5/10 smooth irish
Caol Ila - 5/10 decent albeit watery, poor mans Lagavulin
Crown Royal - meh 3/10
It's Canadian Whisky, so technically not scotch, but it's decent stuff for being available at the local dive bar.
Clynelish 14 -
Dalwhinnie 15 - good 6/10
Dewars White Label - 2/10 tasteless cheap for mixing only
Dewars 12 - okay 3/10
A lot of people love Dewars, the 12 model is a little higher than your average scotch but still nothing special.
Dimple Pinch - good 4/10
The bottle is cooler than the taste.
Gary's Winery Special Edition Cask - rich fruity nose, light woody taste, super smooth, short finish 8/10
This is one of my favorite bottles I've tasted. I got a sample dram from a friend so I don't know too much about it, but Gary's releases it once a year and it's rare and produced in very low quantities.
Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve - 4/10 fruity unrefined rum kick
Glenlivet12 - decent 4/10
This is the stuff you get at weddings or special events with an average open bar. It's okay, I drank it at my sister's wedding. I would never turn this stuff down or turn my nose up if it were at an open bar.
Glenlivet18 - good 6/10
This is decent stuff, definitely worth the price at under $100 but there are better bottles for the money.
Glenmorangie Sherry 12 - delicious 6/10
Great Scotch, will always keep this in my collection, definitely wont dissapoint you.
High West Campfire - poor 2/10
It isnt true scotch, its from the USA, someone recommended it to me. It's okay around the campfire but that's about it.
Johnny Walker white walker - eh 3/10
The only nice part about it is the Game of Thrones Label. This is somewhere between Red and Black in quality.
Johnny Walker Green Label - average, low taste 5/10
It's better than Black label, that's about it.
Johnny Walker Blue Label - smooth, decent taste, super smooth, silver standard, 8/10
One of the best regularly-available bottles under $200, necessary for anyone's collection. It's good stuff but grossly overrated for what it is.
Knob Creek Special Batch 120 proof - strong but tasty 7/10
Thanks to my good friend Justin I got to try some of his hard-to-find special batch of Knob Creek. Super potent since it's cask strength, but a really great strong taste and smooth taste even for a "double shot".
Lagavulin Nick Offerman 11 - good 6/10
Not as good as 16year, but not as expensive as it either. Signature smoky taste. Nick Offerman himself doesn't even drink it so that tells you something.
Lagavulin 16 - delicious 7/10
This was an acquired taste for me since it's so heavy with peat flavor and has a rich smoky taste, but definitely has it's place in my collection and one of my favorites to drink around the holidays. Also the favorite of Nick Offerman AKA Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation
Lagavulin 12 Cask Strength - good 5/10
Great value for the money since it is cask strength, but it's grossly too potent for normal use.
Laphroiag - nice 4/10
This is the watery version of Lagavulin, also half the price if you can't afford the legit stuff.
Macallan #5 Purple - smooth 7/10
Good stuff for what it is, Macallan is my favorite brand so I'm biased but whatever.
Macallan 12 Sherry Cask - average, sweet, rich flavor, 6/10
This is my normal scotch of choice. Great for the money, I drink it regularly and always have a decanter filled for guests. I prefer the Sherry over the Double Cask or the Oak Cask because it's just better and worth the extra $10. The bottle looks great, the taste is great, and it's perfect for any occasion.
Macallan 15 - good 7/10
Decent for the money, I drink Macallan 12 as my everyday scotch in my decanter. This is half a step above that.
Macallan 18 - delicious, smooth, tasty, gold standard, 9/10
This is what I reach for if I'm feeling special or really nostalgic. Don't try this at home unless you're comfortable buying a $300 bottle and getting addicted to it forever. It's so smooth, I've been hooked ever since my 21st birthday when my best friend got me a bottle.
Macallan Enigma - sherry nose, sherry taste, super smooth very short finish 9/10
This stuff is damn good, one of the best I've ever tasted. Only available at certain locations and in Europe. I had to import this personally from London. Price is cheaper than 18 but I would say it's closer to 21 for what it is.
