View Full Version : Best "Bridge Whiskies"
I've been thinking about the bourbon I could share with a Scotch-drinking friend that would best open up his eyes to the qualities of bourbon. It should be a pleasant transition, not jarring, and should have a mixture of familiar elements and unexpected new experiences.
For added fun, what would be a good example of Scotch that would be a "bridge" to malts that could cause a Bourbonite to stray across the pond?
I have a couple of bourbon thoughts, but will hold back for now.
Roger, you have posed a very thought provoking set of questions...I suggest the following:
*Old Taylor, BIB pre 1980
Old Forester, BIB pre 1980
Old Grand-Dad, BIB pre 1980
Van Winkle, anything
Eagle Rare, 101 10yo (Old Prentice)
Wild Turkey, RR (101)
Wild Turkey, 12yo
Eagle Rare, 17yo
Anything, Van Winkle
And if you’re doing it blind, get sneaky, slip in some Sazerac Rye
Balvenie, 12yo double wood
Knocando, 12yo, 18yo or 21 yo
Springbank,12yo black label
Strathisla, 12yo paper label
Royal Lochnagar, select reserve
Linkwood 12yo, John McEwan edition
Best regards, dougdog
I may be wrong, but I think maybe throwing an Irish whiskey in between might help to bridge the gap. To me they're not as sweet as bourbon and not as smoky as scotch.
Doug, you have a lot of good bourbons on your list but not everyone has access to all the older bourbons you find on your hunting trips. I certainly can't find any of the older ones around here. Believe me, I've looked! But then again it was Roger who asked and he might have a few of those that I don't.
I thought I'd give this a try, though individual tastes vary, I think this is the approach I'd take.
Bourbon Bridge: by region
Highland- Blanton's, Russel's Reserve 101
Lowland- Maker's, Basil Hayden
Islay- Old Grand Dad 14, Noah's Mill
Highland Park- Baker's, George Dickel Special Barrel Reserve 10yr...(I know Highland Park isn't a region, but it holds a special place in my mind, so....)
Scotch Bridge: (by typical bourbons)
Makers- Glenkinchie, Glen Moray
Wild Turkey- Springbank
Van Winkle 12- Macallan 18
Beam Black- Bowmore Legend
There we go, not THE definitive list, I'm sure but maybe enough to make someone try something new, or revist something with a different point of view.
For me, the premise is flawed. The things I like in Scotch are completely NOT the things I like in Bourbon. For me, this question is like asking which Pizzia to recommend to a friend who enjoys pasta.... I like both and there are elements of commonality (tomato sauce etc) but I would never define one in 'terms' of the other. Rather I would pick my favorite expressions of each and present them independantly.
If you look at my personal favorites:
Bourbon: Bookers, Ridgement Reserve
Scotch: Lagavulin 16, Lapgroaig 10
Even the elements of commonality are pretty different.
There is so much variety within the range of Scotch, I find them as (if not more) different from each other as from other whiskys. To say you enjoy Bourbon or Rye says something a lot more specific than to say you enjoy Scotch. The former is 'I like Lasagna', the latter is 'I like Italian' (so many analagies, so little time http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif
Anyway, just my opinion.
One bourbon that I haven't seen mentioned that I belive is highly regarded by many scotch drinkers is Elijah Craig 12 year old.
As a scotch drinker, I wonder how well you could bridge an Islay to any bourbon. There's is so much peat. There were some interesting pairings; I wonder though if just one pairing would simplify things (and make a convert). How about a Glenmorangie Port Wood finish (maybe their sweetest)and a EWSB Vintage '95? It would also come in at almost half the price as the Glenmorangie, another consideration.
Then move on to the sweeter expressions, such as Pappy Van Winkle 12yr Lot B or ORVW 10yr. If they are into cask strength scotch, then maybe an OGD 114, or one of our higher proof (but readily available) bottlings. But this is the musings of a relative newcomer to bourbon.
I used to really enjoy simple scotches (JW Red, Cutty, Black & White, etc). Then around '76 a friend introduced me to The Glenfiddich and The Glenlivet single-malts. Definitely nice, but too expensive for my budget, at the time. I pretty much became a rum and gin drinker. I always enjoyed JW Black, though.
