“Fancy a dram of Scotch to end the night? One more for the road?”
“Scotch? No Way… can’t drink the stuff. It’s all too smoky or light for me. You got any Bourbon?”
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m the last man to say there is anything wrong with a Bourbon. But the time has come to set the record straight on Scotch Whisky’s reputation as just a light or smoky version of American Whiskey.
As the old Scottish proverb that I have just made up states, a person who does not like Scotch has simply not been given the right Scotch to taste.
A person who does not like Scotch has simply not been given the right Scotch to taste.
For me, it’s become a personal challenge to find a dram to suit the palate of American friends who drink Bourbon as I help them navigate the waters from American shores to Scottish Highlands.
So if you’re a Bourbon drinker looking to develop a taste for Scotch, here are 3 great drams that will make smooth sailing of a trip across the Atlantic.
The Balvenie Carribean Cask 14 year old for example is the older brother of Balvenie 12 and spends its final years maturing in Caribbean Rum casks as opposed to Sherry. Tasting the two side by side makes it easy to see how a finishing a Whisky in a different barrel for a short period of time can really transform the flavour.
If both go down well then treat yourself to a bottle of the port-finished Balvenie 21 year old. That’s the least you deserve after such the arduous process of tasting the differences between Sherry and Rum cask finishes right?
Most drams take a few drops of water very well but this one definitely requires it given the strength. Although if you really want to test the point about Scotch Whiskies being too light then feel free to have a few sips on this straight from the bottle!
Unlike the Balvenie this Scotch has been matured exclusively in Sherry casks that have mainly been filled with Whisky for the first time. This ensures the wood inside the barrel is still relatively young and able to give off lots of flavour and taste from the Sherry matured wood.
It offers a rich explosion of sweet flavours often compared to dark red fruits and even chocolate. If this goes down well then you also have a great option for a follow-up Whisky produced in a very similar style.
The Aberlour A’bunadh is another reasonably priced cask strength Whisky from first-fill Sherry casks that you’ll never find on a light, easy-drinking list of Scotch.
Caol Ila is one of the eight Islay distilleries iconic for their peaty, smoke flavours. The distillery tends to be distinguished for its unique smooth, citrus character that ensure this is a light and very easy-drinking dram.
You might be taking a bit more of a risk with this one but this is a very enjoyable Whisky that might just get you to change your mind about smoky and light drams. You can at least console yourself with the knowledge that the Whisky spent some of its life maturing in Bourbon barrels as well.
If all else fails then one thing any Scotch and Bourbon drinker can agree on is that the industries are better off thanks to each other. After all, Bourbon barrels are only filled once for maturation and it is against the law to fill them again with new make spirit and mature more Whiskey.
Of course we Scots can’t resist a deal so our distilleries buy the used barrels from Bourbon Whiskey. These then become Scotch maturation barrels that can be used one, two or even three more times.
So whether it’s Whisky or Whiskey, enjoy your preferred drink and know that you are supporting the great Whisk(e)y circle of life.