Michters 10yr Bourbon 95proof - smooth for bourbon 5/10
I'm not a huge bourbon fan, but this sample I got from my friend Justin is really smooth for what it is.
Monkey Shoulder - unrefined, average taste, GREAT value for the money 4/10
Mortlach 12- great 7/10
Old particular 25 - blargh 1/10
This is cask strength grain whisky made in the US. Don't get it its disgusting. It tastes like bacardi 151.
Pendleton canadian watery slight kick 4/10
Shackleton Whisky- vanilla 5/10
Comparable to Johnny Walker, this is the cheap replica stuff if you can't find or get your hands on the super rare reproduction.
Shackleton Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt - different 5/10
This brand is the actual reproduction version of the few 1907 bottles found in Antartica back in 2011. It's definitely different and worth a spot in my collection, it's also the rarest bottle I own as I've only seen one in person and immediately bought it and still own the same bottle today. It's a great look into what scotch tasted like 100 years ago, nothing to write home about but definitely a different taste from scotch brands today.
Singleton 18 - great 6/10
This is good stuff, one of the best 18yr bottles you can get under $100
Spey River Sherry Cask - Average 4/10
Great for a baller on a budget, inexpensive way to get that sherry cask taste
Talisker 10 - awesome 7/10
Can't go wrong with Talisker, good for the money and definitely not the last bottle I'd reach for.
Talisker Storm -
Tamdu 10 - great 7/10
Recommended by a friend, definitely worth the money and one of the best bottles under $50 you can buy.
Tomintoul 16 - fruity nose, Decent smooth slight smoke 6/10
Trader Toes Speyside 8yr - decent, watery, 7/10
This stuff is AMAZING for the price, don't knock Trader Joes! I thoroughly enjoy this brand and it's one of my go-to's when I'm on a budget.
Yamazaki 12yr 8/10 super smooth, light body taste
For my first blog post (of many), I've decided to list my 2019 list of gear that has played an important role in my work, as well as an in-depth look to each piece and what I love about it.
Main Body - Nikon D5
I LOVE this camera, I've loved it since I first touched it and it just does everything I want it to. It's got insane autofocus, super high battery life, excellent low light capability, and it's built like a tank. This is my go-to camera for every situation and I can shoot 2-3 weddings on one battery which is great when you're shooting on the fly. The only drawbacks are the size, weight, and the megapixel count leaves something to be desired compared to other cameras. All-in-all, this is my favorite camera of all time and it'll always hold a special place in my heart. Although three years old now and with a few hundred thousand shutter clicks, It's been pretty solid and I use it every week since I got it. I'm still waiting for the D6 to be announced hopefully in 2020, but the D5 is all you could every want in a do-it-all camera.
Backup Body - Nikon D4S
I have a love-hate relationship with my D4S, especially since the D5 came out in 2016. It was one of my favorite cameras to use and does almost everything the D5 does except a little slower, a little less intuitive, and a lot older user interface. The autofocus system of the D5 ruined me so much that it almost pains me to use the autofocus on the D4S (which was previously the best in the business). It's got good battery life and works almost identical to my D5. I got it serviced in 2018 and they replaced almost everything so it looks a lot nicer than even my D5 which is two years newer! I use this camera once in a while when I get an itch to give the D5 a break. It's also my second camera when I'm shooting by myself and usually has a telephoto lens on it (70-200 or 105).
Main Telephoto lens - Nikon 105 1.4E
This is my current favorite lens. I use it all the time whenever I possibly can. I just LOVE the bokeh that the lens gives me and it focuses fast enough to use as an action lens when coupled with my D5. It has completely replaced my 70-200 since I bought it in 2017 and it's small and light enough to even fit in my suit pocket. This is a GORGEOUS portrait lens and I've done an entire engagement shoot with it alone. I couldn't imagine my life without it. The extra 20mm over the 85mm gives you a little more compression and extra reach during the ceremony, but the 85 is a lot more useful in tight spaces. Regardless, I take the 105 over the 85 any day.
