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greenbob
11-04-2004, 14:06
I want to get people's thoughts on an heretical idea for a new American whiskey.

Single malt Scotch has (at least) one advantage over Bourbon. And that advantage is ironical. Scotch, but not Bourbon, can be aged in used Bourbon barrels!

Used Bourbon barrels create a more complex whiskey. This is because the liquor can be aged longer in a used barrel. Brand new barrels have too many chemicals in the wood for long term aging. Long term aging in a new barrel would ruin the whiskey. That's one reason why Bourbon barrels are charred; to neutralize some of the chemicals in the wood. Fritz Maytag may use uncharred barrels for his Old Potrero, but that whiskey only spends two years (I believe) in the barrel.

The result is that single malt Scotch is always more complex than Bourbon. For example I much prefer the flavor of Buffalo Trace or Woodford Reserve (I haven't tried George Stagg yet) to a lesser single malt like Old Fettercairn. But Old Fettercairn is still more complex.

So here's my idea. Why doesn't a Bourbon distiller with a lot of liquor and a lot of resources, like Buffalo Trace or Jim Beam, take some "Bourbon liquor" and put it into used Bourbon barrels for about 20 years? Legally they would not be allowed to call it "Bourbon," but they could call it something else like "New American Whiskey" or "New Kentucky Whiskey" or something. The purpose in all this would be to see what a more complex corn-rye whiskey would taste like.

One objection might be that you can't age a whiskey in Kentucky or Tennesse or Indiana as long as you can in Scotland because of the difference in the weather. Okay then I say brew it up in Kentucky and age it in Seattle.

Now I'm sure someone here, like Chuck, might want to take a shot at this idea. Go ahead, what do you think?

Greenbob

OneCubeOnly
11-04-2004, 14:28
An interesting suggestion, but you're forgetting one important factor: the barrel itself loses much of its character-giving components during the first 4-8 years. What this means is, Pappy Van Winkle 20yo spends its first 8 years or so in a character-rich barrel, then spends the remaining 12 years in a mostly-depleted barrel like you are suggesting. Using your formula, that same Pappy 20 would spend the entire 20 years in a depleted barrel. Now which one will be more complex at year 20?

TNbourbon
11-04-2004, 15:08
Domestic Early Times IS aged in somewhat the same way, which is why it can't call itself bourbon. For whatever reason, ET is 20% whiskey barrelled in used (bourbon) cooperage -- though not, of course, for 20 years.

clayton
11-04-2004, 15:23
The result is that single malt Scotch is always more complex than Bourbon.


Do you actually think this is true? I have to say that I've yet to taste a Scotch that was as multidimensional and complex as a pour of George T. Stagg bourbon, and I've had my share of the good stuff.

greenbob
11-04-2004, 16:15
I have to say that I've yet to taste a Scotch that was as multidimensional and complex as a pour of George T. Stagg bourbon, and I've had my share of the good stuff.



Okay, I can't take it any longer. I'm going to have to try the Stagg. I like Buffalo Trace, Bookers, and Woodford Reserve, but I've never had the Stagg. Let's hope I can find it in Sacramento.

Greenbob

Gillman
11-04-2004, 16:37
I agree with Gary. Also, the experiment suggested HAS been done, albeit for not quite as long as 20 years. Michter's Unblended Whiskey is a bourbon (or straight-type) whiskey mash aged in reused wood. The aging period is at least 7-8 years, long enough to compare it to Old Fettercairn or any malt of similar age. And 8 years is respectable for malt whisky, it acquires definite complexity at that age. The Michter's is good but not especially complex, nor would further years in barrel give it much more complexity since the barrel as Gary said is pretty much exhausted in terms of what it can give.

Malt whisky is complex because of peat smoke and the Scottish weather (in my view) and also because a lot of malt whisky is aged in part in ex-sherry cask cooperage which adds another layer of flavour.

I say nonetheless Bourbon, and of course any straight whiskey, aged in reused wood or no, can develop the complexity associated with malt whisky. The way to do it is through blending (or vatting if you will).

Gary

cowdery
11-04-2004, 16:56
The result is that single malt Scotch is always more complex than Bourbon.



Them's fighting words that I'm sure most of the contributors here won't grant. I sure won't.

Each of the world's whiskies has a style, a style born of tradition and necessity and, as much as anything else, coincidence and dumb luck. There's nothing wrong with trying new things, but as soon as you start shuffling the deck like that, there are a million other possible variations you could try too.