Then a few years ago, after I had started my bourbon tasting adventure (which continues), I was in a well-stocked bar in Atlanta. For reasons unknown to me, I asked for a glass of The Balvenie 15-year old single barrel. It was gorgeous, absolutely delicious. It did not remind me of any scotch I had ever tried and I loved it.
Alas, when I got home and found it in the ABC store, it was way more than I could afford. I don't remember exactly what it was. $80? $90. Something like that.
So far, the most expensive bourbon I have bought (Rock Hill Farms) was $52. I am totally unprepared for the $100 per bottle range.
But, The Balvenie is good stuff to this confirmed bourbon lover.
I'll limit myself to just one each way:
For Scotch drinkers new to bourbon -- Eagle Rare Single Barrel;
For bourbon drinkers new to Scotch -- Glen Moray 12yo (if I allowed myself a second choice here, it would probably be The Dalmore 12yo). Price would also be in line with what premium bourbon drinkers spend -- $20-$30.
Aberlour 10yo is a good "bridge" from bourbon to Scotch (at least Speyside).
If you like stronger-flavored, high-proof bourbons like Stagg, you could go with a sherry monster like Aberlour A'Bunadh.
If you're interested in Islays, a lightly-peated Bunnahabhain, or Bruichladdich would be a good place to start. Bowmore, also, but be aware that it is very subject to batch variation - some bottlings are infamous for an overpowering floral note, the infamous FWP.
If you're more adventurous regarding peat, Ardbeg 10yo is usually reasonably-priced, and packs a powerful, peaty punch. Laphroaig Quarter Cask is also superb, as is Lagavulin 16yo. The Laga is the most expensive of the three.
Highland Park is a nice middle-of-the-road between the sherried Speysiders and the peaty Islays.
Going the other way, Stagg, OGD 114, or any Van Winkle are good choices. If you prefer something lighter, maybe Maker's Mark or Old Fitzgerald BIB. Buffalo Trace would be a good middle-of-the-road choice.
Ryes like Rittenhouse, or Canadians such as Wiser's or Forty Creek, would be a good bridge in either direction.
I've thought about this over the past two years or so, spurred on in part by having lots of colleagues who routinely enjoy single malts but are not into bourbons, for whatever reasons. So I have a practical interest in this (I want to introduce them to fine bourbons) as well as a hypothetical one. My opinions are these:
Straight bourbon bridges for single malt scotch drinkers: Hirsch 16, Elijah Craig 18, Old Rip 15, 107 proof (Lawrenceburg), and Blanton's. The first two especially, because they are drier than most bourbons, not sweet (to me, anyway), and have some significant barrel/cask oak in their tastes. Definitely not Stagg!
Single malt scotches for straight bourbon drinkers: Balvenie 15 single barrel (I think Tim nailed this one to the wall: it is aged in ex-bourbon barrels, no sherry or peat. Wonderful honey notes. BTW: it costs $53 here, as of today), Glenmorangie 15 (matured in ex-bourbon barrels, then matured for a final shorter period in new, charred Missouri Ozarks oak barrels, costs $52 here, today; even more wonderful honey notes), Clynelish 14 ($40) and a few others that have no peat or sherry at all, e.g., Bruichladdich 15 ($62 today). There are some less expensive malts, but even the least expensive ones are priced very high compared to bourbons of the same quality. It is hard (but not impossible) to find a worthwhile single malt for $20, but no problem at all with bourbon: that is the price here for each of Elijah Craig 12, EWSB 1995 and Henry McKenna SB 10 BIB.
I also like Dane's suggestion of Irish whiskey as a bridge for bourbon drinkers wanting to try the dark side. Bushmill's 16 is fine and Black Bush gets excellent reviews, though I have never tried it. And the Sazerac 18 is something single malt drinkers would probably like: I cetainly do.
Not sure how to make a meaningful correspondence between bourbon and either sherry or peat: just too different, in my opinion.
Yet another interesting thread! When I am in the UK for Whisky Live, the comment I most often hear from Scotch drinkers is, "My word, this stuff is sweet!" To this end I often will pour them some Sazerac 18, which comes as close to a scotch as I can find. It is smokey, old (too old for me), peppery with a bit of hidden sweetness. I also believe that Bushmills makes for an interesting bridge.
