View Full Version : Bourbon Question for the Scotch Drinkers...

10-30-2009, 17:45
If you wanted to recommend a bourbon to someone who is a fan of Islay whisky what would it/they be?

10-30-2009, 19:07
Well, certainly, there's no bourbon that would even begin to give the "smokey" flavor of an Islay...I'm a real lover of the Laphroig 15. That being said, I don't think you'd find a particular bourbon that would be analogous to an Islay. But, there are so many bourbons that I find absolutely delicious that I wouldn't hesitate to expect that they wouldn't be satisfying to someone that is a fan of Islay. I don't think it'd have to be expensive either...Go for a Buffalo Trace for starters.

10-30-2009, 19:15
I would recommend Elijah Craig 18 years old.


Lost Pollito
10-30-2009, 19:18
I'd lean towards a rye. saz 18, and handy would top the list. That extra spice of rye can please smoke craving.

10-30-2009, 21:40
I understand I am not going to find a bourbon that is similar to an Islay or any other malt, but I just want to find something that is not overly sweet, mid to top shelf. My initial thoughts were something spicy or oaky. I have been drinking primarily wheaters for a good while and I guess I feel I've lost touch with a lot of current rye releases.

Pollito, the recommendation is for someone who recently relocated to Kentucky so I wanted to stick with a Bourbon.

Thanks for the input.

10-30-2009, 22:48
I second Buffalo Trace. My parents are huge scotch drinkers, and they appreciate the somewhat smoky quality that BT seems to possess.

10-31-2009, 05:28
The obvious stuff would be GTS or Pappy 15, but to me WT Rare Breed has a very robust smoky char with oaky/earthy/leather tones after its been opened a few weeks(initially very spicy) that really holds its own next to a Laphroaig or Lagavulin.

10-31-2009, 06:10
Add my vote to BT. It has a certain earthiness to it and a nice, dry finish.

loose proton
10-31-2009, 07:53
to me Bulleitt has an "earthy" (as in limestone) flavor but not forest earth of peat. I recently tried my first sip of WR 1838 sweet mash and found it to be earthy and put me in mind of some scotch, but this coudn't be regular fare for long as it's not regular production.

10-31-2009, 10:44
Actually, I am one of whose who believes the smoky background of most good bourbon may not be not unconnected to the peat character of some malt whisky from Scotland and some Scotch blends.

I have said before that a pet theory of mine, which I refuse to give up despite finding much evidence from around 1800 that science was counselling use of charred barrels to age wines and spirits for its rectification benefit, is that Americans who pioneered the new charred barrel for corn-based whiskey might have been emulating Scotch whisky, i.e., to get a similar smoky tang. James Crow was a Scot. James Crow had a lot to do with making bourbon what it is today - and he was a scientist to boot - so it may be "all of the above", now that I think on it further.

Bourbon and scotch whisky are cousins. They have more in common than appears at first blush, even in palate. Go for some of the recommendations given by the SB-ers here and your friend will not be disappointed.


10-31-2009, 10:58
I'll just my $0.02 here -- even though I wouldn't really know personally, my friends who are primarily Scotch people tend to lean very heavily towrd the Four Roses expressions as they find them complex and more suited to what they're used to.

I second EC18, though -- I personally find it very Scotch-y and earthy, smokey and tannic.

10-31-2009, 11:37
I guess what I am trying to suggest, if your friend might be open to it, is not to look at these drinks as being in watertight compartments. They are all related.


loose proton
10-31-2009, 13:47
... is that Americans who pioneered the new charred barrel for corn-based whiskey might have been emulating Scotch whisky, i.e., to get a similar smoky tang. I my be in minority, but I suspect barrel age to enhance flavor in any country (USA, Scotland, France brandies) was accidentally discovered on storage when one found that old stuff tasted pretty good.

10-31-2009, 14:07
As a long time scotch (malt) drinker married to another long timemalt drinker I feel very qualified to weigh in on this subject. We both had to learn to appreciate bourbon. If they are an Islay drinker, I wholeheartedly concur with EC 18. If they like the Speyside or highland whiskies, try Basil Hayden. I know it gets a lot of bad press here because of it's low proof, but the flavor appeals to most scotch drinkers, including me (probably because of its high rye content). Another good choice would be FR SB. I think any of these three would be better than BT, unless you want to spring for ETL to Stagg. My wife took to WT RR the first time she tried it, but I had to work on it to really get to enjoy it. I would personally avoid all wheaters. My wife still doesn't care much for PVW. I had to learn to like them (except PVW 23).

10-31-2009, 16:35
Barrel age was probably discovered accidentally, I agree, but I was referring to new charred barrel aging, there it is more an open question I think. Some good discussions on this in the charred barrel thread that was active recently.