Despite what people say about the new charred barrel requirement being a lumber industry boondoggle, the fact is that it is the effect of the new charred barrel on the spirit that is the defining characteristic of American whiskey, whether it be bourbon, rye, Tennessee or even an American blend.

If you think about it, if the used cooperage the scots are using is bourbon barrels in which bourbon was aged for, say, four years, then when a bourbon passes its fourth birthday it is being aged in "used" cooperage. I know, it's not the same as putting new make into a used barrel. There are three reasons that's not a great idea with a bourbon-recipe whiskey. (1) Kentucky weather, as already discussed. (2) The different taste profile of a corn vs. malted barley distillate. (3) The relatively higher proof of distillation of scottish malt whiskies. If you correct for those things by (1) aging in Seattle, (2) using barley instead of corn, (3) distilling out at high proof, then you're making scotch. What's the point?

I guess this is a good idea only if one buys the original premise, which is that scotch is more complex than bourbon, which I absolutely do not.

bobbyc
11-04-2004, 17:23
but I've never had the Stagg. Let's hope I can find it in Sacramento.





Jim's got plenty of it, and he practically invited you for a drink in another thread............. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

squire
11-04-2004, 19:34
Good evening greenbob,

I have to respectfully disagree. I hosted a tasting earlier this evening which began with a Mortloch expression aged for 12 years in first fill Sherry casks and bottled by Murray-McDavid at 92 proof. After a few flights (I threw in Powers Irish as a ringer) we concluded with Elijah Craig 12 year at 94 proof.

The consensus of the group, which easily has more than 100 years of collective tasting experience, was that Craig was the full equal in complexity of any preceeding expression. That together with the information that a bottle could be had for less than $14.00 sent a few guys out the door saying, "I'm gonna get some of this".

Regards,
Squire

tdelling
11-04-2004, 20:38
I'll try to be nice. Feel free to ask followup questions!
I think you're a little mixed up with regard to style
differences, and on top of that you're a little mixed up
with regard to what the barrel does.

> Used Bourbon barrels create a more complex whiskey.

Hmmm... I think you're confusing the source of the complexity.

> This is because the liquor can be aged longer in a used barrel.

Not true. The older Van Winkles, the Stagg, etc. are fantastic
aged longer.

> Brand new barrels have too many chemicals in the wood for long
> term aging. Long term aging in a new barrel would ruin the whiskey.

I'll disagree there. New barrels have lots of "chemicals" that can
overwhelm a light, delicate whiskey. It takes a more robust whiskey
to compliment such flavors.

> That's one reason why Bourbon barrels are charred; to neutralize some of the
> chemicals in the wood.

That's not true at all... as a matter of fact the opposite is true:
charring makes it easier for the "chemicals" to make it out into the whiskey.

>...
> The purpose in all this would be to see what a more complex corn-rye whiskey
> would taste like.

I think that a lot of this complexity you're tasting in scotch comes from
the fermentation and distillation... the whisky is designed in a way to
compliment to used barrel. Raw distlled bourbon is crafted to have a much
more robust flavor... it requires a charred barrel.


Your underlying idea is a good one, though... perhaps a lighter American
whiskey couuld be crafted, designed to be aged in used barrels.

Tim Dellinger

cowdery
11-04-2004, 23:03
It sounds, Squire, like you're doing good work for the cause.

greenbob
11-04-2004, 23:39
Jim's got plenty of it, and he practically invited you for a drink in another thread.............



Yeah, but he didn't say anything about the Stagg!

Bamber
11-05-2004, 05:02
The result is that single malt Scotch is always more complex than Bourbon. For example I much prefer the flavor of Buffalo Trace or Woodford Reserve (I haven't tried George Stagg yet) to a lesser single malt like Old Fettercairn. But Old Fettercairn is still more complex.
Greenbob



Old Fettercairn is an extremely average, Scotch generally only found in the US. To rate this crappy malt above the best Bourbons, in complexity or any terms, is frankly laughable.

As others have pointed out, the new charred barrels are probably the most vital link in the Bourbon production chain. Sure you can try some fancy finishes, but if you want Bourbon you need new barrels.

There are far more variables in the whisky production process than you consider, with regards time in the wood there is also - the degree of charring, temperature and humdity to name a few.

I've tasted Scotch from pretty much every Scottish distillery. Nothing comes close to George T. Stagg.