Going from bourbon the other way, my all-time favorite is Glenfarclas 17 year old. It is interesting to note that it costs more than the 18 year old Sazerac, but I suppose that is just in keeping with premium prices single malts have been able to engender.
Sort of a follow-up to my last post. As I was drifting off to sleep last night, I was struck with a wonderful/awful idea: why not challenge our resident master mixologist, Gary Gillman, to devise two whiskey bridges: one for straight bourbon drinkers who want to try single malt scotch and the other in the reverse direction? The allowed list of ingredients would include straight bourbon(s) (no blends) and single malt scotch(es) (no blends). Optional ingredients would be straight rye whiskey(s) (no blends), Irish whiskey(s) (any kind) and canadian whisky(ies). No bitters, juices, rock & rye, simple syrup, gin, vodka, rum, grappa, fruits, Laotian snake whisky, etc.
It would be very tough with this restricted list of possible ingredients, but I think Gary could do it, if anyone could. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/bowdown.gif And it could make it possible, if he succeeds, to bridge from bourbon to heavily peated Islay malts (e.g., Laphroaig) or sherry monster malts (e.g., Aberlour a'bunadh). Or back the other way.
So, Gary, are you up for the Gillman Cup Challenge? There is no prize other than the satisfaction of doing it because it's there and maybe impossible, but it would be great to have a recipe on hand for at least one bridge drink. And it might be more reasonable than trying to find specific bourbons or malts to serve as bridges. Also, any viable recipes could be given cool names, or at least something like (Old) Gillman Essay #7. I guess any failures would be "Bridges Too Far!" http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Ps. I was not drinking last night. Last time was last Saturday evening.
I find that interesting. I wonder if some of those people may still have been learning about malt whisky let alone bourbon. If one's reference point is blended scotch I can see many would think it less sweet than bourbon. If one's reference point is many types of single malt especially the ever-prestigious sherry cask malts, they are as sweet as many bourbons!. If those people tasted, say, Macallan 12 year old at such an event or Aberlour A'bunadh or Linkwood 12 or many other rich malts they may have found such whiskies sweet too (but would they say so with a home product? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif). Blanton is by my lights only mildly sweet, that is a good bridge whiskey for a blended scotch fan I think but I can think of plenty of malts that in my books are sweeter than Blanton.
Wow thanks, honoured even to receive the suggestion! Let me think on it, I'll do it if I can.
Just putting pen to paper, here is how roughly I would approach it.
Say, for a Bourbon drinker's bridge to a well-peated malt whisky such as Lagavulin 16 years old:
Take as the base Hirsch 16 year old because of its big smoky character (Lagavulin is smoky too, from peat). Add a measure of a non-peated rich malt to boost the barley content of the Hirsch (in itself an understandable idea as Hirsch, made with about 12% barley malt, might have been made with say 18% barley malt in earlier years when higher barley-malt mashes generally were used). This malt could be, say Balvenie which would not clash with the Hirsch because it is not (the regular one) highly sherried or peated. I might leave it at that but to make the bridge better possibly I might add one more single malt of good barley character or maybe an Irish malt whiskey such as Black Bush. I would not add any actual peated scotch - the idea is not to try and copy a scotch palate but to give an idea of what it is like yet still retain the integrity of the bourbon blend. I don't think rye whiskey would help in this exercise. Nor would Canadian because essentially it would simply dilute everything down a bit - but that addition might make sense if the bridge was to, say, the somewhat smoky Johnnie Walker Black Label because Canadian is lighter than malt whisky and the high proof element of the Canadian would prepare somewhat for that aspect of those drinks - plus the corn in the Canadian would fit with the corn in the grain whisky of the JWB. In fact for JWB I wouldn't use Hirsch 16 as a base: too old and smoky. Maybe something like Blanton Original.
Yet in none of these blends would I say the fundamental nature of the bourbon base is traduced.
