View Full Version : One Irish, One Bourbon, One Scotch

02-21-2003, 17:19
With apologies to the late John Lee Hooker, who sang of "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer"...

This is actually a continuation of the Johnnie Walker leg of my "First Impressions..." thread in this forum.

I've forgotten now who mentioned drinking Black Bush and bourbon in close proximity, but I did exactly that yesterday, and then some.

I reached for my nearly full, first bottle of Black Bush in mid-afternoon, recalling that it is quite gentle, which is what I thought I was in the mood for. One drink of it was enjoyable, and I was quite intrigued by a fruity flavor that developed late on the palete -- quite unlike any liquor I've ever tasted.

However, when it came time to pour a second drink, I felt a need for a little more oomph, but not too much more. I selected Old Fitz 1843. To my amazement it delivered at least twice the flavor of the Black Bush, and it did so without becoming harsh or hot. For the first time I really tasted it. I tasted corn, char, caramel, leather, and I'm not sure what else. And to think that in the past I had found it pleasant but rather nondescript. It certainly didn't come off that way compared to Black Bush, which IMO is a fine example of Irish whiskey (not that I've had all that many).

In the evening, an hour or two before bedtime I wanted another drink. I finally worked up the nerve to open a bottle of Laphroig 10 year that I've had for a few months. With only one drink of Lagavulin 16 as a reference point in regard to peat, I found it to be strongly peaty, a little sweet, and not much else. Yes, there was a lot of flavor, but it was all of the same kind, and not altogether tasty.

I intend to continue exploring other whisk(e)y, but in my heart I know I'll always be a bourbon drinker first by a wide margin, both by degree of preference and by volume consumed. On top of that it's a good buy compared to any other style of whisk(e)y I've tried.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

02-21-2003, 18:04
Dave, I think that fruit character in the Black Bush is from the sherry casks used to age the malt component (80% of the total, the rest being grain whiskey). Many Irish whiskeys, even more than scotch whiskies, feature the sherry aging component. In Scotch you'll find a similar character in say The Macallan or Glendronach. The British and Irish whiskies trade off usually subtlety/complexity against the frank power associated with bourbon. However Laphroig to me has an American kind of power, Scotch-style. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif


02-21-2003, 21:25
Ah, but what beer would you chase it all down with!

02-22-2003, 08:33
Dave, sorry I turned your Johnnie Walker thread into an Islay malt discussion. But those peat boogers generate quite a stir, don't you know!?! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif

Your experience of following Black Bush with Old Fitz 1843 was very similar to my Knob Creek situation.

I think we may have stumbled on a great solution for further appreciating Irish/Scotch whisk(e)y while simultaneously finishing those bourbons that are, as you put it, "pleasant but nondescript".

The delicate nature of some of these irish/scotch concoctions seems to accentuate the flavor and power of even those less favored bourbons we've got sitting on the shelves. So why not precede all your drinks of those "bottom shelf" bourbons with a shot from overseas? Of course I'm joking somewhat but, who knows, it might be worth something. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smirk.gif


02-22-2003, 12:28

Your post prompted me to reach way back into the corner of my closet floor for my Macallan 12. My intent was to be open to tasting any similarity between it and Black Bush.

I tried; I really did (three glasses worth http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif ), but it just didn't happen. As I've commented before, to me the sweetness of Macallan is of the sherry variety. I find that the sweet, sherry influence overwhelms the malt character almost to the point of becoming one-dimensional. I actually find more complexity in the blends that I've tried. But I digress.

The sweetness of the Black Bush was similar to peach or nectarine, as best I can recall. I will revisit Black Bush again between now and St. Patrick's Day, but right now I'm feeling an urge to get back to bourbon for a while. Maybe tonight I'll start by revisiting Eagle Rare 10 year-old, which I once suggested might be the Macallan of bourbons, because of a winey or cognac-like quality that I perceived at the time.

Regarding Laphroig, power, bourbon, etc., I generally agree with you. However, I am beginning to form a general impression that in the world of scotch more power leads to less perceived complexity (it may be there, but I can't taste it through the peat, sherry, or whatever); whereas I have not noticed the same effect in bourbon. George T. Stagg, Rare Breed, and, to a lesser extent, Booker's certainly rate high in complexity while displaying extraordinary power in both taste and proof.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

02-22-2003, 13:18
Hi Dave, all well put. I would say sherry in Irish comes out differently than in scotch whiskey. There could be many reasons for this: the triple distillation of Irish vs. double of (most) scotch, the absence of peat in most Irish, etc. So I note a family resemblance between whiskey aged in Ireland and whisky aged in Scotland but the fruity effect is somewhat different. Also, Macallan, and I believe Glendronach, only use ex-Oloroso sherry casks. That is a rich sherry. Black Bush may incorporate malts that are aged in casks that held drier sherries. So there are all these variables.. But after sampling bourbon for a while and then turning either to scotch or Irish, the sherry-cask effect on many of the latter seems evident. I do agree by the way that powerful American whiskeys can be complex. The Rowan's Creek discussed a while back meets fully your definition of a winy or cognac-type whiskey. And I do agree that some Scotch single malts lack complexity and in that sense approach for their effect the U.S. approach of big taste and power. But generally I would say Celtic whiskies are mild/subtle as against the big rich flavours of true straight whiskey.


02-22-2003, 19:08
Dave, I've had Eagle Rare exactly once and I said at the time that I thought it was exceptionally cognac-like (posted in August, 2002). So, we agree spot on about that.


04-22-2003, 14:25
I agree that Laphroig can seem uncomplex--especially if one hasn't had a large amount of highly peated whiskies. People who drink a lot of heavily peated malt (3-6 servings or more per week) become very accustomed to the peat and are then able to enjoy the complexity of Laphroig that is masked for many. For a peaty dram that is quite complex, Ardbeg is perhaps an even better example than Lagavulin. I would start with the 17yo, but the best reasonably priced is probably the current '77 vintage. The 10yo is great too, but the peat would probably still mask some of the complexity until you are more used to it.

BTW, I have had several expressions of The Macallan that were indepent bottlings aged in bourbon rather than sherry casks. I also have a Signatory bottling of Glendronach that is either bourbon casked or 3rd or 4th fill sherry.