Gillman
11-05-2004, 05:50
Let's sum up as it were the factors:

Complexity in malt whisky derives from:

peat-infused malt (where used)

effect of maritime climate in Scotland especially, but not only on, the coast

effect of Scottish water used to distill and dilute whiskey for bottling, which often (not always) is earthy tasting from (non-combusted) peat influence

effect of ex-sherry and ex-bourbon barrels

effects of blending, for blended scotch, and mingling of different years' production for most single malts

effects of all-malted barley mashes, effects of grain whisky for blended whisky

effects of prolonged aging

effects of pot still production for single malt

....

Now in bourbon, there is a counterpart to most of the elements above as Chuck and others have pointed out. So bourbon uses corn infused with rye usually (but not always), is influenced by Kentucky climactic conditions, uses limestone-shelf water (but not invariably), uses famously new charred barrels which lend a punch of flavor especially in the first few years but also a maturation effect, and so forth. Blending, in the sense of combining different straight bourbon batches, sometimes not made at the same location (e.g. Woodford Reserve as Chuck recently explained), and certainly in the sense of combining different years' productions (e.g. Rare Breed) is done in America too.

True, pot stills aren't much used for bourbon, but due to adjustment of the column still to produce a low proof distillate, I don't think that matters greatly (although we must grant single malt that degree of distinctiveness since pot stilling can increase complexity).

So in sum you have two different products, the result of diverse factors, as many in one case as the other. Theoretically each product should offer examples as complex as the other's. Indeed, sometimes they do, e.g., Stagg is felt to be extremely complex by many; many would say the same of Lagavulin 16 year old, or Bowmore 25 year old, or Talisker 10 year old, etc.

I think blending, mingling, vatting, call it what you will, is however practised to a higher degree of art in Scotland than America currently. The category of American Blended Whiskey became a non-entity due to being priced very low and incorporating too much new whiskey or neutral spirit base. At one time, I believe American blended whiskey, like Canadian blended whisky, had more character than today, but that was then, this is now. Regarding vatting as understood in Scotland, even there that is a minor category. Thus, there is probably no sense comparing, say, Johnnie Walker Green Label to, say, Corner Creek, Four Roses or other U.S. whiskeys from different distilleries or which are made in one distillery but from different mashbills or using different yeasts. (But if one did that comparison I think Corner Creek or Four Roses would add up very well to the Johnnie Walker product - at about half the price!).

We are left with regular branded straight bourbon vs. regular single malt scotch as the testing ground for complexity. Thus, does Very Old Barton approach the complexity of, say, The Glenlivet? I say it does. And one could multiply analogies.

We must remember however that there are more styles of single malt whisky than there are in bourbon and rye in America today - and many more distilleries. The Macallan's house style is different than, say, that of Linkwood, which is different from Strathisla, never mind Islay or Lowlands whisky, and it goes on and on. In that sense, Scottish whisky is more complex than bourbon and rye because regional styles there survived long enough to be appreciated. In America, I am sure such a diversity of recipes and palates once existed(many people have said this, e.g., Chris Morris has bemoaned the disappearance of many historical bourbon recipes). But today the range of flavors within the bourbon, rye and Tennessee categories is relatively narrow.

Okay. How do we increase diversity in bourbon and rye palates in America (for those who wish it)? In my view, through the blending of straight whiskies! In this way one can create new, more complex tastes. The bourbon, rye and Tennessee blend I put together the other day, which now has about 8 whiskies in it, easily is as good as, say, Glenmorangie or Bruichladdich. It is soft, pillowy, well-flavored and not spirity, with good length (something bourbon does not always have). It has hints or more of everything in it and they meld to a satisfying whole. Thus, while I find, say, some whiskies too woody to drink on their own with real enjoyment, if I add one ounce or so to 25 ounces of younger whiskies, it adds a definite layer of complexity but the blend is still very drinkable. Really I am trying to make my version of, say Johnnie Walker Blue Label but with more taste because I find most luxury Scottish blends (the few I have had) a little too restrained in taste for my liking.

Gary

greenbob
11-05-2004, 13:52
How do we increase diversity in bourbon and rye palates in America (for those who wish it)? In my view, through the blending of straight whiskies! In this way one can create new, more complex tastes. The bourbon, rye and Tennessee blend I put together the other day, which now has about 8 whiskies in it, easily is as good as, say, Glenmorangie or Bruichladdich.



