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  1. #11
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    Re: Best \"Bridge Whiskies\"

    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.

  2. #12
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    Re: Best \"Bridge Whiskies\"

    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.

    Ken

  3. #13
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    Re: Best \"Bridge Whiskies\"

    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. 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!" Ps. I was not drinking last night. Last time was last Saturday evening.

  4. #14
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    Re: Best \"Bridge Whiskies\"

    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? ). 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.

    Gary

  5. #15
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    Re: Best \"Bridge Whiskies\"

    Wow thanks, honoured even to receive the suggestion! Let me think on it, I'll do it if I can.
    Gary

  6. #16
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    Re: Best \"Bridge Whiskies\"

    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.

    Thanks again for the suggestion, Ed V.

    Gary

  7. #17
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    Re: Best \"Bridge Whiskies\"

    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 ).

    Gary

  8. #18
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    Re: Best \"Bridge Whiskies\"

    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!

  9. #19
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    Re: Best \"Bridge Whiskies\"

    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.

    Gary
    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.

    Tim

  10. #20
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    Re: Best \"Bridge Whiskies\"

    Gary,

    Please don't go blending Elmer T. Lee. It is just about perfect!

    Tim

 

 

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