10-31-2009, 16:38
Pure Kentucky XO is another choice.

I endorse Stu's comment about Basil Hayden which does match to an extent the profile (broadly) of some younger whiskies from Scotland.

Consider too in this vein, certain rye whiskeys, Handy say. I think it will recall the profile of some cask-strength malts. Again the taste is not the same of course, but these may be good introductory American whiskeys which work on parallel lines.


10-31-2009, 17:09
Thank you guys. I really appreciate your suggestions and comments.

Lost Pollito
10-31-2009, 19:37
I'll just my $0.02 here -- even though I wouldn't really know personally, my friends who are primarily Scotch people tend to lean very heavily towrd the Four Roses expressions as they find them complex and more suited to what they're used to.
This echoes my thought of rye. Perhaps single barrel?

11-01-2009, 00:36
Been a scotch drinker for quite a while now (all regions) and it's hard to relate any bourbon to an Islay. I don't think it really translates that way (region of scotch to certain distillery characters of bourbon). Instead - as a rule, I find that I lean toward very flavorful, very balanced versions of bourbon. So, I would go in that direction if I were you. For instance, last year I discovered and fell in love with Four Roses (120th Anniv in particular - which is an uncut, unchill bottle - so I'd strongly advise you to seek out uncut, unchill versions especially if they like cask strength, unchillfiltered scotches.) As far as smoke, I'd have to say Pappy 20 is my go-to. Pappy 15 is higher proof - again, appealing to the challenge of a more concentrated flavors and similar to cask strength scotches in that respect. I really enjoy the depth of flavors of BTAC (W L Weller, GT Stagg, Th. Handy - all of which are higher proof; and Eagle Rare for it's wonderful balance) as well as the balance of Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit (although Wild Turkey has a distinctive character all to itself.) As far as flavor, I enjoyed the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2007 edition very, very much. (I hear the 2008 was good also.) The second year release of Woodford Reserve Four Grain was good, if you can still find it.

On the cheaper side: Hancock Reserve is good (again because of the flavors that are present - i.e. sweetness in particular.) Jefferson Reserve Small Batch is good (balance). I find Old Grand-dad 114 very flavorful and I particularly like the mouth-feel of that one. I'm sure there are others I can put here, but I just don't go back to my opens much when I find those intense, balanced bourbons I so enjoy the most. (As far as Elijah Craig 18, I didn't respond to that one, but I hear the younger version is different than that one - been meaning to give it a shot.)

Another interesting note for you: The cross-over I find most often for me, is that I latch on to scotches that are finished in bourbon refill barrels. I really like those bourbon influences in my scotches.

11-01-2009, 01:13
Just for reference... I only give you that long list of bourbons to show what a fellow scotch drinker 'moved into bourbon' drinking - and of the Islays that I really enjoyed prior to that were Lagavulin 16, Ardbeg ANB (the 2 heaviest peated in my list here), Laphroaig 15 and Quarter Cask, Bowmore bourbon finish, Caol Ila, Bruichladdich (lightest peat of the bunch), for instance. So, my guess is that anyone that likes the intensity of an Islay is going to crave that same sort of thing in their bourbons, regardless of whether it is rye or wheat. And I wouldn't depend on spice to satisfy, as much as depth and balance.

11-01-2009, 11:24
Currently I agree with you kateric, however I still recall when someone would give me a pour of bourbon and I drank it to be polite and enjoyed it slightly more than dog urine. Think back to when you first started drinking bourbon regularly. Maybe you had a different experience, but I had to "teach" myself to enjoy bourbon (with some outstanding coaching from my friends at the gazebo). I still remember my surprise when I discovered the smoky, woody flavor of EC 18 and kept going back for more. FR SB was the second bourbon I fell in love with and they are still two of my favorites. I also realize that no two pallets are alike.

11-01-2009, 14:20
A If they like the Speyside or highland whiskies, try Basil Hayden. I know it gets a lot of bad press here because of it's low proof

Small point of contention, but I'm not sure the beef with BH is it's lack of proof. The real issue is that you can buy 750ml OGD 114 for $20, add 1/3 L of spring water, and have 1L+ of the exact same thing that somebody paid $45 for 750ml.

That means OGD 114 is underpriced or that Basil Haden is overpriced. I believe that both are true. Moral of the story? Stock up on OGD 114 and spring water.

loose proton
11-01-2009, 15:30
... but I had to "teach" myself to enjoy bourbon ...
aye, I can identify. I come from the opposite perspective, raised on american whiskey with passing (mostly bad) experience with cheap scotch, I had to acquire taste for products from the other side of the big pond. Now, I enjoy them.