I agree. But I only blend for economic reasons. I only blend cheap whiskies. So I take a teaspoon of Old Overholt Rye and add it to a drink of the Evan Williams 7.

Actually this was my attempt at a cheaper Buffalo Trace. Needless to say, this drink is a complete failure as a BT imitator. But there is added complexity.

Gillman
11-05-2004, 14:16
Exactly! Reducing cost is an often-welcome spin off of savvy blending. To get closer to a Trace palate, I'd add some Old Overholt to a wheated bourbon which is 6 or 8 years old. Some wheaters in that age range (even older) sell for reasonable money.

Or, why not do 2:1 an inexpensive blended whisky to Overholt? This will produce a very drinkable rye-oriented blend. I do this from time to time using Fleischmann's American Blended Whiskey and Overholt's or Pikesville rye.

This is perfectly logical and consistent with how distilleries themselves marry different batches to come up with a certain profile. It is just doing it on a smaller scale.

Gary

greenbob
11-06-2004, 14:00
For my view that aging in used oak creates a complex whiskey I rely on different sources. The following is from pp. 57-58 of Charles MacLean's "Malt Whiskey":

"Oakwood is ideal for maturing whisky because of its intricate chemistry. It contains celluslose (which contributes little during fermentation), hemicellulose (which caramelises, adding sweetness and colour), lignin (a good blending agent, pulling the flavours together, increasing complexity and producing vanilla-like notes), tannins (which produce astringency, fragrance and delicacy) and wood extractives (bourbon, sherry, etc.--see below). Oakwood also facilitates oxidation, which removes harshness, increases fruitiness and adds complexity, while the charring that the casks undergo removes undesirable off-notes."

I admit that MacLean's statement about charring and off-notes does not strongly support my view that charring allows longer aging. But here's what I think. The process that you mention of charring adding flavor involves an interaction of the fire with the chemicals in the wood. See pp. 34 and 63 of the First Quarter 2004 issue of "The Malt Advocate." I think that this process also nuetralizes chemicals that would ruin the whiskey were the whiskey to be aged a long time in a barrel that was not charred. And so while Stagg might be aged a long time, it would not be aged that long in a barrel that was not charred. At any rate, I've made some inquiries about these issues. If I get any responses, I will post them here whether they support my view or yours.

tdelling
11-07-2004, 12:43
> For my view that aging in used oak creates a complex whiskey I rely
> on different sources.

You're going to have to define complexity here! Unaged whiskey can have
plenty of complexity... but it is a different type of complexity than the
complexity that oak aging brings.

>...charring allows longer aging...
>...
>...chemicals that would ruin the whiskey were the whiskey to be aged
> a long time in a barrel that was not charred. And so while Stagg might
> be aged a long time, it would not be aged that long in a barrel that
> was not charred.

Ummm... I think you've just changed your story! Your original post
said that only "used barrels" allow long aging, and you decided that
scotch (because of the used barrels) is always more complex than
bourbon (new charred barrels).


> I think that this process [charring] also nuetralizes chemicals that
> would ruin the whiskey were the whiskey to be aged a long time in a
> barrel that was not charred.

This is a great theory! I enjoy it when people set their minds to pondering
the intricacies of the whiskey production process. Unfortunately, this
particular theory is not really true... at least for long term aging.

Whiskey chemistry is subtle and complex. Might there be something
undesirable in oak that charring gets rid of? It turns out that there
is a rancid sawdust aroma that sometimes turns up in wine or whiskey
aged in new barrels... but toasting gets rid of it.(*) A char is not
required, just toasting. The source is trans-2-onenal (and other
related compounds), which probably shows up as a byproduct of the
degradation of the wood's lineoleic acid during the seasoning of
the wood. (Seasoning = letting it dry for a year before you use it.)


Tim Dellinger



(*) (Chattonet and Dubourdieu, "Identification of substances responsible
for the 'sawdust' aroma in oak wood, Journal of the Science of Food and
Agriculture, 76, 1998, p179-188.)

greenbob
11-07-2004, 16:25
Ummm... I think you've just changed your story! Your original post
said that only "used barrels" allow long aging, and you decided that
scotch (because of the used barrels) is always more complex than
bourbon (new charred barrels).



Well you know I may have. I'm not sure. I'm not sure what to make of the Stagg example. I've just learned that Stagg will be available here in mid-November, and I want to give it a try if I can afford it.