Backup Telephoto lens - Nikon 70-200 F2.8 FL ED VR
This is my go-to lens for sports or if I'm shooting by myself and can't take a chance on having the wrong composition with my 105. It's big and heavy, and they swapped the autofocus ring with the zoom ring versus almost every other zoom lens Nikon has ever built. I actually prefer the new style with the zoom ring farther away, it really helps balance the weight in my hands when shooting handheld. This is an amazingly sharp and quick lens (faster than the 105) and makes gorgeous portraits in any scenario. I prefer the 105 in 95% of scenarios and as such the 70-200 mostly sits on my shelf for weddings except for a few random times that I bring it out for a change of pace and feel like killing myself with its huge size.
Main lens - Nikon 35 1.4G
I just started using this lens full time earlier in 2019, and it's just great. I can use it for bride prep, group shots, wide(ish) shots, and anything I'm shooting in natural light for (like the ceremony). It has replaced my 24-70 and I haven't gone back since taking the plunge and ditching my zoom lenses. It's sharp, focuses fast enough, and is the most versatile prime I own. The vast majority of the time I'm walking into bride prep just with this lens and an on-camera flash on the D5. It's really that good.
Backup Main lens - Nikon 24-70 F2.8E ED VR
This lens is amazing, it does everything you want and more and addition of VR over the outgoing model makes handheld low-light shots that much easier to pull off. I've used this since it came out up until earlier in the year when I switched completely over to primes as my main rig. I still use this lens semi-regularly, especially when I'm shooting by myself and can't rely only on 35mm to achieve my goals. It's usually on my D5 when I'm rocking two bodies, and the 70-200 or 105 go on the D4S. No complaints, this zoom (and its predecessor the NON VR model) are both staples for any wedding photographer's kit. You can't go wrong with this lens.
Main Wide lens - Nikon 14-24 F2.8
This is the oldest lens in my collection and also the most beat-up, but it still works flawlessly like the day I bought it new. This is the lens I use for all my epic wide shots and if I need the extra space for a huge group photo. It's always in my bag just in case, and has saved me more times than I can count. Shooting at 14mm and 2.8 makes it the widest native 2.8 full frame lens in the world, and allows you to get some really awesome images in almost pitch black (when coupled with the D5). I rarely go out on a shoot without this lens sitting in reserve. It's my go-to for the fun super-wide party photos on the dancefloor.
Macro lens - Nikon 200MM F4 Micro
This thing is a beast and by far the sharpest lens in my collection. Given its massive size (almost as big as the 70-200), I don't bring it out all that often and use it for product photography or if I want a really epic ring shot. If it's a detail-oriented shoot, I'll bring this monstrosity out and either have it on a tripod or carefully balanced on a table for the sharpest photos. I always use it in manual focus, as it's got a giant focus ring with a huge range. It's pretty rare and I haven't met another photographer who owns one, making it a specialty lens that gives me unique shots that other people aren't able to get. I bring this with me to museums when I want a really nice photo of an artifact, since the extra working distance of 200mm allows you to get closer to something behind glass than the 105 macro or something not as long.
Workhorse lens - Nikon 24-120 F4
This is the full frame kit lens that comes with some of the full frame cameras you can buy (like the 750). It's always in my backup bag since it has all the focal ranges I use the most and I have shot an entire wedding only with this lens. It isn't as sharp, fast, or good in low light as anything else that I own but it's great when I'm going somewhere that my gear could get banged up or destroyed since it's a quarter the price of most of my other lenses. This lens is what I use to prove to people that gear doesn't matter and have gotten some really amazing results with it regardless of its price point and build quality. It's also my go-to for bar mitzvahs, sweet 16s, event photography, etc.. I've only had it since this year but it's proven to be a worthwhile investment in my bag and I know if one of my main lenses breaks or has a problem then I can always fall back onto this lens to finish the job.