For a bourbonite's bridge to a rich non-smoky sherry malt, my base could be the fruity and rich Elmer T. Lee, to which the barley addition could be Macallan 12 year old the famous sherried malt (or Linkwood or Aberlour, etc.). So some sherry is entered but subtly and complemented by the fruitiness of ETL. Again one might stop there or add possibly some Glenlivet to introduce the idea of some non-sherried Scotch barley taste. And again, the result would still be a bourbon palate basically - maybe even one that, more or less, existed amongst some distilleries in 1870, say, when higher barley malt mashbills were used. The Glenlivet might make sense for a blend where you wanted to hint at the palate of a malt whisky that combines sherry cask and bourbon cask whiskies (quite a common mingling technique in Scotland).
So there are some examples of how I would do it for bourbon going to scotch. It is evident there are countless perms and combs depending on where you want to go and from which place on the bourbon flavor spectrum.
To go from scotch to bourbon, I could start with a lightly smoky but not "briny" scotch, say McClelland's Islay Single malt which is about 5 years old, like many bourbons. Or maybe I'd use one of the vatted Islays out there (if I wanted to go to a smoky bourbon, say AAA) or maybe a smoky Speysider (one that is not sherried). Then I would add some Canadian, say Black Velvet, to introduce some flavour from corn, or say Wiser's 10 year old. The grain element in blended scotch is also mostly made from corn so Scotch devotees needn't get annoyed. For that matter why not add a Scotch all-grain whisky such as Compass Box's Hedonism?
For proportions, hard to say but maybe 6 parts the base, 3 parts the second element, 1 part any third element added otherwise 6:4 base to addition. Actual preparation would allow the chance to fine-tune the proportions.
Now whether I actually do this depends on whether I have or can conveniently buy the liquors necessary to put these or some of them together. I don't think I have the right combination at the moment but if anyone does and would like to try this - remember you can do it in the glass using small quantities - let us know what you think, but in time I'll try some essays and report well and truly. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif
Thanks again for the suggestion, Ed V.
I just realised, and I don't know if you meant this, Ed (and I was not reading the thread carefully before) that a bourbon to scotch bridge should perhaps start with a scotch blended to make it show resemblance to a bourbon. And ditto for scotch to bourbon, start with bourbon blended to show resemblance to scotch. However I think my approach is justifiable because it starts with what the drinker knows and likes and yet inclines him or her slowly to the goal of liking the other drink. E.g. an essay could be made and then another in which the addition(s) are very slightly increased, anyway that is how I thought I would approach it but I now realise the other way could work too (but I still think my way is better http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif).
Gary, I like your proposed method as well. After my last post, I realized that blendeds probably offer another route, but I prefer the evolving essay approach you suggest: you can see how to get there from here, so to speak, and you can experiment and refine as you go. I will give it a try, if I can get enough starting materials rounded up. If successful, it could be done up fancy, in a nice decanter. After all, who wouldn't want to try a pour from a fancy decanter? Looks like I should check out decanters on the web. Thanks for giving this some thought: I was thinking it was probably over the top, but I seem to recall an issue of Whisky mag where some bourbon-scotch minglings were essayed and it was reported that getting a decent result was not trivial due to the bourbon having so much flavor. Go figure!
Blanton is by my lights only mildly sweet, that is a good bridge whiskey for a blended scotch fan I think but I can think of plenty of malts that in my books are sweeter than Blanton.
You hit the nail on the head with Blanton's, Gary. Another bourbon that, to me, has very little sweetness is Baker's. But it is not nearly as sophisticated as Blanton's.
This is a very thought provoking thread.
Please don't go blending Elmer T. Lee. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif It is just about perfect!
> For me, the premise is flawed. The things I like in Scotch
> are completely NOT the things I like in Bourbon.
I absolutely agree 100%. I think every whisk(e)y style requires
a "learning period" where you drink a few exapmles that highlight
different aspects of the style... and you don't taste any difference.
Then, later on, you start to develop your palate figure out what it's
really all about. How soon we forget the "learning period"! I suppose
that the memory lapse can be forgiven, because it's soon followed
by a period of absolute enchantment...
In my experience, some people really have a hard time learning to
appreciate things that aren't their favorite... and trying to fool
them doesn't work at all! You can't just say to them, "Here, try
Aberlour A'bunadh, it's similar to Stagg." They'll taste it and
immediately think "No it's not! It's missing something! It's missing
a lot! What do you guys see in this stuff?"