But I continue to feel that Scotch is more complex than bourbon. I know that people in this forum have been sensitive to this claim. But I don't know why a bourbon lover could not acknowledge the truth of the claim and still assert that bourbon was better overall. For example, most of the Scotch that comes from Scotland comes from the Speyside District. Speyside Scotch, especially after having been aged in Sherry barrels, is complex. It's sweet, fruity, sometimes flowery, etc. But I don't like Speyside Scotch. I recently had a Highland Scotch aged in Saturne barrels. I think it was one of the worst things I've ever put in my mouth. So while I think complexity adds to the enjoyment of the whiskey, I don't think it necessarily determines whether one whiskey is better than another overall. This was the point I was trying to make with my Old Fettercairn example.

I think your comments about sawdust aroma are interesting because I have been getting what I call a "sawdust flavor" from some bourbons. That flavor has, however, been a pleasant one.

boone
11-07-2004, 17:05
To be honest...I have followed this thread and have grown weary of it...

You need to look up what is Bourbon...Jim has that information on the front page of this forum...

Folks have stated nicely http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif that you are wrong...By law your wanna be products will never be Bourbon...Comparing the two is almost laughable, in my opinion...

My family of long time Bourbon Distillers, have made, and still make the finest American Spirit http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, and I am damn http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif PROUD http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif of it.

As for Scotch being more complex http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif...Well, that comment sucks and so does Scotch http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

wrbriggs
11-07-2004, 17:56
The result is that single malt Scotch is always more complex than Bourbon.


Not to beat a dead horse, but I guess I'll weigh in here as well. I don't have nearly the same experience that many other posters here have as far as sampling different whiskies, so this opinion is coming from a relative newcomer to brown spirits in general; take it with a grain of salt.

With that being said, I must say that I've sampled many different scotches. While I find them an enjoyable pour on occasion, my unschooled tongue doesn't find any more complexity in a pour of Lagavulin or Highland Park than in, say, a bourbon like Old Charter Proprietor's Reserve. In fact, in my opinion, the Old Charter has more complexity than any scotch I've tasted, bar none.

I think what's got folks all riled up (and believe me, they've been quite patient with you) is the fact that you state your opinions as fact. No one can (or should) tell you that your opinion regarding certain spirits is wrong; De gustibus non est disputandum. If you came here and said you like the taste of scotch better than bourbon, well, it wouldn't be a popular thing to say, but hey... that's your opinion.

We will, however, argue with you when you try to pass off your opinion as fact. Perhaps this bourbon community is a bit overly sensitive when it comes to scotch drinkers and their self-perceived superiority over other spirit drinkers. While this is a stereotype, it is one that has unfortunately played itself out as true time and again with folks here.

Also, I'd like to weigh in on your comment regarding the charring of the barrels being performed in order to "reduce" the effect that a barrel has on the distillate. My understanding is that the charring of the barrels increases the effect that the wood has on the whiskey, although this has already been debated with you by others who are far more eloquent and knowledgeable than myself.

gr8erdane
11-07-2004, 23:31
I know that people in this forum have been sensitive to this claim. But I don't know why a bourbon lover could not acknowledge the truth of the claim and still assert that bourbon was better overall.



There we hit the problem on the head. You are representing your claim as absolute truth. To be absolutely true, you must be able to back up your claim with facts, not opinions. The people here are telling you that THEIR opinion and the years of experience with drinking both Scotch whisky and Bourbon whiskey say otherwise. They don't say you have to agree with them but you are saying to them that they have to agree with you because you speak "the truth". Basically, you are telling them that their own personal beliefs are wrong but only because they aren't yours and that is pretty arrogant.

I'm not doubting that you actually believe what your are saying and I'll defend your right to say it as your own personal opinion. And if you could prove to me that Scotch is more complex with cold hard empirical evidence it would be one thing. But by trying to prove something to be "the truth" by only citing more opinions that agree with your own is hardly proving anything. But then I'm from Missouri. As the state motto says, you gotta show me.

greenbob
11-08-2004, 00:09
You are representing your claim as absolute truth.



No. I'm presenting an hypothetical. The truth of the claim is up for grabs as this thread shows. I'm asking the bourbon advocate to simply assume for the sake of argument that Scotch is more complex than bourbon. With that assumption I ask, why conclude that Scotch is better than bourbon? My Old Fettercairn example suggests one possible answer. Maybe bourbon is better than Scotch because the basic taste is better. That is, maybe Buffalo Trace is better than Old Fettercairn because of the nice rye and vanilla flavor.

Gillman
11-08-2004, 00:20
I wrote a long post earlier which I'd sum up here by saying bourbon and scotch, despite some differences, can be equally complex.

My advice to tasters of both drinks is to try the range of bourbons and ryes out there, and taste analytically. In time I think it will be seen both drinks offer a multi-faceted experience. Over the years my preference is increasingly for bourbon whiskey. I find, say, Old Grandad 114 a more interesting drink than, say, The Glenlivet or Balvenie and it stacks up very well to Scotland's best such as the Lagavulin that was mentioned. If you want a Balvenie-type drink in America, I'd say Very Old Barton is America's Balvenie, it is as complex or more and luck just has it that it comes with a cheaper price tag. And I haven't even gotten into Kentucky Spirit, Hirsch, Bulleit, etc. I'd say of every 10 pours I do, only one will be scotch whisky.

Gary

gr8erdane
11-08-2004, 04:05
The problem is that you are asking us to make an assumption that by nature of the forum you are in is argumentative and false. I would never go to a forum entitled StraightScotch.com and tell everyone to assume that Bourbon is more complex than Scotch. Besides the fact that that would be extremely rude, they are two completely different beverages with a few basic commonalities. To say one is better than the other in any way is entirely a matter of personal taste that will change from drinker to drinker. There are many who enjoy each equally but for different reasons. However, the reason they are here is summed up in the site address. Straight bourbon. To come to this forum and state that Scotch or Irish or Canadian whisky is better is going to raise some hackles because bourbon is a passion with us. It's why we're here. And most of our opinions are based on personal experiences, not assumptions. Personally, I haven't found many Scotch whiskys that can keep my interest past the first sip or two. In my opinion they lack the complexity you seem to find in them. So you just enjoy your complex little Speysides and Islays, the market is safe from me. I'll just sit in a nice little Gazebo with my boring little Staggs, Van Winkles, and Elijah Craigs and be happy that I don't have to make assumptions about what I like. Shoot, I'll even probably even partake in a Bushmills Millenium Malt or a Lot 40 while I'm sitting there. I know I like those too.

pete_d
11-08-2004, 05:00
In all fairness to Greenbob, I must admit that he hasn't gone so far as to actually cite preference of Scotch over Bourbon. He has claimed that BT and other bottlings are more interesting and overall more of a preference than other Scotches available. His original point was interesting if however fatally flawed in logic.

Being a newbie to the whole Whisk(e)y appreciation myself, I would have to be told that the longer an oak barrel is used, the less tannins and other flavours get imparted into the alcohol. This would make any bourbon that was stored in used barrels a whole less 'intense' than those with new charred barrels.
I myself was mentally mooting the concept of using other forms of barrels and grains to make alternative whiskys. There are a few whisky distilleries down here in Australia, but they still just mimic distilleries of Scotland. How about trying different wood (Eucalypt anyone...?) or Australian grains. Sure it wouldn't be bourbon, but If it tasted cool then would it really matter?

At the end of the day, the complexity issue for me is one of age and proof. There is no way that a Single Malt aged for 16 years and bottled at 80 proof could match the intensity and complexity of a 100+ proof at 8-10 years. It's just going to be more robust a spirit. Horses for Courses...

gr8erdane
11-08-2004, 05:12
Native Australian grains in Eucalyptus barrels? Sounds exotic. Someone had to try corn a first time as well as oak barrels. But isn't eucalyptus an aromatic wood? And where would the koalas live if you cut down their trees to make the barrels? Kondominiums? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif

OneCubeOnly
11-08-2004, 07:20
Gosh, this thread sure caused a ruckus! I don't really see where the problem is!? Do we really need to be so defensive about bourbon!? I think the basic question he's asking can be a valid one, although I believe the original theory that a spent barrel allows for longer aging and greater character in whisk(e)y than a new charred one is absurd.

Regardless of whether you perceive one whisk(e)y or another to be more complex, I don't think anybody would deny that scotch begins life as a more delicate spirit, and then many of the layers of flavor are developed after distillation by long term aging. The Scotch flavor spectrum is infinitely more diverse than bourbon because of the wide variations in climate and aging processes. Does that mean it's more complex? Not necessarily.

In my opinion, bourbon begins life as are more intense spirit, and needs the hardcore effects of a new charred barrel to tone it down. Some things mellow, some things are added by the barrel, and in 3+ years you get something wonderful and complex.