I've never been able to introduce a new style of whisk(e)y to anyone
who wasn't already 100% pre-modivated and already trying to learn.
My advice is to give people the extremes: Laphroaig, Rosebank, Macallan,
Glenmorangie... it's also good to give people things that they can
easily find over and over again, so that they can order it at bars and
restaraunts and find it at stores.
And on another note...
If you think the Scotch - Bourbon divide is big, try getting anyone
to drink unaged/underaged whiskies... West Virginia Distilling Co's
Mountain Moonshine is fabulous, but it's dismissed with a chuckle
as inferior junk. The divide is just too great.
SB.com is just starting to come around to Conecuh Ridge and Old
Potrero, but it's taken years...
Ed, thanks. I thought of blends in the sense of developing a true "joint palate", eg., 2 bourbons and two malt whiskies blended in equal measure, but that doesn't really interest me. When I blend I always work in a predominant style. That Canadian whisky blend (2 Kittling Ridge and one other Canadian) I mentioned is an example, or a combination of bourbons and some straight rye to make a bourbon whiskey which is rye-edged - but not a rye or something new from the combination. This is not to say amalgams cannot be invented and be good, but I prefer to work in the major genres and get increased flavours and complexity in blends which still taste like one of the accepted styles. Therefore, my view is, make a bourbon for the bridge-crosser to malt whisky or blended scotch that is still bourbon but is a scotch-like bourbon, due say to higher than normal barley content and a marked smoky taste. Maybe when he tastes a true peaty malt scotch he will think, that is different from the bourbon I like but somehow familiar, I can "get" a drink such as this. A malt scotch leavened with corn spirit - which is what scotch blends are anyway, never mind much malt scotch is aged in ex-bourbon barrels - would move in the other direction.
Well, I like it too, Tim, but in truth it makes a good blending whiskey because of its depth and rich savory yet silky qualities.
I started out as a Scotch drinker, exclusively. My early forays into bourbon (Maker's Mark, Knob Creek) were a bit discouraging - mainly because I was making the mistake of adding ice! It was a lot better after I tried it neat.
But, I didn't really get seriously into bourbon until I tried my first pour of Spring Stagg - it was quite a revelation. That lead to OGD 114, then ORVW, AAA, BT, Old Fitzgerald, PVW, VWFR Lot B, now I'm trying out EC12... and there's an unopened Eagle Rare SB (90 proof) on the shelf making eyes at me.
Back to Scotland, I've found that I like both the peat monsters and the sherry bombs - as well as bourbon-aged malts and high-quality blends.
Just to pass on one more thought, adding corn spirit to malt whiskey, since that is what blended scotch is, won't get you towards a bourbon palate. So adding say Canadian whisky (which is mostly high proof corn) is not a good notion. What should be added is some real bourbon but a mild-tasting one, say Ancient Age. It's mostly a corn spirit but a low proof one, yet it is still corn, so it might not shock the palate of a malt whisky drinker (most of whom know the taste of blended scotch). Say you added 7 parts Glenlivet to 3 of Ancient Age. That is not a true amalgam of scotch and bourbon because I don't think it would blend their palates (to create something new), the scotch taste would predominate. But if that drinker later sipped a not too heavy-bodied bourbon straight he might think (the obverse of the bourbon-to-scotch essay I suggested) yes I can get that taste, it is somewhat similar to that bridging drink Gary G and Ed V made me try. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif
My boss "was" a SMSW drinker until recently. He heard me talking about the Sampler and started asking me questions about bourbon. So I bought him a bottle of WT Russel's Reserve and gave him one of my books about the history of bourbon. His bottle of RR was empty in less than a month and he asked me what he should try next. Jon and I invited him over to "taste". We were up until 2am sampling our way through the cabinet! The next week I took him a bottle of Stagg. (He liked it) Tonight he called me to report that he made his first bourbon purchase. He bought a WTRR, Stagg and Pappy 20! I've created a bourbon lover!
Just had to share!
You're a great bourbon ambassador Dawn.
To quote Popeye, a famous sailor man: "I seen my duty and I done it." http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif
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