Gillman
11-08-2004, 08:32
Another way to look at it is charring the barrel is a short cut, it imparts qualities that you have to wait much longer for using other kinds of barrels. The char layer acts as a kind of filter, as charcoal does in the Jack Daniel maple charcoal leaching process. So, this shortens the time needed to stay in the barrel because otherwise you need to wait for further oxidation to occur to work its flavor changes. Second, charring imparts (to varying degrees) a burned wood smell which to my mind is the counterpart to the peat odour in many scotches. Net result, you can get complexity in bourbon equal to that in malt scotch, it just takes a shorter time. The obverse is, if you age too long in charred wood it can (again depending on the product) put the whiskey out of balance. Scotch too can be aged too long, Dave Broome at Whisky Magazine calls that being "grippy", this is the oak tannin and other wood elements overtaking the distillery character.

The Kentucky climate is warmer and maturation (of any kind I think) occurs faster in a warm climate, another factor to consider.

So, malt whisky simply takes longer to mature, to reach the complexity the best bourbon does when younger.

The only sense in which I'd agree scotch is more complex than bourbon is there are more types of scotch flavour out there, both in blended and single malt, than in bourbon, (i.e., between the brands). This is because there are many fewer whiskey production plants in America than in Scotland, so inevitably there are fewer differences between the brands here than there. But that is looking at complexity in a narrow way. "Ounce per ounce", bourbon can be as complex as many scotches.

Gary

cowdery
11-08-2004, 14:48
The flaw in greenbob's argument is his quest to determine as between scotch and bourbon, which is "better." Does something always have to be "better"? I guess some people feel the need to rank everything in life: Ginger v. Mary Ann, ST-TOS v. ST-TNG, apples v. oranges, Mighty Mouse v. Superman.

I like scotch but prefer bourbon. Trying to rank one over the other according to some kind of seemingly objective analysis strikes me as so much blather. No thank you, not interested.

TNbourbon
11-08-2004, 15:06
Ginger v. Mary Ann, ST-TOS v. ST-TNG, apples v. oranges, Mighty Mouse v. Superman.



Don't be silly, Chuck. Mary Ann and Mighty Mouse are obvious!http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif
As to the topic at hand -- I don't really care which is more complex, or which one anyone else thinks is more complex. I mostly drink either one alone, so I get to choose. I've had good Scotch. I've had more good bourbon. And bourbon's cheaper.
Maybe Greenbob's right, cause there's your answer -- good bourbon is more plentiful and cheaper. That's not too complex. Pretty simple, actually.

Gillman
11-08-2004, 15:26
In one of his books drinks writer Michael Jackson says Americans are "obsessed" by what is best, e.g., what beer is best. He elaborates to say people always want to know what is the best beer, whisky, pasta, etc. So he deprecates the idea of ratings but in his beer and whisky books does just that! I guess because as he says people want ratings and he feels obliged to respond in this way.

His nuanced answer always is, well, what beer or whisky do I feel like having now amongst the choice in the part of the world I am in? E.g. on a hill on Islay at sunset he wants one of the Island's famous specialities. Fair enough.

In truth it is not just Americans who want to know what is best, everyone does! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif Sometimes you can say what the best is. I say The Who were the best hard rock act of their generation. I say Pilsener Urquel - in optimum condition - is probably the best pilsener beer I have ever had. Fuller 1845 is the best bottled ale I have ever had. Elizabeth David was the best 2Oth century female writer on food and gastronomy. Bettye Jo Boone is the best local historian of bourbon anywhere in these U-nited States, okay?

I can't say which bourbon is best though, there are too many good ones to choose from. Right now, my vatting of two bottles of Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel is pretty darn good. If I had to name one bourbon I might say it was Bobby's Yellowstone Mellow Mash from the 1970's.

Gary

shoshani
01-01-2005, 22:51
Why doesn't a Bourbon distiller with a lot of liquor and a lot of resources, like Buffalo Trace or Jim Beam, take some "Bourbon liquor" and put it into used Bourbon barrels for about 20 years? Legally they would not be allowed to call it "Bourbon," but they could call it something else like "New American Whiskey" or "New Kentucky Whiskey" or something. The purpose in all this would be to see what a more complex corn-rye whiskey would taste like.



They've already done it. It's called "Early Times". It is not nearly so complex as bourbon aged in new-charred barrels.

Michael Shoshani
Chicago, IL